Tuesday, January 31, 2012

1/31/2012 The Thrill of Frog Catching on Cougar Mountain

Around 1962, my auntie Jean decided
my cousin Carolyn and I were mature
enough to take my cousin Elizabeth
around on our walks.
We were six that year.
I think my visits with my same age cousin Care
had something to do with my mom and auntie Jean's
Toni home-perm schedule.
The spring break visit was a doozy.
Early in the morning mom would load my older sisters,
Strawberry and Pam and me
into her baby-poop colored '57 Chevy
and away from Holly Park housing project
we would go.
Over that exciting floating bridge
and up Cougar Mountain.
Mom's car Brownie could just barely
get to the top where they lived.
After their beagle Moochie
was done chewing up my small corduroy
Reddy bear, and I was done crying,
and the Toni perm care kits were started,
the fun would begin.
Mom and my sisters would eventually take off
after dinner, leaving me for the week.
Spring in Seattle is cold and wet.
Too cold for the snakes to be out
and too wet to dig clam shell
fossils from the hillsides,
but perfect for frog catching!
That was more fun than climbing trees
because of the element of
Yogi Bear was a huge star that year so
Care and I decided that Boo Boo was a better name
for Elizabeth and she was such an agreeable child
that she didn't mind us shortening her name to Boo.
So, Care, Boo and I, would pull on our goulashes,
ditch Moochie and Ricky dog in the house,
and head out for some serious frog catching.
If my auntie Jean knew how far we went,
she would have had a heart attack.
We were not allowed to go past the top
of the long gravel driveway,
but Care had a great excuse for everything,
and, I was always up for anything.
So we marched our tiny six year old selves
with four year old Boo in tow,
past the top of the driveway
and a mile down the road,
almost to Mrs. Porter's shack.
The farm there had a low spot
along the property next to the road
that only filled up during the spring rains.
With nearly a quarter acre of swamp,
filled with reeds,
we were ready for our daily thrill.
The best technique for frog catching,
in my opinion,
was to set your bucket down close by
and yank up the leaning reeds over with your left hand
and grab the frog with your right hand.
We were champion frog catchers
and frogs are fast.
I loved the mystery of not knowing
where they were.
Unlike snakes that boldly sun-bathe in summer,
frogs are always hiding.
The thrill of never knowing where they were
or who would be faster,
you or the frog,
just added to our excitement.
We could usually catch a dozen apiece
in about an hour.
That gave us enough time to get back
down the long driveway,
and into their pasture and down to the smaller
swamp below their house.
For some reason there were never frogs
right there on the property.
We were always on a mission to right that wrong
and be up at the house
before auntie Jean noticed us missing.
Thank goodness she had mountains of laundry
keeping her busy
and trusted us.

Monday, January 30, 2012

1/30/2012 The Bright Side of Job Rejections

There is a bright side to job rejection.
I oughta know!
I was passed over dozens of times
for five years when applying for a
flight attendant job.
I overheard a postal worker
whisper to another one
while I was sorting mail one day.
"Gretchen is so stupid,
She never knows when to give up."
That may be true,
maybe I am too stupid to know when to give up.
The point is,
I didn't give up.
I'd get my rejection letters
and cry a few hours
and go back to carrying mail.
Then one day,
I was one of five in a cattle call of fifty
that had "A problem with my application."
I knew that was recruiter code talk
for being one of the lucky few to get hired.
It was in San Fransisco at the airport Hilton hotel.
Usually, when I made it past the cattle call,
I'd get a letter sending me to a second interview.
I had even made it to third, or final interviews, twice.
This time the five of us sat in a room
and got called out to smaller rooms right then!
Oh how I wished I hadn't gone through the
buffet trough like the pig I am.
When I stepped on the scale she asked
if I could lose my extra five pounds in three weeks.
I was 5'6" and one hundred and thirty pounds!
Seems tiny to me twenty-five years later.
But the important thing to remember
when applying for jobs,
is that you might be rejected.
I paid careful attention those five years to the people
that got picked from the crowd.
I noticed they had college degrees.
I got one.
I noticed they did lots of volunteer work.
I did that too.
And...my day came.
I got picked and had the most fun job in the world
for almost a decade.
Now I have been passed over for nearly
one thousand full time teaching jobs
by five school districts
over the last nine years.
Am I stupid?
The bright side of job rejections
is that they make you strong,
give you tough skin.
Most people don't get their dream job
first interview around.
When this happens to you,
don't give up,
you'll grow a tough skin
that will help you cope
with other problems during your lifetime.
Hang in there baby!
My skin is so tough you
can bounce a quarter off me!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

