Saturday, February 27, 2010

Be Careful What You Say

When the phone rings at 5pm on a Friday, and the mother of one of your kids' friends asks if you have any plans for the weekend, watch what you say. You could end up having plans made for you!

Remember the woman who would bring her son over around 4:45 to play with Patrick during the fall (until it got too cold to walk the few blocks to get here)? She's baaaaaackkkk.

When she asked me what I was doing this weekend, I said that we didn't have much to do other than usual stuff, and she said that she needed to take two of her other six kids to a wrestling match this weekend, and needed to stay overnight there. I said, sure, he could come over, would it be Friday or Saturday night?

Oh, there was no 'or' about it. She wanted to drop him off in an HOUR, and he would be staying until Sunday. That would be, Friday dinnertime until lunch on Sunday, k-thx.

I could hear him pleading in the backround, and she said that she had been trying to call family to watch him, but he had been begging her to call me, and that frankly she was more comfortable with him staying with us, anyway. What could I say? He's a really nice kid, and I had already said that we didn't have plans. Ta-da! Instant plans!

Of course, she didn't mention that he's got a cough. She said that she'd call when they were settled at wherever the match is, but she didn't. In fact, I didn't hear from her until this evening, when I called her to ask what kind of medicine I should give Boy, because he's been coughing since she dropped him off. In fact, we went to the MD Sci Center today, in Baltimore, so the boys wouldn't get sick of each other and start fighting or something, and he got progressively droopy until, on the way home, we stopped at a Starbucks to get drinks and snacks and he didn't want cocoa or a cookie - that's feeling bad. Had I known that he was heading that way, we probably would have stayed closer to home, but at least he got to go somewhere fun and educational that he's never gone before.

So, I called her, and she said that she just gives him whatever she can afford, and that tomorrow we should call Boy's dad before we drop him off to make sure that the man is up, and not down at the garage working on his bike, but that 12:30 should be OK. If he doesn't answer, call her, and she'll call him and make him answer.

I'm sorry, WHAT? We will have had the boy for two days by then, and the man can't be up and waiting for his son, even if he knows EXACTLY what time at the crack of NOON we're going to be dropping him back off at home!? Especially when he's SICK, plus I think a little homesick, you can't, I dunno, CALL HIM to say goodnight, or call ME to make sure things are OK?!

I get so mad at people. Boy is a great kid, sweet and kind and polite. I know his next oldest brother, too, from school, and he's the same. They're both lagging in their school work, and I'm pretty sure they don't get enough attention at home. Their mom is missing several teeth, and dresses like a teenager. There are seven kids, plus the mother and her boyfriend, plus whatever other adults happen to be living with them at the time, in a townhouse the size of a two-story single-car garage. All of this together makes me want to call her back and say, you know what? We'll just keep him here.

I'm not mad that he's here. I like him very much, and I meant it when I told his mother that he's always welcome in our home. I'm pissed that his mother didn't think about where he could stay until an hour before she was leaving, and that there's so much I feel like he's missing out on. Sure, they have video games and movies (and two pit bulls, OMG), but the kid's never been to a museum or science center in his life, and he can't read. I'm annoyed that I feel like she was trying to guilt/dupe me into taking him, when I would have watched him anyway had she asked a week or two ago, like a normal parent, so I could have planned for him to be here. It pisses me off that he's going to go home to a guy who can't be bothered to be awake or away from his motorbike to greet him. Speaking of which, HE hasn't called to talk to Boy, either. Being financially poor is one thing; there's no shame in that. The mental and emotional poverty I'm sensing from this situation, though, is something else altogether.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bawk!!!!!! Brrraaawwwwk!!!

Last night's choir practice was really light, with maybe about half of the people who usually come. That meant that the parts (S,A,T,B) were sitting in a tighter group than usual, and as a result, I ended up sitting about a yard from the choir leader, Toby. He's not the music director, but rather kind of the ruler of all things adult choir, although he's one of the best tenors I've ever heard. He's about 55, short and heavy, with a long beard - once his hair turns white, he's going to be Santa Claus, absolutely.

