Unhappy Camper

I’ve been celebrating my first blogging anniversary by sharing my favorite posts this week. This was first posted July 19, 2017

My mother and I walked the three blocks to the meeting place that Friday afternoon. I wore my usual jeans, sneakers, and a light jacket, all suitable for Girl Scout camping in the spring. My mother, volunteering as a chaperone, wore her light blue trench coat and one of the few pairs of pants she owned. She sniffed and dabbed at her running nose with a tissue in one hand, while the other arm clutched her bedroll and her sack supper that she’d put in a beaded shopping bag made of pink plastic netting, with handles for easy carrying.

My back tensed as we approached the gathering group of girls and our leader, nicknamed Nuke. I was only still in Girl Scouts as a seventh grader because of Nuke. She made meetings fun, took us to camp, was stern when needed, but genuinely seemed to like hanging out with a bunch of adolescent girls. I set my bedroll down next to her daughter, Missy.

“Your mom came,” Missy said.

“Yeah.” My shoulders slumped.

“I love your mom. She’s so nice.” Missy smiled.

I looked toward Mom, standing talking to Nuke, her blond head leaning in toward Nuke’s brown pinned-up braid. I loved my mom too. But at home. Not out camping for the first time in her life, with her pink beaded shopping bag. I sighed. Maybe it would be all right.

It was almost dark by the time the bus dropped us off at camp. We dropped our sack suppers on a picnic table. Then we paired up to head to our tents scattered in the woods and lay out our bedrolls before the last of the light faded. My friend and I brushed leaves and dirt off the wooden floor of the tent and were about to head out to eat when we heard a screech. It sounded an awful lot like my mother.

I rushed toward her voice. There was my mom, looking up in a tree and yelling.

“Hey! Give that back!”

Above her, the pink shopping bag dangled from a branch, while a raccoon reached inside, grabbing bits of her sandwich.

The raccoon won. Nuke and I shared our dinner with Mom and our group settled around picnic tables to eat. We sat around talking, but soon Nuke sent us to bed. The real fun of camping would start early.

The next morning, we started a fire, cooked pancakes for breakfast, cleaned up, and hiked in the woods. Nuke supervised, but the work was ours. One of the girls blared a transistor radio playing top 40’s music as we washed up. I waited for Mom to ask her to turn it down, but she said nothing.

The day flew by. That night I breathed a sigh of relief as we sat beneath the stars around a crackling fire, making s’mores and singing camp songs.

“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me….”

The weekend was almost over and no more Mom catastrophes.

Sunday morning after breakfast we sat in the sun with the radio blaring again, while we waited for the bus to pick us up. Mom cocked her head listening.

“You know, some of this music isn’t bad.”

_______________________

Now that I’m well on the other side of being the embarrassing mom, I see that weekend from a different perspective.

I asked my introverted, book-loving Mom once why she went on that camping trip, when she was so clearly out of her element.

She shrugged. “They needed a volunteer.”

Now I look back and see the lilacs blooming that my mother was horribly allergic to. She dressed for the trip the best way she could. These were the clothes she had and money wasn’t plentiful. The goofy pink bag made sense. It was hard to carry everything and blow your nose at the same time.

That weekend she shared a tent with Nuke, who didn’t like the way the bugs clung to the roof for warmth. So, they slept with all four flaps rolled to the top all night and Mom froze.

She had grown up in an era and town where they used an outhouse until midway through her childhood. Mom valued indoor plumbing.

Mom camped for the one and only time in her life because she loved me.

 

 

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Waiting at the Airport

I’m celebrating my first blogging anniversary by sharing my favorite posts. This was first posted October 19, 2016

 

So, a few years ago, there I was sitting at the airport in Frankfort after a sleepless overnight trans-Atlantic flight, waiting for my flight to Dublin. A friend had told me something about the Frankfort airport, but I couldn’t remember what. The Germans put up few signs in English, expecting, I guess, that people who come to their country should learn some German. (Gosh! The nerve!) I couldn’t see any sign that my flight left from this gate, but I checked and rechecked my boarding pass.

There were plenty of open seats around me, so when a young, tall, blond German woman sat next to me I assumed she would be interested in starting a conversation. We chatted briefly, but although her English wasn’t bad, I could see that speaking English was uncomfortable for her. I learned she was a nanny, heading to visit a friend who was working as a nanny in Dublin. It was her first trip abroad and I’m betting someone suggested she sit by an older woman for safety. Just her luck to get talkative me.

