Monday, January 31, 2011

Elizabeth Strout's "Olive Kitteridge" Captures the Heck Out of a Small New England Town

Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge has been my "car book" for a couple of weeks now. I should probably explain, I'm sort of like squirrels when it comes to books ... I hide them everywhere so that I'll have one on hand for every occasion.

Right now, my upstairs book is The Kennedy Women: The Saga of an American Family. My downstairs book is The Scarpetta Factor. My classroom book is Where the Red Fern Grows, which I've read a hundred times and still love.

And, like I said, Olive Kitteridge has been my car book for a bit so that when I have to go pick Addie up from practice (or when I'm stuck at really long red lights) I have something to do.

I think I ate something funky over the weekend, so let's just say that I went home sick under less than ideal circumstances with many a stop at random gas stations along the way. I'm feeling much better now, which is why I think (I hope) it was just, like, something ingested (or something that my pancreas wasn't thrilled about ... Chuck E. Cheese pizza? Perhaps) instead of a bug. But I'm way off track ...

Yeah, the point is that I brought Olive Kitteridge inside to read while I convalesced, and just totally lost myself in it.

When I was in high school, I saw Grace Metalious' Peyton Place (Hardscrabble Books-Fiction of New England) on a library shelf. Although I'd heard many a sordid reference to it, I'd never read it. Needless to say, I got down to business and totally submersed myself in a world that was all too familiar.

Although I grew up on the New Hampshire seacoast, where we have more in common with Bostonians than the small town, stereotypical, "Ayuh"-stating hick, I am familiar with those small towns. Metalious had it down cold. As did Stephen King in Salem's Lot, John Irving to a certain degree, and Elizabeth Strout with the truly amazing Olive Kitteridge.

I'm not a book reviewer or anything, but I find it amazing when authors are able to capture the nuances of a region with such skill. It's like driving north a few towns, going into the general store, and bumping into some real characters ... totally relatable!

Sunday Stealing: The Ace Meme (Part II)

**Note--I started this last night, but I ended up getting sick. I was still sick this morning but, because I'm evidently a masochist, went to work anyway. I came home sick from work today (TMI, but I needed to be in close proximity to a bathroom which isn't feasible in my classroom), so I'm posting it now. I should call it "Monday Mooching" instead of Sunday Stealing ;)
Okay, so this is Part II of III, and no, I didn't do Part I ;) If you're not on the Sunday Stealing bandwagon, give it a shot ... a lot of fun stuff comes out this way : )

Only to those non-home countries that are within driving distance since I'm petrified of flying (I'm flying to Florida in April ... there will no doubt be a great deal of posts about my freaking out about this as the month approaches)

Naivete. Impulsivity. Procrastination. Disorganization. Monthly crankiness ;)

Water Country, a nearby water park. Great fun : )

Of course! My brother was the master, and he egged my sister and I on quite a bit ...

See this post. Jury's out ... I'd like to think so, but I'm starting to feel like I'm cursed or something.

Talking to people on Facebook. I have a pathetic life sometimes.

Yup, appendectomy, T and A (tonsils and adenoids, you sickos!), and an extensive collection of endoscopy procedures for the dreaded liver/pancreas sitch.

Eyes, smile, personality ;)

Yup. Thanks, Mommy :D

Not sure ...

I have two daughters, "Addie" (16) and "Belle" (7). They are funny, sweet, smart, and well-behaved. I have no idea how I got so lucky ...

Yup, a great aunt.

No teeth. Oral hygiene is pretty key.

English class, of course :)

I don't know, this weird-sounding shampoo that Addie learned about from my sister. It comes in a green bottle and smells good.

I have bipolar handwriting--the teacher handwriting, which is impeccable, and the everyday handwriting, which is illegible (well, I can read it :-))

Roast beef.

Many. Too many.

Nope, not as long as everyone is honest and forthcoming.

Sure, I'm a good time ;)

Sure. Kind of a win/win, right? Let me refer you back once again to this post.

Hygiene matters. Health matters. I'm beyond the, "Man, he looks like Orlando Bloom" thing.

I cry, I write, I get grouchy and impatient.

Lose 58 pounds ... although that probably wouldn't look so great, either ...

For the world to be better, in some small way, because I was here.

My brother and I had an extensive collection of Star Wars stuff. Good times :)

Too many :-) And not because I'm cool or anything, just because my phone decided to add the numbers of my Facebook friends without asking me if I wanted it first. So, yeah, if you're my friend on Facebook and I butt-dial you ... sorry ;)

Nah, Barney didn't make the scene until I was too old to appreciate his purple majesty.

Neverrrrrrrrrrr :-)

Mashed potatoes.

What is this, eHarmony or something?

Katie (short for Katherine), KLo, K-Loud, Loud, Spencer, K to the Lo. You get some strange names when you teach adolescents for a living ... :-)

Being able to fly with just the aid of a cape would be cool.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

What is Love?

I was talking to a friend on Facebook last night, and we had a rather interesting philosophical discussion on the nature of love ... and whether or not it's necessary. Or possible.

As a result, I've been thinking about it all day, and I'm still not sure I've reached any sort of conclusion.

I believed in love when I was younger. I started reading when I was very young, and I think the elementary school me first saw love blossom and grow between Taran and Eilonwy in Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain, including The Black Cauldron (The Chronicles of Prydain) I mean, we're talking about this boy and girl who meet as children and fall in love, although it's never spoken directly between the two until the last book in the series, The High King (The Chronicles of Prydain), yet readers can all see it coming.

As I grew older, I lived vicarious tales of doomed love. The Thorn Birds, where a young priest and a girl he meets as a child are forbidden by his vocation from having a true relationship (well, for the most part). Romeo and Juliet. Even Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower, Book 4), where readers learn that Roland Deschain essentially betrayed his one true love in his relentless quest for the Dark Tower.

But I'm talking about real life.

Robert and I were pondering whether or not love, a combination of emotional and physical intimacy, is truly possible in 2011, where the divorce rate is off the charts, a lot of people cheat, and most people are incredibly cynical about love. I have over ten years on Robert and was trying to play the wise friend offering advice, but what I realized is that I am cynical and almost jaded on the topic of love.

I have emotional intimacy with many, many people. My children, my parents, my siblings, my friends, many of my co-workers, a number of my students, and so on. It is strictly platonic, but it is totally legitimate. There is a sense of love, of caring, of being willing to go to bat (or take a bullet) for these people.

But am I anybody's number one? No. Does it bother me? Sometimes. Is there anything I can do about it? Evidently not.

