Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Heaven Help Me if I Ever Go Missing

Tonight Eric turned to me and we had the following conversation.

Eric: You look nice in that shirt.

Me: Thanks. Do you know what you like about it?

Eric: It's one of your two colors. You look really nice in red and green, and that shirt's green.

Me (pausing, trying to decide if I should correct my color-blind husband): Um, thanks. But my shirt's brown.

Imagine the dilemma facing my husband if he ever has to describe to the authorities what I was wearing when he last saw me. Furthermore, there was a season when my husband even thought my eyes were green (you guessed it: they're actually brown).

I can't tease him too much, though. I've learned a lot about color-blindness from him, and he can notice the difference in shades when colors are laid next to each other. The curse of heredity!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Samson the Squirrel Begets Nostalgia for Peter the Bird

Samson the Squirrel holds residence in our maple tree. He is also out to get me. Yes, as I was putting up a birdfeeder in our front lawn, Samson ran amuck in the branches above, trying to pull down the tree on what he saw as a trespasser. In this vein, he is much like his biblical namesake who pulled a building down around him, killing all within. Fortunately, he apparently did not have God's help in this herculean feat, as the best he could do was upset a few leaves and rain down helicopter seeds all around me.

Today I was watching Samson eye me suspiciously as he tried to raid the birdseed (through an anticipated event, the birdfeeder showered her seedy goodness all around as the bottom fell out). He is pretty twitchy when he's nervous, and his tail shakes madly as he twitters. Once or twice it spooked him as it brushed his back unexpectedly. As I spied on Samson, I was reminded of my time as a surrogate mother to another wild creature.

During my year off between high school and college, I became a foster mother. Yes, one day when playing with my daycare charges, I saw some huddled by the building, studying something intently. As I approached, I saw a broken nest was on the ground, and several baby birds dead next to it. I shooed the students away and joined them in their mourning.

There did seem to be one stalwart bird, against all odds having survived the harrowing fall. I wanted the mother bird to have an opportunity to return to her child, so I intently watched from a distance with the others. There was no sign at all of a bird in the proximity. I contemplated trying to rescue said bird when I left work, but I had agreed to babysit three daycare siblings, and as I wanted them to have my full attention, I abandoned the hopeless bird.

As I returned home late that night, I relayed the story to my dad as I bemoaned the fact that there was a cold spring rain coming down. He was sure the bird was dead, but Mom offered to drive me back to work if I wanted to complete my act of mercy. Alas, I was afraid the bird had met its end, so I remained home. (Additionally, I recognized that it is not recommended to care for wild creatures, and when well-meaning but inept people try, it often ends in an early demise of said wild creature. So this is my disclaimer: Don't try to rescue stray creatures, do all you can to not get involved. This said, I didn't follow my own advice.)

The next morning as I approached work, I stopped in the drizzle to examine the bird. Sure enough, it wasn't moving. I was certain it had frozen, and berated myself for having not been more in the spirit of Mother Teresa the night before and blast all who said otherwise!

However, fate was not through. Later we noticed the bird had only been
mostly dead. I had studied up on bird care and transported my new baby home. Oh, the proud parent that was born at that moment! The daycare children worked with me to name my baby, and I've since forgotten the ridiculous name, because as I took care of this bird, I dreamt one night that I headed off to college, only to receive a frantic call from my mother that my bird had returned to our house the following spring and had gotten inside our home. In dreamland, I rushed home from college, opened the front door, and cried, "Peter!" as he happily alit on my extended finger. So the name stuck.

Peter and I had a rich life. He ate raw hamburger (an acceptable substitute to worms) and accompanied me to the park. Soon, jealous of the flying fowl around him, he gained feathers and began the art of flight. I helped him best I could, and after a few attempts which ended in crash landings into tree trunks and windows, he got the hang of it. He loved perching on my shoulder and would chatter in response to my maternal attentions.

