Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Thirty Years Ago This Month

I thought of this a few weeks back while sitting by Ben & Tricia's Christmas tree and just sorta reflecting and whatnot...

I was reminded of it by all the kid-made things they have on their tree.

Thirty years ago this month, Mr. Smith asked his 6th grade class (which included me) to make ornaments for his tree. He wanted us to put our names on them, so when he looked at them years later, he could say, "Oh yes, Mark Riggs, I remember when he was in my class."

I'm pretty sure he didn't use me as an example, but you get the idea. He said something like that and used a kid as an example.

I remember I put one of my 6th grade pictures on my ornament, to help him remember me.

While sitting and staring at Ben & Tricia's tree, I wondered if Mr. Smith still has that ornament (and the one Tricia and the rest of the class made, for that matter). Speaking as a teacher, probably not. Speaking as a packrat, it's possible.

So it remains a holiday mystery.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pictures From My Burned-Up Bedroom (And Bathroom)

Here are some pics from my stairway, bathroom and bedroom. Enjoy!

This was my first clue that something was wrong... those streaks don't belong!

This wasn't so visible when I to this part of the stairwell--it was pretty dark.

Imagine seeing this with only the light coming through the window (and thinking there should be a shower curtain in front of the window).

But it was when I set my laundry basket on this surface in the near-pitch-blackness that I put everything together and figured out something was very, very wrong!

The rest of this I'm going to try to put together in another post. It'll be captionless, but will go up more quickly!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Short Version: Fire At My Place

Ruth and I just spent a couple of days getting Dane moved from Jefferson City to Jefferson Place Apartments in Olathe. This is enough stress for me, in my opinion, but apparently my opinion doesn't count.

So, I'm driving down the street to my place tonight, and I notice the porch light is off. As a residual reaction from more stressful financial days, I first wonder if I didn't pay the electric bill.

As I walk in the front door, I smell the past tense of a fire. The place wasn't filled with smoke (the downstairs lights worked fine). I thought maybe a piece of paper got on a heating vent and that's what I was smelling. I checked the living room, the dining room, and then went into the kitchen.

When I tried the kitchen light, it didn't work. At this point I thought maybe a breaker blew and that's the former-fire-like smell I was picking up. I decided to go ahead and get the other laundry basket out of the car and take it upstairs.

As I'm going upstairs, I realize the lights are off upstairs (the upstairs everything is connected to the porch light--and apparently the kitchen and dining room lights... maybe. I was just thinking how I should maybe go down the the basement and check on that breaker when I notice it looks like water or something had been running down the wall by the stairs.

So my new theory was that a branch or something landed on the roof, water got in (I wasn't sure if it had rained or what while I was gone), and that caused some electrical issue, and that's why I smelled the past tense of fire and the lights weren't all working.

I decide to go on upstairs, with the theory in my head that there's a hole in the roof. I can tell by the light coming in the bathroom window that there's something odd about the shower. I have a shower curtain hanging up in front of the window in the shower--as the window isn't opaque at all.

I'm starting to wonder if a huge chunk of the roof is gone, but that doesn't seem right, as it's freezing cold outside and not so much inside... but I still think I was sticking with this theory.

I walk into the bedroom and set the clothes basket on the bed. I can do this in the dark because I've done it so many times before.


Based on my previous theory, my first thought was there were a bunch of dead leaves on my bed.

I reached down and touched the bed, and whatever I touched fell away as I touched it.

Insert a moment of insanity here. The sad thing is, if we were to ever travel back in time, it would be too dark to make out my facial expression.

I try to use my cell phone to get some light. I can't see anything at first, but then realize the bed has been burned to a crisp.

Seriously: burned to a crisp.

My first instinct is to reach down to where the space heater is, and touch the buttons--to feel if they're on or off. Of course, I can't remember which is which, so I then hold the phone up to the buttons to actually see.

I can't really make anything out with such little light, so I go downstairs for a flashlight.

On my way down, I call Tricia. I figure they're not TOO far asleep at this point, as I'd left there not long ago--and I figure I'd be staying there if it turns out I'm not dreaming the whole bed-is-a-pile-of-ashes thing.

While talking to Tricia, I go back up with the flashlight. I hope I get pictures of this, because I'm not sure I can describe it. I guess it's a fire miracle, as the house is still standing, and the roof isn't burned up.

It looks like my bed just burned up, melting stuff around it, but not catching anything else on fire. Books that were less than a foot from the bed look more heat-damaged than anything else.

Oh, and I think I figured out where the fire started--but I'm not trained in that sort of thing, so I could be wrong. Tricia was adamant that I call the fire department, and I wasn't sure how to reach them--I mean, 911 is for emergencies. Turns out there's a non-emergency number in the phone book.

They send a couple of guys over to check things out. I explain my theory, but they're all weirded out by the fact only the bed is burned (and a patch of carpet by the bed). Everything else was damaged by the heat more than the first, it appears.

So they say they have to call in the arson specialist!

Well, I am a teacher. So arson isn't out of the question, right?

One guy goes and checks the breaker box, and a breaker had been tripped, so they think it was something electrical--but the arson specialist will still have to check things out tomorrow (or today, many hours from now).

So let's focus on the positive: The downstairs is pretty much unscathed. (Febreeze gets out past-tense-fire smell, right?)

I wasn't in the bed when this whole thing happened.

My new laptop was downstairs at the time.

The first probably ran out of oxygen, and nothing too upsetting was totally destroyed (although the book I was reading is now a pile of ashes--I'd left it on the bed... along with another book, actually. Oh yeah, positive...)

So that's what I'm dealing with right now. I'm going to work tomorrow, as I have a full week, and I'm not sure what good I'd be standing in my charred upstairs. I don't know. Maybe I won't go to school tomorrow--well, if I don't, I'll still have to go in to set up plans, etc., but you know what I mean.

Check it out: The first year in years that I haven't done the fire-hazard-y tree and house-lights--and here I am without a bed, and maybe without a place to live for a while! What's up with that.

