Saturday, December 31, 2011

Clothes Shopping, My New Bane

Even this guy can't pull this off

My wife loves to shop and since we’ve been together, my indifference toward shopping and the buying of clothes has changed to frustration on the many excursions to stores from Maine to New York- and many in New Zealand and Canada, too.

I have little frustration accompanying my wife shopping (though her stamina far exceeds my own and while shopping, my wife borders on super-human while I usually end up finding a corner to whimper in as a I moan about feet that feel twice their original size and complain of a lower back that seems to have thousands of needles jabbing into it without mercy).

My frustration stems from the fact that I have yet to find a store anywhere that produces clothes I want to buy beyond a random shirt or the standard blue jeans. Most stores, even the underwear they sell is pretentious and somehow over-complicated. And that is the center of my problem, the complicated nature of clothes. I don’t want weird collars on a sweater that covers the left side of my face, leaving my right cheek and neck exposed or pants with double breasted button-up flys or strange, single buttons on shirts on my bicep that attach to my sleeves when I roll them up.

I don’t want advertising, either, that tells everyone I’m wearing an Abercrombie & Fitch sweatshirt or the advertising done by other companies who feel the need to stamp everything with their name and logo.

Make quality clothes and people will buy those quality clothes. That’s my opinion, anyway.

I’m frustrated that my indifference has been replaced by the growing feeling that somehow I am picky or a clothes-snob, which up to now, I had not realized. This wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that now when shopping as I once did, with no mind toward size and fit and little interest as to matching (all blues and blacks and reds, when paired together, match, right?), I now get a feeling in my gut that like a feeling of desperation. My style has to be represented out there, somewhere; simple clothes, made good, fit good, and clothes that look good.

I would hate to think, folks, that I’ve morphed into a clothes-snob, or worse, that all these years, deep inside, I was a clothes-whore.

Who knew that getting married would add this particular dilemma to my daily life? Completely worth it,  folks, even if it turns out I am a clothes-whore. If so, so be it!

Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year's Resolutions Are For Suckers

Resolve to make no resolutions this coming year. (Not that I’m telling anyone what to do, because hey, I barely function taking care of myself without having all of you to mind as well.)

New Year’s resolutions do not work. Saying, ‘I will write 500 words everyday’ is pointless, ineffectual, lazy, stupid and so many more negative adjectives that if I were to write them all out, we all would be crying in despair and probably would not be capable of coming out of our collective despondency until sometime in the next New Year.

So I won’t dwell on how resolutions are such stinkers and how they hold us back instead of propelling us forward.

All I want to say is, ‘Don’t resolve, solve’.

(I imagine someone else has already coined that phrase, though I’ve never heard it. Usually I am happy as a pig in mud, thinking I was all original, only to realize later that I am instead, rather late to the party.)

If all you have is a statement and a desire, you really only have air that you can’t hold onto, you can’t make anything with and in the end, statements and desire are two words to describe failure. What you need is a plan and a system in which to implement the plan.

So, if you want to write 500 words a day as a writer, you have to ask yourself the question of, ‘Why’? When you know the why, then ask, ‘How’? Then, ‘When’? And then? Make it happen.

Being resolute with your second mixed drink in your belly on New Year’s Eve is easy; getting the desired result is hard.

Unless of course you secretly have no desire to act upon your resolution, and all you want to do is have an answer to give to shut everyone else up when they ask, ‘What’s your resolution’? Because, you know, telling people to ‘Go to hell and mind your business’ is not socially acceptable no matter the situation so in that case, resolutions are the better option.

For everyone else, don’t bother with the resolutions this year. Their not worth the effort.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Be A Better Boss, Writer

Maybe you aren’t meant to be a boss. You might stink being in charge. Have you considered that? Being the boss, the one to make decisions, that always sounds great. I was a boss once and I remember thinking that I would make changes, do the things I always wanted to do , make a difference.

I was terrible.

I was unprepared to manage all the details and I had less power than I thought while at the same time, I had too much freedom; I could plan my days, but because there was so much to accomplish, I tended to start and then not finish projects on time. It was a time management issue.

Most of us are too used to having other people tell us what to get done and when it needs to be finished. Yes, there is more to being a boss than just time management, but I would say that it is the, or at least a, fundamental skill that must be mastered in order to succeed.

