Thursday, December 31, 2009

Be thankful and stop complaining

This evening my flight home was a bit delayed.

We were heading in for a landing and flying through a thick blanket of clouds.  Suddenly, the plane pulls up and climbs again.  That is an odd feeling when you have been descending for so long and you are expecting a landing any minute.  Ten minutes later the Captain tells us we are going to a nearby airport instead.  He says that they couldn't see the runway and so could not complete the landing.

People are such whiners.  Many of the passengers were bent out of shape about the situation.

Were any of you just listening?!  When the Captain can't see the runway, I think I'm going to side with him on the Not Landing decision.

One young man, not more than twenty and a new recruit in the military, was traveling with some of his buddies (they were not in uniform.) We'll call him PFC Grouchy Pants.  He was complaining that the Captain must be an idiot.  He couldn't believe we did not land.  He couldn't believe how stupid that guy must be.  He didn't have an aggressive edge to his complaining.  He just seemed like one of those people who likes to complain and wants others to join in.  He started to say how he had not had a cigarette since the morning.  I smiled at him and said, "Is that why you are so bitchy?"  I really did say this.  It didn't phase him.  He enthusiastically agreed.  "Yea!  That is why I am so bitchy!" 

I can understand having some negative feelings about the inconvenience of it all.  We were going to be two hours later than expected and many people had rides waiting for them.  PFC Grouchy Pants had to check back in from leave by midnight or he would be AWOL.  But c'mon people!  There is a really good reason for this to be happening and you should THANKING that pilot for not acting like some reckless, Top Gun maniac.

At the nearby airport, we are told that they will refuel and head back to our airport to give it another try.  There is a stink of discontentment in the air.  People are still grumbling even though we will eventually get to where we are going.  The stressed out flight crew is doing the best they can to manage the crowd.

We finish refueling.  We land safely.  I tell PFC Grouchy Pants to smile because we made it.  He says he'll smile as soon as he has a cigarette in his mouth.  Pissy passengers unload. 

So when I got off the plane, I wrote the crew a note.  My note said:
Dear Captain, First Officer and Crew,
Thank you for making our safety a priority over our convenience.  We all get to go home to our loved ones tonight and that is what really matters.  Don't listen to the complainers.  They don't appreciate what is really important in life.  Thank you and Happy New Year!
As I was writing it, one of the crew came to the counter at the gate to use the computer there.  He saw me writing my note.  When I finished writing, I asked him how I can get the note to the Captain.  He said that he was the co-pilot and could give it to him, but he didn't look very excited about the prospect.  He probably thought I was writing a nasty letter of complaint.  I handed it to him and told him that I just wanted to say thank you for keeping us safe.  He looked at the note and then smiled.

(Later I will write about the completely bizarre shuttle ride that I took from the airport.  But it is late and now I should sleep.)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cell phone update

Update on this post.
The Zombies did not eat my brains.  The T-Mobile store in my neighborhood is still standing.  The Boots of Thunder were not used.  (Too bad.)  The boring update is that I ended up staying with Verizon with a lower cost plan that is month to month.  And I DID keep my old phone!  That's a victory, right?

The fun part of this update is that I found the first cell phone that I ever used.  It isn't quite Gordon Gekko size, but it is pretty darn big.  The pictures show my current two year old cell phone on the left and the one from 2001 on the right.

I love how huge it is.  But the best part is below:

I bet you WISH your phone had its own pull-out antenna.  Admit it.  You are jealous.

And somehow this makes me think of Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog.  If you haven't seen it, you should watch it.  The first part is below:

It looks like it is no longer available to view through Hulu or on the Dr. Horrible website - the Zombies want you to buy the DVD now.  But you can find all parts of it on this YouTube channel.  Watch it.  Neil Patrick Harris is hilarious.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Schmawkward is mine

I bought him.

I couldn't resist.

Part of the description from the seller explained that it is old and some paint is flaking off.  

It said "...expect imperfections."  

I should put that on my name tag.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


The operation is still in effect.  However, the execution of the plan has been lacking.  I had a stretch in September when I managed not to volunteer at all.  I was having trouble getting motivated to do much of anything.  But I have since started up again.

