I’m not really a tourist.

This really happened.

I know I say that a lot, and I’m not sure why I would think that you wouldn’t believe me. In this particular case, I’m not sure I believe it myself.

But, as far as I know, this really happened.

On Friday I walked over to the White House to get in one last glimpse before they board the place up following GateGate.* The whole area was abuzz with tourists, protesters, security personnel, construction crews, and others like me, out for a lunchtime stroll.

Pay no attention to the crane behind the curtain.

Pay no attention to the crane behind the curtain.

On my return walk, I approached the corner of 13th and Pennsylvania still processing the image of a woman I’d just passed who was sporting jeggings and a skimpy top with exposed undergarments, along with a traditional religious headscarf, which she stopped to remove after leaving the White House grounds.

It’s no secret that my mind wanders into “There’s A Story There” territory more often than it should, yet I struggled to come up with hers.

And so it was that I was lost in that state of perplexion when I realized that there was a man standing next to me waiting to cross the street. Contrary to instinct, I looked in his direction, probably hoping he’d bear witness to what I’d just seen.

But, no. It was even better.

At first glimpse I thought, “I know him.”

My mind searched its memory banks for a name to put with the face. Then I realized I didn’t know him. I knew the face: it was President Obama’s face.

I don’t mean he was a tall, thin black man with distinguished greying hair.

I mean that I was looking into the face of  The.Spitting.Image. of the Commander-in-Chief. (Let me be clear: he wasn’t really spitting. That’s a figure of speech. I use those sometimes. They get me into a world of trouble.)

I know what you’re thinking because it’s exactly what I was thinking. Why on earth would President Obama be standing on a street corner?

Gone was my confusion over the jeggings-wearing headscarf woman, whose story no longer held any interest to me. Not after finding myself face-to-face with a mom-jeans wearing doppelganger of the President of the United States. (Let me be further clear to avoid casting fashion aspersions toward an innocent impostor: I don’t know for sure that they were mom jeans. I’m still processing the whole event.)

He looked back at me as if to say, “Yeah. I know, right? I get that a lot.”

Then, and I swear this happened, he jaywalked north across Pennsylvania Avenue, then west toward the White House, leaving me staring dumbfounded at a disappearing swagger in brown sports jacket and jeans. There’s a story there. I still don’t know what it is.

It was without a doubt the craziest lunchtime walk ever. I can’t wait to go back on Monday.

* I wish I had thought of “GateGate” myself, but it’s plagiarized from someone whose name I don’t know, who cleverly pointed out that eventually it would come to a scandal named GateGate. 

Flower power and ball juggling

Life is funny and sometimes full of delightful surprises and so are people.

Case in point, the ever-effervescent blonde in the sunglasses, she who is not just the life of the party but, in fact,  IS the party, the Ginger to my Mary Ann (if Ginger were a brilliant writer. . . and Mary Ann were a hack — ok, forget that analogy), the martini to my lemonade, the *grin* that  keeps me on the bright side, etc., the one and only BlogDramedy has bestowed upon me the honor of becoming one of her Blogs Of Other Bloggers, a name that, unlike Students Against the Treacherous Use of Fur, makes a good acronym.

Classic BlogDramedy.

Classic BlogDramedy.

I’m juggling a lot of balls at the moment. Mine are smaller than hers (more Titleist Pro V1s than Adidas Brazuca), not that size matters. And I’m not wearing knee-high socks, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I have more thoughts about this major award than I have time to write them. “Delightful surprise” and “honor” are just a start.

I had this “Flower Power” seedling of a post sitting in my drafts box, probably headed to “Trash,” but her very kind post featured one of my new header images, so I thought I’d post it while I get back to ball juggling.

Thank you, BD.

If you’ve come by way of BlogDramedy’s blog, welcome and thank you for visiting.

And if, for some reason that I can’t even begin to imagine, you haven’t already been to BD’s place, go check her out. But remember, her eyes are up here, buddy. Yeesh.


Still playing around with summer flowers and header images, I turned these three images . . .

 

 

…into these new header images:

The tiger lilies are in bloom again.

I know the classic Kate Hepburn line is about calla lilies.

I’ve adapted it as a ritual every June. When I see the first tiger lilies appear, I joyfully pronounce, in my best aristocratic, melodramatic Katharine Hepburn voice, “The tiger lilies are in bloom again.”

