Susie’s Unexpected Holiday From School, and Other News

I came to work on Thursday, and one of the first things I do is check my work E-mail.  There was a mass-mailed notice to all of us in the Columbus Reads program saying that there would be no tutoring that day.  I was wondering if the boiler wasn’t working (or working too well) at Highland Avenue Elementary, or if Shayla had caused some kind of hostage situation.

I soon found out in an E-mail that Steph sent me.  There was no school anywhere in Columbus Public Schools.  Why?  The entire school bus fleet had been grounded.  The initial story was that too many drivers had called in sick, but, as the day moved on, we learned the real reason.  For the sake of brevity, here is something that I cut and pasted from the Website of Channel 6, WSYX-TV:

School buses are rolling in Columbus this morning as children go back to the classroom, a day after the district closed schools because of an issue involving bus driver screening.

A contractor responsible for some bus routes discovered it had not done complete criminal background checks on drivers.

First Student decided to ground its Columbus fleet, two days after one of its drivers was arrested by Columbus police on a charge of cocaine possession.

Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann says he wants the Columbus city attorney to pursue criminal charges against First Student. He says failing to do the background checks is a misdemeanor.

Last Updated: Friday, January 26 2007, 07:33 AM

And this is the bus company which provides Susie’s transportation to and from school every day!  The driver who was arrested on cocaine possession was arrested while driving the school bus.  He had been pulled over for a traffic stop, and the policeman saw a syringe full of cocaine right there for everyone to see!  I’m wondering that if the school system was so lax in investigating drivers’ backgrounds, how thorough are they with teachers and aides?  I’m thinking that if Michael Jackson came in there and asked for a job, they’d give it to him.

In other news, Susie is grounded from the computer for a month.  This is because we had given her explicit, no-way-to-be-misunderstood rules that she was not to log into or use chatrooms or instant messaging.  It’s not that we don’t want her communicating with her friends, and we want her to have fun with the computer, but chatrooms are off limits.  This is mainly because of how many perverts (both male and female) who troll the Web masquerading as young children, get the kids’ confidence, and then try for in-person meetings to do God knows what.  We discovered it more or less by accident.  Steph discovered it less than an hour before my Jeopardy! online audition, and Susie was a basket case.  I had to close the door of the office so it’d be relatively soundproof before and during the test.  We explained to Susie that the no-chatroom restriction wasn’t to be mean or arbitrary, but to keep her from people who like to abuse children.  She understood and admitted–somewhat grudgingly–that she needed to be booted off the computer for a month.  The only exceptions are the computerized card catalogues at the library, and the computers at school.

Scott G. and I had to skip our Tuesday night walk, between my appointment with Dr. Schneir and the Jeopardy! audition, but we’ll be back on it this Tuesday.  One place we can cross off our list is the campus of MR-DD, where we were the last time.  We were politely run off from there by the State Police who patrol it, and I doubt that they’ll be that nice a second time.  (I’m thinking the only reason they cut us any slack was because when they asked for ID, I showed them my State of Ohio employee’s ID.)

I am now about 36 hours without caffeine.  The information that came with the Lithium said that I should be avoiding diuretics while I’m on it, and caffeine is the biggest diuretic of them all.  Dr. Schneir didn’t explicitly say I should give it up altogether, but I’ve decided to, at least for now.  Maybe Alcoholics Anonymous is right about the “one day at a time” approach, although that is only set in stone when it comes to diaries.  A side effect of Lithium, especially when you’re a rookie (as I am) is almost constant thirst, so I kept a water bottle in my hand all day at work yesterday, and refilled it every time it was less than half full.  I had a bad headache all day, too.

I did some Internet research on Lithium, and found that it is not exclusively prescribed for bipolar disorder.  It is also used for unipolar depression and to enhance the effects of meds that you’re already taking.  I think it is one of those drugs that was invented for one thing, and then they discovered an added benefit.  (Viagra, for instance, was originally for enlarged prostate, and then accidentally it was discovered that it helped cure impotence.  Several anticonvulsants are prescribed as antidepressants as well.)

