Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I'm Baaack!

Hello. My name is Randi and I am an internet addict.

I discovered this recently when we moved and I had to go without for almost two weeks. Couldn't respond to emails properly. Couldn't check emails that had attachments or pictures. Couldn't blog. Gulp.

Today I am wishing many blessings upon the two young men from our local ISP who got us set up again, even though it was New Year's Eve and they probably would rather not have been working. Cheers!

And a Happy,Happy New Year to all of you!

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Hope you had a special Jill Eve, are having a good Jill, and will have a good Post Jill tomorrow!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bully for You

Regardless of whether you are a victim of bullying, or a witness, the incident is usually traumatizing.

I don’t remember being bullied as a child, although there was certainly cause for me to have been.

First of all, I adored school and the pleasures that went with it--The smell of books. The point of a newly sharpened pencil. Organizing my desk, putting my books, crayons and ruler in order. Taking tests. Knowing the answers. The way you could make your writing on the blackboard look like calligraphy if you positioned the chalk just right. I was Hermione Granger minus the robes and spells. It was almost as if I walked around with an invisible I’m a nerd, please taunt me sign.

Secondly, I looked like a victim-in-waiting. I had long unstyled hair, pink cat-eye glasses and buckteeth. I wore whatever the Goodwill donors deemed no longer acceptable for their closets. Yet, I don’t recall being the objects of anyone’s bullying fantasies.

No, I suffered enough by witnessing what the bullies did to others.

I was in first grade when I first became aware that some people were not kind. Because I lived far from the school, I took the bus home. The bus riders were divided into two groups—-first bus and second bus. I was a second busser. The second bussers got to play on the playground until the bus arrived.

After school had been in session for a few weeks, my teacher approached me and asked if she could speak with me after school. I was terrified. My sister Paula, eight years older than I was had warned me about the stigma of being a “stay after school” child. What had I done? Was I in trouble?

Luckily, my teacher wasn’t upset with me at all. It seems that some other kids were making fun of my classmate, Peggy. Piggy, they called her, because she was overweight. They would push her out of line when she attempted to board the second bus. They would put their feet on the bus seat so Peggy would have nowhere to sit.

My teacher wanted to know, would I please wait inside with Peggy every day until the bus came? Would I walk with her in line until she got on the bus? Would I sit with her on the bus?

I was relieved to find I was not in trouble and of course I agreed to do whatever my teacher asked, but the shock that came when I first experienced inhumanity altered my sheltered worldview in an instant. I tried to be especially kind to Peggy, but my kindness didn’t matter. She had already been violated at age seven, and transferred to another school shortly thereafter.

As I progressed through elementary school I saw more examples of children humiliating others. An older girl harassed my own little brother frequently. My mom stepped in to complain to the girl’s mother, who just defended her daughter’s behavior. Our family was relieved when we realized the girl was no longer living in our neighborhood, and my brother could walk to the store or library without fear.

Another example is Joanne Landis*, a girl I will never forget. She towered over all the other kids in our school. Her excessive weight caused her to lumber when she walked, and it appeared that physical activity was painful for her. She was prematurely pear-shaped and her girth only accentuated her shape. The only clothing she was able to wear was muumuu style dresses. Somehow she became know only by her last name as other kids used it as almost a swear word. You’re such a Landis. Don’t be a Landis.

One afternoon, a group of us, about eight or nine neighbors, was walking home from school. About one house ahead of us walked Joanne, alone. Suddenly someone shouted, “Landis is on the sidewalk! Everyone jump off! You’ll get Landis germs!” The other kids started hopping off the sidewalk, into the grass. None of them wanted to be tainted.

I kept walking on the sidewalk. My friends starting yelling, “Randi! Get off the sidewalk! Landis is on the sidewalk! She’ll cause an earthquake and you’ll fall in! You’ll be a Landis if you don’t get off!”

I hesitated for a moment, unsure whether to listen to my friends and play along or not. But then Joanne turned around and saw me, the only one left standing on the sidewalk. I will never forget the look of utter grief on her face before she turned back around and continued her arduous trek home. I resolved to stay on that darn sidewalk. When my friends started calling me “Landis! Landis!” I just said, “Oh well.” I am grateful that I don’t have the regret hanging over me, as I know I would have had I jumped. My life went on and after a few minutes my classmates stopped calling me Landis. But Joanne, wherever you are, I am ashamed of what you had to endure. I hope you were able to go on.

