Friday, February 29, 2008
Salt Lake County is pondering my request that they cough up $35,000 for my English as a Second Language program. I got an e-mail from them a few days ago that informed me of my appointed time for a ten-minute hearing. There's a citizen panel that reads my proposal; they ask me questions, which I answer brilliantly. Then, awed, they share the bounty. They sent me a second e-mail the following day, containing the questions I needed to be prepared to answer.
Now, I did not get funded by the county last year. They only gave money to 3 agencies, out of 50 or so that applied. According to them, I shouldn't feel bad: I was number four on the list! I missed it by a hair's breadth!
Oh! Thanks! I feel so much better now!
I would really like to emerge triumphant this year.
So, the night before my hearing, I gave a lot of thought to how I would answer their questions. Took careful notes. Pondered the possible political weight of every word I planned to say.
The next morning, I put on one of my "power" outfits and finally got my hair done. It had been months. I was starting to look as if I had been living in a cave all winter. I emerged, perfectly coiffed, just in time to go to the county offices.
I walked into the hearing feeling like a million bucks. The receptionist checked me in, buzzed the panel and asked me, "Do you have your six copies?"
"Six copies? Of what?"
Maybe she thinks I'm here for some other sort of hearing. One requiring six copies of something.
"Of the questions the panel sent you yesterday, and your answers."
[3 more heartbeats]
"I didn't know I was supposed to bring that."
The receptionist shuffles through her copies of the e-mails that had been sent out to the candidates.
Please, let it be a mistake. She will search through the text of the e-mails and say something like "Hmmm...I thought it was in here somewhere...Well, goodness me! We must have left that out! I am so sorry!"
Nope. There it is. One line in the last e-mail, saying, "Please arrive five minutes early, with six copies of your questions and responses."
"Oof. I didn't see it. I didn't read the e-mail thoroughly." That's for sure. My eye went straight to the questions - I totally ignored the surrounding text.
"Do you have anything at all?!"
"Well... just my handwritten notes..."
"I can copy those..."
I glance at them. They are in my own personal shorthand. I have written stuff and crossed it out... substituted it with other stuff....
Suddenly, I'm totally calm again. The calm that I guess must come in the moment before certain death. I shrug.
"No. That would be worse then nothing, I think. I'll just tell them that I screwed up."
After another minute passed, the door opened, and out walked one of my counterparts/ colleagues / competitors (depending on the day) from another agency, whose hearing had just ended. She looked so f***ing breezy and happy.
Fake it, Kate.
"Hi, Catherine! How's it going?"
Please, Catherine, rush over to me and whisper, "Oh, Kate, I can't believe it! I forgot to bring 6 copies of my questions! I was so upset until the panel told me that NO ONE saw that line in the instructions. Whew!" No such luck.
"Hey, Kate! I'm great! How are you?"
"Pretty well, thanks."
I should've known, Smug-Ass. You dotted all your "i"s and crossed all your "t"s, didn't ya'. God Dammit.
"You got your hair cut! Looks great."
Now, please go away.
Well, you can guess the rest. I went in, told the panel that I had failed to read the instructions carefully and did not have the questions answered in writing. That I was sorry for the inconvenience. That I would e-mail the answers to the panelists as soon as got back to my office. The hearing proceeded.
Now, I will just have to wait. There are tough funders that would disqualify an applicant for an error like that. My impression has always been that the county isn't THAT anal. However, I have never tested my impression by actually screwing up, so what do I know?
I will concede that great highlights are only going to get me so far.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
- Spiders. Spiders in Wisconsin aren't even very big. Even the tiniest, dime-sized spider drove me to hysterics. "KILL IT! KILL IT! KILLITKILLITKILLIT!" This makes me laugh now: as an adult I lived in Australia for a little while and THOSE are some serious-ass spiders. Those spiders gave me PTSD. I'm not exaggerating. For two or three years after I got back from Australia, I would leap out of bed in the middle of the night, yelling and slapping at my pajamas.
