Friday, December 24, 2010

Early Morning Excitement

I had a terrible time going to sleep last night.  It seemed that, for the first time ever, the night time cold meds I took had a reverse effect and my heart was beating a little too quickly.  I lay awake for what seemed like hours, right on the edge of sleep.  At last, somewhere in the dead middle of the night, I drifted off, only to be waken in the predawn morning by my dog Salem barking.  She was perched on the end of the bed, looking toward the window.

Salem barks at everything and oftentimes nothing, and, as is my custom, I grabbed her and shoved her back under the covers where I spent perhaps the next half hour holding her snout while she continued to bark.  I don't remember the last time she behaved this way in the middle of the night, but I was dismayed that I might never be able to go back to sleep.  When I heard other dogs barking -- Mom's dog Henry and what sounded like other dogs in the neighborhood -- I knew it was never going to end.  Once one dog hears another barking, it causes a chain reaction.

Suddenly, I opened my eyes to see a red glow at the window.  I jumped out of bed and lifted the blind to find two flashing police cars.  Richie and Mom and I were soon in the patio room, where from the window we could see  that several police cars and one fire truck lined the streets in front of and alongside Mom's house.  There was a man cuffed and lying on the street, with a cop standing over him. 

As the dogs needed to go outside anyway, it worked out that the cop and apprehended man were only feet away from where the dogs had to potty.  We shuffled around in our PJs, catching some of the interrogation, while the dogs did their business.  It seems the man wasn't telling the cops where a gun or something was, and the cop was explaining to him that the dogs would find it anyway.  We also noticed that the man had been injured somehow and his leg wrapped. 

Meanwhile, Mom returned inside, but the ever frustrating Salem still hadn't gone to the bathroom.  So the conversation between the cop and suspect became punctuated by my prompting "Go potty!  Go potty!"

Once back inside, we observed the man lying on the snowy street and began to feel sorry for him.  Mom speculated that he might need a blanket, but I reminded her that the cop wasn't getting any answers out of him and they probably wouldn't appreciate us making him more comfortable. 

We all watched for the next thirty minutes or so, and eventually the police helped the man into the car.  The policeman who had been questioning the man saw us watching and came over to the house to explain what was going on.  We learned that the man had been robbing a house nearby and ended up fleeing the scene.  He ran into this neighborhood and was caught hiding in Mom's hedge.  When he tried to run from the police, one of the police dogs bit him  -- hence the injury we saw (and the blood that is still in the snow). There were three robbers total and all three were caught.

I reminded Mom that just yesterday I had alerted her to the fact that her front door had been unlocked when nobody was home, and that she had replied it was OK, that this was a really safe neighborhood.  Oh the irony.

So, Salem was right for a change.  And she finally pottied, which is no easy thing to get her to do.  Perhaps, with my powers of persuasion, I should have helped the cop interrogate the man.  But I probably would have ended up bringing him a pillow.

The pics show the bloodstains from where the dog bit the burglar and the window from where we watched.  The hedge by the window is where the burglar tried to hide.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Another strange case of synchronicity

As with every Christmas season, I have been receiving books I've requested.  As with every day of the year, I'm already behind on books I have been intending to read.  I'm currently undertaking everything Orson Scott Card has ever written, but because I'm kind of a slow reader due to some degree of attention deficit, that will likely take me a couple years. 

Two weeks ago, I was concentrating my energies on Ender in Exile.  Richie had just bought OSC's latest (Pathfinder), so that was next on my list, followed by Anne Rice's latest angel book. That would take up the next three months for sure, and that's not including my plans to continue reading The Ender series with my uncle. 

Suddenly, for no reason I can identify, I dropped everything and began reading The Owlman and Others by my friend Jonathan Downes.  Why in the world I chose now, halting my already ambitious reading plans, to pick up this book that had been in my possession for two years is mysterious to me, but why I would choose the Christmas season to immerse myself in the part of cryptozoology that deals with the more sinister side of the unknown is even stranger. (The Owlman is the British version of the Mothman.)