We fell into a comfortable routine. I fed him before leaving for work in the mornings. He would be free to do as he chose outside during the day, I would return after work and give him some food, and once dark fell, I enclosed him in a cage outdoors so that he would be safe from prowlers. Alas, one fateful night, I stayed at work for our delightful spring program, and when I returned home, Peter was nowhere to be found. I walked the block, scoping out hiding places while my ears were tuned for any familiar chirp. None at all.

There was no evidence Peter met his fateful end that day, so while it's likely he was too trusting of the neighborhood dog or friendly with a car grill, I like to think Peter wanted to find an available, attractive sparrow and left home to start his family. As the adage claims, he is gone, but not forgotten!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Wherein I Do Battle Against Stark Walls

This year I had an epiphany; I could no longer live or rent a place that had stark, white walls. I loved what color could do to walls, and once we bought a place of our own, I was determined to purchase some paint and transform it. Sure, I was hesitant on choosing colors, but since curtains were included with our home, I let that influence our choices.

Last week, I spent four days priming and painting three rooms. All but the bedrooms had color already existent. To wow you with the results, I have included a before picture, taken the day we moved in, and an after shot, taken after everything was returned to it's rightful place.

I began with transforming Eric's office. After all, I knew I had no chance of convincing him to vacate his computer and books once classes started.

For his room we chose "Dark Storm Cloud" to accompany his dangerous philosophical musings.

Then it was time for our bedroom.

The bedroom color was aptly called "Restful." You'll have to excuse the mirror's reflection on the wall; she was pretty excited from all the attention.

Then, I spent two days completing my office/craft room. My muscles weren't excited with another long day of straining and crouching, so I split up the priming and painting.

The color is "Berries and Cream," although of the three, it's the only one I'm still getting used to. In and of itself, I think the color is fine. Perhaps, though, it just isn't the right fit for me. When all is said and done, however, I am glad that the walls aren't white.

So there you have it. I have singlehandedly tackled three rooms, which was one way to feel like I was contributing to something while I was looking for work.

Friday, August 25, 2006

And Another One Bites the Dust

Originally uploaded by MeghanTraynor.
We all knew this day would come. Someday my husband would wake up and think, "Why am I not a blogger?"

Well, Notre Dame brought him to his knees. So if you're interested in intellectual discussions on things philosophical and otherwise, you should take a look-see and watch as his blog evolves.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Sleepless in South Bend

I'm an insomniac tonight; after I'd been listlessly tossing for over three hours, I gave up and went to the basement. My filter is a little fuzzy and isn't stopping me in time, so you get to see a poem I wrote a few weeks back when I was a wanna-be poet. You have to be nice, because this is the first draft and it's about family, so there. As of yet, it's untitled.

I always looked at my brother
As someone defined by the rest of us:
He was my only brother,
The second youngest

I finally recognized him coming out of his shell
One Christmas in Central City, Iowa

Mom was being given a family Bible:
"I don't know when it started,
But when people pass away,
I always seem to get their Bible."

My brother Jon was next to me.
I turned to him and said,
"Jon, when I die,
Just to mix things up,
You can have mine."

With his somber face,
He quipped, "You better not say that, Faith.
After all, if it's pretty nice,
There might be an accident."

I laughed, I couldn't contain it.
My little brother joked about
Killing me to hasten the gift of my Bible.

I told all my friends about the episode.
My brother was coming into his own
And I had missed when he went from
The quiet reader,
Doing all he could to distance himself from his
Four sisters,
To when we enjoyed each others' company
And he joined in the fray.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

School Memories: One-Liner

In response to some flatulence which forced a girl to try to casually vacate her seat near the offender, his friend responded with, "Good push."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

School Memories: Most Grandious Reflection

School has started in the surrounding districts, and my oldest niece is starting kindergarten tomorrow, so it only seems appropriate to include some of my leftover school memories.

Students, long before I came and long after I'm gone, complete the Me Book in seventh grade. Each quarter, the students base their essay on a specific focus (their social characteristics, physical traits, et cetera). At the end of the year, we compile them and have a short unit on editing. Students also add dedications and reflections on the process.

