Monday, April 25, 2011

Azalea's Day Out

It  began innocently enough.

Azalea, our cat, has always been curious about open doors to the outside.  After all, Bear found her in my parents' azalea bushes when she was about 5 weeks old...thus her name.  So we always have to watch carefully when we come and go from outside to make sure that she stays put.

And of late, I haven't helped hinder her curiosity.  I purchased a leash and harness for her so that she could go walking in the backyard sometimes....with adult supervision. 

So, I was sad, but not surprised when Brian came home to let the dogs have a potty break today at noon and could not find her. 

Early this morning, I had a difficult time getting Badger to come in the fact, I thought he was gone-- he's not usually that quiet in the yard--and in the hustle and bustle of getting Badger in and dried off, Azalea just slipped right out. 

We never even noticed.  Sneaky little woman.

Brian noticed at noon.  He texted me.  Had I seen her this morning?  Well, she was sleeping on my head this morning...and she was sharpening claws on the carpet in the office while I ran on the treadmill...and then I don't remember seeing her, in fact.


Brian remembered that Badger was paying particular attention to the shed in the back when he was let out this afternoon.  Since I had scoured the house, perhaps I could check out there.

Sure.  I am still wearing my silk shirt and WHITE pants from school (the first time I've worn them, by the way) but every second counts, right?  Missing precious animal, right?  Did I mention it rained today?

Sigh.  Out to the shed I go, calling her name and her nickname.  "Here Mouse, Mouse, Mouse!"  (I cannot explain why my cat has a nickname.  She just does.  And Mouse is short for Mouser.  And I'm pretty sure she's never seen one.  Logic?  Nah.  It's just cute.)

Damned if she didn't stick her face out from under the bottom of the shed.  Holy cow!  Those green eyes just glowed up at me. 

Ok, now how to get her out.  I ran around the entire shed.  The only way it looks to me she could have fit her chubby little boody under there was right where I was standing. I grabbed her and tried to pull her through.  She wasn't fitting. 

Hmmm...Winnie the Pooh Syndrome?  I ran to the garage and grabbed a small digging implement and dug under the shed to make the opening larger.  By then sweet angel had backed up too far for me to grab her again.  She remained just out of reached as I called to her so sweetly. It was like she was taunting me, "Ha ha, you can't get me.  Nyah nyah!"

I called Brian for bright ideas.  "Have you tried coaxing her with her food?"  he asked.  Uh, no.  Not yet.  I picked myself up and ran inside to get the food.  Oooh there is a big glass of wine with my name on it if I ever get this little dear out of here.

I shook the container and then got a little handful, stuck it under the shed.  She inched toward me and the food.  Finally she was close enough to me to grab. 

I stuffed her back under the shed, panting from the effort, Azalea meowing in protest.  Finally I had her on my side of the shed with a firm grip on her.  I grabbed the food, my phone, and the little dear and headed into the house to take stock of the damage to my new white capris.

And now while the Mouser gives herself a bath, I'm enjoying a glass of whine.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Are You Tough Enough?

Ha.  The next person who poo poos my profession and informs me (directly or indirectly) that I am just a glorified baby-sitter, that I just go to work 8:30-4:30 and get summers off, will get the engraved invitation to spend a day with me.  To walk in my shoes. 
Imagine today for example. 
Say, you get to work at 6:45 am. 

At 6:50 am in the middle of answering emails, a colleague needs your help unjamming the stubborn copier. 

At 7:15 am, after convincing the copier to work with your colleague instead of against her, and after a short visit with said colleague, you return to your emails.

At 7:45 am, you attend your staff meeting to discuss an upcoming logistical nightmare.

At 8:20 am, the meeting ends, and the school day is about to begin.

At 8:30 am, the students are in class, and your conference period has begun.  It's your turn to coax the copier into working with you.  Things go smoothly for a change.  Mostly because you don't ask it to staple or punch holes in the copies.