Richie and I are presently at my mom's for the Christmas holidays.  Two days ago (and two weeks into my Owlman book) we received a phone call from MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) for whom we are field investigators.  This was an unusual case they were assigning us to: an apparent man-bird sighting in San Antonio.  MUFON does not typically address cryptid sightings, but a lady who, with her husband and son, had seen a giant man-bird flying over her neighborhood back in April had just decided to report it to MUFON. 

I find it nothing short of bizarre that the report this of sighting -- the first of its type that has ever come my way -- would occur the very time I had chosen, for no known reason, to read a book on this very thing.

I cannot believe this is coincidence.  As George Noory says, there is no such thing.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Strange Occurences in My Friend's House

I have a friend I will keep anonymous who has now had four bizarre things happen to her over the past year.  These are things that many people would dismiss as absent-mindedness, but she is one of the most together, alert, and deliberate people I know.  I told her she needed to keep a record of these experiences, so I'm doing it for her:

First incident: Last year, she was leaving the house with her daughter.  She grabbed her very bulky keys and stuffed them into her coat pocket.  She remembers this specifically.  She got the car and they keys weren't there.  She went back to the house, opened the front door (I can't remember if she hadn't locked it or what) and the keys were hanging on the hook next to the front door.

Second incident: She woke up one morning to a bizarre noise.  She discovered it was coming from her deceased grandmother's electronic keyboard which had been turned to full volume.  The cover -- which takes some effort to get on -- was still on it.  My friend not only meticulously turns the keyboard off when she is done with it, but she always turns each volume adjuster all the way down.  Her little girl is too small to have messed with the keyboard and replaced the cover.  My friend shut the keyboard off, turned it back on, and could never get it to duplicate that odd noise again.

Third incident:  the evening before last, my friend was washing her dishes and came to the last thing -- a bread pan.  There was some cheese stuck in the bottom corner of the pan and she considered just soaking it all night.  Then she decided against it since she had a brillow pad or something and she scrubbed it, rinsed it, and put in the dish rack.  The next morning when she got up, the pan was soaking in the sink, cheese still stuck to the bottom, as if she had made a different decision.

Fourth incident: the same evening (evening before last) she specifically remembers putting her phone on the charger because her mother-in-law had tried to call right before she did so.  She ignored the call, joked with  her husband, then plugged the phone in.   The next morning the phone was in its case next to the charger station. Her husband witnessed  her put it on the charger and can't figure it out.  He also is pretty sure he saw her wash and put away the bread pan.

Inconsequential weirdness, but weird nonetheless.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


I have never been one to take notice of a recurring time on the clock, such as the famed 11:11.  I have actually never paid much attention to the significance of numbers, but a couple weeks ago I started noticing that I kept seeing the clock right at 4:44.  There isn't any particular thing I'm doing at that time to explain why I would suddenly look at a clock.  In fact, I get off work around 4:30 and often go to the gym.  I don't even pay attention to the time.  But over weekends and days when I wasn't at the gym, I kept noticing 4:44.  I don't know why, or if there is a "why."  But it's interesting.  I did finally research 444 and found there is a web site devoted to it. 

Experiments in Telepathy

Since I was about 14, I have off and on played a game with friends in which I guess the number they are thinking.  I have managed to do this with remarkable accuracy most times.  Once I even told a friend what she said vs. then number she had actually thought.  She was floored.  I generally ask for a 2 digit number just to keep it interesting.

In the past year I have begun asking friends to project objects into my mind.  This has proven even more incredible. Recently, my friend Jocy stayed over and we ended up playing the game for a while. I was guessing so accurately that it got bizarre. We started with two digits and I guessed these four in a row: 16, 28, 17, then I accurately guessed "14" before she had the chance to tell me she was thinking of a number.

After that, we switched to objects. I concentrated and got this transparent bubble. (Usually the person sends me an object and I guess the properties, like color, texture, etc.) Instead of asking her if that was correct, I sarcastically said "OK, something with a color would help; I saw a big bubble." She said she had sent me a snow globe.

The next thing I saw was a deep blue with stars. But it wasn't the sky, just something deep blue with stars on it. She had sent me a wizard's hat. I started writing it all down then (hence this play-by-play).