I have shared some of the more memorable dedications, but by far the most verbose reflection had to be from a certain gentleman student of mine. He's a jock through and through, with steady pressure from parents to achieve in his studies.

As I look back at this whole thing, 7th grade, this "Me Book," I realize how important this book was to growing up, to learning life lessons, to making friends. How incredibly important it is, I can't explain to you, but I can express my feelings. This book has made me really reflect on life, and the kind of person I am. This book has helped me as a person, and as a friend. This book has helped me bring out the real...ME.

I'm a cynic to say I think I'd believe it more if I heard this from him in twenty years. But at least he wrote effusely of it at the time.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Job Hunting

Once my teaching job concluded in early June, I began the job hunt in earnest. Since late March, I had decided I didn't have it in me for yet another first-year teaching job; I've taught two years at two different schools in the district, planning and teaching a total of four different classes. It's true that they get easier as you adapt, but I had several reasons for withdrawing myself from the teaching profession. One primary one is that before Eric finishes up his PhD, we plan to 'start our family' (Eric hates that description, since it implies that he and I do not already constitute a familial unit, but come now, let's pay due tribute to cliches).

If Baby comes along in a couple years, that means all the sweat and work I put into a teaching job will be set aside as I become the stay-at-home mom. Right now, on a scale, saving myself from untold grading and petty issues far outweighs the amusing typos that are bound to be discovered. Enter clerical work. There's something about filing that just makes me happy. I like solving problems that people have, and even monotonous work can be pleasant when I know I won't do the like again for another year.

I was called in mid-July about a position that, of the ones applied for, seemed to be practically a perfect fit. Only problem? I was still in Minnesota; he told me to get in touch once we set foot in Indiana. Once we relocated, I went in for 'testing' on Microsoft Word. I'm pretty sure I wowed them with my finesse at changing fonts and mail merging. Nevertheless, I was told that even though my scores were 'more than adequate,' they'd conducted interviews in my absence and had offered the position to such a person, so they were halting further interviews. Alas, our heroine is thwarted yet again.

So the search continues. And I must say that I dislike job hunting. I know once I'm interviewed if I'm even interested in the job, should they offer it to me. And every job I was suited for and had interest in, I was offered.

Once, after graduating high school, I picked up an application for a position and they did their own sly phone calls to find out about me. I received a call that night and was told, "If you bring in your completed application, the job is yours." That's what I'm talking about; none of this anxious waiting as I pretend I'm not keeping near my phone so as to be ready to casually answer should it ring.

How about this proposition? I'd take a job where I'm paid for completing various tasks. One week, I will be told to make a quilt. Another, I should knit a pair of socks. Then I make stationery. File papers and scan documents. Refinish furniture. Reupholster a chair. Host a dinner party with elaborate dishes. Edit manuscripts slated for publication. Tinker with an old typewriter. Make a working volcano in the park's sandbox. Photograph a wedding. Read The Brothers Karamazov. I couldn't be stumped. Build a three-panel screen? Okay! Landscape a yard? Great! Compose a sonnet, complete with the iambic pentameter? Sure--would you like a Shakespearean or Petrarchan rhyme scheme? I could do both! Whatever the duty, I would tackle it with gusto.

I'm sure one of you out there needs the aforementioned projects completed. I'm not sure what the job title would be, but I'm your gal.


After doing my time in Minneapolis--two years--I can honestly say I never really knew the name of any of our neighbors. We might have had a waving or nodding relationship with them when we spotted someone while we were backing our car down the driveway, but there were no deep relationships. When we moved in, we were told this would likely be the case. People were focused on careers and family, and kept isolated. So much for Minnesota Nice, I guess.

This is not so in South Bend. Even though it's technically five times the size of our Minnesota suburb, we're getting connected. First, it was Party Boy next door, who wandered over to introduce himself and offer help hauling boxes. Then it was the couple who sold us our entertainment center; they want to have us over for dinner when we're settled.