At 9:15 am, you are ready for your first class.  The students are spending their last day on their research papers.  (Thank the Lord.  Because frankly you would rather chew broken glass while walking on hot coals juggling rabid ferrets than teach one more day of research.)

At 10:05 am, it is your Lifeguard period.  But there is no one to counsel today because it's a new grading period.  So you take advantage of the planning time to work on your Shakespeare lesson plans. 

At 11 am, it's lunch time.  It's mini smokies and macaroni in the cafeteria today and you've always kind of liked that lunch.

From 11:30-3:45 pm you teach research, Shakespeare and the last bit of The Princess Bride.  Hopefully by early next week you can get every back on the same schedule...more or less.  The assembly tomorrow 8th period is still going to throw a monkey wrench in things, but there's nothing you can do.

At 3:50, you are in a meeting to work on the logistical nightmare again.

At 4:15, you and your colleagues are alerted to the fact that there is a child in need of medical attention.  You don't think.  You react.  Immediately.  You know who the child is. You know what he needs.   One person calls 911.  Two of you run on the double to the child.  When you reach him, other adults are already with him.  His friends have stayed close by.  The friend who ran for help is terribly upset.  You comfort him as best you can.  He believes it is his fault that the boy is not well.  You do all you can as he sobs on you to reassure him that he is so brave; his friend will be fine because he got help. 

You stay to comfort the friend, you stay until the father gets the boy loaded up to go to the doctor.  You look at your colleagues and sigh as the friend sets off for home.  He'll need to talk to the counselor in the morning.  Nervous energy makes you tease each other about running as fast as possible in the high heels you wore to work that day.  You still have to get back to your logistical nightmare you were meeting about.  It didn't work itself out while you helped out the boy and his friend. 

Just a regular middle school day. 

It's 5:00 pm now.  Your dogs should have been let out almost an hour ago.  You hope they have their little paws crossed and they aren't doing naughty things to your carpet, but you know they don't have teacher bladders. 

So, it's a tough job. But I love it.  The people and the kids I work with inspire me every day. I certainly witnessed great courage today.  Come to think of it, I witness courage in some form every day.  And I hope I am tough enough to walk those halls for many years to come.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hello! My Name Is....Toad

Hello!  My Name Is....Toad.

Yeah, I know.  Strange name, but two of the handsomest men I know call me that.  And no one else.

Five years ago, when my nephew was born, my rather mischievous brother thought it would hilarious if Zachary called his aunt Toad, as I am a graduate of Texas Christian University.  Our mascot, for those of you who don't live 'round here or who don't follow college football closely, is the horned lizard or horned frog. 

As soon as Zachary could utter words, Toad just rolled right off of his tongue.  It actually suited me fine because Heather has always been a bit tricky for little ones to pronounce.  Two syllables and the "th" is an added challenge. 

When my best friend Liz had her baby two years ago, it seemed that Toad was going to stick with my nephew. She is also a  proud TCU grad, so when Mason began to talk, I became Aunt Toad to another sweet little boy.

This weekend, we were shopping in Belk together and while Liz's husband and mine were looking for clothes (we don't normally make it such a family outing, but there was a big charity sale), Liz and Mason and I played in the racks of clothes to keep the little man busy. 

"Toad!  Toad!" this little voice would call.  I would pop out from behind a mirror or a rack of clothes and Mason would laugh and laugh and run to his mama.  The other shoppers watched us with curiosity. 

We probably played for a good half hour before everyone in our little shopping party decided they had what they needed and checked out. 

As we waited for Brian to pay, one of the ladies at the charity coupon table near the register said,"I have to ask.  How did you become Toad?"  She wore an amused grin.  Liz and I told her the story while Mason showed off his skills with the alphabet.  She was terribly impressed with Mason and loved the story, too.  She had a story not unlike mine about how her name had become shortened to Aunt Rain.  Turns out she's a former kindergarten teacher. 

We bid farewell to Aunt Rain and the other shoppers and went our separate ways for the weekend, Mason all way saying "Bye Toad!  Bye Toad!"  Ah, melts the heart.

