Thursday, September 30, 2010

Concerning the Amish

Dear Secret Blogiary,

I don’t know much about the Amish except what I’ve gleaned from watching that episode* of Arthur when Mr. Ratburn takes the class on a fieldtrip to Lancaster and Buster decides he wants to be Amish. At least I think it was Lancaster because I’m pretty sure that even though they never say where Elwood City is, it is smack dab in the middle of Pennsylvania. But based on watching that episode not once but several times, I’m thinking that Buster was on to something.

At some point in their history, the Amish** decided that technology had advanced enough and anything else was simply frivolous. They shun the electricity, the cars, the phones, the car phones, I’m pretty sure they frown on Mp3 players as well. Hell, they even hate buttons and Velcro! All they require to live the good life is The Book, a buggy, some land and neighbors to help with the barn raisings.

As I am not Amish, I tend to watch late night T.V. while I crochet, weave or scrapbook. I can’t stand reality T.V. so I typically end up watching the History Channel or something similar.

Currently, I am both hypnotically fascinated and mortally terrified by the entire line up of apocalypse, end of the world, asteroid shows currently being run ad nauseam on the History, Discovery and Learning Channels. Yet as much as I am tired of watching them, I can’t seem to turn away.

My favorite is “10 Ways the World Will End.” It’s like they were reading my mind and figured that I wasn’t worrying enough about Zombie Plagues, Super Volcanoes and Rogue Waves so now I also have to worry about Doomsday Asteroids, Blackholes, and Gamma Radiation Bursts. Geesh.

Now that I am duly panicked about imminent destruction, 2012, or Apophis, with all this advanced technology, I can’t help but think, “Is anyone going to tell the Amish?”

Probably not. They, the Amish, are probably going about their days plowing fields, quilting, making preserves and awesome wooden furniture that doesn’t even use nails or glue yet lasts forever! And not a single one of them worries about asteroids, blackholes or zombies. They live their lives simply and peacefully. Have you ever heard of a mob of angry Amish looting because their quilt didn’t win at the quilt show? Any Amish double murder suicides in the news lately? What about that Amish politician who was sleeping with his intern? Of course not! No one has, because they don’t concern themselves with the outside world.

Subsistence agricultural in a country that forever looks down upon the agrarian lifestyle, and yet consumers flock to purchase their quilts, furniture and produce.

What snobs we are.

Somebody drops an EMP along the Eastern Seaboard everyone is screwed except the Amish. A comet impacts anywhere, The Amish have it covered, they’ve got root cellars with stores galore. Zombies lurch into their midsts; well those Amish have all manner of reach weaponry right at hand: scythes, shovels, axes. They know how to survive in ways that we with our superior technology have forgotten.

In this age of superior technology, sometimes I can’t help but wonder about how much we gave up. Sure, we live to a hundred, but are we satisfied with that? Did we trade, somewhere along the way, a bit of our humanity for a few gadgets? Is instant communication with millions worth never sitting down to break bread as a family?

So, back to the old farmstead in Lancaster. Here, I am making a stand. No more technology JUST for the sake of technology. Isn’t a DVD player good enough? Does HD really enhance our life? Is it really necessary to be able to contact someone 24/7? If I am going to curl up with a book, it will have physically, turnable pages, Damnit!

Don’t get me wrong, I like AC. I enjoy central heat in the winter. But no more gadgets. No more digital or HD or for God’s Sake 3-D. Enough has got to be enough.

*Buster’s Amish Mismatch Part 1
  Buster’s Amish Mismatch Part 2

**I would like to point at that I really have not done any actually research into the Amish, their beliefs or their lifestyle. All the “factual” information here has been vaguely recalled from Arthur, The Shunning by Beverly Lewis, that Harrison Ford movie, and Amish Paradise by Weird Al Yankovic. Any real facts that I might actually mention regarding the Amish are purely coincidental.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

It's like nature. Only Better!

Dear Secret Blogiary,

After the week of chaos I had, it was nice to take a little breather and step out into nature. The girls and I went for a much needed overnight camping trip. The awesome thing about it is the campsite is local, so not much traveling is required and I get the benefit of being disconnected while still within Emergency Service Providers (of course, since I had no bars on my cell I couldn’t contact an Emergency Service if my life depended on it…).