This li'l guy is a Huntsman Spider. I lived in a house in Townsville, North Queensland, that was full of them. They would hang out in the basement, on the wall behind the washer. I would stand across the room and throw empty detergent boxes at them.
Here's one that thinks it's hiding behind a kitchen clock. Yuck! Makes my skin crawl, even after all these years.
2. Injun Joe. The one from the black and white film version of "Tom Sawyer". As I mentioned in a previous post, the scene in the old film where he kills the doctor in the graveyard with a shovel petrified me, and I became convinced that he lived in the attic crawl space near my bed.
3. The dark. No ordinary nightlight would do. I had to have a 60 watt bulb in my closet, and the closet door open all night.
4. Bozo the Clown. This is because I had a bad dream, and Bozo was in it. He chased me around Markesan United Methodist Church, finally cornering me in the church kitchen. And then, you know what he did? You know those nasty tufts of red hair he has on either side of his head? He pulled one off and touched me with it. And it was electric and electrocuted me! He still bugs me.
- He is undeniably creepy.
5. Mr. Hess. He was the father of the Hess boys, my childhood playmates. He was an alcoholic and when he was passed out drunk, he was harmless. But when he was sober, he'd yell at us in a low, hoarse voice. Part of the reason he was so scary is that he was only sober enough to yell at us once in a while. We never got the chance to get used to it.
6. Vampires. This was from another scary movie. (What is it with all the scary stuff I got to watch? Totally inappropriate. This is because I have older siblings, and was always sneaking out of bed at night to see what they were watching.) I can remember the scene as if it were yesterday. The coffin is standing, closed, in the parlor. The lady is alone in the room, walking past it, when suddenly the handle falls off! She bends down to pick it up (NO! Don't do it!!) and CRASH! the lid comes flying off and there, sitting up, is a vampiress, baring her fangs.
7. Mr. Shruck, the elementary school principal. There is nothing actually scary about this guy, but my big brother told me on the first day of Kindergarten, "You better look out for...THE SHRUCK." My spoon rattled in my cereal bowl as I shuddered in terror. "Mommy? Will The Shruck really tie me to the flagpole by my hair?" I wonder if Roald Dahl has consulted with my big brother?
8. Trampolines. My dad used to tell us at supper about interesting medical cases he'd seen that day. In my town, this was usually nothing more interesting than a carbuncle on George Ehlenfeldt's ass. But there was the occasional trampoline injury. Dad hated trampolines, chain saws and motorcycles. Although I grew to have a cordial relationship with chainsaws, I have never been much into trampolines or motorcycles.
Your turn! Time to share. What scared you when you were a kid?
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Here I am, demonstrating and photographing myself at the same time. As you can see, it's pretty simple. Paper towel tube with a rubber glove taped tightly to it. Then Dad snipped a little hole in one finger of the glove and put a straw in there, again with some pretty intense tape-action. If you pull the glove tight across the top of the tube and blow, you get a surprisingly loud, whale-like sound. It's prevented from just sounding fart-like by the long, resonant tube.
Nate is convinced that, if he takes it to Oregon next summer, the whales will flock to him.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
I found this in my in-box today, submitted for publication. We have a student newspaper and we print pretty much anything the students feel like writing. Students Yolanda and Cresencio wrote this excellent verse. They are basic students, so for them, this is an epic. I got a kick out if it.
[I fixed up the puncuation a little.]
EVERY SINGLE DAY,
IT IS A HOLIDAY.
I LOOK AT YOU AND SAY,
"IN ENGLISH THE WORD IS... 'QUE?'"
BECAUSE YOU SPEAK ANOTHER TONGUE,
WHICH I HAVEN'T EVEN SUNG,
AND, FRANKLY, MAKES ME WANT TO RUN
TO WHERE I CAN BECOME A NUN.
[Well, maybe Yolanda and not Cresencio...]
FOR ENGLISH IS YOUR NATIVE VOICE
AND, EVEN THOUGH IT SOUNDS LIKE NOISE
TO ME IT IS A BEAUTIFUL CHOICE
THAT YOU AND I CAN CHAT AND REJOICE
Monday, February 18, 2008
So, Sara had her birthday over the weekend (BTW, Happy Birthday, Sara!). Here she is with her nine candles, (starting to look like a real conflagration on the cake). I paid no attention at the time, but she is wearing a purple disco-dress from the dress-up box.