I missed the next one.

The next thing I got was confusing because it was just gray fuzz. She had sent me her dog Ozy - a gray Schnauzer.

Then I got a hat and she had sent me a crown.

Then I got a really strong impression of purple and that's exactly what she had sent me -- just purple. (That has a logic to it, though, following crown.)

I suggested we switch to animals. I saw a worm and she said she had sent me a centipede.

The next thing I saw was a red Betta fish, but for some reason I didn't trust I was correct. (Sometimes I can just feel if it's a hit or miss.) I hesitated and said "I saw a fish -- a scarlet one." And turns out she had sent me a red Betta.

After that I got a vague image of a cute, brown, furry thing like a groundhog or something. She had sent me a badger.

After that, I got every two or three correct. They included black & fuzzy, which was black felt; yellow, which was a rubber duck (& those two were in a row); a yellow doll, which was a little girl's buttermilk colored bedroom with a doll in it; the number 77, and the number 5472 in that sequence.

After about an hour, I started missing constantly so it appeared the streak was over.

The next day, Jocy attended the MUFON Christmas party with us.  On our way there, she was sending me images in the car.  I guessed a few correctly, but the most bizarre was this: I vividly saw a panda bear.  It turns out she had sent me a panda bear eating bamboo.  When we got to the party, I asked for some coffee, and the man closest to the pot grabbed a mug for me and poured me some.  The picture on the mug was a panda eating bamboo.  When I showed it to Jocy, she said that is exactly what she had seen in her mind.  She said it hadn't even been a live Panda, it had been a picture just like on the mug.  Very strange.

Last night I played the game with my friend Jamie.  Again, I seemed to have hit a streak for a good while. Below are some of the things I guessed, followed by the actual object Jamie sent me.  (Normally, I stick to properties rather than trying to put a name to the thing.)

  • a wooden twig-like thing, upright  / her small peach tree outside that is losing all its leaves and has become twiggy
  • something pink and delicate / cotton candy
  • a green clown or doll-like thing / the Grinch
  • a large, wide, scaly-face, like a fish or reptile / a bearded dragon
There were more, but those were the ones that stand out in my mind.

My sister and I used to play this over the phone with amazing results.  I only remember one specific though, and it was when she asked me to guess an object she was holding.  I said it was large and white and soft, like a pillow.  Turns out it was a large, white stuffed bunny.  (I didn't know she even owned one.) 

The only other ability I have been exploring (or re-exploring) is that of finding lost objects.  I've never been entirely convinced I have this ability, but I did have one bizarre time when, at a friend's house for only the 2nd time ever, I fished around in my mind for a book he had lost.  I don't think I'd ever been in his and his wife's bedroom, but suddenly I knew the book was under the bed on the left side.  I went down the hall, reached under the bed and pulled it out.  He said he never kept it there -- he always kept it on his coffee table.  I was only 14 then, and for the rest of my teen years I had fairly good success with that gift.  I once located a needle I had lost somewhere in the house.  I didn't even know what ROOM it was in, but when I mentally searched for it, I felt it by the front door and located it there. I would even have friends hide objects for me and I would "feel" them out and go right to them without having to search.

However, as an adult, I can't remember this gift hardly ever working. Until last week.  Last week, I dropped a tiny nail (the kind you use to secure those metal-toothed hangers onto the back of a picture).  The nail landed on a busy, Persian rug, so I was having a terrible time finding it.  On a whim, I quit looking and closed my eyes.  I personified the nail and asked it where it was.  Immediately, I knew it was toward the front of the rug by my feet.  I opened my eyes and located it there immediately.

About 20 minutes later, I was getting some chips and I took off the paper clip I use as a fastener.  I normally lay the paperclip on the kitchen counter, but it wasn't there and I realized I must have dropped it.  I looked around with no success, so I again closed my eyes and asked it where it was.  Immediately the thought came to me that it was in the pantry floor, and I located it there.  A skeptic might say that I subconsciously heard the paper clip fall when I was grabbing the bag out of the pantry.  A skeptic might also say I had subconsciously seen the tiny nail when I was looking for it.  I don't know.  But it's interesting.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Coincidence, Dimensional Cross-over, or Crazy Couple?

