5/30/2011

The Cat Says. . .



It's hot.

Also, I do not like chemo very much.
It makes me tiiiiiiiired.
But, it might help,
and hey, as long as it's slipped into a little bit of grilled hamburger,
down the hatch it goes.



On a more serious note, Memorial Day at the Maiden Aunt homefront makes us recall the cousin we never met, Jack G., who died while serving in WWII, and we want to express our gratitude for those who gave their lives--may they rest in peace--and to all who currently put their lives on the line so that we are free, God bless you and keep you safe, and bless those who worry about you every day.

5/29/2011

Misheard Lyrics, or How I Failed to Cope with Bullying

Great bassline, catchy chorus. Hard-to-understand lyrics.

I'm talking about Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks."

The title makes me think of the Nike pump sneakers (parodied in SNL's thanksgiving commercial for the "Nikey [sic] Turkey" and Dave Chappell's character Achoo in Robin Hood: Men in Tights).

Remember when you were a kid and it was sooo important to wear the right clothes? Remember hearing stories about kids stealing (or being beaten up for wearing) pricey sneakers?

Yeah, well, I was definitely out for many reasons in middle school. Being overweight made it hard to wear the right clothes. My parents were shelling out money for Catholic education for three children, so I wouldn't have been buying designer clothes, anyway. (O.K., I probably would've spent it on books and music and not clothes.) And my gosh, if I had known what to do with the thick wavy head of hair that nowadays I miss terribly, at least I wouldn't have had terrible haircuts.

Let's not forget, I was top in the class and never got in trouble. Hell, one time I turned in half my class for cheating on a science test via typed-up science notes on dot matrix paper (remember that?) running the length of the first aisle. (Not because I was a snitch, mind you; I was P.O.'d that I'd paid attention in class and studied!) I was the scapegoat for anything and everything bugging my classmates--hormones, bad grades, rejection, being ignored. I had my own hormone thing going on, along with an undiagnosed food allergy, that made me cry at the drop of a hat. There was always someone worse off than they were: me.

O.K., there's the background.

So, now I hear this song, and I think, Oh, man, this is a great song. It makes me want to dance and sing along. And it's got this great chorus. It goes like this:

All the other kids with the pumped-up kicks
You better run, better run, outrun my girl.
All the other kids with the pumped-up kicks
You better run, better run, faster than my brother.


You see that I have those two words highlighted?

They are WRONG.

The song's been getting more airtime on the radio, and I've been cranking it up in the car. At one point, it occurred to me that the words sounded a little off. Then, of course, I had to go look them up.

Girl = GUN.

Brother = BULLET.



Yeah, here I am, thinking in my own little romanticized way, Cool! Even though the speaker's getting picked on for not having the cool shoes, he's got a nice girlfriend who runs fast (like the character Molly in Powerless that I've been reading on audio in the car when I'm not cranking up the tunes) and a brother who sticks up for him.

HA HA HA.

Maybe because none of that happened to me, that's what I wanted to hear. I don't know.

Am I still listening to the song, and singing along, and swaying my hips to the bass? You bet.

But now it's like a parody to me. It cuts a bit.

I couldn't defend myself against the other kids' cruelty. The thought never crossed my mind to take up arms against them. I blamed myself--in fact, other people told me it was my fault they made fun of me, and that I needed to change who I was (who I probably still am now)--and I turned all that anger inward and got severely depressed. It took me years and years to learn how to deal with other people, regardless of how they treated me, and I'm still not sure I know how to make and keep friends all that well.

That last part's particularly bothering me right now, because I've got people from my past coming out of the woodwork as a result of my TV appearance--some I parted ways with because I was struggling, and others who walked away because they didn't want to be around me because I was struggling.

I'm glad I have the chance to reconnect with the ones where I screwed up. The ones in the other category--the most recent one being a college classmate who messaged Older Brother on Facebook because he's there and I'm not. . . well, I'm not sure what I want to do there. Do they just want to see where I am, and once they're satisfied with catching up--or finished a quick comparison with their own lives (married? kids? homeowner?) says the cynical part of me--they just drop it again? Or do they actually want to strike up a friendship? It's hard to tell. I got burned by a college classmate about a year ago. She was acting all friendly, and then the next thing I know, every subsequent conversation and e-mail was about promoting her husband's business. I felt incredibly used and disappointed.