To be a writer (one not employed by a company that is), a person has to assume the role of boss. The trouble is, as I said above, maybe you aren’t meant to be a boss. Now, I’m not saying, folks that you can’t write or be a writer just because you have poor managerial skills. What I’m saying is that full-time, productive and successful writing might be beyond you.

As it is beyond me.

My real job, my paying, 9-5 job, I get generous time off- almost six weeks every year and every third week i get four days off in a row. That means I have plenty of time to write, or in theory I do, except for that time management issue I mentioned. I took a month off from this blog, and that folks, makes me a bad boss.

But I’m not alone. I see it all the time from writers, the ones like me who are not established, not rich, not household names. We take too much time off, we allow schedules to be dictated to us, rather than making the schedules for ourselves, the schedules that make sense, that replicable on a daily basis.

Successful writers need to recognize that they are the boss and then plan accordingly.

Be a better a boss, be a better writer.

That’s my plan for the New Year; my mantra for success. How about you?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Underwear Philosophy

When is the actual moment when you can, with certainty, say, “These are my underwear”?

I have a legitimate reason for asking. Really.

Sadly (because I have not posted for far too long), this is representative of the thoughts I have been thinking for the past few weeks. For the few who have been readers of this blog, I don’t mean to disappoint, but I haven’t been neglectful due to any grand and deep philosophical thoughts; no darkened rooms as I struggled to puzzle out the definitive answer to the questions of, “what’s next, who are we and, well, the meaning of, like, stuff’.

No. My neglect was inexcusable.

My thoughts tended more toward the navel lint origin variety of questions, Folks. You know, the second-tier type questions? Navel lint, will my eyes really stick in place if I cross them too long, and the question of underwear ownership.

So anyway, my wife bought me a pair of underwear for Christmas which were from our New Zealand trip. They were boxers with images and the words to the haka, a pre-war dance of the New Zealand native people, the Maori. So I pull these out in front of mother-in-law and father-in-law and brother-in-law and the question of their significance arises. So I am asked to hand them over so they can be given the once-over.

Now, I considered them mine when I opened them and thus, MY UNDERWEAR. You know what I mean? Like, unhandled by others not named Me or My Wife.

My mother-in-law said they were unworn, so they were still fair-game. I suppose she thought they were in a quasi state of unclaimed underwear, not yet mine until the moment I put them to the purpose for which they were made. I think all it takes is my acceptance of receiving underwear for Christmas and the act of holding said underwear in front of me with an embarrassed smile to make me the in fact and true owner of actual underwear. And that means, no passing them around the room.

It is a question of ownership that I have no ready answer for, mainly because of the mother-in-law addition to the equation. My mind says she automatically skews the results in her favor regardless, but my heart still insists underwear ownership requires only an acknowledgement that the underwear is yours in your head. So the moment I pick up a package of Haines in the store and think, “Yeah, I can deal with horizontal blue and grey stripes for the next couple years”, then that package of underwear is mine, and paying for them becomes a formality.

The important thing (again, this is what my heart tells me), is the mental acknowledgement of ownership. Everything else is superfluous.

Anyway, folks, beyond the underwear thing, I got pretty much nothing. I’m gonna go ahead and just tap my pen on the side of my head ever so gently, to try to coax something better for tomorrow. No promises.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

To Begin, Writers Need To Begin

On the edge, but ready to leap

As a writer, you have to find a beginning to everything- a story, blog post, article, short story or novel. Beginnings are tripsy little bastards, the devils at the start of every project I undertake and too often I inflate the importance to such proportions that a projects dies as a concept unattempted because the beginning won’t come.

Usually when I press harder, when I want something most, that’s when I have the most frustration and consequently, the least success. That is how I find myself, sleep deprived and verging on desperate, wanting to get back to my blog, trying to find a beginning into what had been for so long, an easy and comforting (and snappy in a time sense) part of my day.

I was on a roll for so long, I almost forgot that I have a problem, that I’m almost paralyzed by the dreaded monster called Beginnings.

I’ve begun a half dozen times to write a blog post after my two plus week hiatus, dipping one toe after another into the water, dissatisfied each time, quiting/(pouting?) and waiting for the right words to jump out at me.

Of course, this is ridiculous. I’m just tired, jet lagged and I regressed to a state in my writing life that was depressed and unproductive. Beginnings are easy.

The first words you write are right.

Then you edit.

Simple. Get the words on the page no matter what they are and don’t stress that they come out not quite perfect. Brute force is required sometimes, more often than finesse, and once you force your way into your project, you can always go back later and tidy up the mess if need be.