After awhile we moved toward the desk to see if we could figure out where we would board. We couldn’t see any planes or any typical gates. There were stairs leading outside.

Others crowded around and a dark-haired woman about my age came up and asked slowly if we were waiting for a flight to Dublin. She struggled so, that my German companion said, “Use your German.”

The woman said, “I….speak…..French.”

Now something you should know about me is that my best high school French response (in French of course) is, “I’m sorry. My French is very bad. Do you speak English?”

So I slowly told the woman in English that I thought she was in the right place. When she further asked how I knew, I said, “Je vois,” (I see) and pointed to the stairs. Using gestures and a few words, the French woman urged me to ask at the desk. So off I went.

“Is this the flight to Dublin?”

“Yes.” Very efficient speakers, those Germans.

I went back and reported to my new friends.

About then an announcement came on. It was long, sounded like absolute paragraphs, all in German. I turned to my tall German speaker and asked what they said.

“We take a bus,” she said.

The French woman eagerly asked me, “Do we go now?”

I said, “L’autobus.”

“Ah,” she said.

We smiled.

I said, “Tres, tres peu de Francais,” holding my thumb close to my finger.

She said, “I..speak…a….little…English.”

As we boarded the buses, I waved goodbye to my German nanny and turned to my new French friend. “Ca va.”

She mimed wiping her brow. “Stress!”

I laughed. “Very American!”

As we went our separate ways, I called, “Bon chance!”

Why I’ll Never Be an Action Hero

I just got back from watching Rogue One. Wouldn’t it be great to be an action hero? Brave, resolute, ready at a moment’s notice, up against the worst odds but endlessly Hopeful about the outcome. However, that could never be me. Here’s why.

Action heroes are ready at a moment’s notice. Hmm, better ask my husband about this one. Just getting ready to go on vacation has me in a tizzy.

The bad guys in full body armor shoot round after round, missing their targets 99 times out of 100, but the action hero shoots once and knocks out three men at once. Let’s just say my eye hand coordination is not the best.

Action heroes often end up outside a large, heavily protected multi-floor compound with long winding hallways. They not only find their way in to the hidden room containing the information to save the world, they also find their way out again without asking directions. For information on why this eliminates me, see Directionless.

Action heroes all have incredible arm strength. In the process of getting to the hidden room with the information to save the world and getting the information out again, action heroes always end up hanging off the edge of something by only their fingers, sometimes holding on with just one arm and shooting three people at a time with every shot. Hang me off the edge of something, I will simply fall to my death.

For the characters thrown in who don’t have all of a full action hero’s super skills, there’s always a spot for a techie. Action heroes always come up against technology they are not familiar with or need a password for, but in moments manage to hack it, right before they blow it up or batter it to keep anyone behind them from undoing what they’ve done. I, on the other hand, am often stumped by the technology I use every day. My super powers include knowing which techie people to ask and the power of Google.

So, no, I can’t be an action hero.(Rest in peace, Princess Leia.) But dang, wouldn’t it be fun?

The Teacher’s Carol

In the last days before break, my students shared with me

A small gift to put under the tree.

In the last days before break, my students shared with me

One rotten head cold, and two gifts with bows to put under the tree.

In the last days before break, my students shared with me

Two sleepless nights, one rotten head cold, and a sweet gift to put under the tree.

In the last days before break, my students shared with me

Three birthday treats, two sleepless nights, one rotten head cold, and a thoughtful gift to put under the tree.

In the last days before break, my students shared with me

Four puddles of glue,

Three birthday treats, two sleepless nights, one rotten head cold, and a little gift to put under the tree.

In the last days before break, my students shared with me

Five missing assignments,

Four puddles of glue,

Three birthday treats, two sleepless nights, one rotten head cold, and a cheerful gift to put under the tree.

In the last days before break, my students shared with me

Two times indoor recess, six missing assignments,

Four puddles of glue,

Three birthday treats, two sleepless nights, one rotten head cold, and a generous gift to put under the tree.

In the last days before break, my students shared with me

One dripping nose bleed, three times indoor recess, seven missing assigments,

Four puddles of glue,

Three birthday treats, two sleepless nights, one rotten head cold, and a silly gift to put under the tree.