The people who know me best emotionally are all male, which cannot possibly be a coincidence. I have had a physical relationship with only one of them (see next paragraph), and it could only be called a physical relationship in the broadest sense of the word (in other words, it only got physical when we were very drunk). One of them, my friend Chris from New York City, I have never met in person.

Which brings in the physical part. I don't kiss and tell, but I did a lot of thinking last night about the whole package, and I think that a lot of things changed for me on a fateful night in 1998. I think it ruined my belief in physical love and emotional love coexisting.

Perhaps someday I will find someone that can change my views on that, but I never realized until late last night, when I was trying to sleep, that using the physical is never going to erase what happened. It might even impede any possibility of happiness that might exist in my future.

So love? I don't know. Like I said, I have a great deal of emotional love. I have physical "love" when and if I want it, but they do not go hand in hand at this point in my life.

If I am ever able to find myself in a situation where that is possible, I think I can believe in love.

Until then ... the jury's going to be out.

Do you believe in love?

Cool Places to Hit on the Interwebs

I love (lovelovelove) reading blogs and sites that are many and varied, that work my mind and touch my heartstrings. Sometimes I connect on a visceral level, sometimes I disagree very much with the content but appreciate the different point of view, sometimes I'm overcome with beauty, and sometimes I appreciate the writing advice.

If I listed every place I visited on a regular basis, this post would be waaaaaaaaaaay too long. Therefore, I'm going to link to and explain a small sampling ... and I plan on doing this regularly to share the love (and thinking ... and beauty ... and so on).

These are places that I find memorable. There are many (many, many, many) other places that will be listed on subsequent posts. Check them out if you get a chance ... thinking is always a good thing :-)

365 Days of Weird Happenings
This is one of the most original sites I've seen in a long time. Anthonyox10 writes about odd things he sees, in life or on the interwebs, and shares with his readers. His take on the world is unique, and he's got a great eye for seeing the unusual. Lots of interesting stuff!

insert witty anecdote [here].
Before Sarah Taylor-Spangenberg became my boss :-), she was my friend (she still is ... LOVE that lady). This is the blog where I found her in my early days here on Blogger, and it's an amazing collection. She's recently started reposting here, and both her newest post and the older stuff there is worth a look.

Zelda Lily
Okay, perhaps I'm a bit biased because I write here, but this site has such a lot of really great stuff. Operating under the assumption that feminism doesn't have to be militant but can be embraced on a modern level through legitimate equality, there's a ton of current events as the commenters and writers alike work toward a definition of what feminism is in 2011. Amazing stuff!

mrs.nesbitt's space
Denise is amazing. Let me just say this--these are the words she puts at the top of her blog, and it explains far better than I could as to what the bottom line of her site is: "The happiest people don't have the best of everything, theyjust make the best of everything they have."

Got any very cool recommendations? Leave links in the comments ... I know that I, for one, would love to find some further cool places to visit and think about : )

Friday, January 28, 2011

In Case You're Interested ...

Because my mom is picking Addie up from rehearsal tonight (she drove herself to school and home, but her Friday night practices get out at ten and she's nervous driving that late when she's tired, an accommodation I'm more than happy to make), I am having a rare quiet evening at home.

I wasn't going to post here tonight because I'm very much behind on Zelda Lily and need to get a couple of pieces up there, but I was really touched by the reception that my WiP excerpt received (both the accolades and the critiques were wonderful feedback ... thank you!) and a few people asked for more, so I'm going to put up the second chapter.

Copying and pasting seems like kind of a cop-out, but it's kind of where I'm at tonight ;)

Oh, and if you didn't read the last excerpt (namely, Chapter One), you should probably read it first.

Oh, one more thing ... this character seems kind of Mary Sue-ish from the first two chapters, but he's really not. I am going to be reworking them a bit, though, since I just noticed when I was rereading it while fixing the paragraphs.


From Annual by Katie Loud


Christian checked the time as he walked to his red Saab convertible. He wouldn’t be able to go home and shower before soccer practice, and that bothered him a bit. Most of his teammates found it absolutely hysterical that Christian and to a slightly lesser degree his best friend Roy Pentinicci labored in the hot sun for forty hours a week all summer. Although their teasing on the rare days he showed up with green ankles didn’t really bother Christian, the sense of bewilderment in their eyes did.

His father was one of the wealthiest men in the country. There wasn’t a reason in the world for him to slave away mowing lawns, weeding gardens, erecting stone walls, accompanying balding, sweaty men with bad grammar.

But then, Christian had always been something of an enigma to his peers, a fact that bothered him not in the least. They wondered where his drive to excel came from, of course, why he worked his ass off to earn straight As at the prestigious Stephens Academy, what made him attend intensive extra baseball practices when he was already one of the best high school pitchers in the northeast. It seemed unfair, of course, that Brian McKenzie’s son should be brilliant, talented in numerous areas, and model-handsome, but Christian was just too likable a guy to hold it against him.

So people asked Roy, who was not quite as likable and not technically a McKenzie, why on earth the two of them worked for a landscaper instead of just pushing paper at one of Mr. McKenzie’s many offices. Roy had been taken in by Brian and Belinda McKenzie when his famously dysfunctional family imploded in the fall of his freshman year. They were his legal guardians, but they were not his parents. He explained that his Porsche was a strings-attached present for his sixteenth birthday, the strings being that he pay his car insurance with money he worked for. As a three-season athlete and an honors student, this was impossible to accomplish during the school year. Hence, a summer job was necessary. That Brian McKenzie had made the same arrangement with his own son (and bought him a far less ostentatious car) when Christian turned sixteen a year later was what confused, almost frustrated people. What could possibly be the point?

Christian toiled without complaint, Roy with characteristic token grumbling. They both knew full well this was a life lesson that Brian McKenzie wanted them to learn young and completely, something akin to the two of them leading Christian’s younger sisters and brother out with shovels whenever it snowed rather than hiring a plow truck to clear their more-of-a-private-road-than-a-driveway. They worshiped Brian McKenzie equally.

Christian was early for practice, so he took a quick locker room shower, watching the greens and browns disappear down the drain with something akin to relief. He got dressed, put on his shin guards, and walked to the field. Although practice didn’t start until four, there were already a number of boys in gym shorts and Stephens Academy Soccer t-shirts running around on the field. One of them, a good looking dark-haired boy with brown eyes that dominated his face, saw Christian walking down the hill to the field and ran over.

“You just leave work?”

“Yeah, took a shower here.”

“Clearly a better man than I am, McKenzie. I got the hell out as soon as I possibly could.”

“Pete told me he offered you next summer in advance.”

Roy nodded. “It was strangely nice to hear.”

