Thursday, May 24, 2012

5/24/2012 The Get the Worms Out of my Hair Dance

I was so excited that the sun came back today
because my birds would be out and about to stare at.
The Wild Bird furnishings store at Lake Forest Park was out of
meal worms when I got off work so I thought I'd
give Maser's a try.
So nice to see Marissa at work with her pretty red hair.
I was her substitute at Arrowhead back when she was in fourth grade.
The lady in line behind me asked her how much her specialty
dog food bag would be and when Marissa told her fifty dollars.
I was thinking the price was pretty special too.
So as I paid for my ridiculously over-priced worms,
I could feel the excitement building up inside me.
I picked up my favorite strawberry lemon icy drink
at MacDonalds and prepared for some serious bird-watching.
I was trying to give my nest-sitting chickadee some meal worms
on the railing of her birdhouse when she flew out and
startled me and the container flipped through the air
over me and landed on my head.
The next thing I knew I was doing a serious
Get the Worms Out of My Hair dance!
I probably looked like that Tasmanian devil from
the old cartoons.
Ew, ew, ew.
Lesson learned: When trying to treat wild birds to live worms
stick to the birdfeeder, not birdhouse.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

5/24/2012 My Favorite Traffic Jam

As I slowed down my minivan,
I could see something with my peripheral vision over the lake.
All the cars came to a stop at the Lake Forest Park light
so I could look up in the sky.
Four eagles, two adults and two big babies,
were playing.
I had never seen anything like it!
They frolicked and did cartwheels
and dropped through the sky,
then zoomed straight back up.
It was the coolest thing I've ever seen.
Right up there with the time an orca came up
near my feet when I was standing on the rocks
that jut out in the water at Lime Kiln park.
It's been a struggle leaving my bird sanctuary
all week and worrying that my baby chickadees
would hatch and be cute while I was gone.
It's impossible to be depressed when
you are watching birds splashing in your birdbath.
Why just last week a towhee jumped in and did a dance
that reminded me of the Funky Chicken
that we did in 1967.
I felt so happy.
And for the first time in eight years
during teacher hiring season,
I'm not worried.
Because I know that being jobless
is not the end of the world.
Not when I have my feathered friends nearby.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

5/17/2012 I Wish I Had a Chickadee Suit

I'm totally obsessed with my bird sanctuary.
I hate leaving my house now for fear of missing
any activity.
A few days ago I found a website with bird calls in a loop.
My sister was taking her afternoon walk
and saw me staring at my trees
and came up for some ice water.
"What are you doing now?" She asked.
I showed her my laptop precariously balanced on the railing
and she listened to the chickadee song looping.
What a great sister.
We stared at the trees together and the chickadees
started showing up.
One landed on a branch right above us
and stared back.
With the laptop next to me he was confused.
I said to sissy, "I wish I had a chickadee suit."
She just laughed and said,
"You ought to make tiny plexiglass signs for the other
bird houses that say For Rent."
We spent ten minutes thinking of what our real estate signs would say:
Custom built 16 Square Inches
Close to feeders
Territorial View
Great School District
What else would attract birds to the eight empty houses?
Geez, then I read on the Cornell website to add brush pile.
I spend more time on that brush pile
than I do cleaning my house.
No surprise there.
My dog-walking pal Camille stopped a few days ago
with her adorable ankle biters and I showed her my latest
additions to my sanctuary.
She said she had the same small brown birds return every year
and told me about fledglings falling from the nest to the ground.
I was so worried the last two days about my chickadee fledglings
injuring themselves that while I was blabbing with Brenny on the phone
this morning, I raked all my Photinia leaves under the bird house.
I keep waiting for the babies and it it taking forever!
I already have their names picked out:
Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo and Foxtrot.
88 Clear