On the last days before break, my students shared with me

72 Christmas projects, one dripping nose bleed, four times indoor recess, eight missing assignments,

Four puddles of glue,

Three birthday treats, two sleepless nights, one rotten head cold, and a shiny gift to put under the tree.

In the last days before break, my students shared with me

A noisy Christmas party, 72 Christmas projects, one dripping nose bleed, four times indoor recess, nine missing assignments,

Four puddles of glue,

Three birthday treats, two sleepless nights, one rotten head cold, and a Fortune in gifts to put under the tree.

On the last day before break, my students shared with me

Lots of Christmas greetings, a noisy Christmas party, 72 Christmas projects, one singing flash mob, four times indoor recess, nine missing assignments,

Four puddles of glue,

Three party treats, a very early morning, secret gift wrapping, and the gifts we made to put under the tree!

Tough Questions

Have you ever been asked Tough Questions ? This question brought back a memory for me.

As a teacher, I’m asked questions all the time, usually with the expectation that I’ll have all the answers. And since I’m a teacher, I make a point of helping students find the answers on their own.

Years ago my now grown daughter was an inquisitive four-year-old who adored preschool and her teacher, Mrs. N.

One day as we were driving in traffic, she called to me from the back seat, “Mom, how do worms have babies?”

“I don’t know,” I said in my best calm mom voice, my mind on the traffic around me. “We’ll have to look that up.”

“You’d know it if you were a teacher,” she retorted.

“Honey,” I reasoned, “I am a teacher.”

“No,” she insisted, “I mean a really smart teacher like Mrs. N!”

I Guess I Look Like a Raccoon

My friend, author/editor Jen Miller, recently started a blog called Thisandchat where she asks questions to make you think. Recently she posted this at Your-Animal-Twin

“Your features are uniquely chiseled. You don’t look exactly like anyone else on the planet. However, studying your face in the mirror, you have a likeness to a particular animal, and your personality even mimics some characteristics of that animal.

Study your face, give it some thought.

What animal do you look like?
What personality traits do you have that mirrors that creature?
If you suddenly became a creature, what animal would you be?

Are you BOP enough to say why? Here’s your chance to shine . . . .”

When I was young, I would have picked an animal Ostentatious For its beauty, strength or speed. But beautiful plumage, sleek fur and exotic abilities can lead to being endangered. Intelligence is valuable, but pair it with great strength and gorillas around the world are in trouble.

In high school I remember being asked a similar question and choosing a dolphin for its intelligence, and I’m not even very fond of swimming.

Now days I’m more practical. Raccoons are not endangered and they have some qualities I can appreciate.

Fur coat: Now that the days are getting colder, having a heavy coat that always travels with you seems like a real plus.

Hands: While I might miss opposing thumbs, having paws that can double as hands is a definite advantage when it comes to feeding yourself and getting in to tight places, which raccoons have to do. (Which is not to say I appreciate being on the receiving end of this. See my last post.)

Taking care of young: I just couldn’t be an animal that laid eggs and trusted nature and instinct to carry on my genes. I’m a mammal through and through, even if I had to turn into an animal. Plus raccoon mothers do more than serve as milk pumps. They teach their young where to find food and shelter, so they are ready for their independence when the time comes. Besides baby raccoons are adorable. (Still don’t want them in my human house!)

Intelligence: Raccoons are pretty wily. I read online that their intelligence is comparable to a rhesus macaque.

Agility: Raccoons are nimble creatures. (Climbing up the side of a house and climbing down inside a chimney take true agility. Again, see my last post!) The older I get and the less agile, the more I admire this.

Bulk: No one expects you to be thin when you’re a raccoon. Round is a shape.

The Mask: If you ever had a superhero fantasy, you just have to appreciate the mask.

What kind of animal are you like? For this and more mind-blowing questions, stop by This and Chat at Thisandchat.wordpress.com.

An Unexpected Visitor

Invaders: Part 3

One Sunday morning a couple of years ago I came downstairs and noticed a wastebasket overturned. When did the dog do that? I wondered.

My husband, coming down a moment later, saw another overturned wastebasket and called out, “When did she do that?”

A minute later from the kitchen I heard, “This isn’t good.”

I came in to find him looking in a corner at a pile of droppings too big for our tiny dog to have produced it.

Our best guess was that a raccoon had somehow gotten in the house. There was no evidence that it had gotten to the second floor and it was clearly no longer on the first floor. That left the basement.