After setting up camp, we decided to try our hand at a nature walk.

Big Sis declared the trail, “Sketchy.”

See how "sketchy?

Little Sis was disturbed by the amount of overhang and kept eyeing the canopy with suspicion.

I admit, even I was a bit concerned about this "shady" overhang.

Me? I tried to convince the girls that every noise they heard was a cougar.

They didn’t buy it.

The only wildlife we saw, aside from birds, were:


Hermit Crab
(Probably suffering from a concussion after being dropped from the equivalent of a 500 story high rise)


I love taking pictures of unusual looking trees and it seemed that almost every tree had an unusual aspect to it. Here are a few of my favorites:

Our campground ran along side of a salt water marsh which makes for a beautiful backdrop when stumbling bleary-eyed to the bathroom!

And of course, a camping trip would not be complete without...mmmm....S'mores!

Reece's Peanut Butter Cup Variety

Friday, September 24, 2010

Maybe if it had been a giant, flying, rabid Scorpion of Doom, I wouldn’t have laughed so much.

Dear Secret Blogiary,

As we were leaving Girl Scouts tonight, I happened to notice a beautiful praying mantis sitting on the roof of my car. Big Sis and Little Sis had already gotten in and buckled but as praying mantis’s are not often spied around here, I told them to hop out so they could look at it.

The mantis, now with an audience, pumped itself up and flared out its front pincher legs (I am sure they have a proper name and all but how bad-ass is "pincer leg?"). Black alien eyes swirled at us trying to size up the threat we posed.

Little Sis oohed and ahhed. She loves all creepy crawlers – except of course for the completely misunderstood cockroach…and spider…and ants…and…heck I guess she really only likes roly-poly bug and ladybugs. She thought it was wonderful and asked if we could keep it.

Big Sis, on the other hand, immediately drew attention to the fact that it looked hungry and that if it was a female it would eat our heads off and that its front legs could probably take off my finger if I got too close.

I looked at her a bit concerned. Apparently, her abhorrence of bugs runs deeper than I suspected.

“Fine.” She muttered. “It’ll only eat a male’s head off, but that is still just as disturbing.”

She then demanded I remove it from the car. I waved my hand at it and it scurried a little bit away from me and then took a HUGE flying leap right at Big Sis! Now, I never doubted that that girl had lungs, but the shriek that hurdled from her mouth was on par with Fay Wray! She took off running from the car and the mantis settled in on her open car door.

“MOM!!” she screeched as she pointed at the door. “GET IT OFF!!”

I would have loved to; unfortunately I was doubled over laughing, Little Sis right along with me.

“This Is Not Funny!” Big Sis stomped further away from the car.

I finally walked around to the passenger side and shooed the mantis off the car and wouldn’t you know it, that bug went straight for Big Sis again! Her hands went up in the air as she waved them about trying to ward off the killer mantis and she raced around to the other side of the car.

I was pretty sure the bug had flown off, but I was laughing so hard I couldn’t tell. Big Sis kept demanding to know where it was and she wasn’t going to get into the car if it was in there.

I finally managed to get her to get in the car.

“I better not be in here, Mom.” She said as she started to buckle again.

I started the car and began to back out of my parking space.

As I began to pull forward I looked at her (and this is just how twisted I am as a parent) I dropped my mouth open and widened my eyes.

“Oh. My. God. It is ON your head!” I whispered.

But my daughter knows me a bit too well, “No it isn’t.” she said firmly.

“Open the door and get out,” I told her, “It is on your head.”

“Mom! Not funny!”

“I’m serious.” I said as I came to a stop.

At that point she just happened to turn around to look at Little Sis, who mimicked my face to perfection (devious minds think alike!). And that one look of hideous terror from her sister was enough to convince her that Mommy might not be pulling a prank.

She started to jump out of the car, panic clearly etched in every detail of her face and I started to feel just a little bit guilt.

“I’m kidding!” I said.

If only I had a camera to capture the look that she gave me; a mixture of relief, anger and laughter. Little Sis and I high-fived the awesome mantis prank, made even better because of the unspoken communication…I think we might have a bit of telepathy going.