Remember to pray for my friend who is having a little surgery on that tumorness tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

On A Lighter Note: Snow

A beautiful thing:

Middle school kids are too cool for a lot of things... but they aren't too cool to stare wistfully out a window when a heavy snow is falling. Probably they're dreaming of a snow day, but I think they also get caught up in the sheer beauty and peacefulness of it. Or maybe I'm displacing. Whatever, it's a beautiful thing.

First, The Heavy Stuff

As I was driving to Ben & Tricia's on Sunday, I noticed the Perkins on Santa Fe had it's gigantic flag at half mast. At first I thought maybe somebody important had died that day--or some big thing happened. As it's after Thanksgiving and before Epiphany, I have holiday music going in my car 24/7, and am pretty much out of the news loop... so it was possible I'd missed something big from Saturday.

Then I remembered it was December, and thought maybe it could be for the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor... which was immediately followed by an embarrassing debate about the date of that event. Basically, I always think it's December 11th, for several reasons, the least of which not being that 11th and 7th rhyme.

Anyway, I somehow found the right synapse that was grounded in solid memory, and remembered it was a 1-digit day, not a 2-digit day.

This then led me to think about Uncle Bud, who died at Iwo Jima (I know I've mentioned this elsewhere in this lengthy (and often typographical-error-filled) blog). I was just struck by the notion that 67 years ago, he was... 16, I think. He might have had some inkling that this was going to be a big deal, and he was a young man approaching 18, and the odds were he'd be going off to war...

That then led me to think, "And some number of days later, he was dead."

Which is just a sort of simple thought that my mind finds mind-blowing at times.

So I spent the past couple of days googling different things. First, he's on the internet. How odd is it that you can find my dead uncle on the internet. Not his photo, or his diary or anything. Just his name.

And some other information, it turns out.

I knew the story of his death--at least the one related to mom and the rest of the family by a man who came to see them after the war (or maybe after he was discharged, as I remember Mom saying he had been missing at least a limb or four). He said he was there at the time. Uncle Bud was medical (Pharmacist's Mate, 3rd Class), and didn't have a weapon. When everyone around him was down, he did the country boy thing and threw rocks. And he died.

Less that 1,200 days after Pearl Harbor was bombed. Less than 40 months later.

But, guess what: He's in a book, even! At least, his name is. I have yet to see a copy of the book... maybe there's a picture, but I doubt it. And he's mentioned in a obituary from 2004... and that makes me wish I'd thought to look around on the internet five years or so ago--I could maybe have found someone who knew him while he was overseas.

For a long time, whenever I'd think of Uncle Bud, I'd dream about going to visit Iwo Jima, for reasons I'm not sure I understand.

I probably won't, but it's okay: I found pictures. It looks a lot different than I imagined. I figured it'd all be in black and white. Everything else was back then. As Calvin's father explained in one strip, things used to be in black and white, and then one day everything was in color...

Anyway, that was the first heavy thing. Just a depressing subject to start off a heavy post.

The other thing is a prayer request. I have a friend with what amounts to a brain tumor (or tumors). I'm not going to post a lot here, as I haven't spoken with her about giving names, etc., but you can just say, "Mark's friend with the brain tumor or tumors". God will know who you mean.

They're going to remove some of it (them) on Monday, and they'll know more at that time. Apparently an operation to remove all of it (them) isn't an option, and they need to find out how to treat it (them).

So, a long Iwo Jima obsession posting, followed by a prayer request. I'm here to keep y'all entertained... both of you!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

So This Is The Fast Lane...

I finally have a high-speed internet connection at home. I don't know what to do with myself.

I don't know that I've mentioned it on here, since I haven't had a lot of time for much of anything else since this began, but I've been taking online grad school classes since late August/early September.

This has meant staying at school late to use their connection or going to Ben & Tricia's to use theirs. I got so tired of hanging out in their kitchen doing school work instead of hanging out with them, that one week I just put everything off for a day--and that was a fun Monday night rush to get everything in on time!

Anyway, life has been crazy, and most of it not... bad. Here's the strange psychological thing (with an empahsis on the PSYCHO): My body seems to be having a strange reaction to not being stressed out about money. When I think about it, I've been stressed out about money on some level since... well, really since I was about 18 or so. This stress has had time to grow up and go to college. It could be taking grad school classes of its own!

Anyway, things are strange. I find myself uninterested in putting up the holiday cheer--which is very odd, because it has gotten me through a lot of cruddy years. There have been years I haven't bothered, but not for a while now.

I'm wearing a holiday shirt, and the television is playing all the holiday cheer KUDL has to offer, but when I think about decorating, I'm sorta "eh..." about it. We shall see. Maybe it'll just hit me one day in mid-December, and I'll slide around on the roof of the porch getting my lights up.

Beyond getting money caught up and my life in some sort of order, not a lot is going on. Now that I'm all high-speed-internet-y, I'm doing lots of things I haven't been able to bother with before. I'm on Facebook; I'm sending video instead of e-mail. I'm all science-fiction-y, without the fiction!

For Thanksgiving, Ruth, Jordan, and I went to Jefferson City to hang out with Dane. Ruth made a great meal. Jordan and I drove to Wal-Mart (it isn't a holiday without a trip to the evil empire, eh?). On the way, we contemplated how we were going to break in if they weren't open. She got a little too thrilled with the idea for me to be comfortable. I mean, I just casually mentioned driving Ruth's car through the front doors, and all of a sudden she's all "well, I have a hoodie, but we need sunglasses..."

Kids today!

Well, I hope anyone who stumbles across this had a great Thanksgiving, and a great holiday season. I'll try to post again before then. If I set up my old web site, I'll have my Christmas card there. If not, I'll have to post a link here.

I guess I have to post a link here either way, eh?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My 205th Post (In Which I Express My Consideration Of The Decision To Not Decorate For Christmas This Year)

I'm thinking about not decorating for Christmas this year. Any strong objections out there? Anyone reading this? Maybe I'll put up a poll about it.

There are tons of reasons. I don't know that any of them is any good. But the basic thing is, "I kinda don't feel like it."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I'm Not Dead

Only sleeping.