Neither of us wanted to face an angry raccoon alone, so we crept downstairs together, each clutching a golf club and a flashlight. We tiptoed around the stacks of boxes, shelves and odd abandoned furniture that inhabit our basement, shining the flashlights behind things and poking around with our golf clubs. No raccoon.

After we called pest control, my husband went outside to see if he could see anything and I took care of the Filthy mess on the kitchen floor.

It had rained recently and outside my husband found tiny muddy handprints climbing up a corner of the house.

When Mr. Pest Control showed up he was sure he would find a hole where the raccoon had come in through the attic. But it wasn’t upstairs, we told him. Still he climbed his ladder and went looking around for a hole. My husband finally convinced him to look down the chimney. About halfway down, comfortably wedged and sleeping, was a raccoon.

Mr. Pest Control helped my husband block off the air hole at the bottom of the chimney. (Remember how the unwelcome-guests got in?) The working theory was that the raccoon wouldn’t be able to get back in the house and would climb out the top to look for food. Mr. Pest Control offered to rent us a trap. If we caught it, he said it would be up to us to get rid of it. We paid him for his time on the roof and said goodbye. Then my husband spent the afternoon looking online for natural pest control strategies to discourage our raccoon from climbing back into our warm chimney.

The next morning after my husband left for work, I was walking the dog around the yard when I came to the corner of the house where the raccoon had climbed up. My husband had washed off the muddy handprints, but now there were dark red smears going up four feet.

I pulled out my phone and texted him a picture right away. “I think the raccoon is bleeding!”

A moment later my phone buzzed with his return text. “The raccoon is bleeding hot sauce.”

W: a Baseball Fairy Tale

The 2016 World Series for non-baseball fans

Would you like to hear a bedtime story?

Yes, the child said.

So…

Once upon a time there were two bands of merry men. The ones from a land called Chicago called themselves after little baby bears. The others from a land called Cleveland had an inappropriate tradition of calling themselves after native people. They both fought their way through a series of challenges to meet for their final challenge, called the World Series.

Did the whole world fight? the child asked.

Well, no, it’s really just a challenge for one country and a single team in another country. But if the whole world cared about this sport, they were still sure they’d be the best.

The child asked, Are there any princesses in this story?

No princesses, but there are lots of diamonds.

It had been 68 years since Cleveland had won this final challenge, though they had been back to try a few times since. But Chicago had not even made it to the World Series for 71 years and it had been 108 years since they had won it. For years fans remained loyal and said, Next year. But others doubted they would ever break the curse and return.

Are you sure it was 108? the child asked. Sleeping Beauty’s curse lasted for 100 years.

Yes, I’m sure. These merry men and their fans keep exacting statistics.

So, Cleveland and Chicago battled on Cleveland’s diamond. Cleveland won. Then Chicago won. The battle moved to Chicago. Cleveland won two in a row, before Chicago came back and won again. Back in Cleveland, Chicago soundly defeated Cleveland, tying the series 3-3.

It was the final night of the fight. Across the Midwest a storm raged, pelting city after city with rain and hail. But in Cleveland all was well. The challenge began.

Chicago took off with a home run. Chicago fans’ hopes were high. Cleveland fought back. Then Chicago surged ahead, before Cleveland came back hitting. It was the bottom of the ninth. The score was tied 6-6. Fans were in despair.

That’s when the storm reached Cleveland. The rain started slowly at first, then heavier and heavier. The tied game was delayed.

So it was a tie? the child asked.

No, there are no ties in Baseball. The game goes on until someone wins.

Around the country, people sat on the edge of their seats in anxiety and anticipation, while others held their eyes opened and looked at the time, and wondered when the game could continue.

Seventeen minutes, or an eternity later, the rain lifted and the game continued. As the ninth inning ended, the teams remained tied, 3-3 games, the score 6-6.

In the top of the tenth inning a sincere young knight from Chicago hit a line drive, sending a runner to home. Another knight drove in a second run. In the bottom of the tenth, Cleveland tried to strike back, but they were one run shy.

With that, the 108 year curse was ended and the little bears from Chicago were the champions.

Is that the end? the child asked.

Yep, the Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years.

That was a good story, the child said. But I still like princesses better.

Directionless

I’ve been blessed with some wonderful gifts. A sense of direction is not one of them.

