Monday, February 28, 2011

Anybody Want to Research for Me?

So I was thinking about writing on a few topics, share a few stories, and so on... But I'm getting the feeling I've written on them at some point or another, and I don't want to show my Alzheimer's hand this early in the game.

Therefore, if anyone would like to do some research for me, do me a favor and go back and see if I've written on any of these topics:

1. My guardian angel story
2. The time Scott and I almost hopped on a train just to get away from our lives in Ralls County
3. The time I "got lost" at the mall in Omaha
4. My high-school obsession with iguanas
5. The time I spent the night in the theatre at Jewell, just to see if I saw Mona, the ghost that haunted the place
6. My wreck one month after I turned 16, the blackout, and the flashbacks
7. States I've travelled to and/or through

Yeah, that will give me some "on deck" topics for when I've run out of nothing to say.

(That is, if I haven't already written on all those topics...)

Okay, get researching!

The Tale of My First (and Only) School Paddling...

I was a joy as a student in 8th grade. I'm sure of this. I'm sure Mr. Carrol (Carroll? Caroll? Carol? Whatever.) thought I was his best students ever! Of course, he was a coach, so I wasn't too concerned with what he thought. That's how I rolled in grade 8, peeps.

It was in his Social Studies class, however that I had to take a geography test in which you identified (and spelled correctly) major U.S. cities. I can't remember how many there were. I just knew if I needed one, I could find one on a map (or, as it turns out, go to mapquest), so I did not feel this was information that needed to be taking up space in my head.

Everyone who did poorly had to write the cities they missed twenty-five times each.


This, of course, meant war.

So I wrote them out, and then cut the cities up so that I had a lot of little slips of paper with a city name written on it once. I'm pretty sure there were close to 1000 little strips of paper.

Mr. C. took me to the office to see Mr. Ray. In a wonderful Malaprop moment, Mr. Ray responded to my claims that I did the assignment as instructed (I just went above and beyond the call, right?) by saying, "The assignment was to write the cities twenty-five times each, not make graffiti."

After a pause, Mr. C. quietly said, "Confetti."

What 8th grade kid wouldn't love that moment, right? However, I had the sense not to crack up laughing. I have no idea who I borrowed it from and if I returned it promptly.

I was put into the conference room with the slips of paper and some tape, and told I would have it all taped back together by the next day, or I'd get a paddling. It was toward the end of the day anyway, so I taped some up, then took the paper bag containing my "graffiti" on the bus with me at the end of the day.

This kid who was two years older than me grabbed the bag and said, "What would you do if I threw this out the window?"

I shrugged and said, "Nothing."

Out the window it went.

Turns out, being bullied by an older kid who--despite my pleas to not throw my precious project out the window--threw my beloved project out the window anyway does not equate to any sort of sympathy in this situation (actually, I didn't even play it off that way... I just said, "This older kid threw it out the window.").

And so I got the paddle.

I remember it hurt right then, but by the time I got back to class, it was fine.

The important part was: I didn't have to tape up those stupid little slips!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Remembering Eighteen

Yes, I remember a lot of being 18. I remember having to register for the draft. I remember not feeling any different than I did the day before.

I didn't smoke, so being old enough to buy cigarettes was no big deal. I remember being excited I could vote, but we had a presidential election the November before, so it would be a while before I got to vote for a president.

I've said several times over the past week or so that I could never survive being a parent. I think having a kid turn 18 would be the worst of all. Where did the kid go? (Well, speaking from experience, I know the kid is still in there somewhere, just under the surface, usually. Or that's the case in the darkness behind my eyes.)

Cody turned 18 this week. Jordan turns 18 in just a little over 20 months. It's just strange.

Now begins the string of graduation ceremonies... And then I guess the nearest nursing home after all that's over, eh?

Anyway, back to school tomorrow to prepare more kids for 8th grade and beyond. Gives me something to do while all these kids I know are growing up!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Not Like I Ever Have Anything to Say, but...

I'm going to try to post twice today, as I was so beat last night from travels, unpacking, gift-giving, and grocery-shopping... and cooking dinner...

Where was I?

Oh yeah, I was so beat, I didn't get any blog-posting done. I watched Groundhog Day (or most of it), and decided to just call it a night.

I guess I'm strange (or not in the majority, anyway), but I enjoy snow. I'm a little sad I wasn't here for the snowfall. Snowfall is to my eyes what wind is to my ears and skin. I love a windy day. I find it very calming to hear the wind rushing around my ears and feeling it move over me. Snowfall does the same thing. I could sit in the chair by my front window and watch it snowing for hours if I wasn't so worried the neighbors would mistake me for dead and call an ambulance.

Maybe I'll make a snowman today. Most likely not, but I haven't made one (or a snow angel, for that matter ) for a while, and it's about time. I need to do something to make up for missing that snowfall!

The flight back was uneventful. Didn't say much at all to the guy next to me. Was that rude of both of us? Probably, but I think I irritated the guy next to me on the way there (the guy on the other side of me on the way their didn't say a word, and I returned the favor... and on the way back, I was on the emergency exit row, so there was no seat between me and the window)... so I didn't think it would be a good idea to talk.

And I'm so confused about the use of cell phones (or whatever the best term for them would be) on the plane. I didn't hear them say it was safe to use them on the first flight, but people with me said they did. Then on the flight back, I for sure heard them say to not turn them back on at all (unless in airplane mode, which is a complete freakin' mystery to me on this new phone--a search for "airplane mode" in help gets me nothing at all). So did my group mis-hear the Chantho-voiced (or Diagnosan-voiced) steward one of the many times she spoke over the speaker during that first flight, or does the phone thing vary from plane type to plane type? Whatever, I don't know that I'll be flying again for a while, anyway.

Anyway, I'm home, there's snow, and the kids didn't have school one of the days I was gone. This means my plans for Monday are all prepared already! Hooray!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Could Live Here...

I finally got to drive down the 10 today. I haven't been on that interstate since... 1994, maybe?