“You, Mother, are cruel! I am not talking to you ever again!” she huffed as we pulled off.

Not two minutes later, “Mom, can we go to the bookstore before we go home?”

So much for a quiet ride home!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Negative Times a Negative Equals a Positive. I can't explain it, but I think it has something to do with Fairy Dust, Santa and a Four-Leaf Clover.

Dear Secret Blogiary,

I’ve been looking back over the past few posts and realized that not only are they negative but I sound pretty miserable! Unfortunately, that is the mood I have been in lately, but that it not who I am!

I am not by nature a negative person, I worry a bit, in fact Mister W seems to think I have got worrying down to a science and should try to publish a “worry-wart” manual! But negative? I don’t do that too often.

It would be easy to claim that everyone goes through depressed times and it would be such a nice crutch to lean on to say that the current economical and societal influences have gotten me down. But I like to take responsibility for myself. And besides which, not everything is the economy’s fault.

It is ironic that at work, I am that person everyone goes to for advice. You know the one that offers the friendly smile and always has some positive spin on a bad situation.

Lately though, I have been obviously quieter, withdrawn and moody. I am sure that it is a passing phase, but I think that eventually, working with and in the system takes a toll and I have reached a critical point.

Which leads me back to being negative.

Over the next few weeks I am going to make every effort to find the positive. I am going to be like Pollyanna on crack! I’ll play that silly “Glad Game” and rediscover the positive in my world.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Easy Button Doesn't Work All Of The Time

Dear Secret Blogiary,

Today, I once again came home from work with my eyes red and poofy from crying.

It was a rough day.

Not only are the students having to adjust to a new schedule because we had to rearrange classes to meet class size amendment, but with block scheduling “B – Day” is my worst day. I have three 90 minute classes of hell with no break except for lunch. Each class is overloaded, still out of compliance with class size I might add, and all three of the classes are over two thirds ESE (also against the law).

Now having ESE students would be fine IF the students had learning disabilities. I can deal with that, but with the labeling the schools have, anyone with a “behavior” problem is also labeled ESE even though what they really need are parents at home doling out discipline with a large stick! Needless to say, it is hard to actually teach when I spend 70 minutes dealing with behavior problems.

Well, when Mister W saw me walk through the door, he took one look at my face and offered to “take care of” whoever was giving me grief. He was trying to get me to smile a little, but all I managed to do was burst into more tears. Mister W did not like that one bit. In fact, it kind-of turned him into a raging lunatic for a brief moment or two (he is so adorable when he gets all He-Man protective of me).

“Just quit.” Mister W makes it sound so simple and easy.

“I can’t just quit!” I garbled into his shoulder.


“...the house, the food you like to eat, the clothes the girls keep growing out of, the new car we have been trying to save up for…should I continue?”

“We can survive on my salary.”

“Survive?” I said, “I’m not sure I want to just “survive.”

“You know what I mean. We downsize, move into an apartment, you can get a part-time job somewhere…or better yet, stay home, write your damn book and home-school the girls.”

“…” Of course this is totally what I want, but I almost feel guilty for wanting it so I say nothing.

“Oh and have dinner for me every night when I get home from work.”

“And a cocktail too I suppose.” I finally crack a tiny smile.

“Yup. Just quit. Works for me.” He smirks.

The awesome thing is, he is serious. Call him a throwback, but his mindset is that of the 1940s where the men worked and the women stayed home. So when he says this to me, I know that if tomorrow, I hand Mr. MoHOLU a resignation letter, Mister W will be fine with it. Hell, he’d probably take me out drinking to celebrate.

Then why am I so scared to do so? Why do I continually torture myself with a job that makes me cry? Sure, I am terrified of being poor. But we have lived on Mister W’s salary alone in the past.

I think what holds me back is my die hard determination to avoid quitting out of defeat. I’ve quit jobs because I’ve moved or have gotten a better offer, but I’ve never quit because I lost, because I was defeated and beaten down.

Right now, I am beaten. And with Mister W prodding me to make a change, I feel like I could almost take that plunge.