It takes me a full day in a new hotel to learn the floor plan so that I don’t end up in the wrong wing trying to figure out why I can’t find my room number.

Once when my kids were small, my then five-year-old (who has an excellent visual memory) showed us the way out of a crowded museum when we got turned around.

When she played travel sports, I soon realized that being a team parent required two things: learn names quickly so you can use them liberally while cheering for the team (another failing of mine) and get places quickly and directly. I was soon known as the parent who always asked if I could follow somebody so I wouldn’t get lost.

On one of those trips we made an emergency trip to a big box sporting goods store one night. When we came out of the store through a different entrance than we went in, we couldn’t figure out why our car wasn’t in the row where we parked it.

My other daughter went to Florida with a friend’s family when she was in high school. Back home she told us all about her adventures.

“You know, Mom,” she started, “they drove all the way down there without turning around once.”

I don’t believe I’ve ever taken a driving trip without turning around somewhere.

Another memorable time, my older daughter and I left the Tower of Pisa in plenty of time to catch the tour bus back to our cruise ship. Plenty of time, unless you turned the wrong way and wandered away down the street trying to figure out where you turned wrong. By the time we realized our mistake, asked a helpful souvenir salesman where to go and hightailed it down the trail, our friends were waving wildly and the tour guide was threatening to leave. Phew!

My husband seems to have a map of the world in his head. Most of the time he knows exactly which direction he is going and can remember how to get to places he hasn’t been in ten years. How he does this is a complete mystery to me.

I’m a big believer in Growth Mindset. (Google Carol Dweck if you’re wondering.) I don’t think anyone is at their limit. With hard work there is always room to grow. My problem with my problem, so to speak, is that I can’t even figure out what to work on first. So over the years I’ve depended heavily on maps, then on Mapquest, and now I have a Smartphone that completely enables me. As long as I can convince Siri that the address I want is really in the state that I’m telling her, she’ll give me step by step directions to get me where I want to go. Last weekend I went to Door County, Wisconsin and when someone asked me what part of the state I was in, I had to look at a map.

If only I could travel at dawn and dusk, I’d always know what direction I’m going.

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Waiting at the Airport

Waiting

So, a few years ago, there I was sitting at the airport in Frankfort after a sleepless overnight trans-Atlantic flight, waiting for my flight to Dublin. A friend had told me something about the Frankfort airport, but I couldn’t remember what. The Germans put up few signs in English, expecting, I guess, that people who come to their country should learn some German. (Gosh! The nerve!) I couldn’t see any sign that my flight left from this gate, but I checked and rechecked my boarding pass.

There were plenty of open seats around me, so when a young, tall, blond German woman sat next to me I assumed she would be interested in starting a conversation. We chatted briefly, but although her English wasn’t bad, I could see that speaking English was uncomfortable for her. I learned she was a nanny, heading to visit a friend who was working as a nanny in Dublin. It was her first trip abroad and I’m betting someone suggested she sit by an older woman for safety. Just her luck to get talkative me.

After awhile we moved toward the desk to see if we could figure out where we would board. We couldn’t see any planes or any typical gates. There were stairs leading outside.

Others crowded around and a dark-haired woman about my age came up and asked slowly if we were waiting for a flight to Dublin. She struggled so, that my German companion said, “Use your German.”

The woman said, “I….speak…..French.”

Now something you should know about me is that my best high school French response (in French of course) is, “I’m sorry. My French is very bad. Do you speak English?”

So I slowly told the woman in English that I thought she was in the right place. When she further asked how I knew, I said, “Je vois,” (I see) and pointed to the stairs. Using gestures and a few words, the French woman urged me to ask at the desk. So off I went.

“Is this the flight to Dublin?”

“Yes.” Very efficient speakers, those Germans.

I went back and reported to my new friends.

About then an announcement came on. It was long, sounded like absolute paragraphs, all in German. I turned to my tall German speaker and asked what they said.

“We take a bus,” she said.

The French woman eagerly asked me, “Do we go now?”

I said, “L’autobus.”

“Ah,” she said.

We smiled.

I said, “Tres, tres peu de Francais,” holding my thumb close to my finger.

She said, “I..speak…a….little…English.”

As we boarded the buses, I waved goodbye to my German nanny and turned to my new French friend. I said, “Ca va.”

She mimed wiping her brow and said, “Stress!”

I laughed and said, “Very American!”

As we went our separate ways, I called to her, “Bon chance!”