Tuesday, December 19, 2006

God's Boxer

It goes without saying my insomnia is keeping me up. I got in bed early tonight, because my body is really hurting (mostly from stress...our department meetings today really took a great deal of energy). My wife? Asleep. My son? Asleep. Me...not so much.
However, when I can't sleep, I start watching bad TV. Tonight, I watched Pat Robertson interviewing Sylvester Stallone about Rocky Balboa.
Let me start by saying that I am a fan of the Rocky movies. They are, in some ways, allegories for America and its way of life.
Rocky: The American Dream. Given the opportunity, anyone has the ability to achieve a goal.
Rocky II: Neo-American Dream: Desire and perspiration will win out over ego and flash.
Rocky III: Complaceny: If we become complacent and stop trying to achieve, we will lose our dreams.
Rocky IV: We're better than the Russians (that's very simplistic).
Rocky V: If we forget where we come from and who we are, we are doomed.

Now, this is just my opinion on the matter. However, in watching Sly talking to Robertson, I learned the original Rocky is actually Christian allegory. Yup. I had no clue.
The film starts with a shot of Jesus, then pans to the ressurection, then shows Rocky.
I figured that was an artistic choice, but it's actually to show that Rocky will be a Christian Warrior. A man who begins with nothing and fights for an ideal, not glory. Beyond that, it's not the championship that is important but the idea of family.
Recall the end of the film: He's lost the title, but that's not what he cares about at all. He calls out to Adrian and feels pride in making it into a fight instead of a drubbing.
Each of the films is about needing and asking for help from those around you as well as understanding that family and friends are more important than anything else (though I would argue part IV is more about appealing to a patriotic audience instead of the original crowd).
Stallone went on to explain that the new film is the bookend to the original. Both deal with a man coming to terms with his God.
I just find this fascinating. In the course of my life, I have seen the original Rocky four times, but never had I thought about the God aspect. I really thought the point of the film was the American Dream. A man taking advantage of his chance to better himself.
You, dear reader, may decide to see Rocky Balboa (which is opening tomorrow). Go for it (to use a Rocky term).
I'm going to need to re-watch the original Rocky to see this allegory.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Ramblings for the Evening (12/18/2006)

Let's do it.
So, without further ado: YOU THINK YOU KNOW ME?
Sick Kid:
My son was really sick over the weekend. Nothing makes you feel like a terrible parent like your kid being sick.
He would cry, I had no idea what to do.
We tried feeding him, that didn't help.
We'd cradle him, but that didn't help.
On Friday, I left school early, because my son had a fever of 101. That's grounds to send him home. One doctor appointment later, I learn he has an ear infection, breathing issues (they think it's an infection too), and a stomach virus. Awesome.
He barely ate over the weekend, barely slept, and his fever finally broke today.
I stayed home with my son today, and I'm honestly more exhausted from that than from a full week of teaching. He constantly needed to be held, which meant I couldn't get any work done (hard to grade with a kid on your shoulders).
After another appointment today, the doctor confirmed the original diagnosis: The kid is really sick.
I just really hope he doesn't get what I had as a kid: Febrial Convulsions.
I would get really hot and then have to take an ambulance ride to hospital to help me breathe and cool down.
My sister (#2) was actually angry at me when she was a kid, because she was supposed to get ice cream...but I had a convulsion...which meant no ice cream.
As for my son...well...he's sleeping right now, but for the last two nights, he's slept for twenty minutes, wakes up, looks at my wife and I...and then throws up all over the place. It's fun.
New Nickname:
Every single in the Twin Cities better start calling Jason DeRusha "White Chocolate". Did you see his
recent story on "pimping" rides? The way he hangs with Pat Williams? Dude's become White Chocolate.
Random Thoughts:
* I miss
* My wife and I wrapped one the trees in front of our house with all blue lights. As such, our neighbors now think that we are trying to celebrate both Christmas and Channukah. Apparently, so I am told, all blue lights means Jew. Yup...forget the yellow star, folks, it's all about the blue lights now.
* I find it fascinating how Target has put ALL of its holiday decorations on 30% clearance the week before Christmas. I was picking up my son's prescription tonight and listened to this old couple talking about how cheap everything was now.
"I really like that moving bear....We should buy three of them. It would look nice."
"Yes, Doris."
Gas Station People Watching:
For some reason (call it luck of the draw) it seems I am always having to fill up the cars my wife and I drive (we switch off everyday).
Whenever I go to fill up the car now, there's a long line with people using their passive-aggresive driving skills to yell at people at keep other drivers at bay.
So, with nothing else to do, I start watching people while I'm waiting.
There's the couple who are arguing while filling up the car. Even better, with people waiting to get up to the pump, the girl slams the car door and walks off...and the guy has to chase after her. That means he's left the car...and pump unattended. It also means we have to wait until they return so the next car can fill up.
The best moment, however, comes from the guys who pull up on the pump opposite from me.
"Smokey" (apparently his real name) and "Dodge" (no idea) talk about how slow the pump is working...for ten minutes.
"This MUST be the slowest pump EVER," I hear no less than six times.