On a typical rehearsal night, we stay in the upstairs choir room for about an hour, and then go down into the huge sanctuary for the last half hour to rehearse with the organ and get a feel for the real acoustics of the song in the space. Last night, we were actually stuck upstairs, where it's pretty hot, for a long time, because someone was working on the sound system, so we actually went through most of the many pieces that we have in our folders (we're hosting a choir carnivale this weekend, so we have a lot of extra stuff in there at the moment). When we finally got ready to go downstairs, Toby pulled me aside and told me that he wants me to start singing with him, as a duet, for the second services on Sunday mornings. The choir usually only does the much larger first service, so he's been up front with a mic leading the music solo for quite awhile, and he wants someone to help out and take over for him when he's sick / busy / whatever. He also said that it would be a good transition to my performing in the weekly 'special music' slot that occurs during the offering time - every week, or whenever we can find anyone, someone does a performance of some kind during offering, be it playing, singing, or both.

I could have fallen over and died, for several reasons.

On the one hand, I have ALWAYS wanted to perform on my own, or as part of a very small group, but have never felt like it was appropriate to ask. I'm not someone who feels it's appropriate to invite myself to do something like that; I think if someone wants me to do something in particular, they'll ask, and if they don't, it's either not meant to be or I'm not good enough, and I certainly don't want to make an ass of myself, either by asking and being refused or by actually being allowed to do something because everyone is too polite to say that, no, we're sorry, but you stink like month-old dog turdies. Oddly enough, I think it's totally good for OTHER people to volunteer themselves to do things like that, maybe because I can hear them and know they're good, so of course they should feel confident enough to do such a thing. And when I say I've always wanted to do it, I mean that I actually, um, kind of pretend sometimes when I'm singing on my own in the car or whatever, that I, uh, am. doing. it. Yeah, embarrassing, I know, but there you go.

The thing is, not only is Toby a great musician, he's also an older guy, and here's where all my father issues pop up. There's a guy, about my father's age, who I really respect, coming over to me and telling me that he wants ME to do something, that he thinks I'M good at something I've always wanted to be thought of as good at, is a pretty heady experience. On top of all that, he does, I'll admit, pay me some extra attention, I think because I'm one of the youngest people there, and he likes to flirt with girls (not in a creepy way, in a sweet way). So, if you can imagine all of this, you can also probably see that my face was about ON FIRE. I don't remember the last time I blushed like that, but I was probably a lot younger than I am now, I'll tell you.

The problem is that I'm TERRIFIED, and I told him so (of course, I didn't mention any of the other stuff, because if it's embarrassing to admit online, hello!). The very idea makes me so nervous I could almost throw up. I mean, what if I get so scared that I can't sing, or even worse, sing and totally suck because I can't pay attention because everyone is STARING AT ME? OMG. O!M!G! There are only about 100 people in second service, which is only about a third of what comes to first service, but still, that's a lot of people, people.

So I told him I'd think about it. It's not like it's going anywhere, obviously. Really, though, I'm going to be tripping on this for a long time, because this is one of those situations where it's an honor just to be nominated. I know I'll be really disappointed in myself if I don't at least try it, but on the other hand, I physically may not be able to do it. We'll see.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ridiculous Things

In the spirit of 'A Few of My Favorite Things', and Dimitri Martin's Important Things, I offer you.... ridiculous things. Because it's all I've got, people!

1. I went to the bank drive-thru yesterday to cash my check from the board of ed. I do this every two weeks, takes five minutes. Yesterday, I somehow crossed over to the Twilight Zone of banking, because the woman behind the sucky-tube speaker-phoned me to ask if I had an account with them (I don't, because they have only ONE branch that I can find, and I'm not paying ridiculous ATM fees everywhere I go). When I said, 'no', she ALMOST KEPT MY CHECK! She told me that I had to come inside, that no one without an account can use the drive-thru, and I most certainly have never been able to do it this way. Also, I would need to show two forms of ID, not just one. ?!?!?! I said, very politely, I might add (for the moment), that no, I've done it this way for a year, and it's always been fine - I thought it might be a new person. She started arguing with me, very loudly, and when I asked her to send my check back, she just looked at me! Finally, I got it back, and, I admit it, pissed, I pulled into a space and went inside. There, another woman AGAIN told me that I had never cashed a check in the drive thru, because it wasn't possible, and that she needed my credit card, AND my fingerprint, AND that there might be a fee attached to cash a check as a non-account holder!!!! I almost took it from her and walked out. I was SO MAD! But, it takes forever to get a check to clear, and I was already there, so I just did it, listening to her tell me over and over that I was wrong about never having been inside before. Finally, she asked if I wanted an envelope, and I said, NO, and grabbed the cash from her and left. Not my finest moment, I'll admit, but SERIOUSLY! Has anyone else noticed that the customer is ALWAYS WRONG these days?!