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

5/16/2012 The Young Thief

The darling first graders had finally settled down after recess.
They were quietly reading their books at their desk
when I felt a tug at my elbow and a tiny voice whispered,
"Mrs. Nixon, my lunch money is gone."
I got up quietly and helped the little girl go through her desk,
her sweater pockets and her cubby, making sure she'd triple checked
her tiny blue jean pockets.
After subbing in first grade for eight years,
I've found that most things brought to school
will get lost unless handed over to a teacher for safekeeping.
I sat down at the desk and thought long and hard.
I reflected back to being a child and having teachers
make a class wait for items to be returned.
I remembered children that had been labeled thief
and that whenever anything turned up missing
for the rest of the year, everyone turned and stared at the thief.
I said to the class, "We have missing money.
I want everyone to put your arms on your desks and
lay your heads on your arms and close your eyes really tight.
If you peek, you will be sent to the principal's office."
That was an idle threat, but sometimes a dash of fear
goes a long way.
I went on to say, "When I walk past your table, put the money
in my hand and no one is going to know."
It did not work.
Then I said, "No one gets lunch until the money is returned."
I quietly walked around the desks and a tiny hand held out
a wad of bills.
I tossed it on the teacher table and said,
"Oh look, I must have found it and dropped it here and forgotten."
The little girl walked over and unrolled the bills and said,
"Mrs. Nixon, I had four dollars and this is only two."
I knew who the thief was so I glanced at her as I said,
"This is the last time. We need the last two dollars."
I went straight to her and took the cash she held out.
The rest of the class was still in fear of going to the principal's office.
I said loudly, "I found it, line up for lunch."
There were murmurs of dissatisfaction going through
the room and I knew the kids were itching to find out
who the thief was.
I will never tell.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

5/13/2012 Why is Dallas Running Down My Road Dressed as a King?

My eyebrows rose as I slowly drove towards my house.
I recognized most of the cars on either side of the road
as belonging to Troy's friends,
but what I couldn't figure out was why
Dallas was running down my road dressed as a king.
I backed my mini-van in the driveway
and got out and walked over to where
the kids were mingling around.
At six foot five and two hundred and forty pounds,
with dark wavy hair and bright blue eyes,
Dallas makes a very impressive-looking king.
I greeted him and he responded with an English accent,
"Here yea lady, I am Dallas, King of Kenmore."
I tried not to laugh as I knelt before him in the road.
One of the kids had a movie camera and I realized
it was part of the Inglemoor high school videography class.
It was a blazing sunny late afternoon and long shadows were
darkening patches of the road.
From the driveway burst Troy and the other knights
all dressed in their garb,
but instead of swords they were carrying toilet plungers.
He yelled at me, "Aw mom, go in the house!"
I never fail to embarrass him so I trotted over to my house
and went inside.
As I entered the living room I was stunned
to see Devin bound and gagged with a black blind-fold
kneeling on the carpet.
I turned and peered out the kitchen window
in time to see Teddy being plunged by the King.
I didn't see any blood so I went downstairs
to my pink girl cave to relax.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

5/10/2012 I Don't Want to BUILD a Ham Radio

I opened my manual and stared at it with dismay.
It read: For waves in air or space, the formula for meters
is the length in meters is 300,000,000 meters per second
divided by the frequency in hertz or cycles per second.
I did not know what a hertz was.
I was in BIG trouble.
Our nice teacher, Robert Grinnell had started going
over the second chapter and at the end
I raised my hand and he called on me,
"I don't want to build a ham radio,
I only need to learn to operate one."
He just chuckled and gave me a look that said,
"By the end of eight weeks you'll be dying
to build one of these babies."
It has been seven weeks now and I STILL
don't want to build a ham radio,
although when I wake up every morning
I have a strong urge to rewire my house.
Two months ago I got an e-mail from the
Kookmore fire chief requesting people
to take the ham radio operator class
to get licensed to work at the new fire station
on the emergency radio net in case of a 9.0 earthquake.
Well, I thought as a good citizen
it was my obligation to my community
to help out.
What a can of worms I opened!
For some reason I had never studied radio,
electricity or FCC regulations in school.
It was like starting Chinese at fifty-five years old.
When we did classroom introductions,
I learned 90% of my classmates were retired people
taking the class for "giggles and kicks."
Except for William, who at eleven, seemed
to understand all this stuff better than I did!
At the end of our last class Monday night,
a lady raised her hand and asked Kerry,
"When is the class where someone shows
us how to operate our radios?"
We all burst out laughing since we were
all thinking that exact thing."
Turns out once you get your license,
you have to join a club to get up and running.
Kerry ended class with, "Study hard!
I'll be watching to see gets 100% on their test!"
I turned to Robert Grinnell and asked,
"What if I get a bad test?"
He smiled and asked me,
"You mean the one with the thirty-five questions
that you didn't study for?"
That was exactly what I was asking about.
Turns out they'll have four versions of the test
and we can keep taking them until we find one we pass.
Since it is $15.00 a pop each test,
I have been highly motivated to study hard.
Two days ago I took my first online practice test
and missed nine-teen out of thirty-five.
I only missed three on the next one.
So I was right! There are bad tests!
I can only pray that come Monday night,
I get a good test.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cutting Class the First Day of Kindergarten