This story is now a month and half old, but the mystery remains unsolved and the plot thickened today:

The first week of this past August, my husband I went to San Antonio for one last get-away before the school year began.  One evening, as we sat down at Joe's Crab Shack, I noticed that a boy in the family we sat next to looked like one of my students from 2 years prior.  I didn't want to stare long enough to be sure, though, that it was him.  However, a while into the meal, I heard the young girl (who I assumed to be the sister) called this boy by the name of my student. (It's not a common name.)  I turned quickly now to look at him, and they all looked at me curiously.

"Are you the C---s?"  I asked.

"No," they replied.

"Oh, I'm sorry," I said, "I just heard her say K--- and I taught a K.C. two years ago --"

"Oh, "they cut in, "This is K.C!"  the father said, pointing at the boy.  He smiled quietly, as was characteristic of him.  "This is K.C.," he said again, "But we aren't the Cs.  He's been saying you look like his teacher."  One of them (can't remember which one) said.

"Well, guess what," I said smiling at K.C, "I am teaching juniors this year, so I might get you again."  He was still just smiling and the sister now had him in a playful headlock. 

"I hope we don't get any bad notes home this year," the mother said. 

I told them that while I didn't remember K.C. being a problem himself, he had been in one of my most hyper classes and I might have sent a few notes home to many of the boys' parents that year.

So that was that and we said goodbye when they left. 

At the beginning of this year, I did end up with K.C. on my roster.  On the first day of school, I mentioned seeing him on the Riverwalk.  He said nothing until I mentioned it again later, and this time, he said, "That wasn't me."  I questioned him, not just that day, but for several days because he stuck to his story -- he had never been the Riverwalk this summer.  He even swore to God and he never swore to God, he said.  I emailed him mom to make doubly sure, and  tonight she emailed me back and assured me they were never in San Antonio this summer.  In fact, she is white and has no husband, nor is there a male figure in K.C's life at this time.  The K.C's couple I saw on the Riverwalk was black.  And the only sister K.C. has is much younger than this girl on the Riverwalk.

So the mystery remains unsolved.  Was the couple messing with me?  If so, they were awfully ready with some quick responses.  Was it just a coincidence and there is another K.C. who looks just like my K.C. and who has a teacher that looks like me?  Or did I cross into a parallel universe where K.C. was in San Antonio with a couple that wasn't his parents?  Or did K.C. uknowingly bilocate?  (lol.)  He said he was supposed to have been in San Antonio that very week with a good friend, but didn't go.  I'm afraid I may never know, but it's something to think about.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mysterious Phone Incident

This afternoon my husband and I were meeting for lunch with my dad and step-mom.  My husband had left his phone in my car (he was riding a motor cycle) and so I took it into the restaurant to give to him.  "I tried to call you from Kathy's phone," he said.  "Is your phone turned off?"  I checked my phone to find no missed calls.  Then I checked the call log.  To my surprise, rather than showing "Kathy's Cell" in the incoming call list, it showed "Richie's Cell" had called at the very time Richie had tried to call me from Kathy's cell.  Confused, we all checked Kathy's phone it showed that an outgoing call went to me about 2 minutes prior to the time my phone said Richie tried to call.  Yet, my phone never showed Kathy's phone calling. 

Furthermore, Richie's phone had rested in the CD holder right in front of me for the duration of the trip.  I hadn't touched it. HOWEVER -- and this is the only possible explanation we can come up with -- I did at one point reach under the phone to get some CDs.  We figure I hit something that caused the phone to dial me.  How that could have happened while the phone was on lock -- well, I guess it could have because phones do all kinds of things like that.  However, the chances of it calling ME at almost the exact moment Richie really WAS trying to call me...  Now, why Kathy's cell never even registered as having called my phone is a mystery because, according to the clock, her call went out first, which means that Richie's cell should have been the call that went unseen to my voicemail.