Then Smokey (this isn't a joke) lights up a cig. Dodge freaks out.
"Get that thing away from here, Smokey. I don't want to die."
"What's your problem? It's not a real warning...they just don't like smokers."
Here's my thought on this: "Let me finish filling up before we explode."
I keep telling my kids: just stop anywhere there's a crowd and just listen. You'll hear amazing things and learn a great deal about life. Try it.
That's all I got tonight.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Definition of Ironic: Holiday Edition 2006

You may recall this item I presented to you last Christmas. The irony then was turning the very meaning of the Christmas special and perverting it.
This year, however,
Urban Outfitters is selling a companion piece: The Linus Blanket. If you don't recall the special, Linus, after the tree has been "trimmed" by the gang, lays his blanket around the tree. It's quite a touching moment really, especially if you understand how hard it would be for Linus to do that.
So why is this ironic and what's my issue with it?
For starters, the blanket is thirty-four dollars ($34 for the word challenged). That's one pricey blanket to lay around your twenty-four dollar "pathetic tree" from the same store. I found it almost horrifying last year when they sold the tree, now comes the blanket. What's next? What else can they milk from the special except for action figures and a stage? Imagine:
You, too, can pretend to be Linus delivering the meaning of Christmas to the masses. Maybe you'd rather relive your bad days as (good grief!) Charlie Brown. Only $100 for the set...buy it now!
Now...there is a positive side to this irony. Some of the blanket's proceeds do go to charity, and that's great, but it still seems to be polluting (for lack of a better word) the very essence of the special.
The tree? You can still get one, but the blanket is sold out, boys and girls.
Then again what do I know? I'm still waiting for my Channukah Harry Channukah Bush. I could be wrong.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

(Insomniac) Ramblings for the Evening (12/10/2006)

My insomnia is back. I haven't slept much this weekend. On the plus side...well...I have my students to direct my anger at all week.... Ok, I wouldn't do that. No really.

My wife's birthday was on Friday. Every year, I plan a new surprise for her. One year I showed up at her work, and, while she was in a meeting, I laid rose petals all over the floor of her cubicle and then put some roses in a vase on her desk along with some music and a food she wanted.
This year, because of my schedule, it would be impossible to sneak into her work. So...the following ramblings all relate to her birthday and events around them
So without further ado (haven't done this in some time): THE PRICE IS WRONG!
The Gift:
I have found something I hate more than going to the movies (pay attention, Tom): Shopping at a mall.
I wanted to get my wife something special, so, way back in January, I started to pull money from every paycheck. I had enough to buy her something from Tiffany's.
Last Monday, when school was over, I headed over the Edina Galleria.
I have never, in my whole life, felt more out of place than when I was in the Galleria. Even though I had some cash in my pocket, and even though I was wearing my work clothes, I could tell that not wearing a truly "hot" name made me stick out. Several people just stared at me as I passed by.
Beyond that, what is it about shopping that makes people like the living dead. I know that what's George Romero was getting at in Dawn of the Dead, but I didn't get it until that day. People walking in front of me would stop and stare at windows. Then they would walk very slowly while contemplating the most random things. Worse still was when people would be on their phone and walk in the dead center of the lane. How do you go around those people when they weave? See...when a person talks in a movie theatre, you can ask them to shut up, but when a person walks in a way that holds everyone up, you can't just say, "Hey! Walk over there." They just stare.
Even worse, however, is what happened when I made it into the actual Tiffany's store. Every store, if you've never been to one, has security personnel. As soon as I walked in...the guy started following me around. Of course one look at the clientle made it clear why. Suits, expensive dresses, and even tuxedos could be seen around me. There I was in khaki pants and a striped, button-down shirt. I could almost hear the song buzzing in my head:
"One of these things is not like the other....which one is it...LEAB!"
When the guy in front of me finished his purchase, I felt sick. I wanted to spend what I thought was an exorbanent amount, but the guy in front of me spent, and I wish I was lying, $16,000. For those of you who are afraid of numbers, that's sixteen thousand. The price of brand new Hyundai...or something like that. Even worse, however, was the way he bragged about the money he was spending (which shows no class...it's not gentleman-like). He felt compelled to announce to the rest of us that he had bought all this jewelry. When I stepped up and started haggling over price and size, I felt stupid.
I won't tell you how much I spent, but I will tell you that I bought my wife a nice necklace with a diamond centerpiece. This led to part two of the plan....
The Surprise:
With gift in hand, I moved to the next step: surprising my wife. I called her boss (the last person she would think of) and convinced him to help me. His only demand was not to tell his wife, because she would think he's a horrible human being for not being, "so romantic."
So, last Thursday I made my way to her work after the school day (and my club duty) were over. I had everything I needed:
1 mylar balloon
3 dozen roses (yellow, orange, and light green)
1 gift from Tiffany's
1 card (with an evil clown on it...long story)
1 box of chocolates
1 trash bag to hide all evidence
1 bottle of wine (payment to my wife's boss for his help)
1 bottle of water to put in...
1 vase for the flowers
Her boss let me in the building and showed me where her new cubicle is (she moved recently). He left me to go to work.
I tied up the balloon, cut the stems on the flowers and put them in the water, hid the gift, and left some notes around her cube.
After all that work and finding a way to keep my wife from being suspicious, the response I get on her birthday is as follows:
That was nice.
Her co-workers flipped out. One woman asked me if I could teach her husband. Suffice to say, I was hoping for a little more than, "That was nice." I know she was happy, but she also told me she was embarrassed to have all that stuff there in front of her co-workers and boss. Makes it hard to separate home and work.
When work was over, my wife came home to prepare for part three:
The Dinner:
I want to do this in a separate post. I had planned a nice dinner months ago. I had setup a table at Vincent (in downtown Minneapolis) with my wife's favorite wine (a bottle of 2003 Blacksmith Cabernet Sauvignon) as well as flowers spread out all over the table (I have this thing about rose petals). It was canceled on Tuesday of this past week. Why? Because of my wife's boss' Christmas party that was to be held on the same night. That's a whole different post however. Still, I was crushed.
The Bottom Line:
My wife had a good birthday. She was happy. I, however, was just tired and discovered that a ton of hard work can lead to a, "That was nice."
Still, it's about her not me.

