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It always amazes me to see just how stupid people with an education can be.  Sometimes, I think people get way too caught up in what kind of schooling they had or where they went.  As far as I’m concerned, your education only matters until about June after you've graduated.  Then, you get a job and get on with life. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I respect people who have finished college.  I think it’s wonderful that they chose that pathway for themselves.  I also respect people who learned through working.  They probably chose the harder path, but they may have learned more through everyday experience than they could have sitting in a classroom.

I don’t really care whether you went to college or not, so I’m certainly not bashing those who did.  People are people, no matter how they got their education.  All people are smart in some way, and all people are dumb in some way.  Having an education certainly doesn’t mean someone is smarter.  It means they chose to expand their knowledge in that particular area of study.

What took me on this tangent?  Well, it was listening to my husband on the phone with an angry shopper last night.  You see, his job is to call shoppers and remind them of upcoming mystery shopping assignments.  He calls and leaves a message that they have an assignment coming up and to be sure and let him know whether or not they can complete it.  He leaves a deadline of noon the next day for them to respond, because you know and I know that people do not respond without a deadline.  So, last night, he was just innocently doing his job, when he got a phone call.  I heard him answer with his greeting, and then he began saying, “Uh huh.  Uh huh.  But I…..  Uh huh.”  I was intrigued to hear what was going on, so I, being the nosey wife that I am, went and sat by him.  The woman on the phone was talking about a mile a minute, and I could tell she was angry.

While she was talking on and on and on to him, he took his headset off and started talking to me.  Apparently, this woman was a professor of communications, as she told him six times over the course of the call.  She was very educated, you know.  She was angry that he had called and “threatened” her if she did not get the shop done.  She said she was a good shopper, and she had shopped with the company for a long time and was one of our best shoppers.  (Never mind all the notes in her file about late shops and having to reschedule her jobs.)  She might have been a communications major, but she apparently could not hear that we were having a conversation without her. 

About five minutes into the conversation, I was done.  I had to walk away, because I was ready to take the phone and hang it up for him.  This woman lectured him about how smart she was and how educated she was and how dare he call her to remind her of an assignment.  (Some people really take themselves way too seriously.)  As the call progressed, I would check on Mr. E periodically to make sure he was still breathing.  Finally, about 20 minutes into it, I heard him start talking.  He chatted with this woman about how the employees of our company work from home all over the country.  He chatted with her about how different mystery shopping companies operate.  He chatted with her about how I had been a mystery shopper for over 20 years and how he and I both worked as editors.  He chatted and chatted.  I’m pretty sure he is now invited to her family’s Thanksgiving.

As Mr. Everything chatted, I just shook my head in amazement.  I like to think of myself as pretty patient (Don’t laugh at me.), but I could not have chatted with her.  My response ten minutes into it would have been, “Exactly how can I help you?”  Then, I would have gotten off the phone.  Not the Mr.  He chatted.

Forty five minutes after the call had begun, Mr. E wished her a nice evening (really?) and hung up.  I just rolled my eyes.  Finally, I said, “I hope you’re finished working, now that it’s midnight.”  (Did I mention that I was in a snippy mood?)  He said, “Oh, I am.”  I asked him why in the world he chatted with the communications professor for so long.  He chuckled and said, “Because she told me at the beginning of the call that she was not normally up that late and that she had to leave her house by 6:00 AM.  She said that she really needed to get to bed because morning was going to come early.  I figured I’d keep her on the phone as long as possible so she would regret calling me.”  So now, who’s the smart one?

When we owned our paint your own pottery studio, we used to dread the words, “I was an art major.”  Most of our customers were cordial.  They usually wanted a few tips to make sure their pottery would turn out nicely.  They would even ask for suggestions of how to paint pieces to get the best outcome.  Then, there were the art majors.

We had an art major come in one day with her baby.  She was going to make a handprint plate for her husband for Father’s Day.  She picked out her plate and requested her colors.  As always, we asked which color she would use for the plate and which she would use for the handprints, because we would give more of the paint for the plate.  She had picked red for the handprints.  Mr. E kindly said, “Can I make a suggestion?”  The art major cut him off and said, “I was an art major.”  Knowing what that meant, he said, “Okie dokie,” and got the paints.

The Goose walked through and saw the lady painting her child’s hand.  She went over to Mr. E and whispered, “Daddy, you need to tell that lady….”  Mr. E cut her off and said, “She was an art major.”  Even the five year old knew what that meant.

The Beetle came by and said, “Mama, that lady…”  I cut him off with, “Art major.”  He nodded knowingly and went back to his video game.

The art major finished her pottery, paid and left.  She, of course, did not tip us, because the art majors never did.  A week later, when her plate was ready, she came to pick it up.  Mr. E took it out and gave it to her.  Her face dropped when she saw it.  Her plate, with the red smeary hand prints, looked like it was part of a murder scene.  Mr. Everything, with a straight face, looked at her and said, “I sure hope your husband likes it!”