I was a little distracted by the volume of girls, spaghetti sauce, wrapping paper, lemonade, shrieking and 19-cent kazoos.
Saegrape, if you visit today, this is a conscious effort to immitate your style. Seagrape is a great photographer, and can make real art out of a random grouping of everyday objects. I want to learn to do this; as you can see by my attempt...I still have a looooong apprenticeship ahead of me.
The party was pretty successful. I have vivid (painful) memories of being a girl this age, and my biggest worry was that I would have to deal with a girl-bullshit squabble at 10 PM and drive some sobbing, traumatized girl home because some other girl told her that her teeth were ugly, or that she was getting boobies.
There is one girl that I always watch, 'cause she instigates this stuff sometimes. She has been Sara's friend since they were three, so I know how she operates, and I can usually head her off at the pass. She stirred the pot a bit at supper, by stating loudly that she was going to Primary Children's Medical Center next week to have some [dramatic pause] blood tests. A little girl asks, "What for?" "Oh, I can't really talk about it." I roll my eyes while I get more garlic bread out of the oven. Then, she leans over and starts whispering into Sara's ear. The table goes silent. Another girl asks, "What are you whispering secrets about?" L. says, "It's about my tests, but it's really personal and private." Sara catches my eye and leans away from L. as if I had yanked on her ear. The conversation grinds to a halt. "Gosh, L., " I said, setting a basket of bread on the table, "even grown-ups think health-care is a pretty boring topic for a dinner party." Everyone laughed and the talk moved back to silly kid-stuff. That was the only time that I had to intervene.
Part of the reason that the girls got on so well was that Nathan was there, along with his little friend, B. I had invited B. to keep Nathan company, but it was also helpful because it gave the girls a united front against a common enemy: disgusting boys. Nate and B. relished this role, as you can see, and made the most of it, tearing around shirtless and masked, marauding horrors straight from the pages of Lord of the Flies.
The party is over (all except for the microwave, which will smell scorched for months 'cause I burned popcorn in it). But now, I have a nine-year-old. I have to say that this really is a little different. For one thing, she got clothes that I'm jealous of. Not much longer 'til I can wear her stuff, which is (thanks to her indulgent Nana in England) waaaay better than mine.
That skirt really belongs with me, Sara!
Get over it, Mom.Sudden changes have come about primarily because Simon and I bought her a desk for her birthday. The dress-up box has been exiled to the basement, and she now has a desk, lamp and swivel-chair. She loves it, and has it all set up for art projects, reading, etc... She always used to do these things out at the kitchen table. [Sigh!] Almost the moment the little girls left the morning after her party, she went into her room and closed the door. Shortly after, I found a proliferation of door-signage, stating the new rules of engagement.
Wha-?!? Hmph! I am the mother, after all. I will not knock, await permission to state the secret password, then apply in triplicate for the privilege of entering my child's room. Right!?! Right, Si? "Weeeeell, we need to remember that she is growing up."
Later, after filling out the requisite paperwork and getting my passport stamped, I went in there with a basket of clean clothes and discovered the thing that she loves most about the desk, and that I hate. It is the supreme crap-collector, already the biggest trash magnet in her chaotic room. I just stood still and looked around, totally overwhelmed. I have to admit that I'm a neat-freak. I looked at all the junk piled up on the desk, around it, under it...Radio Disney blaring "How do you knoooooow..... he loves you?/ How do you knoooooooow... he cares?" and I thought, "I sense conflict coming on..."
I called the Summit Conference on Tween Rights and Responsibilities, so we could figure out ground rules.
Resolution One: On Privacy
"Well, I think I should be able to be alone in my room."
"I agree. That's totally reasonable."
"I want to be able to close the door, and when the door is closed, everyone has to knock."
"OK, I can work with that."
"And, if I don't want you to come in, I can tell you to go away, and you have to."