Namaste...and happy birthday, honey. I know you'll never read this.

Trash Can Buddy

I hate being sick. I REALLY hate it. The aches, the cough...ugh.
I'm not sick now, but a few weeks ago, I was in really bad shape.
My son is currently in daycare, which means that he's bringing home colds all the time. He comes home one day and coughs. That night, my wife pulls me over and suddenly I'm on hair duty....As in hold her hair while she pukes.
The next morning, I'm hurting. I'm already tired, because I spent the whole night taking care of my wife.
As I walk out to my car to drive to school, I feel that wave of nausea. I'm going to be sick. I had to do something. There was no way that I would make it to a toilet, so I bolted to trash can in the garage. It became my buddy.
Having thrown up, I convinced myself it was just stress.
"Oh...I'm not sick. I'm just stressed. The end of the trimester is coming, I have so many grades to get in, and I have to write tests. That's all this is: stress."
One teeth brushing later, off to school.
First class: no problems. I think I'm in the clear. I'm wrong.
I head over to the Chemistry Lab in order to talk to a colleague about one of my advisee's grades. The lab the kids are performing has them attempting to replicate specific smells. My stomach becomes upset, but I power through it.
After the bell has rung, I quickly get to my classroom and start my Senior English class. The deaf and hard of hearing interpreter I work with comments that I, "appear to be very green." I'm feeling it. Immediately I get the kids to work in groups and bolt from the room. I'm thinking "get to the staff bathroom," over and over again in my mind. I don't make it. When I hit the second floor, my stomach says, "That's all I can stands, I can't stands no more."
I hit...another trash can. Here's the embarrassing part: this very can is outside the teacher's lounge and near a classroom...that has it's door open. The kids can hear me. They can't see me, but they can hear me wretching into the can.
The teachers try to convince me to go home, but I can't do it. The logic part of my brain is stupid, because I'm sick.
My rationalization: I drove a half an hour to be here. I'm already here, so I'm not leaving. Made sense at the time.
I return to the class, but stop short of the door noticing that I'm slightly covered in my own vomit, but I hide that fact by spilling water on myself as I enter through the door.
The rest of the day was nearly impossible to make through, but I did stay. During my prep period, I had to vomit again, but I made it to the bathroom this time.
The final two periods of the day, however, were a test of strength. I was close to passing out during my fifth period. Had I not had a podium to lean on, I would have collapsed to the floor at one point.
Sixth period was worse. I told my T.A, "If I pass out, make sure I'm not bleeding...then call the nurse." She stared at me as if I had just told her that I had killed her mother.
"Why are you here?" she blurts.
"Couldn't leave," I respond.
Then comes the part where I show how I'm really an idiot. I stayed for the club I advise. Luckily the kids didn't notice when I passed out sitting at the desk. Fifteen minutes passed with me asleep at the desk, but no one noticed.
That night my wife and I each had a trash can with us. The unfair part was that my son felt great and had a ton of energy. It's hard to play with a baby when your shivering with cold sweats, and the room is moving at the speed of light (damn that's fast). I also had to take the next day off. That angered me more.
So what's the lesson here, kids? If you're sick, don't try to be Superman or Supergirl. Just roll over and let your body heal. Otherwise...you might find yourself needing a trash can buddy.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Patriotic Poozer Peruses Pawlenty