I noticed as I drove to visit Kathy that I could live here. It's beautiful. There are mountains, and that sort of deserted beauty that a desert seems to have. Where Kathy lives, you can see crazy numbers of stars. And the weather kicks butt.

Thing is, there are lots of beautiful places I could live.

Colorado. Now that's beautiful. I could live there for sure.

California: also beautiful. Seeing the ocean put my mind in such a good place back when I lived there in 1993 and 1994. I could use that sort of calm mind on a regular basis.

Germany... it's been years since I've been there (December of 1987 and January of 1988), but from what I remember, plenty of beautiful stuff.

Sydney: Also plenty of beauty. The nearby Blue Mountains were also very beautiful.

London and other bits of England: loved them. Could easily live there.

Heck, I even found beauty in New York City. Not a traditional and natural beauty, mind you, but more of a beauty that comes from the sheer life force of a place.

So the big question in my mind is this: Why don't I notice the beauty around me back home?

The follow-up question in my mind is this: What do you mean you don't notice the beauty around you back home? What do you think taking a picture a day is all about?

The follow-up statement to that follow-up question is: Okay, that was two questions. Two questions can't be a follow-up question. That's a follow-up question with a follow-the-follow-up-question question.

And the follow up statement to that follow-up statement is: Yeah, whatever. You still understood my point, right?

And from there: What do you mean? I am you!

And finally: Would you both just shut up so I can get back to the point?

My point is, familiarity may not breed contempt, but it does breed a kind of laissez-faire attitude about having an opinion one way or the other about the view.

But Arizona is really kinda beautiful. That was my original point. Kyrie might not appreciate how I took it down the road instead of around the block, but I made it back with it, didn't I?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I Really Love to Teach

No irony intended in that title. I enjoy teaching. I enjoy finding new ways to reach students. I love thinking of ways to help students. I become frustrated with myself when students aren't "getting it" (although I still spend a few moments being frustrated with them, I should admit). I really do love to teach.

This summit I'm at is giving me all sorts of great ideas--and it seems to be saying a lot of things I've "felt" all along, but they're backing it up with actual research.

I really stink at sifting through research, I should say.

Anyway, I'm excited, and I have all these ideas, and I wish I could start work on some of my ideas tomorrow. I can't. But I want to.

If 80-and-out stays in place, this semester is the first semester of the last half of my teaching career (assuming I leave at the end of the school year I become eligible to leave... which I plan to do, because I love to teach, but the b.s. is just too much most days). So I may be halfway through. That seems odd.

But I want to make this last half way better than the first half--I mean I want to be a better teacher. I want to help more kids find success is math (or whatever I teach in the next 12.5 years).

All this to say I'm excited about this summit. Maybe it'll all blow up in my face and I'll be all resentful that I was ever excited about it, but right now, I'm hopeful.

So let me have this, people.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Okay, so I surprised most of my friends by saying, "I'm going to Phoenix" today. I didn't mean to. I really have had this on my schedule for quite some time now.

It's just how I roll these days, I guess. I tell people on a need-to-know basis, not because it's top secret--but because I don't think to tell people.

So I'm in Phoenix for a Professional Learning Communities Summit. I don't know what that means, but I know it's about me being a teacher leader and... other stuff.

I'm mostly stressed about what I'm going to eat while I'm here. We should all have such difficult problems, right? So it goes.

I'm an hour in the past, by the way. I should call someone so they can tell me what's going to happen in an hour. Do you think that will work.

Oh, and I woke up at 4:00 this morning. I just happened to wake up, and thought about going back to sleep for 15 minutes--and almost did, but decided I should take the time to get ready for the trip (you know, pack and stuff). I guess it's good I did. I spent the day a little stressed about what I may or may not have forgotten.

Okay, more news as it arises over the next few days.

So... probably no more news, right?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Another Random Memory (In Which Shawn and I are Stranded on Top of a Garage)

This happened back in the late 70s when I was still in elementary school. I'd have to know for sure when Mike Couch moved his old garage to where it is now (at least I think it's still where it was moved to... I haven't been back home for a while) to know for sure about when it was. It was pre-move, anyway.

For whatever reason, Shawn and I decided to climb on top of the garage. You have to understand, being Shawn's friend was often an exercise in "What to do if your friend suggested doing things that you know you shouldn't do." We have such hits as, "Pulling a little cart around behind the riding lawn mower, going as fast as possible to jump over our make-shift ramp", and "Elementary school kids take a drive out in the country while the adults are away", and "Let's see what chewing tobacco is like." What I always did, by the way, was go along while feeling very bad about the whole thing. Not "guilty" so much as "bad". Just a sick kind of, "We shouldn't be doing this, but I have to go along because that's what I do," thing.

So we climbed up on the garage. It had one of those corrugated metal roofs, and the roof was at a pretty steep slant. I don't know how long we were up there before my brother Wade (and a friend--Mike Stuart, I think) took the ladder down so we couldn't get back off the roof.

Luckily (not) for us, I realized the well house was right by the garage. All Shawn and I had to do was slide down to the edge and drop onto it. Three, maybe four feet, max!

Granted, the area around it was a brick patio, but that wasn't important. I had an idea, and we could make this work.

It did work, too. That is to say, we got down, and we didn't die, and there were no major injuries.

About one or two feet into our scoot from the apex of the roof, we started to slide. That would be an uncontrollable slide. There was no stopping us.

It was all great fun, while being a little frightening--but we were going to land on the well house (which seriously took up over half that side of the garage, so how could we miss) and I was thinking all would be well and I will have saved the day.

Of course, we missed the well house entirely. We both landed on our rears on the brick patio.

We subsequently laughed so hard we cried. I'm amazed we didn't try it again.

I feel this experience has tainted my problem-solving process, now that I think of it.

January 29, 1967 - February 18, 2034

When I was in college, I worked out what day I was going to die.

More correctly, I figured out a day that would be freaky for me to die on. Especially if I end up having a 19-year-old son on that day.

See, Grandpa Riggs passed away, it was Valentine's Day. He was 65. He had a son who was 17. The son was Dad.