I wanted to jump into writing so much that I forgot how I had been doing things. I wanted to talk about my vacation and describe it as the magical experience it was, that I panicked. I think I’m better now. I’ll sort out what to share, realizing that two weeks can’t be condensed into one blog post, get it written, post, and get back on a roll.

So I begin again after a deep breath and a reassuring self-pat on the back.

In the beginning...

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Monday I Was Lazy

Me-- and a large tree, Queenstown

I’m still on New Zealand time, still infatuated with a vacation better than my words can describe, still locked in a floaty kind of second reality where time is fluid and something like a blog deadline matters hardly at all.

I meant to be disciplined, intentionally left my Monday blog post unwritten- maybe as a challenge, maybe a test of character or fortitude, but certainly I meant to post far earlier than this.

I wanted to get my thanks said to my guest bloggers, to say hello to readers old and new, to say I appreciate the folks who kept coming back even when I didn’t answer. I wanted to say also that I’m sorry ( in an insincere but well-intentioned, formally polite way if that is at all possible), sorry that in truth, unconnected for two weeks from the internet, that I didn’t think of this blog at all.

Everything outside of my wife, my trip, was insignificant. And it was wonderful.

I have lots to say, but at the moment, I want to pretend that life continues to be hotel rooms, wine, dinner in low-lit rooms, windy roads and my wife. At the moment, the trip is still just ours, or mostly ours. I know I should share (and I want to share) but for now, I’m jealous. I want the memories to be undissected and pure.

Tomorrow, folks.

I took a packing day, a snow day, a me day, the day before I left. I think I’ll take a happy, still in bliss day the day after.

Relaxed, fulfilled, happy.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Final Sunday Rant: Back Home

I post this at midnight, Sunday morning and if plans work out, I will be on the tail end of an epic day as my wife and I cross the date line and compress two days into the space of 24 hours.

As this posts, I will be in a car, approaching the Maine border, still three hours from home.

I would gladly make this trip last as long as possible because, you know folks, vacations just don’t last long enough. How did the time go by so fast? Why do the good times fly and the bad times linger?

I’m being petulant, I know that. I want work-less days to continue, to have my wife on my arm and to travel where the weather is warm and the culture different enough to be a wonder.

Some of you will read this as my thoughts re-adjust post-vacation. I will find my bed, spend the day sleeping and tomorrow?

I go back to work.

Oh, to be footloose and fancy free... color me depressed, folks.

I need to ear about someone’s holiday cheer, their travel plans. I need to know all the joy hasn’t abandoned the world (yes, that last bit was too much, but, at this particular moment, I don’t care, so there).

And... I’m done. Time for dreams of what was...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Homeschooling? A personal Choice

Guest blog by Rena Nickerson:   

Preaching... about everything
Parents who are contemplating homeschooling often search the Internet, reading all the pros and cons. Unfortunately, there are many, many negative posts against home education. Why anyone would concern themselves with how others chose to educate their children is beyond me.

These posts are not written by experts, but by people who appear ignorant of what homeschooling is all about. They strongly object for a variety of reasons, the top two being socialization and an inferior education.

Dr. Phil, who claims to be an expert, said on one of his 2006 television programs, that there is research to back him up, stating that children home schooled past eighth grade end up as social misfits in adulthood.

Research? Really? What research? It has only been since 1993 that homeschooling has been legal in all fifty States. There has not yet been enough kids home schooled, through high school, to provide enough data to conduct any research.

I wonder how Dr. Phil would explain away the fact that a quick Internet search reveals a long list of past and present famous Americans, who were home schooled? Surly they were not all social misfits?

Homeschooling does not cause a child to become a social misfit, unless the parents isolate the child from public. It is a misconception that home schooled kids are isolated and never come out of the house to breath fresh air.

Older home school students sometimes take classes at local community colleges, have part time jobs, help out at homeless shelters and food pantries. Most home educated children join church youth groups, Awnana, Scouts and 4-H. Many take music, dance, drama and karate classes. In other words they are socializing in the same way that their public school peers are.

Since a home school day takes half the time of public school, the home school student has more free time to socialize. They are out there talking and being social with people, not just those of their own ages, but people in all age groups.

Yes, it is possible for a home school child to receive an inferior education. No argument there. It is just as possible as it is for a public school, high school student to have poor reading skills. In either case it is not the norm.