I just needed an alliteration.
About a month ago, my wife and I did our patriotic duty and voted. Seeing as how we live in Robbinsdale (a smaller suburb), the voting place was in one of the local churches.
There's nothing stranger than running into your entire neighborhood in one room. Though a smaller polling place (when compared to Minneapolis or St. Paul, for example) they didn't have enough privacy booths (again, for lack of a better term...I'm talking about the desks with flimsy wings to hide your pencil movements). As such, my wife and I had to sit at a table in the corner. As I approached the table with my ballot in one hand and my son's carseat in the other, many people began lowering their bodies toward the table and putting out their arms. The gist was clear: Don't look at my ballot.
The only chairs available were in the corner, so I set Poozer up next to me, and my wife and I began the voting process.
Halfway through filling in the bubbles, the people to my right cleared out. This meant space was available. This meant someone was going to be sitting next to me...and Little Leab. It was after filling in the bubble for the first judge that I saw the gentleman who would be sitting next to me. He was on a cell phone, carried a bag of McDonald's, and was openly and loudly angry about having to be at my table. He moved toward me without paying attention. He reached the table and swung his foot out to sit down, and, in doing the action without paying attention, his foot barely missed my son's carseat.
"Who the hell put that kid there?" He asked loudly. "There's a kid next to where I'm voting," He says into his cellphone. "No wonder people don't like to vote."
"Excuse me," I say. "Could you keep it down, please?"
"What?" the guy retorts, "Am I ruining your concentration?" He then laughs one of those self-serving, "I'm so damn funny" laughs.
I don't retort. I just want to make sure he doesn't wake up Little Leab.
As he starts to fill out the bubbles, my new buddy pulls out a cheeseburger. The wrapper comes off (loudly), and he starts to talk to himself about which person shall get his vote.
As I'm finishing the water commission section, he kicks out his leg (maybe it was a cramp, maybe he was stretching) and kicks my son's seat, which flies up almost perpendicular to the way it was sitting.
My eyes go wide.
"You shouldn't have had the kid there," I'm told by the guy as he bites into his cheeseburger and gets ketchup on his ballot.
I say nothing as I'm almost finished. My wife, however, says, "Be quiet, please."
Finished filling in the bubbles, I stand up, pick up my son, and start to go.
"Who'd you vote for?" He asks me.
"That's none of your business," I reply. Here's the fun part.
With my ballot on the table along with my son's diaper bag, the guy GRABS MY BALLOT AND STARTS READING IT.
"Gimme that!" I say.
"I can't believe you voted for (CLASSIFIED). The way you don't care about your state...I should have stepped on your son."
The roar of the room has lowered enough that everyone has heard this guy and is now staring at us. The older woman sitting across from my wife is shaking her head, and the guy at the desk nearby says, "That's just too far," under his breath.
Again...I say nothing, but I see my neighbors all staring at me. They all now know who I'm voting for and it's not who most of them would have picked.
After placing my ballot in the machine, I wait for my wife. I'm embarrassed. Should I be? I have no clue, but I was beet red. Usually I have snappy comebacks and such, but I was stupefied as to what I could say without being an offensive prick.
Finally, my wife gets up and comes over. At that point, one of the volunteers comes over and tells the guy to be quiet. When he argues, they tell him to finish his vote quietly and to not talk to the other patrons. "Disorderly conduct," I hear said, "can make your vote invalid."
I have no idea if that statement is true, but it worked.
Now, one month later, my neighbors still ask me: "How could you vote for (CLASSIFIED)? That's...just...wrong."
Still, that's better than the last time I voted when the group of old people in front of me freaked out because I was talking about how there was a Communist Party candidate.
Then again what do I know? I'm the guy who quietly votes. I could be wrong.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Passive-Agressive Hybrids

