The Rundown

I must apologize for my neglect of my blogging duties last week.  The internet at the house has been out for about two weeks so any internet usage means that I need to hang out at work.  So, this blog post is going to be a very simple, no-frills, rundown of what has been going on over the past couple of weeks in the order that they happened, and not the order of importance.

1.  Embracing the History of Fried Chicken Joints:  We’ve been going to church in Corbin, which also happens to be the location of the original KFC.  The building that is there is not the original KFC, but it’s apparently on the same spot.  It is the same as a regular KFC, just with museum exhibits sprinkled throughout.  Apparently it is a favorite haunt of Japanese tourists.  Who knew?  Check that off of my list.

2.  A Winter Hike:  I don’t think I’ve ever gone hiking in the winter.  Hiking in the winter in Michigan would generally mean trudging through snow and slipping on ice, which is, of course, not fun.  I went hiking with Kate and her fiance Josh who has come to KY to visit Kate/be a short term CAP volunteer.  It was a pretty nice hike.  It was a little muddy and required us to ford a stream a few times but it was very pretty to see the icicles hanging off the rocks.  Fresh air and outdoors-y-ness = happy Elizabeth.

3.  Work week:  I had a great work week.  The kids at SPARK made some fantastical inventions in honor of Benjamin Franklin’s birthday.  I played Just Dance for the first time ever.  I was a little hesitant since I um, never dance, but I survived!  And the kids really like it.

4.  Good-byes and Upcoming Hellos:  Our lovely housemate Olga left CAP this weekend and went back home to Chicago.  She’s missed by all of us but I’m sure that there are a lot of good things in store for her back home.  We will be getting a new volunteer to take over her job at the preschool this weekend.

5.   A Poorly Planned Lexington Trip:  We all decided that it might be nice to do something in Lexington after dropping off Olga at the airport.  However, we didn’t really have any specific plans.  We looked at a “Best of Lexington” brochure at the airport.  Most of the things that we were interested in doing were outside things that would have to wait until the spring.  In short, we ended up visiting a chocolate shop, a used bookstore, and a cupcake shop that were all not really what they were expected to be.  It was a nice, but kind of quirky trip.

6.  Work week #2:  I didn’t have the best work week.  There was something a little bit discouraging that happened pretty much everyday of the week.  But, that happens.  The week ended on a nice note, though, with a Mexican/Scottish themed celebration of Janet’s birthday.  Ahh, chocolate brownies and ice cream.  How do I love you?  Let me count the ways.

7.  Today:  I got up.  I brushed my hair.  I put on my clothes.  I ate a breakfast of frosted shredded wheat while watching the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.  I put my computer into my bag.  I put on my coat.  I walked over to the community center.  I am currently typing this post.

What’s that?  I’m getting boring?

Well peoples, I told you that this was going to be a no-frills post.  I can only do so much.

A Rainy Wednesday

I lean back against the cement block wall and stare out the window, watching for that blur of yellow and black known in familiar terms as the school bus.  It is a gray day.  The gray skies outside are circled by gray trees and the clouds hang heavily, watching, waiting, for the right moment.  A light drizzle turns to raindrops, falling slowly to the ground.  The parking lot pavement develops spots as the clouds drip.

The rain grows heavier and runs faster, sprinting, diving, splashing to the ground.  The parking lot spots melt together until the pavement is awash.  The clouds are unloading.  They have carried their burdens for too long.

I feel a longing to step outside, fling open my arms, tilt back my head, and let the rain slide down my upturned face.

That, my friends, is living.

But I have duties to perform.  Duties that do not call for wet clothes and dripping hair.

That, my friends, is life.

And life…

is good.

The Great Pencil Crisis of 2012

I have decided that all children should be equipped with mechanical pencils.

This past week was my first week of being back in the schools after the Christmas break and last week’s snow days.  Monday was a fantastic day.  My lesson went really well, I had some great discussion with the kids, and SPARK was jolly good fun.  Then Tuesday came.  And the Great Pencil Crisis struck.

Anyone who has ever taught a group of kids knows the importance of classroom management.  Without it, everything crumbles.  And today I learned this lesson yet again.

It was time for my anti-bullying lesson.  The classroom teacher stepped out of the room to go and make some copies.  The kids were kind of chatty, but that happens sometimes.  I started my lesson.  Then came time for the kids to do some writing on their own.  A hand goes up.