When Dad died, it was two days after Valentine's Day. He was 66. He had a son who was 18. That was me.

So if I die on February 18, 2034, and if I have a son who is 19... well, first of all: how freaky would it be for me to have a kid, right? But that poor kid only has 49 years left to live and is for sure going to kick the bucket on February 20--and have a kid who is 20.

I may have some of those numbers wrong, by the way. I was home at some point during my college years and found an obituary for Grandpa Riggs. I got that info from there, and I used it to figure out my "wouldn't it be cool if..." death date. It's been twenty-some-odd years, and I have no idea where that obituary is now. So maybe my kid will be 17, because maybe Dad was 19...

The only thing I remember clearly is the date. I hope I make it. I would love to be breathing a sigh of relief just after midnight on February 19, 2034.

But, you know, whatever. Just wanted to make an official note of it, just in case.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Marilyn and Me

Marilyn getting her face painted at Applefest, 2007 (September 29, 2007)
I don't know that I think of God as Rube Goldberg, but I sure am more likely to think of her as Rube Golberg than Death as Rube Goldberg (I won't go into the full rant about the "Final Destination" movies... consider yourselves lucky).

My friend Marilyn died this past December, early in the morning on the 7th. There's a beautiful story about her dying moments that caps off what could easily be called a graceful dying couple of years. I won't share it here. I don't know the full details. That's not what I'm writing about, anyway.

Marilyn had four kinds of cancer, and lived much longer than she was told she probably would. She also crammed a lot of living in that time, as well.

I may have met Marilyn at some point prior to going to church at First United Methodist in North Kansas City, but if so, I don't remember it. My first memory of note where she is concerned was at a W.O.W. night, when she told me she thought I should go to Cursillo. I had no idea what that was, and had no idea what would happen at such an event, but she seemed to feel strongly that it was for me.

I got the paperwork in, went to the weekend, and it seriously changed my life.

If you were wondering where Rube Goldberg comes in, we're there:

In a way, I think of Marilyn like some necessary piece in the Rube Goldberg machine that got me to where I am today in my faith. I can identify a lot of the pieces: my near-death experience (for lack of a better "term" for it), Jhoneric's upset at wishing me dead that very same day, Andy coming to see me at the hospital, Bert passing on to Andy news of my mother's passing, subsequent talks with Andy, and about a fifteen other things that came before and after and between those events.

Marilyn was in there, big time. She told me after that weekend how she knew it would mean something to me to go.

So whether she was the fan that blew the sailboat across the kiddie pool to knock over the glass with the golf ball in it, or she was the sailboat, the pool, the glass, the golf ball, or the pulley that activated the fan, she was an important piece in my journey. (Not to imply that I'm there yet, mind you.)

One of the last times I saw Marilyn was at my second Cursillo weekend. I was working that weekend, and she got herself assigned as my "buddy". If anyone were to ask, I wish I could say in person what it means to me that she prayed with me and for me that weekend this summer. If anyone where to ask, I wish I could say in person what it means to me that she was very adamant that she would be my buddy, or what it means to me that we had time that weekend to just sit and talk, and I got to know her better. If anyone were to ask, I wish I could say what it means to me that she enjoyed the recording of Sarah McLachlan singing Prayer of St. Francis that I brought for that weekend.

But I don't like getting upset in front of humans. I don't know if I could do it in front of Ben & Tricia's current dog, even. Their dog Killian was the best at hanging out and being all cool-dog when random upset hit me in front of him. I think Guinness would just jump in my face and try to lick my tears or something.

The point is, I don't do emotions well with humans present.

So now, in my continuing faith journey, I have to ask myself how often I'm a piece in a Rube Goldberg machine. I have to go further and ask myself how many times am I supposed to be, but fail to do my little part.

Marilyn seemed to be so good at having a caring heart with eyes of love that really looked at those around her and saw what she needed to be doing. Perfect? Probably not. But better at love than I am? For sure.

So, if you're reading this, Marilyn, thank you. Thank you for playing your part. Thank you for making me think about mine. Thank you for being you.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Things I've Learned from Binx

Binx is spending the night here. As we were going through his "Bedtime at Mark's" rituals (which used to only involve me singing every song I could think of, then several versions of "Mary had a Little..." where Binx picked the animal and then edited the color of fleece/hair/fur/skin/outer-covering as I sang, but has now evolved into stories, conversations, and singing), he shared all sorts of knowledge with me, which I share here with you:

My sister's name is really Mary Nana Riggs.

Wade is missing two toes, and we should find them and tape them on for him.

The sound of my heater kicking on is actually a snake.

Jordan's favorite color is the same as mine.

Binx's favorite color is orange.

Binx is firmly of the opinion that a couch or love seat in a home means someone sleeps on that piece of furniture..

Binx's stuffed animal frog is his nephew.

That's all I can remember now. I'm sure there were other things. And for the curious, tonight's version of "Mary had a Little..." was "Mary had a Little Dog." It's fur was brown as dirty snow.

It's Been Another Long Day

Yesterday was a long day. Except for a couple of stops to pick up people or items... or to change clothes, I didn't really get home until about 9:00, and even that stop was fleeting.

And then I was up until 1:30, which is this other story that I'm not going to get into here, but suffice it to say I need to get to bed much earlier than I have been.

And then tonight...

Conferences had me at school until 8:00. I had to run to the store, so there was another thirty minutes or so. Really, I got home about the same time I got home last night. It's just tonight I didn't have call to go out again, and then stay up much later than I should.

However, I'm up much later than I should.

So it's another long day. I'm having all kinds of ridiculous thoughts go through my head. I need to return Adam's call, but I don't know if it's too late to do that now or not.

I am wondering what happened to the guy I thought I was going to be, and I wonder if he's staying up too late in his version of reality. Probably not. He's got his act together.

I'm also thinking about everything I need to do tomorrow for my part of the in-service. Mostly I wondering what my part is supposed to be, even though I'm sure someone has told me, and told me repeatedly.

I'm also trying to figure out my plans for the weekend.