See, we weren’t art majors, but we had seen enough bloody red hand print plates to know that red is not the right color to use.  Our education may not have cost us thousands of dollars, but we had learned the lesson well.  Sometimes, it’s not how you learn it but what you know that matters.    -Al


 
 
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It always amazes me how my ideas can just dry up.  I’m going along just fine, blogging, blogging, blogging, blogging, and then, BAM!  I’ve got nothing.  I don’t know why that happens.  I think it might be because my life really is boring.

You see, I have some of you convinced that my life is an adventure, and some days, it is.  More times than not, though, my life just involves working, homeschooling my kids and going to church.  Exciting, right?  I know.

Don’t get me wrong; all three of those subjects can provide hours of entertainment, unless they all decide to be boring at once.  Then, I’ve got nothing.

This past week has been like that.  Everything has been pretty calm.  We’ve had the occasional trip to Gainesville, but that really is not exciting.  I didn’t even see the old half-naked cowboy this week.  Otherwise, I’ve worked.

I will tell you that last week, while working, I made the proclamation that you should never, ever, ever use the phrase, “My guest and I’s.”  I actually read that in a report.  After my head stopped spinning, I posted a declaration on Facebook that you should never, ever, ever use that phrase.  Ever.  And I mean it.  If you are ever tempted to use that phrase, come see me.  I’ll smack you back into good grammar.

This past weekend, we went to an area-wide sing at church.  That was fun.  Sort of.  Suffice it to say that at our new little church in the country, I’m considered a good singer.  People have actually told me that I had a nice voice.  Bless their hearts.  I really do like the people at my new church.  I like them even more when they say I'm a good singer.  No one has ever told me that before!

At this sing, we sang for an hour and a half straight.  I enjoyed it.  I love to sing, and in that church, with those people, I can sing as loud as I want.  It doesn’t matter, because they think I'm a good singer.  The Goose gave up singing about 45 minutes into it.  By the end of the hour and a half, the Beetle acted like he was shooting himself in the head every time I looked at him.   Mr. Everything was glazed over and not responding.  A great time was had by all.

The real excitement of the evening was the meal after the singing.  The preacher barbecued a bunch of brisket, pork and goat.  Yes, goat.  I, being the brave soul that I am, gave it a try.  It wasn’t baaaaaad.  (Sorry.  Baaaaad humor.)  It tasted like beef.  I had a hard time eating it, though, because every time I went to take a bite, the Beetle said, “Naaaaa.”  (How exactly do you spell a goat’s noise?)  He had been making goat noises at me all week leading up to the dinner.  Then, his grand finale came as I attempted to eat the poor critter.  Although it tasted pretty good, I’m pretty sure I won’t be eating goat again.  I caaaaan’t think about it without hearing the sound.

Today, the kids and I started school.  First, I went for an extra long walk with Mr. Everything.  I’ll do anything to avoid school, including exercise.  All the way back, I asked him if he was sure homeschooling our kids was a good idea.  I told him that maybe they would do better in public school.  He reminded me that the ship had sailed a long time ago on that subject, and that I was in it, for good or for bad.  I was pretty sure the bad was coming.

I went in, sucked it up and started school.  I figured at least I would have something to blog about.  The little beasties must have known that I was looking for material, though, because they were on their best behavior.  We survived a whole day of school without an argument, a battle or crying.  (That would be me crying.)  The little angels were, well, angels!

After school, they each did their chores without argument.  Really.  I can’t make this stuff up.  They worked peaceably side by side and never even shoved each other out of the way.  I’m pretty sure the end of the world is near.

So, just when I thought I could count on my kids to give me something to write about, I was wrong.  They wouldn’t even cooperate by not cooperating!

All in all, it has been a boring few weeks at the Not Your Average house.  Eat, sleep, work.  That’s how we roll.  Oh, yes, and now we can add school to that list.  Yay. 

I’m about to the point of following my family around while holding a pen and paper so I can use anything they say against them.  If you are considering meeting me for lunch anytime soon, you might want to rethink that.  Otherwise, you might be just the inspiration I need for something interesting to say!  Any volunteers?


 
 
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When people hear that I homeschool my kids, they typically offer one of two responses.  Other homeschool moms can probably name the reactions with me.  Both responses are incorrect in my case, so I would like to dispel both of these notions.

The first reaction that I typically hear is, “Wow, you must have a lot of patience.  I could never be patient enough to homeschool my kids.”  At this, I simply laugh.  I have no patience with my kids, and any patience I may have had at one time has slowly been stripped away from me through homeschooling.  I can not tell you how many times I have fought the urge to whack one of my kids upside the back of his (or HER!) head.  I definitely won’t tell you how many times I did not resist the urge.  I was hoping it would rattle their brains a little, but it didn’t help.