Even though we can sort of explain it, it's very odd.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Another psychic moment involving Jamie

Today during a faculty meeting, my friend Jamie (from the flux capacitor and garage door "pointless psychic stories") was sitting on my right beside me.  I was doodling, as always, and since parallel universes is always a hot topic of conversation with me and Jamie, I began drawing them.  I began with a point -- a small dark circle -- and drew two parallel lines coming out from the top of it.  I began adding smaller lines coming out from each parallel line so that it started looking sort of like tree branches. Jamie had been listening to the speaker intently.  A little bit later, I noticed Jamie had started doodling and I glanced down to see.  In the middle of her page, she had drawn a dark circle with two parallel lines coming out the top of it. The picture took up a good part of her page. I laughed and elbowed her.  "Is that parallel universes?"  She nodded, and I said, "So you saw mine?"  and pointed to my doodles.  She glanced down at my doodles, which were very small and in my left margin.  Then she started cracking up. "No," she said, "I didn't see yours!"  Then she started laughing even harder because she noticed I had started with a dark circle as well.

I was more astonished than amused.  I know that to anyone who doesn't know Jamie, this story doesn't seem that significant -- as you could assume she was lying or that we had drawn parallel universe diagrams before.  But she wasn't and we hadn't.  Something that our principal had said had given her the idea for her parallel universe drawing.  I had started mine long before for a whole different reason.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Dobsonfly (originally what I thought was an Early Brown Stonefly)

This was in my garage. Freeky looking! I put the spoon by it for scale.

Monday, June 28, 2010

My recent flight from KY to AZ and its general unpleasantries

 About 10 minutes after Peter dropped me off the airport last week, I had to call him to turn around because I’d left my laptop in his car. He obliged uncomplainingly – love ya, Peter!

The lady at the luggage check-in was inexplicably hostile with me. First she tried to get me to use the machine, and I told her I didn’t know how. Then she glanced at my ticket and ID and caustically said something to the effect of I had what I needed, I didn’t need else anything from her, what did I want? Well, I still needed to check my luggage. She appeared to now be ignoring me, so I hoisted my suitcase onto the scale unsolicited. I was about to tell her off when I remembered it’s best these days not to get belligerent in an airport.

Lest you think I imagined her rudeness, about 30 minutes later at the gate, some man said to me out of the blue, “That lady at the counter sure was giving you a hard time.” He then told me that another man had gotten so angry with her that she had to tell him not to get in her face. I replied that if she keeps acting that way a lot more people will be getting in her face.

Two men in front of me in the security line smelled so strongly of … well, I’m hoping that one of them had merely stepped in the source of the smell. I kept backing away from them so that the lady behind me couldn’t get close enough to smell them and think I was the culprit. I prayed they weren’t on my flight to Dallas.

The flight was a bit rough and I panicked a couple of times, such as during take-off, the duration of the flight, and the landing. The man next to me was maddeningly oblivious to my anxiety. As if that wasn’t irritating enough, two young women a few seats up (that had already annoyed me by laughing too loudly), kept throwing up their hands during turbulence, as if they were in a roller coaster. You might think this would have lightened the mood for me, but it only resulted in my wanting to smack their joyous hands back down where they belonged. It just looked so stupid and I was so scared and nobody cared. “Everyone is a jerk!” I vented to myself, and somehow that made me feel better.

The coffee on the plane was terrible, and it took me most of the flight to figure out that it tasted exactly like mildew smells.

The next flight got interesting even before take-off. As with the previous flight, there was not an empty seat and people kept holding things up by forcing oversized carry-ons into the overhead compartments. I watched in disbelief while one lady attempted to push in a carry-on that was sticking a good four inches over the top of the storage lid. I guess other people were staring as well because two of us jumped in with suggestions and one motivated young man grabbed it himself and shoved it in.

Eventually, the flight crew began pleading with people to quit holding things up. They asked two or three times for people to get out of the aisles and take their seats. Astonishingly enough, people responded by continuing to take their time and even started switching seats with other people. “Would you and your wife like to sit together?” “Honey, do you want this seat or this seat?” At one point, a man who appeared to be the only sane one besides myself said to his wife “Just sit down!” in exasperation. I couldn’t believe the number of seat-switching I was witnessing, as if the flight crew had pleaded with them to please take more time.