2. Remember how DH stayed in a hotel during the big storms so he could continue working on the proposal? Well, his company gave everyone two days' administrative leave because the roads weren't plowed. Isn't that nice of them? EXCEPT, since he stayed in a hotel, and worked A HUNDRED AND EIGHTY HOURS last pay period (that's a hundred hours of overtime, people), he can't use it. Nope. He stayed home the rest of that week because of the snow, and exhaustion, but HE has to use comp time to do it. AND (this is even better), the company gives quarterly bonuses, only to people who work more than 600hrs in that quarter. We should qualify easily, right? Nope. DH is having hernia surgery next month, which is in this quarter, and will have to take a week off. That will drop him below the required amount of hours worked. No bonus. (Actually, if you have a family, you can generally forget getting a bonus, since it requires a ridiculous amount of overtime and no vacation leave - if you want your kids to know who you are, you're not getting one.) This is the same company that promised anyone who brought in new high-level employees, rather than them having to use headhunters, a $10k bonus, and then reneged when the guy DH suggested to head a contract (and who was actually hired and is still there to this day, over two years later) didn't have his security clearance yet, and said it was only for people who they hired and ALREADY had their clearance. They gave us what, after taxes, amounted to a nice meal at Friday's instead.

3. The substitute computer system still isn't calling me, and my last check was over a week late. I called the board of ed two weeks ago to ask about it. No response. At least my check did arrive (see above), and was probably just held up in the snow (whatever happened to the mail going through snow, sleet and dark of night?!). I left more messages yesterday, and even then I was told that while it probably seems to coincide with how I had to refuse assignments several times in one day because the system kept calling me when I had called in sick to ask if I'd rather do a different assignment, it was just a coincidence, and she really can't explain it. Sure, because all the other subs who talk about the same thing having happened to them are totally off the mark, too. At least I got two other schools added to my list, one that's really big, and another that specializes in the most serious special ed cases in the area (ie, up to age 21 and may or may not be toilet-able so most people won't go there), so hopefully my chances of being called will increase. Also as likely - I may grow wings.

... and that was just yesterday.

Monday, February 22, 2010

I was just listening to The Story on my iPod, and the story for the day was two elderly women who found out that they were sisters when they were in their 70's. One had been essentially stolen by a woman who ran an adoption ring in the south; she led unwed mothers to believe that they were giving up their babies to be cared for for a month while they recovered and found a place to live, only to realize too late that they had actually signed their children away. The women signed the papers under duress / while they were still under effects of drugs given to them during labor, so they had no hope of understanding what had happened, and as young unwed mothers at the time, their recourses were about nil.

It got me thinking about lost family, and who might be out there that I am related to. I'm not adopted (although I used to spend a lot of time wishing I would have been), but when my father left, he took with him the only connection I had to his family - his eight brothers and sisters, parents, grandparents, his aunts and uncles, and now my cousins, of which I estimate I must have easily sixteen or so. It boggles my mind to think about it sometimes. I usually tell people that I really have no family other than my mother, which is technically true although now that I know where my father is and this time, chose to walk away from him. Really, though, I have a huge family; I just don't know them.

When I was in high school, my father contacted me for the first time since I was a preschooler, via one of his aunts, who was in her seventies. It was the strangest feeling, coming home and seeing a fat envelope for me in the mail from a woman I had never met, talking about herself, and how he had always been interested in me, etc. When my mother found out, of course the first thing on her mind was getting money from him, since he hadn't paid support in years (he later told me that if he wasn't going to be allowed to talk to me, he wasn't going to give her anything, which I have to admit makes some sense, although I will never really know how much of what either of them says about that is true), but for me, it was like Pandora's box opening on its own. There it was, the potential for information about people I had wondered about for my entire life. My father sent me a few letters, and it was the strangest thing ever to see his handwriting. He offered no explainations, but just wrote about everyday things.