The facts are colleges are actively recruiting home school students, because, on average, they out perform the public school kids on standardized tests and they score above the national average on their ACT's and SAT's.

In the past it was difficult for the parent to find quality teaching materials. Now that homeschooling is on the rise, not just in the United States, but world wide, there is a vast array of curriculum to choose from. All children have different learning styles. In most US States, a parent is free to tailor a curriculum that best fits their needs unlike public schools ,who use a one size fits all curriculum, when one size does not fit all.

Parents home educate their children for a variety of reasons. Many don't want their children in public schools to be exposed to violence, peer pressure, sex and drugs. In our town we have an excellent public school system, staffed with wonderful, dedicated teachers, yet just this past week one of our high school janitors was arrested for selling drugs to students.

We home school our children to provide them with a good education in a safe and relaxed environment. But, homeschooling is a choice each family needs to make after studying the facts on their. It is not a decision easily made.

To educate at home, a family needs to first educate themselves.

Friday, December 9, 2011

That is What Being in Love in Venice Feels Like

“Speaking of New Zealand, I was hoping that you could help with my blog while I'm away. I have 90% of the content and will schedule those posts I have for publication before I go, but I still need a couple posts and someone to monitor things. What I'm looking for is a post on the three Friday's I'm gone: first Friday could be an introduction/ explanation that you will be the Man In Charge- and then, if you want, you can write more or leave it short and sweet. I thought it would be cool to have an Italy post and the third could about Josslyn's blog, or 750 words, acting...? I don't need anything too structured and I leave the final decision to you.” Michael

Well, dear readers of Fifty Book Quest, the request was simple, my intent was truly there but I have failed. Here I sit on the third Friday of the task and I have yet to write one single post. I was requested to do two, three at most and my words have failed me. So to make up for lost time...uh...posts here we go:

“Do you want to go sit over there for a bit?” I point down a dead end street running parallel to a quiet canal off the Piazza Barbaro in Venice, Italy.

“Sure, that sound’s perfect.” She leads the way as I guide her to the top step of a set of four that lead down into the water. She is fascinated that these steps found all over the city are the Venetian equivalent of a front door step, or rather the curb where instead of a beat up Ford one would find a motor boat.

I set down my camera and back back and sit next to her. I took a few moments to look around and take in the water, the sinking brick building across from us, the lapping of wake against the tied boats and then I say:

“Josslyn, remember when you flew from Los Angeles on my birthday to surprise me? Moments before you came up those stairs at Pacifico in New Haven I was telling David how badly I was falling in love with you. I was telling him how perfect you were for me and seemingly I was for you. The collective us seemed to be dare I say it, soul mates, who for years had been ships in the night with so many near misses. But that night I told him seconds before you tapped me on the shoulder, I am going to marry that girl David. She is perfect for me. Do you remember that moment, that rush when I realized that you were standing next to our table when I thought you were three thousand miles away? Well darling, I do not want to go on one day more without knowing that you will in fact marry me. I want to adventure with you, explore the world from the unknown dirt roads, the new restaurants in town, the tiny corners where nobody else goes. Will you do me the honor of being my wife? Josslyn, will you marry me?”

“Are you having fun? I uh, I just want to make sure you are okay. Um, so you know how last week I went back into your parents house? I, um. I, asked them for permission to ask you to marry me. I don’t want to go one more day on this trip not know that you will be my wife. Josslyn, will you marry me?”

WHAT? What came out of my bumbling mouth? I had it memorized, I had worked on those words for weeks. Heck, it had been all I was thinking about, and I lead with...ARE YOU HAVING FUN? Of course she is, she’s in VENICE. ITALY!

Here is the thing about Venice, every turn is an adventure, words echo off the sinking buildings and whisper away in the wind. You can feel the ghosts of the past at night walking with you, getting lost, getting drunk on wine and yelling into the stars. Venice is magic. Venice is neglected worn down beauty. It is a labyrinth of discovery, romance and suspended life. Time slips away there. Words linger, smiles stick. Love blooms, and for me, life starts.

When she said, “Yes, yes, yes of course” I could feel Monet, Hemingway and Casanova nod in approval. They were there with us. I felt the breath of love exhale from the collective conscience of Venetians come and gone. The wind picked up and took our joy from our lungs and spread the news across the water and into the world. That is what being in love in Venice feels like. We walked our arms chained together for what felt like hours, getting lost and reveling in our joy. We didn’t say a word to anyone else, but we just felt that everyone knew our news. That is what being in love in Venice feels like. We ate and we drank, we indulged in a cozy corner talking and laughing and somehow still learning about each other. That is what being in love in Venice feels like.