It's made me gunshy in the worst way.

Perhaps it is weird that I now work with middle school grades in my current job.

Or perhaps this is the way I redeem those years and try to help at least one kid not go through what I did.


5/25/2011

Feline Probiotics: Might As Well Try Them

I totally forgot that during our phone conversation yesterday, the vet mentioned giving The Cat some probiotics. . . until I got to the animal hospital today to pick up The Cat's steroids (she's got a 50% ingestion rate on those but it's better than zero) and saw the probiotics were in the bag as well.

For myself, I have a pretty regular course of probiotics (soy/coconut milk yogurt, GoodBelly drinks--love those little "shot" thingies) thanks to last September's stay in the hospital. It does help with digestion, so why not some for The Cat who is not having the easiest time with that lately?

As you can see, it comes in packets (like Sweet 'n' Low!) and you're supposed to mix it in their food. I didn't want to chance it with Miss Picky, who already was snubbing her dinner. . . yet, she still was begging for something, so I poured her a little bit of cream and mixed in half a packet.

SLURP! ((Empty plate.))

She did seem a wee bit perkier later, and as I'm plugging my laptop back into the AC adapter cord at my desk, I can see that her dinner bowl on the kitchen floor is semi-empty. At the moment, she is in her usual spot atop the cabinets, catching the breeze. It got a little warm in here and I'm trying to wait until tomorrow to put on the air conditioner.

Maybe there's a slight chance I won't be suffocated by the litterbox as I'm trying to sleep tomorrow morning.

A very tired pet owner can hope.

5/24/2011

Because I Am a Total Font of Useless Information

Tonight's themed round at trivia was Disney Princesses. As in there are ten pictures of Disney "princess" characters and you must write in their exact names (not the movie titles, although some do coincide).

We have a "movie person" and after writing in a few he just handed the paper and pen to me, so I filled in the rest. . . using "I have a niece" as my explanation.

Yeah, right. She loves Cars and Toy Story. (Not that I've seen all the movies, mind you. I just recognize the characters.)

Obviously it was a pretty high scoring round for most teams, and we were tied with another team for a perfect score for that round. Because we guessed closer to the number between one and ten that the host was thinking, we got the little prize (a t-shirt). Maybe it was bold of me, but I claimed it. I hadn't dared before, because I'm still new to the team and other than the music round (and the Pulitzer round last week) I haven't done a ton of heavy (mental) lifting.

But I really feel that round was mine. Nobody else knew who Esmeralda (not exactly a princess) and Tiana (among others) were.

So glad I don't have classes regularly scheduled for Wednesdays. I'm still a little too wound up to go to sleep.

Victory feels awesome.


Alive, Amid the Chaos

Oh, this end-of-the-year stuff is just too much. I just quickly arranged a little awards ceremony for my reading event kids. Gotta get it in before the eighth grade leaves, ya know. They're in the middle of final exams, and the seventh grade seems to think they rule the school now. . . I've had enough of that nonsense.

My co-librarian is stressed out. Our secretary is still being pissy with her and keeps bugging me about things I have no idea about because I was not here last year. I know it seems as if I've been here forever (hasn't it?) but really, inventory is nowhere near the top of my list right now (grades, thank-you letters to the reading coaches, this odd tradition of selling summer reading books in the library, helping this kid finish his history paper--all of that is way more important!). I need her to back off. She's also stressed out about a personal issue and it's really fueling this crabby attitude.

Mark my words, I am proposing quite a few changes for next year.

As soon as I finish out this year.

(BTW, The Cat has issues about eating again. . . looks as if I have to try to change her food so it's not irritating her. Wish me luck.)


5/21/2011

No, Thank You, Fortune Cookie, I've Had Enough

This morning, I got up at 8, pulled myself together as quickly as possible, and went to a (Hindu) funeral service for a family friend--having found out about it the night before. Hadn't seen him in a while; he was a longtime friend (30+ years) of My Maiden Aunt, who hadn't heard from him in a while, either.
Turns out he had a really aggressive form of cancer and kept the news pretty much quiet. It was tough watching his mom cry but it was kind of a nice thing to meet her after having heard stories about her and his nieces since I was a kid. I shared some stories about him with them--like how he dressed up as Santa Claus at the family Christmas parties my parents hosted in the '80s. Which is hilarious to think of because he was a tall dark Indian dude. (I promised his one niece I'd find our photos and copy them for her.)