Within a few weeks, a younger cousin - the only one of my cousins I have ever talked to - wrote to me as well. She was lonely, I think, and was looking for someone to talk to. We wrote for awhile, but her letters stopped coming, and I guess she was just too young, or immature, to really keep it up. My great aunt, though, wrote for several months, and a few weeks before my graduation from high school, she actually called me. She said that my grandmother - her sister - wanted to be in touch with me as well, and that they would be sending me a package for graduation. It all seemed too good to be real.

It was. I never heard from her again. No packages arrived. It stopped as suddenly as it started.

My father actually did see me; he was coming to the state because his wife had children here as well, and was going to see them, so they stopped in the town where I lived. My boyfriend and I went to meet them at a restaurant, and then we wandered the local mall. I don't recommend meeting a parent for the first time at a restaurant when you're 18. It was awful, so uncomfortable. He kept offering to buy me things while we were at the mall, but by that point I was Done. I couldn't wait to get out of there. They left town the next day, and I never saw him again, either. He wrote a few more times, but it was strained, and I stopped writing to him after he called me one time, drunk, to lecture me on not getting too serious with my college boyfriend. He stopped writing to me, too, and that was that.

I didn't see or hear from him again until I found him when I was about 30, because my therapist said it might be a good idea. It ended up being too much pressure, and his wife was way too much to take, lecturing me for not calling enough, etc, and that, combined with his refusal to tell me anything about his siblings, or put me in touch with any of the rest of my family, led to my writing to say that I couldn't handle the pressure they were putting on me to be Their Little Girl. Some days I regret that decision a tiny bit, but not usually. The growing, gnawing concern about what he didn't want me to learn about him from his siblings was the final nail in the coffin, I guess.

Now, I actually live not too far from where I was born, and I'll bet there are people I'm related to within an hour of my house. I don't know why none of them chose to continue a relationship with me, especially my grandparents. I would never allow myself to lose touch with the children in our extended family, and it's not like it was a secret where we lived - my mother moved us back into her mother's house, in the same town my parents had lived in while they were maried. I would really, really have loved to have known my cousins, especially being an only child. I don't know if I would really be able to trust any relationship I could have with that side of my family, at least not for a long time, but it would have been nice to have the option. I will always wonder what I've missed out on, since 8 siblings, plus 8 spouses, plus about 16 kids, plus all their kids = about 50 people I should know, and don't. Surely, somewhere in there, there must have been people worth knowing, and loving.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Wish You Were Here

I miss you, Ryan.

My Dears (and not so much)

Dear Mr. PTA President,

I am SO GLAD you don't like me, Senor -I-Tell-Everyone-I-Teach-High-School-Sex-Ed-But-Really-It's-Just-HEALTH-CLASS. Ridiculing the teacher who just got out of intensive care because her kidneys almost failed during delivery, and whose baby is in serious condition in the NICU, is grossly tasteless, especially at a PTA meeting. I don't care that your wife (who teaches enrichment at the school, aka, Josie, every day) doesn't like her because she's scatterbrained. I work there too sometimes, asshole, and although maybe she's not a gifted music teacher, she's just young, not that it matters, and I wish I hadn't been too shocked by your comments to rip you a new one. Just because I had the nerve to stand my ground about not having that ridiculous Chuck E Cheese standing outside the school on the day of the fundraiser, reminding poor kids that other children are going to what is essentially a party when they can't afford to (and pissing off parents who aren't taking their kids), doesn't mean you need to make snide remarks when I talk at a meeting ("oh, are you sure you're not going to complain?") for the NEXT SIX MONTHS. Your wife isn't fond of me, either, because Patrick's teachers have asked two years running that she do her job and work with all the advanced kids at the school and not just grades 3-5 (requests which you have refused), and your stellar wit makes me pretty sure of how you both talk about me as well. Thank God. If you liked me, I guess I would be a giant douchecanoe, too. If you're both really *that* too cool for school, then you shouldn't work in one.



Dear Principal,

Grow a pair. When someone ridicules one of your staff, especially like that, speak up. Don't just look down and type on your laptop like a pussy.

Not Planning to Work for You When I Graduate


Dear Patrick,

Seriously. Telling me at 8:15 that you're supposed to bring pretzels for the belated Valentine's party this afternoon is a bit much. Calling home twenty minutes later to say that you can't find the lunchbox that you took off of the counter this morning, before getting into the car and going to school, is even worse. Are you sure you didn't just eat it, box and all? Sometimes I think you're going to eat ME if I stop moving. It's not in the house and it's not in the car, so if it's not at the school, that means it's in your stomach. If you poop out a cloth Towmater later, I won't be surprised.