Monday, September 20, 2010

When I Get My Own Compound There Won't Be Any Stupid HOA Fees!!

Dear Secret Blogiary,

I hate my neighborhood. No hate is too much of a sissy word. I loath my neighborhood. Despise it. If I had to choose between living in my neighborhood and living in Hiroshima right after the bomb dropped…well, I’d probably choose my neighborhood over death, but you get the gist of the intensity at which I abhor my ‘hood.

I almost wish I could say that I hate it because it is a ghetto full of crack-whores and gangstas. I wish I hated it because it was full of child molesting fiends peeping at my kids through Venetian blinds. At least then, then I would have a better justifiable cause for my hate.

No, I hate my neighborhood because:

7. The Walls.

Now last time I lived in an apartment, the walls were paper thin. I not only heard porno-worthy sex that lasted for hours, but I heard the kids yelling and screaming too. The cool thing is though that I only heard the LOUD stuff. Here in my townhouse, shoot, I hear the neighbor’s phone, the radio, the TV. If I am in the right place at the right time, I even know what bedtime story is being read!

6. The “Waste Management”

My stupid neighborhood doesn’t recycle and every time I try to bring it up to the board to get a recycling program here they completely ignore me or try to placate me by telling me that the company we use sorts the trash at the landfill. Right. By “sort,” I believe they mean “dump it in a pit and let some future generation deal with it.” Have they not seen Wall-e?

5. The Retention Pond

Not only do they insult my intelligence by calling it a “lake” but they won’t even let anyone canoe or kayak on it. It is certainly deep enough to canoe on and I’m not asking to set up a permanent mooring, but really? What’s the point of a “for decoration only” pond?

4. The Damn Feral Cats

Yes. I get that feral cats are a problem. I get that there are animal lovers in the neighbor who want to “take care” of those “poor unfortunate” animals but seriously, TNR programs are not proven to work and besides which, the neighborhood is not running the stupid program the way it was meant to be run. The cats continue to reproduce, continue to use the playground as a litter box and continue to hunt and kill the good wildlife. At a recent board meeting when asked if the cats were more important then the children having a playground, three of the board members said, “Yes.” When the neighborhood puts feral cats above the children, it is time to get rid of the cats...And the board members!

3. The HOA fees.

I could live in a two bedroom apartment for what I pay in HOA fees per month; maybe not a great apartment but a decent one in a decent area with a pool and a fitness center. And exactly what am I getting out of paying the HOA fees? Well, every other week, a guy comes to mow the sand in my “backyard.” There is a pool, so that’s okay. Ummm… yup that’s it. $500 per month gets me a pool and sand maintenance. When I asked if they could put sod down on my sand they said that I would have to pay for it even though it was not my fault sand was there in the first place. When I asked if they would remove the stump that they left after taking down a tree in my patch of sand out front they again stated that it was my responsibility to remove the stump even though they were the ones to cut the tree down without even informing me about it.

2. The Elderly

Okay, I can’t say too much about the elderly in the neighborhood except that they our number the younger 10 to 1. And if I thought my students had no manners, then my students need to the poster children for the next edition of Guide to Good Manners and Etiquette because these elderly folks could teach the younger generation a thing or two about bad manners and nasty, spiteful personalities. Living in this neighborhood, I have encounter more disrespectful, rude elderly then ever before in my life. Surely I am exaggerating you say. I’ll admit I am very good at hyperbole; however, in this case, not an ounce is stretched. For example, one man rides his scooter around the neighborhood every day, not a problem, until a car comes by at which point he starts weaving back and forth across the street preventing the car from passing him. He then screams obscenities at the driver when they make an attempt to pass.

1. The Board

I have never encountered a ruder bunch of S.O.B.s then the board. When discussing the feral cat issue, two of the board members continued to make rude, nasty comments about the people speaking, they rolled their eyes, heaved great exasperated sighs and proceeded to be the biggest bitches I’ve ever seen. The president is weak willed and cows at anything the VP or CAM says. The only information that he has is what the CAM gives him to recite. They will solicit open discourse from the few members that show up and then the board, all save one member, openly ignores the community input. I was ashamed that I voted for them. And I am now getting involved in the process to recall them.