I kid.

Lots of cool things I could post here, but I have to get to online grad school class stuff.

Miss y'all lots! Wish I was there!

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Martha visits every Monday, and just stays until noon.

The previous sentence may not mean anything to you, but if you learned how to memorize the planets from closest to the sun out to the furthest (normally, anyway) the way I did, you know what I'm talking about.

Hint: Until recently, the period at the end of the sentence stood for "Pluto". I guess it still could, since it's not an actual word... but then we'd have to find a purpose for that comma (or get rid of it).

And, before you post a comment asking about "and", that's the asteroid belt.

The reason that I'm telling you all this is because I didn't want to use the name of that planet for the title of this post for the very reason of the subject of this post. That makes a sort of sense, but maybe not yet.

I took all of my classes up to the computer lab on Friday to play "Multiflyer", a game that helps with memorization of multiplication facts.

See, somewhere back in the past 30-some-odd years or so, it was decided that it was not necessary to memorize multiplication facts. It's still not the fashion to have students memorize them.

Which would be all well and good if it was not necessary to memorize multiplication facts. However, doing simple fraction operations without knowing your multiplication facts is like reading Shakespeare without a good grasp on the early-modern version of our language.

That is to say: Start, stop to look up something, start again, go back a bit to remember what was going on, pass the initial problem point, stop to look up some other something, start again, go back a bit to remember what was going on...

And so on.

Thankfully, a study (or a study of studies) came out earlier this year that said it actually IS important for kids to memorize these things for basically the reason I just stated (but they didn't use the analogy of reading Shakespeare). See, if you're using that sort of "short-term" memory space to actually work out what 6 times 7 is (or using that space to walk yourself through punching those four calculator buttons, I suppose... or look it up on a table, even), you don't have as much available space for actually processing the new math skill you're supposed to be learning.

Okay, vent over. This was supposed to be a funny post.

So there we are in the computer lab, playing Multiflyer. The "story" of the game is that you are flying a missing from Earth to the moon, to Mars, to an asteroid, to Jupiter... and so on (with a couple of space stations in there), but to make the trip, you have to get the right numbers entered before your energy runs out. For each short jump, you have to enter one or two more numbers than the jump before.

The kids seem to enjoy it, and I raised the stake by offering a reward for the high score each hour (the faster you answer, the better your score). So these kids were really into it, announcing when they were at each new location, so other kids would know how far ahead they were, etc.

So I'd hear, "I'm on Mars!" and "I'm on Jupiter!" and "I'm on the asteroid!" and "I'm on the first space station!"

And of course, they were also saying, "I'm on Uranus!"

Middle-school child I am at heart, I had to suppress and giggle every time. And it always got worse. I know some of them pieced it together pretty quickly, and would make near-innocent remarks about the planet--and I'm sure they thought they were sly, because they got away with it.

Not because I didn't want to tell them to stop, but because I was afraid I'd start laughing if I started talking.

So: Crotchety Old Man?

Or Goofy Old Middle-Schooler?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Regarding Mark

So if you haven't read the previous post, this one might not make a lot of sense.

I have found myself over the past few days wanting to talk to somone about Frank and about everything related to this, and I just keep... not doing it.

I'm finding I don't want to talk to people in my old age.




Regarding Frank

So I'm a boy in the chorus again. The first rehearsal was Tuesday night.

I took a year off to regroup and use every free minute to deliver pizza, but now that gas is E.D.A.A.L.B.P.G., it's cheaper to not be pizza delivery guy.

Anyway, I'm at rehearsal, and someone's in MY spot... or what WAS my spot before I had to take a year off to try to get things on track, anyway (there's another story about my taking a year off something that ALSO ends with someone else taking my spot, but I'll hold off on that tale until I'm less bitter about it). Also, as I had to re-audition, I'd been moved from an upper bass to a lower bass.

So I wasn't sure where to sit.

Which was somewhat upsetting, because my chorus buddy (and that was his actual role my first season--the person who introduces me to the whole group and makes me feel welcome and all that) Frank had always sat beside me, and he can sight read much better than I can (which is pretty much not at all0.

Frank hadn't arrived yet, and I was trying to figure out just how many seats to move down from my regular spot. Kevin walked up and said "hey", and I explained that I was trying to figure out where to sit now, and when Frank got there I was going to ask him where I should sit (and hoped it would be within hearing-range of him, since our section doesn't split THAT much, and I could still listen to him for most of the notes).

I should explain at this point that Frank and I occasionally exchanged e-mails (he was the one who e-mailed me to tell me I got my first solo the year I broke my leg and nearly died), but Frank was mainly just a chorus-buddy with whom I could sit next to and joke, and general enjoy the rehearsal period--and also the performances, as he stood right next to me... back when we were both upper basses, anyway.

Anyway, my last e-mail to or from Frank was probably long before I took the year off.

Still, sitting next to or near Frank and catching up with him were two of the three or four events I was really looking forward to this particular Tuesday night.

So, back to the present (of the story, anyway): Kevin looked at me and said, "Isn't he the one who passed away?"

Well, now, what do you do with that?

Some part of my mind had the firm believe that SOMEONE would have told me.

And another part of my mind remembered that I've been without a working e-mail account at least once over the past few months.

Kevin said he wasn't sure whether it was Frank or not (he doesn't know a lot of people in the chorus, and he's not in my section, so he wasn't sure of the name, etc.). He asked me if Frank had been in the chorus since it had started, and I said he had.

And Kevin said, "Well, whoever this was, he'd been in the chorus since the beginning."

That narrowed it down to maybe two or three people... and to just one if he meant "Done every concert since the beginning."

I told Kevin I had to go find Tom (because Tom knew everybody in the chorus, and if this was Frank we were talking about, he'd know).

I found Tom, sat down next to him, and said, "I have to ask you a question that may lead to a very uncomfortable conversation."

Which is a great way to get someone's attention, by the way.

I continued with, "Where's Frank?"

And then there's one of those moments that lasts forever because the stupid brain--even if it sometimes can't figure out how to plan ahead or plan a budget or anything useful--suddenly does all sorts of processing, the side-effect of which is everything slowing down.