I had missed the November first deadline to be five to start kindergarten by two weeks
so I was always one of the older kids in class.
By the first day of kindergarten
I was nearly six and had figured out what
was fun and it wasn't going to school.
At five and nine-tenths I knew for a fact
that skipping school and going to the playground
would be super fun.
So as our kindly old day care lady
walked us down the grassy hill from Holly Park
day care center towards Van Asselt elementary,
I tugged at my friend's arm and whispered,
"Follow me and we can have fun all day."
We were able to carefully maneuver ourselves
to the back of the three dozen kids
and as we passed the azalea bushes,
we slid behind them.
Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
We decided that to be safe that we should
wait inside our clump of bushes for an hour
before beginning our adventure of a day
of bliss without supervision at the playground.
After an hour we could hear a group of
adults walking past our bushes discussing
the day care center.
We started giggling and got busted.
We were hauled up to the day care center
and unceremoniously rolled up in the
scratchy World War Two army blankets,
with our arms pinned to our sides
and safety-pinned inside like burrito fillings.
God I hated that!
I spent half my time at that day care center
for five years rolled up in those scratchy blankets.
But I learned a lot from that.
Talk at the right times
and TRY to follow the rules.
A few weeks ago I walked into a school for a sub job and a friend
of mine yelled, "Here comes Trouble!"
To which I replied,
"Shhh! I'm trying to get a job here!"

Monday, May 7, 2012

5/7/2012 The Crazy Bird Lady

A few weeks ago I was working in my yard
in the late afternoon when my neighbor Darcy
walked by with baby Alex.
I motioned to her to come down my sidewalk
to see my latest project.
She looked up at my dozen new birdhouses
and feeders with surprise and said,
"Um, Gretchen, you better slow down with this
or they'll be calling you
The Crazy Bird Lady."
I just laughed and the faces of several people I
knew that might be considered the
Crazy Cat Ladies popped into my brain.
Yes, my new hobby could easily give me
the designation of
The Crazy Bird Lady.
I don't care.
Every morning that I don't have a job,
I slip out of my slippers and into my clogs
and merrily fill a milk jug with warm water and
trot down the sidewalk in my penguin pajamas
to hang it to drip over my birdbath.
Then I get a scoop of sunflower seeds from
the big bin on my front porch and sprinkle
them under our giant cedar tree for
the squirrels and towhees.
I love all my little chickadees and nuthatches
and juncos and I like my fat little squirrels.
I don't care if Brenda hates them
and calls them designer rats.
I do get sick of them stealing the feeder seeds.
Last week I coated the feeder with Crisco
and when I got home from work I could see where some
of my furry friends had slid down the tube feeder
and taken a nice drop.
It's all soft dirt underneath but I wish I
could have been home to see that!
Funny how when you are unemployed
and have too much time on your hands
how much of that time you'll invest on a hobby.
My little bird sanctuary has been very therapeutic.
I read bird books and listen to bird calls on the
Cornell University website and read all their tips.
Right when I had my 1980 fake smoked-glass Tupperware
chip tray in my latest St.Vinny's box on the porch,
I read the birds preferred a shallow in-ground
bath with a dripper overhead.
I see the juncos splashing around in the afternoons
but no one seems to appreciate the warm steaming
water I put out every morning except me.
Since I always have cold hands and feet,
I expect the birds to also.
I've been called a lot of things over my lifetime,
some good, some bad:
Gretchen, Gretch, Greta, G,
Lollipop, Ginger Snap.
The Crazy Bird Lady
is fine with me!