“Sure, that sound’s perfect.” She lead the way as I guided her to the top step of a set of four that lead down into the water.

Yes, perfect it was.

-Shawn (The Brother in Law)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

POW: It's Wendy AKA Quillfeather!

As regular readers know, I am in New Zealand as this post first appears, and though I question whether to do a regular Pick Of the Week when I can’t actively promote my pick, I feel justified in this case. For one, I’ll be home soon, and I can always play a little catch up when I do get back to the states. Second, I want to mention a native writer of New Zealand and third, to mention someone who has done me the favor of mentioning me on her blog.

Wendy AKA Quillfeather has the same tag in front of her bio that I do; aspiring. She has a book that is done ‘bar editing’ and a bad-ass designed website. Her ‘cave’ is much like what I imagine I will see while in New Zealand (except the caves I’m going into with be with multiple other tourists, gawking and oohing and ahhhing, as I suspect I will be doing myself).

Wendy was one of the first to visit my blog and I will say, as I review some of her comments, a saucy addition to the comments section. She certainly put me in my place on a few occasions, especially when I neglected to reciprocate the follow back on her blog (sorry again, Wendy- an unthinking oversight).

Make your way to the bottom of the cave and discover the link to what Wendy is writing (pretty cool, pretty fun, guaranteed).

Now, Wendy doesn’t update much, but... well, I’ll let her speak for herself:

“I don't quite understand your dilemma. Whilst you blog every day, many don't have the time to stop by on a regular basis, let alone post themselves. Me for one. That is not to say I/we do not enjoy your posts.

But, at the end of the day, this is your blog and you can do whatever you bloody well like, good sir :)

Oh, just one more thing ... I very rarely look at the links on other peoples sidebar. I can pretty much figure out who I want to follow for myself - thank you very much :)

No, thank you very much, Wendy. To the point, direct and most importantly, unapologetic. And I appreciate that, and you.

So, my fellow writer on the other side of the world from me, I say good luck in your endeavors, but also a very grateful thanks.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Under The Rock With: Robert Kennedy

(The following is from a magazine I produced strictly for my co-workers a couple years ago. Robert Kennedy was a former supervisor, and I will say this; the Backstreet Boys bit was something he actually did say to his daughters. True story.)

This month’s issue of KPC features an interview with longtime KP employee Robert Kennedy, a man who we will learn has worn many hats in his lengthy life. On behalf of the KPC staff, I would like to extend our gratitude to Mr. Kennedy for taking time out from his busy schedule to answer a few questions.

Editor: Mr. Kennedy, or Robert if I may…

Robert Mr. Kennedy: No, you may not.

Ed: Well, okay. Certainly. Mr. Kennedy-

Mr. Kennedy Crusher: Call me Crusher.

Backstreet Boys Sans Robert “Crusher” Kennedy

Crusher? Uh, sure, I can do that. Now… Crusher… I am interested in hearing your thoughts on the current development and direction of childcare, especially in the state of Maine.

Crusher: Of course. I have great insights in that particular area. I have a degree, you know. Almost. I’m a smart man. Smarter than you. Obviously. Make certain you emphasize that ‘obviously’ remark in your printed version. Note the sarcasm aimed at your person. I did that to demoralize you and artificially compensate for my own deficiencies- not that I admit to having deficiencies. If you suggest otherwise, I’ll sue.

Ed: Right. Uh, Crusher, perhaps we could get back to the original question-

Crusher: Oh, certainly, I suppose. What was your stupid question, again? I forgot.

Ed: The state of childcare-

Crusher: Yes, yes. Like I said, a stupid question. All children need is someone brilliant like me to handle them. Not that I want to handle them. Don’t read anything into that. I’ll sue.

Ed: Well, Crusher, maybe we can move to another topic. What about the rumor of you being a former member of the Backstreet Boys?

Crusher: Rumor? Are you trying to say that it isn’t true? Maybe you’re trying to discriminate against me because of my weight. Is that what you’re doing? Because if you are I’ll-

Ed: Sue?