And then, only then — not on Memorial Day, not the first 90-degree day, not on the last day of school, not on the summer solstice, but on the first sighting of tiger lilies — summer officially has arrived in my world. Bring on the lemonade and the summer reading list (I’m back on a Mary Alice Monroe kick), the sunscreen and flip-flops, the summer music playlist. Next up, fireflies!

A beautiful tree outside my window was struck by lightning last summer and had to be removed. I was sorry to see it go. Without its shade, some tiger lilies have sprung up along the wall. They’re reaching for light and some appear to be struggling more than others, but they’re such a welcome sight.

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It’s officially summer!

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On an ever-so-remotely related note — you might have to reach for it like a tiger lily seeking sunlight — I’ve been playing with my camera, Microsoft Picture Manager, and different angles and perspectives for header images. This morning my toes decided to photo-bomb a shot from overhead looking down on the lantana.

It reminded me of the photo challenge I saw earlier in the week.

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Look Who’s Walking.

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It’s lilac season, and isn’t that a good thing?

This morning I got an email from Ottmar Liebert with secret links to new music and a photograph he took in Barcelona of what he thinks might be lilacs.

Here’s one link, to a tune called “quietrainmoss,” from his album “three-oh-five.” It’s definitely worth the listen, if only for the groovy sound he made with paper in his strings at about the 4:48 mark.

His email said that he thought the flowers in the photograph were lilacs, but curiously they didn’t have a scent. I wrote back to let him know that they still didn’t have a scent when the photo arrived in my in-box.

So there’s one more person who probably wouldn’t trust me with pointy objects.

In related lilac news, I had a Carly Simon-fest over the weekend that eventually landed me at her video blog on YouTube, where she makes these little snippets of video from her bedroom on Martha’s Vineyard. I love that island.

I dare say that if anyone else made those videos, one might be tempted to hide the pointy objects.

But they’re adorably, unabashedly, quirkily Carly, and I love them.

I also love ukeleles, avocados, pumpernickel bread, chocolate ice cream, Lucy, and falling into bed. And lilacs. Not necessarily in that order.

Today I walked three miles around my neighborhood. A month ago I could barely walk at all. Baby steps. Almost literally.

While I walked I had a Eudora Welty-inspired reverie, the seedling to a short story based on the fictional theory that Carly might be my long-lost mother. By the time I made it to the computer, it was less Eudora Welty and more nonsense.

To celebrate my three miles of baby steps, I took some photos of my neighbor’s lilacs.

They smell wonderful, but I suppose you’ll have to take my word for that.

Peace and lilacs and all that . . .

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Roadside fruit and other distractions

I set out this morning to write a post explaining why I was taking Le Cahier private for a few days. It seemed like Good Friday was as fitting a day as any, although I’m not sure whether it will be back by Sunday.

There's a story here. I'm still waiting for it to tell itself.

There’s a story here. I’m still waiting for it to tell itself.

Then I saw that a new theme was available and I played around with it a little, which involved going into my media library, where I found the banana on a ledge.

I realized that after several years of sitting in my media library, that picture might finally serve a purpose in bringing about a post for poetry month.

Maybe I could write that post while Le Cahier was in private status.

Then I came across my photos of the giant Peachoid in Gaffney, South Carolina, which reminded me that I’d set out last week to write a post in response to  Linda’s essay about road trips and such over at The Task At Hand.

Her post got me to thinking about how I probably never would have seen that peachoid close up if I hadn’t been traveling solo. Come to think of it, I probably wouldn’t have noticed the banana on the ledge if I hadn’t been alone, either.

Both the banana sighting and the peachoid visit relate to my unwritten poetry post.

On the illusory nature of peachoids and peacock feathers.

Among the things I’ve learned in this my third week as a shut-in recovering from a back injury is that the Peachoid figures prominently in at least one storyline of the popular Netflix series House of Cards. I wish I had known this several months ago when I regaled a group of former colleagues with my knowledge of the Gaffney Peachoid.

There are at least two stories here. I regret telling one.

There are at least two stories here. I wish I had known one when I told the other.

I’ve always wondered why that group of well-heeled Ivy Leaguers includes me in their annual gathering. It probably has something to do with the level of entertainment that comes from my cluelessness.