“You seen Bobby?”


“Yup!" Both turned and looked up the hill as their longtime friend Bobby Smith started down, his gait unsteady. “Yup, you’ve sure as fuck seen me now.”

The other team members had started moving toward them, drawn by the decibel of Bobby’s voice. A tall African-American boy, Jamie Costello, took in the situation and sprinted suddenly to Bobby’s side. Jamie had been tight with Bobby, Roy, and Christian for years, and he knew that Bobby needed to make it into the goal; as long as he was in his element, nobody would notice that he was extremely drunk. Roy followed Jamie, getting on Bobby’s other side, and the two lifted him up and past their teammates to where Christian was busily moving the net into position in anticipation of Bobby’s arrival.

It was an old drill.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Pat on the Back From Heaven

The strangest thing happened today.

I was on my way to pick Addie up from Jazz Band (yes, it snowed again ... I'm just laughing about it at this point, even though the snowbanks in my driveway are taller than I am), and I decided to stop at the gas station to hit up the ATM and grab a Diet Coke.

As I was paying for my stuff, I looked at the cashier's nametag and immediately recognized the name (it's a pretty unique name).

Okay, let me back up for a second here. I've written before about what an amazing person my stepfather was and how I miss him every day even though he's been gone for six years now. After he passed, a memorial scholarship was set up in his name to be awarded to a high school senior who had shown remarkable perseverance in the face of many obstacles (although he ended up being a very successful man, my stepdad fought incredibly hard to get there ... and he gave the credit to a high school teacher who believed in him when nobody else did).

Anyway, I was pretty sure the girl scanning my Diet Coke had been awarded the scholarship a couple of years ago. I went back and forth about asking her, and I finally figured, might as well.

I am so glad that I did!

She remembered both receiving the scholarship and its nature. I told her a little bit about my stepdad, and she said she was truly honored to have been awarded it.

The best part?

She's still in school! I was hoping this was the case and kind of assumed she was since the gas station pretty much abuts the campus of New Hampshire's biggest university, but I didn't know for sure until I asked.

I told her that my stepdad would be very proud to know that. She got a little teary-eyed, I got a lot teary-eyed, then some college kid behind me trying to buy a case of beer started clearing his throat impatiently, so I thanked her again and left.

What was incredible about this happening today of all days is that I got my classroom observation write-up and had an evaluation meeting with the principal today (I got a good report :-)). I never would have become a teacher if not for my stepdad--he motivated me and believed in me when nobody else did and encouraged me and was incredibly proud that I entered the education field.

Running into a girl who had received his scholarship on the same day that I heard from my principal that I'm doing a good job was kind of like getting a pat on the back from heaven.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Excerpt From Novel #2

It's funny how time flies. Back in the early days of this blog, I posted an excerpt from my second novel, noting that it was "very unfinished" and "very much a work in progress".

Sadly, it's still both unfinished (although not as "very" as it once was) and a work in progress (although much progress has been made).

Happily, I have a lot more followers now than I did when I originally posted this excerpt (and the excerpt itself has changed a bit), so I figured I'd share it in the hopes of entertaining you and garnering feedback.

This is the first chapter ...

From Annual by Katie Loud

Christian McKenzie was sixteen years old the last time he used a time clock to punch out of work.

His sneakers left green smudges on the cement floor of the main storage building at Peter Neal Landscaping as he walked toward the back office to turn in his timecard. He tapped the buff-colored rectangle measuring out a forty-hour workweek against his khaki shorts in the innate way that musicians do. Christian was surprised to see Pete Neal himself, owner of the landscaping business that had employed him for two summers now, sitting behind the desk in his tiny office.

“Why you still here?” Pete asked, standing and hitching up his fatigue pants. Although his pants were always falling down, his t-shirts were never without oval sweat stains at the armpits, and his few remaining teeth were gray and rotting, Christian liked him. Pete had always been fair.

“I wanted to finish that stone wall for you, sir. It’s my last day.” Pete nodded.

“Yeah, Pentinicci already reminded me.”

“He still here?”

“Hell, no. He was gone soon’s his eight hours was up.” Pete grumbled a bit more before saying what he’d been leading up to. “I told him job’s here for him next summer, same as I’m saying to you.”

“Thank you, Mr. Neal. I’ll be needing a job next summer between graduation and college, and you’ve been good to me.”

“You’re a good worker, McKenzie.” Pete held out a calloused hand, and Christian shook it gratefully.

“I’ll, uh, see you around, I’m sure.” Christian was uncomfortable. Pete’s company did the extensive landscaping at his parents’ mansion, a fact that both of them were a little embarrassed about and which neither of them mentioned. “And I will be back next year, sir.”

But he wasn’t. The trajectory of his life changed forever that evening when his girlfriend told him she was pregnant.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

This Is How You Flash

Which is, of course, a far preferable title to "Flashing With Teenagers", which was what this post wanted to be called. And just to make this crystal clear, I am talking about flash writing, not any sort of sick, mind-in-the-gutter stuff.

Okay, so here's what happened.

I was late to work today. Let me just say that, despite my disorganizational tendencies, I am fairly compulsive about time. I deplore being late for a variety of reasons, most noteworthy that it conveys a sense of irresponsibility, deserved or not (I know a lot of really responsible people that are often late). Since my much maligned desk at work, for example, sends a certain message, I try to counter that with being early. Always.

I think most people are aware that the northeastern United States is taking quite a hit from Mother Nature this year. On a more personal note, I've been trying to contend with the added stress of a newly minted driver, so the do-I-let-her-drive-today-or-don't-I has been the litany in my mind for the past week or so.

Anyway, we'd decided that Addie would be able to drive herself to school. We looked out the window at the roads and, while there was some snow on the roads, there were clear track marks that went down to bare pavement. If I'm driving Addie to school, I have to leave at six, but I can leave half an hour later if she drives herself. At 5:45, the roads looked doable, so I took my time drinking a cup of coffee and watching the news and so on.

It's amazing how much snow can fall in half an hour.

When I left to go to work at 6:20 or so, I quickly realized just how treacherous the roads were. When I saw three cars go off the road in the space of five minutes, I called Addie and said I was turning around and would be bringing her to school.

I'm not going to perpetuate my recent "Wow, the driving is HORRIBLE" theme I've been focused on lately. Suffice it to say that I didn't get to work until fifteen minutes after my first period class started.

And, since I assumed there were other teachers with a similar problem, I didn't stop to make photocopies of what I'd be teaching this morning because I was in a rush to get to my classroom and relieve whoever had been covering my class. It occurred to me as I was walking into the building that there was no way I'd be able to pull off my intended lesson for the day ... so I decided to improvise.