In junior high school life was even more brutal for those the bullies chose to pick on. Two young men stand out in my mind---Guy and Richard.

Guy was a year or two older than I, and was known as a scholar. He also shone as an artist. His paintings, sketches and sculptures were frequently on display in the art rooms.

One day after school, Guy walked out the doors carrying a sculpture he had finished—-a self-portrait bust. I was amazed because I had been given the same assignment in art class—-to make something out of a block of plaster—-but mine just ended up looking like a deformed letter Z instead of the lightning bolt I had attempted. Guy’s piece looked life-like. I was proud on his behalf.

Suddenly Guy was surrounded by a group of fellow students. They began laughing and pushing him around. I worried that Guy would drop the bust. Instead, one of the boys grabbed the bust out of his hands. He yelled at Guy, “Here’s what we think of this!” as he smashed the bust on the ground.

The group all seemed to think it was hilarious and I wondered how any human being could find that situation funny. Why did I feel tension in my chest and want to sob out loud? Why did those boys find humor in Guy’s pain?

Guy, I know you don’t know me. I was one of those who looked on while it all happened. But it hurts me to this day. Maybe you were tougher than I was. Maybe you just went home and had a good laugh yourself. But maybe you never got over it. I want you to know that on that day, it wasn’t you against the world. It was you and me against the world.

The junior high I attended was one block square. On the south end of the block was the school itself. The west, east, and north sides of the block were fence-enclosed playground, with only two entrances: one on the east side of the playground, and another by coming through the building itself.

Richard was walking ahead of me, by about a half block, to school one day. He was bully-bait by virtue of his “coke-bottle” eyeglasses that made his eyes seem large and alien. A group (bullies are very social animals) of young men walked up to Richard and started taunting him. I could see Richard, with his head down, saying nothing, almost as if being pushed around was a lot in life that he had accepted long ago. The bullies poked, they slapped, they jeered, and finally one of them grabbed Richard’s lunch. In what he must have assumed was the ultimate in good times, he threw Richard’s lunch over the fence. The group laughed and walked on. Richard was forced to walk from the west side of the block over to the east side just to reach the playground entrance. They knew he would end up walking two blocks just to retrieve his lunch, then another block back out of the playground.

Richard, did you know you reminded me of Christ that day? Being beaten and scorned, the whole time saying nothing? I hope He gave you inspiration that day and that you are now leading a successful life.

I went to a private high school and can remember no incidents of bullying. I think it’s because by the time kids reach high school, they learn that the best way to really hurt someone is by pretending that they do not exist. You don’t need to yell, “Landis is coming, get off the sidewalk!” to inflict pain. No, all you need to say is, “Joanne Landis? I have never heard of her.”

Recently my son was being bullied at school. The bully did not just pick on my son--he was mean to everyone. Months of school and parental discipline had done no good. The kid is eleven years old and is my height, 5’7”. He outweighs anyone in his classroom by at least 50 pounds. He did things like hold Jeremiah’s head under water at the swimming pool, make slicing motions across his throat when looking at Jere, and pick him up and throw him out of line while waiting for the bathroom.

One day, during lunch, one of my students ran up to me to tell me that Jeremiah was ‘beating up” the bully. Sure enough, by the time the fight was stopped, my son had punched the bully out of our classroom, through another one, and was backing him up to the stairway, ready to knock him down the stairs. I asked the class why they did not come and get me earlier. I learned that they all stood by and cheered Jeremiah on, grateful that someone was finally “getting even” after months of torment.

Yeah, I told Jeremiah that his actions were inappropriate and that he should have come and gotten a teacher. I told him that in reality most bullies are insecure and are just looking for attention and acceptance.

But deep down inside I said to myself, “You go kid! Don’t you take what a bully has to offer. Stand up for yourself!” And I said, “There’s one punch for Peggy and Joanne, and one for Guy and one for Richard.”

And I promptly enrolled him in Kyuki-do.

* Not her real last name.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tanks a lot!

My husband and I just went to fill the gas tank.