“My pencil is broken.  Can you sharpen it?”

“Can you sharpen it yourself?”

“No.  We’re not allowed because we broke her other pencil sharpener.”

So I take the pencil and she follows behind.  Another kid joins the ranks as I make my way up to the electric pencil sharpener.  As I sharpen the pencil, I discover that there is one of two problems here:  Either A:  This pencil sharpener sucks.  or B:  I do not know the secret of using this pencil sharpener.  (Or both.)    Nevertheless, I managed to sharpen the pencil to what I thought was a reasonable state.  I send kid #1 on her way and start sharpening pencil #2.

Kid #1 returns.

“When I started to write, it broke.”

After more pencil fiddling, I made the executive decision that this pencil sharpener wasn’t cutting it.  I looked for some pre-sharpened pencils on the teacher’s desk that I could just let the kids borrow, but there weren’t any.

“Is there another pencil sharpener you all can use?”

“There’s that one.”  (Collective, helpful children point to the hand crank one screwed into the wall.)  “”But it doesn’t work very well.”

“Well, try that one, because this one just isn’t working.”

The kids troop over to the pencil sharpener.  I notice that my two dull pencil students have turned into four dull pencil students.  After some work with the pencil sharpener, one of the kids walks up to me.

“That pencil sharpener isn’t working.”

The teacher is still out, but I look in her desk for a simple, hand held, hold-it-over-the-trash-while-you-sharpen kind of pencil sharpener.  I found one, and handed it off.  I decided that it was probably time to move the kids on to the next part of the lesson, even though my dull pencil kids wouldn’t have this part done.  I looked up at the clock.  11:20.

This is the part where I have a mental “Holy crap!” moment.  I was twenty minutes into my lesson and I had no idea where the time had gone.  (I expect that the pencils know where it went, though.)  The kids were also even chattier than before.  The problem with giving so much attention to a couple of students is that you tend to lose your hold on the others.  I salvaged the lesson as fast as I could and finished up.  It had been kind of a hectic lesson and I walked away with a sigh.

But I also walked away with a smile.  Because something else happened that day besides the pencil crisis.

When I walked into one of the classes that day I was greeted with “Hey, you’re back!  I’m so glad to see you!” and one little girl ran up to me and excitedly listed off what she got for Christmas.  And in the midst of my pencil crisis, while I was standing there thinking “This is not going well…”  one girl said to me “I wish you could come everyday!” while the new kid in the class said “Yeah, I like you.”

Oh, kids.  They’re the greatest.

The Story of the Not-so-snowy Snow Day

Yesterday began like any other day.  The skies were gray as I headed out the door with Olga for the obligatory Eagle morning meeting.  After the meeting, I grabbed the car keys from the preschool kitchen and I stepped over to the volunteer house to get my papers in order before I headed to the elementary school. Then the phone rang.  Olga (who happened to have run back over to the house as well) answered it.

“They said that you don’t have to go to the school because school might be cancelled.”

“School might be cancelled?  What does that mean?  Aren’t they already at school?”

“I don’t know.  They just said that school is on standby.”

????????????????????????????????

School?  On…standbyMight…be cancelled?

This is a language I do not understand.

There was no snow on the ground or any precipitation falling of any kind.  After some talking with other coworkers, I deduced that what had happened was that the students were at school but that my boss had heard that the school bus drivers were on standby for a phone call to come and take the kids home because a winter “storm” was expected after lunch.  Therefore, it was decided that I might as well not go.

So, I sent the teacher of the class that I was supposed to be in that day an e-mail explaining my absence.  I’m going to be honest, I felt kind of silly.  I’ve never not gone to school when the roads were perfectly clear because of some snow that might be coming later in the day.  There was no precipitation at all by lunchtime, but a phone call came in saying that the schools were closing for the rest of the day.  A little after one, it started raining.  Regular rain, not freezing rain.  I could be wrong, but I don’t think it started snowing until the schools would have already been done for the day.

I guess yesterday is what could be called a preventative snow day.  Or a just-in-case-it-snows snow day.  Hmmm.

We don’t have those in Michigan.

M.I.A.

I have to say that snow has been missing in action this winter.  There hasn’t been any snow in Kentucky, and there wasn’t any snow in Michigan (gasp!) except for a couple days the whole time that I was at home.