By my second class of the day, I'd figured out how to make it look like I'd actually intended to teach flash writing today.

I wrote on the whiteboard: YOUR SNOW STORY and explained that, when I started the clock running, they would have ten minutes to write a snow story (in other words, a memorable experience that they'd had concerning snow). I didn't let them ask a lot of questions, because in a class of twenty-five adolescents, that's a Pandora's Box you don't want to open.

"Just think for a minute about a specific memory that concerns snow," I said, "And start writing when I say, 'Go'."

Now, one of the things that I do as a teacher when I give most assignments, particularly a writing assignment, is to sit at the student tables and write with the kids. I tell them it's so that I can relate to what I'm asking them to do, but the truth is that I just seize any opportunity to write.

And, of course, what I wrote about was Addie's car debacle last night.

When the ten minutes were up, the kids weren't thrilled with me. At least half of them hadn't gotten to finish their story--"I was just getting to the good part!" one student complained.

"Me, too," I said, and read my flash writing piece aloud to them.

And there was a cacophony of, "So then what happened?" "Did you get her car out?" "Did she get in trouble?" "Did her car blow up?" "Did you fall down your driveway again?"

I sort of gave them that patented teacher, "So I'm guessing you got my point" look, refused to answer their questions (for the time being), and asked if anyone else would like to share their pieces.

It was a pretty amazing learning experience for these kids. They have a writer's notebook that they have eight minutes to write in at the beginning of most classes, but they know well in advance about the eight minutes. They watch the clock. They plan out about how much they can fit into the eight minute timeframe, because it is a known.

This was completely new to them.

Their biggest complaint? That they didn't get to finish ... I was sooooo excited ;)! I even had a couple of kids ask if they could take their pieces with them so they could finish.

This is what I think they learned:

1. Planned, expected, daily writing is good ... but it's easy. You know the parameters. Complacency is a high probability.

2. With flash writing, your pen has to be quick and your brain has to be quicker. In other words, you need to be planning ahead, visualizing your memory, even while you're writing.

3. When stories are unfinished, there are some really cool questions and predictions that can be made (we call that "rich dialogue" in the education world).

4. When you take a common experience such as "snow" (well, common to us New Hampshah folks), there are almost infinite connections to be made between what someone else wrote and something that has happened to you.

I don't think they're ready to go the whole-hog flash fiction yet, but now I have hope that it's not totally beyond them ... and that the lessons they learned from today's class will transfer over into the realm of creative writing.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Snow Saga

Last week was the snowiest I can remember in 34 years on this earth. While I'm sure it's a bit of selective memory on my part, I can state unequivocally that New Hampshire is currently covered with quite a bit of the white stuff.

Because Addie just got her license this past fall, I'm extremely overprotective about when and where and how (and who) she drives. Yeah, I'm the annoying mother that requires her to text me both before she leaves to go anywhere and as soon as she arrives at her destination. If she doesn't do those things, she loses her car. Period.

I also reserve the right to deem the roads unsafe for her to drive. Because of the snow, she wasn't allowed to drive herself to school at all last week. Today, because the roads were clear, Addie was back on the road.

Because she had mid-terms today, she got out of school at 12:15. Just before one, I got a text telling me that she arrived home. I was relieved and went about my business of proctoring my mid-terms (which my school had today, too).

And then my phone started ringing. Well, actually, it started vibrating because it was on silent. I saw it was Addie and pressed the "ignore" button, figuring that she'd already told me that she'd gotten home safely so it was probably one of those "I'm out of shampoo, can you pick some up for me?" kind of things. I assumed I'd get a voicemail notification, but instead the phone started vibrating again. The third time she called back, I finally answered it.

Addie was absolutely hysterical. Her car was stuck at the bottom of the driveway and she'd tried to move it and it was now stuck in a snowbank and she needed me to help her and so on. I tried to get her calmed down and told her I'd get her car taken care of when I got home and not to worry.

Belle's after-school care is located on the same street as my house, so I got a look at the car on my way by--I cringed when I looked in the driveway. It was bad. Bad enough, in fact, that I wasn't sure I'd be able to squeeze my car in far enough to move Addie's car. It was clearly not going to be a cool experience.

I called Addie as I was grabbing Belle and told her to start the car so I wouldn't freeze while I was trying to move it (temperatures were in the negative numbers today). I also asked her to come grab Belle from my car (our driveway is fairly long and extremely steep), which she readily agreed to do.

When I got home, I did my best to maneuver my car as far into the driveway as possible ... put the hazard lights on just in case, though. Addie was as good as her word and met Belle and I at the bottom of the driveway, grabbing Belle's paraphernalia and starting up the driveway as I went to get into her car.

Which was locked.

Yup, while starting the car so it could warm up, Addie had accidentally locked her keys in the car.

So she starts crying all over again while I go looking in the yellow pages for the police department. Turns out, by the way, that my town's police department does not accommodate people who lock their keys in their car, but the dispatcher kindly directed me to CarOpeners who, for $60, will come Slim Jim a locked car.

I didn't really have a choice in the matter.

So Mr. CarOpener comes after about twenty minutes, and he was great. His flashlight died in the midst of the great car break-in venture, so I got my flashlight from the house, which he was very appreciative of. He gets the door opened, and I get in the car and try to move it.


So the Slim Jim guy offered to try to extricate the car from its snowy prison, which was super nice of him. It took him a few minutes, but he eventually got the car up to the garage, which I don't know that I would have been able to do.

I did learn a couple of things from this, though.

The first is that I found out that Addie had gotten into the driveway just fine on her own. She was trying to help by backing her car into the garage so it would be out of the way and she got it stuck in the process. We did have a long conversation after my hands defrosted about how, if you are uncomfortable in a driving situation, to stop what you're doing and call someone who can help you. Oh, and that she just needs to get into the driveway--I'll put her car into the garage for her after I get home from work.

The second thing was how kind Mr. Slim Jim was. I mean, obviously I paid him sixty bucks to get the car unlocked, a process that took about two minutes. He had absolutely no obligation, however, to help me get the car out of the snowbank, never mind move it up to the garage.

There is so much simple human decency in the world, and I am always so grateful when I encounter someone that reminds me of this.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Seven Random Facts About Me

I just had the greatest time reading seven random facts about Mrs. Nesbitt. I enjoyed reading her "random facts"(which were actually totally awesome stories and not random facts at all ;)) so much, in fact, that I figured I'd give it a shot myself. I strongly encourage you to check Mrs. Nesbitt's out, too ... oh, and leave a link in the comments if you decide to do this yourself because I love reading these!