And then, as if that weren’t enough, my seatmate finally appeared, a tall, young , red-headed girl with several facial piercings. And guess what. She asked me to switch her seats so that I had the window and she had the aisle. That was fine with me since it didn’t require holding anyone up. However, rather than sitting down, she got into the seat on her knees and peered overhead to her friend who was several rows back. I knew what was coming next, and sure enough, she asked me to switch seats with her friend. Now I was going to be one of those annoying aisle walkers.

I dashed to my new seat to find a man in probably his 40s who had a strong Texas accent and a cavalier attitude. He continued a conversation on his cell phone even after the instructions had been given to turn cell phones off, and he would simply say “hang on” and place it in his lap whenever the flight attendant passed by.

When we began lift-off, I informed the man I am afraid of flying. After my last flight, I was determined that, whether he cared or not, he would be aware. He asked if there was anything he could do and I told him no, but thank you. During ascent, the pilot began a turn which caused the wing dipping that I hate most of all. “This is the part I hate the most,” I said to the man, determined not to be ignored. He obligingly said, “OK.”

I tried after that to avoid bothering the man, and the rest of the flight was relatively uneventful, except for a small moment of discomfort when the flight attendant mistook us for a married couple. (She asked if we were going to share the peanuts he had purchased. I should have said "Yes, that would be very nice.")

Moral of this otherwise pointless story: if your job requires you to work with the public, don't be an ass. If you are going out of town or even just out of your house, make sure you have no fecal matter on you of any kind. If you find yourself sitting next to nervous people, tell them that you know for a fact they will not die today. (Just say it.) If you are boarding a plane, remember that yours is not the only plane in the air that day and the pilot is on a time schedule. And don't assume people of the opposite sex who happen to be seated together have also been united in matrimony.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Dig Allen, Space Explorer

Once in awhile I am drawn to vintage teen literature. I guess my Trixie Belden reading past (which smoked Nancy Drew) causes me to wax sentimental when I stumble across any G-rated novel for yesterday’s youth.

This week I was browsing in a used bookstore and I came across a book that looked, at a glance, much like the old yellow-spined Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys books. This one, however, had a cover illustration of three boys and a grown man in spacesuits kneeling down and examining what appeared to be an elaborate city under ice. The title read “Lost City of Uranus,” and at the very top it said “A Dig Allen Space Explorer Adventure.” The copyright was 1962. I was immediately drawn to the nostalgia of 1960s sci-fi, a time of innocent wonder at space exploration before sophisticated cynicism, in my opinion, perverted much of sci-fi into the borderline horror of today.

The penciled-in price read 12.00, and even though that seemed a bit steep for Half-Priced Books, I took it to the counter along with two other books. I was startled when the lady said my total would be 7.00 +. I hesitated, wondering if I should count my blessings and run. But curiosity got the better of me and, pointing to the Dig Allen book, I asked, “How much was that?”

“1.00,” the lady said, opening the inside cover to have another look. “Oh no! “ she exclaimed. ”This is 12.00!” Of course, I expected her to reward my honesty, but instead she thanked me for it and charged me the correct amount.

Now feeling incredibly stupid, I paid for and took my purchase. As I explained the situation to my mom, mom suggested I ask the owner of the bookstore, who was currently behind the customer service counter, why this particular book was so much. The man explained that the Dig Allen series , of which there were six total, had been intended to be the new Hardy Boys. However, they had not sold well, and as a result there were only so few printed. That’s why my book cost so much.

Upon hearing this, Mom said to me, “Well, you just paid extra for a flop.” The man hastened to contradict her, but his explanation had already done the damage.

Feeling even more ridiculous, I left with mom. She encouraged me to return the book if I had reservations (and I really should have between the clerk not sticking to the price she originally named and the man explaining to me what a disaster the series had been), but I didn’t.