You see, my children can push my buttons better than anyone else in this world.  I am typically a calm, docile person. (Yes I am.  This is my story.  Let me tell it.)  Put me in a room with my children and school books, and you will see the angry beast.  Truly, they enrage me beyond what I knew I was capable of.  Now, before you go all feeling sympathetic for my kids or think I’m abusive, hear me out.  They know they are pushing my buttons.  In fact, I tell them, “You are pushing my buttons.  If you do not stop, I am going to blow.”  Usually, they just see that as a challenge, and they keep on pushing.  I give several more warnings before the explosion happens.  I feel guilty and think I’m horrible when I explode.  My kids, however, think I’m funny.  They’ve told me (during my calm times) that Mr. Everything is scary when he is mad, but I’m hilarious.  At least I haven’t traumatized them with my anger, I suppose.

The Beetle still laughs about a school-related incident several years back. At the time, we owned our paint your own pottery studio, so we did school on the go a lot.  We would carry the books we needed in a plastic basket.  That way, we could do school at the studio or at home, and taking the books with us was convenient.  One day, I was trying to explain how to divide fractions to the Beetle.  Again.  I’m not sure where the Goose was, but I don’t remember her being around.  Maybe she was napping.  (This was back in the magical days of naptime.)  Anywho, the Beetle was doing his typical space cadet impression.  I was quickly losing it, and he sensed that.  He began pushing all the wrong buttons, and I gave my traditional warnings.  He kept pushing and pushing and pushing, and finally, I exploded.  This time was one of the worst explosions I’ve ever had with one of my kids.  I got so mad that I was yelling at him, and I went to kick the book basket.  (As you may recall, I broke my big toe kicking the Goose’s bedroom door last year.  It still hurts.  I really should learn to stop kicking things.)  This time, I had a tennis shoe on, thank goodness, and I kicked the basket with all my might.  Unfortunately, the book basket was made of cheap plastic, and my foot went right through it.  Then, I was standing there with a basket on my foot, trying to be angry.  If you ever try to fuss at a child with a basket on your foot, you will quickly find that it isn’t very effective.  I’m pretty sure he didn’t hear a word I said because he was so busy laughing.  I ended up laughing too, and we called it a day for school.

The other response I hear when I tell people that I homeschool is, “Oh, you’re so lucky!  I’ll bet that is so much fun.”  Usually, I just answer that comment with a blank stare.

Some homeschool mothers would tell you that schooling their children is fun.  They learn together and laugh together and snuggle under blankets together.  I would not be one of those mothers.  Apparently, my children are wired differently, because never, ever have we snuggled under a blanket and happily read together.  Our version of reading together sounds more like this:

Me:  “You will sit here until I finish this chapter.”
Child:  “*Sigh!*  How long is the chapter?”
Me:  “It doesn’t matter.  You will sit here until I’m finished.”
Child: “But it’s boring.”
Me:  “If you would quit interrupting, you might actually be able to follow the storyline.”
Child: “How long is the chapter?”
Me: “FORGET IT!  You can read!  Read it for yourself!!!”

Some homeschool families are the best of friends.  Their children frolic in the front yard for PE time and the older child helps the younger child learn her multiplication tables.  My children beat the crud out of each other while I’m trying to teach them.

Truly, the only thing that is fun about homeschooling is getting together with the other moms.  Otherwise, no thank you.  As much as my children are dreading the beginning of our school year, I can assure you that I am dreading it even more.  I keep wishing for the beginning of summer so I didn’t have to feel this impending doom.

Here’s the reality at my house… Every school day will be a struggle.  Every school day will involve an argument of some kind, whether it’s between one of the kids and me, one of the kids and Mr. E or both of the kids together.  Every day will involve someone pushing my buttons in some way.  If one kid decides to actually cooperate for the day, the other kid will take over the button pushing. 

I used to be hopeful at the beginning of the school year.  I would tell myself that this year was going to be better.  I would get all psyched up and make my lesson plans and prepare little notebooks and folders.  I was excited.  A week into it, I was in the bathroom, crying through the door to Mr. E that I quit.  I can’t tell you how many times I have tried to pass the homeschooling torch to him, yet I still end up with it!  He’s a smart man, and he knows how to avoid the struggle. 

This year, I am not the least bit hopeful.  The faces in that picture are the faces that I will see every day when I say the cursed words, “Time to do school!”  Call me a realist, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be crying by day two.

Now, I know what you are thinking.  You are asking why in the world I homeschool.  Right now while I am calm and not educating my children, I can answer you and say that, irritating as they are, I love my kids.  I miss my kids when they are gone, and I want to know that they are okay.  I want to be deeply involved in their learning, so I know what they are learning and how they are doing.  During the few days that they went to school throughout the years, I missed them.  I did not like not knowing how they were doing in school.  The Beetle wouldn’t eat lunch, and he would come home starving.  When I asked him why he wouldn’t eat, he couldn’t tell me, but he wouldn’t.  The Goose broke out in eczema from head to toe from the stress of FCAT testing.  I don’t want that for my kids.  They have the rest of their lives to be stressed out.  So, even though they irritate the fire out of me, I still want what is best for them, and being home is best for my kids.  And do not take that as a judgment.  I’m not talking about what’s best for your kids.  This is all about me.  (Isn’t everything? ;-) )  Every child is different, and every situation is different, so I would never judge another parent for the choices they made.  Some days, I wish public school was best for my kids.  It sure would be easier!  