When he got back in the car, he sat there for a few seconds. He giggled and said, "You know I almost feel guilty only paying $1.47 for gas."

How much did it cost to fill the tank? About $18. A few months ago it cost around $60.

Please pray for all the homeless sheiks who are going to bed hungry tonight.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Story Updates

1. My tuna sandwich was completely normal yesterday.

2. On the day that it snowed, our school principal's husband went to visit an elderly farmer from our church. It started snowing when the visitor arrived. The farmer remarked how upset he was that the snow came out of nowhere, because he was trying to get his tractor painted and now some of the paint job was ruined.

"It's probably my wife's fault," said the visitor. "She and all the students prayed for a miracle today, that there would be snow."

The farmer then called the principal. He said with good humor,"Please, the next time you pray for a miracle, will you call me first and see if I'm busy?"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

When Love Isn't Enough

I have a good husband.

He does dishes when I'm not looking. He throws a load of laundry in the machine as often as I do. I've awakened many a morning to the smell of eggs and potatoes frying in the skillet. He drives at night because I have night blindness (Swerve! We're gonna hit that deer! Oh sorry. I guess it was just sagebrush. Still rooted in the ground. Twelve feet from the road.)

One of the nicest things he does is make my lunch. Jeremiah and I leave for school an hour before Tim leaves for work, so Tim is sweet about doing whatever he can to make sure the morning rush is as painless as possible. Every morning, as I try to hurry out the door, I grab my and Jeremiah's lunches from the counter, and thank Tim for helping us. Can we all just agree that he's a sweetheart?

Since I teach my son's class, he and I eat lunch together, along with the rest of our class. Today, Jeremiah and I pulled our goodies from our snazzy blue Alltel lunch boxes (cheap cell phone plug even though I no longer work there.)

We chomped into our tuna sandwiches. Our eyes locked. Jeremiah spoke first.

"Mom, have you tasted your sandwich?"

"Yeah, I was going to ask you the same thing."

We each pulled apart the bread slices to find leftover tuna casserole inside!

"I'm not eatin' this!"

"Me either."

By this time the class was laughing so we made a great ceremony out of escorting our tuna casserole sandwiches to the trash can.

We love you, Tim. But cold noodles on soggy bread? There are some things love can't conquer--like the gag reflex.

Monday, December 8, 2008

And a Little Child Shall Lead Them

Teaching in a home school co-op has many advantages. I get to teach my own child, as well as eight of his friends. If something unexpected is taking place in the community we can stop all classes and have an impromptu field trip. I can choose to teach what our textbook teaches or deviate from it as desired. We say "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. And we can pray when we want, where we want and for whatever we want. Rebels r'us.

And so it was today that the children decided they wanted to pray for snow. Now I know, snow in December is not that unusual. Usually. This year though, other than a brief snowfall back in October, central Utah has remained a lovely shade of dead brown crunch. We are mainly a farming community so precipitation in any form is welcome. Sparse snowfall can be an ominous sign for our farmers that spring may be dry.

With this in mind, I was a little leery when the principal agreed to pray for snow. Not only snow in the next few days. Snow today. Snow before school gets out for the day so we can all be exhilarated together. 50+ teachers and students, kneeling on the floor in a circle, holding hands, praying for snow.

After the "Amen" kids were running around cheering, "It's going to snow today!" Not wanting to dampen their spirits with my adult logic, I played along. When one little girl approached me and said,"I'm afraid it's not really going to snow today. Look at the sunshine," I teased her, "Oh ye of little faith. Of course it's going to snow today. We prayed for it, didn't we?"

School gets out at 2:30. At 2:15 the snow began.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Don't be a Peunt...

You may remember my friend, Gut Laugh Girl, from my very first blog post---way back, oh, about two weeks ago.

GLG loves words as much as I do. We love the way they sound, the way they look when dotting our computer screens from left to right, the way certain word combinations flow over our lips, as smooth as red Kool-Aid on a hot day.

About as much as we talked about words, we talked about men who disgusted us. We were both single moms at the time so we had plenty of fodder for our discussions. (Don't be offended, men. It's those other guys we talked about. Not you.)

