Too Much

At the end of each work day I am so tired, it is all I can do to drag myself into the house and package the eBay products that sold during the day. Then I list a few more — and suddenly the evening is shot and I am crawling into bed for a few hours sleep before something jerks me awake.

Sunday afternoon I stumbled into my room for a nap. My head hurt. My eyes burned. I needed sleep.

I fell across my bed and collapsed. Fifteen minutes later I heard shouting and cursing. It sounded close. Too close. In my yard close. I rolled off the bed and looked out the window. Some dude was trying to climb the chain-link fence that surrounds my backyard. It’s a low fence and I think he would have made it easily if it weren’t for the two cops holding on to him.

They lifted the guy off the fence and spread him across the hood of my car. Lovely. They spent about an hour in my driveway before they tucked him in their car and rolled away. After that I couldn’t get to sleep. Every little noise would jerk me to wakefulness, and I had terrifying dreams.

Monday at school we had the annual 5th grade barbecue. Hot dogs, sodas, kickball and 104F heat. I drug my butt home to a huge number of sales — that’s not a complaint, but I had to work rather then rest — and no air conditioning. I called the office and they had someone here within 20 minutes. He looked at the swamp cooler and told me it was an easy fix. All it needed was a new drive belt. That was the good news. The bad news was, he didn’t have one and since it was after 5, he couldn’t get one until morning.

So, I suffered through packaging and listing in 104F temps with no air. Luckily I do have a small unit in my bedroom window and it kept my bedroom cool enough that I could sleep — but again I had those horrid dreams. Cops, sirens, screaming, guns — I don’t need to watch TV, it’s all right there behind my eye-lids.

I need sleep. I need rest. I need school to be over.

Today we had the practice culmination ceremony. Traditionally at the end of the program I take the mic and introduce the outgoing students to their parents as next year’s sixth graders, and the graduating class of ____ (add seven to the current date). Today — at practice — I stepped up to the mic, had the kids stand and face where the audience will be — and couldn’t speak. My throat closed up. Tears filmed my eyes. I realized there is no way I am going to be able to do this for real on Thursday without seriously crying.

Usually the year end ceremony makes me a bit misty, but this is for real. This is good-bye. They won’t be bopping into my room next year to sit on the table and tell me about life in sixth grade. I won’t be there.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am looking very much forward to the next phase in my life, but while looking so earnestly ahead, I forgot how very much I hate saying good-bye.

Liquid Joy

Rain has come to the desert. Finally.

Believe it or not, when it rains in the desert, excitement reins. Desert dwellers locked in classrooms do not get anxious and antsy when the sun shines. That is not when they beg to go out and play. Desert dwellers love the rain.

From the smallest to the largest, the desert dwellers will arrive at school today soaking wet from splashing in the puddles. While they are in class they will beg to be allowed outside. As they change classes or visit the restroom they will deliberately walk beneath overflowing gutters and tromp through the sidewalk rivers. Spirits will be high.

As they steam dry in classrooms they will begin to smell like wet hamsters. The room will grow humid. The door will have to be opened to allow in fresh, cool air. Into the room will also flow the drum beat of the rain — the scent, the sound, the excitement — and no work will be done today.

I hope the children will behave better than I.

If Found, Promptly Return To Owner

I am tired. I am sick. I am cranky. And I am an idiot.

I am also near-sighted. In fact, I am so near-sighted that if I take off my glasses I cannot find them again without putting them on to look for them. That is why I always have an extra pair. This morning that extra pair saved my day.

I woke, reached for my glasses — and they weren’t where I always leave them. I leaned over the bed and squinted at the floor. Too dark. I grabbed the flashlight and shone it along side the bed and the bookcase. No glasses.

I leaned over farther still, and shone the flashlight under the bed. Big deal. I couldn’t see more then six inches in front of my face. I went and retrieved my other pair of classes from the drawer below the computer monitor, then I returned and looked under my bed. That’s where that roll of packing tape went! No glasses.

I sat and thought. When did I have my glasses last? I got in bed and read for an hour. I don’t remember turning off the light. Could I have gone to sleep without taking my glasses off? I took the blankets off the bed and shook them, one at a time. I took the top sheet off the bed. Then the bottom sheet. Then the pillows. I took the mattress off the bed. Then I took the bed off the bed. Damn. Somebody should vacuum under here — but no glasses.

A glance at the clock told me I was pushing my time limits. I headed for the shower — pausing to give all the flat surfaces in my bathroom a good look. No glasses. I wore my old pair all day. The prescription is off, and they don’t have bifocals, but they’re still better than no glasses.

Tonight I came home and searched my bedroom again — inch by inch. No glasses. I don’t get it. Glasses don’t just leave. And I can’t go far without them, so where were they?