So, there’s a story there, one in which I come out blissfully unaware that I am, for lack of a more family-friendly term,  a giant peachoid.

You might think the lesson I learned is that it’s important to watch more television.

I know. Me, too.

But then someone brought me a fern with a peacock feather tucked into it, which obviously meant he fancies me.  I learned that from a drive-by viewing of Amish Mafia, which you should not watch because it is horribly offensive and yet it sucks you in and you find yourself wondering what that scoundrel Levi will do next.

Turns out the gift wasn’t so much an Amish courtship ritual as it was a pawning off of the centerpiece the fern-bearer’d won at a peacock-themed dinner event.

I asked if he really doesn’t fancy me or if he was just enjoying being mean for the power trip of it all. He glanced at Frank Underwood and suggested that maybe I’m watching too much television.

On kaleidoscopes, sort of.

I’m not just watching television. I’m watching the grass grow. Literally.

I can sit for longer periods now, which I do in my desk chair by the window, and I’ve been watching the grass return to green and the shoots of soon-to-be flowers peeking up through the beds. Inigo (my dog) came wandering by one day, and as I rolled the chair back to give him access to the window view, the idea of a kaleidoscope came to mind.

I thought about how the colors outside are changing daily and how he would have a different view today than he had yesterday. Then I thought about how, although I hadn’t planned it, this time of confinement has allowed me to spend time with him in what are likely his final days.

That thought itself shifted my own perspective, just like a kaleidoscope.

I’d like to tell you I wrote a poem about kaleidoscopes  — or an essay or a song, or that I painted a painting or made an actual kaleidoscope, but all I really had was the flash of a thought, which I would have bet was a hijack of someone’s wavelength, because it was as fleeting and random as those are.

I half-expected to read a blog post where someone mentioned a kaleidoscope. That sort of synchronicity has happened often during this down time. So far it hasn’t happened, but if you’re planning to write about kaleidoscopes, sorry about the wavelength hijack. I do that sometimes. It weirds me out, too.

Sometimes a flashing thought is just a flashing thought. And sometimes a giant peachoid is just a giant peachoid. And a peacock feather is just a peculiar centerpiece.

What was this about taking the blog private?

This week I renewed the upgrade that will allow me to keep the hippiecahier.com domain name. I’ve been receiving reminders about the expiration for some time now and have given some thought as to why I would renew. This would be as good a time as any for the series finale of hippiecahier.com.

When it came down to deciding, I renewed for one reason: to keep someone else from taking the domain name. I didn’t like the idea of a cyber-squatter taking it and charging me a king’s ransom if I decided I wanted it back, and I was even less happy with the thought of someone taking the name and creating an impostor site. I know. I’ve been watching too much television. But it could happen.

I’ve said before that I planned to stop blogging, once even deleting the entire Hippie Cahier blog. After a period away, I usually jump in again.

However, I think I have more of an idea of my “voice” and what I would like my blog to be, and what I’m ready to discard.

Or I thought so until I looked into my media library, which started this whole meandering post.

Meandering.  That’s the point. The point is that all too often there is no point. Just silliness. Or excessive introspection.

With so few other distractions beyond the unwritten poetry of roadside fruit sightings, mind-polluting television, and watching the grass grow and a dog die, I’ve noticed more about the kind of writing that appeals to me, both as a reader and as a writer, and I’ve been considering a more disciplined format and theme (not just aesthetically).

So, for now, I’m keeping Hippie Cahier, the blog and the persona. In a day or two, the blog will go “private,” while I decide what to keep and what is ready to archive or whether starting a new blog is the way to go.

I just wanted to say that the “private” status isn’t intended to exclude anyone. It’s intended to exclude everyone. . . but just while I make some changes.  Or not. You just never know with me.

In the meantime, I will be reading as often as chair-sitting permits.

For those of you who are celebrating Easter, have a happy one.

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I never got around to writing a complete post for poetry month.  The half-formed idea included reference to Peter Mulvey’s notion that “the trouble with poets is they see poetry everywhere.” Like in a peachoid or a banana on a ledge or the kaleidoscope sound of a desk chair rolling backwards.