The type of man who really got our lips yapping was The Peunt. The Peunt's character traits are so peculiar that you might think there is only one Peunt in the entire world. Nope. I assure you, every unattached woman has met a Peunt. Granted, some Peunts are worse than others.

A man who asks a woman on a date, but then asks her to drive.

Slab Peunt
A man, who after asking a woman to drive on the date, takes her to a movie only to say, "Oh, I'm so embarrassed. I left my wallet at home. Can you pay this once?"

Peuntus Kincaid
A man, who after making the woman drive and pay, criticizes the route she took to take him home. "Did you know you can save approximately 3.5 minutes if you don't take the interstate? Plus now we have to stop at a light."

Any similarities to a man named Simon in Iowa are purely coincidental.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

How to Make School Kids Giddy for Hours...

...take them to another teacher's house--a teacher who has her very own up close and personal view of a wasp party.

The wasps built their home right against her window. So in this agonizing interval between the last Dancing With the Stars season and the next Lost episode, she can pull up a chair and watch wasps do whatever wasps are wont to do. Who needs HDTV!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Quick! Act Now!

Daughter Megan is the manager of an internet based company. She oversees about 120 customer service representatives.

Sometimes customer complaints get escalated and the individual calling in will no longer speak to the entry-level representative. They want someone at the top.

Such was the case when Megan took over a call a few weeks ago.

Caller: This is ------------ from the Better Business Bureau. I am responding to a customer complaint and would like to ask you a few questions about your website.

Megan: I can answer those questions for you.

Caller: Thank you. Ma’am, is it true that your website has a countdown timer on the front page, indicating how much time a potential customer has left to take advantage of particular sales that you may be running?

Megan: Yes, that is true.

Caller: Ma’am, can you tell me how a blind person looking at your website can be expected to know that there is a countdown timer and therefore be able to take advantage of the sale?

Megan: Did you say how would a blind person looking at my website…?

Caller: Ma’am I encourage you to be serious here.

Megan: I am being serious here. How would I expect a blind person to see anything that was written on our website?

Caller: Ma’am, do you or do you not, have a procedure in place, such as a voice or an alarm that would indicate to a blind person that certain sales have a time limit?

Megan: No, but then we generally don’t expect that blind people read anything on our website.

Caller: Thank you for your time today.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I Know Why the Wise Men Brought Three Gifts

Three childhood Christmas gifts stand out in my memory.

My Big Susan Walking Doll was the first gift I remember. I was about six and was disappointed because Big Susan didn’t really “walk” like the package proclaimed. You had to hold her hand and gently prod each stiff leg forward. But she was b-i-g, that was for sure, about waist high to a six year old. I loved her.

The next Christmas present I remember was an Osmond Brothers record album entitled “Homemade.” I was around twelve. I remember it so well because Scott, my brother, asked me to go to the basement with him one afternoon before Christmas.

Our basement was eerie. It was unfinished, concrete-cold, dark and musty. I followed him downstairs though, and he led me to a blanket-covered box. He excitedly pulled back the blanket and pulled out the Osmond album. I was appalled! My brother had found the Christmas present stash! I urged him to put everything back so that mom didn’t find out that we had been there. I was happy to get the Osmond album that Christmas, but the enjoyment was somewhat tempered by the guilt I felt for trying to act surprised when I opened it.

I was seventeen when I received the Texas Instrument Scientific Calculator. It was great. It calculated sines, cosines, and other mathematical functions that have long since fled my memory. It was a great way to double-check my homework. It also served to firmly establish me as a nerd.

The fact that these three gifts are the only ones that stand out to me, even though I received many more, does not seem odd to me now. Why? Because, it isn’t about the gifts.

Those of us who are parents worry a little bit at Christmas time. Are we buying our children too much? Will they only see Christmas as “gimme” time? Will we be able to adequately impress upon them the sacredness of the season? Should we set a limit on presents, or not do presents at all? Or should we max out every credit card we own?

Even more so than the three gifts, there are things that I’ll never forget.

I remember being three years old. After dinner, my dad took me shopping for a present for my mom. When we got back home, Santa had come! The lights in the living room were off, except for the Christmas tree lights and there were presents piled high. I don’t remember what I got, but I do remember how wonderful I felt when I walked in the door.