I immediately knew it was Frank who died, just from the look on Tom's face.

Three years later, Tom asked, "Didn't you get the e-mail?"

And I replied that I needed to step outside for a bit.

Luckily, my car wasn't too far away, and I could sit in it and do a sort of primal scream thing, and then make it back to rehearsal.

Tom had told me to find him during the break and he'd tell me the details, but yes, Frank was no longer with us.

As far as shock-and-sudden=pain impact goes, this is one of the top five worst deaths I've ever been "close" to.

So it was fun learning new songs (especially the one we sing in memoriam of those who have gone on), thinking of how Frank always made us little holiday pins to wear for the first act of the concert, thinking how I missed EVERYTHING except for stopping by his grave and saying how sorry I am that I didn't even know he'd been ill...

Yeah, good times.

I caught up with Tom for the story. It's a fun one.

Short version: Frank needed a heart transplant. Frank didn't have insurance that would cover his meds. Meds would cost thousands of dollars (or at least a thousand dollars) a month for the rest of his life. The policy in such a case is: No heart for you.


The outrages continue, the next part involving his funeral service and the Catholic church, but I won't delve into that here.

In the end all that matters is Frank being alive came down to a policy decision, and because I was out of the loop for a year (and maybe because I didn't have working e-mail for part of June), I didn't even know he'd died.

And no complaining posts that this is turning into guesswhoisdeadnow.blogspot.com, because I've already thought that.

So I need to find out where Frank is buried and go pay my respects. Maybe I'll take a keyboard and this concert's music and he can help me through teaching myself these songs...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

No Good News: My 200th Post

I was saving this post. I was hoping I'd get those pictures off that stupid zip drive, or come to some decision about how to get STILL: Life back up and running, or maybe not talk about it at all but instead type about how August 20th would have been Patsy's 78th birthday...

But instead I'm going to talk about Mark Ratliff.

Mark Ratliff was (at one time, anyway) one of the three Mark's in my small elementary school class. (The word "small" in that sentence can be interpreted to be modifying "school", "class", or "both" with no real misinterpretation.)

I don't know what year he moved in, and I don't remember what year he moved away. I know we talked about it when I saw him here in Kansas City a few years later... but my memory fails me.

And now he's not around to clarify.

Mark had a car accident early Wednesday morning, and didn't survive it.

Mark and I didn't always (or usually) get along as kids (he's one of the few non-family-member physical fights I had as a kid), and I remember thinking his father seemed to be a really nice guy. I also remember when his father died, and how I realized you could still feel bad for someone you didn't usually get along with.

I was enjoying an evening out one night a few years ago when Mark walked up to me and said he bet I didn't know who he was. I didn't. When he told me, I say "no way" a lot (with another word between the "no" and the "way", as I recall), and he had to show me his driver's license to prove it. I may have even written about it here. I haven't taken a moment to check.

At any rate, I remember thinking at a date shortly after that (for we talked/e-mailed after that, and I made it to at least one party at his place) how he'd turned out to be a lot like his father (in the fact that he seemed to be a really nice guy). I even shared this thought with Mark at least once.

I last saw Mark... sometime within the past year. I was out one night, he came up to me and we chatted a bit. He introduced me to a friend. Just normal stuff.

The big plan was to get together with Tricia and have dinner. He really wanted to see her again, and really wanted to see... well, lots of people from his late elementary school years. We just never got the schedules to mesh, and I was busy, he was busy, life is busy. Busy, busy, busy. And so on.

As I mentioned, Mark and I got in a physical fight once. I'm trying to think if I've been in more than two (non-family ones, anyway). If it was only two, I can now say that neither person I've fought is no longer with us. It's very strange to say that. It's very strange to think of former classmates being gone.

And people do it every day. This life thing... what a pip.

Anyway, the fight was such a strange event. I can't tell the story without my confused-face on, as I never understood it. We were at the ball diamond, watching a game. Maybe we'd had a game before, but I don't think so.

Mark came up to me and told me he wanted to fight. We were in 6th or 7th grade at the time (or, between 6th and 7th... maybe 5th and 6th). I replied that I wasn't really interested in fighting, and I'm sure the face I'm making now is the face I made then...

That is to say: confused-face.

But he pressed on, saying, "Come on! I want to fight!"

And I kept saying I didn't want to (and continued to be confused (as I do even today) about what this was all about).

Finally, Wade (who was nearby) egged me into fighting him, and so we went over past the 4-H building and fought.

I kept punching at his face, and he kept turning his head, so I punched his ear. I don't remember if he hit me or not.

Again, I spent this whole time confused as to what in the world this was all about.

Anyway, Mark had tubes in his ears (or that one, at least), and he could only take so many of these hits without being in a lot of pain.

I remember walking away, very confused about the whole thing... and not feeling good about my part in it... and worrying that his dad would think I'm not such a great kid, since I got in a fight with his... and then going back to wondering what the heck the whole thing was about.

I asked Mark about this when we were hanging out here in K.C., but he didn't have a real answer to it, except to point out he was a bit of a... um... we'll go with squirrel and call it done. Yes, he pointed out he was a bit of a squirrel at that age.

Also, he once told Patsy to "go suck an egg".

Another fun story. She was our baseball coach. We had 9 players at that game. I don't remember where we were, but I know it was an away game.

I don't know what my mom said to prompt it, but he loudly snarled at her, "go suck an egg" (a very popular expression among us kids that year... and maybe the one before and the one after). Mom yelled, "Ump, do I have to have 9 players on the field?"

The umpire replied in the negative, and Mark spent the game on the bench.

Again, as an adult, a very nice man. What you'd call a good person. Would probably give you the shirt off his back if he thought you could use it.

Anyway, Mark's gone. Door closed for now.

So, readers, what does this all mean? How am I feeling?

Numb, as is my way. It's fun how I get to sorta carve through the numb to get answers about what are simple questions for many people.

Mostly, the me that thinks more than feels is just irritated at the ways of life. Time must pass, we must move on, etc., and part of me rebels at these concepts.