And, of course, I'm thinking about how much I like not having plans for the weekend, so I can just do nothing... which leads to my wasting a weekend and finding myself wishing I'd made plans.

You can please some of the people some of the time or whatever, but don't plan on getting on my good side. There's no pleasing me, apparently.

Anyway, a bunch of random ridiculous thoughts. I'm also wondering what it will be like to fly in a plane for the first time in over a decade--heck, for the first time in almost eighteen years, I guess. Maybe just seventeen. Heck, I wonder if I'm on that there no-fly list thing. That would suck. I ain't tryin' to walk to Arizona!

I wish I could lay my inability to sleep on the thoughts running around in my head, but I don't know these can actually be called thoughts!

Well, that's that. May your lies be halfway around the world before your truths get their shoes on.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What a World... What a World...

I should start off by making clear that things are pretty decent right now. Nothing too major bothering me. I mean, there's plenty I can complain about, because I just have great skills in that department, but nothing major is going on.

I wanted to share some quotes about what an awful place the world was, but there were too many good ones to choose from. Seriously, Google "quotes about life being hard" and be amazed. Pick the best one and pretend I used it here.

I'm not down on the world for any particular reason. I was just thinking today about how Dad died twenty-six years ago on this date, and my thoughts brought me around to my whole nearly-dying thing back in 2005, and as I thought about it, I had a bit of a revelation--or a repeated one, if I somehow realized this before.

In that moment when I accepted I was going to die, and there was nothing I could do about it but just observe and learn, part of me was really happy about it.

Don't start looking into putting me on a suicide watch or anything. I'm not saying I want to off myself. I'm saying part of me was just so relieved and... well, really happy at the thought of being done with this world.

I don't know that I've ever realized that before--or maybe I did, but had blocked it out.

I'm not shocked or upset by it--or not much, anyway. And I'm glad I'm here, and hope to be here for quite some time.

It's not that I was all like, "Hooray! I get to meet my heavenly father" and whatnot, as I wasn't much of a church person at that time.

I was just glad to be getting out of this mess of a place. Sure, "devil you know" and all that, but once I accepted I didn't have a choice, I took my silver lining where I could find it!

Mom always said, "This world and one more." It was something to be said when life was difficult or times were not the best. I think of that a lot. I don't know what sort of feeling I attach to it, however. Mostly I just remember Mom and wonder what she thought of it all at the end of her life.

Nobody's answering that one for me, of course. It's just what I wonder.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

And My Post-Timequake Apathy Returns...

So there's this.

That just makes a person proud to be in education. It in no way makes me want to just stop making any decisions at all and give up--well, it does, but only in every possible way.

This recent bout of P.T.A. makes me want to re-read Timequake. It helped me realize I was sick, but now I'm better, and there's work to be done.

It's easy to forget when every day you struggle with large numbers of students behind on the most basic of basic educational must-haves, and worse yet no desire or their part to want to actually do anything about it.

Seriously, I cannot spend twelve more years like this if I give up my P.T.A. for good!

So I need to either find my copy, if I still have it (stupid fire), or buy another copy and re-read it. It's probably my favorite Vonnegut book, and I miss it. It makes me laugh.

If you're wanting to get me a late birthday gift, or late Valentine's Day gift to apologize for not loving me enough, or an early Pi Day gift, get me a copy of Timequake, okay?

And now, in an effort to make my P.T.A. go away, here's this.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The World Belongs...

So here's a funny Terry Pratchett quote:

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who, when presented with a glass that is exactly half full, say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!"
--from The Truth

I share it because it's been on my mind lately. Not in any deep way or anything. It just makes me laugh, because it's just so true--or at least is true in my mind.

Valentine's Day is here (and almost over). It's no big. It makes teaching fun, because what we lack in the school day is too much manufactured drama, and this day fills that void.

I'd think this day would be useful only if it got you off the hook for the other 364 days where you didn't tell your sweetie how sweet and great and wonderful they are. I mean, beyond giving a reason to raise expectations, what's the point, really?

I should think if you're in love, every day is a big deal, and you don't need this day to be all like, "P.S., I love you."

Anyway, the world doesn't belong to me. I'm not sure what my glass is, but it's not the one described in that quote.

So I have nothing to report except I love a lot of people, a lot of people love me, and I'm better off than I have any right to be.

That, I can love.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My One Proud Moment from the World of Sports

First, a disclaimer: I have this nagging suspicion I've shared this story on here before. If I have, it's not my fault. I wasn't myself when I wrote it, and thus I don't remember it, so technically I'm not at fault.

My one proud moment from the world of sports is all about a baseball game against Palmyra back when still young enough for other kids my age to want to play baseball (around 7th grade or so, kids lost interest, and I started having to play on the older kids' team, which mean a lot of time in right field and much disappointment at bat).

Palmyra was the team we hated to play, and hated to lose to--which were one and the same, really. If we played them, we lost.

They had these awful kids on their team that--if I remember correctly--were twins. They'd say awful things to you if you were near enough to hear them, but far enough away from any umpire they wouldn't be heard by the wrong person. I'd love to give you an example, but I have none. I just remember they were terrible.

It would make for a much more pleasing narrative if I could say this particular incident involved one of those twins directly, but I can't remember if it does or not (I can't even remember if we're talking about twins or not).

We were in Center, playing Palmyra, losing badly. Nothing new about any of this, really.

It was the late 70s, so that should help you imagine what the people in the stands were wearing.

I was pitching. Brad Gibbons was catching. Matt Harris was out in right field. Six other people were spread all over the place. I have no idea who they were. I'd assume John Richard (or however it's spelled--I remember learning how to spell his last name and not mix it up with the last name of our classmate Marilyn (Riechards, I think), but I haven't needed that knowledge for over twenty-five years now) was on the team, and if I had to guess, maybe John Taylor, maybe Joe Wisner, maybe Chad Laird... or maybe not. They weren't directly involved in my proud moment.

For all to be right in the narrative world, the bases would have been loaded. I have no idea if they were. I'm pretty sure at least one base had a runner on it, but that's as good as I can do.

Again, it's not important.