1/25/2012 I'm Not Laughing At Those Ads Now

Last week, after a month with a sore throat,
I went to the clinic.
The doctor pressed the tongue depressor down
and asked me to say, "Ahhh"
and looked down my throat.
Then she said, "Looks like a problem caused by acid reflux,
very common for someone your age."
My age! Ha!
For years I'd laughed at all the old choker ads
on TV for acid reflux and other embarrassing products.
Ten years ago I saw the print ad in the back
of the Sunday Seattle Times for foam fannys
and nearly fell off my chair laughing.
Now I want one!
My butt is as flat as the clipboard I pack for subbing.
So, I'm officially a leaky old lady.
They have medicine for that.
Could be worse.
I could be an old man and have to
take the, "little blue pill"
and end up with a problem solved
that doesn't go down for four hours!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

12/24/2012 Singing Songs With Toddlers on the MS Jewel

"How do you like working with the two to five year old group?"
I could see the handwriting on the wall
as my supervisor Martine asked me the question.
The group I feared the most.
Sticky, germy, cough in your face constantly:
Feared above all others
and ready to infect me with global bacterias.
"I hate that age group."
I answered honestly.
"Oh well, that is what you are scheduled for"
she answered with a smile.
Turns out it I never stopped laughing those
first two weeks until the infections
robbed me of my laughter and
replaced it with gut-wrenching coughs.
But, before I got sick
I had the time of my life!
I went to the MS Jewel to meet
people from all over the world
and I did!
Turns out that since most of the kids
out of New York City were American,
the toddler room curriculum
was in English.
Now, here is what cracked me up:
All the American nursery rhymes
have traditional melodies that I expected,
BUT when sung by someone from Peru or the Philippines,
the melody was often different.
I would be helping a two year old
putting on his shoes and hear all the
songs I grew up with sung
completely differently!
It was like being in a audio-fun house
where all the songs were off kilter.
Mary Had a Little Lamb, Wheels on the Bus...
Even the song "Dis is My Tinkerbonker"
when sung by the Canadian, Dexter,
had an entirely different melody.
As a former cub scout leader,
I was trained to sing loud
so the dozens of boys around a campfire
could hear and join in.
So here I was in the MS Jewel toddler room,
and Dexter and I are standing shoulder-to-shoulder
singing the Tinkerbonker song,
at the top of our lungs,
to two different melodies!
The cute little kids were mimicking
our movements and didn't even notice.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lunch With Brenda in Hilo Hawaii

There's nothing I like better
than going out to lunch at
Pesto's Cafe in downtown Hilo
on the waterfront with my
best friend, Brenda.
We usually wait for a window table
so we can people watch out the picture window.
Today, we were too hungry to wait
and took a table in the middle of
the room.
People were staring at us.
Well, not me, Brenda.
She had taken some of the jade colored,
C-shaped jade blossoms from her tree
and hung them from the tops of her ears.
They looked like green, inverted Mr. Spock ears.
Mrs. Spock was what I was thinking.
I looked over at her and said,
"Has any ever said, 'You're so crazy!' to you?"
She told me she had heard that
all time her whole life.
I pondered her answer for awhile
and wondered why people
had said that to me so frequently too.
We left the cafe
and stood on the sidewalk out front.
She needed to go to the health food store
but I wanted to hang out in the sun
and warmth.
The woman street musician
was playing Hawaiian songs
and strumming her ukelele and singing.
She nodded at me to join her.
I stepped behind her to read the words
and joined in.
I'm not much of a singer but
it was one of those blissful moments
in a person's lifetime
when your heart and voice
meet and you wish you could
just bottle up the sensation.
Brenda stepped out from the store
and my song ended
and I fell in step with her to cross
the street to the beach.
She turned to me and said,
"You're so crazy."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