Good Grief


Dear Snow,

Please stop melting. Every day, it looks like the dogs have pooped fifteen times because a whole new poop field gets uncovered by your hasty retreat. I'm all for archaeology, but three-week-old frozen/melted dog crap doesn't count. Not to mention, at this rate, everything is going to be mud in a week. Gross!!!


on a related note -

Dear Dogs,

Please stop pooping. You're killing me. I'm going to cork your asses shut pretty soon. Enough, already!

Grossed Out


Dear Jeans,

Et tu?! Noooooooooooooooooo! It was bad enough when one pair ripped out the other week, but now this?! Now all of my really comfy jeans are dead!!!! Why, oh why, is the crotch the first to go when you're an adult? Knee-holes are mildly attractive, but crotch holes are skanky / revealing of granny panties. Either way, NOT attractive, especially when bent over scooping poop in the yard.

Soon-to-be Stiff New-Jeans Owner


Dear Town,

WHEN are you going to finish plowing the streets!? I'm tired of driving on one-lane, taking-turns-coming-and-going roads! Having a bus come by is like taking your life into your hands!!!! Just because there were people parked on the street during the storm doesn't mean that you can leave the six-foot pile of snow there until spring. No one can see around corners while driving, and someone's going to get hit, and sue you, and then we'll NEVER get plowed again!

WTF?! It's been WEEKS!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Flying Solo

In our last installment of Astarte is Craz-ay, I had the total drug reaction from hell last Friday night when I took my first Cymbalta. Needless to say, I haven't taken any more of THAT, and rather than starting back on Zoloft right away, I decided to wait until I was sure my system was completely empty of anything that might react with it... just in case.

That was six days ago, and since Cymbalta has a 36hr half-life, I'm pretty much free of it now (by noon Sunday it was half gone, midnight Monday was a quarter, noon Wednesday was an eighth left). The thing is, I feel fine, and not just reaction-recovery-wise.

I mean, my system is essentially drug-free for the first time in almost seven years, and I feel fine. I'm not depressed, or at least I certainly feel better than I did when I was on Wellbutrin. My OCD isn't acting up like it was even a week ago. My stomach problems have scaled way back. I actually feel, dare I say it, pretty damn good, comparitively.

I'm not sure why this is. Maybe it's that I still have a tiny bit of Cymbalta left in me, and since I had such a strong reaction to it, perhaps that tiny bit is all I would have needed as a dose, so I'm still riding that particular chemical wave. Maybe it's that I had such a scare last week that I'm thrilled to just be alive. Maybe it's that the Wellbutrin was really messing with me in a much more serious way than I had thought. Since all of this happened, I've been reading a lot of forums where people have reported their reactions to Wellbutrin, and there are a bunch of people out there who have reported that their depression actually got worse while they were on it, and for people with OCD, many times their symptoms got worse because it can cause hyperactivity/anxiety, which also leads to insomnia, which I had while I was on it. I can tell you right now, the kind of OCD I have, when it's really acting up, is enough to make you want a lobotomy, so that in itself can be enough to increase depression.

Also, I've lost a few pounds. I haven't lost weight in years, no matter what I've done.

So, we will see. If I need to take the Zoloft, I will, but I'm going to wait and see what happens. I have it if I need it. I'm hoping maybe I won't. That would be amazing.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Who got a new stove today?

(I got a new stove today!)

Who rewired the outlet?

(I rewired the outlet!)

Ooh yeah, ooh yeah!

(Who's your daddy mommy now, beyotch?!)

(I totally push your buttons, admit it.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Not-So-Fun Friday Freak-out

Most of you know that I have OCD - obsessive compulsive disorder. It makes me have uncontrollable, obsessive thoughts and fears that are basically mental home horror movies that spool, unwelcome, through my head like Mike Myers popping up from the dead. Most of them have something to do with my losing control of myself and hurting someone, which is ironic because even the thought is uncontrolled and unwelcome, never mind the ridiculous fears they show. When I was a child, the thoughts were mainly comprised of doors opening and closing continually, or lights flashing on and off, although I didn't know what the fact that I had those thoughts meant at the time, and even if I had, I certainly didn't have anyone to tell about them, anyway, except the person who probably brought the whole mess on. Now, suffice it to say, I am sporradically fearful of anything and everything that could possibly be used to harm someone. I'm cooking? What if I somehow smash someone over the head with the pan? What if I somehow spill the boiling water on the stove on the people in the living room (don't ask me how this would occur)? And so on.