It's good to be a Toad.  I'm just sayin'.

Spring Fever

I wish I knew why I always feel so restless this time of year.  My birthday?  The spring and everything blooming?  The winds blowing everything around?  The crazy school year finally almost over?

I have no idea. 

I just know that this time of year I always feel like taking off for parts unknown and disappearing for awhile.  I never did that really.  Too scared when I was younger.  I didn't really start taking worthwhile risks until my late twenties.  The year I turned 30 was the best year.

So every subsequent birthday I have joked that it's the anniversary of that birthday.  But I don't think it's for the reason that people think.  It's not about not wanting to get older, though no one really does, I'm sure.  30 was a very good year for me. 

I took risks.  I did what I always said I would.  I bought a house. I bought myself a diamond ring.  I started my masters degree.  I also got my first stitches--unplanned and not particularly fun--but the experience that the stitches resulted from was an extremely good time and another first for me.  Horseback riding with my friend "without supervision" from my brother.  I enjoyed the heck out of life that year. 

I fell back into a comfortable routine after that.  I had done my daring things, after all. I couldn't just up and leave.  I had a boyfriend, a house, a real job, and was going to school.  So while I had done some great things, I had also tied myself down tighter than ever.  And sometimes I would look up to breathe on beautiful sunny afternoons and think, "What the heck, Heather?  That's not what you had in mind, was it?" 

I tend to act first and think later.  And usually that works out fine.  But sometimes, when I think too hard, it gives me pause. 

I know it seems like I'm whining. I'm not.  More like reflecting.  I wouldn't change my life.  Except having the disposable income to run off when I need to get a breath of fresh air every now and then, but who doesn't need that? 

It just seems like these last two years, our family has been hit a little harder than we are used to.  First Nonnie.  Then Brian.  Then Grandpa got sick and is struggling to get well.  And now Mom is facing some health issues. 

And our first year without Nonnie is drawing to a close.  And I didn't go to the Easter Egg Hunt today in Bridgeport.  I feel guilty about it.  But I'm having trouble with my grief lately and while I know that my family would have gladly helped me, I just didn't want to dump it on them. They are still hurting, too. 

Today was about watching the babies play on  the lawn, looking for the lovingly decorated eggs.  Partly because I didn't have a baby to set on the lawn to go hunt eggs. That stings, too.  And I don't have to be there for them to know that.  I don't deserve how much they love me through my...quirks and being difficult. 

So, I'm going to hope that these terrible winds help blow away this itch to run (or that the new treadmill to be delivered on Tuesday will be helpful) and that I can get a hold of myself.  Because I have a feeling that this sadness I feel for my grandmother yet and for all the of the life changing illness in our family this year would just follow me where ever I tried to disappear. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Apples From the Trees

When you notice a quirk a student has, you wonder if it belongs exclusively to your student or if they picked that up from his/her parents.  You wonder if the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree, in other words. 

As I enjoyed my family this weekend, I thought about that expression again.  My grandmother's sister, her husband, and their daughter came up to see my grandfather.  They stayed at our house, our first overnight guests.  It was great fun. 

My great-aunt is very like my grandmother, and for just a little while, it wasn't hard to imagine that she was here again.  There's always lots of family buzzing about, especially when there is out of town family to see, so it seemed as though Nonnie was there, on the fringes.  Perhaps just in the other room.  It was so tempting to go from room to room, looking for her. 

My cousin is a sweet, gentle blend of my aunt and uncle.  My mother spent many happy hours as a girl with Martha and it's not hard for them to conjure up those memories, no matter how long the time has passed between visits. 

Each time my family gets together, no matter how many of us there are, it reminds me what a miracle we are.  My grandparents and my great-aunt and uncle raised wonderful children, who had wonderful children who continue that tradition.  We had such strong, excellent examples to follow.  My grandparents were married over 60 years.  My grandpa still has Nonnie's picture from the 1940s in his wallet.  My great aunt and uncle are working on 69 years married.  Not many stories like that any more. 

And I am willingly an apple from that tree.