1/10/2012 The Dearness of First Graders

I usually substitute in the upper grades
so it is always fun to pick up
a job in kindergarten or first grade.
I feel like a giant when I walk in since
the desks and counters are at knee level.
The thing I like about first graders
is how cute they look with no teeth.
Not one child had front teeth today
and I like being called Mithus Nixthon.
The teacher had left a basket of
snow picture books and when I held up
The Biggest Best Snowman, a little girl
exclaimed, "That looks like my dad! He's
at eight feet tall you know!"
I knew I had a few dad volunteers
coming in and I kept watching for him.
Maybe another day.
I always forget how affectionate little kids
are. Teachers are not allowed to touch kids
so it always startles me when they rush
up out of nowhere and hug me.
I make sure to turn sideways for the
side hug that is allowed.
It is so hard not to laugh when they ask
me how old I am and I tell them to guess.
The guesses always range from thirty to one hundred.
Maybe I should change my goal from
trying to get a full time teaching job to
subbing the longest in recorded history.
I'm already at nine years of subbing now.
I love to read, mostly fiction,
and to write short stories but there
is one more thing I like better than that.
Reading "essays" by first graders.
Today's reflective essay about the
bears hibernating for winter really cracked me up.
"Baers r slepe an r hangry and et
ulot of fesh and haneey."
It's so nice
to be in a world of complete innocence,
even if it is just for one day.
A place where getting a sticker for your work
makes you jump up and down with joy.
A place where you learn to tie your shoes
and watch out for that
dangerous zipper on your puffy coat.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

1/5/2012 Ice Cream Bow Tie Stroganoff

Ice Cream Bow Tie Stroganoff:
Start at 10:00AM or you'll have tough meat
1. Find a pot-roast in the freezer
and feel guilty for hating to cook.
after thirty years.
Remember your mom saying,
"Guilt, the gift that keeps on giving."
2. Toss frozen meat in microwave for five
minutes so you can wrestle off that black tray thing.
3. Pour some canola oil in your really big
pan with vertical sides and a fancy lid.
4. Heat oil to medium high
and salt and pepper the meat and toss it in
salt and pepper side down.
5. Salt and pepper the top
and put the lid on and cook five minutes.
6. Flip it over carefully so you don't have to go
to the emergency room like you did in 2002.
7. Cook five minutes and carefully lift a corner
of the meat and pour one cup of coffee into the grease.
8. Make more coffee since that coffee looked really good.
9. Remember that your mother-in-law told you the
secret to really tender pot-roast is to,
"Cook the s--- out of it."
Smile because that is the only time you ever
heard her say a naughty word in twenty-five years.
10. Flip meat every half hour for a long time
11. When the meat gets tender, realize you hate
to peel potatoes and decide to make something new.
12. When Troy comes home from school at two,
bribe him with a ten dollar bill you found in
your address book to walk across the highway
to Grocery Outlet for mushrooms,
telling him he can keep the change.
13. Decide you better check your Joy of Cooking
cookbook just in case you don't know what you are doing.
14. Notice the main ingredient after meat is cream
and that your kid is long gone and you really screwed up.
15. Toss hunks of meat on a plate for another day.
16. Use your kitchen scissors to cut up the meat in
the pan into chunks and wish you hadn't let your
husband cut the rolled roofing with them
because now one side of the handle is loose.
17. Shove the meat to the sides of the pan
and have your kid cook the mushrooms in the middle.
Call it sauteing even though you are not sure
what that means.
18. When the mushrooms are brown tell
Troy to go shoot zombies with his brother.
19. Find some cute bow tie pasta in the cupboard
that your mother-in-law gave you when she left
to snowbird in Arizona and cook that.
20. Decide vanilla ice cream is related to cream
and add two cups of that to the meat.
21. Drain and add the bow tie noodles.
22. Make some stewed tomatoes even though your
kids say they don't like them and Teddy
does not believe they are
supposed to have bread in them.
23. Find your Joy of Cooking and pray that the
recipe calls for bread to shut him up.
24. Think about how much you miss your mom
and grandma and how much they loved stewed tomatoes.
25. Show Teddy the recipe and look at his astonished expression.
26. Wait for your cranky mailman husband to
get home from work and put food out.
27. Ask Terry and Troy to try to guess the secret
ingredient and think Terry's guess of eggnog
was not that far off.
28. Watch Terry and the kids scarf every speck of food
INCLUDING the stewed tomatoes.