I borrowed a DVD of Sid and Nancy from the library, and watched it in bed last night.  Steph hated it, and went to sleep in 45 minutes “in self-defense.”  I watched the whole thing.  It’s not a movie I’d like to see over and over again, but I’m glad I saw it once.  They were two people who truly deserved each other.  I wondered what he saw in her, and vice versa.  I guess water does seek its own level.

My Concentration is in Jeopardy!

I just took Jeopardy!‘s online test.  It was 50 questions, with 15 seconds allowed for each question, and I am not looking forward to the results.  Actually, I will not know the results until and unless I get word in the mail that I’ve been selected for an audition.  The computer didn’t indicate whether a certain answer was right or wrong–you just had 15 seconds to submit it and then the next question appeared.  Being a fast typist helped quite a lot tonight.

I am not superstitious, but other than Steph and Susie, I told no one about my signing up for this.  Susie’s reading in her room, and Steph is on the phone downstairs, so I’ve been hermetically sealed in here.  Now that I’m still a little keyed up from the test, I’m hoping that typing in here will help wind me down a bit.  (I did mention the test in a letter I mailed this afternoon, but it’ll be a thing of the past by the time the recipient gets it.)

Until I learned that I could (or so I thought) hold my own on Jeopardy!, my all-time favorite game show was Concentration, especially when it was hosted by Hugh Downs.  Alex Trebek tried to revive it with computer graphics in the late ’80s, but it just wasn’t the same, and it folded after about a season.  Trebek didn’t appreciate the sound and feel of the original Concentration, when a contestant would call out “Number 17,” to be followed by the cunjunk-snap as the number on the board swivelled around to reveal the prize hidden behind it.  What was even more fun was when the number would turn about a third of the way, and Hugh Downs would have to walk over and manually prod it the rest of the way.  (Quick clarification to my younger readers: The game was like the card game of the same name.  A contestant would call out a number on a board numbered 1-30.  The number would flip around and reveal a prize, such as “Color TV.”  If it said “Wild Card,” then anything he/she chose would be a match.  The contestant would call out a second number, and if there was a match, the pieces would turn a third time to reveal parts of a puzzle.  The puzzle was always a rebus, and usually a very atrocious pun.)

While we’re on the subject of game shows, I found out that 25% of the Marietta College College Bowl team is in Nelsonville, Ohio.  That’s a little burg about seven miles from Athens on U.S. 33, which is the way from Athens to Columbus.  This person is a Methodist minister named Stacy Evans, and he used to be the pastor of Broad Street Methodist Church downtown.  (I’ve only been to that church for a rummage sale–I bought a journal and some books for myself, and let Susie pick out about $4 worth of toys.)  I sent him a letter today asking him if (by some miracle) he has the audio portion of the Marietta College appearances.

I may even ask NBC to see if they have it in their archives.  General Electric College Bowl was, of course, broadcast on NBC, which is owned by the General Electric Company.  Their not-so-subtle way of advertising themselves comes with the three NBC Chimes.  The notes are G-E-C.  I have some tapes of the NBC radio show Journey to Freedom, and the slogan at that time (1940s, I think) was “Three chimes mean good times.”

It seems that I may have an easier time of winding down soon.  I went to see my psychiatrist, Dr. Schneir, this afternoon at Mount Carmel East.  I told him (quite truthfully) that I’ve been worried, since my lows seem to drop me lower and it’s harder to get back to just feeling blah.  So, he’s trying me on Lithium.  He hasn’t gone so far as to diagnose a bipolar disorder, since I don’t have the compensating mania, but I told him I need to have my moods not change so dramatically.  The times when I function well and then suddenly drop into a deep depression, like someone pulled the rug out from under me, are the ones that scare me the most.