Saving the environment and running down neighbors. Thanks Toyota!
My neighbors are former nuns, and we get along quite well.
Two years ago, they moved here from a Wisconsin farm. They're...well...a little crunchy, but we get along very well. Years of dealing with a Granola sister has taught me how to speak the language. It's pretty easy.
Last year, after one of their 15 year old cars died, they bought a new Toyota Prius. Beautiful car, and pretty Earth-friendly. It also hurts like hell when it hits you.
Saturday...a day of rest for most teachers. My wife and son were inside asleep after a big day of playing.
I went outside to finish cleaning out the garage for Winter (who knew we'd have a heat wave).
As I walked back up the shared driveway toward my door to my house, my neighbors came home from...well...I have no idea where they were. We didn't discuss it.
The Toyota was headed right for me. I thought she was kidding, so I kept walking toward my door. It wasn't until they got closer that I saw that the driver (we'll call her Penny) wasn't looking at me, but at her roommate (who we'll call Lori).
I'd love to say that in a heroic move, I dove out of the way...but I can't.
Now, I attempted to lessen the blow by jumping up on the hood of the car as it hit me doing maybe 10 to 15 MPH.
Here's the thing: If you've ever been hit by a car...it hurts. Regardless of the speed, the sudden impact hurts. It's physics. An object at rest that is struck by an object in movement will feel or show an impact.
Let's try it another way:
Whether the stone hits the pitcher or the pitcher hits the stone...it's going to be bad for the pitcher.
I'm the pitcher.
I lay across the hood sprawled out like a dead and gutted deer. Penny screamed and slammed the brakes, but I was clutching onto the top of the hood, so I did not go flying.
"OHMYGOD, OHMYGOD, OHMYGOD!!!!" I hear screamed. "Are you ok? OHMYGOD!!!"
My pride, once again, is hurt. It was only two days before that I was hit in a car...now I was hit...by a person.
My brain's first thought was actually not the pain I was in, but the thought about the deer.
"I wonder if this is how the deer feels," I thought.

The screaming continued from inside the car, but I stil couldn't get the image of the deer out of my head.
Penny, obviously flustered, tried to get out of the car without putting it in park. Her foot came out, and the car lurched forward again. Luckily Lori moved quickly to hit the brakes and put on the emergency brake.
The pain started to creep in to my body. I could tell the my right leg took most of the damage.
"Are you ok?" Penny said to me while trying to help me off the car.
"Leg hurts...and my back is starting to as well," I told her.
Lori, meanwhile, having put the car in park, proceeded to inspect the car. "Car looks ok..." she mumbled.
Penny, meanwhile, had turned white. I think she was afraid that I was really hurt.
Being the stupid, macho guy I am (I can admit it), I told her, "I'm fine."
But I wasn't. In fact I still have a slight limp today.
What's even funnier is that my wife and son didn't know until a few hours later (when I had trouble moving around) that something had happened.
Still...days later and I can't get that image of me as the deer out of my mind. I couldn't tell you why, but it's odd.
I mention the John Glenn Principle all the time, and this speaks to that principle. I got in a car accident, and I was fine. Doing the most mundane thing (walking up my driveway, for Pete's sake), I get hit by a car.
Then again, what do I know? I'm a Prius Hugger. I could be wrong.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Black (and Blue) Friday

