Loving the Job

Every weekday I get to sit knee to knee with a variety of second graders as my coworkers and I complete preliminary testing for our literacy research. This might just be the greatest job in the history of jobs.

Many of these children are woefully behind as readers, indeed, they are behind in many areas of English language development. Some are from households in which English is not the primary language. Others are children living in extreme poverty where parents are doing their best just to stay afloat. Still others come to us from families where reading is not a priority. Whatever their circumstances, achieving the ability to read at grade level by third grade is critical.

Each one of these children is a priceless gift. I absolutely fall in love with them. Right now our team is administering pre-tests to students who qualified for the program. Many of our test questions are well beyond these students’ current capabilities, making for some amusing responses.

When shown a set of footprints one child told me, “Oh, I know this one! It’s printfoots!” Close, oh so close.

Another child when asked what word means the same as “peer” replied, “Beer. Like Coors–that’s what my daddy drinks, but it makes my mom mad when he drinks too many.” Hmmm.

I love it when a student knows an answer and then says, “My teacher taught me this.” They are so proud of themselves.

The children seem to love coming to work with us as much as we enjoy working with them. One little girl today smiled at me when I called her name from the classroom door and said shyly, “I was hoping and hoping you would say my name.”

Another told a co-worker, “You make me feel smart.”

Not all of the comments are sweet. A child this afternoon asked, “Why you always asking me questions. Don’t you know this stuff?” Well, I know some of it.

After looking at one set of photos after another and trying to pick out the right one from a verbal prompt, one child sighed and said, “These are the most boringest pitchers I ever seen.” Sorry, kiddo. I’m at the mercy of the test designers.

One of the assessments we administer asks the students to respond orally to the following prompt: “‘Jan threw the ball into the street.’ Now say this sentence in passive voice

The correct response would be, “The ball was thrown into the street by Jan,” but the second graders have no idea what they’re supposed to do. Most just repeat the sentence back to me, but last week a little girl whispered the sentence. I thought it was a fluke until I later asked her to put a sentence in active voice. She hopped up and down and shouted the sentence. She might not know how to change the voice of the sentence, but she sure knows the difference between active and passive.

Probably the best thing about this stage of the project is getting a ringside seat into the ways these children think about their own thinking. Educators call this “metacognition.” The more confident among them will say things like, “It must be this picture, because the mom looks like she might be mad. In the other pictures she just looks like a regular mom. And if someone ate all my cookies, I’d be mad.”

In November we will began small group interventions with many of these students. That will be fun, as well, but I will miss this one to one interaction, even when it’s with kids who think my questions are lame and my pictures boring.

Peace (and read with your kids), People!

Let it Go?

Why is it easy to let some small annoyances go and impossible to let others slide by?

I have raged for years about 32″ inseams on my 33.5″ legs. That danged inch and a half is a thorn in my side. On average aren’t people growing taller? Then why on earth haven’t inseams gotten longer? Let it go!

Political ads. The misdirection, happy family photos, staged walks on the beach, outright lies–they all make me cringe. I think every politician should be allotted ten 30 second television advertisements. They may not mention their opponent in any way during those 30 seconds. Only verifiable facts and statistics may be used. Don’t let it go!

The term “supermodel” bugs me. Anything with the word “super” imposed on it should at least be able to fly or bend steel rods. Let it go!

What’s up with beets? They always look like they should taste pleasant, and yet they don’t. It’s that bright red coloring that is the problem. I see festive red and I think, “mmm, sweet,” not “ugh, weird tasting vegetable.” Let it go!

Incorrect use of an apostrophe. Don’t let it go! People, an apostrophe shows ownership:

Paula’s plants. Not Paula’s plant’s.
Plant’s leaves. Not plant’s leave’s

Bathroom seats that are left in the upright position. It’s icky. It’s yucky! But I can live with it. Let it go!

Burps and belches that aren’t followed by the phrase, “Excuse me!” Common courtesy. Don’t let it go!

Blog posts with no apparent point. I hope you can let it go!

Peace, People!

Awareness Issues

Do you suffer from Awareness Issues?

1. Do you find yourself stepping in random puddles of oil in parking lots or piles of dog poop in parks?

2. Have you ever bumped into an inanimate object and said, “excuse me”?

3. Have you ever driven any length of time only to realize you have no recollection of the past 10, 20, or even 30 miles?

4. Have you ever accidentally brushed your teeth with Preparation H?

5. Have you ever gotten into the wrong car in a parking lot and wondered why your key doesn’t fit the ignition?

If you have answered “yes” to any of these questions you might be suffering from Awareness Issues.