Now, if you were to call me and ask me why I homeschooled in the middle of a school day, my answer might not be as nice.  The button pushers are annoying, but I love ‘em.  As I’ve told them many times during their lives, it’s a good thing they’re cute!  -Al


 
 
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We always talk about how great technology is, and in a way, it is.  With technology, I can work from home.  I can know that my kid got there safely when he is driving on his own.  I can pay my bills without getting paper cuts on my tongue.  There are definite advantages to technology, but do you remember how simple life was without it?

We are always rushing to get the newest phone with the newest gadgets.  I don’t even know how to use 80% of the applications on my phone.  What’s worse is, I don’t care to know how to use them.  I just want to be able to pick up my phone and call someone.  Actually, more accurately, I want to pick up my phone and text someone or email them.  I really hate talking on the phone.

Now, with the addition of cell phones, it means people can reach me anywhere….when I’m in the bathroom, when I’m sleeping, when I’m in the car contemplating running away from home.  There is no escape, except for the fact that my phone doesn’t ring half the time.  I actually have to give people the disclaimer that, if I don’t answer, my phone did not ring and if they don’t leave a message or send me a text, I’ll never know they called.  How silly is that?  Isn’t the point of technology so that the phone can meet my needs?  Instead, I have to beg it to work correctly.

Now, in case you are thinking I need a new phone, let me tell you that this IS the new phone.  It is new enough, in fact, that I only know how to use 10% of the applications instead of 20%.  The old phone did it too, which is why I got the new phone.

I’m pretty sure I’m the problem.  I’ve heard my mother say that her father could never wear watches because his chemistry made them not work correctly.  I could be making that up, but I don’t think I am.  Anywho (Anywho…I really do like that word.  I'm goingstart saying it in public), maybe my chemistry destroys technology, because it seems like all things technological go Coo-Coo for Cocopuffs around me.

My laptop is an example of this.  I have a tiny little Acer that I love.  Really, I do.  It is like an extension of me.  I work on it constantly.  I spend more time with it than I do my own children.  (Hey, don’t judge me.  I’m doing my best here.)  Anywho (there’s that word again), it has been threatening to give up the ghost for a while now.  Sometimes, when I’m typing, the screen flickers white and grey.  I stroke the keys and tell it I love it, and so far, it has always come back to me.  My father gave me his Acer that is the twin of this one.  I’ve tried using it, but I can tell it is an imposter.  It is slower and dumber than mine.  My laptop knows me.  His does not.

Now, combine the struggling laptop with the flaky internet, and you have yourself the perfect recipe for my anger.  We live 2 miles down a dirt road, so we can’t have normal internet out here.  Oh, no.  We have Windstream, the worst internet service on the face of the earth.  I think the name is “Wind,” because it might work if the wind doesn’t blow and “Stream” because while others are getting a river of information, we can get a little stream.

I am just about on a first name basis with the Windstream repairman because he has been here so often.  Luckily, he is a really nice guy, but I’d still rather not have to see him.  I have a feeling we’ll be calling him today, because, once again, the router isn’t working.

Keep in mind that Mr. Everything used to work on computers, and he can, indeed, fix everything.  Yet, we’ve had to call the Windstream guy repeatedly.  Today’s issue is that the router seems to have gone bad.  Again.  Perhaps they should get routers that are not made of duct tape and bubble gum, and they would work longer.

Now, I’m ashamed to admit this, but nothing affects my happiness like not having internet.  I have certain expectations in life.  I expect to be able to breathe.  I expect water and food (even if it isn’t good food).  I expect air conditioning (Hey, I live in Florida!).  I expect the internet to work.  I can’t work without it, and I always have to work.  Of course, today is a busy day for work, which is why Windstream isn’t cooperating.  It knows that I am stressing out about work. In fact, I think the lights on the router are really it laughing at me for stressing out. 

As I kept trying to connect my laptop to the internet over and over and over again, all with the same result, I had to remind myself about insanity.  Do you know the definition of insanity?  It is doing the same thing over and over and over and expecting different results.  I think I’ll try connecting one more time.  If that doesn’t work, maybe I’ll try throwing the router.  Nope, it didn’t work.  Fly like the wind (stream), router!  You aren’t useful for anything else, so maybe you can fly!  I don’t heart technology.  (Not you, my little Acer.  I love you best of all.)  –Al

An update to my blog ~ Obviously, I have internet again, since I was able to post this.  This time, no visit by the Windstream guy was needed.  Too bad…he and I were going to have coffee on the porch swing together today.  Instead, Mr. Everything spoke to Windstream, and they were able to have a healing right over the phone.  I can’t tell you what was wrong with it or how it was fixed.  Mr. E told me, but I stopped listening at, “It is fixed.”  All I know is, the internet is working.  For now.


 
 
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I used to love to make cards by using rubber stamps.  No, actually, I still love to make cards with rubber stamps.  I just don’t have time any more.  I still have the stamps.  Well, most of them anyway – I sold some back in the day.  I’m sure my stamp pads are dried up.  The glue sticks are like rubber now instead of glue.  (Does that mean they would bounce off me and stick to you?  Sorry, bad joke.  You probably didn’t even get it.  If you did, you're as weird as I am.  Congratulations.)