1. My desk at work is a landmark.
And not in a good way. It is piled high with ever-shifting piles of papers that end up mixed together in new and unusual ways. If I was a science teacher instead of an English teacher, it would be a great way to teach plate tectonics. Interestingly, though, I have never lost a student's work, a fact that they comment on regularly.

STUDENT: Ms. Loud, I don't understand it. Your desk looks like a tornado went through it, and you never lose our stuff. Ms. Spike has a color-coded filing cabinet with folders for not just each student but each class and loses our work all the time.

I can't explain this to children, of course, but it's the ADHD mind at work. I will always be disorganized ... there's no way around it. However, I operate under the "central location" theory. If every piece of student work goes in a central location (in other words, my desk), I know it's there somewhere ... it might take me a bit to find it amidst the other thousand papers on my desk, but I know it's there.

2. I met my ten-year-old equivalent last week.
I was at another school with several other teachers to observe their reading program and the interventions they had in place for struggling readers so that we could bring it back to our school. One of the other teachers also happens to be one of my best friends, and suffice it to say that we should not be allowed to go on professional development days together ... we laugh entirely too much.

So we're observing a class right after lunch, and everyone's a little bit punchy, but Holly and I are by far the goofiest. There's this one little guy who just cannot sit still. If you've ever seen a caricature of a kid with ADHD, this was it.

And Holly leans over to the other teachers and whispers, "This is what it's like working with Katie", and we all just lost it.

When the kid was sitting backwards in his chair literally hanging off of it, it occurred to me that I sometimes teach in that position, and I tried to stifle the laughter until I looked at my colleagues and saw that they were all cracking up ... they've all seen me teach, after all.

Although I thought this kid was the coolest, it occurred to me that I must at times be very annoying to the people I work with ;)

3. My favorite author is Stephen King.
I am a voracious reader. I've read all the classics, all the chick lit, all the pretty much everything, and nobody can tell a story like King. Nobody can make characters that you care about, that seem quite as real as the ones he creates.

Nobody can make a book about the craft of writing as interesting as his On Writing, which I would make required reading for my students if there weren't budget constrictions.

I am especially obsessed with his seven-book saga The Dark Tower. I'm so obsessed that I made a blog intended to analyze and contemplate the philosophies contained therein (it doesn't get updated very often, though, although I'm working on managing my time better so I can get back to adding to it).

4. I can do a split. It's a great classroom management tool ...

5. I jumped off a moving train once.
My brother, sister, brother-in-law, and myself went to a Red Sox game, but the game ended up being the least interesting part of the day. I don't want to get into detail because I've been trying to do this story justice in writing for years and it just doesn't transfer well (it's a story made for oral storytelling), but it was totally my brother-in-law's fault.

6. My golden retriever, Mollie, is passive aggressive.
Most dogs I've owned are very sweet-tempered. My black lab, Sonja, for example, just kind of goes with the flow, is thrilled to see you when you get home at the end of the day, sits at your feet when you're reading a book, is thrilled when you take her outside to play, and so on.

Mollie is just crazy.

The best example of this, I guess, is her obsession with balls. She always has a ball in her mouth, and when you're inside the house, she'll drop the slimy thing on your lap as if to say, "Throw it, throw it, I want to play fetch!" The logical response to this action, of course, is to pick up the ball, walk outside, and start a rousing game of fetch.

Um ... nope. You throw the ball once and Mollie goes running after it, retrieves it, and comes back to dance around your feet ... and refuses to give you the ball. After you try to pry it out of her mouth a few times to no avail, you give up and go back inside ... at which point, Mollie comes and drops the slimy ball in your lap and the cycle continues.

Even more annoying, though, is when you give her the ball back and say, "No, not gonna do it right now" or something like that. She hides the ball under heavy pieces of furniture and scratches at it until you lift it up, straining back muscles in the process, so she can get the ball ... and, two minutes later, drop the slimy thing in your lap.

7. I laugh a lot.
One of the greatest gifts I've been given is the ability to find humor in pretty much any situation, a skill that both of my parents possess. They passed on some less positive traits, but the laughter that has permeated my life almost balances those out.

I can't even explain how weird my sense of humor is, or even how simple it is when you get right down to it.

Oh, wait for it ... my phone just gave me an example. Like, perhaps the prime example. Every time I get a text message (or a Facebook update), my phone says, "DROID" in a robotic voice. I've had this phone for months now, and I still crack up every time (every single time) it goes off ... and I get a fair amount of texts and Facebook stuff, so it's not like this is a rare occurrence. And it is still just so funny ...

Most people with Droids change the settings pretty quickly, but I'm just far too entertained by my phone talking to me in a robotic voice that I just can't. My friend Holly and I usually sit together during meetings, and when it's getting rather dry, she'll lean over and whisper, "DROID", and we both just lose it (it took me awhile to figure out how to silence it, so for a couple of weeks it went off all day, every day).

Oh, and during the before-Christmas talent show, we hooked my phone up to the sound system because we were playing a song off it for the eighth graders to dance to. In the middle of the song, there's a sudden, "DROID!" It was just hysterical.

So there you have it ... seven random things about me :-)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Happiness Is: An Annotated Photo Journal

When I was cleaning the pictures out of my Droid, it struck me how powerful photographs are. A visual image can take you back to a moment, and you can in a way almost relive it. Amazing!

Anyway, since I'm not always good about posting visuals here, I thought I'd share some pics along with a written ramble or two. Hope you enjoy : )

Belle is cooking here. Addie got her a cooking set for Christmas--measuring cups, cookbook, and of course the infamous hat. Needless to say, she loves it.

Addie hates to get her picture taken. Like, deplores it. I always feel kind of bad, because I have hundreds of Belle pics (she's something of a ham ...) and very few of Addie. This was taken on Thanksgiving--the girls, my mom, and I went to see "Harry Potter 7 Part I" then out to dinner. Addie let me take a picture of her, for which I was very thankful.

One of my students writes uplifting messages on my whiteboard every day. It sounds very small, but it makes me incredibly happy : )

Did I mention that Belle's a ham? Yeah, that's what I thought ...

My dogs are the coolest. That's all.

The girls in front of the Christmas tree. I love pictures of the two of them together because it's so obvious how much they love each other. They are nine years apart in age, but I have met very few sisters as legitimately close as Addie and Belle are.

And speaking of sisters, this is mine. She is a college professor (she got the brains in the family) and lives way too far away. We are only two years apart in age, so we had the kind of love/hate relationship growing up that is really an incredibly close friendship when you put it in perspective.