Also not important is how much I hated pitching. I still cringe at the thought of being that responsible for what's happening with a team at a sporting event. I absolutely hated pitching. I wanted to catch, or play second base, or center field... but not pitch.

One of the pitches I threw to this particular batter (who may or may not have been one of the guys who may or may not have been twins) was just right for him to hit it flying out to right field.

We were all ticked off. It's just how you were when you played Palmyra.

Matt got the ball and threw it as hard as he could to me.

It didn't matter that we were going to lose no matter what. It didn't matter that over thirty-some-odd years later the details would be very hazy in my head.

What did matter was, by God, this kid was not going to make a home run, but he obviously was. And that was infuriating.

I caught that ball, and turned and threw it as hard as I could (actually, probably harder, inasmuch as that's possible) to the backstop--not even to Brad, really. I wasn't aiming. I was just ticked off and wanted to throw the ball as hard as I could.

My aim was terrible. It went right to Brad. Brad caught it and tagged the guy out.

No lie.

It was the greatest feeling in the world! We got the guy out! Matt to me to Brad and he's out! I was on top of the world for several minutes, until Brad took off his glove and his fingers were bleeding around his fingernails because of how hard I threw the ball to him.

For the record: he didn't care. He was just as excited as I was that we got that kid out.

So we lost the game, but we got that kid out. And I made Brad's fingers bleed. What a day!

16 More Things to Hate About Me

I kid. I was pondering upon what to write (maybe I could write about why I feel pressure to write daily... hmmm...) tonight, and the topic I almost went with is a little morbid and I can see how I might come off as creepy in it (or more creepy than usual, anyway), so we'll hold off on that one for a few days more... or for all eternity.

Anyway, in the tradition of using this space for those annoying e-mail questionnaires and other "do this and forward it" e-mail things, I thought I'd do the "Sixteen things about me" one. Jimmy just posted his on his blog, and I figure why not steal the idea, since the 16 things aren't likely to match, anyway.

Write 16 random things about yourself that people probably don't know.

(Side note: this is a tough task, as I'm always sharing stuff people don't want to know about me with anyone who will listen. But I'll try to go with things that most people probably don't know.)

1. My sister suggested I be named Aaron Travis Riggs. Mom didn't like the name Aaron, however.

2. I flipped my car less than a month after I got my driver's license. I'm still missing several minutes of time where I climbed out of the wreckage, stood at the side of the road until I was found by a couple of guys driving along that particular blacktop, was taken to a nearby home and cleaned myself up some. I "came to" while talking to the people in their kitchen. Tell me that's not freaky. You're talking to someone, and in mid-conversation they "wake up" and say, "Where am I? How did I get here?"

3. When in a show, I can memorize lines very quickly, but I tend to put it off as long as possible.

4. I broke my leg roller-skating in the 7th grade, and my left leg is shorter than my right because of it.

5. I got an F in Chapel Choir at Jewell because Dr. Brown refused to sign my drop slip.

6. One of my favorite teachers in high school was a social studies teacher, but social studies was my least favorite subject.

7. I have never seen the movie Animal House.

8. I have an uncontrollable fear of large dogs with deep-sounding barks.

9. I hit a small pole with the car I flipped (mentioned earlier) about two weeks before I flipped the car, and managed to hide the dent from Mom and Dad until I could figure out how to tell them about it. Luckily the whole "flip the car" idea came to me...

10. When I was in junior high, I wanted to be a Muppeteer.

11. I sang a four-word solo at the Christmas Concert my senior year in high school.

12. Freshman year of high school, Lori Barney said to me, "With a face like that, you could never be serious." I took it to heart.

13. I have no feeling on the end of my tongue.

14. My first three years of college, I was a triple-major.

15. I would like to live abroad for at least a year, but probably won't get around to it.

16. At a basketball game in Monroe City (I think it was Monroe City, anyway), Karen Hawkinson gave me a Hardee's lid and told me I had to keep it as souvenir. I kept it for about twenty years before it finally got thrown away. Don't tell Karen I don't have it any more, please.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Stuff I Forgot to Do, Episode 549

This is going to sound more morose or just plain sad than I mean it to. I just wanted to prepare you and also lay the groundwork for my explaining that it isn't really all that bad. I hope you're ready.

I meant to have a lot of kids. Well, I meant to have at least two kids.

Really, I'm not joking. I wanted kids. I remember reading an issue of Popular Science when I was a kid, and they used to have (maybe still do... do they still make Popular Science?) this section where they shared a blueprint for a home. I remember finding this blueprint for home in one issue back in the late 70s or early 80s that I thought was way cool. I imagined living there with my family, which would include two kids named (don't judge) Linus and Lucy. I mean, because how cool would it be to name your kids after Peanuts characters, right?

Shut up. I was young.

Anyway, I meant to have kids. There were obviously a whole lot of issues with my knowing myself.

Maybe not the most important contributing factor, but a major one is this: I can't stand humans much. I mean, I love them and all, but... enough to get in a romantic relationship with one? Nuh-uh. No thanks. I have a hard enough time with my non-romantic relationships. I can't imagine how badly I'd screw up a romantic one. And at forty-four, I'm not all that interested in finding out.

So for those of you with kids, who are frustrated or irritated or just wishing you'd never had them (even if you're only in the middle of a few minutes of wishing it): I think it's better to have them and occasionally wish you didn't than to have wanted them and never got them.

Of course I just jinxed myself. I'm somehow going to end up with ten kids now, and be raising them until I'm well into my 70s.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Maybe I Peaked at Elwood P. Dowd

Don't get me wrong, things are going well enough, and I'm lighter than I've been in well over a decade. I'm not meaning to complain at all.

But there are times when I wonder if I peaked my junior year in high school when I played Elwood P. Dowd in "Harvey."

Okay, I don't really wonder that... but I do wonder if I had a better experience with that show than I should have.

It would be unfair to blame my love of acting and performing on that production. Really it's all my older brother's fault. I blame him for my love of writing as well. He could probably get the blame for my love of reading, now that I think about it.