He was a very, very smart person, but also very personable and always attentive to my siblings, cousins, and me. It was really gratifying to be "myself" as a teenager with him, and say things to him that I wanted to tell somebody in hopes they'd understand and appreciate it. Like when R.E.M.'s "Shiny Happy People" came out, and I told him the song cracked me up.

"Yeah, it's a great parody, isn't it?" he replied, and I just thought, YES. He gets it, too.

The prayers in the service (I was following the translation while the family chanted) were interesting in that so many praised God and asked God for graces, all the qualities one would need to bear grief well (one addressed God as "Remover of pain") and live a good life to prepare for the afterlife.
I always find it humbling to praise and thank God in the face of grief and questions about why bad things have to happen. I see it in my own faith, and then to see it in Hindu prayer made me feel more a part of what was going on, even if I didn't know how to pronounce everything.

Also, I caught up with my aunt a bit (in small doses she is manageable). She asked about The Cat, and in a way it was helpful to tell her--she had some recommendations for supplements to try to give The Cat. It also distracted her from asking me if I was seeing anybody.

After that, I was a bit wiped, and I went home to regroup and rearrange my former plans for the weekend. Actually, stopped at my parents' and picked up the replacement car stereo I bought from eBay (need to see if the whiz kid mechanic can install it). Then I had tried to go pick up my dry cleaning and get a soda at the Wawa in the same little shopping center, but the lot was completely packed (at 1:30 in the afternoon!).

Got a soda somewhere else, then went home and took a nap--as did The Cat--and worked up the energy to go back out for the dry cleaning and pick up cat food and groceries.

Maybe it was providential that I had not been able to park at the dry cleaners' earlier. As I was walking back to my car with my dry cleaning, the car next to me--which was full of teenage boys--was in the middle of backing out when a grandma blew through the stop sign and zipped by the back of their car without even taking notice (or maybe not caring) that their car was in reverse and partway out of its parking space. Fortunately, the boys' car windows were down and I called out, "Wait! That lady's not even seeing you." The driver stopped. Then the boys all thanked me, and I said in my Maiden Aunt voice with a smile, "You're welcome--now, you drive safely, guys."

At the little grocery store, the teen cashiers were watching the time to make sure they didn't miss the Rapture. I checked out at 6:05 p.m. Left behind to take home my groceries, I guess. Got home, let The Cat fuss at me and check out my dinner (sesame noodles and orange beef), and ate my dinner.

Reloaded the dishwasher and did the hand-washables so the kitchen sink was clear to do the dreaded litterbox cleaning. Hauled out all the trash post-litterbox-cleaning.

What did my fortune cookie say?

"It is up to you to create your own adventures today!"

Really, fortune cookie???

For my final adventures today, I will have some sorbet for dessert, change the sheets on my bed, take a bath, say my novena prayers, and crash.


5/20/2011

It Finally Stopped Raining Here!

Oh, it's been a rough week, my dear blogreaders.

One local weather forecaster called it "Seattle Week" here (please don't be insulted, Seattle-ites), meaning it pretty much rained every day. We've had thunder and downpours the last couple days, too. Water pouring in through my dining room AC (booooo).

On top of that, The Cat was really mopey Sunday and Monday. Picking at her food and just generally looking sad and tired. Tuesday morning rolled around with more of the same, so I called the vet and they said haul her in. They wanted a blood test two weeks into her chemo, anyway.

Naturally, The Cat complained about the trip. To my surprise, she had gained 3/4 lb. in about a month (yay, steroids)--but I was concerned she wouldn't be able to hold on to it if her appetite had started heading south again. Her doctor and I discussed what was going on with her medication. He always seems surprised that I have a little notepad listing when she took her meds, but honestly it's the only way I can keep them straight. I do it for myself when I have a prescription, like when I got sent home with lots of antibiotics in September. Anyway, he was thinking the chemo might be too strong, so he said hold off on her next dose (Thurs.) until he checked her white blood cell count. Maybe the dosage needed to be halved.

He also gave her a shot of fluids and a shot to settle her stomach--he thought her stomach might be bugging her and that's why she was picking at her food. Even though I was sitting in the waiting room, I could hear her giving the tech an earful about the needles. When the tech brought her out, I apologized that The Cat swore at her, and the tech graciously replied, "Oh, no, she wasn't swearing at all." Nice people.