He’s much better at the words and the music than I am, so here he is:

Gravatar Anxiety Disorder and the search for an online identity

Just for fun, or perhaps in some deep-rooted yet light-hearted passive-aggressive schadenfreudian slip (feel free to psychoanalyze and/or judge – your conclusions are probably right), this week I participated in Throwback Thursday on Facebook and uploaded a profile picture of my 22-ish year old self.

That was fun, but now it’s time to change back.

Whereas in real life, the change over the past 28-ish years has been gradual and natural, going from Throwback Thursday to Reality Friday (some things are just too serious to alliterate) has presented a challenge similar to one I’ve experienced with my struggle for identity as Hippie Cahier.

Regular readers (and again, I thank you beyond words for that) have noticed that I frequently change my blog theme, which is, of course, ill-advised if one is seeking to establish a brand or otherwise make oneself instantly recognizable. I have consistently maintained that I am consistently inconsistent, so the frequent blog theme change is either in keeping with that brand or it is simply further support of another consistent assertion, that I’m not here to sell anything.

Changing my blog theme has become almost a hobby, one far less expensive than redecorating the living room, not to mention easier on the knees.

Some may also have noticed that, especially lately, I’ve changed my “gravatar” or profile picture more frequently.  I, myself, am fascinated and/or amused at how much anxiety is behind the search for my online identity.

On both Facebook and the Hippie Cahier blog, I’ve been using a selfie taken just before a face-plant in the snow on my snowman-making misadventure a couple of months ago. Since we’ve all had just about enough of this winter, it’s time to change to something without a winter coat and scarf with barren trees in the background.

One very big obstacle to including an updated photo is the fact that I hate having my picture taken.

As a matter of fact, if you have  time to waste and you’re not into updating your blog theme, find a thesaurus, look up the word ‘hate,’ and find the strongest synonym.

Multiply that times googol and that’s how much I dislike having my photo taken, so much so that it totally derailed some offers for modeling jobs when I was around 18 to  22-ish.

I’ve considered trying another selfie, possibly sporting the new big, geeky reading glasses I picked up at the dollar store, based solely on a rare  compliment from a boy whose opinion shouldn’t matter but, for reasons that shall forever elude me, does. But that would require more effort than I’m willing to expend.

I got a belly button ring when I was 36. My father died a few months later. I am haunted to this day by the notion that there is some connection between these events.

I got a belly button ring when I was 36. My father died a few months later. I am haunted to this day by the notion that there is some connection between these events.

I recently played around with a fun “paper doll”-like program that I stumbled upon online, and came up with a teenager hippie cartoon, but let’s face it, I’m not a teenager, and my father would be appalled at that bare midriff. Appalled, I tell you.

After a good deal of thought, I’ve decided on two contenders for the “real” hippie gravatar and some reasons for rejecting the other contenders:

One is the original picture I chose when I had every intention of remaining completely anonymous.  The hippie kid still has a place in my heart for the childlike adventure “she” represents.  That anonymity has faded slightly. I’ve met four of you and 75% of the time a pleasant off-blog acquaintance has been the result.

It’s that one-out-of-four experience that makes the hippie kid bittersweet for me.

Adorable, before she figured out that whole blonde thing.

Adorable and forever young

I’m searching for a summer Hippie and a more modern photo, so the one I used last summer should be in the running, but it’s not. Because it’s blonde Hippie.

It may not look blonde to most, but it’s at the beginning of another summer hair experiment, the second time I’ve tried seeing life through the eyes of Those Who Have More Fun. Turns out, I’m not really blonde. So not me.

Time and again, I come back to one true “Hippie Cahier” photo, which I’ve re-established as my gravatar, unless and until a good selfie of me in my geeky readers comes to pass.

One reason I’ve changed from this photo is that it is misleading because it isn’t current. It was taken at least fifteen years ago. In putting it back up, I thought I’d tell why it is perhaps my favorite photo of me as Karen, and fitting of me as Hippie Cahier.

The photo was taken by someone I knew for only a few days, but in considering why it is that this is my favorite image of me, it seems to me that he is one of the few men I’ve ever known who truly saw me.

Maybe if I’d known him for longer, that  would have changed, and maybe that’s the beauty of only knowing him — and of his only knowing me, if I’m going to be fair about it — for a few days.