Crusher: No, I prefer Crusher. And stop interrupting. In fact, stop interviewing. You’re not very good at it. Boring questions, wild accusations. You could be sued if you continue with your current method of interviewing. Now, as to the central question; the reason the rest of you, and by you, I mean anyone who isn’t me, why all you are not as good as me. The answer is because you don’t have the same mental capacity as I do and you can’t dance. That’s why I was kicked out of the Backstreet Boys. The rest of the guys were jealous. I had talent and they couldn’t handle that. Now they pretend like I never existed. Punks.

Ed: Thank you, Crusher-

Crusher: Oh. You’re still here? Didn’t I make it clear you were no longer needed?

Ed: Yes, well, that concludes-

Crusher: Feeble–brained, drooling imbecile. Enough. No one wants to hear from you. Now, onto my career as a paratrooper in WWII or maybe the time I landed on the moon… No, no, the time I infiltrated the KGB…

*Upon the advice of the KP Chronicle legal staff, it should be noted that the preceding interview was not conducted in the actual presence of said Robert Kennedy, nor were the answers as written given by Robert Kennedy. It should further be noted that the KP Chronicle has the utmost respect for Mr. Kennedy and hopefully we can avoid legal action. If there is a lawsuit due to the above interview, the Publisher of the KP Chronicle reserves the right to retract the retraction and re-assert the veracity of the interview as published as a means of proving the instability of Mr. Kennedy’s mental health.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My PC Broke And Now I'm Getting Sued

“Excuse me sir?” The little man was polite, despite the strain in his voice (screaming from the pain, as he felt inclined to do, might nonetheless offend the several shoppers who were about their own business and so the man tried to compose himself as well as he could in the present circumstances). “Excuse me. Sir?

“Yes?” The word was garbled from the bit of the little man’s flesh that was in the mouth of the Dahmerphile who was currently making a meal of fresh calf. The Dahmerphile sounded slightly annoyed, as is often the case when a person is interrupted during a meal.

“Well,” the little man was less sure of how to proceed. “Perhaps you could desist in your actions? I’m quite in need of my leg at the moment and the loss of blood is likely to make me faint soon.”

“In need, you say? More need than I, a hungry man? Or perhaps you suggest that there is something wrong with my choice of meal?”

“No! Certainly I’m not suggesting any such thing!” The little man tried to forestall the consequences of his words, inflammatory as they might have seemed in retrospect, but it was to no avail. The Dahmerphile pulled a card from his pocket and pressed the neat little rectangle (only a small smudge of blood on the corner) into the little man’s hand.

“The name of my attorney sir. I expect you’ll be hearing from him!”

The Dahmerphile presently bent down and with one last warning glance and a scowl, proceeded to continue with his lunch. The little man was torn, already having had insulted the other man and incurring that which he feared most; litigation and public denouncement as one of those people who were INTOLERANT, though he of course was not. Perhaps if he thought of something else he could find a remedy that would avert the dreaded repercussions of getting sued and being subsequently branded a SUBVERSIVE PERSON. He hated to think what he would do if he had to wear the big SP letters around his neck for all to see-

“Ah! You truly have no consideration!” The Dahmerphile angrily stood and glared at the little man who lay on the sidewalk. The little man snapped from his reverie in time to realize his second mistake. Before he could open his mouth, the Dahmerphile was pulling a second card from his pocket.

“Here I am, trying to enjoy a meal, a busy man I am, a hard-worker and there you are, keening and fussing, thrashing about. I nearly chipped a tooth! Here!” The Dahnmerphile thrust the second card at the little man, who, with difficulty (he truly, at this point, had lost a great deal of blood) took the card. “The name of my lawyer's attorney! This is appalling. Most egregious sir.”

The little man watched as the Dahmerphile straightened his coat, lifted his nose to the sky, gently wiped blood from his chin and walked away, stiff legged with obvious anger.
"Done broke, ain't it, then?"
The little man attempted to stand but when he tried, he became dizzy and was just able to pull himself out of the path of shoppers, some of whom sniffed in his direction, having seen the way in which he had behaved. He thought to call out, to ask for aid, but that would in all likelihood interrupt those around him. He did not want to cause a further fuss. He briefly considered the two cards clutched in his right hand. Undoubtedly the attorneys would easily find him despite the Dahmerphile’s omission of obtaining any personal information. There were the cameras to consider.

The little man looked at one of the cameras, hanging as it was from a tree only feet away. No use pretending the incident had not occurred. The little man considered his situation and wondered if passing out would be offensive to anyone.

He was uncertain.

