Status Normalized.

E is back from Whistler and back in control of the remote, which seriously impedes my being able to view anything that doesn’t have a) explosions b) aliens  or c) David Caruso.

The funny thing is, I don’t mind. How did that happen?

In almost every other relationship, I had the upper hand. I made the decisions. I decided what we were watching and where we were going. In every case, it was me who dumped them (except one, but then we got back together and I dumped him back.)

Somehow I managed to strike a partnership deal with E, which was not my pattern at all. We negotiate. We talk about stuff. We delegate chores to one another. So when he goes out of town to work, the house feels extra empty, like I’m a hermit crab who got a sweet deal on a really big shell and now I rattle around in it.  All the Jane Austen adaptations I want on the TV and I find myself on the Space Channel. Carte Blanche to cook fish and I make spaghetti. The chance to hog the covers and it feels too hot and stuffy.

Somehow I became one of those moony women. Oh, I think I hide it pretty well. I live my life, I go to work, I see my friends. But at the end of the day, there’s too much space on the couch.

I’m glad he’s home. I can get back to my regular schedule of poking him with my foot and doing bad David Caruso impressions.

More Information Than You Require

This has to be the funniest book I’ve read in years! I love it when people make things up. I love it even more when they are funny and nerdy and have a hilarious sense of the absurd. John Hodgman is like me in that he knows a lot about a bunch of things. In addition, though, he is much funnier and better at making things up. Me, I merely claim to be a ninja sometimes. This Hodgman person knows his outrageous fabrication.

This book has been my companion on the bus, where people either a) crane their necks to see what I am reading, or b) move away from the giggling woman with the book.  It has been my bedtime reading, as I giggle my way to sleep while the cat can’t get comfortable on my shaking torso. Good thing E’s in Whistler this week. I’d be driving him crazy with my laughing.

The best place for this book, though, is my classroom.

Because I am addicted to reading, I generally read two or three books a week, so just about every student sees I have a different book every time they come to my class.  Many of them like to examine the books, ask about them, poke their noses in to read a paragraph. It’s not what the boss has in mind, but I’m reinforcing the fact that reading is interesting. Hell, I’ll even read for a few minutes as students are working. It shows them that this is something fun, that people choose to do.

More Information Than You Require goes beyond my usual modeling approach. I start to giggle when I read it, which makes the kids ask questions, and from there, they usually cluster around me while I point out the absurdities.

“Look at this! He has made up seven HUNDRED names for the mole-men, which are a race of people he made up who live underground!”

They bend over the page. “Hey, there’s one called Mr. Fairfax Stumpyfingers! That’s not even REAL!”

“None of it’s real,” I say. “He just makes it up!”

“How can he do that? Is he allowed?” they keep asking.

“Of course! Making it up is what we call fiction! Is fiction illegal? Are the fiction police going to come and arrest JK Rowling for inventing a wizard boy? Are they putting The Very Hungry Caterpillar in caterpillar jail?”

Eventually they get back to work, but not before giggling at a rain of frogs in Virginia, Mr. Herodotus Infected Earhole, and the nicknames of past presidents.

I always want my students to understand that reading is for fun, not just instruction.  It’s not about passing the test as much as it is enjoying the book. This book has done that for a wider swathe of them than any other I’ve taken to work.

So, thank you to John and Arwen, who bought this book on a giddy child-free afternoon. And thank you, John Hodgman, for making things up and championing both the axolotl and the okapi in one book. From one nerd to another, the coypu would have meant a hat trick.

Six Years Ago

My mom died.

I do not like euphemisms, much. ‘passed away’ is too passive. ‘lost her’ indicates negligence on my family’s part. ‘left us’ suggests that she wanted to. ‘lost her battle with cancer’? Please. It was a battle like Germany invading France through Belgium was a battle. There wasn’t a lot of time for resistance in Belgium. And then it was over.

Then came grief.

First I should explain that my mother and I had an adversarial relationship. She wanted to know every little working of my mind and soul and I did not want her to, so I became a very private person. So, too, with my brother. My father? He’s always been an introvert.

But because I didn’t let my mom in, she invented a lot of things about me that she thought were true. She believed I would come home from a day of teaching, don evening wear, and go out to a gala or maybe the symphony. That I wrote Regency romances because of Jane Austen.  That I had a use for The Oxford Companion to English Literature. In her mind, I was perfect.

Now, grief.  When she died, I kept on being private, as did my dad and my brother. We could not comfort each other because there was a Mom-sized hole between us. We still can’t communicate effectively, six years later. We can’t breach that hole. We have done our grieving and healing as individuals tied together by love, but not understanding. I try a lot to understand them, but I can’t. Nor do they understand me, particularly.  A lot of that is because I am not the person my mother imagined. And they see me through that Mom-shaped hole, even if the evidence of my life indicates I am not the person she thought I was.

I wish I had a chance to set the record straight with her. I wish I could have a chance to offer her the truth.  Teaching in a classroom exhausted me to the point where I’d sit on the couch and fall asleep before dinner. I haven’t worn taffeta or attended any kind of gala since I graduated hugh school. I like rock and roll. I wrote (write? I am thinking of trying another) Regency because they lacked inconvenient undergarments. I read pulp fiction and YA Lit. Generally, The Canon bores me.

I think I miss her most when I have to ask her a question.  Because I was too private and independent, I didn’t ask as much as I might have: How much mustard in the mac and cheese? How do I get ink stains out? Where to buy a good coffee table? Was that really David Bowie at Halfmoon Bay? Little things, but things that are important to communication, to really hearing and really being heard.

I used to think she’d be dissappointed if she really knew who I was. Now, I think she’d be surprised, but I don’t think she’d be disappointed.

Is It Wrong?