When I think about why it is that this picture seems to capture “me,” lyrics  come to mind from Jackson Browne’s “Fountain of Sorrow,” which is a more depressing title than the sentiment I intend to suggest.

I wasn’t posing for the photo. I didn’t know the camera was out, which probably would have changed the shot entirely.

" . . You were turning 'round looking to see who was behind you and I took your childish laughter by surprise. . . "

” . . You were turning ’round looking to see who was behind you and I took your childish laughter by surprise. . . “

The story of how we came to know one another, and for only that few days,  is rather tangled and hard to follow. He and his teenage son and a friend were stopping over in DC on their way from their home in Europe to a vacation home in the Bahamas. I ended up showing them around on behalf of a shared acquaintance who was unexpectedly called away. Of the three, the photographer was the only one fluent in English. He acted as translator during our adventures.

That morning we’d done some sightseeing and brunch in town and had gone swimming in the afternoon. They tried to teach me to juggle, much to all our amusement, and after a full day, we met up again for an evening outdoor concert.

Although I didn’t speak their language, I was at that time quite fluent in Teenager, and I’d heard “Coca Cola” coming through in the brooding tone of a boy who was not enjoying his summer holiday.

Just out of frame in this picture is that brooding teenage boy. I was laying out a picnic for us and had just opened the cooler and handed him a Coca Cola to a receptive and enthusiastic “Thank you!”

Just at that moment, his dad called my name, and I turned to the camera’s click, without a chance to think about how much I hate having my picture taken.

That evening is one of my favorite memories, free from everyday worries — except for the fact that I will never be able to juggle, listening to good music under a beautiful starlit sky after a picnic dinner and a busy day with friends that I didn’t really know.

At the end of our visit, we exchanged gifts — I gave them one of my prized personal possessions — ironically enough, a limited edition book of photographs —  and they gave me a set of juggling balls with a note tucked in that read, “Anything is possible.”

Making good memories with people I didn’t really know. That seems fitting for a personal blog profile.

February 43, 2014: the siege continues

Just a quick hello because I’m sick as a dog, tired as an old dollar bill, and in the middle of writing lesson plans on figurative language (next up: idioms and cliches). I wanted to let you know that I’ve been thinking of you because — and isn’t this always the case? — the most blogworthy things happen when I don’t have time to write about them. Here are just a few:

  • I’ve spent much of the past couple of weeks hanging out with the gym teacher and a group of students who were not taking a state-mandated test, while the test was being administered in my classroom. We alternated physical activity and quiet activity. While basketball and juggling are not my sports, I was aces at word searches and hangman.

Interestingly enough, Words With Friends hasn’t really taken off with middle schoolers, nor do they appear to be aware of the basic Wheel of Fortune strategy of guessing R,S,T,L,N and E. In five consecutive games, they guessed the letter Z, so in the sixth game, the teacher took it easy on them, and the puzzle came into play thusly:  TAR__AN. They tried TARQAN, TARWAN, TARXAN. This time no one guessed Z.

  • On a related note, you wouldn’t believe how many jokes I’ve heard about balls in the past two weeks. You wouldn’t believe how many of them were up inside my own head.
  • Also on a related note, I’m starting to think like an 8th grade boy. Everything sounds like a dirty joke. I am not proud of this. I like to think of it as a survival tactic enabling me to think two steps ahead on anything that’s going to set off the rabble-rousers. Not that it helps much. At this point, I doubt we could recite the alphabet without madness and mayhem ensuing.  (…L,M,N,O,P, BWAHAHAHAHA, Ms. Cahier said “Pee!”).  Future Bloggers of America.
  • This really happened: during a planning meeting discussing an upcoming mandatory test, an administrator popped in (possibly right after a parent conference) and reminded everyone not to use sarcasm in the classroom because students at this level are not capable of processing sarcarsm — their thinking is literal at this age. Then we went back to discussing benchmark measures on figurative language and curriculum planning for achieving them. Sensing I was the only one who found this amusingly ironic (probably because my paycheck isn’t on the line), I kept my giggle to myself.
  • The school is in a rural area. The building was closed one day this week for what can best be described as an Act of God. Death and destruction were involved (non-human). In the more suburban, cosmopolitan area where I used to work, the rest of the week would have been dedicated to post-traumatic stress counseling, homework would have been canceled while students processed the horror, and a parent task-force would have mobilized to find somebody, anybody to blame.  Country kids and their families just roll with it.  It was wild. It was a day off. We came back and it was over. After all, there were ball jokes to be made and a scandalous alphabet to recite.
  • Lest I give the impression that I’m loving it, let me state emphatically that I am not.  I’ve met a number of really great kids and nice parents and absolutely fabulous teachers. Unfortunately, the small group (of students)  that always has and always shall exist to perpetuate chaos is louder and more disrespectful and defiant than ever.