The little man decided, if indeed he could decide as half his calf was gone, that he should not worry about the future and simply pass out. Complaining and fretting certainly would be offensive and that, dear friends, he most definitely did not want to be: offensive.

So… the little… man… faded… to… black…

The least offensive option available. And none of those who passed by disturbed him, lest they themselves seemed offensive because, clearly, it would be most disagreeable to be labeled a SUBVERSIVE PERSON or be called INTOLERANT.

And such another day passed with few being offensive and everybody accommodating, as best they could, everybody else.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday With Mikayla #2

And since it is Monday and also since I am still on vacation, for the second time I offer up this Monday for my 9 year old niece. She has a few stories, a few jokes (of questionable humor, I might say) and odds and bits for your reading pleasure.

Here is Mikayla:

My Kingdom

I live in a kingdom under my bed. I rule there, I get everything I’ve ever wanted. The creatures that live there are amazing. They look cool looking.Some are purple, blue, red, brown or green.
Like green slimy slugs here’s a picture of it: In my kingdom only I get to fight ninjas because I’ve always wanted to until I found the kingdom under my bed. Oh, my mom is coming bye!

A run away sock

Hi I’m a sock my name is Mrs.Smelly. I got out of the washer.
But I’m still a little damp because I got out of the washer.
I’m pink with a green stripes. I think my brother, Mr. Stink is
sooooooo smelly he never gets washed because Tom the boy
who always and I mean always wears him so this is like his
first time getting washed. Gross isn’t it? I can not sleep with
him because then I would
start to stink too. Good bye. I found a video game shop. See
you later!

The monster under the bed?

A perfect Christmas morning

This would be my perfect Christmas morning:

When I wake up on Christmas morning, I want to smell cinnamon buns. And, it’s all snowy and the house is all warm and cozy. I’ll have hot chocolate and a cinnamon bun. Oh, it will be so yummy for my tum, tum, tummy! I wonder who will find the Christmas Pickle ha,ha,ha,ha,ha. I said pickle! Me love pickles! Ya go pickle yo go pickle! I love Christmas mornings they are the best mornings ever! Bye!

And thus concludes Monday with Mikayla...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Getting (Dodge) Rammed In Virginia

Not being one who has ventured far, I can say with authority that I am no authority. I’m a bad traveller. If I don’t know the road, I get frustrated, nervous, I get those god-awful sweat stains under my arms, I’m irritable and generally not much fun.

I hate driving long distance, but I would rather be the driver than the driven. Car sick- car nausea really. I tend to look out the side window and get that sick feeling in my stomach, so yeah, not much fun. My wife is a saint by travelling anywhere with me.

So. We drove to Virginia from Maine with an overnight stop in Connecticut. I’ve set the stage enough, right? Long road trip, me a putz and lousy traveller, me uncomfortable in unknown areas... no suspense, then.

My wife, myself, my brother-in-law and his then girlfriend (now fiancee, and good on both of them for that), are almost at our destination, on our way to rehearsal and rehearsal dinner for our friend’s wedding. We stop at a stop light and then, “Well, that just happened.” A low key statement from my brother-in-law from the backseat following the ramming we took from, ironically, the Dodge Ram pickup that neglected to stop with the rest of the traffic.

Did I mention my uncle died just before I left on this trip? That his funeral was the following day? That I found out he died in a Wal-Mart parking lot as I was leaving my hometown for this trip?

(Back story, folks, back story.)

An ordeal ensued. We waited for the police, we waited more, we waited yet longer. We were glad none of us were bleeding or in anyway injured. The length of time it took to get assistance, we could have bled out even with the barest superficial wound.

Upset and stranded, we began the wedding weekend. We were half- a step off for the rest of our trip and as a consequence, we never really got back on track. We visited Monticello, went to a great wedding reception, met great people, and yet, it wasn’t until we were gone that we realized that Virginia wasn’t a bad place to visit.

Isn’t that the way? The first time you go to a place, you are finding your way around and you have no real idea what you like until you’ve reviewed it later. You say, ‘Wish we went... wish we did... wish we had...’

At least that was how it went for me. There are no guarantees, I guess and I wish (see, even now I wish) that going on vacation meant having a great time. There are no guarantees, so the options are to enjoy the adventure or stay home.