One of my favorite roles in life is auntie, and I absolutely adore my two nephews more than words can say. Oddly enough, they are only two months apart. This is my brother's baby, my brother, my brother-in-law, and his and my sister's baby. <3

My mother is cutting Belle's birthday cake here. It was so important to her that Belle have a wonderful birthday, so she pulled out all the stops. Love my momma!

Belle reading the note that Santa brought her. Guess what it said? That Santa decided not to bring her the Harry Potter Lego set she wanted because he knew how much Mommy wanted to give it to her for her birthday in January. The stores were all sold out of the thing ... I think it was kind of a stroke of genius ;)

I am blessed to have an amazing classroom paraprofessional (also known as teacher's aide, educational assistant, or all around lifesaver). On this day, Belle had a teacher's workshop at school and I didn't know about it until the night before (should probably look at those school calendars ...), so I had to bring her to school with me. My para, Ginger (she's a dancer and an absolute joy to be around), read a book with Belle at one point.

I know there are a lot of jokes about Mom's apple pie these days, but can I just say that my mother makes the best apple pie ever?

And, finally, the beach. It is where I go when I am happy, when I am sad, when I have something on my mind, and when I want to get some sort of zen balance.

It's also where I realize, as I do at this moment, how very lucky I am!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Blog Commenting and Awareness of Audience

I have been a writer my entire life, and for most of that time I was blissfully unaware of the concept of audience. I wrote for me. I loved the stories I made up, and so did my friends and family.

When I took Honors and Advanced Placement English classes in high school and even more so when I was getting my undergraduate degree in English, I studied at length the idea of audience. It never transferred into my own writing, hard as that is to believe.

What probably sounds even stranger is that, as a teacher, I have been instructing students on the significance of audience as part of an author's craft for nine years now ... and it wasn't until the past year that it's started to hit home in terms of my own writing.

What taught me that lesson? Blogging.

I don't even remember why I started this blog, to be completely honest with you. It had something to do with how cerebral I was feeling, how I thought I'd reached a place where I found tremendous philosophical opportunities in everyday events and wanted to write them down so I'd remember them.

And then ... then, suddenly, I had followers. It was heady indeed to know that there were people that actually were interested in what little old me had to say. It got really heady, though, when people started leaving comments on my blog. Not only were they following me, not only did they read what I had to say, they were interacting with my text. I had made them think. Eureka!

Since blogging is just another form of writing when you get right down to it--and because most of my "followers" were aspiring writers like myself)--it seemed only natural to gently steer my blog into a "writer's blog". I tried that for a bit, although I realized pretty quickly that there are blogs out there that do the whole "help aspiring writers" thing far better than I.

This realization came at about the same time that my life fell apart, that I learned that my husband was a raging alcohol when I dragged him into the emergency room convinced he'd had a brain embolism or something and learned that what he had was a blood alcohol content of .39. I gave everything I had into saving our marriage, but the end of the road was the day he hit me when I was holding Belle (both Belle and I still have nightmares about that night). Anyway, the girls and I moved in with my mother, and we've been here for almost two years now.

The woman I am today and the wife and mother that wrote the first entries in this blog bear only passing similarities.

What I'm trying to say, I guess, is that this blog has evolved into a very public record of my very private life. There are very few things I have kept off-limits, other than the real names of my children and the events in my life that I wouldn't want to be common knowledge (there are some things ...).

I am very proud of The Philosophy of KLo, and as I sit and think about its long, strange life, what I remember most fondly are the comments. Even after I started writing about the stress of impending divorce instead of how my students analyzed a given quote, people were commenting, sharing their thoughts and ideas, and the fact that my original goal--that of getting conversations to happen on thought-provoking topics--was being met just came to me like a bolt of lightning.

You see, commentors on The Philosophy of KLo are kind. Some of them--Martin of From Sand to Glass, Marvin the Martian from An Alien Mind, J.J. from The World According to J.J. in L.A, to name a few--have been with me for a while now, and they'll give me gentle advice when I need it but also provide their own input and experiences. One in particular does not let me get away with pity parties, and sent me a very kind and supportive e-mail when I was vacillating about going back to my now ex-husband (I still have that e-mail, Marvin the Martian ... it did more good than you will ever know). Essentially, it's been a peaceful, safe, kind, and caring experience for me here.

And then, through the basis of a friendship I made with the inimitable (and incredibly gifted) Sarah Taylor-Spangenberg on this very blog back when she was still on blogger, I got the opportunity to write for a much larger blog than this, a women's issues site called Zelda Lily.

I love everything about writing for Zelda Lily, but the best part by far, as with my own blog, is the comments section.

But it's a different world out there.

When I wrote about rape here, I received unbending support. When I wrote about rape on Zelda Lily, it led to a conversation among commentors about why so many women get away with lying about being rape victims.

When I write about my kids here, it is with a mother's eternal love. The first mention of my older daughter on Zelda Lily was her unexpected existence when I was only seventeen.

When I write about politics here, commentors are respectful even if they disagree with what I'm saying. Over at Zelda Lily, the commentors give me a lot of grief for hating on Sarah Palin.

I could go on, but you probably get where I'm going. I was honestly really upset by some of the Zelda Lily comments at first ... sometimes the commentors really draw blood over there, although they have been much kinder to me lately.

At first I thought it was just because they've gotten used to me, or maybe it's that they don't want to hurt my feelings, but then it hit me like a ton of bricks that it was all in the writing--I had gained an understanding of what my audience was, and so I'd nuanced my writing to meet their needs. And, voila, significantly fewer tears (this is why my book isn't published yet, by the way ... I cry at any serious, negative criticism of my writing--but that's a story for another day).

I don't make (and never have made) any attempt to "find" the audience for this blog, and perhaps that's why it's so much easier to write here. Still, living in the blogging world has really tightened my grasp on audience, an awareness that I'm proud to say is really showing up in my current WIP (work in progress, for you non-writers here).

Yup, it took something as simple as reading blog comments to hone my focus on audience in my own writing. It's crazy, but it's true : ) And please know, I read every comment, I reflect on every comment, and I learn from every comment--both here in my safe zone and at Zelda Lily, where I've had to figure out how to make it safer for myself.

An Outstanding Burger King Employee

I consider myself a very open-minded person who views all people by their merits rather than through the lens of race, age, disability, or whatever. Me? I am the ultimate believer in equality, in not judging a book by its cover, in not remembering people forevermore by my first glimpse of them.

At least, that's the way I like to think I am. The truth might be a bit grayer than that, as I realized last night.