I gave up, made my dinner, then sat down to my comp and had a lovely chat with OC. After the chat I decided to go to the store and get some Musinex. Except, as I was leaving the house I thought about that dinner I’d eaten. The salad had onions. I went in the bathroom and brushed my teeth.

While brushing my teeth I spotted the hairspray bottle and remembered it was almost empty. I needed more … or did I? I opened the medicine cabinet to look for an extra bottle — and there were my glasses. I have no recollection of putting them there. None. Zip. Nada.

I don’t remember turning out the light last night. I don’t remember going to sleep. I remember making a cup of hot tea, carrying it and my book into my bedroom, curling up to read, and waking up this morning.

At least I’ve found my glasses, but if any of you find where I left my brain, would you send it on home?

Setting the Tone

Many times in my 10 years of teaching, I have had parents specifically request me as their child’s teacher. One such request came in my third year of teaching. The child was the son of one of my co-workers. She said, “I chose you because Patrick needs discipline, but he also needs compassion.” Patrick had a talent for trouble. Not bad trouble — just the garden variety nuisances that drive teachers right up the walls.

I’d met Patrick when he was a second grader. He used to come into my room and hang out with the critters. He had more questions then I had answers, but even at eight he wasn’t adverse to being pointed toward one resource or another and told to “look it up.” The school district slapped a label on him: Gifted & Talented. One of his gifts was a quick wit. One of his talents wasn’t thinking first before he used it.

I want my students quiet and focused before I ever allow them into my classroom every morning. This is especially critical on the first day of school. It sets the tone the remainder of the year.

Outside my door I tell my students I want, “Straight and quiet.” I remind them that the entire school is expected to follow that rule, including teachers. If they can’t talk, neither can I. Then I teach them my hand signals so we can communicate without words (stop, go, left, & right). Except, Patrick won’t be quiet.

“Patrick, I need you to listen.”

“Patrick, please be quiet.”

“Patrick! That’s enough.”

Nothing worked for more than 30 seconds. Finally, in exasperation, I demanded, “Patrick, what part of, please be quiet, do you not understand?” Not one other child in the entire school would have responded to my tone of voice with anything but silence.

Patrick answered with a grin, “Well, I’ve always had trouble with Q-u.”

The entire class sucked in their breaths. I nodded my head at Patrick, dropped my arm around his shoulders in a friendly fashion and said, “You know, I can help you with that. This coming Friday I’ll be giving you a vocabulary test on all the Q-U words in our classroom dictionary. How’s that?”

Patrick said, “No. Thank you. I’ll be quiet now.”

I shook my head. “Too little. Too late.”

Still, nothing kept Patrick down for long. As I was trying to introduce the class to their new textbooks, Patrick was playing his desk like a drum, using his brand new pencils as sticks. Again I asked him several times to stop — and he did — for 30 seconds at a time. Finally I asked, casually, “Patrick, are your pencils important to you?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “Not particularly.”

“Good,” I said. Then I snatched them from his hands and tossed them in the garbage.

The entire class was silent — including Patrick. He stared at me in open-mouthed surprise. Finally he found his voice. “Those were my brand new pencils!”

I shrugged. “You said they weren’t important to you, and they were really bothering me, so I got rid of them.”

“But, –” he stopped.


“Well, they are important.”

“Fine,” I said. “You may retrieve them.”

Patrick fished his pencils out of the waste basket and sat back down at his desk. Thirty seconds later he was drumming again. I stopped writing on the board and turned to look at him. “Patrick,” I asked, “are your fingers important to you?”

Patrick dropped his pencils and sat on his hands.

Quiet reined.

Skinny Milk

I am partial to whole milk, however I’ve heard and read all the same artery clogging articles you have. I’ve trained myself to drink 2%, but I don’t enjoy milk the way I used to. Mostly I cook with it or add it to my oatmeal. Occasionally I will drink it, but generally when I absolutely have to have a glass of milk, I buy a quart of whole milk.

My Uncle has a farm. When I was a kid, milk did not come in a wax covered, cardboard carton. Milk came from the barn in large pails. It was strained through cheese cloth into glass jars, and it arrived in our home with a thick layer of cream on top. The cream provided butter and other yummies.

I love all dairy products, but I have had to cut back recently. I am losing weight. I’ve been doing so –19.5 pounds worth — by just using common sense and cutting down on portion size, fat (dairy products) and sugar. I quit drinking pop and don’t buy chips, cookies, ice cream, etc. for my home. If it isn’t there, it is much easier to resist.

I also purchased — for the first time ever — skim milk. I poured 4 ounces into a glass, and I drank it. I won’t be doing that again soon. Two swallows and I knew that the “fat removed” label is pure crap. You know how they make skim milk? They pour whole milk into — and then out of — a container. Said container is then coated in a lovely, white milk film. They add tap water to the container, swish it around, and viola! Skim milk.

Blech. Some calories aren’t worth eliminating.