There you have it the Top Ten Seven Reasons why I loath my neighborhood. What makes it all worse is that until the market turns, I have to tolerate it here. UGH! At this point I am not sure that I care if I have justifiable cause to fact I don't mind at all if I am a little bit irrational!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Writer's Block of Doom (when one has too many stories and a massive inability to focus on one of them)

Dear Secret Blogiary,

NaNoWriMo is almost upon me and I am struggling to find a direction. I have two new story ideas that I have been toying with the past couple of weeks and I am equally enthralled with both.

The first is a romance spoof that pokes fun at the ridiculous vampire and werewolf supernatural romances*, the second is my favorite genre, post-apocalyptic.

I also have an older epic fantasy story that has been sorely neglected for a number of years and just this past spring and early summer, I dug up the papers, files and notes and read through them all.

The easiest and least time consuming one would be to go with the older story. I know the characters, the setting, and the plot. Some of the story has been written but for NaNo purposes I would ignore the previously written work and only count the new.

There is something to be said about the familiar. The characters are comfortable, I know them and there reactions. They deserve the attention quite honestly. The only hurdle that I would need to overcome is that the older story was co-created. My BFF and I worked for a good two years at the plot and the background – epics do indeed require a good bit of planning.

We are still BFF’s but she isn’t stateside currently and I feel sort of guilty working on a project that we created. Granted, she has given the go-ahead to do so before, but part of the fun of the story was that she was involved and we could bounce ideas back and forth like a rabid game of ping pong.

The romance I am considering has the characters established and a basic plot outlined. I know what I want to accomplish and where I want to end, but I’m not as passionate as I once was about it. And at this point I use “romance” very loosely. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that my idea leans more to the satirical than the romance.

The post-apocalyptic story is a newer idea that I got after watching one too many late night History Channel shows. I have a main character and a title. Not much else. For the purposes of NaNo, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, having an open concept will allow me more freedom to incorporate crazy dares and more the story the way the character needs it to go. And as it is my favorite genre, I am leaning towards it.

So, Secret Blogiary, which should I choose?

*I’ll save my rant about Twilight, et al., for another post.

Whose Got a "Work Family?" Not me!

Dear Decret Blogiary,

Every year and sometimes multiple times a year, my boss – Mr. MoHOLU – gives the faculty a speech about being at the school for the children and if you are not here for the children then you need to reassess your chosen career. He usually says this in tandem with a “we are a family here at this school. We help and support each other, take care of each other” …blah blah blah.
Well, I have since discovered that that is a big load of crap. There is no “family” at my school. There are cliques, and sure, aren’t they everywhere? Mr. MoHOLU has is own little clique himself. But I always bought into the whole faculty family thing until now.

We have on staff a teacher, Ms. D., who suffers from an incurable degenerative disease. I will not go into details as they are private, but essentially, one faculty member, Ms. S., organized and arranged a fundraiser to donate to MDA research – not to help the family – but strictly for research and local events for the MDA. She talked about it a pre-planning and sent out emails encouraging people to participate – after all this is a cause that we see the effects from every day.

Well, the fundraiser – a bowl-a-thon – came and went. Only two – TWO (including myself) showed up! I’m not sure if any more than that donated, but a family who supports each other we are not!!

Are you telling me that even with a whole month’s notice, people couldn’t clear one 2 hour block of time on a Saturday evening? Are you telling me that STRANGERS are more supportive than a faculty family??

Well, world, I think you are. I have been part of this faculty for six years and I have always involved myself with them. I have attended funeral services, baby showers, other fundraising events, and even donated money to teachers who were going through a difficult time. I had always considered myself lucky to be a part of such a caring faculty.

Well, no more I say. I am so disappointed in my faculty. In people I thought I was friends with. And hell, it wasn’t even MY fundraiser. But the woman we were supporting has been a leading member of the staff. She is on leadership, she is a friend to all, and she manages through every day without complaint and my god! with all that she has been through the woman deserves to complain!!

I am ashamed to be a part of such a faculty. And the next time Mr. MoHOLU makes any comment regarding supporting his “family” I will snort derisively and bow out.