When I was in 6th grade, Todd (and the rest of his drama class) brought a production to our elementary school. I believe there were several skits, but the one I remember best was Cinderfella, penned at least in part by Todd. All the genders were reversed, and the wicked stepbrothers were those two "wild and crazy guys", Georg and Yortuk. I forget which one of the two brothers Todd was, but I knew that moment I wanted to make people laugh as much as he and the other guy (I have no idea now who it was, now that I think of it) made us laugh.

Which naturally led to my teaching 7th grade math.

I don't want you to get the wrong idea, however. I don't feel like I "missed my chance" or "missed my calling" or anything. In fact, I'm not sure I have a calling. I mean, I teach mostly because there's nothing good on t.v. during the day.

I kid. But I don't know that I have a calling. Or, if I do, they're calling the phone that's part of my cable package, and has no phone attached to it... and I'm not watching t.v. at the time, so I don't see it come up on caller I.D. (not that I could answer it if it did, but at least I'd know I had a calling--just not what it was).

I just wonder what that was all about. I can remember even now, about 32 years later, exactly what I felt like at that big moment. How I saw my purpose, my life's goal... I remember it so flippin' clearly.

Whatever. I was just telling someone last night I really do like teaching. It's dealing with all the b.s. that isn't teaching that wears me down. I figure I make it 12 more years and I've got my 80 and out (assuming 80 and out is still 80 and out at that time) and then I'll retire and maybe do something else for a while.

Or maybe something good will be on t.v. during the day by that time.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Line from a Dream

I woke up at 3:55 this morning with a sentence burning in my mind and just on the tip of my tongue, ready to come flying out of my mouth.

"The only s**t you don't care about that I'm going to waste my time on any more is me."

I don't know what I was dreaming about, or who I was about to say those words to, but my first thought was I had to write that sentence down. So it's on my fridge right now. I got out of bed, went to the kitchen, and wrote it on the dry erase board.

I thought it might be misinterpreted as my message to the world, so I put quotation marks around it to sort of imply that it's not something I'm saying myself, but more of a quote.

It's just I'm quoting my dream self, you see.

Anyway, I like the line. It's sorta country-music-y, and sorta angry, and way self-deprecating. I just like it. I think I might get it on a t-shirt.

I just have no idea who I could say it to. Maybe I should make a list. It'll either be very short or very long. I haven't worked out which.

I've thought about it off and on all day (I couldn't get back to sleep after that, so I never did get to see who I was talking to, or say it to that person), and have not been able to recall anything from any dream last night.

I guess I hope it was a fun dream up until that point. Seems unlikely, but I can hope, right?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

A Whole Lot of Nothing

I've been sitting at this computer for about thirty minutes now trying to figure out what I wanted to write about.

I thought about writing about when I lived in L.A. and tried to get on Wheel of Fortune. But some part of my brain nixed that (and was also concerned I'd already written about it on here at some point).

I thought about writing about how what we say and do means something, even when we don't mean to mean something, so saying, "I don't mean anything by it," is sort of ridiculous.

I thought about writing about the day my car died on the way in to work when I lived in L.A., and how a homeless guy helped me get it fixed enough to get in to work, and then on the way home another homeless guy helped me get it fixed enough to get home. Maybe some day. It's just not calling to me tonight.

I've got school stuff on my mind. The one I teach at, the degree I want to get next, and how much longer I think I can keep teaching... and how much longer I think I want to keep teaching. And what I'd do if I didn't keep teaching.

And then once I start thinking about teaching, I think about what I can do differently in this class or that class to get this kid or that kid to "get" what I'm saying. You never know what's going to work. Today "shortest giant" clicked as a reference to Least Common Multiple for a student, even though I first said it in that class several weeks ago. She was amazed at how it was so clear to her now. "Shortest giant" is Least Common Multiple, and "tallest dwarf" is Greatest Common Factor.

Not genius teaching, mind you. That was just explaining to them how to avoid getting all confused which is which.

Anyway, that's how I ended up writing this whole lot of nothing. I couldn't figure out what to write. So what to do, other than write about how I don't know what to write.


Monday, February 07, 2011

New Thoughts on an Old Photo, #1

So this is me, at a very young age. I may have seen this photo at some other time in my past, but as far as my brain is concerned, I saw it for the first time about a month or two ago.

I'm wearing Say's glasses. I'm pretty sure I'm wearing her shirt, too. It's a Center Lion's Club shirt. It's okay if you don't know what that is. It helps if you know I grew up in the town of Center, Missouri.

That's our driveway behind me. It was dirt/gravel my entire life up until the new house was built. The part that freaked me out was seeing the street in front of our house used to be gravel. I have a picture of me on that same street showing off my mad pogo-stick skills, and it's asphalt at that time. Somewhere in there: progress.

There's a house missing behind my head. I remember when it was built a few years after this photo was taken. I remember the house you can see behind my head. A friend lived there. I can't remember a name... actually, I think two friends lived there (not at the same time). I can't remember either of their names. I remember stories involving them. Events and whatnot. One involves and Easy-Bake Oven.

Back to the photo, the only memories I have from this time exist in the form of my love for my older sister. Ignoring the glasses, I look in this photo how I've felt about her my entire life.

I need to ask Say when this picture was taken. I'd love to get a picture of me from around the time Uncle Hugh died. One of my earliest memories is going to see him on what was essentially his deathbed... and I can still remember holding my arm up high to hold the hand of the person standing next to me.

Okay, well, that ends this episode of New Thoughts on an Old Photo. Maybe they'll be another one sometime. Maybe not. It's not like you can expect me to be consistent on this non-blog!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

When Simple Number Sense Escapes Grown-Ups

I've been bothered for years when people mix up "Annual" and "Anniversary", meaning "25th Annual" compared to "25th Anniversary". I'm sure I posted about this on here before. If I haven't, I'm amazed.

But then I was watching this episode of Stargate Atlantis this weekend, where they people in this society the main characters encounter commit suicide the night before they turn 25.