I'm back.
I know I teased great stories...which I'll get to, but I have to talk about the rest of my weekend. There's just...so much.
I'm starting to believe that Mr.
Willoughby is right: The world is coming to an end. Not in the whole "Jesus comes down from the mountain" way. No...I think the end is coming from us. Black Friday is the perfect example.
I usually make it a rule: The day after Thanksgiving, I board up the house and hide. Unfortunately, my wife forgot to pack my son's saline spray which he needs for his nebulizing (He has lung issues right now). This meant that ole Leab had to go to Target (where his prescription is) to get it.
You have to understand: the town my wife's parents live in is a Wal-Mart town. There is a Target, but it's behind the Home Depot and only the "fancy rich-folk" go there. Much like King of the Hill, there are people who stand outside the Target talking about the death of the Mom and Pop Shops.
"Yep...place like this takes away our jobs....I'm out of chips...be right back."
Because I had to go out anyway, my wife's mother asked me for a favor:
"Could you please stop at Big Lot's and look for this camera? It's for your father-in-law's mother."
Now I get along pretty well with my mother-in-law, and I like my father-in-law's mother as she understands the feelings I have about Missouri, so I said yes...like an idiot.
8 AM on Friday. The store looks empty as I park.
Once I walk in, however, it's a different story. There are people literally crawling up the walls (on the shelves, of course) to grab the sale items. I don't see the camera, so I ask the store clerk by the door.
"Oh my...we sold out of those by 6:15. You should have been here like everyone else. The REAL shoppers were here then."
"Oh well," I replied. "Doesn't hurt to try."
"You snooze you lose," the clerk says. "You should have been here at 5 like everyone else."
"I really couldn't care. I just thought I would ask," I say, but the clerk has already moved on to someone else.
As I start to move around to leave the store, I see a DVD setup that's cheap. It's a Progressive Scan player marked down to $30. I know my brother-in-law wants one, so I pick it up to look at it.
After a few seconds, I hear a whoosh, and then my head starts to hurt. WHAM! Then again, WHAM!
"I saw it first, you fucker!" I hear screamed.
"What the hell?!" I scream back.
I turn and see a woman a half a foot shorter than me sizing me up with her purse for another hit. My hands shoot out to block her, but she's too quick, and she hits me in my groin. I'm not kidding.
"What...the...FUCK?!" I breathe out.
"I SAW IT FIRST! You took it out of my hands! It's mine!" She screams. She points to the DVD player I am clutching because my body is seizing while trying to get through the pain.
She rips the player from my hands and starts toward the checkout.
Here's the amazing part: NO ONE DOES ANYTHING!
The manager comes over and helps me up.
"Are you all right?" He asks me.
"Yeah," I say as the wave of nausea passes, "But why didn't you or anyone else help me?"
"Look," he starts, "It's our biggest shopping day. You aren't bleeding either. Were you planning on buying the player?"
"No, but..."
"No. You weren't. Look, I saw you pull up in the car from...what is that...Minnesota? You're not from here. If I file a complaint, if I call the cops...you'll probably lose. You aren't from here...and she is. She's a well-known resident and well liked. Her husband's an ex-Fire Marshall. Just....Just let it go."
That's life on Black Friday.
But wait...it gets worse.
With my dignity hovering around my stomach, I hobbled back to my car and drove to Target.
It's here that I see humanity at its worse. People were pushing around packed carts buying stuff they would never need or use. Who buys fourteen bottles of Shampoo? Just because they're on sale? Sigh.
The creme de la creme, however, is when the partrons discovered the one unbought Playstation 3 (shows you how backwoods or off the beaten path this place is). Two customers saw it and each grabbed a worker to try and get it. They arrived at the same time. It started as a shouting match.
"I was here first."
"NO, I was!"
Then it degenerated.
"If you think you're getting the machine, I'll fucking kill you!"
"Is that a threat? I'm calling the cops!" and out comes a cell phone.
The other person saw the phone and slapped it out of the first person's hand.
I was transfixed. It was like watching a car accident. You want to look away, but your have to see it.
Slowly, the phone spun on the floor. As it stopped, the phone's owner looked at the phone on the floor...to the person who hit it...to the crowd...to the machine...back to the floor...then, as if overcome with a bloodlust, he screamed as he tackled the other person. The hands flew from both people. The two Target workers were screaming into their radios.
The rent-a-cops...uh...I mean Security Detail...moved as fast as their fat bodies could move them, but even they weren't sure what to do.
I went home and told my wife and mother-in-law this. To her credit, my wife hugged me, my son cooed, and my mother-in-law gave me an ice bag.
So why does this illustrate Tom's point?
Because we go to "war", we shoot each other, we beat each other over material goods that will be forgotten rather quickly after December 25th (or after the Eighth Day). Parents pay 300% on a Tickle Me Elmo in order to not disappoint little Johnny or Joanie.
I love my son, but I'm not getting up at 2 in the morning in order to get him a toy. He can deal. Plus, I really hope he'll learn why that toy isn't the end all be all of life.
We lament when we don't get the things we want. You can't really get all of us to vote or help the homeless, but we'll destroy others in order to get that cheap DVD player.
Isn't apathy the beginning of the downfall of civilization?
Am I overreacting here?
Have the multiple blows to the head left me without a true perception of life?
You tell me. All I know is the following:
1. NEVER again am I going out on Black Friday (and I couldn't even get my son's Saline as the damn pharmacy shut down for the day to, and I quote, "keep the aisles from being cluttered").
2. I wish I could have kicked the crap out of both the people in Target, taken the PS3, and donated it to the battered kids shelter nearby.
3. Hit the woman back. I don't care if she's old, you hit below the belt, and I believe in equal rights. I see you again, you go down, bitch!
4. If we value the material possessions of our life more than the intangibles, we start to forget who we are. I'm not talking about God here, folks. I'm talking about family, love, sunrises, pets, intelligence, etc.
Then again, what do I know? I'm the guy rolling in pain in aisle five. I could be wrong.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Tryptophan Tidings