First thing Wednesday morning, the doctor called to say that while everything looked pretty good on her test results, he thought it might be a good idea to give her a week off from the chemo. So she doesn't have to take it again until next Thursday. She was still pretty whiny and mopey on Wednesday, but by the end of the day yesterday (Thursday) she started to eat a little more.

Tonight, from where I'm sitting at my desk I can see the empty plate of second dinner on the kitchen floor. I think that her appetite is coming back. She's still a little leery of the Pill Pockets (aka meds) but I've taken to burying them in her food so she's actually getting them in. Whew.

In other news, I was at a workshop today, discussing I.T. issues with I.T. people from other school districts. (Do I have stories about the lady sitting next to me during the talks. I promise I'll share soon.) And of course the national-news-making issue with the high school laptops was discussed. Interesting stuff. We can't implement a lot of the stuff people talked about, but we did get ideas about certain products and also about improving our policies.

Back at school, however, my poor co-librarian--who for some reason was not told by our secretary that said secretary was also going to be out today (she told me in passing but I'm wondering if the cold war between those two continues)--was left to fend for herself all day in the library. She was trying to teach a regularly scheduled class with some of the little ones, and wouldn't you know it, the middle schoolers were behaving very badly during their lunchtime study period. Some kids got written up and some got banned for the rest of the school year (pretty much next week).

Only seven (7!) of my sixth graders who were eligible for extra credit (i.e. had finished the prior assignment in time to get it back with a grade on Tuesday, approximately 30) got the extra credit handed in on time. It was due today. (There's one class that meets only on Mondays, and because there was an in-service this past Monday we will not meet until this coming Monday.). Out of those seven students, probably only one or two of them really needed to do it. I told the Tuesday classes it was due today, so I'm not accepting any from them next week--only the Monday class has an extended deadline.

I still have two students who have not handed in the prior assignment. One has emotional problems and I made his supervising teacher aware of the assignment, so I know I will get it at some point. The other student has run out of chances with me. First, she knew exactly where it was--she kept leaving it on the kitchen table at home. Then, yesterday morning, she brings me a note her mother wrote claiming she lost her entire folder and its contents. I told her she had to start over and get it to me ASAP. She said she'd do it at lunchtime and asked if I'd help her. I told her I was sorry but I had lunch duty (had switched with someone because I normally do Fridays). I would leave her a copy of the assignment (again) with a written reminder of the news website she had chosen to use in class.

When I came back from lunch duty, the secretary informed me that this girl came in late (said she was finishing a test for another teacher) and then was being helped by a classmate. . . but it looked more like the classmate was doing the work for her. Regardless, she did not finish by the end of lunchtime yesterday. Nothing was handed in today. She's getting a zero because she has exhausted all her chances.

It's the end of the school year, and it is exhausting me.

5/14/2011

Dilemma (Warning: Long Post Ahead)

My sixth graders completed an assignment this week and I'm grading their work this weekend.

The work I received, I should say. Two-thirds of the classes didn't complete the work over the span of two classes--mostly because they were messing around and chatting too much with classmates--and they were supposed to take the work home, finish it, and return it to me the next day. I even was merciful and granted an extra day to the kids who were absent or missed class because they went to the gifted program. Yesterday, I sent 17 e-mails to parents of students who owed me work. I'm not a vindictive person, but it's now mid-May and if these kids are going to blow my class off, then I'm going to ruin their weekend (long weekend, I might add, because there's a faculty in-service on Monday). Four parents already got back to me because it was their work e-mail or they have iPhones/Blackberries. God bless 'em.

Now, those already have points taken off for lateness. Let's put those aside for a moment.

The assignment was. . .

1. Look up a news article or two about a current event I specified. (We discussed the websites/databases we agreed were good sources, and each selected one he/she wanted to use.)

2. Read the article and take notes/highlight it.

3. Write a one-paragraph (about 5 sentences) report. Cite any quotes or paraphrases in the body of the paragraph using parentheses. They know how to do citations because I taught them for their history papers.

4. Do a bibliography (a.k.a. "Works Cited") page. They just completed an assignment about it, and did really well explaining how to do it.

Or so I thought.