Now, not only do I not have time to make cards, I don’t even have time to write cards.  Instead, I’ve started using this really cool service called “Send Out Cards.”  You choose the card, type want you want it to say and enter the address.  The company prints the card and mails it for you.  It’s amazing.  If you want to check it out, go HERE.  A friend of mine is involved in this company, and he makes a profit on the cards that we buy through his link.

For years, I tried to encourage my kids to make homemade cards for people.  Neither of them really got into it much.  The Beetle would half-way color something and stamp his name.  He wouldn’t even write his own name, so I resorted to a stamp.  The Goose would humor me for a while.  She would half-heartedly stamp something on a paper.  Sometimes, she would stamp a lot of somethings on a paper.  It would end up looking like the stamp pad threw up on the card.  I didn’t tell her that, though, because I still had hope that she would want to stamp with me someday.

Several years later, the Goose started wanting to stamp with me.  However, by that point, I did not have time for stamping.  She would talk me into getting the stuff out, and we would get started.  She would talk me to death as I was trying to figure out what to stamp, and in the back of my mind, I would be thinking of the 100 things I had to do before I could sleep.  Then, after the Goose made one and a half cards, she would leave to go on to something else.  I would be left with the mess to clean up.  I would end up fussing at her to come help me, and begrudgingly, she would come sort-of clean the stamps and put them up.  (Yes, you have to clean rubber stamps.  If you don’t, the ink colors get all mixed.  I’m not crazy.  This is a known fact in the stamping world.)

After about 6 months of the Goose begging me to stamp with her and me really not wanting to, followed by me fussing at her to clean up, she gave up.  She quit asking me to stamp, and she quit making cards.  I was afraid I had ruined her desire to be creative.

Then, yesterday, the magic returned.  We were at my parents’ house in our home town, and I had left the kids there.  When I came back, I found the Goose making cards, on her own, without my help.  I figured she was making a card for her cousin whose birthday party was this weekend, and I was right.  What I didn’t realize was that she was also making cards for other people just because.  Immediately, my heart was warmed!  She is my child after all! (In case there was any doubt.)

The Goose made cards for her friends who were starting school, just because.  She made a card for her grandmother, just because.  She made a card for me, just because.  I love it!  Now, I can live vicariously through her!

What really cracked me up was when she asked me, “Aren’t you going to take pictures of these cards?”  I asked her why I would take pictures of them, and she said, “So you can put them on your blog.”  I laughed and took the pictures.  Then, she said, “Do you want me to write directions on how to make the cards?”  Come to think of it, this may be a sign that I’ve made too many “How to” articles for hubpages.com lately!

So, here are the cards.  The Goose is the artist, thanks to her mother, who forced her to make cards when she was little.  Therefore, I’m taking the credit for the cards, because I’ll never manage to make any on my own.


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She even "staged" the cards with props before taking the photos. She really is my child!
 
 
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You may not know this about me, but I have a fear of singing in public.  Now, public speaking I can do, no problem, but public singing?  Nuh-uh.  Don’t misunderstand.  I don’t mind singing, as long as everyone around me is singing, and as long as no one can hear me.  I’ll sing in church, but I do get nervous if the person in front of me turns around and looks at me.

Unlike many of my other fears, there is a good reason for this one.  That reason is because I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.  Occasionally, I can sing alto, if I can find the right notes while everyone else is singing around me.  Then, I sound okay.  At least in my own head, I sound okay.  I’m not really sure how it’s coming out.  I worry a lot about this, though, and I try hard not to disturb anyone else who might actually be trying to sing a tune around me in church.

It’s not fair.  The Goose has an amazing voice.  If she has one, shouldn’t I?  I mean, I carried her in my belly for 9 ½ long months.  I have the stretch marks to prove it.  I should have gotten the voice.

During summer camp this year, my friend, Rose, did a sweet thing.  She sent me a package in mail call.  Now, in case you don’t know, at camp, you have to perform tricks for your mail during mail call.  If the sender of the package writes a note on the mail saying you have to do something, you have to do it in front of the whole camp.  Rose, not realizing how terrified of public singing I am, wrote a note that, in order to receive my goodies, I had to sing “I’m a Little Teapot.”  When I was told this in front of the room full of campers and staff, I froze.  I looked around the room and was just totally blank.  I heard someone say, “Come on!  Be a good sport!”  I wanted to tell them that I wasn’t being a bad sport.  At that moment, I could not think of the words.  I was that terrified of having to sing.  Luckily, my friend who was holding the microphone said, “Here, I’ll sing with you,” and began to sing.  Somehow, I made it through, though I missed the words of a few verses.

After I got the package, I sat down and kicked myself for being so stupid.  (Okay, I couldn’t really kick myself, because I was sitting down, but you know what I mean.)  Why in the world was I so scared of singing a children’s song in front of a bunch of children?  It wasn’t even like I had to sound good while singing it, but I totally froze.