This has been the snowiest week I can remember, and I've lived in New Hampshire my entire life. In fact, I'm home from work today because the superintendent called a snow day. Anyway, the driving has been horrendous all week, so I haven't been letting Addie drive herself to and from school (and to and from activities, and let me just say that Addie is a very extracurricularly-involved child ...)

Last night it was jazz band, which ends at the awkward time of 7:30 (awkward because Belle usually goes to bed at seven, so I have to keep her up past her bedtime and deal with the various ramifications of that). I decided to bribe Belle with a trip to Burger King to make the idea of not going to bed on time more palatable (she's got to be the only kid in America that actually WANTS to go to bed on time). She was agreeable to this, so off we went.

We walked into Burger King, and there was a dwarf behind the counter. The first thought that goes through my head? "Oh my gosh, he's a dwarf!" The second, by the way, was, "Yeah, you hypocrite, you think you're open-minded, but 'He's a dwarf!' is flashing in your brain like neon."

We went to the counter and ordered our food, and the employee (I'll call him Ned) gave me an immediate knowing smile as if to say, "Yeah, I'm a dwarf. I get this all the time."

This Burger King was short-staffed (that was a completely unintentional pun, by the way ... I just picked it up when I reread what I've written so far), so Ned was working both the cash register and the drive thru window while one other employee made orders behind him.

And can I just tell you how amazing this guy was? He moved from the cash register to the drive thru, carrying a step stool with him so he could fill cups, scoop French fries (he put gloves on before he did this ... many fast food employees don't, or don't remove gloves before handling money, a practice that turns my stomach), and that sort of thing. This sounds cheesy, but it was almost like watching someone dancing; he was that coordinated, that in a state of perpetual motion.

As he was putting our tray together, he brought out a selection of toys and let Belle pick which one she wanted, which got him instant status with her.

While we were eating, Ned was changing the trash bags and collecting the trays. I smiled at him the first time he walked by, and he asked how everything was. The second time he walked by, I said to him, "Wow, you never stop working, do you?"

He replied, "Well, they told us in training that we should always be moving."

I laughed and said, "Well, you certainly are."

And as he walked away, I said to Belle, "Do you see how hard that man works? It's so important to always put 100% into your job, whether you're a doctor or a worker at Burger King."

She nodded solemnly.

When we were finished eating, I threw away the trash and gave Belle the empty tray. I told her to bring it to the counter, where Ned was busy wiping down the trays he'd collected from the tops of the trash bins.

As Belle handed the tray to Ned, she said, "Thank you again for letting me pick my toy."

He looked at me and smiled, and I felt like I'd done something right.

And yet I'm almost tormented by the fact that I almost called this post, "The Dwarf at Burger King", by my initial reaction to the sight of Ned.

I'm trying to make up for that, though, by sharing the experience with the blogosphere ... and, of course, giving this post a more reverent and completely accurate title.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

So 34 Is When the Middle-Aged Thing Kicks In ...

I realized today that I'm getting old.

I joke all the time about how old I'm getting, give my students a hard time about the strands of gray in my hair, and tease the rookie teachers about being babes in the woods. In general, though, I feel pretty much the same as I always did, so I'd written off 34 as just another number ... until it came crashing down on me that I'm not a kid anymore.

Okay, here's what happened.

I have a lead foot. I don't mean to speed, it's just not something I pay the best attention to. I have (knock on wood) never been in a real car accident ... I just like to drive fast. And, to be fair, I don't drive anywhere near as fast as I used to (racking up the speeding tickets will do that).

I live in New Hampshire. I've been driving in snow, often quite a lot of snow, since I was sixteen. Truth be told, I love to drive in snow. Well, I did.

Until I woke up this morning, and the roads were sheets of ice, and it took me almost two hours to get to work. It then snowed all day, and the drive home ... well, they say a picture's worth a thousand words (and no, I probably should not have been taking a picture of how bad the driving was while I was actually driving).

So what happened to turn me from a lover of snow-driving to a cautious Cathy?

It's weird, but the only thing I can think of is that a couple of my friends were in a pretty bad snow-related car accident recently. I've driven in snow since, but I haven't been enjoying it as much, and today I was honestly afraid.

I went to one of those friends, Donna, for advice on which route to take home today--the flatter, longer one or the shorter, ridiculously steeper one. She voted for short and steep, so I headed out as soon as possible.

And I don't think I hit 20 MPH for the duration of that long, long back mountain road. Donna was right behind me, which I thought she realized, but once I got onto a main road that was at least moderately maintained, I got a text.

DONNA: Stay off Mountain Road. Very slippery.
KATIE: Thank you, but I was the car in front of you driving like a grandma ;)
DONNA: Okay, I did not mind.
KATIE: : )

And it hit me like a ton of breaks how fragile life is, how truly dangerous driving in snow is, and how fortunate I am to have reached the age of 34 considering the parking lot doughnuts and the reckless, unnecessary trips and the lack of understanding I had of what a responsibility driving is.

This was driven home, by the way, when I got onto another semi-back road (I had to go pick Addie up ... I didn't let her drive herself to school today) and this guy started tailgating me. Like, I have All Wheel Drive and I was slipping and sliding a bit, and this guy was so close I could not see the front of his car.

Ten years ago--heck, one year ago, I would have started driving faster because obviously the pace I was setting wasn't good enough. Today, I pulled over to the side of the road and let the guy pass me.

Yup, middle age hits at 34, if I'm any indication ... unless that's just adulthood in general catching up to me at last ;)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Christmas Miracle

I am blessed with funny children. At sixteen, Addie realizes that she's kind of a laugh riot and plays it up at times. Belle doesn't always get it ... which of course makes it even funnier much of the time.

My mother was telling me the other day about a story I've heard a hundred times but had forgotten. Evidently I referred to my older brother as "Goong Goong" when I was a baby. One day, my father asked me, "What's your brother's name?" and I replied, "Goong Goong." My dad persisted, "Yeah, but what's his real name?" and, giving my father a patented are-you-an-idiot look, I said clear as day, "Adam."

Which leads me to Belle's Christmas miracle, which as a fair warning involves bathroom functions.

Okay, still with me?

Belle is a notoriously picky eater. Her main staples are cheese and chocolate, with an occasional McDonald's Happy Meal thrown in for good measure. This kid has been exposed to every fruit and vegetable and high-fiber snack in existence, and she just won't eat them.

Okay, I lied ... she eats bananas. And apple juice. Yes, those are two components of the "BRAT" diet recommended for getting rid of diarrhea.

You can probably see where I'm going here ... in essence, this kid has been a constipation emergency waiting to happen for most of her life.