I used to take Zoloft to control my OCD, and the depression it brings on (because fighting this stuff all the time is not only exhausting, it's also really depressing for obvious reasons), but it made me gain a lot of weight, so last year I asked my doctor to let me try something else, and she put me on Wellbutrin, which is in a different class and has actually been off-label scripted for weight loss. While it didn't make me lose weight, it gave me a lot of side affects, like blurrier vision, difficulty sleeping, hyperactivity, and, on top of all of that, it didn't control my depression or OCD, which were worsening as time went on. The tricky thing was, since both things are a little sneaky, I didn't realize how depressed I was getting again; I knew the OCD was acting up, but until recently, when it started being unbearable, I was trying so hard not to focus on it that I didn't put two and two together, probably because I was too depressed to notice.

I actually went back to the doctor the other day, not because of those things, but because I have had *terrible* intestinal problems for the past several months, and I had chalked it up to my gallbladder being removed a year and a half ago. Turns out, Wellbutrin can - and often does - cause insane, shall we say, trots, in a lot of people, particularly those who are already predisposed. Then it all came out about how it also wasn't working for anything else, and after a little bit of looking around, she gave me some Cymbalta to try, 30mg samples for 7 days, 60mg for the next 14, come back in three weeks.

Hooray! I thought, and I couldn't wait to take it, which I did at midnight when I went to bed.

An hour later, I sat straight up, unable to breathe. My heart was hammering so hard I couldn't tell the individual beats; it was like a butterfly in my chest. My head was swimming, and I was on the verge of passing out, not to mention vomiting. This, of course, brought on a massive panic attack, and DH called 911. He rubbed my back until they paramedics got there, and I did my best to deep breathe; by the time the guys arrived, I had managed to control my heartrate somewhat, and wasn't on the verge of passing out. My blood pressure was still way up, for me, but I was coming around. They stayed with me for awhile, and then let me stay at home rather than go to the hospital. I managed to go to sleep about an hour later.

The next morning, I got out of bed and came downstairs to let the dogs out, only to have everything go grey about five minutes later. My legs were like lead, and I had to crawl back up the stairs to the bed so I wouldn't tumble down the stairs if I should pass out on the way there. I had to stay in bed for the next several hours. DH brought me some pancakes, and I finally made it to the shower. I was pretty out of it for most of the day, and didn't get back to normal until Sunday morning.

The one benefit that came out of all this is that, even with the horrendous side effects, I noticed an immediate difference in both my ability to cope with the OCD and in my depression - it actually pointed out to me exactly how depressed and unpredictable I had become. Not to mention, now that the Wellbutrin is out of my system, my extended vacations in the bathroom have stopped. I've decided that I'm going back to Zoloft. I still have some of the lowest dose here because I had just filled a new bottle when she switched me. It never trapped me in the bathroom, which is completely undoable when you're in the classroom, or made me freak out, and it controlled everything I needed controlled. I will work with the weight thing as best I can. This has taught me a valuable lesson - stay with the devil you know!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

If the Stove's Too Hot... Maybe It's On Fire!

We have had a stove that some friends very generously gave us almost two years ago, when they redid their kitchen and got new stuff, because the stove we inherited when we moved in here was really junky and definitely older than I am. It's bisque-colored, which matches our cabinets, and looks pretty. It cooks pretty well, and the oven temp is usually right-on.

Until two days ago, when it decided that it was done with me, and decided to cook its own meal. Namely, my beautiful, shiny red teapot.

It was very windy here that day, and the heat was on, plus the gas fireplace, so we didn't think anything of it when something smelled a little hot. I was on my way into the kitchen to make some cocoa, and even the kitchen was kind of warm, which is unusual in this drafty old house, since the pantry was built over the crawlspace under the porch, meaning it's not insulated. That's actually what caught my attention first, that it *smelled* warm in the kitchen. I looked around, and there didn't appear to me anything amiss - the burners were black, the oven was off, my shiny black kettle sitting quietly...