As a recovering sufferer of AI, I wholeheartedly endorse the Institute for Awareness Disorders, or IAD. Here’s what IAD can offer:

Intensive Group Therapy–Daily meetings with fellow AI sufferers will provide support as you deal with your lack of awareness.

Personal Counseling Sessions–One on one meetings with an expert to get to the root cause of your Awareness Issues.

Awareness Exercises–The heart of IAD. Our certified AI counselors will lead you and fellow attendees in activities guaranteed to eradicate AI. Previous exercises have included blindfolding participants and dropping them into a variety of locations such as Times Square in NYC, and the Amazon Jungle, walking a tightrope over a pit of vipers, and rock climbing in the Rockies.

Comments from our satisfied customers:

“If the exercises don’t result in death or dismemberment you most likely will be cured.” –Clueless Joe J., IA.

“I used to get into other people’s cars all the time before enrolling at IAD. Now, that hardly ever happens.”–Helen N., Hereford, TX.

Before attending IAD I was always doing embarrassing things like scolding strangers in airport restrooms, but the group therapy has been so helpful.”–Nedra P., Canyon, TX.

I can’t tell you the number of times I accidentally used hairspray as deodorant and vice versa before attending IAD. Now, I look twice before I spray.–L. N., Havana, FL.

You no longer have to suffer from Awareness Issues. Call our offices today at 1-888-bea-ware.

Peace, People!

Short and Gross

This morning I went out to get in the convertible. I pulled out of the garage and realized the ambient temperature was a bit on the chilly side to ride around with the top down. So with a press of a button I raised the top.

Little pieces of something began falling all around me. Dead lovebugs. Lots and lots of dried, dead lovebugs, no longer entwined in death, their flaky little carcasses raining down into my hair and onto my lap and into my purse.

What a way to start the day.

Peace, People!

Long Week in Gadsden County

I got home from work this afternoon and plopped my butt in front of the television. Then I picked up my iPad, scrolled to WordPress and wrote this post. Yes, it was this bad.

As hungry as I am, I haven’t eaten dinner because chewing just takes way too much effort. I opened the fridge and cried to find I was out of wine. So I had a couple of beers instead. Now I need to pee, but the bathroom is two whole rooms away.

I just watched 12 political ads in a row because I didn’t have the gumption to change channels. I’m pretty sure I’m now an Independent. There was a funny commercial on about immature cheese, but it hurt too much to laugh, so I didn’t. Yawning hurts, too. Pretty much everything hurts.

I remind myself that I work to keep myself busy and to meet new people. I ask myself if I really need people at all.

I finally got up to heat some dinner in the microwave, and stood in front of it for a good 30 seconds looking for the preheat button. The beep signaling that dinner is ready grates on my already frayed nerves. Chewing is every bit as difficult as I imagined.

My phone rang. I let it go to voicemail even though it was on the table beside my chair. I sure hope it wasn’t Publisher’s Clearinghouse.

I updated my Facebook status to “pffffft!” and all two of my friends liked it. I cried again over my lack of wine. It’s eight o’clock and I’m ready to go to bed, but it’s even more distant than the bathroom. The sofa looks good.

My head aches, my back is in spasms, and my head throbs. But I met some new people! Tomorrow has to be better. Right? Right? At least I’ll have wine.

Me: SIRI, take a note.

SIRI: What would you like the note to say?

Me: Buy wine for tomorrow night.

SIRI: Here’s your note

I whine for tomorrow night.

Me: Yep.

Peace, People!

Having a Wine Time, Wish You Were Here

“A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and Thou.
Beside me singing in the Wilderness–Oh
Wilderness were Paradise enow.”

I’m fairly sure I know what Omar Khayyam had in mind when he penned those lines, but “Let’s get drunk and make out in the park.” just doesn’t give off the same vibe.

Wine does tend to lead me to amorous thoughts. I’m having a glass as I type this, which leads me to say, I really, really like you. I also find that I tend to over punctuate while nipping the grape. Commas abound. Semicolons trip over themselves in a clumsy attempt for attention; however, I am still obliged to follow the dictates of proper punctuation.

I wish I could gather together all those who’ve read my posts. The countries represented simply astound me. Today, I had visitors from United Arab Emirates, Angola, the Republic of Korea, and Chile. Last week I entertained readers from Indonesia, Colombia, and Argentina. The Seychelles. Italy, Guatemala, Ireland, the U.K., and France were represented, as were Spain, Ecuador, Georgia, and Ukraine. My mind is blown.

If I could, I’d throw a party. We’d drink wine and beer, vodka and soda, and solve the problems of the world in ways no politician would ever consider. There is power in words. Power in community. We’d row out on the lake behind my house and comment on the fish flipping their fins in the sunlight. What a glorious gathering! Then we’d have beef burgers or tofu burgers and relax in the waning of the day.