Happy Thanksgiving to you, my dear readers.
I am currently sitting in the living room of my in-laws writing to you on my wife's laptop. Everyone is asleep except for me. Maybe that's why it's so quiet.
Yes, I am once again at my in-laws, despite the fact that I was promised I wouldn't have to be here.
However, unlike my
last trip, I am not physically able to fight back...though I did have to defend myself at dinner.
Let's start with my frustration.
When my son was born in June, my wife promised me that I would not have to go anywhere for this year's holidays.
"I promise," she told me, "that we will spend Christmas and Thanksgiving here in Minnesota." Awesome. That's what I wanted.
However, over the course of the last few weeks, the pressure has been laid on thick by the in-laws. The clincher? My wife's grandmother calls and explains that she, "is dying, and who knows when I can see my grandson again?"
My wife caved and agreed to bring Little Leab down to Missouri. She forgot, however, to check in with me. My protests fell on deaf ears as her parents, grandparents, et al were ready for Poozer and that was that.
Angry, I started driving yesterday at four. No problems until we hit Iowa. The small town of Mason City across the border is pretty much the only place you can stop to fill up until you get farther into the state (like Des Moines). When I got off the highway, it was packed full of cars. Instead of a quick fill up, I waited 30 minutes to fill up the car (I had to, I was empty).
The real fun started today.
My wife's grandmother who talked about dying kept calling me Eric. The problem? That's not my name. She also kept referring to me as, "Our Jew."
I kept my mouth shut through dinner as many of my in-laws used the term "nigger," but when it switched to politics, I was done for.
During the course of the week, I warned my wife I would be ambushed. She scoffed.
I was ambushed.
"It's the fault of Liberal teachers...not unlike my son-in-law...that our kids are dumber."
On and on it went. I got to hear about how the Democrats are destroying the country, and how only Bill O'Reilly can save us.
On and on it went.
Finally, after hearing that teachers aren't teaching kids what they need to know, I snapped.
"What are kids not learning that they need to?" I asked.
"Why we're in Iraq for one thing."
"Why would we talk about that in an English class? We want kids to be able to read and write, but we have so many problems because of YOUR NCLB," I responded.
On and on it went.
When it was over? My wife asked me to calm down. Did she defend me? No.
Then we went to the second dinner, which was at my wife's aunt and uncle's house.
This is where my wife's cousin and new baby would be. They were hyper competetive, which I didn't have the energy for.
"Well...Brayden is talking. He's sleeping through the night. He's fill in the blank for annoying comment."
"I don't care," I finally responded. "My son doesn't look like he's the product of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome."
A hush filled the room. My wife kicked me hard under the table.
It's just sad. I really hate the holiday season. My wife doesn't understand. I love my family, and they love me, but we don't feel the need to see each other around this time of year. My wife's family cannot deal if they don't put up the lights and tree and have all the food for Thanksgiving. My wife knows that my family doesn't do this, but she refuses to see why it makes me uncomfortable. We, of course, don't want to the see the foibles of our families, but they should not be ignored. The fact that some of her family talk about how much the problems of America are because of anyone not white is a problem.
I wish I was asleep like the rest of them.
I wish I actually liked this time of year.
I wish that my wife understood why I really don't like to make the drive down here.
I wish I was more tolerant of this.
Again, Happy Thanksgiving. I hope your holiday is fantastically plain.

Monday, November 20, 2006

"You Jumped Out of the Ether"