Maybe that experience was to prepare me for what would happen in church this past Sunday night.  We still have not found a church to call home up here, so once again, we visited a church we had never been to.  We did not realize that we had arrived on “Singing Sunday,” a night when the church sang songs all evening instead of hearing a sermon.  I was fine with that.  Ironically, I love to sing, even if I do stink at it. 

The song leader was asking for suggestions for songs.  He wrote them up on a board, and then as he led them, he crossed them off.  We did not make any suggestions, because we were new there.  We didn’t feel like it was appropriate for us to shout out demands on what to sing.  However, the preacher singled us out and asked us specifically for a suggestion, so I suggested one of my favorites, number 989, “Paradise Valley.” 

All evening, the song leader avoided 989.  At one point, someone said the little boy who wanted to lead could take that one.  Everyone laughed.  I was quickly realizing that I had apparently picked a hard song.  I had never thought of it as hard before.

Finally, the last song number was called, and you guessed it, it was 989.  Time for my song.  The beginning was a little rocky, but the song leader gained control of it.  Then, it was time for the chorus, my favorite part of the song.  “Up in paradise valley, by the side of the river of life,” the altos should sing, “Up in paradise valley, we’ll be free from all pain and all strife!  There we’ll live in the garden, ‘neath the shade of the evergreen tree.  How I long for the paradise valley, where the beauty of heaven I’ll see.”

That’s what it was supposed to sound like.  (I just sang it in my head.  Did you hear it?)  What happened instead was that I quickly realized that the deaf lady (not kidding) and I were the only two people in the room who were singing alto.  All at once, I was singing a solo (well, with a little out-of-tune wailing in the background).  My choices were to crawl under the pew, fall down and pretend like I had a heart attack or keep singing.  I figured I might as well keep singing.  I didn’t know these people, and there were only 22 people in the room anyway.  I thought I would get through it and then never darken the door of that church again.

Now, let me interject here, so that you understand the seriousness of this situation.  I am a member of the church of Christ.  And to answer the most commonly asked question about our church, yes, we’re the ones without instruments.  We sing acapella.  That means there was no piano to carry me.  Now, I return you to the previously scheduled story.

As I sang, I felt my cheeks grow more and more red.  Everyone could hear me, and a few people turned to see who was singing.  That was either a good sign or a bad sign, but either way, I was committed at this point.  Mr. Everything looked at me, stunned.  My kids looked at me with their mouths wide open.  I was singing a solo in church.  Holy cow.

When we finished the first verse, the song leader said, “Well, that’s enough of that one,” and ended the song.  I tried not take that as a sign of how bad my singing was, but I will admit that I secretly wanted him to say, “Let’s keep going so she can sing for us again!”  It didn’t happen.

The fact that got me through was that we did not belong to this church.  We would just never go there again, and the solo incident could be forgotten.  The only problem with that theory was, as the night progressed, we fell in love with this little congregation.  By the end of the night, we were pretty sure this was where we would be placing membership.  So, I guess from now on, at church I’ll be known as the lady who sang the solo.  All I know is, for next month’s singing Sunday, I am faking laryngitis.   -Al



 
 
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I am forty years old.  Forty.  Ugh.  I don’t want to talk about it.  I know.  I’m old, but that was not the point of this story.  Let me try this again and see if I can write without being distracted by my age.

I am forty years old.  For as many of those years as I can remember, I have hated school.  I don’t know why.  I can’t explain it, but I hated school.  I was an A-B student.  I made straight A’s in college.  Yet, I still loathed every minute of it.

This time of the summer always reminds me of that fact.  When I see commercials about back to school sales, my stomach automatically ties in knots.  When I see school supplies in stores, my palms start to sweat.  In fact, when I was little, I used to get mad when I saw the displays of school supplies that the stores set up in June.  I would ask my mother why they had to start selling them so early in the summer.  We had just escaped prison, and already, the stores were hinting at the fact that we had to go back.  Kill joys.  On a side note, I also always hated Vacation Bible School because they scheduled it for the week after school got out.  Why, oh why would we want to sit there all day right after we had escaped?

When I was little, I would cry myself to sleep the night before school started.  Then, I would cry myself to sleep the night before the second day of school.  And the third.  And the fourth.  By about the fifth day, I would run out of tears.  And, actually, let me correct that statement.  Even when I was in college, I cried myself to sleep before school.  I hated it that badly.  Really.  In case you think I'm exaggerating about the crying, let me assure you that I'm not.  My mother could attest to that fact.  She got to listen to me cry.

I don’t know why I hated school.  I was a good student.  I behaved.  The teachers liked me.  I wasn’t picked on.  I had a few friends.  Life at school shouldn’t have been that bad, but it was.  I hated the routine.  I hated the rules.  I hated being away from my mother.  It was all bad.  In 6th grade, the addition of having to change clothes in the locker room with other girls took my disdain to a whole new level.  By high school, the social clubs and pep rallies sealed the deal.  School was awful.