Good times.

Peace and Wine, People!

Use Your Words

Friends don’t let friends use words incorrectly. Just ask Studly. For the first 20 years of our marriage I was the unofficial grammar hammer in our home. Studly’s approach to academics in general, and English in particular, was much more on the laid back end of the spectrum; whereas, my approach tended toward the rigid. One might say anal. One might say unforgiving.

My children would not use bad grammar. My children would never resort to using double negatives. My children would never, ever use the word “ain’t.” I’m fairly certain I was successful in their training, since they both maintain that grammatical rigidity with their own children.

What I didn’t foresee was that Studly would glean grammar nuggets from me, as well. Yes, I’ve provided ever so polite constructive criticism of his English usage over the years, but I really didn’t think those lessons would become so rooted that one day he’d have the gall to challenge mygrammar. I don’t know whether to be proud or pissed. And, yes, I could have used a better word than pissed, but I wanted the alliteration. So there.

Peace, People.

The Dance of My People

Friday morning I decided to drive Studly’s car. My car was almost out of gas and the windshield was covered in lovebug guts, so it just made sense to put his car to use. Besides, I wanted to listen to Howard Stern, and my car doesn’t have Sirius/XM radio.

We still haven’t quite gotten our garage sorted out. One side is completely filled with four motorcycles, a riding lawn mower, a couple of large tool boxes, assorted crap, and more assorted crap. The other side houses my car. So both Studly’s personal car and his company car sit outside.

I had an early morning chiropractic appointment in Tallahassee, so the sun wasn’t up when I walked outside. The old saying about it always being darkest before the dawn popped into my head as I stepped into the humid Florida morning. The light emanating from the open garage door didn’t penetrate very far, so I clicked the car remote to provide a little more illumination. Darkness still prevailed.

My imagination instantly kicked into high gear, conjuring up all sorts of monsters lurking in the pitch black between the car and me: snakes, gators, wolves, bears, chainsaw wielding serial killers. I began inching forward, speaking in no-nonsense tones to anything with evil intentions, “You better not mess with me, whatever you are,” and, “I come in peace, please don’t eat me,” were among my choice words.

The passenger door was closest, so I went for it and threw my purse and work bag in the front seat. I considered just climbing over the center console, but I had on a skirt, and I looked kind of nice, so I decided to suck it up and walk around the front of the car. And right into a massive spider web.

The full blown spider dance was on. You know that dance–the one where you flap and slap, and stomp about, but no matter what you do the web continues clinging to your hair, your face, your hands. And you know, you just know that spider is doing it’s best to attack, bite, and possibly kill, the person who ruined its magnificent web. Even reliving the event now I imagine a family of spiders scrabbling around in my hair looking for a place to nest.

I battled through the web, but all the way to Tallahassee I wrestled with the probable presence of spiders, periodically slapping at my neck, and when I arrived at Dr. Verrier’s office I had him do an arachnid check. To his credit, he took my request seriously, but I have a feeling that service isn’t covered by my insurance. I am pleased to report no spiders were discovered. Nevertheless, I could still feel that spidey tingle.

I told Studly about my web encounter of the worst kind when he called from Pensacola that evening. “That’s what you get for driving my car,” he said. No sympathy, but I have to admit, spiders are a pretty good deterrent to future car borrowing.

Peace, People!

Love (Bugs) in the Air

North Florida is under attack, and I don’t think anyone is doing a damned thing about it. All week long this part of the sunshine state has been swarmed by “lovebugs,” scientifically known as Plecia nearctica. Apparently these bugs are members of the family of march flies and go by the cutesie names of honeymoon fly, kissingbug, and double-headed bug. The darned things fly around coupled together during and after they mate for up to several days.

And they do it everywhere. I had to wade through a storm of the nasty little buggers yesterday to get into my vehicle outside of an elementary school. I was slapping and flapping and waving my bag at them, but a host of the entangled insects still managed to make it into my car. This morning I found two in my purse. Ew. Just ew! While I admire their tenacity and endurance, the whole idea of me carting around a pair of cavorting lovers is kind of low brow. Does this make me a pimp? A madame? Is my handbag now a mobile bug brothel?

The lovebugs aren’t all bad, though. The birds are enjoying a moveable feast with all of the distracted, romantically involved bugs in the air, and lovebug larvae are lauded as one of nature’s best organic recyclers. The adult lovebugs are great pollinators, as well. But the pair I found copulating in my handbag won’t be pollinating anything. Ever again.

Peace, People!