I remember being seven years old and getting to be the Virgin Mary in our school play. I was so honored. My dad was shocked that the Virgin Mary wiggled her loose tooth all during the play.

I remember that in most families I knew, presents were opened on Christmas Eve. “Santa” came on Christmas Eve eve, so that when we woke up on Christmas Eve morning, all our presents were under the tree. Those gifts teased us all day long as we waited for Dad to get home from work. When he finally arrived, we kids would quickly gobble our dinners. Dad however, took great joy in deliberately chewing every mouthful as slowly as he could. I don’t remember what I got, but I remember being so happy to see my dad!

I remember being out of school for two weeks at Christmas time. I would get to stay up late and sit with my mom on the couch in the dark. We would watch a floor lamp with a colored filter rotate slowly, so that its colors were reflected in the silver branches of our very Sixties aluminum Christmas tree. It was beautiful and magical and we sat in sleepy reverence, recalling the birth of our Savior. I don’t remember what I got, but I remember loving Jesus at a young age.

I remember trying to stay awake after opening presents so that we could go to Midnight Mass. Our friends would be there and we had to show off our new dress clothing. Dad rushed us to get there by 11:00 p.m. to get a seat. It was a very holy and spiritual night for us.

Most Catholic churches are very ornate, ours being no exception, but on Christmas it was even more so. There were Christmas trees in every corner. Hundreds of candles were burning. The choir, hidden in the balcony, was singing prelude music.

At midnight the senior priest entered the back of the church, part of an elaborate procession. The altar boys would come in ahead of him, down the long center aisle, one carrying a Bible high above his head, another carrying a crucifix high on a staff, others with hands pressed together as if in prayer. The priest followed the altar boys, waving a metal ball on a chain that had incense burning inside. Other priests followed behind him. All were wearing the floor length robes typical of priests and altar boys. Lay people brought up the rear. They walked single file under a canopy of drawn swords, held aloft by the Knights of Columbus dressed in their flowing capes, plumed helmets, and tall black boots. It was regal. I don’t remember what I got, but I remember knowing in my soul that Christmas was not about the presents. It was about people coming together in the middle of the night and giving honor to the Redeemer.

I remember the first time I was able to actually have my own money to buy presents for others. I had earned money babysitting and walked about a mile and a half to a discount store where I had to figure out how to buy the most gifts with what little money I had. Then I had to walk back home that mile and a half trying to hold my presents so that all the glass items I bought did not smash together. I don’t remember what I received that year, but I do remember buying 2 beer glasses for my sister and her husband! And more importantly I remember how good it felt to be able to show my love for my family.

I remember as a college student going to Midnight Mass with my brother. We were complaining because it was Iowa, for goodness sake, and there was no snow! We whined about how it just did not seem like Christmas. We got out of Mass at around 1:30 a.m., only to hear shrieks and laughter coming from those who had filed out ahead of us. It had snowed about two inches with more snow falling quickly and quietly all around us. People came out of church as surprised as we were and began throwing snow at each other and laughing hysterically. Young boys were running down the sidewalk so they could skid and slide as if riding a skateboard. Women were squealing because they had worn their high heels and snow was caking inside. People just kind of stood around awhile, not wanting to leave the scene and break the magic spell. It felt as if the heavens were celebrating with us, by tossing down white, cold confetti.

How about you? Do you remember all the cool presents you received as a child? Can you name three ? Or do you mostly remember the love you shared with your family? Do you recall the honor and reverence you felt, as people you knew, and even strangers, gathered together to celebrate The Day that the earth was changed forever?

As it gets closer to Christmas, and I start to wonder whether to buy my son this Lego set or that DVD, whether to even do gifts at all, or how to truly impress upon his mind the “reason for the season,” I remember this: It’s not about the gifts. I could buy him 37 expensive gifts or a few dollar-aisle items and it won’t matter. Because when he’s 48 years old, do you know what he’s going to remember?

He’s going to remember picking through his old toys and selecting which he would like to give as presents to the rest of the family.

He’s going to remember that he did extra jobs around the house for several days so that he could earn money. He’ll remember that he took the money he earned and went to Walmart to buy some toys for “the poor kids.” He’ll remember taking those toys and dropping them off at Sub for Santa.