As I hear other mothers rejoicing over the fact that school is starting back soon, I am secretly in mourning.  I’m sad for all the little Al’s out there who cry themselves to sleep before school.  I’m sad that the routine is about to start back.  Even for homeschoolers, the start of the school year means the return of routines and schedules and having to remember small details.  Summer is almost over.  Books and pencils will soon take the place of sunscreen and bug spray. (Actually, that’s not true in Florida.  We’ll still need both for many more months, if not all year.)  The lazy days are almost over, and “back to the grind” will take on a whole new meaning. 

I still have dreams about school.  I frequently dream that I have lost my schedule.  In my dream, I apparently have not been to school for a while, because I can’t remember where I’m supposed to go.  I’m going from room to room, asking if I’m supposed to be there.  I’m panicked because I know I am going to fail.  Then, I find the room, and I know it’s the room.  When I go in, the teacher asks if I’m in that class, and I tell her I am.  She doesn’t believe me but looks at her roster.  Sure enough, I’m supposed to be there. 

Actually, come to think of it, that really did happen to me once in college.  It happened in the math class that I only went to for exam days.  Halfway through the semester, the professor asked me if I was in the right room.  I told her I was and gave her my name.  She found me in her gradebook and said, “Oh, here you are, and you have a 99% average.”  She looked very confused.

Another dream I frequently have is that I have a paper due.  In the dream, I haven’t started on it, and it’s due tomorrow.  I can’t find the book I’m supposed to be using.  I can’t figure out what the topic is.  I just know I’m going to fail.  Then, I wake up and kiss my old wrinkly hand, because I’m forty and not in school!  (See?  Forty isn’t so bad after all.)

The last dream that I have occasionally is that my best friend, Willow, convinces me to go to school naked.  It’s Naked Day at school;  everyone is going to be naked, she tells me.  So, I show up in all my glory, and I’m the only one who is naked.  I walk around, covering my vital parts with my hands and my elbows, and I look for Willow.  When I find her, she is clothed.  She looks at me like I’m crazy but loans me her jacket.  (She’s a good friend.)  In my dream, it isn’t like she has betrayed me.  It’s like she honestly doesn’t remember that she told me to show up naked.  She tells me I must have dreamed it.  That’s just great.  I even have nightmares about school in my nightmares.

Even now, at the ripe old age of  forty (Forty!  Bleh!), I hate school!  Now, before you ask me, no, this is not why I chose to homeschool my kids.  In fact, it did not weigh into my decision at all.  Actually, I homeschool them despite this, because my initial selfish belief was that if I had to suffer through school, all other children should have to suffer through it as well.

I will say that I think my children should be much more grateful for the fact that they don’t have to dread the school supplies.  I tell them, each and every time we walk through Wal-mart, that they should bow to me and adore me for keeping them home from school.  So far, there has not even been a curtsy.  Usually, instead, they roll their eyes and say something like, “Yeah, yeah.  We know.  You cried yourself to sleep.  Blah, blah, blah.”  Ungrateful little twits.  It’s a good thing they’re cute.    -Al


 
 
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“Let’s go to the movies.  Let’s go see the stars.  Fred and Ginger spinning madly……Anything you can imagine….Songs and romance.  Life is the dance.  Sitting in the darkness, popcorn on your knee!  Give the maid the night off!  Turn the kitchen light off!   Let's go to the movies, Annie, you and me!”  (Lyrics from the song, “Let’s Go to the Movies” from the movie, “Annie.”  Really?  You didn’t recognize it?  You don’t get out much, do you?)

This is the song that was going through my head as I considered a trip to our local theater.  It’s an old theater, built in 1910, and it is A theater.  They show one movie a week on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays at 8:00 PM.  That’s it.  Take it or leave it.

Today, we decided to take it.  I mean, why not?  We haven’t had much time to see our sweet little town, and I decided that tonight was as good as any.   I talked it over with Mr. E, and we decided we would take the kids to see “Despicable Me 2.”  Family entertainment at its best.

Our High Springs movie-going experience started with a trip to town earlier today to get the tickets.  The Beetle went with me.  I’m pretty sure we passed Marty McFly in his DeLorean on our way into town. (If you don’t get THAT movie reference, it might be time to get out a little more.)  I had to go to a hardware store on Main Street.  I was not alive in the 1950s, but I would imagine this was what stores looked like back then.  I would also imagine this store had not been cleaned since then.

The Beetle and I walked in, and as he admired the deer heads hanging on the wall, I walked toward the register area where there were 4 people staring at me.  I asked for tickets to the movie.  The matter-of-fact woman behind the cash register said, “How many?”  I asked for 4, and she said it would be $20.  I pulled out my Visa debit card, and she raised an eyebrow.  “We don’t take credit cards.  We take cash or checks.”  Yes, indeed, 1956.  Miracle of miracles, I had just put $20 in my wallet yesterday, so I gave it to her.  It’s a good thing I had put money in there, because my checkbook has been missing in action since we moved in April.  Does anyone actually write checks anymore?  Apparently they do, and they live in High Springs, Florida.