[buzzer sound] "Whoops! Nope. That doesn't work for your dad and me. We'll knock, but we reserve the right to come in if we need to talk to you." Etc...
After negotiating that, we moved on to Resolution Two: On Room Tidiness.
I was told that I no longer get to stand in the middle of the room like Snow White at the Seven Dwarfs' house, snapping my fingers and pointing while warbling things like, "Pick up those slippers!" and "Why is there a pile of dandelions under your dresser?" The new rules are that she's in charge of her space, but she has to:
- make her bed;
- put her dirty clothes in the laundry basket;
- keep stuff off the floor.
Negotiations continue about my right to "muck out", as I call it. Y'know, when the underwear drawer has become a worm habitat and the underwear is sent to share a box under the bed with the rock collection? We're still working that out. Very delicate business.
Is there anyone out there who has experience with 8/9/10 year-old girls? How are you dealing with privacy? Mess tolerance? Radio Disney?
Thursday, February 14, 2008
But this look is the most evocative. Think Cossak. Or Ewok. Remember the Wicked Witch's guards in "Wizard of Oz"?
Monday, February 11, 2008
You never want a homemade cake. It always has to be an ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins. With flowers. The candles don't match. I have four that are shaped like cars and two that are shaped like crayons.
- Slept through the night!
- Nate has stomach flu.
- I have stomach flu.
- Removed all the cassettes from the cassette rack.
- Ate bananas!
- Ate sweet potatoes!
- Ate apple sauce!
- Ate soot (that was at the cabin, when we had the wood stove).
Saturday, February 9, 2008
This Saturday is all about birthday parties. Nathan went to one earlier, and Sara's at one now. The party for Nathan's little friend C. was held at Jungle Jim's Playland. Are these place all over the country, or just here? It's like an arcade/indoor carnival, and I always feel on the verge of a psychotic episode when I have to go in there. Still, kids seem to like this mayhem. I was introduced to C.'s father, a sweet, red-headed bear of a man. Very nice - I was almost able to forget that he had a sharpened ivory spike piercing through his lower lip.
Both of my own kids have birthdays coming up next week as well, only five days apart. I have noticed that there is a birthday-surge in February. My theory: in this part of Salt Lake, so close to four ski resorts, you have a "company town" effect. Loads of other parents who send their kids to the same school/daycare/Girl Scout troop/whatever are in the ski industry, like Si. The ski season ends and everybody finally has time and energy to have sex again in May, thus the rash of February births.
I have accomplished great things today. The birdfeeder is filled. The gaping maw of the laundry-monster is being stuffed with dirty clothes and is disgorging them, clean and dry. The dishwasher is in similar mode. The crock pot is silently simmering something the cookbook calls "California Chicken". I see nothing "California" about it, except that the sauce involves oranges. In other words, I currently have compliant appliances.
Last night as I was dropping off, I considered the fact that I'm incapable of falling asleep unless I'm lying on my right side. Even if I'm comfortable and relaxed, but on my left side, sleep will not come. I realized that I developed this habit as a survival tactic when I was a small child. Did anyone else out there ever see the old black and white film version of "Tom Sawyer"? The scene in which Injun Joe murdered Doc Whatshisname with a shovel in the graveyard scared the s*** out my little five-year-old self. At night, I couldn't fall asleep because there was a closet in my bedroom that contained the trapdoor to our attic crawl-space, and I was conviced that Injun Joe was hiding up there. It was to my left as I lay in bed; so I would turn my back on it and wait for the fatal shovel-blow. At least I wouldn't have to see it coming...
This has me thinking of other things I do unnecessarily, out of long habit.
I can't bring myself to flush toilet paper. When we lived in our cabin, flushing toilet paper was a no-no, and I still don't. We had other rules about flushing, too; the kids couldn't flush without permission, which is why I keep finding unflushed toilets and...not really caring that much.