YouTube Had Me Very Enthusiastic Last Night

My late father coached Marietta College’s team when it appeared on The General Electric College Bowl in 1966.  I was barely three years old, so I barely remember it, other than some scattered “flashbulb” memories here and there, but Marietta College won twice and was defeated on its third appearance.

So, just for fun, last night I was looking through YouTube and decided–totally on impulse–to type “ge college bowl” in the search engine.  To my surprise (and elation), three clips popped up that said, “G.E. College Bowl March 1966.”  I remembered this was when Marietta College’s team was on.

I opened the clips, and my wonderful mood collapsed like a deflating balloon.  The clips displayed were from a match the week before Marietta College’s appearance.  The clips on YouTube were from the Princeton vs. Agnes Scott College match.  Agnes Scott was Marietta’s first rival, followed by Parsons College (which is now defunct), and M.C. was finally defeated by Williams College.

Dad wouldn’t have gotten much screen time.  As I recall, the coaches’ only appearances were at the beginning of each contest.  They came out, shook hands, and were off-camera the rest of the time.

I have been sending E-mails to the person who posted this clip to see if he/she has the clips of any of Marietta’s three appearances.  So far, there’s been no word at all.  If he/she doesn’t have the clip, I want to know the source of the clips.

My next step will be, at the suggestion of a fellow LiveJournal diarist, to contact Williams College’s library and/or audio visual department.  Maybe someone there had recorded it on 3/4″ tape (forerunner to Beta and VHS, back when TV stations were the only places you could find video recorders), and will convert it to a DVD (or even a VHS cassette!) for me.

I’ll keep you posted on what, if anything, comes of this.  One of the College Bowl team members is a Methodist minister, and he used to be the pastor of Broad Street Methodist Church.  So, I’m going to try and track him down from there.  Maybe he (or someone in his family) recorded the audio portion of it.

I’m Going to Endorse the Only Pro-Life Group Worthy of the Phrase

Tomorrow will be the 34th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade.  I remember January 22, 1973 more as the day that Lyndon Johnson died.  As far as sex was concerned, my parents told me where babies came from, and the proper names for the sexual organs, but the rest I had to learn elsewhere.  And I didn’t know what abortion was until seventh grade, when I was in a parochial (Catholic) school.  Quite a balanced picture of the issue, eh?

I have always identified myself as pro-choice, while at the same time having serious reservations about abortion.  I know the decision to have an abortion is one that a woman will agonize over.  Despite what the anti-abortion literature says, a woman doesn’t approach an abortion as she would getting her ears pierced.

So, what pro-life organization would I be endorse?  It is a group called Consistent Life.  It used to be known as the Seamless Garment Network, but changed its name to Consistent Life, because it is truly a pro-life organization.  Yes, Consistent Life opposes abortion, but it also opposes capital punishment, war, assisted suicide, euthanasia, poverty and racism.  Unlike the “conception until birth” pro-lifers who are the most visible and outspoken, Consistent Life is pro-all life.

I am not a dues-paying member yet, but I am seriously considering it.  The abortion issue no longer affects me personally.  Steph will not be pregnant again, and I had a vasectomy six months after Susie was born.  But it was the hypocrisy of the other “pro-life” organizations that has, until now, kept me from thinking about abortion from any other perspective.

The closest the abortion issue came to affecting me was when I was living in Cincinnati.  Until I got my steady jobs at the Cincinnati post office and at the Internal Revenue Service’s processing center across the river in Covington, I often considered applying to work at the University of Cincinnati.  Its most attractive perk was free tuition, and Lord knows I needed that (and still do!).

But I never applied.  At that time, U.C.’s employment office and testing center was on Vine Street, not too far from the Cincinnati Zoo and the V.A. Hospital.  It shared the building–a very drab and nondescript building (“utilitarian” is the kindest word)–with an abortion clinic.  As I passed it daily, there were always protestors on the sidewalk.  The most ugly ones held up the giant color photographs of aborted fetuses.  The most benign were Catholic laypeople who endlessly walked back and forth praying the rosary.