I now know just a handful of the staff names and they recognize me when I come.  I know Miss J, Miss L, Miss J and tonight I met Miss P.  I would bet they don't know my name. (If only a certain someone would send me my fabulous name tag - hint, hint!) 

It's funny that I seem to have the ability to learn and remember the names of the children very quickly.  By the end of each night I usually know 5-10 new names.  I do try to pay attention whenever I hear one of the staff use a child's name.  It is extremely helpful in getting the attention of a 2 to 6-year-old when you know their name.  "Hey, kid!" doesn't work so well.  Tonight there was L, L, A, I, P, and A.   I didn't get the names of three others.  But I'm not Rainman.  It is all short term memory.  I might remember one or two names if they still happen to be there the following week.  But more often than not, I need to be reminded.

I admit I have to work a little harder to remember the staff names.   And clearly, I need to ask more often.  I had a nice conversation a week ago with one of the women about how much I regret not taking Spanish in high school. (Stupid, useless French classes.  Monsieur Lawrence, je regrette tout!)   One of the young boys didn't understand anything I said, but this woman was bilingual and could communicate with him.  She encouraged me to learn. Said it's not too late. She's right.  We had a good chat.  But I didn't ask her name! 

Besides the four staff names that I do know, there are two women and one man who have been there frequently.  I should know their names by now, but I don't.  We are at that odd point where we have seen each other many times and we recognize each other, so it now seems awkward to ask them what their names are.  But awkward schmawkward - I just need to do it.  That will be my next mission.  Learn the names of any staff member who is working while I am there and introduce myself to them.

I also need to work on my friendly chatting skills. I am just not very talkative normally and it is not my natural inclination to start conversations with people.  I can do it and I am genuinely a pleasant person.  But it doesn't come naturally to me. So each time I go I have to remind myself to be more gregarious than my comfort level usually allows. I sometimes try to pump myself up by smiling maniacally while driving there from work. You should try it sometime. Force your face into an exaggerated grin showing as many teeth as possible and hold it there for a while. I probably look crazy but it helps me to feel goofy and loosens me up a little.

Schmawkward.  I just liked that word after I wrote it, so I used it as the title of this post.  It sounds like it should be the name of a German chicken in a children's book.  Schmawkward von Cluckenstuffer.  He gets into all sorts of mischief because he has a touch of Asperger's and has trouble relating to the other barnyard animals.

Poor Schmawkward.

This is actually a "Vintage 70s RIDICULOUS EGG HEAD Plastic Necklace Pack of 3" on sale at Etsy. 

It could be Schmawkward, though.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the gray window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

from Anam Cara by John O'Donohue

Moonrise by Stanisław Masłowski, 1884

Friday, December 11, 2009

Today's important life lesson - Knowing the lyrics is always optional

Itchy nose 

Ukulele skillz 

natural and complete unselfconsciousness of a child 

makes me smile

We should all be this free and joyful.

He's singing "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz.  See Jason's take on it at his blog =
Itchy faced kid does amazing rendition of I'm Yours 

And if you are ever in need a 19-letter word,
go ahead and use the one in this post.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Old is the New New (huh?)

I have never understood the attraction of shopping the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) or the day after Christmas (does this one have a name?)  I just can't imagine a single appealing aspect to all of that frantic energy and the teeming crowds fueled by lack of sleep and an unsettling sense of entitlement.  People must be infected with some kind of deranged and overgrown case of the Gimmes for another human being to be trampled to death at a Walmart.  No "deal" that you can get could possibly be worth it.  As I have stated before - I would rather disembowel myself with a rusty spork and then set my intestines on fire than participate in that brand of madness.

But I'm not immune to the consumer culture that we live in.  My two-year cell phone plan expires in about eight days.  My phone is probably two years old.  I typically use less than 200 minutes per month.  I'm not a talker.  (I prefer to communicate through interpretive dance.)

But when it's time to renew my cell phone plan, my first thought is "Oooh...I can get a new phone!"  They always offer free phones when you sign up for another two-year contract.  It's fun to get something new.  It will be all shiny.  I'll get to play around with it like a new toy to figure out all of its buttons and gadgets.  I consider that fun.  I'm kind of a geek like that.