I also find myself refusing to make two trips when I unload anything from the car. I will thred 8 canvas totes over my shoulders and all up my arms and then start scootching a big thing of laundry detergent across the garage floor with my foot, inching slowly toward the door; then I remember that I can go in, put stuff down and come back. Again, this is left from the days at the cabin, when the car was a couple hundred yards from the house. I would put the baby in the baby-backpack, the toddler in the sled with my briefcase and the diaper-bag and the milk. The rest of the grocery bags I would string along my arms. Or I would thread the hip-belt of the baby backpack through handles of a bunch of grocery bags to free up my hands for more groceries. I would get all set to go, then remember that the pull-rope for the sled was lying on the ground at my feet. "Sara, sweetie, can you hand Mommy the rope?" "I can't! The milk is on top of me!" Now, I have a garage. And both of my kids can walk. So I have no idea why I still load myself that way.
I'm collecting stories today. Can you think of a (now irrelevant) habit that you developed out of necessity a long time ago?
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
I received an URGENT! URGENT! URGENT! e-mail from our local United Way yesterday, infoming me that UW is planning a rally/media event in the Utah capitol rotunda to protest the eleven short-sighted and bigoted anti-immigration bills that have been proposed (again) this year. This is exciting! This is not a fringe group that can be ignored. This is United Way, the most corporate, Wonder Bread, vanilla-flavored, mass-appeal charity organization in the galaxy. I was stoked! A protest! And under the auspices of an organization so reputable that even my boss was thinking of attending. True, the idea of a bunch of stuffed suits from United Way shouting, "Si se puede!" lies beyond the vista of even my imagination; but maybe they would encourage us to yell. Good enough!
[Cue sound of rapidly deflating balloon] Then, it was over. Rally canceled. What?!? Well, they decided that perhaps the right people to address these issues with our legislators are leaders of the local Chamber of Commerce. You kow, discuss the impact on business and all. There is wisdom in this. Our legislature here in Utah is well known for hating the tuneless screech of the vox populii. (If necessary, please pardon my spelling, there. One "i" or two in "populii"?) They like lobbyists better. Preferably lobbyists with Jazz tickets. I have even heard several of our legislators say that they intentionally oppose any measure that protesters and ralliers are advocating; this is to teach the rabble important lessons about "appropriate" ways to be heard. So, yes, the power of the purse will no doubt be more successful that the voice of the people in this instance.
By the way, thank God that the Utah legislature only meets for a couple of months every year. Every MLK Day when the session starts, a mantle of gloom descends upon me and follows me around like a personal rain cloud until it is over.
Now, I am glum. Moping. I stir my finger through my earring box, looking for the pair I want to wear tomorrow; but I keep forgetting what I'm after and idly watch them sparkle under my finger. I make a big mug of chai and carry it here to the office, but then realize it needs stirring. I stir it with a pencil because I am too gloomy to leap up and go get a spoon. Then my chai tastes like pencil shavings.
I needed that protest.
A jolt, to break through the bizarre force field ("Captain! Plexiglass shield engaged!") that sometimes develops between me and the rest of the world. I wonder if this is a common feeling: as if I am invisible; as if all my conversations are taking place under water, slowing my humor and reactions; as if my tongue is three times its normal size, and making conversation with my friends is just so much f***ing effort. Maybe this is because Simon has been sick and hasn't been able to talk to me for a week and a half. Not that he finds me all that engaging, but he is my contractually-bound conversation partner. Lucky devil.
I've become disengaged. Slipped my social moorings. I need something to shout about.
Monday, February 4, 2008
Simon has been sick with flu for a long time. I mean flat-on-his-back sick. Sleep-all-day sick. Too sick to pee standing up. We're on day 7 at this point. Yesterday, he seemed to be doing a little better. I took the kids up to Snowbird for ski-school, and he had me bring home some files he wanted; he ironed a couple of shirts and did the dishes after supper. But then he was exhausted and went straight to bed. Today, he's relapsed. He has always insisted that ironing is bad for his health, and now we have proof.
I am getting paranoid that I'm going to catch this bug. On Saturday, I thought I felt a little bit of a chill. "This is it! It's the BIG ONE! This is what I get for kissing Germ-Bag 10 days ago..." To increase my fluid intake and change my overall Ph balance, thereby killing the evil invaders, I poured myself a large orange juice with plenty of tequila. Then I was dizzy. [Gasp!] Another symptom. "Si! How did yours start?!" "Chills. And dizziness." "I'm dizzy! S***!" "You're drunk, actually."