It breaks my heart that I can’t get to know the good kids and teach the fun lessons I’m preparing because of all the noise. They walk around the classroom at will. They sit where they want. They do what they want. They say what they want. They tell you they hate you (it’s not that I’m here to be liked, but it makes me sad that they’re capable of ‘hating’ someone they don’t even know) . . . and worse. They pretty much dare you to try to stop them. My goal for however long I’m here (possibly the rest of the year) is to somehow keep enough peace for the respectful kids to have a relatively decent day.  Such a waste for all of us. The good news for me is that this is exactly what I wanted to know before committing to the expense and steps necessary to reactivate my teaching certification. Most likely I will not.

  • What I mean to say by that bummer of a paragraph is this:  this week I morphed into Heisenberg. I mean, I didn’t start a meth lab or
    I wonder if Walt spits in chemistry class.

    I wonder if Walt spits in chemistry class.

    anything. I just went mean, only I didn’t do it in that calm and deliberate, “I am the danger” tone. I was loud. I’m never loud. I reached down inside myself to that place that does not like to yell and let it out.  It was the only way to stop things from escalating to a point where they were going to start throwing furniture. They laughed and pointed out that I spit when I yell.

  • We’re expecting more snow tomorrow night, which may be the universe’s way of giving me another day to get this spitting thing under control.
  • On a brighter note, yesterday was Pi Day. My classroom is next to a math teacher and across the hall from another.  One loves Pi Day and made a big to-do. The other wanted no part of it.  So I decided to remain Switzerland.  Here’s my post from a couple of years ago on the subject.
  • Today is (theoretically) March 15, but if you ask me it’s more like February 43.  Beware the Ides of March. . . and watch out for spitting teachers.

Peace out,

Heisenberg  (“Spitball”) Cahier

Omedeto, Oma and domo arigato, all y’all!

It occurs to me that of the 1700-plus followers of this blog, subtracting out the 1650 that came by way of click-farm, there might be one or two of you who are confused about the  “OmaMania” post I re-blogged or the  #oma-ha media blitz on Twitter yesterday  In short, the video is a celebration of fellow blogger Omawarisan’s recent retirement.

Cheers, from #Oma-ha Girl, aka SusieLindau. Thanks, Susie! Chair-lift incoming - duck!!

Cheers, from #Oma-ha Girl, aka SusieLindau.
Thanks, Susie! Chair-lift incoming – duck!!

Here’s the longer version.

Searching for a place to put the thoughts inside my head, I decided to check out WordPress. Wandering through “Freshly Pressed,” I came across a funny piece recounting an experience with Target’s customer service, very similar to an encounter I had just endured, but presented in a much more entertaining manner.

Reading through the blog was like reading a Dave Barry book or a series of Gene Weingarten articles, or like eating a bag of Lay’s potato chips.  When I stumbled on his interview with the legendary Goat Man, I learned that we’d attended the same university at about the same time. It was like being a tourist in a foreign land and meeting someone from your neighborhood back home.

His was the first blog I followed. He kindly reciprocated and a small following of nice folks followed.  Because I was riding his coattails, readers responded to silly posts, but I’m sure many of you will agree that I’m not really a humor writer.  I’m forever grateful that he brought his humor and swagger and good people over here. I never expected to write such silliness — I’m often uncomfortable when I look back at posts — and I never intended to make “friends” here, but I have and I did and I blame him.

He started a fun project, sending an Angelina Jolie action figure to visit his blog followers around the world.

The Jolie rubs the nose of Testudo, the mascot of the University of Maryland. It's a Terp thing.

The Jolie rubs the nose of Testudo, the mascot of the University of Maryland. It’s a Terp thing.