Mark had nieces and nephews, friends and other family... and this is just... irritating.

When I get to plan my own universe, I'm SO doing it differently... that's all I'm saying.

And my heart aches for my own loss, his family's loss, the loss of close friends... and the loss of Mark, Tricia, and I, never getting to have that dinner and accompanying walk down memory lane.

In answer to Andy's comment to my last post, when we were spreading the ashes of Patsy (she who refused to go suck an egg), what I mostly felt was that change sucks... and that's not a feeling, it's a thought. But the farm was all different, and the post office was long gone... and the ball diamond was all different, too. So the feeling was (and is now) a huge sense of loss, and not just for me or my youth or my history, but for... all the loss in the world, I guess.

Loss, in general, sucks.

But, if the book "Tuck Everlasting" teaches us anything, it's that life has a cycle, and the cycle has a purpose.

And Mark, I'm glad I got to know you as an adult.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ruth & Kathy Need A Hand--Or Several

My sister and her walk partner Kathy are raising funds for their walk in the Susan G. Koman for the Cure Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk.

They can earn a donation from Starlight this Monday (yes, tomorrow) if they can get a group of people to work as ticket-takers. If you'd like to lend a hand tomorrow night from 5:30 to 9:30 (but probably earlier than 9:30 by quite a bit), you can e-mail Ruth directly. Her e-mail address can be found by clicking here, then scrolling down to the bottom of the first page.

Also, they are working with Uno's Chicago Grill for a fundraiser on August 13 & 14. If you have friends and/or family who live in the KC area who might want to eat out one of those two days, please send them here to get the flier that would give part of their sale to Ruth & Kathy's 3-Day.

And, of course, if you just want to donate to their team, follow the links to each donation page (the links can be found here), and donate to the one needing more money!

For anyone interested, my next post will be my 200th!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Putting Patsy To Rest

Dane's surprise party was today. A good time was had by all. Dane was surprised, but admitted to thinking there was something hinky about this trip "back home", but figured the birthday party part was going to be after church tomorrow.

Instead, they're having a carry-in after church tomorrow for him.

After the party, we took Mom's ashes around to the sites she may or may not have designated. There's some debate, as she wasn't all let-me-write-this-down-y about it.

So she's behind the spot where the old Post Office was, she's at home on the old ball diamond, and she's by a tree at the old farm.

Five of the eight of her kids were able to make it. Two of her grandkids made it, (and her granddaughter was actually excited to get to spread ashes--which makes me think she might have a little bit of Patsy about her... I mean in her personality, not on her hands until she gives them a good washing.

A few months after Mom died, my aunt Lois died, and I talked about a picture we used to have of Mom and her siblings when they were kids. I finally found it. If you want to go back to January/February/...maybe March/April, even... of 2006, you can read what I actually said about this photo, re: the afterlife.

The two young girls in the front row, from left to right, are my aunt Lois and my aunt Rachel. The three in the back (also left to right) are my mom, Uncle Bud (pronounced "bood"), and my aunt Deana Mae. As I mentioned before, I never met Uncle Bud. He died at Iwo Jima when my mom was in high school.

I don't remember who the two folks in the background are. I may have been told more than once, but I can't remember the names. That tear in the fabric of space is probably a tear in the original photo that was scanned many moons ago when "come scan your picture at our store" technology first started crawling out of the primordial techno-ooze.

Anyway, there's the picture.

Hope everyone is having a good weekend. I'm going to read for a while, then fall into a solid sleep and see what dreams this day inspires.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hurricane Bears Down On Coast

You may not have ever heard the story of the day--many many years ago... pre-Katrina--the title for this post was the big headline in the KC Star.

So I'll share:

I saw the paper, laughed, and then went from classroom to classroom, holding up the paper and saying, "There are Hurricane Bears down on the coast!" I would then allow enough time for confusion/thought/whatever, then ask, "What's a Hurricane Bear?"

Stupid joke, but I remember it fondly.

Anyway, I was put in mind of that day on this day.

I didn't notice the stuffed bears strewn around the room at the Mo. Math Academy when I got there this morning, but I should have. I did notice there was a Winnie on my table, and the stupidest part of my brain thought one of the ladies who sit at my table must have brought it.

Seriously, I thought this. Or the stupidest part of my brain did. The rest of my brain would like to point out that it was too busy thinking about getting to my seat, setting my stuff down, and turning over to the woman running MMA the wad of cash I'd found on the floor on my way in. Much too busy thinking about all that ("What should I say when I hand it to her? Make a reference to tipping her? I wonder how much money is in here, anyway... I know I saw a ten and a five. What did that stupid part of my brain just think about that Pooh doll? Never mind, maybe I should wait until nobody is around, in case someone is all dishonesty and stuff..." and so on...) to even make a "Oh-how-could-you-be-so-stupid" face at the stupidest part of my brain.

At any rate, I got my stuff settled, walked over to Chris, handed her the cash and made a stupid tip joke immediately followed by the actual facts and my theory as to who it might belong to, then returned to my seat, forgetting all about the bear--and still not noticing there was at least one other bear on every other table, and two kissing bears hanging from the overhead projector.

About ten minutes later, there was some planning on the part of the facilitators (or whatever the actual title is for the people running this thing) that registered in the extreme back of my brain as "they're getting ready for the first warm-up or team-builder, or whatever", and then Chris started talking to us about the plan for the day.

I had enough time to realize she was the only facilitator (or whatever) in the room, then turn my attention back to her, when all the facilitators (or whatevers) came running in from both main entrances, yelling "Let's go! Let's go!" and so on, as they grabbed the bears from the tables and the overhead projectors. They all ran back out with the stuffed bears, the last one saying, "We got eight!"

Chris then says, "Good, that puts us at negative eight bear attacks already this morning."

I laughed very loudly, and realized I was the only one in the room doing so, which made me realize nobody else had any idea what I was laughing about because they hadn't read my "Reflection" sheet from the end of the day yesterday.