Yesterday, my throat was a little scratchy, and I thought, "OMG! Now THIS has to be it! Not now! Not now! We can't both have it at the same time! The children will starve! The laundry will pile up!" I had brought work home from the office over the weekend, and I worked until past midnight, thinking, "Hah! If I get this done, I can be sick." I went to bed, thinking I was going to incapacitated in the morning, for sure. I even slept poorly, waiting for my flu to arrive. I feel great today. And I'm ahead on my office work.
The suspense is killing me. It's only a matter of time.
Friday, February 1, 2008
2 plastic packets of kleenex - one still full, one empty
3 glue sticks
1 big eraser
2 broken chunks of big eraser
pair of scissors
tiny calculator w/ microscopic buttons
green Scooby Doo ring
In the tab marked "Homework"
4 full pages and lots of little strips of multiplication problems, already filled out
2 pages of multiplication story problems
1 dot-to-dot, 1 grammar quiz, 1 school newsletter, 1 reading comprehension exercise, 1 goegraphy quiz, feedback on her oral book report, 2 spelling tests, a snowman made out of paper snowfalkes and named "Frosty"
Her school-issued homework planner
(Now this is interesting...) Her chapter of "Whispers of the Wind", on which she has been making revisions, along with the beginning of Chapter 2. "Soon after her desaperance, her tribe noticed, but when they looked for her they could not find her." A cliffhanger.
(Ooooh. This is even more interesting.) A sealed envelope containing some sort of note. It is labled "To B. From Sara. Top Secret." B. is one of her little boyfriends, when she doesn't hate him. I'll resist the urge to steam it open.
In the tab marked "Other"
In the next tab marked "Other"
A school lunch menu (decisions, decisions...) Mini Corn Dogs or Ravioli? French Toast or Country Fried Beef Fingers? Jesus! Is this a school cafeteria or the midway at the county fair?! Gack!
A sticker book
In the next tab marked "Other"
In the tab marked "Writing"
A list of possible topics, including horses, fish, white-water rafting, Australia, Sacagawea, cheetahs and earthquakes
A page full of cursive practice
A book that she has made of construction paper, called "The Voyage". Let's see what this is about. "Once there lived a girl her name was Lazma she ruled a country called Lazmania. But of to the side of this country their was a country called Camastalot this country..." That's all so far. Any country with a name that ends in "mania" sounds like just the place for me.
A list of teachers
Another list of possible topics, including one called "The Secret of Nathan". Sounds intriguing.
In the tab marked "Reading"
In the tab marked "Math"
2 math worksheets and 2 number charts
Multiplication flash cards
In the tab marked "Art"
a large peice of paper cut into a shape sort of like a bow
An art project I don't quite comprehend, called a "mystery picture". Looks complicated.
In the tab marked "Unit"
A...uh...unit! Called "Light and Heat"
In the tab marked "Notebook"
A little homemade book decorated with magazine cut-outs of roses and malamutes, called "My Planner". The only thing written in it is "Wednesday".
A lot of little memo pads, the size of the palm of my hand
An address and memo pad, empty
A thing that looks like a SEX TOY (WTF!), but is in fact... (hold on while I invesigate this...) an enormous phallic-looking eraser. Doesn't look very ergonomic.
In the tab marked "Books"
And finally, in the back
A roster of some sort, assigning roles to various kids for an elaborate recess pretending game. Headings are: "Name in the Real World " If They Have a File" (Don't ask me...) "Role" (there's a king, a queen, princes, princesses and a foster mom), "Name in Game" and "Age in Game" (ranges from 10,111,112 to 3 days old). My poor baby. She's only eight and she's already putting together spread sheets.
Art, with such titles as "Space Rocks!" "Flowers and Butterflies!!" "Jackson, the Horse" and "Griffon, age 1,001. Married for 907 years."