Friday, May 4, 2012

5/4/2012 Teddy's Driving Lessons

I owe my ability to give Teddy driving lessons
to my hairdresser, Janet Ferris.
There is no way I could cope with that
amount of white hair from fright
on my own and I wouldn't try.
How a kid gets to fifteen so fast is beyond me.
I must have blacked out all of Troy's
driving lessons three years ago
because I don't remember a thing
except for feeling like a bobblehead doll
and at the stop sign at the end of our road.
So, six weeks ago, I took Teddy to get
his permit. Of course neither of us had read
the small print that we needed his
original birth certificate!
We got the permit without it but no
photograph but that was okay.
He is bald as a billiard ball
since he ended up with a "hot chick"
hair cutter at Kenmore Great Clips
and must have wanted to prolong the experience.
So, we got the permit and I drove him
in my green minivan to the Park and Ride
lot behind St. Vinny's in
downtown Kookmore.
I hadn't seen him look that nervous
since his 7th grade choir concert at KJH
when he looked like he was going to
be sick the entire show.
He got out of the van and did a safety check.
Then he got inside and did all the pre-drive checks.
He started the engine and slowly crept down the
slope and to the stop sign.
That was when I noticed I had stopped breathing
and I gave a a big whoosh as I started again.
He circled around and up the slope and shut
down the van to begin again.
Again, and again and again.
On his third start up,
Kenmore sheriff chief Sether pulled up
on the side of the lot and was having lunch.
Beads of sweat popped out on Theodore's
forehead as he slowly drove down the slope past the chief.
I smiled and waved and he hunkered down for
some lunchtime entertainment.
He had a big smile and I imagined he
had given his kids driving lessons.
Poor Teddy. He did not expect an audience,
but he bravely made loop after loop,
practicing his steering and parking skills.
Over the last six weeks,
we have been on roads and the highway a few times.
I love the gap between when they get their permit
and license and I get to be chauffeured around town.
Of course I trained him early on how to drive
to the most important destination.
The McDonald's drive-thru so I can get
a cup of really good coffee.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

5/1/2012 R&R Doughnuts

It had been a rough flight from New York to Fort Lauderdale
the night before.
Lots of turbulence
and a lot of that weird dropping feeling on the plane
like when an elevator drops fast.
In between services I was on the back jumpseat
with my head hung over my barfbag,
just trying to survive.
Once at the hotel
I climbed in bed and curled up in a little ball waiting for
the room to stop spinning.
Yes, I did get airsick a lot as a flight attendant.
I just didn't care.
I wanted to see the world.
The next morning, we were in the lobby at O'Dark hundred
in Fort Lauderdale and I had only slept a few hours.
I felt like crap.
On our way to the airport
our first flight attendant, Christy, who was in charge,
asked the van driver to stop at R & R Doughnuts.
He pulled over and she turned to me and said,
"Gretchen, it's your turn to help
me carry the doughnuts."
I was so sick and tired I could barely move,
but I hauled my sorry self from the van and
limped listlessly after her.
I'm a team player unless dead.
As I followed her through the door
it seemed odd to me that it was nearly dark inside.
I noticed the cigarette machine
and choked on the smokey air.
There were five young men sitting at the counter
and the doughnut server had his back to us.
Seemed odd he wasn't wearing a shirt.
Christy shouted out, "We need the usual!"
it wasn't a man.
It was a VERY topless young woman
with huge bazookas holding a tray of doughnuts.
I looked down at the floor and studied the
peeling linoleum and sheepishly took a box of doughnuts
and tried to smile at her face without noticing
her lack of uniform beyond a tiny G-string.
I don't think she got the memo
that modesty is a virtue.
We got to the van and my face was very red.
Christy couldn't stop laughing
and the pilots joined in.
My pal and buddy-bidder Theresa looked at me and said,
"Um Gretch, you don't look so good."
I probably didn't but at least I had clothes on!

5/1/2012 First Grade How-To Manuals

A few weeks ago during a first grade writing unit,
the lesson was on how to write a How-To manual.
Here is what one little sweetie wrote:
How-To Go To School
1 First, you put on your clows
2 Then you go down seris
3 Next, you eat brekfist
4 Then, you go put on your backpack
5 Finally, your dad will drive you to the bus