All the facilitators (whatevers) had, but Chris was the only one in the room. She immediately knew I had to have been the one to write the comment that helped put this strange event into the planning stages, and she told the others as they came back in.

They all threw stuffed bears at me, while I was still laughing too loud to think straight.

Now, of course, you're sitting there all confused like the other 16 or so participants (non-whatevers) who were in the room, because I'm telling this story in what I think is the right order (but it's what I'm sure some might argue is in the wrong order... but I digress). I then told them the rest of the story... or the first part of the story.

So here's the rest of the story... or the first part of the story--that needed to be last so you'd feel like I (and everyone else) felt when several people came running into the room to remove teddy bears (and, I suppose, so you'd feel what everyone else felt when I started laughing like something very funny just happened, when--at best--it was just all very surreal):

At the end of each day, we've been filling out a "reflection sheet" (but not called that... I think the terminology has changed) that gives space for what stands out from the day (or what we thought was most helpful... or something like that), and space for what we think should be changed.

Well, math-teaching geek that I am, the first full day I had no idea of a suggestion of what to change. I loved it all. Well, what I didn't love didn't need to be changed, anyway.

Yesterday, I had nothing to put in that section either, but I didn't want to put, "I have nothing to write here," again. So I wrote,

"Fewer bear attacks. I realize we are currently at 0 bear attacks, but I'd feel better if that number was lowered to -1 or -2."

I liked it because it was random, nonsensical, and mathematical all at once. I hoped someone might get a chuckle out of it, and at most maybe they'd ask us who wrote it.

So for that group to come up with this goofy plan to sorta "get back" at me, it was like Christmas in July, baby!

I was laughing for a good ten minutes after it was all said and done. I actually am laughing almost as much now as I think about it.

I like people who make me laugh. They're funny!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Important News

Okay, not really, but Dane sent an e-mail to a bunch of us today, and I wanted to share:


Subject: An interesting fact

July 14 is the 196th day of 2008. 14 times 14 is guess what 196.

It happens only in leap years of course.


I don't know if he read it somewhere, or--more likely--he just figured it out. Ask me about Dane's number abilities sometime.

Anyway, I e-mailed him to see if he came up with it on his own, but he still hasn't replied.

I started Missouri Math Academy today. Today's half-day session leads me to believe this is going to get me all thinkin'-and-ready for the upcoming school year.

Also, I may have found a graduate school program as a result of going through this. Let's hope!

I'd say to scroll down and post some positive news on the appropriate post, but I think I lost a lot of readers during my "dark period" this late winter & entire spring...

Friday, July 11, 2008

It's A Library Thing, And You Wouldn't Understand...

Hey, check out librarything!

I just started building my library on there, and hope to get to meet people who read the stuff I read and like to discuss. Cross your fingers!

Remember, I'm wanting to hear good news in the comments section on the post two below this one!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Dream About A Blog

Hey, I still want GOOD NEWS comments on the post before this one... but I had to post this.

I'm spending a couple of nights here with the Hart family (it's the closest thing to a vacation I'm gonna have this summer, I think), and I always have strange dreams in their guest room.

Last night, I dreamt (among lots of other strange dreams) that MANY people read that last post, and they posted all kinds of strange good news. And the thing is, I didn't have any idea who those commenters were.

There was an edge of "it looks like some youth group was assigned the job of posting good news to this post" to it.

Anyway, I just wanted to share that my dreams are WAY out-doing you people.

But thanks for your good news, Tracy!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I'm Working On It...

Lots to report, but first I want to say that I promised Erin I'd have my photoblog caught up by... two Saturdays ago, and I've yet to do that.

The excuse-riddled version of reality is that I forgot I had a birthday party to attend that day, and that I'm having a slight technical difficulty moving the photos from where I had stored them (well, some of them) to my computer.

Anyway, I'm working on it.

Summer School turned out okay. It's amazing what having 12 students instead of over twice that many can do. Maybe I'll give a more detailed account some day, but don't count on it.

A week ago tomorrow I received an e-mail that a friend's daughter had passed away. She was born with a severe chromosome disorder. They believe she had a seizure in her sleep, and this was the cause of death.

She'd turn four on the 20th of this month.

I hadn't talked to my friend for a long time (one or two e-mails as the exception, I hadn't exchanged words with him in close to 20 years), but this still hit me in a bad way.

Then I just got an e-mail from Tricia that the only surviving member of Ben's "class" (as in "treatment of cancer class") passed away.

And the strange thing is how hard this hit me. I was about to call Ben to see how he was doing, then realized it's 10:15 (well, later than that now, I suppose).

I haven't suffered that kind of out-of-the-blue weeping (meaning a sudden outburst with no... uh... prelims) since some time after Mom died.

I remember attending a class with Tricia (since Ben had two very small girls at home at the time, I was Plan B for if one of the girls got sick and Ben couldn't stay at his house), and meeting this man's wife. They were expecting their first child, and she learned that he would not be able to help change diapers. It's just a thing that stuck in my head.

I'm not even sure I ever met this guy. I think I might have at the one survivor celebration I attended with Ben, now that I think about it.

His daughter turns 5 on her dad's funeral date.

And apparently his wife is in remission from breast cancer.

Anyway, it's apparently very upsetting (or, perhaps his passing along with the little-one's passing last week has just sent me over the weepy edge) and I wanted to share. I couldn't think of who I would feel comfortable calling at this hour to share my upset-ed-ness with, so I figured the whole world (or the handful of people who read this blog) will have to do.

So, if you'd like to post a comment and share something wonderful that's happened to you (or someone you know) lately, I could use the upbeat news.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Just Because

Andy updated his blog today and acknowledged a recent lack of updates (I think it was maybe a 4-day gap). His reason for the lack of updates was "just because."

I like it. I think I'm going to steal it.

I haven't posted on here for a couple of months... just because.

Oh, I could go into all the details, but I don't think I come off as such a together guy when all the details are on the table. Of course, I don't think I come off as such a together guy when people first see me in any setting. Or when they second-thru-infinitieth see me. But why add fuel to that fire, eh?