The day before Christmas, I'm doing some last-minute wrapping while Belle is playing with the dogs, when all of a sudden I hear her screaming. Now, if you're a parent, you automatically recognize the pain cry and know to go running. I sprinted.

Belle was in the bathroom on the toilet, screaming at the top of her lungs. In that particular situation, there's, uh, not a whole lot someone else can do to help. I got down on the floor and held her and encouraged her and did end up putting on latex gloves and assisting somewhat.

Long story short (and it was long ... this went on for at least half an hour, poor kid), it all came out in the end.

And the kid looks up at me, her eyes shining, and exclaims, with a completely straight face, "Mommy, it's finally out. It's a Christmas miracle!"

I mean, who needs Adam Sandler, right?

We have, by the way, incorporated pears, peaches, plums, and prunes (collectively known as "the p-fruits" by Miss Belle) into her required daily diet, just to avoid any subsequent Christmas miracles.

Monday, January 17, 2011


In 1998, Alanis Morissette released the album Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. It was no Jagged Little Pill, to say the least, but I was reminded of the song "Unsent" the other day. As the title suggests, it's a bunch of letters that she never sent. I never really got the concept ... I mean, if you want to send a letter to someone, just send the darn thing, right?

I understand very well now about wanting desperately to send a letter to someone yet knowing that it's not the right thing to do.

And I'm not going to be all, "You have a small penis and are crappy in bed and are an irresponsible, emotionally manipulative liar" because that would just be juvenile, plus it was not the state of mind in which I composed my "unsent letter" in my mind.

Anyway, here we go ...

Dear Rivershitter (that's an affectionate nickname),

I thought of you today for the first time in awhile. I don't miss you, exactly, but this made me realize how much less I laugh now. You were way deep inside my head, deeper than is healthy, but, man, was it great to have somebody around who found life to be as funny as I do.

Remember the crazy cashier that freaked the fuck out when we tried to give him a twenty and seven cents to pay for a $15.93 purchase so we'd get a five back instead of a bunch of ones and a handful of change (I'm off on my denominations and naturally off on my math, but I know you remember)?

Well, I met his twin brother the other night. Well, brother in spirit, anyway.

I'm at the gas station looking for Excedrin Migraine, and it's behind the counter with the girlie magazines and cigarettes and the freaking Sudafed (because we want no meth labs ... NO METH LABS). I say to the guy, "Could I get a pack of Excedrin Migraine, please?", and he reaches back and grabs a thing of Advil. "No, Excedrin Migraine," I repeat, and he comes up with Tylenol Cold and Flu this time.

I've got a pretty bad headache and just want to get rid of it, so I go around the counter and point at the Excedrin Migraine.

And the guy? He freaks the fuck out. He yells, "You can't come back here, ma'am! If you take one step closer, I'll have to press the button. I mean it ... my foot's on it!"

And I wished with all my heart for that one second that you were there with me, because we would have been peeing our pants we'd be laughing so hard. And, of course, we would have had so much fun just tormenting the guy (although there's little doubt in my mind that "the button" would have been pressed and there would have been police there, and that would not have been good).

Anyway, I backed up, put my hands up, and said, "Never mind, I'll go to Rite Aid," and thought of you for awhile and laughed a lot and got my Excedrin Migraine at the drugstore and wished for just a second that I could tell you that story or that you could have lived it ... it was one for the books, let me tell you.

The logical side of my brain says, "See, it's good you don't hang with him anymore because you would have ended up arrested ... or at the very least further emotionally damaged" ... but, God, I miss laughing sometimes.

:-) KL

Sunday, January 2, 2011

When Circumstances Cause You to Disappoint Others

As far as I'm concerned, there is very little worse than disappointing others. What's even more horrible, however, is when you did everything in your power to make it happen.

Does this look like a sad little girl to you?

Yeah, she looks like she's having fun, doesn't she? In fact, she probably even was having fun. I mean, sledding down a steep hill on the first snowfall of the year? It's fun, no question.

However, for a little girl who'd been expecting to share her Christmas vacation with Mickey Mouse, it was kind of a letdown.

All right, here's what happened.

My mom was down in Florida almost a year ago, and she bought a time share. She arranged to use this Christmas break to take my two girls to Disney (and Universal, so they can see the horrible Harry Potter stuff), and my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew were going down for a few days. Me? I was going to be home alone with the dogs ... cleaning and organizing some stuff around the house, but mostly working on my writing. Yup, the peace and quiet was supposed to be part of my Christmas present.

So my mom bought the plane tickets in October. She's notoriously disorganized, yet she had boarding passes printed out in a folder (this is pretty amazing for my mother). The flight was set to leave Sunday morning, the day after Christmas, and return the next Sunday morning (that would be today, by the way).

So ...

A bunch of the country--including the Northeast--is hit by this stupid storm with bad timing. The Sunday morning flight was canceled, but my mom had the tickets transferred to Tuesday. Everyone was like, "Cool, still going to Disney, just a couple of days later, no big deal really."

Tuesday morning, we got up at 3 am. Both my mother and I checked the flight status before we left the house, and it was a go. I drove them to the airport and waited in the parking lot sending Addie harassing texts (she kept telling me to leave, I wanted to wait until they were literally in the air). To make a long story short, their flight to DC was delayed for hours, so there was no way they were going to make their connection in DC that would have taken them to Orlando.

Home again, home again ... with two devastated children and a far-beyond-devastated grandmother.

And so vacation went from being relaxing to being a means to keep Belle, who was of course the most distraught over the whole thing, from getting even more upset about not being able to go to Florida.

I took her sledding a lot, her grandmother took her to Boston for a night that included the New England Aquarium the next day, her sister has watched a lot of movies with her. Oh, and we've all put in our time playing board games ... we're all a little cutthroat at Sorry these days.

But you know, Belle is never going to forget her trip to Disney that never happened. It was just one of those cases of circumstance giving a nasty surprise, but it's hard to see the innocent eyes of a child become just a tiny bit cynical.

And when it's all said and done, Belle is lucky enough to be going back to Florida in April (along with her grandmother, sister, and ... me--yes, they are making me get on an airplane ... not sure how that's going to work out ;)).

I am just left by how horrible it would have been if we hadn't found other "adventures" for the week, or if she hadn't been to Disney before (and wasn't going again).

Mother Nature really brought forth a lot of those "victim of circumstance" things with that storm!

Are Minorities Discouraged from Taking Upper-Level Classes?: The Elephant in the Room

As a public school teacher for sixteen years, I sometimes feel like I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen Standards come and go (and despite the brou...