My kettle was scorched black!!!!!!! The burner *was* on, and was so hot it was black too, I just couldn't see the little indicator light because the handle of the kettle was in the way!!!!!!!! The thing was, the knob was in the right place, but the burner was on anyway, and the knob itself was so hot by then that we couldn't try turning it, plus the blackened kettle was glued to the burner in front of it, anyway. We hadn't heard anything because the lid to the kettle was off so the water we had boiled hours before could cool. We ended up having to unplug the stove to get it to go off.

A few hours later, once everything was cooled off, we were able to pry my poor, ruined kettle off of the burner, which had red ceramic baked onto it, and move the knob. It turned out that something inside the knob area inside the stove must have broken off, because the "off" position is now about half an inch to the left of where it used to be. So, even though it had been turned off, the burner was still on, and probably had been for a long time.

We are SO lucky this didn't happen at night, or worse, during the day when I wasn't here. I'm certain there would have been a full-blown fire at some point, or maybe the kettle would have melted all over the stove, or exploded somehow. Either way, not a good situation. Now I'm afraid to plug the damn thing back in, so we're stuck until our new stove, which is a gorgeous, all-pushbutton convection model (even nicer than the one the county forced us to leave behind in the house they'll be knocking down in a few months, so there!) arrives sometime on Tuesday. I will probably use the oven for dinner tonight, so I'll plug it back in and then unplug it again when I'm done. I'm not comfortable with it being plugged in when I'm not looking at it.

Rest in peace, pretty kettle. We bought a replacement last night, but it just won't be the same. :(

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Here We Go Again - Winter Edition

Well, here we are, buried in snow again.

I know, I know, to you midwesterners and Canadians, what's been happening over here in the mid-Atlantic is nothing. Hell, I've seen worse myself, having lived in New England until Iwas 23. However, for this part of the country, this is incredible. After all, it didn't even snow AT ALL last winter (which was a terrible disappointment). Frankly, I feel that if it's going to be cold and winter, it might as well snow, and the more snow, the better. I would be thrilled if we got a yard every week. Eventually, the county would get used to it and the kids would return to school.

Oh, you didn't know that kids don't go to school here when there's snow? Welcome to my world, people. The kids haven't been in school since noon last Friday, and from where I'm sitting, it's more than likely that there will be no school this week, period. There are many places that haven't finished digging out from the 30in we got over the weekend, nevermind the new 10-20in we're getting between yesterday and today!

So, the kids and I have been having a LOT more together time than usual. Josie is doing OK, but Patrick is starting to crack. He needs to get out and go to school. He's run out of normal things to talk about nonstop, and has moved on to the ridiculous - " What if we got millions of inches of snow?!" "What if snowplows fell from the sky?" "What if cars all piled up like giants?" It's the what if's that are going to kill me people. Snow, blizzards, 40mph winds, fine, but the what if's are going to drive me straight to Jack Nicholson territory.

Know what's great about heavy snow, though? Watching the dogs plow through it, and the concerned looks on their faces when they have to figure out how to poop in snow up to their necks. Mostly, though, they tear around like crazy people and beat down what amounts to racetracks in the snow.

At least DH is finally home. Like AndreAnna, I didn't mention this much (if at all), but DH hasn't really been around since new year's. He was gone the entire first week of the month at a conference in CA, and two days after he returned, a massive request for proposal was issued from the government that involved the merging of a contract his company won years ago and that of another contractor. As manager of the entire technical portion of the 75pp proposal, he had to be there pretty much all the time. Since he got back from CA, DH has pretty much been living at the office, getting home later and later until, finally, he started staying overnight. Last week, he stayed Wed night, and then, knowing we were going to get a ton of snow, he got a hotel room near his office last Friday... and then proceeded to be snowed in THERE rather than here at home. (Yes, people, that means I waded out and shoveled the sidewalk, front and back walks, and our two car driveway BY MYSELF last weekend, all 30in of it.) Then, Monday night, the powers that be decided to pull an all-nighter to get the thing out a day early, so they worked from the usual 7am Monday until noon yesterday straight. DH got home around 1:30, and will be taking off the rest of the week.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Charity of the Month - February

While I'm planning on focusing on one specific charity in this post (for which I hope you will forgive my blatent nepotism), the issue here is a broader one. Across the country, millions of people, primarily high school seniors, are applying for financial aid. Not only is this a difficult process, but with government loans in particular the road can be hairy at best, as last year the budget shortfall made students' aid checks, which are mailed directly to the schools, weeks and even months late. While direct scholarships are less dependent on governmental beaurocracy, with so many in need, grant and scholarship applications are flooding in to organizations that have been, in turn, affected by a downturn in donations. If you are at all inclined to contribute to an education-related fund, now would be a good time.