The cashier gave me our tickets, and I almost started laughing.  I managed to hold it in until I got outside.  I don’t know what I was expecting for a movie theater ticket, but this was not it.


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So, the Beetle and I headed home so I could finish working before time for the movie.  The family decided to make an evening of it, so we headed out to have supper at our favorite burger joint.  This place only has outdoor dining, and they aren’t what I would call friendly.  We made it there at 6:58, not realizing that they closed at 7:00.  We were the last in line before they started sending everyone else away with, “We’re closed.”  They didn’t even apologize.  Apparently, they have not heard the rule that everyone in High Springs is friendly.

After our burgers, we headed over to the theater to get our seats.  We got there at 7:30 for an 8:00 show.  The Beetle was laughing at me for getting us there that early, because he said there would probably be only 3 people in the whole theater.  Boy, was he wrong!  The place was already hopping, and we were at risk of not getting good seats.  We walked into the lobby and saw this:

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Mr. E patiently waited to get a photo for me, but these people just wouldn't move!
I was excited.  This looked like a cool old building, and the actual theater should be just as interesting.  It turned out to be interesting, but not necessarily in a good way.

The theater had apparently not been fully restored yet.  It had 2’x 4’ frames holding up the lights and speakers.  Surround sound was definitely not an option.  Besides that, we quickly discovered that the theory about Americans getting fatter and fatter was true.  I think we are getting taller too.  The little girl in front of us moved the wrong way, and her arm rest fell onto the floor.  I’m pretty sure the website had described the theater as, “Charming.”

As we walked through the archway to enter the theater, I felt like I was going to hit my head on the ceiling.  Men taller than Mr. E had to duck to get through.  It felt like the walls were closing in on us.  We got into the theater and found seats together.  We sat down, and the Beetle immediately turned around and looked back.  “What?”  I asked.  “Where is the head rest?” he said.  “About 50 years in the future,” was my answer.

After we waited for a while, Mr. E and I went to get drinks and popcorn.  When we came back, I handed the Beetle his popcorn as I stepped over him to sit down.  He insisted on having the aisle seat, so I made sure to step on his foot as I went. (We’ll call that “learning by natural consequence.”)  As I sat down, I noticed that the Beetle was looking all around his seat and underneath.  I asked him what he was looking for.  “Where are the cup holders?”  he said.  “With the head rests.”  This movie was getting better and better by the minute.

For the hour and 40 minute movie, I sat straight up and down, unable to cross my legs, unable to stretch my legs, unable to lean my head back, unable to move.  I had my purse on my lap and my bottled water on my lap and the popcorn on my lap.  It was so comfortable.  About half way into the movie, my legs and rear end went numb, so it was a little better.  About 15 minutes into the movie, the Beetle declared that he could not feel his feet.  He is such a good sport and is not one to complain.

Very quickly as the movie started, I realized that I did not have the same sense of humor as the town of High Springs.  Kids and grown ups were laughing hysterically at things that brought possibly a small grin to my face.  They must not get out much.  I’ll bet they had never heard of Marty McFly either.

The one line in the entire movie that made me laugh was apparently lost on everyone else, because I laughed loudly, and I was the only one who did.  Mr. Everything just looked at me.  I shrugged.  



I'm not saying the movie was bad.  It was a kids' movie.  It was typical.  I knew what I was getting myself into, and I was right.  I would recommend it, if you have kids.

The lady behind us did not have kids with her, and she thought the entire movie was hilarious.  In fact, she thought it was so funny that she had apparently seen it several times.  That way, she could tell her friend what was coming next.  “Oh, look, this is the good part…” she would say, and then she would talk along with the characters.  Each line was followed with a laugh that was indescribable.  The best way  I can explain it is that it was a, “hehehehehe, HA HA!”  Over and over and over.

Now, keep in mind that, before the movie had started, the Beetle was just about done.  He had no cup holder.  He had no head rest.  He was sitting much too close to me for comfort.  The child needs his personal space, you know.  So, when the lady started with her laughing and quoting, he was ready to go.  Each time she would laugh or talk, he would jerk his head in my direction and just stare at me with a smile on his face.  From this, I got tickled, and we both would end up laughing.  Mr. E thought we were really enjoying the movie.  We were, but not for the reasons he thought.

As though this was not bad enough, there was a character in the movie who reminded the Beetle and me of a family member.  I can’t say which character or which family member, because someone would end up not speaking to us.  Each time this character would appear on screen, the Beetle and I would start laughing again.  Then the lady behind us would quote something, and we would laugh louder.  We had a good time, even if it wasn’t because of the movie.

So, all in all, our first family trip to the local theater was a success.  I’m pretty sure I could say, “First and Last,” though, because the Beetle has already vowed, “Never again!”  He started saying that as soon as he finished unfolding his legs and prying himself out of the seat.  The Goose had a great time, because she was not by the Beetle.  Maybe this theater can be a daddy and daughter date place in the future.  Meanwhile, the Beetle and I will stay home and enjoy our soft, cushy couch and the end tables to hold our cups.   -Al