This was about the time that abortion clinics were being bombed, often times with fatal results.  There was always a fear in the back of my head (and not always in the back of my head) that the day I went into U.C.’s Human Resources office to take the appropriate tests and fill out the forms, that would be the day that the anti-abortionists would choose to demonstrate their respect for life with an incendiary device.  Even having that thought in my mind would have hindered my ability to do a good job on any of the exams necessary to be hired.

Back to Consistent Life.  Its more prominent members include the Dalai Lama, Martin Sheen, Wendell Berry (novelist and poet), and columnist Nat Hentoff, who is an atheist.  It is hard to pin down politically–it’s estranged from the Left because of the anti-abortion stance, but at the same time people from Consistent Life are personae non grata with many conservatives, because they oppose the essential planks in the Republican Party’s platform: war and capital punishment. 

Here is the Website: http://www.consistent-life.org  There is also a very informative entry about it in the Wikipedia.

L’chaim! (in all its manifestations) and good night to all.

Second Holiday This Month

Susie and I are at the Hilltop Branch of the Columbus library.  Some of the branches are closed due to the MLK holiday, and that includes the one two blocks from our place.  Susie’s friend Rosemary spent last night with us; Susie spent Saturday night at Rosemary’s.  Rosemary’s aunt didn’t give us a specific time for when Rosemary had to go home, so when she showed up just before noon and Rosemary left, Susie was inconsolate.  I finally got a couple peanut butter sandwiches into her and then we took the bus up here.

Steph went to the gym this morning… She left around 7 a.m.  Neither Susie nor Rosemary were awake (I’m still not sure where they slept, since Susie’s room is such a disaster area).  After the gym, Steph was going to see Marie Antoinette at one of the dollar theatres.  I’m semi-incommunicado right now, since I forgot to bring my cell phone with me when we left.

During the morning, I found a fascinating Website called Road Ode.  It’s at http://www.roadode.com and it features excerpts of various television commercials, station identifications, bloopers, etc.  In case anyone is nostalgic for that idiotic “Let’s all go to the lobby…” cartoon that movie theatres used to play at intermission (the one with the dancing popcorn and hot dogs), it’s in there.  What pleased me most was the 1967 NBC Peacock logo, with that authoritative voice, “The following program is brought to you in living color on NBC.”

I had a good day “off” yesterday.  I played hooky from church and went to the campus area.  I was majorly wired on caffeine for most of the day, since I was sitting in the McDonald’s just south of Lane Avenue and constantly refilling my cup with Diet Coke (after I had eaten my two burgers).  I wrote a three-page diary entry and made a cursory trip through the Sunday newspaper that someone had abandoned in an adjacent booth.

I don’t know where Scott G. and I are walking tomorrow night.  While Susie and I were going toward this library’s entrance, I got a look at St. Mary Magdalene School’s track/football field.  If the gate isn’t locked tomorrow night, and there’s enough lighting that we feel safe, it’s a possibility.  (Steph wants to walk in the Columbus Half Marathon, which I think is next fall.  I’ll probably walk with her.  A full marathon is 26.2 miles, so I guess the half-marathon would be just over 13 miles.

And the Long Weekend is Off and Running

This three-day weekend isn’t going to be as much fun as some of the others… mainly because Susie has it off as well.  I have promised Steph that I’d look after Susie while she goes to the gym on Monday, so I have all of tomorrow to myself.  Right now, I’m at the Franklinton library typing on the computer before Susie goes swimming at the indoor pool where she’s been a regular since before Christmas.

Not much to report today.  My last entry was all about the latest installment in the Shayla battles.  That same day, I learned something about myself that was a relief and a surpise.

I’ve written several times about my love of (addiction to) Diet Coke.  It’s been the back-up addiction of my life since I stopped drinking alcohol eight or nine years ago.  But I realized on Thursday, en route to Highland Avenue Elementary, that I love poetry more.