Getting rammed was nearly enough to convince me to stay home. Nearly.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Homeschooling From A Grandmother's Perspective

Old schoolhouse

Guest blog by Rena Nickerson (Grandmother and teacher of three girls- 9,6,4 and a 2 year old boy):  

  We are on our fourth year of homeschooling. Currently we are home educating our girls, ages four, six and nine. Often their twenty four month old brother joins a class. He's learning to count. When asked his age he holds up three fingers and shouts, "Two!" Yes, he is a work in progress.

There are no typical home school days, just as there are no typical home school families.  The one thing that remains constant is that our children do not have to climb out of bed at 6 AM, half asleep, to get ready to catch a school bus at 6:45 AM.

They  get up in the morning when they have gotten enough sleep. They sit at the breakfast table laughing and talking while enjoying a peaceful and relaxed meal. They don't have the worry of picking out the perfect school outfit. In fact, getting dressed for school is optional.

They do get dressed most mornings. I suspect they do so to delay school as long as possible. One morning, after waiting 20 minutes for them to dress and begin school, I yelled up the stairs. "Girls, you have five more minutes to get dressed and down here for school. If not I will mark you late for school and drag you to the principals office"
I heard laughter and the four year old shouted, "We don't have a Principal's office!"
Me--"Oh yes we do. It's down in the spooky basement."  
Six year old---”What does our principal look like?"
Me--”Big, huge, giant, hairy, black---that is all I am going to tell you. If you are late then you will find out what he looks like."
Nine year old--"Lets be late and go meet the principal."
Six year old--"I think our principal is a giant spider. I don't want to see him!"

Children can learn while having fun and laughing and I do try to keep our school fun. There was the morning I introduced the substitute teacher. Our vacuum cleaner has a Granny cover. I wheeled her in and the girls loved that. Granny no longer hides the vacuum. She now sits propped up at the dinning room table, her arms holding an open book. Once in awhile one of the girls ask, "Granny, would you like me to turn the page for you?" At our Halloween party, Granny got dressed up as a pirate.

The dinning room is our class room, and though we do begin there, we seldom end up there. It is not unusual to find the girls in the living room reading in front of a cozy fire, sipping hot cocoa. Learning can happen anywhere.

Our state requires that 175 days must be spent in educating the children. They do not, as some states do, require a certain amount of hours. I prefer schooling in the morning and ending as close to noon as possible.
We have a daily schedule of subjects that the state says must be taught. We have flexibility of what to teach. ,As an example I am free to choose what period of history to teach, what to teach for science and math and etc. We manage to squeeze in Bible, Spanish and Arts and Crafts, subjects of our choosing.

I find it easier and less time consuming to combine the girls into as many classes as possible. Much like the old fashioned, one room, school house. Each child learning as age and ability permits.
We do have text books but the girls often find them dry and boring. Since little children tend to be visual learners we sometimes abandon the books in favor of DVDs. We have a vast collection of videos covering every subject but math. On non book days, the girls are given lap tops to play math games on the computer.

The children are never tested, nor do they receive letter grades. I am always aware of what they know and when to speed it up or slow it down. Each child is allowed to learn at her own pace.
I admire public school teachers. I don't know how they manage a class of twenty or thirty plus kids and teach at the same time. It frightens me to even imagine doing their jobs. They, don't, however, have the same advantage of the homeschooling teacher of sitting down with each child and teaching one on one.

I love listening to the girls discussing what they have learned during the day. After seeing a video of the Oregon Trail the nine year old said, "That was really gross! They ate their dead friends!"
The six year old was more impressed with buffalo chips."Buffalo chips is poop. They picked up poop with their bare hand to make fires.Yucky!"
  The four year old didn't get much out of that video, but took note of her older sister's comment. "Why didn't they eat pizza? It's not nice to eat your friends."

She did enjoy the video on Japan, and had a question. "How do those people eat tomato soup  with chopsticks? Can we have tomato soup for lunch? Do we have any chopsticks?"
"Sweetheart, if they eat tomato soup they drink it from bowls or cups like we do. Yes, you can have tomato soup for lunch, but I'm sorry, we don't have chopsticks."
"That's okay. I'll use two forks."

Learning doesn't end with the home school day. The six year old came to me and asked, " What does Buenas noches mean? I forgot."
Me--”It means good night."
She--"Me and (4 year old sister) are playing Japanese. Japanese people are Spanish, you know. We have to talk to them in Spanish."
Me--”Oh Honey, no. Japanese people are not Spanish. They have their own language. In the back of our book there are some Japanese vocabulary words. Let's go learn a couple of easy Japanese words."
   And so concludes a bit of what our home school looks like.