So last night I started the book, which I thought would be a quick and semi-delightful read, but so far it hasn’t captured me. However, the cover -- the boys in spacesuits exclaiming over a brilliant, extra-terrestrial city under ice – makes me very happy to look at. So I’m keeping it. And I WILL read it, since I paid for it. But from now on I will ASK why a book is so expensive, just in case it is, ironically, because nobody wanted it to begin with.

Friday, May 14, 2010

My Own Reality Show

I have decided that I am the subject of a reality show I have not been told about, sort of like The Truman Show with Jim Carrey. And the goal is to create as many weird situations as possible in my classroom and see how successfully I can still teach.

I got this notion in my head yesterday when a pair of jeans was mysteriously left in my classroom. “There’s a pair of pants in here!” someone declared. Without even looking, I told them to put the pants over with the other clothes that have been left over the year. Later on, another student discovered them and tried to peddle them. But nobody bought them so they are still there, draped over a milk crate. I don’t recall seeing anyone leaving class without any pants on, but then again I also missed it when Kurt removed his pants for a few seconds on a dare during 3rd hour. What was I doing that I could miss that? I guess you’d have to review old posts about my 3rd hour, but it could have been anything from breaking up a game of Ninja to assisting an asthmatic who keeps forgetting his inhaler.

But it’s not just third hour. Today during 6th hour (my very best class and the closest yet to a traditional classroom atmosphere), just after we had gotten quiet and begun reading Romeo and Juliet, Timothy* suddenly reached out and slammed his fist down on the water bottle on Ian’s desk, sending it crashing loudly to the floor. A stunned silence ensued, during which I buried my face in my hand, then continued reading with no further disruption. I found out that later that Ian had fallen asleep and Timothy was attempting to wake him up.

We aren’t allowed to let students sleep; we have been told more than once that principals don’t want to see any heads down. But I don’t care anymore and here is why: yesterday I suddenly realized that my 3rd hour had fallen quiet and learning was taking place. I looked around to find the key performers of the usual circus were out cold, and whether it was a coincidence or they had all partaken of the vodka that some students were found putting in the slushies at lunch, I was quite happy. “I know people are sleeping,” I said pleasantly to the rest of the class, “I’m just going to let them sleep.”

It's never as bad in 1st hour, when nothing much happens beyond someone calling out, “Does anyone have any gum?” But I wasn’t prepared for 7th hour when out of the blue Trey turned to the class and asked if anyone knew how to juggle. I asked him why he needed to know that and he said that that he wanted to learn. And that was that. I guess nobody knew because I’m certain they’d have stood and demonstrated.

Kenny took 3rd hour to a whole new level of chaos yesterday when he jumped up and ran out of the room. I took off after him just in time to see him leap into the air and smack one of the hallway ceiling tiles, then start back into the classroom. “What are you doing?” I asked him. He replied, “Keith told me I couldn’t do it so I showed him.”

It’s only the mornings before the kids enter the building that bring some peace and quiet, but even those can present unexpected events: this morning I found a cell phone on my overhead projector. With the help of some kids during 7th hour, we discovered it belonged to a senior. I tracked down the senior and found it had been stolen from him that morning. I had never seen this kid in my life, but whatever kid (out of the 2100 at CCHS) stole his phone chose to leave it in my room. Because clearly my room contains a divinely-installed vacuum that sucks all reason and order within a 50,000 square foot radius.

And don’t think it ends after school either. Some of the kids are just getting started. Today I had my usual crew hanging out when suddenly Kelsea (“Voice of Condemnation” for those that know that story) burst into my room to spill a confession to me about having falsified her identity to the office today. I can’t figure out how I went from being the target of her hatred to her priest, but nothing fazes me anymore.

She then handed me a cell phone that she had just found in the soccer field. She knew whose it was, but didn’t want to be in possession of it in case it had a tracking device. I found it interesting that my day began and ended with a missing cell phone, but in a few minutes the owner came to claim it. I didn’t know him or the two friends he brought with him, but within the few seconds they entered and exited my room, one of them had managed to fasten a condom over the doorknob. Before I could even react, the male teacher next door suddenly stormed onto the scene. He demanded the names of the offenders and made them throw the condom away. (So of course, it went into my trashcan.) I pretty much just watched all this wordlessly. Because, like I said, I’m the subject of a reality show and am now viewing it with detached curiosity.