Usually, I bring a book along on the 10- or 15-minute bus ride to Highland.  On Thursday, however, I didn’t have time to get a book.  I had gone downstairs to the first floor to deliver some doctors’ reports.  I had a Diet Coke in my hand, which I hadn’t yet popped.  As I was leaving the doctors’ mailbox area, I saw the school bus sitting on Spring Street.  Since I didn’t want to miss it again, I dashed out there and jumped aboard, sans book.

I got out my breast-pocket notebook instead, and a ballpoint pen.  I wrote a poem and a half while the bus was in motion.  (The handwriting looks quite jittery, mainly because we were going over a rough part of the road.)  I was barely able to read it later on.  It looked like a boredom-reliever my stepsister used to do on car trips.  She would put a legal pad in her lap while the car was in motion, and very lightly hold a pen in her hand.  This would create jagged lines, almost like a seismograph.  (I guess it’s better than waving to cows in the pasture.)

Should We Get Shayla a GPS or an Invisible Fence?

Today was the first time I had seen Shayla at Highland Ave. Elementary since before Christmas.  I am sorry to report that her attitude seems to have deteriorated significantly.  Dick, the coordinator of the program, told me from the get-go that Shayla had been suspended three times in the past month, mostly for kicking and hitting teachers.  (In 12 years of school, kindergarten to 12th grade, I never got suspended!  And it wasn’t from lack of effort, either!)

I’m not sure if I was kidding when I asked if they made straitjackets in Shayla’s size.  When she and I got out to the hallway where our little desk is, she balked from minute one, and wouldn’t sit down.  She tried to hide in the girls’ room, but her teacher was able to flush her out (get it?) and lead her back to the table.  As soon as the teacher went back to her classroom, Shayla got up and bolted from the table.  She’s quicker and lighter than I am, so it wasn’t an even contest.  She ran down the hallway and up to the floor above, and made a beeline right for the PEAK room (Columbus City Schools’ term for elementary school detention; I will tell you what this acronym stands for when I relearn it).  I think it was interesting that she went straight there.  Apparently, she spends much time there, and it was like the swallows returning to Capistrano every spring.

I brought her back to her kindergarten teacher, a long-suffering woman.  Shayla was squirming the whole time she and I were en route back to her room.  The teacher reminded her that I was her friend: I was there to help her learn, I had gotten her a notebook, and sent her a card from the Columbus Zoo, etc.  This didn’t put a dent in Shayla’s attitude.  She went to hide in the kindergarten room’s puppet theatre.  Finally, she decided to play nice and walked toward the door that led to the hallway.

The key word there is play.  I went out the door with her, and for less than 30 seconds I turned my back to say something to the teacher.

You can imagine the rest.  I turned back–no Shayla.  Her teacher got on the room intercom to contact the office.  “Shayla’s escaped.”  “Okay,” said the voice on the speaker.  Apparently, this is a common occurrence at Highland.  I spoke with the teacher, until another teacher said that Shayla had been located.

By then, it was time to leave to go back to work.  I was sad that the morning had transpired the way it had, and I am wondering what is going on with her the other 167.5 hours per week, when I don’t see her.  That kind of anger just doesn’t pop up spontaneously one day.  The way she was today, I was almost suggesting that the teachers put her in a room like Hannibal Lecter’s in The Silence of the Lambs. That may entail strapping her to a dolly with a face mask when she’s brought out among others.

Apparently, the idea has occurred to them as well.

Backlog of Dictation, and Walking After Sunset

I apologize to everyone for not posting yesterday, but I was in constant motion almost from the minute my feet hit the floor yesterday morning.  I set a new record at work–I transcribed six medical reports in one day.  However, that doesn’t begin to put a dent in the backlog of doctors’ reports in our queue.  I spent most of the day with my headphones on and my two fingers tap-tap-tapping away at the keyboard.  Sometimes I would get so wrapped up in the work that I became oblivious to the passage of time.