Yes, the details would include the three-jobs-at-once thing, even though I still had some free time in there back when I had the three jobs. The details would include reminders that I have dial-up, and everything takes about five times as long as it does on what passes for a "normal" computer these days. The details might even include just some heavy thoughts that I've been avoiding these past several months. The details might even include this recent wave of more-numb-than-usual-ness that took over my life when I was at my busiest. But I have fallen in love with: just because.

Moving on to the update: I'm teaching Algebra I to high school students in XLT (read: Summer School). I'm one of the "2nd Semester" teachers. I took this job thinking these students need this credit, so they will be motivated to work hard and at least pass.

I'm an idiot.

It's not entirely their fault. They're young. For reasons known only to those in charge of scheduling, I was given 34 kids on my original roster. Joel, the other 7th grade math teacher at Eastgate--who is also teaching 2nd Semester Algebra I--had 17 students on his roster.

Because of time constraints, the rooms were assigned using a floor plan (and thus no idea of the room layouts). I was originally assigned a room with three round tables in it. Each table could seat 8 students. There were 4 chairs at a computer area, and one chair at a desk over in the corner. Do the math.

Luckily, before the first day with kids, I'd had my numbers lowered...

..to 31.

In case you need it explained, let me explain why round tables are a bad idea in a school setting: Student looks up, and immediately sees someone to socialize with. Socialization mode boots up and runs until outside input from the teacher causes an emergency shut down into indignant innocent victim mode. I thought this was merely a 7th-grade affliction, but I can now report it can also be seen in grades 9 through 11.

Luckily three of my students never showed up (28 now, if you're counting), one hasn't shown up after the first day (27...), and three were pulled out for another class halfway through the second day (24).

And this week I got to move to a room with actual desks in it. You probably don't believe it makes much of a difference, but it really does.

Now, twenty-four students isn't ideal, but it isn't the worst of all possible worlds. However, when you're covering an entire semester of Algebra I in five-hour blocks (with one 15-minute break) and no realistic expectation of practice outside the classroom... twenty-four is more than twice the number of students that should be in that room.

Also, it would help if the students who didn't want to be there would just stay home. Their parents, in an effort to either "punish" the student or get some free babysitting (but these kids are 15-18 years old, do they need a--wait, yes, some of them do) are making them come to Summer School.

Which is great for all the kids who either really want to get this credit, or want a whole lot to get the credit but have a hard time overcoming the urge to socialize with those students who are just there because they were forced to be there. It's fan-freakin-tastic!

I am really enjoying working with about 10 of the kids--the ones who are there to work and get the credit. There are another half dozen or so who would probably be okay if the 8 or so that are there for no reason would just stay home. Those middle-ground kids try for a while, then decide it's more fun to just mess around with the kids who are there to kill time.

I don't know. It's frustrating.

I want to know how the program is "marketed" to the students. I really don't think they're being told "You're covering a week of school each day, so if that pace is too much for you, you should wait until the next school year and take the class then."

I want to know the district's goal--or motivation, even--for the program. If it's for the kids to learn the material and get the credit, the district is going about it an odd way. I'm not saying that a person's (or an organization's) goal can be clearly understood by examining behavior, but it sure can shed a light on a few things.

So, I trudge on, day by day, running the mantra "I'm doing it for the money" through my head, much like when I was delivering pizza, but with more high blood pressure--but less wear and tear on my car.

Tomorrow we review and test over Chapter 6, Systems of Equations (and Inequalities). I love teaching this material. I'd love teaching it to a regular class even more, I think.

Since I haven't posted in a while, I'm going to make a list here of things I've been meaning to post about, but never did. Feel free to comment on occasion to remind me I've forgotten to post these:

1. A Bad Day for the Tree and Me
2. Bye-Bye Papa John's Pizza Pie
3. Less Mellow, More Drama
4. The Best Juke Box in the Known (by me) Universe

Goodnight everybody!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Happy 90th, Wherever You Are!

I realized today during class that it was Carrie's birthday. But there was this doubt in my mind as to whether or not it really was her birthday. But I knew it was someone's.

So, with minimal research (on my own site, even), I realized it was Dad's birthday. If he were alive, he would have turned 90 today.

Yeah, it sounds horrible that I forgot his birthday, but it's been 23 years and 22 days since the last one he was here for... and plus, I'm terrible with family birthdays that are all close together and stuff.

Okay, it's horrible.

Anyway, Happy 90th, Dad, wherever you are!

(I'd post more, but I went out of my way to log on just to get that entered. Long night of fun pizza delivery here.)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Yeah, I've Been Gone. Still Sorta Gone. Just Here To Post A Link.

Check this out. If you subscribe or have a login or whatever, give us crazy high marks.

I have lots of pictures to upload on the other blog. Someday. And I'll put an update here. Someday. Working several jobs these days.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

My Return To MCM&VCo., Week 1

I really wanted to write a daily blog entry (or at least one blog entry per rehearsal) for this "event" or "happening" or "insanity"... however you want to label it. However, I found that was a wonderful pipe dream, and nothing more.

So, instead, I'll try to type an update every Sunday. We'll see how long that lasts.

Rehearsals started last Sunday at noon. I had to skip church, as I can't make it from church to MCM&VCo. by noon. I met the two people I didn't know, and we pretty much dove in with the blocking of the first few scenes.

The best news is how few lines I have. The shows are usually pretty evenly broken up, and having one-sixth or one-seventh of the lines makes for a pretty light line load. This show is less evenly broken up, so my line load is even lighter... but I get to play several goofy characters, which is the sort of thing I enjoy.

While offstage, I'm doing origami, which is not new to me, but new to my MCM&VCo. experience. It makes the time go quickly.

We finished blocking the first three scenes, were told to have them memorized by Wednesday, and I got to go home, because I was not slated to be in the opener of the vaudeville, and that was all that was left to rehearse.

Monday evening, I learned I'm going to be in the opener after all. So, I got to learn it on the fly.