At that time his gravatar was a headshot of the Japanese action figure, Gigantor. As a joke that would take too long to explain, I launched a counter-project, sending a Gigantor action figure around the world.

Last year he retired from a distinguished career in law enforcement. To celebrate that, we created a music video to raise a toast to Omawarisan, who has since shed his Gigantor image (and grown a lot of facial hair). If there’s even one real person reading this who hasn’t experienced a Blurt blog read, you should do that post haste.

Thank you, again.

The process of making the video was delayed several times, most recently when I was *this close* to getting it together and I lost everything when a virus attacked my computer.  I pieced what I hope was everything back together. If your picture was somehow excluded, please know that was not intentional and I apologize.

I’ve thanked them repeatedly but I can’t say it enough that the stars of the video are actually mega-stars. So, thank you, again, for rocking the Ray Bans.

I haven’t thanked Edward Hotspur, who without knowing it was my deus ex machina, in that he wrote a post about a sign-maker program that provided just what I needed to work out some final issues and provided publicity materials for the media blitz on Twitter. Thanks, Hotspur.

But, wait, there’s more!

This is a fitting time for the robot to retire, too.  The action figure is packed up, along with his very own globe with adjustable equator, a signature element of the coming Oma Administration (really, you have to read his Policies page. It’s impossible to explain what goes on in his mind).

As the robot has traveled, he’s carried a notebook. It contains retirement greetings from those who’ve kindly shown him around their own towns or taken him on vacation.  The robot and the notebook are on their way to you, Omawarisan.

Congratulations on your retirement and very best wishes for your new horizons. And as they say, write on.

The world is yours now, complete with adjustable equator.

The world is yours, complete with adjustable equator.

Snow day: an empty-nester’s lament

Today is my first snow day since leaving teaching a decade ago. Technically, yesterday was my first snow day, but it didn’t actually snow until late in the day because someone was caught sleeping with her pajamas right-side out.

A few years ago we went through Snowmaggedon, but those didn’t count as snow days because I worked from home and the few breaks I took were to shovel paths in the back yard long and wide enough for an arthritic, 115-pound Doberman to make his way out for exercise and bathroom breaks.  And there was a snow day last year when it didn’t actually snow.

This. This is the real deal.

It was still snowing when I went to bed last night after another marathon viewing of Breaking Bad. I knew this would be the view from the window beside my computer desk this morning:

I wonder if those tracks lead to a snowdeer.

I wonder if those tracks lead to a snowdeer.

Do you see what’s missing from that picture? Do you? Well, I do.

It needs a snowman. Desperately.

And here I am with no legitimate reason to make a snowman. No children in the house. No “festive holiday decor” clause (Oh, yes. I thought a snowman might add a little more holiday cheer!”). Plenty of chores and projects to tend to.

And yet, I’ve been sitting here all morning, shuffling around my to do list, waiting for the neighbors to finish shoveling so I can get out there and make a little snow magic happen without all the questions, the judgmental raised eyebrows, the offers to drop off their grandchildren for a couple of hours.

Sure, I could go out and  help, but this could lead to grown-up conversation, such as wind chill and polar vortex and climate change or how long it took to have the street plowed or last month’s skyrocketing electric bill.

It’ll be faster for all of us to avoid that. They have places to be and I have things to do, like making a snowman. These are thoughtful, kind people and I enjoy talking with them, but not today.

Today I want to make a snowman and then come in to some hot cocoa, a cozy fire,  and a good book.

In (happy, snow-filled) memory of the rockstar.

In (happy, snow-filled) memory of “Rock Star”

The smell of laminator in the morning.

Last Friday, after a two-hour, two-prosecco lunch, followed by a round of goodbye visits and emails, I signed off the computer in my brightly lit, well-equipped office in a shiny law firm building, across the hall from one of many conference rooms continually restocked with logo-emblazoned legal pads and crisply sharpened pencils, and took the final elevator trip to the parking garage.  As I handed my parking card and hang tag to a now-former colleague and reminded him again how much I’d enjoyed working with him, he smiled and said, “Don’t worry ’bout that, you’ll be back.” I smiled back and apologized for “yelling” at him for running in the building the day before, in a premature flash back to that hall-monitor mentality to which I was preparing to return. We shared a last laugh and wave goodbye and then I pulled out into the K Street traffic for my last long commute home.