However, I did experience my first ever Kentucky snow days this past week.  They are VERY cautious about snowy roads here.  There was a thin layer of snow on the ground on Tuesday, so there was no school.  The next day, Wednesday, I thought for sure that there would be school because there was like, um, no snow except in a few places that the sun doesn’t reach.  Buuuut, I was wrong.  Wrongy wrong wrong.  There was no school.  So I figured that there must be more snow than I thought.  I pulled out my magnifying glass and did some investigative work.  I counted exactly 75.3 snowflakes.  Snow day officially justified!!!

Well, to be honest, I can see some very good reasons for extra caution on these roads because I’m pretty sure that they would be death traps to drive on in the snow.  Too many curves.  And dips and hills.  And no ditch to dive into.  Mountains to fall off of, walls of rock to crash into, but not too many places to go off the road without much trouble.

Ah, well, I hate winter driving.  Bring on the snow days!  So I don’t have to drive!  Yeah!   But not too many.  I don’t want to get too bored.

In other news, y’all need to stop right now.  Sit up in your chairs.  Clear your minds.  Now…send me a mental gold star.  And a mental pat on the back.

I was very productive this weekend.  I deserve it.  So thank yee.

Since you were so nice as to send me those good things, I would like you to know that I am currently sending you a mental image of the delightful brownies that I made today.  Ahhhh, chocolatey, marshmallowy, peanut buttery goodness.

You’re welcome.

Gate G 20

Chicago.  O’Hare.

People mull about here and there.  Some sitting on seats, some on the floor, some standing in line, waiting to board.  Some walking rapidly toward their next pit stop.  I am one of them.  I weave through the busy airport, full of people returning from the New Year’s holiday.  Shops and restraunts float past.  I look towards the people at the bar and wonder why they serve alcohol at airports and on airplanes.  I pass by a bookstore, feeling drawn to enter, but not even letting myself pause.  I’m not going to buy anything anyway.  And I have places to be.  Gate G 20.

My plane had arrived from Grand Rapids.  I had said good-bye to my Mom at the airport.  The good-bye to home was harder this time after a little over two weeks in Michigan and the knowledge that I wouldn’t be back for a few months.  Left me feeling a slight shade of blue.  It’s hard to leave the place that you feel you most belong.

But back to gate G 20.  That’s where I happen to belong right now.  I’ve found it.  Way at the end of the line of Gs.  The seats are crowded, but I find one.  I sit and blend in with the other travelers.  Most are enveloped in their electronic gadgets – laptops, ipads, Kindle, mp3 players, cell phones.  But not me.  I like to play it the old school way – with my paperback book (The Lord of the Rings – reading it for the upteenth time.  It called to me – and I answered) and my book full of Sudoku puzzles.  I pulled out the Sudoku.

The story of my friendship with Sudoku is a rocky one.  It started when I saw a puzzle in the newspaper…a puzzle that I had never solved before.  The problem with this puzzle?  It was a number puzzle.  Numbers are not my thing.  But I was drawn in.  It’s hard to leave a puzzle unsolved once you’ve started it.  Otherwise you feel a failure.  I finished my first Sudoku puzzle with success, but a headache.  I wasn’t sure if I would ever return for a second visit.  But I did.  I discovered the tricks of the trade and got better with each puzzle I tackled.  We still don’t always get along, Sudoku and I – but we’ve learned to appreciate each other’s virtues.

I flipped to the easy section.  Might as well start off slow.  There is a yellow crayon sitting on the seat next to me.  I wonder how it got there.  I picture the child that left it there.  A little boy with brown hair and a penchant for coloring with crayons.  But this one slipped from his grasp as his mother led him to the plane.  A lonely crayon.  A lady sits down next to me and knocks it to the floor.

Olga arrives and some conversation ensues.  We sit.  We wait.  The plane is delayed by a half hour.  Then our gate is changed.  We get up and join the herd on the move.  G 20 is not where we belong anymore.

New gate.  More delays.  More sitting.  The lady next to me asks where I’m going.  I tell her.  We lament delayed planes.  Hers is delayed as well.  I don’t remember where she was going.

At long last!  We get on the plane.  Now we are getting somewhere!  But, wait, no.  The headrest to the seat across the aisle from me is broken.  And this, apparently, warrants another half hour delay.  Sigh.

Then the plane takes off.  And I say good-bye to Chicago.

Hello, Kentucky?  Are you there?  It’s me.  Elizabeth.  I’m back.