Lots of people wonder why I don’t chafe at having less time off at Christmas  or during summertime than most people, especially teachers.  I explain to them that I take my holidays when I want them. I take them at non-holiday times. I just inform my boss, make sure he’s found there’s a substitute for me, and go do my thing. But because I don’t take much time off, people wonder how I can keep going. Especially working what amounts to three jobs.

The thing is, I love my jobs, all of them. I love teaching kids to read, and car jockeying,  and tutoring kids. I can’t think of anything better than making sure Taehyeok has a handle on compound words. I can’t imagine not bringing in the car at 1888 Semlin for an oil change and planning the best route while singing along to Queen. I can’t imagine not helping Wendy through transitive and intransitive verbs and then discussing dog breeds for a bit.

One thing I can think of is that I must love my jobs more than many other people love theirs. Sure, I watch the clock, but it’s more to make sure that I am, or the class is, on time, than to count the dismal hours. Or to measure how long it’ll take to get a car in and me back on the road with another. I’m not watching like a vulture.

Another thing I think contributes is that everything I do is fairly low-key. If a student doesn’t really get an exercise, we repeat it until he or she gets it. And there’s time for me to explain it as much as is needed. If I don’t get a car back to its home spot, it’s cool.

I am below the basement on the corporate ladder, but Iam never going to be on that ladder anyway. I love my work, everything I do to make money.  Is that weird?

Photo-a-Day

I’ve signed up for another year of photo-a-day.  But I’ve been feeling kind of meh about commenting on the group pool. There are 219 members right now, and it’s hard to think about ‘getting to know’ that many people. Part of the problem is that we originally met on another site, and that site is quite big, so there are a lot of people who get interested in what we’re doing.

There will be several big culls in the next few months.  When people haven’t contributed for a month, they get dropped from the group. Part of me can’t wait for that. I want the group pool to get smaller so I can feel like I’m getting to know people again.

I feel bad about that. I wish I  could welcome all of them and embrace everyone, but I can’t. There are just too many people.

On the other hand, I had an email exchange with one of the new people. She thanked me again for being there for her a year and a half ago, when she had to give herself daily injections.  Every morning for her, night for me, we’d meet up on this other site and I’d nag and cajole until she came back and told me she’d done her injection. Now I get to see her pictures. She lives on a mountaintop in Southern Spain. So not a hardship.

So while I appreciate that the spirit of the group must change, I know that this can be a good thing as well as a bad thing. But I am looking forward to the first big culls.

How To Shake The January Blahs:

Drive a pickup truck through downtown. Turn up the radio. Car dance to MC Hammer. Make as much eye contact with other drivers as possible.

It works. I tried it. I don’t know if the pickup is crucial, or if it has to be MC Hammer*, but it worked for me.

Need cheering up? Let’s go for a drive.

  • Dee-Lite might work as well. I bet Duran Duran totally would.

Sailors I Have Known

Rachel got me thinking about all the nicknames I gave and heard in Port Hardy. I like nicknames. They tell us a little something extra about the person in question. Although usually that information is trivial and/or wrong. That’s okay. I like nicknames anyway.

The nicknames we gave and heard were combinations of boat names, hometowns, endearing or annoying quirks, physical looks, amusing incidents, and sometimes completely random. There is a reason writers like Jack Hodgins and other West Coasters write about people like these: They are characters even before they grace the pages of books.

We knew:

Mitchell Bay Mark

The Man With No Shirt

Jungle Dan

Cedar Isle Jim

Chicken Tonight Steve

Johnny Quest

Pious Bill

Rhett

The Campbell’s Soup Kid

Odie

Lady J

Big Willie Style

Newfie Jim

Night Flight Mike

Heather The Diver

Whistling Man

Our Jesus

Esso Lady

And probably a bunch of others I am forgetting.

The Fellowship of the Shovel.

Car jockey day today, and I was walking around with a shovel, although a garden one instead of anything snow-related. The snow shovel’s broken, and we’ll have to wait ‘til Canadian Tire gets more in.

Nevertheless, with the city workers shoveling at intersections, and the people digging their cars out, and the people getting around to shoveling their walks and driveways,  I had a lot of conversations about the shoveling.

“Hey, you’re here to help!” cried the city crews. When I replied that I was going to dig a car out, one city worker offered to come along to push.

“Hard going out there,” commented the car-shoveling folks.  Definitely hard going, with cars that haven’t moved for two weeks!

“You just starting or finishing?”asked the people clearing sidewalks.  “Just going to the car to get it out,” I replied, rolling my eyes in mock-horror.

Those conversations were a touchstone for me. With my jeans wet to the knees and Docs soaked, hair in full, curl-halo meltdown and shovel slung over my shoulder, those people smiled and joked and laughed with me.

I grinned like a maniac the whole sodden day long.

Could It Please Stop Snowing?

I’m so very tired of it now.

In a week’s time, my dad is flying to the British Virgin Islands for a sailing vacation. He’s bought his sunscreen and underwater camera (for snorkeling shots). He’s all set.

I would like to climb right into his duffel bag and tag along.  Who’s with me? It’d be crowded, but we’d be warm.

Happy New Year!

I’m hoping 2009 is wonderful for all of us!

I’m continuing my photo-a-day this year, since I had so much fun last year. I have a new camera (this time not found at a bus stop, so I have a manual, which is nice) and am excited to see how I improve.

I’m not doing any resolutions. I have very little resolve at the best of times, and in the dark and cold, even less so. I am, however, going to try to give in to more harmless impulses this year. I’m not talking about sudden shopping sprees or anything, but rather silly stuff that makes me feel good. Like knitting a camera case using chopsticks, because I have no knitting needles. Yep. I hope it works!

Here’s to a  wonderful year!

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