1/5/2012 You Know You Are a Bad Housekeeper When:

You know you are a bad housekeeper when:
1 You take your long-handled duster to
one corner of the ceiling and your youngest
child shouts, "Mom! What are you doing?!"
"If you take down those black cobwebs
our house won't look like Halloween year 'round!"
2 You train your oldest son to clean his bathroom
when he is eight years old and feel proud of him.
His floors, sink and toilet are always spotless.
You open the shower curtain to check how the tub
looks for his eighteenth birthday and realize
you forgot to tell him the cleaning the bathtub
was part of the job.
3 You clean your pantry and find thirty-two
tiny bags of coffee from coffee makers from hotels
going back to 1987 when you got hired at the airline.
4 You spend two hours cutting open the tiny coffee bags
and putting them in your canister.
5 You realize you will never get those two hours back.
6 You clean your closet and find your missing address book
and decide to write your best friend a letter.
7 You find $20.00 that you hid for emergencies behind the
stamps in the address book
and decide:
Being a bad housekeeper isn't all bad.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

1/4/2012 Help! My Children Are Stalking Me!

Like most teenagers,
my sons Troy and Teddy think I am embarrassing.
Most of the time it is like a war zone around here.
Me passing out chores and them rebelling against said chores.
So in 2010 it came as a surprise that our sons were stalking us.
I could see the handwriting on the wall in 2010.
Troy was fifteen and I knew it was getting time for him to fly the coop.
I planned one big family road trip thinking it was our last family vacation together.
We camped most of the time at KOA campgrounds.
Did you know KOA was invented so people back East come could to the Seattle World's Fair in 1962?
Pretty big doings with Elvis filming "Meet Me At the World's Fair" when I was six.
So, I planned for months for our big trip.
North Cascades Highway, Winthrop, Grand Coulee Dam, Virginia City Montana, Yellowstone Park and Chico Hot Springs.
Our last hooray as a family.
Only snag was the van broke down before Winthrop and we limped into town thinking it was all over.
Then Troy and I had one of our huge fights at the campground.
Don't even ask me what we were fighting over. We've been fighting since he was two and Teddy showed up.
Troy never forgave me for having Teddy.
The van got fixed and eventually we got to Virginia City Montana.
On the way stayed in a one hundred and fifty year old cabin in Nevada City. Get what you pay for. Bed bugs.
In the morning I parked the van on Main Street Virginia City and told Troy and Teddy,
"Meet us back here in an hour. I want to show your dad where my great grandparents lived
and the courthouse where great granddad was the DA."
Terry and I walked across the street to the Vigilante gift shop
and wandered in and out on the boardwalk looking at all the
businesses. Most Western towns in the United States burned down
and Virginia City Montana is one of a handful that didn't.
With Terry being a poptart over two hundred and sixty-five pounds
I was surprised the old wood boardwalks didn't cave in.
As we browsed the first gift shop Troy and Teddy came in and started trying on cowboy hats with their dad.
Terry thinks since he lived in Ellensburg ten years that he is a cowboy. Think Leif Erikson in a cowboy hat.
That began our funny tour of Virginia City with the kids
stalking us.
Every time we entered a store, they entered a store after us.
They thought we didn't see them.
Then they'd get ahead of us and try to not let us see them.
It's a small town.
The candy shop lady looked at me and Terry and said,
"Are those your two boys you cute sons lady?"
I did not want to admit to it.
"Why?" I said cagily in case they were awful to her.
"We'll they're just about the best mannered kids I ever saw."
Terry and I looked at each other in shock.
I asked the lady to describe them and sure enough, she was talking about our kids.
We got ahead of them at the end of the street and crossed over to the penny arcade.
My mom took me and my sisters there in 1971 when I was Teddy's age.
Next thing I know both kids are shouting at me to look at this and look at that.
Before motion pictures had film, they had flip cards that made little movies.
The kids were wild over them. For two bits they could turn the crank and watch old movies as the cards flipped.
Terry and I left and went to the bar-cafe. I was showing Terry where old Bobby Gahn told mom
and my sisters and me where the trap door was in 1971.
He even had a bit part in the awful Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson movie filmed there, "The Missouri Breaks."
He was ancient in 1971 but he remembered my great grandfather and told us how he'd
get the telegraph from the feds during prohibition that they were coming for a raid.
Gramps would run down Main street from the courthouse
and pass all the booze down to Bobby through the trap door.
So Terry and I sit down to order buffalo burgers and
I looked up and saw the hungry kids trailing us.
I turned to the waitress and said,
"Help! My children are stalking me!"