But then it will sit in my bag.  Sit on the table at home.  Sit on my desk at work and I will hardly use it.  And my old phone will become just more electronic waste in this world.

Gordon Gekko should have kept this phone.  It could also be used as a barbell.

It is so seductive and insidious.  I don't consider myself a materialistic person, but in this case I was almost blindly sucked into the genius marketing that is all around us, telling us:

"New is better!"

"Just throw it away and get another one!"

"You deserve it!"

Now that I have given it more thought, there is no good reason to stop using my current cell phone.  I plan to walk into a T-Mobile store, show them my old phone and ask them if it can be used with their calling plan.  (They have a cheaper plan than Verizon and no contract.)

I am fully expecting the salesperson to automatically switch into all out Zombie Sales Mode (they try to eat your brains) and offer me some fabulous way to get a shiny! new and improved! fully gadget-ized! phone for free.  Free!!!  He will flash his fancy electronics in front of me and hope that the blinking digital screens and melodious ring tones will lull my brain into a somnolent stupor (mmmmm.....shiny) so he can sign me up for a phone that will make my life finally worth living and turn me into a new and improved, better version of myself.  Come on!  Don't I deserve it?

I will thwart him with the Luddite Laser-Stare that I've been perfecting back at headquarters and I'll use my Power Bracelets to deflect the sparkly trance-rays right back at him.   If that doesn't work, I'll turn to the trusty Lasso of Truth to get him to answer my simple question - "Can I use this 2-year-old phone or not?!"  I may or may not use my Boots of Thunder to cause a seismic disturbance and bring the whole building down in order to spare the other poor saps from falling into their brain-eating clutches.  It depends on my mood.

Zombie Sales Boy had better hope I'm having a pleasant day.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Oh Danny Boy

Friday night when I volunteered, I played with a number of the children.  But a 2-year-old named Danny* stuck out for me.

He was there last week and needed a staff person with him constantly.  He had trouble with hurting other kids for no reason.  Well...I'm sure he sometimes had his reasons.  He would reach out and grab and pinch other children or hit them.  He needed to be watched at every moment and redirected to do "nice touch."  This week he was much better.  He didn't need someone watching him like a hawk.  He still wanted to resolve problems by hitting, but he wasn't indiscriminately trying to hurt others.

He found a small rubber ball (too big to choke on.)  He began to throw it around the playroom and chase after it while it bounced crazily around.  I tried to get him to play a game with me of rolling it along the floor back and forth to each other.  He was hip to the game for about thirty seconds.  Throwing and chasing was much more fun.

At first there were not many other children in the playroom, so his throwing was moderately safe.  As more children came in, it became a bigger problem.  There was a very good chance someone would be hit with it and a few of the other children wanted to chase the ball too.  Danny got very upset if another kid went near his ball.  He's not very verbal so he screeches loudly to show his displeasure and gets close to throwing a tantrum.  We mediated a few spats and asked the older kids to let him play by himself.  But it kept happening.  And Danny was getting more and more ramped up.

I finally knelt down next to him and told him, "Danny, no more throwing the ball.  You can hold on to your ball, but there are too many people in here. So no more throwing, okay?"  He was wiggling and whining as I talked to him and I was aware that at his age, he was not able to fully understand what I told him.  He did stop throwing the ball for about a minute.  I was shocked it worked at all.

So, as is completely understandable for his age, he started throwing the ball again.  I made an executive decision.  I took the ball away from him and told him, "We are done with the ball.  No more ball."  Now that I write it down it sounds mean.  But it wasn't!  I said it as nicely as I could, but also firmly.  I wasn't going to give him a long explanation or try to reason with him.  It needed to stop and he needed it to stop.  He was getting really worked up each time another child tried to get his ball.  I took the ball out of the playroom and put it on a shelf in the kitchen area - in a different room, completely out of sight.

When I came back, he was throwing a small fit.  I tried to get his attention with some new excitement - "Danny, want to go play with CARS?!"  He kept screeching and throwing his fit.  I walked across the room and sat in a chair to give him time to calm down.  Then he surprised me.  He got up and walked over to me.  He sat himself in my lap and snuggled close to me while he cried. "Awwww, it's okay," I told him.