In-Home Daycare crossed the street to introduce herself and ask us if we wanted to come over "for a soda" with her and her husband, Retired Teacher. We did so. During the exchange, we were schooled on when trash day was, where to buy groceries, how long to delay before going to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, and what was the flooding-basement situation (the city has to fix the lay of the pipes, perhaps next summer, but while houses near us have flooded with downpours, we appear to be safe). Additionally, on another occasion, In-Home Daycare offered her services to take care of our baby (when we do decide to have one).

After we had settled in, I was emerging from my car when our other neighbors chased me down. Current Teacher and New Husband had been on vacation when we moved in. They had been lying in wait for us and finally caught us for introductions and conversation in our driveway. They gave us the low-down on additional neighbors: the Amiable- Gossip- turned- Wheelchair- Bound and the Newlyweds.

Since then, Retired Teacher even made a special trip across the street. Once he learned I was an English teacher, he called his daughter and learned of several openings at a middle and high school; he read them off of an index card, then excused himself to return home.

So, in less than two weeks, neighbors have already set themselves apart for being hospitable and charitable. A number of them have deck chairs next to their front door to sit in as the evening settles; it's not unusual for a neighbor on a walk to pause for an extended conversation when others are enjoying dusk. Eric and I will both enjoy the budding relationships and the ability to catch up as we're all grilling or tending our lawns.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

O How the Mighty Have Fallen

Today in South Bend, a Family Dollar store was robbed. No word yet on how much money the two armed men stole. I'm guessing there weren't many twenties...


UPDATE: Apparently there have been several robberies targeting Family Dollar stores in South Bend. Since August 2, there have been three Family Dollar stores robbed.

Dark Forces Afoot and Other News

First off, we have some exciting news to share: my farmboy husband has mowed a lawn with a pushmower for the first time. We're so proud of him!

Additionally, there is a dark force at work that ensures whenever we decide to purchase an item from an individual seller, that seller must be from Notre Dame's History and Philosophy of Science niche. First off, our house was owned by such an individual. While we still had the rental truck,
craigslist informed us that someone was selling a solid-oak entertainment center. We looked into it and gave it a new home. Come to learn that the original owner is also a part of the HPS program. Curiouser and curiouser! After all, Eric informs me that there are maybe 20 to 25 people in that field at any given time, and that in a town of 100,000 people.

Finally, I am trying my hand at amateur landscaping. Since the season is too past for me to enjoy much with our garden, I purchased some goodies that are about to flower for my planters up front. Lo and behold, before I could leave the garden center, more foliage was calling to me: the Rose of Sharon pictured above. On Sunday, there were three flowers total. Today, over thirty. Yes, all she wanted was to stretch her roots in some fertile soil in my backyard. I was too weak to refuse such a heartfelt request.
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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Moving Day

Eric and I successfully packed up our moving truck and began our caravan to Indiana. My brave husband impressively handled a 26-foot truck all day Saturday, a feat at which I would have failed. After twelve hours (or a baker's dozen if you include the time change), almost to the minute, we pulled up into the driveway of our home.

I made several observations along the route:
  • As I followed the truck all day, it didn't take me long to become conscious of every detail on the rear of that truck; needless to say, the scenery didn't change much for me. The license plate consisted of six digits, and they were the same as the last six digits of Eric's social security number, with only one digit actually out of one spot.
  • One driver passing us felt so comfortable he was driving with his left foot hanging out the window.
  • I can't say that, as a woman, I would feel comfortable living in Ogle County, Wisconsin.
  • Eric almost stole $67 dollars of diesel. He swiped his card, filled up the truck, and then was told to park and proceed to a cashier. He circled over five minutes since all the truck spots were taken, and finally drove to supper nearby. Thinking he paid, but not wanting to be negligent, he took my car back. Fortunately, there were no open transactions.
  • When you're driving a large truck, you have a vantage point others miss. A Camry passed me and I thought nothing of it, while Eric was craning his head to examine it; the roof was caved in, as if a boulder had fallen squarely in the center. As the sides were still intact, this occurrence was only visible to those higher up.
  • A home without internet is not a home to us; we're still waiting for installation, so the library is our friend.