Whatever, that's all well and good and morally questionable and whatnot, but what really got to me was the way they kept talking about it. They kept saying, "On the eve of the start of our twenty-fifth year..."

Um... no. That would be on the eve of the start of your twenty-sixth year, dude. You're in your twenty-fifth year right now.

Let me walk you through it: You turn one after you've been on this planet for how many years? Right: one. So during your first year on this planet, you're how many years old? Correct: less than one year old, or 0 years old.

Then you turn two after you've been on this planet how many years? Correct again: two. So your second year, while you are 1 year old, you're living through your second year.

Now, I hope I'm not jumping too far ahead for you, fictional character on a show that hasn't been on the air for several years, but if you walk through that year by year (if you insist), you'd eventually see that you turn twenty-five after you've been alive for twenty-five years. On your twenty-fifth birthday, you're staring your twenty-sixth year. Get it?

I guess if I really cared, I could see who wrote the episode and have them read this post. More as a punishment than anything else.

In related news, I realized this year I finally have a great example of the whole "anniversary" versus "annual" thing: Superbowl and my age.

The Superbowl is an annual event. My age is a count of the anniversaries of my birth (on the first anniversary of my birth, I turn 1, and so on). The first Superbowl was two weeks before I was born. I'm 44 this year. This year we had Superbowl 45 (I'm avoiding the Roman numerals just to avoid confusion... I know I'm required by law or something to use them here, but get bent). But we arrived on the scene at (roughly) the same time. Anniversary events are always one year behind annual events--at least as far as the numbering goes.

Now, walk away feeling more smarter and stuff, or walk away feeling more confused and stuff. The point is, just walk away.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Have I Ever Walked You Through My Family on Here?

I had friends over in December, and some questions people had about who's who (and questions that led me to believe they weren't sure how to take my brother's comments on Facebook) made me think I should probably make a sort of cast of characters or something.

I'm not feeling well, I don't want to think to hard, but I want to write something, so this will do for now.

First, the sibs, oldest to youngest:

Eddie lives back home. He's 18 years my senior (or somewhere in that neighborhood--see Dane if you want the actual number of days). Most of his Facebook posts are about cooking, and most of the time what he's cooking sounds pretty tasty. It's still not enough to make me want to move back home, however. The commute to work would be hellish.

Lynne (Rusty, Say) lives in Platte City. She's 16 years my senior and like a second mother to me, as she looked after me a lot while Mom was in the hospital having Dane, and I think just generally for a long time there she looked after me. She has three daughters, and two grandchildren. More on them later.

Todd lives in Jefferson city with his wife Anne. He's a doctor. He's six years my senior. Yes, there was a gap of 10 years between Lynne and Todd. They have two kids, one of each gender. More on them later.

Wade lives in California. He's three years my senior and tends to put humorous comments on things I put on Facebook--although sometimes they seem more... um... mean than they really are. I actually enjoy them. So nobody discourage him.

Dane lives in Leawood. He's eighteen months my junior, and has a great mind for calculations, dates, and The Price is Right.

Ruth lives in Leawood as well (she and Dane live in a house together). She is three years my junior and has a blog where she doesn't ramble as much as I do. You should be over there reading it instead of this one, really, but since you're here, finish this post first.

Sara lives in Kansas City (north of the river, like me) with her partner, Kathy. They have two daughters and three grandchildren. I paused there to figure out semantics, so if Sara wants the semantics to read differently, she can let us all know with comments. Sara is five years my junior. She's the baby.

I have six nieces, one nephew, three great-nieces, and two great-nephews.

Leslie is my oldest niece and Say's oldest daughter. She is four years my junior, and has one daughter. She lives in Platte City.

Peggy is my next-oldest niece, and Say's middle daughter. She is... um... six years my junior, I think. Somebody call me out on that if I'm wrong. I'm not Dane. I can't remember half the stuff he thought of just today. She lives in Platte City.

Carrie is the next niece in line, and she's Say's youngest daughter. She has one son. She is... well, I want to say seven years my junior, but at this point I have no clue. She lives in Omaha.

Elizabeth is the next niece. She is married to Kevin. She's my niece via Sara. She has one daughter and one son.

Melanie is Elizabeth's younger sister. She has a daughter.

Jordan is my first great-niece. She is Leslie's daughter. She's older than her first-cousins-once-removed mentioned below (Adam and Alison).

Adam is the only nephew I have. He plays the guitar, but not on the MTV just yet. He's Todd's son.

Alison is my youngest niece. She is Todd's daughter. She likes to read mystery books. I know this because I had no clue what sort of book to buy her at Christmas, so I got her a gift card. She informed me she liked mystery books.

Hannah is my next great-niece. She is Elizabeth's daughter. I can never remember if she's slightly older than Binx, or slightly younger than him. I went with slightly older, but--as always--I could be very wrong.

Zach is my first great-nephew. He is Carrie's son. I call him Binx or Binxy most of the time, but that's now something he only allows family members to call him. I try to call him Zach on occasion, just so he knows I know his actual name.

Eli is my other great-nephew. He is Elizabeth's son. He doesn't like the orange light on my camera.

Debbie is my youngest great-niece. She loves the orange light on my camera. She is Melanie's daughter.

Other kids who are not blood-relations, oldest to youngest (as best as I can place them):

Cody is a kid I had in class back when he was in 7th grade. I have tutored him in every math class he's had since then, and a few non-math classes as well. He lives down the road a spell from me. Now I tutor him in getting scholarships.

Jake is the son of Patrick and Leigh. I used to refer to him and his sister as "the kids" for short, when I had "the boys", "the girls", and "the kids" I would talk about on occasion. The name still works, but it covers three people instead of two.

Max is the son of Lyndsey and Damien. Max is half of "the boys". Lyndsey is my sister from another mister. I met her my first year teaching at Eastgate. We were first year teachers together, although I was like nine years older than her (I took a bit longer getting a teaching job, you see).

Maddie is the daughter of Ben and Tricia. I've known Tricia since before kindergarten. I have dinner with her and her family weekly, pretty much. She and her sister make up "the girls".