He’s going to remember his elementary school Christmas party and how much fun he had going to look for a present for a classmate. He will remember how lucky he was to be able to go to a school where he can mention the name of Christ with no fear of repercussion. He’ll remember that at his school, Christmas was about Christ, and not about Rudolph, or Santa, or “winter break.”

He’ll remember being in the church Christmas dance performances.

He’s going to remember sitting with his family, reading Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth.

He’ll remember carefully arranging and re-arranging Nativity figurines on the coffee table.

And he’ll remember staying up late, sitting on the couch in the dark, with his mom, looking at Christmas tree lights.

And if he remembers three gifts, I’ll truly be surprised.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

New Birthday Attitude

I'll admit it. I was one of those people who downplayed my birthday.

Good Friend: "Now when is your birthday?"
Me: "Oh, I'll never tell!" Ha ha. Chuckle chuckle. Or...

Family Member: "Is there anything special you would like for your birthday?"
Me: "Who me? Oh no, you don't have to get me anything." Change subject.

Sound familiar, ladies? (Men don't have this quirk.) We don't want anyone thinking that we actually thought about ourselves, do we? How selfish. If we divulge our birthdates, does that mean that we are secretly hoping we'll get lots of presents? How greedy. No, by golly, we are women---queens of self-effacement, masters of self-denial. That was me, yup.

Until I became good friends with Candice.

Candice is happy with life. Were you to meet her, that would be obvious. She would look straight into your eyes, put her hand on your forearm, offer a beguiling smile, and ask you sincere questions about yourself. When the initial meeting was over, and she said goodbye, repeating your name (she'd remembered it from the introduction!) you would feel as if you mattered to her. You would realize that you liked Candice and would be sorry to see her go.

Candice taught me a lesson about birthdays. They are causes for celebration of life. Your life.

When it was time for me to celebrate her birthday with her for the first time, I learned something unique about Candice. Her birthday celebration lasts for three days.

"I begin accepting presents on Candice Eve, " she told me, "the day before my birthday. We have treats and maybe we'll do something as a family. The next day, my actual birthday, we call Candice. There are more presents and then the cake and ice cream. My husband will take me out to dinner. The third day, we call Post-Candice. I still take presents on that day and we indulge in leftover goodies. That way people who are late for my birthday don't feel bad because we are still celebrating Post-Candice." And Candice always tells her age. Of course she's only thirty.

I've never looked at birthdays the same way. Neither does my son, who now insists that we celebrate Jeremiah Eve, Jeremiah, and Post-Jeremiah.

Here's my challenge, ladies. On your next birthday, instead of downplaying, celebrate your special day for three days. Accept presents. And always tell your age.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

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Trollin' for Luv

I remarked to my mother once, in a casual conversation, that when I was a little girl, I always wanted a Troll doll, but never got one. You know the ones I’m talking about--the ugly little mostly naked big-eyed frizzy haired flat-footed tan dolls with extended arms. Since I was in college when I made the remark to my mother, I assumed she would just hear my wistful complaint and empathize with me. Nothing more. All kids have had similar disappointments, right?

Not my mom.

I soon began receiving gifts of Trolls from my mother. She worked checking in donations at the local Goodwill store and had the ability to preview cool merchandise to buy after it reached the store. It seemed as if the Troll supply was endless. Could there actually have been that many people in the world who would give away the object of my desire?

Even after I moved away from home I would find Trolls anywhere and everywhere after my mother had visited. Under my pillow with a note attached: “Ouch, you’re squishing me!” In my freezer with a note saying “Hey I’m freezing in here!” In my bathroom, in my spice cupboard, behind a picture on the mantel. Sometimes it would be weeks before I would come across a hidden troll and my mother would laugh that it had taken me that long to find it.

Big trolls, little trolls, a troll with emerald green hair and a leprechaun outfit, trolls with rainbow hair, trolls with elaborate outfits or simple homemade tunics, barefoot trolls and trolls with cutesy little shoesies.

One day, at least ten years after first mentioning to my mother about the trolls, I was hard at work at a computer company. I worked in customer relations and as usual, it was a very stressful day. I had received numerous phone calls from people complaining, “Why is my computer late?” “Why is my computer early--I don’t have the check ready!” “Why isn’t my monitor working?” “Why did I get charged so much for shipping?”