I skimmed the papers I started receiving last week, and numbers 3 and 4 are done, for the most part, poorly. I can see by the writing that they either copied the author's words or changed just a couple of them. No citations, no bibliography--maybe a note on the article's title and author at the foot of the page if I'm lucky.

By rights, I should fail them for plagiarism. If they'd all done it wrong, then I'd know it was my fault. But we went over this a million times. They did great on their bibliography assignment. On top of that, one (one!) student did it exactly right, so I know somebody learned something.

SIGH.

I think what I'm going to do is grade them, as fairly as possible (failing them for plagiarism aside), and see how bad the grades turn out to be.

The question is, do I want to make them rewrite them in class and throw out the awesome Boolean lesson (a candy bar database plus this) I had planned--and on top of that delay grading because I don't even see my Monday class this week?

Or do I just do a review at the beginning of class, offer them the opportunity to do another one on their own for extra credit (being available to help at lunchtime as is what I do pretty much every day), and move on with the planned lesson?

The kicker: I have three classes left with my classes that meet on Tuesday, and only one with my class that meets on Monday. UGH.

I know many of them don't think "special" classes that meet once a week count for anything. I know we had a lot of time taken away from the class because of show rehearsals in February and March, and then Easter vacation (extended for some so they missed even more).

Is it wrong to hope that at the end of the year, they are able to say that they really learned something that they are going to use for pretty much the rest of their lives?


5/11/2011

Sometimes I Think She Makes Me Open Cans to Watch My Thumbs Work.

UPDATE 5/14/2011: Blogger was totally messed up for about a day or so, and is now just coming back online. Everything seems to be working now, but I'm not sure if the comments already posted will come back, so I'm posting them myself from my e-mail. Sorry if it looks as if I'm doing all the talking in the combox, but the attributions are there.

I know, I know--not another cat post. But she has been eating like crazy lately. She's like "Nomzilla" or something. The other night, I fed her seven times--no kidding. Canned food, dry food, poached chicken, empty Pill Pockets (just to keep the air about them positive). I don't know where she's putting it. (Then again, lately she has also been "Poozilla" so that might answer it.) I got an e-mail promoting Addiction pet food and I'm thinking that's not an issue around here right now.

Yeah, that's pretty much all I've been up to lately. Lots of cat feeding, laundry and cleaning up toxic spills. I was supposed to tutor a student after school today, but he bailed before the end of the day. I often wonder if some of these kids overdo it at recess on the really nice days. We've had really good weather so far this week. I wouldn't mind this every day for the rest of the summer.

In other work news, the cold war continues between the secretary and my co-librarian. I am literally (physically because of where my desk area is) in the middle. Definitely this is not how the last few weeks of school should play out. I hope they won't.

We got massacred again at trivia last night. One problem was that the team dynamic was a bit different (missing a couple regulars and one couple came that hadn't been there in a while)--I got overrun on an answer that turned out to be right. I guess I should've fought for it, but other people just sound so sure that I figure I have to be wrong. I'm definitely a newbie at all this still. Someone also started talking about a right answer kind of loudly before all the teams had handed in their papers.

The other problem is that possibly another team was being helped a bit by the staff (who might have been looking at our answer sheets at times, because we sit at the bar). Not fair!

Job-wise, I am coming to terms with the idea of staying put at my school and just trying to find a side job, maybe something I can start in the summer and continue into the next school year. A rejection letter from the screening interview school district showed up over the weekend. That annoying laughing lady probably ingratiated herself with them all. Well, forget 'em. It wasn't meant to be--and hey, it would have been a long (expensive) commute every day. Moving on. . .

Well, I think that pretty much brings you up to date, if you're still reading this. The Cat's yelling at me again. She just demolished another half a can of food, so I'd better see if I can placate her. She probably needs a drink

Lord knows I probably do.



5/09/2011

My Mom Got an Interesting Mother's Day Gift

Remember this little guy?

The now-three-year-old is gonna be a big brother in 2012. (He has noooo idea what he's in for. I don't think his older sibs are going to spoil his excitement, though.)

Christmas is probably going to be a disaster, but I am looking forward to being an auntie again.

Mom, of course, is over the moon. When it comes to grandkids, the more the merrier.

And when she says that aloud, she looks pointedly in the direction of Younger Sister and me.

5/05/2011

My Mouse Slipped

I went to save a draft and I think it got posted, half-baked. Sorry for any confusion.

Updates to come tomorrow--Friday! Yay!