This Friday I was back in the classroom, reminding seventh graders to turn in their homework and reminding myself about reverse operations in algebraic equations, with a 10-minute lunch break of turkey and swiss from an everyday Ziploc bag, accompanied by a full-bodied raspberry seltzer water.

My day was filled with the same directives: “Turn in your homework. . . .pick up the warm-up sheet. . . sit in your assigned seat . . .no gum. . . no bathroom passes in the first 10 minutes of class. . ..” Repeatedly I suggested that those who were out of notebook paper or didn’t have a pencil might borrow from a classmate, as the teacher’s classroom supply bin, no doubt stocked at her own expense, was empty.

Circulating the classroom, navigating my way through backpacks and binders, I counted the fluorescent ceiling lights, probably the originals in this building erected forty years ago, recently passed over (yet again) for renovation or new building because of prohibitive expense. Of 20 lights, only 12 were lit. I asked if students could see well enough to work through their problem sets. They said they were used to it; the lights have been out for as long as they can remember.

Yesterday I stayed behind with the kids who weren’t going on the field trip and we watched videos as part of the science teacher’s assignment. They strained to hear the only available audio, through the computer’s built-in speaker. The external speaker connection “hasn’t worked in a long time,” and the satisfaction I gained during lunch when I found that it was plugged into the wrong port and corrected it was short-lived when we tried again and the speaker wire proved fickle. Unless I was sitting next to the speaker holding the wire, audio was intermittent.

Earlier in the week, I walked into a high school where every “Good morning” I offered was returned by an equally enthusiastic “Good morning!”

Dozens of times.

By teachers, staff, the school policeman, and much to my happy surprise, by students.

Teenagers. Saying, “Good morning!”

I spent that morning operating the laminating machine, the secret envy of any teacher who’s ever been told that only the media specialist is allowed to operate the laminating machine.  I felt a kinship with every one of them who altered their path to draw in a big sniff of the hot plastic. I know that whiff.  It ranks up there with freshly baked bread or perfectly brewed coffee.

Later in that same morning, the Internet went down and stayed that way for the rest of the day, throwing off lesson plans and research projects and any number of important activities in support of the educational process. Everyone adjusted. No heads rolled. No jobs lost. I ate lunch in a faculty lounge furnished with old overstuffed couches and motivational posters from the 1970s, with teachers who were tired but still smiling and chugging along, offering me any help I might need, despite the fact that they didn’t know me and might or might not ever see me again. Because that’s who teachers are. Ok, maybe they were angling for a surreptitious spin at the controls of the laminator. Still.

I would totally laminate this. Totally.

I would totally laminate this. Totally.

This contrast has struck me so many times in this past week, the first in this interim period where I’m figuring out what I want to be now that I’ve decided being a grown up wasn’t for me. In “big law,” especially on K Street, burned out lighting is replaced within minutes. If the Internet is down for more than 10 minutes, heads roll and careers are on the line. (After all, we have to know what’s going on at Above the Law.) There has never been a time that paper and pencils, not to mention herbal tea and specialty coffees, aren’t within immediate reach — at no one’s personal expense — and restocked almost as quickly as they’re borrowed. The bathrooms are spotless — cleaned every hour on the hour. The buildings are new or newly renovated. Clients don’t want to visit dingy offices. And when you say “Good morning” to someone, they assess your standing in the food chain to decide whether or not to acknowledge your existence.

As this week has passed, with the Internet outage and the audio difficulties and a half-dark classroom, I’ve thought a lot about how students could benefit from the wealth that goes into just the infrastructure alone of a major law firm. A major new high school could be paid for by less than a year’s revenue of a mid-sized firm.

Then today I noticed some posters near the American flag, where students take them in, if only subliminally, in the daily ritual of the Pledge of Allegiance:  a bullying-awareness poster and a “fast cash/crime doesn’t pay” poster, meant to discourage an unethical mindset. If I ever do go back to the clean, well-lighted world of big law, I’d like to take those posters with me.

While I’ll miss the occasional fancy lunch and the clean bathrooms and the endless supply of sharp pencils, nothing can compare to hearing a teenager say, “Good morning!”

“Teenagers Kick Our Butts,” Dar Williams