Olivia is Maddie's sister. They are 10.5 months apart.

Tessa is Jake's younger sister. I'm not sure if she's older than Olivia or younger, but I'm pretty sure they're in the same grade.

Victor is the other half of "the boys". He's the son of Lyndsey and Damien. He's funny and brainy.

Wil is the baby brother of Jake and Tessa. I don't know a lot about him other than he's a baby and not talking much. Oh, and he has brown hair without much of a red hue (or any) which both of his older siblings lucked out and got some of.

Other kids I may mention are Max and Sofia (Jason's kids), but I'm totally at a loss as to where they fit in age-wise. Somewhere around Binx and Hannah... Sofia's the older sister to Max.

I hope this helps. I still need to do a "Cousin" edition so you have a clue about some other names I might toss about on here sometimes. Hope you enjoyed!

Friday, February 04, 2011

Hooray for Being Sick...

Not really. My head is of the stuffedupedness. My nose is running away with itself. My left ear feels like it's just chock full of post-swimming goodness.

I'm not feeling too awful, really, except now that I'm thinking about going to sleep, I realize that part of this isn't going to be so easy. It's easy to be distracted when you aren't trying to fall asleep!

Anyway, wish me health, send me over-the-counter-meds, or something. I will get to sleep soon, and I'll get well soon, too! I demand it!

In other news, I'm finding it upsetting just how much I enjoy eating dried plums... also known as prunes. They are of the delicious, and I am shocked how much I enjoy them. If you had told me six months ago I'd be all into the prunes, I'd... come up with some statement of just how much I did not believe you, which would be a lot.

Yeah, that's all I got: sick and prunes. What other blog has got that going on tonight? I'll tell you: none. Because all the good stuff happens here, dag nab it!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Two Very Recent Deaths

Two very recent deaths have hit me hard.

One just up and died in the middle of the street on the way home. The other was walking over to enjoy a final view of the ocean at his loved one's grave.

They were my Sims, and I cannot get over their loss.

Well, actually, I got over them very quickly... but less quickly than I thought I would. It was a few minutes, at least. The one that died in the street came as a total shock. I thought I had days left in "game time", but apparently not. Apparently there was a little moodlet or whatever to tell me death was on the way, but I totally missed it.

But Rick got to prepare. Moved to a lighthouse, had the grave set up by a bench so he could sit and watch the ocean next to the love of his life... which was how he was going to die, but then I remembered if he went and did that study at the whatever instituted, he'd get like $2000, and it'd be nice to go with cash, right?

So as he was coming back from the study, I realized he hadn't even gone up to the top of the lighthouse... so of course I had to have him check out the view. He could see the grave form there. It was nice.

By the time he got back to the ground floor, it was already too late, but Rick and I both had no way of knowing (well, maybe Rick knew, but he wasn't talking... and even if he did, it would ball all like "Sah gah dah" and so forth). As he was running to the grave, almost to the bench, Death appeared. End of story.

In lieu of cards and flowers and whatnot, I request that donations be made to the "Send Mark Money to Distract Him From His SIM Grief" Fund. Make checks payable to Mark Riggs.

Thank you.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

I Like Winter (or: Why I am Getting Lynched Tomorrow)

I like winter. There, I've said it. I'll be waiting for the lynch mob now.

But for real, I like winter. I love it when it snows. There is such a beautiful silence about it. I could watch it snow for hours, if it weren't for the invention of television. And the internet. And reading. And sleep.

I guess sleep was a discovery. "Wow, I'm feeling really tired. I wonder how I fix--zzzzzzz."

Anyway, I like winter.

I hate to drive on snow and ice. I don't like being too cold. I don't like making up snow days at the end of the year.

But I like winter. The major thing I did not like (maybe the only thing I did not like) about living in L.A. was the lack of winter. It made Christmas seem just wrong, and it felt like Summer, Fall, More Fall moving to Early Spring, Spring.

It's just strange.

And have I mentioned I love to watch snow fall?

Now, I don't have to leave my home most of the time--especially if there is a snow day. Maybe that's why I can still love it so much.

I love winter in winter, spring in spring, summer in summer, and fall in fall. I also tend to have complaints about them each during their own time, as well... but I don't dislike any of them, really.

All this to say, I appreciate how people dislike winter. I really do. It's just I don't feel that way. So I apologize for not chiming in with you.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

How Can I Say This Without It Sounding Like It's Coming From A Dark, Dark Place?

There are days when I wish I could just move far, far away from all human beings and never have any contact with them ever again.

Yeah, there's no way to lighten that up, really. I mean, you can lighten it up, but it no longer conveys the general frustration and perplexedificationness I often feel when dealing with human beings.

For years this was a fantasy of mine. They actually stole the mental image from me to use at the end of the movie Minority Report. Cabin, mountain, snow, nobody around. You get the idea. (As I've told a couple of people over the past few days, someone also stole those insect things from The Dark Crystal from a fever dream I had as a kid. Note to self: write blog entry about how Hollywood is stealing things from my mind, and has been for years!)

Now I've matured just enough to have to admit to myself I'd miss an awful lot of people. I really would. But for moments like this one, where I just hate having to pick through the pieces of evidence to try to figure out just what exactly is going through someone's head and how I can... I don't know, make it better... or at least not make it worse... or at least just duck and cover.

People, generally speaking, are awful. A person, sitting and speaking with you, hanging out, being cool and whatnot... well that's great. Like I said a few days ago--Hell is other people, and so is Heaven.

But there are days when you just get tired of trying to figure people out. I mean, there are for me, anyway. Really there have been whole months like that for me... but as I've gotten older, it has been whittled down to days.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are gazillions of people... or at least twenty... who are tired of trying to figure me out as well. I'm not saying I'm Mr. Open Book and all. I try to write this blog as a sort of instruction manual, but I keep getting distracted.

I kid.

Anyway, that's where I am right now. In just a bit over 24 hours, I've gone from feeling great about how I'm not able to figure people out to feeling downright crappy about it.

I blame the blizzard. And my brain.

But more the blizzard.