Late that afternoon the mail courier rolled her mail basket to my desk and handed me a package. I assumed it would be some defective RAM chip that someone was sending back. No, no, no.

The package contained two very tiny, about 1 inch tall, Lucite trolls, one with bright yellow hair, and another with red hair. My co-workers gathered round as I lovingly told them the story of my mother and the mysteriously appearing trolls. I proudly stuck them on top my computer monitor with scotch tape, a reminder of a mother’s love in the midst of angry customer complaints.

Mom has since passed on, but the trolls haven’t. I received a pink three foot stuffed clown troll from my sister Kelli, some cute troll wrapping paper from my cousin Jill, Halloween and Easter trolls from my sister Paula, and this cute little angel from one of my students last Christmas.

I forgot to tell my mom that I really like diamonds too.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope all of you are having a good day with family and friends.

To those of you who are alone this day, I hope you are able to take some time to do the things that YOU want to do. Read a good book, go to a movie, get some well-deserved sleep, write a letter (not an email--a real letter,) get some Calgon, some candles and soak in the tub, or eat that pint of Ben and Jerry's all by yourself!

We're just hanging out doing the soup and sandwich thing, with lots and lots of pie.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's MY job

Fifth grade kids are inspiring.

If I walk into my classroom and say, “Whose granola bar wrapper is this on the floor?” at least five children will stop what they are doing, drop to the floor, and look for that pesky wrapper. One will retrieve it and toss it in the wastebasket. They all will return to their seats and get back to work without another word.

I could later pull any one of them aside and have the following conversation:

Me: Thank you for picking up the wrapper. Was it yours?

Fifth Grader: No, I don’t know who left it there.

Me: Then why did you pick it up?

Fifth Grader: Because I am the one responsible for picking it up.

No blaming. No accusing. No conjecturing as to the perpetrator.

I have Kitty to thank.

Last year, when this same group of kids began fourth grade, I had the good fortune of being their new teacher. On the first day of school I told them the story of Kitty and how her story changed my life.

Kitty Genovese was walking to her apartment about 3:15 a.m. on March 13, 1964. A man followed her, stabbed her twice, then ran away. Kitty stumbled, attempting to get to her home. The man came back ten minutes later and continued to stab her, then assaulted and robbed her. The time from the beginning of the first attack to the end of the last was about 30 minutes. There were witnesses.

On March 27, 1964, The New York Times reported “Thirty-eight Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call the Police.”

I first heard Kitty’s story as a college psychology student. Why did thirty-eight people look out of their apartment windows, watch this woman die, and fail to call the police?

Psychologists attribute it to what they call “the bystander syndrome.” People assume “surely by now someone else has called the police.” But no one has.

Years later, they discovered that perhaps it was no one’s fault after all. Not one person had the ability to see the whole attack from start to finish, so they could not have really known what was going on. Perhaps they should be absolved from their failure to call the police.

Kitty’s story affected me so greatly that it led to my personal mantra: It’s My Job.

I vowed from that time to always be the one responsible for taking care of a situation that needs it. There is no need for me to wonder if someone else has already called the police. I know it’s my job to make that call.

If I’m at the grocery store and I see wet produce in the aisle, lying in wait for a lawsuit-happy customer, I take care of it. I already assigned myself that job. There’s no wondering.

Cow in the middle of a curvy road? I’ve already successfully dodged it? Not to worry. I’ve already called the Sheriff’s Department so that you don’t hit it when you come around the bend.

Thanks to Kitty, my students are well trained. No longer are they the neophyte fourth graders who would respond thus:

Me: Who dropped a yogurt lid upside down on the carpet?

Voices at once: Danielle had that kind of yogurt. No, it was Jeremiah. P.J. knocked it off her desk though! No, I didn’t! No, it was not Danielle; that was Hannah’s yogurt.

Me: But who is responsible for cleaning it up?

Voices: Danielle! P.J.? No way! It should be Jeremiah, right?

Me: Who was responsible for calling the police when Kitty died?

Suddenly the light would come on and one of them would say, “Oh yeah! I am the one responsible!