I jumped into this backlog at a good time.  The cardinal rule with dictation is FIFO–first in, first out.  In other words, transcribe the reports in the same order that they were posted to the queue.  Som my timing was perfect–three reports from one doctor, averaging about six minutes in length; and the others were psychiatric reports, which are always fascinating.  Unfortunately, I have Dr. Magoo, the boring doctor from Cleveland, on deck for tomorrow.  (I won’t hassle him by posting his right name here; my co-pilot Lynne and I try to imagine what this guy looks like, and Lynne has sold me on the idea he looks like Mr. Magoo and/or Elmer Fudd.  Just to be contrary, I’ve suggested he resembles Antonio Bandares or Brad Pitt.)

My friend Scott G. and I are going to try to make the walks a regular Tuesday evening thing.  Last week, we did a few turns around Schiller Park in German Village.  I had suggested Westgate Park for a change of scenery, and he was amenable to the idea.  He picked me up after I had a dinner of stuffed peppers at home.  We got to Westgate, and you could count all the lit street lights on one hand.  At first, I wondered if there had been some temporary blackout, but it seemed that this was standard for Westgate.  It was so dark I had a hard time finding the water tower on the edge of the park.  It’s what I use to orient myself when I’m there, since my sense of direction is not very good.  (In the darkness, it reminds me of the Martian tripod machines in the original War of the Worlds novel.  See the Classics Illustrated comic edition if you’re not picturing it.)

So, Scott and I drove back down Sullivant Avenue and decided to walk (illegally–we were trespassing) at the campus that houses the offices of the Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (hereafter referred to as MRDD).  This occupies at least a city block, and several buildings and garages are spread out over quite a distance.  Besides the thrill of being on the wrong side of the NO TRESPASSING signs, it was adventurous because it was hard, in the darkness, to plot a walking route, so each path was a new experience.  One road was inclined enough that it required some effort to walk up it.  (We tried to swing by that way as much as possible!)

I have to confess, gentle reader (or readers, I hope vainly), that part of the thrill was being somewhere we weren’t supposed to be.  I think it’s the latent juvenile delinquent in me.  In high school, I racked up an impressive portfolio of status offenses, and, although I enjoyed the walk, I enjoyed walking past patrol cars on the grounds and having the cops inside not give us a second look.  (Feeling this way, I admit, is the same as throwing leaves on a just-painted porch.  There was an age when a NO TRESPASSING sign would have been as effective at deterring me as scaring ants away by throwing sugar on the ground.)

We’re at the library, since Steph is teaching a piano and a voice lesson.  Almost time to trudge the 2-3 blocks back to the home place, so I’ll commit this entry to cyberspace and close up shop.

Last Night, the Neighborhood Looked Like Blitz-Time London

There’s not much to record about Sunday.  Steph was tired, so she slept for three or four hours after Sunday dinner (which was at 1 p.m.), and Susie played with her GameBoy and played with the dog and the cat.  I ate too much at lunch, so my stomach felt like I had a blender going full blast.  I was upstairs at the computer for much of the afternoon–could have written even more in the blog then, I suppose!–because it’s next door to the bathroom, and I wanted to be able to make it there very quickly (which became a necessity).

When Steph woke up, and I finally took some Pepto-Bismol tablets, she wanted some Diet Pepsi.  I felt that I was recovered enough that I could stray more than five feet from the bathroom, so I put on my shoes and went outside.   I thought something was odd about the neighborhood, and it didn’t take me long to figure out why.  All the street lights on West Park Avenue were out.  The only thing illuminating the street (and the green strip that separates the east and west sides of the street) were lights in the houses along the way.  It wasn’t city-wide, because I could look down W. Town Street and see the lights were still working there.  But W. Park Ave., from W. Broad St. all the way down to Sullivant, was completely unlit.  I had to be extra careful crossing the street because I was wearing mostly dark clothing, and the drivers in this neighborhood (especially the younger ones) aren’t all that conscientious.