Rehearsals are pretty much as I remember them. Maybe it's too early to say, but I don't think I'll have the frustration level I had the last few shows I did at MCM&VCo. The frustration mainly came from me having a bit too much passion about doing things a certain way. Now, embarrassing to admit thought it may be, I'm in it for the money. So I can go with the things that used to make me insane. Or more insane.

By the end of Thursday's rehearsal, we'd blocked the entire show, and had made a lot of headway with two of the vaudeville numbers.

I've learned a lot of my lines, and I've also learned that some origami projects do not translate well onto paper... I mean as far as the "how to" instructions go.

Oh, and I learned that Saturday rehearsals can still be a killer.

By the time I got home last night (rehearsal was from 10 to 6), I thought my legs were going to stage a rebellion and leave me (and they probably would have, were it not for the whole "having to walk to get away from you" element--oh, and because they can't survive without my circulatory system and so forth).

And bonus: watched Steve Jones perform a number from Pet Pizazz several years ago. I've got to remember to go post a comment about that on Mrs. Jones' blog.

The show opens on the 15th of February, which means I have about 4 more weeks of rehearsal. Everybody wish me a leg-breaking--the theatrical kind, not the actual.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Another Holiday Season Down

And I mean taken down. I just got the outside stuff down a couple of hours ago. I'm working on the tree (I stopped so I could get a new plastic tub for the tree parts, so the tree may stay up a while longer).

Another teacher and I were talking the other day, and this past holiday season wasn't as holiday-season-y for us. I had been thinking it, but hadn't really put my mind's finger on it until she expressed it.

While I was taking down the lights I kept thinking "Next year, I have to remember to..." and then I'd remind myself that hopefully next year these lights would be going up at some other place.

Hope hope hope...

Anyway, I got on here to upload some pictures over at the other blog, and thought I'd so some more "nothing to say" posting over here.

Have a good one!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Friday Already?

Well, Friday is here, and hooray for that! (Because it's always hooray for Friday, right?)

Lots of things to get done at school, and lots of good things happening there, as well. Grade cards went home today, so I need to brace myself for the onslaught of phone calls about that... which means things I need to get done on Monday will maybe be put on hold... but that's the way it goes, eh?

Anyway, I was thinking today how I'm posting more on here lately, and I think I've figured out why: I always wait until I have something to say to post on here... but recently I've realized I never have anything to say. So, why not post whenever, right?

I'm trying to watch a TV show on the net. It's not working out very well for me, and I'm talking loudly at the screen, which might be confusing Killian (the dog), but he's taking it in stride.

Bingo tomorrow (I think) and in a little over a week I start rehearsals for the MCM&VCo. show!

Be good, folks!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

House- (and Dog-) Sitting Again

I'm off house- and d0g-sitting again tonight. So feel free to stop by my house and steal lots of stuff--just be sure to steal that drain clog, while you're at it.

I kid. ONLY steal the drain clog.

Nothing new to report here. I'm tired, and will be going to bed soon. Today was a good day at school (which is to say no major trauma or unexpected policy changes, etc.).

There are so many crazy things going on that I'd love to type about, but I'm actually going to choose discretion and self-censorship for once, and close my eyes and hope it all just goes away.

In a related story, keep an eye out for my new one-man show in a clock-tower near you.

I kid, again.

So, good day, kids are back and I'm happy to see them again, and tomorrow is Friday! Life contains stress, but this is not news to anyone over the age of... birth.

Oh, and if you called me today, I didn't return your call because I left my phone at home and picked it up on my way here, then forgot to check messages until a few minutes ago.

That is all.

Happy 3rd to you!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Eat, Drink, And Be Merry, For Tomorrow The Kids Return To School

Well, it's not as bad as all that. Mainly it's the whole "waking up to the alarm" thing that I'm not a fan of.

God, in his/her infinite wisdom opted to make sure I was childless, and this "liking to sleep in" thing may have been a primary reason. Or a primary cause. Or one of them, anyway.

Anyway, tomorrow the whole thing kicks back in. There will be two days, a weekend, a full week, then a partial week (well, I think the Friday is a half day), another partial week (MLKJ day), then another couple (or few) full weeks, then a couple of partial weeks (Presidents Day), then a couple of full weeks (maybe three), and then Spring Break. Then it's several full weeks (which will include the MAP test), one partial (that's a half day on a Friday), then all full weeks until school is out.

Second semester is longer, but it goes by very quickly, sometimes.

Let's see... what else?

Oh, nothing new to report on the kitchen nightmare, other than some progress in the slow drainage of the standing water department.

And I forgot to buy a bunch of pencils today. I'm debating right now whether to go do it right now or wait until morning (and leave extra early) to stop by The Wal-Marts up north that's open 24 hours. Or, better yet, to just get a handful from the office in the morning until such a time as I can get to The Wal-Marts.

Yes, we have a winner.

Things are crazy right now. Just in my head, mostly. I'd be more detailed, but too many people behind the crazies read this blog, and... well, I've already said too much. Get it?

Okay, I'm off to bed, because my foot is about to freeze off. (Do you think I should get the computer out of the sun room?)

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A Hope For Resolution (Not To Be Confused With A Resolution For Hope)

Just to catch you up, those of you playing along at home:

Went to Strasser's, got what I needed, and still not clog-free. However, there is hope... it's showing improvement, and at this point I'll take what I can get.

However, now my home smells like a fate worse than death. Hooray for holiday candles to mask the smell!

Today I went to the traditional welcoming in of the new year at Patrick & Leigh's. This was after running to Ben & Tricia's to borrow their kitchen, as mine is still on the fritz, as it were.

I'm glad gas is so cheap right now.

Anyway, that party pretty much wraps up the end of the holiday running-around, typically. I'll be taking my lights down on the 7th or so, and that will be it for this holiday season for me. Well, except for finally taking the tubs of holiday stuff down to the basement in March or April or so.

I kid. (I hope.)

I have a few resolutions. I'm not going to share most of them, but I do plan to be out of this home by the end of the year. Too many issues here, and they bring me down.

I mean, I've got enough issues of my own without my domicile adding to the mix.

Anyway, I hope everyone has a great 2008, and you have four weeks to figure out what you're getting me for my birthday!