Now they are experienced fifth graders who usually don’t wait for my questions. They see something on the floor, they pick it up. Someone has fallen down, they are right there with an outstretched arm.

We’ve come a long way, Kitty.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Eleven Unsettling Confessions

Just so you know, before you get too fond of me...

1. The toilet paper always runs out on me. It doesn’t matter where I am—home, church, school, your house—it will wait to run out until I get there. In fact, I’ve made friends that way. Don’t like to change the toilet paper roll? Just invite me over when you see the roll is getting low, pump me with some liquid refreshments, and ta-dah! Your toilet paper roll will always have less than enough paper for me to finish my job, forcing me to change the roll for you!

2. I cry at Riverdance.

3. I’m a Lost addict. Favorite character: Ben. Creepy, huh?

4. Iowa IS Heaven.

5. I think a lot about religion. I’m on my third one. The coolest thing is when I learn something I never knew before, like finding out that the Book of Isaiah is full of literary styles such as chiasm and parallelism. Look it up; I’m not kidding!

6. Teaching is a fun profession, even when you don’t get paid. I teach nine fifth graders at a home school co-op. And just so ya know, I am NOT smarter than a fifth grader.

7. In my dream life, I am a tornado chaser.

8. I hate shopping, yet I am a woman.

9. Favorite meal: Tomatoes, fresh from the garden. Corn on the cob (Must be Iowa corn and not that fake GMO substitute at Walmart.) Peppermint Iced Tea. Chocolate Fudge Brownie Mint Caramel Swirl ice cream served in a trough.

10. I love my family. It’s very extended. I am a real mom and a real grandma. But, I have people who call me Grandma, when I’m not really related, people who call me Aunt Randi when I’m not, and a couple of kids who call me Mama when I ain’t their mama.

11. I am a pen fanatic. Gel pens, Sharpies, Pentel, Expo markers, calligraphy pens, neon highlighters—I love them all! My ex-boss gave me a Palm Pilot once and I forsook it because I’d rather make different colored entries in my Franklin.

There you have it. Be forewarned.

Oh, the Quangness of it all!

Years ago I had a friend, a woman, who made me laugh. Not just a courtesy "heh heh heh," but the type of deep gut laugh where your abdomen has contracted some sort of perpetual spasm. You stop laughing for a moment, trying to get control, afraid of being in the Guinness Book of World Records like that person who can't stop hiccupping. But, your abdomen starts contracting again all on its own and before you know it, you're out of control again.

Since I don't know if she would appreciate having her name plastered all over the Internet, and because some people who know her might just say "Her? She's about as funny as a morgue," I will resort to calling my friend Gut Laugh Girl for the purposes of this blog.

Gut Laugh Girl, my kindred spirit soul sistah, loved to make up words. She also appreciated a fine verbal concoction when made by someone else. My absolute favorite phrase that she introduced to me was Foreign Quang. Kinda rolls off the tongue, huh? Foreign Quang. Not a delight that she invented, but one that she learned from someone else who learned from someone else. My goal? To lovingly hand Foreign Quang to you, just as she passed it to me.

Ever have to scrape that goopy pile of food remnants from the inside of the kitchen sink drainer? Foreign Quang. Ever notice you were trailing something from your shoe, and upon closer investigation realized that you had stepped in gum, but the gum had attracted all sorts of kibbles and bits that were now lodged in the tread of your shoe? Foreign Quang. Ever try to scrape some dried Foreign Quang off of a wall, only to discover that your son and his nose were too lazy to look for a tissue?

Quick usage sample: "Oh Heavens, Gertrude! You must have sat in some Foreign Quang on that park bench. It's all over the back of your skirt."

Or another: "Would you please give the dog a bath? He has some sort of Foreign Quang matted in his fur."

In the virtual world of blahhh-ging, we spew forth from our minds our own Foreign Quang, in written form; odd bits and pieces of our lives, scraped off of a wall or obtained from a park bench. We bloggers hope these pieces, over time, give our readers a feeling of normality in an insane world. A feeling of "Wow! I thought I was the only one who felt that way." A connection. A bond. A sisterhood. Or if you're a guy, a bro-hood.

We hope you kick off your shoes, cozy up to the keyboard, and hang out for a while.
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