This month's focus is on a particular fund that is both hard and uplifting for me to talk about. As most of you know, my nephew, Ryan, died almost exactly three years ago, at the age of sixteen, in a sledding accident. As a junior, he was in the process of looking into colleges and taking his SATs, preparing for the full life ahead of him. His death was a terrible loss that we all feel every day. His twin sister is now twenty and in college herself, and he has two baby twin sisters who he will never meet, but who will hear about their brother all the time from those of us who love him.

To keep Ryan's memory and dream of college alive, his parents established the Ryan Conley Memorial Fund, a scholarship that benefits local high school seniors. Rather than focusing only on acedemics, its goal is in assisting those who have been involved consistently in community service, as Ryan was, get a start on their life, whether it be college, business, or employment with a community service organization. Preference is given towards children of community servants such as teachers, EMTs and firefighters. Ryan volunteered extensively at the local firehouse where his father is a member, and it was that unit that essentially rappelled down the icy embankment in an effort to save him.

To donate, or find out more about the fund, click here.

Ryan and his twin sister, Corinne, on their farm, shortly before his death.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Outsider

I'm discovering that substituting is actually a very strange profession, especially when all of my previous jobs have involved becoming close friends with coworkers and feeling like a real Part of Something. It's very outsider-ish, a little like being back in high school, actually.

First off, the phone-a-sub school board computer system is my obnoxious boyfriend. It calls substitutes it favors - those who have put out the most, meaning the elderly women you see rolling down the halls, scowling, and who don't really work with the kids so much as Watch Them because they've been here for fifty years. The System will discrimiate against you if you turn it down too many times, and stop calling you, like that guy who pestered you for more action and then totally spurned you when you didn't put out enough in favor of the 'easier' girls who say yes all the time. Like a boyfriend, no amount of staring will make it call once it has decided it is done with you.

Really, you just have to pray that you'll be popular enough to withstand the ostracizing. Not with the children, who kind of represent the middle-crowd of popularity, the ones who are there en masse, but really have no control over anything. No, I'm talking about with the teachers. If they're not really enamoured with you, you're not getting any work, especially if the phone system has already broken up with you. If they're having an off day, or are feeling too lazy/sick to call the system and ask specifically for you to cover for them, you're out like the groupie who sits at home on Friday night when the cool kids forget them.

When you are lucky enough to get a date with a teacher's class, you're the big fish in a little pond, that person who the 'cool kids' saw fit to invite along as an equal, and in turn you feel special too, to have been specifically requested by someone.

However, you are still not Cool, which you are quickly reminded of when you need to interact with the actual Cool teacher-people, particularly in the staff room. You trot in for lunch with your lunchbox and drink, and sit down at the lunch table with all the cool kids, happy to hang out. Then, no one sits next to you, at least on purpose. They're polite, and will generally speak if spoken to, but most won't initiate any conversation, or make any effort to really include you. There are lots of in-jokes, and all sorts of plans for after work and weekend trips. You quickly remember, these are not really your friends. It's easy to be confused, but as always, the lunch room is the Great Strainer, dividing people into grape-like bunches of friends, and those lone little grapes who slide through the holes and into the sink. It's almost worse than actually being ignored, in a way, this polite aquaintance, because the substitute is the new kid, the one who will hear all the plans but never be a part of them, who will love the children but will only see them once in awhile, and who will go home not knowing if she was cool enough, this time, to at least be the one that the Cool kids call when they need something.

It's a lonely time. You watch others being picked by the Cool kids, and even work alongside Cool-kids-in-training, who are already getting their degree in Cool, and will beat you to having their own little classroom-kingdom. These younger people are, in a way, already cooler than you are, which is infuriating. Wanting in, and wanting to have my own little kingdom so badly, it is hard to watch others pass me by on their way to having what I covet.

Someday, I will once again have real coworkers, and I will be a part of something. I won't have the in-my-face reminder that I am currently an outsider. I will make sure to include people like me, and stop in to see them on their breaks, rather than walking by to talk to other people. I will spread the Cool.