After dinner tonight, I walked over to United Dairy Farmers to buy a gallon of milk.  Some people in the neighborhood must have woodburning chimneys, because there was a distinct aroma of soot as I was walking.  I was always on the lookout for a real fire, ever since the evening two summers ago when Susie and I saw the garage of a vacant house burning.

That garage fire was set, I’m sure.  When I lived in Athens, there were several notable fires, all at the hands of arsonists.  It wasn’t as bad as a guy in Marietta named Rick Thomas, who owned several restaurants and nightclubs in Marietta.

(The only place of his I ever visited was The Club Continental on Front St., by the Lafayette Hotel.  That was the place to go for the newly legal and the fake ID crowd.  It wasn’t Studio 54 by any stretch of the imagination–although quite a few illegal substances changed hands there.  It was the place for the thrill-seeking crowd in Marietta to drink, play pool, dance, and seek out new sexual partners, buy street drugs, and be the first in town to catch the newest dance craze or venereal disease.  I was attracted to the fact that their bouncer checked IDs with a bag over his head.)

Whenever they weren’t turning a profit that was to his liking, the building would mysteriously catch on fire and burn to the ground.  Rick was always first on the scene, wringing his hands and crying about not having any insurance (which was completely untrue).  When he died, my dad said to a co-worker, “Did you hear Rick Thomas passed away?”  The co-worker said, without skipping a beat, “Is he going to be cremated?”

Our place has, theoretically, a woodburning fireplace, but it’s blocked.  We debated asking the landlord if we could open it up so we could use it for firewood, but it’s been so warm this winter that the thought hasn’t crossed our minds.  I’ve noticed that any kind of contained fire, such as in a fireplace or a campfire, always has at least one person there who isn’t happy unless he’s (in my experience, such a person has always been male) horsing around with the fire every few minutes–using the poker to move the logs around, adding more kindling, etc.  I remember one guy proving the existence of his Y chromosome by poking campfire logs with his bare foot.

Why does this drive me crazy?  I never took particular note of it until I was at a friend’s house, and we were all sitting around thefireplace, about six of us, male and female.  The fire got a little low, so one person there said, “I’ll fix it!”  He picked up the bellows and whoosh! whoosh! whoosh! pretty soon there was soot flying everywhere… to alight on us.  Yes, he got the fire going more strongly, but all of us looked like we’d just stepped out of a mine.

Rainy Sunday Afternoon

Steph is taking a nap, Susie is watching one of the many Disney shows she’s TIVOd, and I’m up here writing in the blog.  I’m burning off the roast and the sweet potatoes we had for lunch.  Too bad Norman Rockwell isn’t here with his paints!

Some pigeons have alighted on our front porch and have been nibbling at Diana’s dog food bowl.  Susie has been trying to shoo them off, but I doubt she’s been very successful.  St. Francis of Assisi I am not!  (It almost makes me wish a kid I knew in Marietta was around here.  This guy’s idea of fun was to put popcorn under his bedroom window.  While the pigeons ate it, he’d sit up in his room and drop cement blocks on them.  I remember what my dad told me: “Boys throw rocks at frogs in fun, but the frogs die for real.”)

Susie has been improving in spelling, although her penmanship still needs work.  She has inherited (or learned) my love for words.  The way that started with me was when I was younger than I was.  There had been a horrible mine explosion and cave-in somewhere in Kentucky or West Virginia, and whenever there was news about it on the radio and TV, I just had to hear about it.  I woke up from a nightmare one night saying, “I don’t want to be trapped underground!”

My mother and dad were completely lost as to what this was about.  Finally it was Dad who figured it out.  “I think I know what this is about!” he said.  “Paul and I were at a restaurant the other night.  He wanted to work the cigarette machine for me, and I told him he couldn’t because he was a minor.”  That was my first lesson in words sounding alike, but being spelled differently and having two completely different meanings.