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

1/3/2012 The Three Point Pumpkin Shot or Smashing Pumpkins, A Family Tradition

We have a family tradition of smashing pumpkins
on my birthday against the trees
next to our deck since they are
usually mushy by November 10th.
I noticed the pumpkins were still
out on the deck table
when I got home from the ship
and told Troy to smash a three pointer.
His wasn't very mushy and he threw it so high
and so far it went way up the tree
and rolled down right where the branches meet,
two inches above the huge squirrel's nest.
It looks so funny and I can't
help wonder what the poor squirrels are thinking.

Monday, January 2, 2012

1/2/2011 Cabin Inspection on The Pride of America

When I saw, "Teach on a Cruise Ship"
on the internet last year, I sat right up!
I didn't know people took kids on cruises.
They wouldn't if they had MY kids.
So I popped out to Hawaii and worked on The Pride of America.
We cruised round and round the Hawaiian islands and it was a blast.
But cruise ships have a secret life.
Below decks and behind passenger areas are narrow, mysterious hallways.
They are all filled with the most
interesting people you'd ever want to meet.
I loved working on the top deck in Rascals kid center.
My coworkers were great, especially my supervisor, Goldfish.
She had recently been promoted to supervisor from youth staff
The troubles began when they hired my roommate Jitterbug.
She and I would get lost all over that ship
and were forever trying to find short cuts to our cabin.
Darn if we didn't run into Goldfish half the time
and try so hard to look unlost.
She would just roll her eyes and point us in the right direction.
Sounds easy to find your way around on a cruise ship, right?
Well, maybe for passengers that have signs and arrows!
The Pride of America is four football fields long
and fourteen decks high, not counting the engine decks.
The Rascals youth center is aft deck twelve
and our cabin was forward deck three.
I lost ten pounds just getting coffee every morning.
After eight weeks it was time to sign off
from my temporary spring break job.
Goldfish gave me a form to take around
to the five department heads to turn in manuals, uniforms etc.
The last thing on my list was: Cabin Inspection, Immediate Supervisor.
I got to 3719 and my other roommate Robby was there.
Her pal Brandon was there chatting with her.
I told her Goldfish was on her way to inspect our cabin.
Brandon got up to go and I took a good look at him.
Movie star handsome and so buff that he made
Will Smith look like little boy.
I said to Robby, "We should hide Brandon in JB's bunk for inspection."
Well, Robby, being the enthusiastic person that she is,
grabbed the ball and ran with it.
Not only did she want to prank Goldfish,
she insisted Brandon strip down to his boxers!
Now, I thought that might be going a bit too far,
but I'm not known for my good sense so I went along with it.
We had just gotten ready when
Jitterbug came flying in the cabin shouting,
"Goldfish is on her way! Look at this mess!"
She ran to her bottom bunk and threw back the curtain
and let out a blood-curdling scream
that the captain could probably hear from the bridge
and ran down the hall.
Robby and I cracked up and when
Jitterbug came back. She was so mad!
Didn't stop her from yelling at Brandon,
"Get back in there and be quiet!"
Goldfish walked in the open door
as the words left her mouth.
I said, "Goldfish, Jitterbug is such a slob!
Just look at her bunk, you should write her up."
Goldfish leaned over and pulled back the lower curtain
on the right of the bunk side and
saw what I'm sure looked like a naked man.
She stood up, looked at the three of us and said,
without cracking a smile,
"Cabin looks fine Lollipop."