He was crying and snuggling, and he seemed to be agitated by the other kids being nearby and looking at him.  So I took him to a seat in a corner further away from the general chaos.  It hit me then what a shame it was that he had to be there.  At that moment, he really needed to be brought to a quiet room by himself to calm down from all the stimulation.  But it wasn't going to happen.

The center is just not set up that way or staffed for that.  Everything is a group activity.  Volunteers cannot be alone with the children.**  I have to stay where the staff people are.  From what I have seen, the staff rarely take children off  to be by themselves.  They are always together in a group (except when sleeping when there are only 2-4 in the same room.)  Each staff person usually has one to three children who they are mainly responsible for.  But they still do everything together.  It doesn't seem like they have a mechanism in place for one to say to another, "This child needs some quiet time. Can you watch my other two for half an hour?"  Unless a child is having a total meltdown and then he is taken to his room.  It's too bad they can't do it before total meltdown happens.

I could be wrong since I am only there a few hours a week.  But it seems that the overall thinking is geared towards the needs of the group and less towards the individual needs of the child.  And maybe it is impossible for it to be any other way?  (No.  It could be different.  So says know-it-all Kathy.)

So the best that Danny was going to get that night was a slightly calmer corner of a loud and boisterous room.  Poor kid.  He is safe there and will get so many of his basic needs met.  But he is one of many and lots of things will be overlooked.   He deserves to have someone who loves him looking after his individual needs.  I hope that happens for him soon.

*I never use real names.

**We have been given long, thorough background checks before we are able to volunteer.  My fingerprints were run by the state and the FBI.  But I do understand the policy of not letting volunteers be alone with the children.  With that age group, the staff has to constantly keep a count of children and can't have volunteers wandering off with them.  Also, volunteers are given NO training. That's right - NONE.    (I've got a draft post with a whole rant about the volunteer coordinator and what a crappy, half-assed job this person does - but we don't have to get into that.)  So I understand keeping the volunteers supervised.  Just because we can pass a background check, doesn't mean we know anything about children or how to treat them.  And with zero training, the staff should be required to keep an eye on us.  Just because you are not a criminal, doesn't mean you're not a jackass.

Friday, December 4, 2009

I don't follow

I've been messing around with my blogger account today and figuring out how to follow blogs and add them to a reader.  I've been geeking out like this for at least an hour (okay, maybe two hours.)  I tend to investigate all possible settings and gadgets, just to see what they do.

So I have a question.  I used to bookmark blogs that I read.  But now that I follow them, what is the deal?  Is it considered proper Blogger etiquette to follow someone if they are following your blog?  Because I really DO NOT WANT people to follow me just because I follow them.   It is just not necessary.  Please, please and pretty please don't do it.  I beg you.  Only follow me if you are truly interested in what I have to say.  It would feel disingenuous to me and why waste your own precious time?

And so, as I emerge from my two hour techno-trance,  my right brain is tired of being ignored.  Here is my No Follow plea in poetry form:

A limerick:
Please and please don't follow me
If I am not your cup of tea
Life is too brief
So don't be a thief
Stealing time from yourself, what folly!

The old classic:
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Don't follow me
just cuz I follow you.

How much time, really?
Do not waste one waking breath
on scattering words

(Okay, maybe my right brain was just tired.)

Original depiction of fictional anthropomorphic rabbit from 

And another thing- 
Please don't feel obligated to leave a comment on my blog just because I have left a comment on yours.  Again, it is just not necessary.  Comment if you feel like commenting. That's it.  And feel free to read along and never, ever comment. That is perfectly fine too.

So does this go against some sort of blogging community rules?  Am I being an online social misfit?  I guess I don't care if I am.  It takes time and energy to write comments.  I don't want anyone to do it out of a sense of obligation, especially if what they are saying has no real meaning to them and they are just doing it to be nice.  Save your time and energy for things that really matter to you.  Engage in a comment conversation when you really are moved to do it. 

I have this whole sonnet in Middle English about commenting prepared....nah...I'll spare you.