Somewhere in that black hole of chaos, there is a cosmic camera installed for the amusement of some divine being. I foresee a second Genesis: “In the beginning, God created Mrs. West’s class. And it was without form..."

*All names have been changed

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Porch Birds

The darlings are back.  Last year they appeared to be roosting with no nest in sight, but this year they have built a nest in the top left corner across the front door.  Since I can't tell if they are Cliff Swallows or Cave Swallows, I have created a new category (for the frustrated non-scientist) called Porch Birds. Much easier to identify. 

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Monsters: A Softer Side

For the past five years, I have taught The Odyssey to my high school students. And each year I am intrigued by our textbook’s reprint of a painting depicting the Cyclops Polyphemus as a furry, long-necked creature with the soft, one-eyed gaze of a gentle pet. This Cyclops strikes me as vulnerable, not the sort of creature that would snatch up men to eat them alive and drool pieces of them afterward in drunken hiccups.

Yesterday as my students were reading the gruesome scene with Polyphemus, I read the caption of the painting, which explained that its French artist, Odilon Redon, had wanted to portray a sympathetic Cyclops. This concept isn’t a complete fabrication: one of the most striking elements of the scene with Polyphemus is the gentleness he displays toward his sheep even as he gorges himself on men.

When the young Dawn with fingertips of rose
lit up the world, the Cyclops built a fire
and milked his handsome ewes, all in due order,
putting the sucklings to the mothers. Then,
his chores being all dispatched, he caught
another brace of men to make his breakfast,
and whisked away his great door slab
to let his sheep go through…

Upon each reading, I find myself oddly moved by the gentle shepherding of Polyphemus. The juxtaposition of his care for his sheep with his brutality toward Odysseus’s men leaves me feeling ambivalent and examining my own nature. While I am certainly not a cannibal or even a murderer, I understand feeling occasional hostility toward my fellow humans while caring deeply for animals. Most animal-lovers can attest to the same.

Beyond this common disillusionment with people, however, I find that I am slower than some to label any strange creature a “monster.” What constitutes a monster? Something that kills and eats its food? That’s most of us, but only people make a sport of it. Something that looks unfamiliar, like the Texas Blue Dog? In report after report, I hear the Blue Dogs described as “ugly.” A man in Tennessee even stated, “It looks like something out of ‘you know where’.” Assuming he meant “hell”, I observed a picture of the dog he had killed and tried to see what he was seeing. It was probably the “fangs,” the dark skin, the eyes shut tight against any possible expression of emotion. Still, I can’t see anything sinister in photographs or videos of live ones.

Then there were the paintings and drawings in Nick Redfern’s study, most of them of the Owlman/Mothman. Many of these in particular looked like something out of ‘you know where’ as well, but I found myself staring with a slight, unexpected affinity at one. It certainly wasn’t because of its demonically glowing red eyes; maybe it was the furriness of its form. There is something about fur that softens people toward a creature – and something about the lack thereof that does the opposite, as many dead Blue Dogs could attest to.

So, while I still can’t quite define what constitutes a monster, what makes one person shoot a Blue Dog while another feeds it food scraps, or what makes a part of me like the vicious Polyphemus, I finally came to terms with my feelings for the Cyclops and purchased a reprint of the painting yesterday. He will soon be hanging in my study, which may be well on its way to bearing its own wall of “monsters”.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Student's bizarre claims prove true

I have a student who wrote the following in her journal entry today. I checked as much of her info as I currently have access to (her address and her birthday), and her claims have proven true so far:

My favorite number is 13. Most people think that it's unlucky, but for me it's all luck. I was born on 9/13. When I was born, my head was 13 inches and I was the 13th baby born in the hospital that day. I live in house #913 in a room that is 9x13...I will also graduate in 2013, and my 18th birthday is Friday the 13th, 2013.

I just though it was pretty cool.