Car accidents suck.
I take the same route to pick up my son. Because his daycare is in Maple Grove, I get on 494 and take it all the way around to 94.
Sounds easy right?
The only problem is traffic. By the time I reach Rockford Road, the speed drops to 2 MPH. That's not an exaggeration.
On the 9th, I got off to a late start to get my son. The crew and I worked late to try and get the set for the show ready.
Traveling north bound, I was in the left lane doing my lovely 2 MPH. Suddenly, there was the screech of tires. Before I knew it, the screech got closer, the car rocked forward, and my head snapped back.
I was hit.
With quick reflexes (I was lucky), I grabbed my emergency brake. Didn't matter; the person who hit me pushed forward into the car in front of me.
Guy behind me: front end damage
Woman in front of me: slight (and I do mean slight) damage to spare tire cover
My car: front AND rear damage
Suffice to say, I was unhappy. Still, much like my last car accident, I was the first out of my car. I walked to the guy behind me.
"Are you all right?" I asked.
He stared at me sheepishly. "Yes. You?"
"Depends on how much money you have," I said.
"What?" he replied.
"I'm fine, but you hit me. I'll need your insurance info. I'm going to check on the woman you pushed me into."
With that, I walked to the other car.
"Are you all right?" I asked.
"My car!" the woman screamed. "Look what you did to my car!"
I had no idea what the woman was pointing at and why she was screaming. I stepped closer.
I found a small scratch on the top side of her spare tire cover. It was nothing compared to the tire imprint on the front of my car.
She continued to freak out.
"Ma'am? I'll need your insurance," I said.
At this point, I walked back to my car to get my insurance.
There's something funny about a group car accident in how people react with one another. If it's one person's fault, that person will have a hard time looking in the eyes of everyone else.
In this case, the guy who hit me kept his eyes either looking straight up or looking straight down.
"Do we need to call the cops?" I asked.
"No," the woman said.
"No one's hurt, right?" the guy interjected.
"Plus," the woman added, "It's rush hour. I don't want to be here for another hour."
It was agreed. No cops.
I tried to call my wife, but couldn't get through.
The worst part wasn't the car accident or the fact that my neck was hurting. It was knowing that I was going to be very late to pick up my son.
"I just can't believe it," the guy kept saying. "You jumped out of the ether. I never saw you."
It was such a strange description. To jump out of the ether. The truth, he would admit later to the insurance company, was that he was on his cell phone and wasn't paying attention. He was in the middle lane and almost hit a car there. While talking to the person on the phone and looking over at the car he almost hit, he looked back to see mine and started to break, but it was too late.
$3,500 worth of damage to my car later, I'm riding around in a rental car sans truck (which would have helped in transporting wood for building platforms.
The kicker? The guy who hit me is a born and bred Minnesotan. You can talk all you want about how the bad drivers here are not from the state, but it was the Minnesotan who hit me...not the other way around.
Of course, that would only be my first car accident of that week. The second would come on the following Saturday...but that's a story for another time.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Crawling Out of Purgatory

"Where the blue blazes you been, Leab?"

Here's the deal:
the last two weeks have been difficult.

"Why? Writing isn't that hard!"

Ok, I was in two car accidents.
The first had a man rear-ending my car.
The second was my neighbor hitting me. Not my car, me.

"Ok...that's a start. What else?"

All righty then. My "Hell Week" came and went. That's a term for tech week of a show.
I also got very sick, dealt with my sick wife and son, AND have been putting out fires left and right.
Oh yeah...and I voted and had to deal with a guy almost stepping on my son.
Oh, and I have to leave in two days and drive to Kansas City to see my in-laws for the holiday. Why? Because my wife's memory is terrible.

And I missed the vita.mn party, which I'm not happy about, thank you very much.
On the bright side, I have plenty of stories, including something I hate more than modern movie attendance (trust me, Tom).

"Is that all?"

No, I've also been trying to keep up with my grades as the end of the trimester comes up.

"Well, there's no need to be unprofessional."

I hate you disembodied voice. I hate you so much.

"That's what I'm here for."

Whatever....I'll post more when I can.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Repetition...It Keeps Repeating

Here's a lovely story from my fellow teacher Ted.
Today his classes were visited by the local health clinic to tell the students all about their options.
Questions about STDs? Come to the clinic.
Other health issues? Come to the clinic.
You get the idea.
Here's where the story gets better.
The clinic supervisor, who was there to speak to the class, asked the students to name five "uncurable" STDs.
The students were quiet for a minute...then the ice was broken.
"That's right," the supervisor said. "Can you name some others?"
It goes quiet again.
"HIV?" another kid puts forth.
"We've already heard that one. Can you think of another?"
A hand shoots into the air and is called upon.
"Well, AIDS comes from HIV, so we already have that one. Any others?"
"Oh...Oh!" a kid starts from the corner.
"Yes?" the supervisor says quietly.
"Are you kidding? We've had that one already. Haven't you been listening? There are four others to name."
Two other hands shoot into the air.
"Bearing in mind that we have already named AIDS and HIV, name one of the other four."
The two hands slowly slink back to the depths.
Dead silence, Ted explained to me. They had dead silence for another thirty seconds while the supervisor prayed for an answer not tied to HIV.
It never came.
There are two sad factors here as I see it.
1. It shows that the kids didn't listen to the supervisor at all.
2. It shows that kids didn't listen to each other as well.
Even sadder? After the supervisor left, Ted asked his class if they could name any of the other diseases besides HIV. The first answer? "HIV."
Repetition...it keeps repeating.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Gimme That Card!

Oh how times have changed.
Have you seen the new Visa Check Card commercial where a guy attempts to buy lunch with (horror of horrors) CASH!!!!!!!!
Yes, it seems all is a well-oiled machine until Oliver Old-Fashioned decides to pull out a few George Washingtons instead of just handing over his card. When he reaches for his wallet, food goes flying, drinks spill, and industry grinds to a halt.
Just five years ago, you wouldn't see a commercial like this.
I can remember going to a restaurant, pulling out my card to pay, and hearing the sighs and groans from the people behind me. Their brains were almost screaming, "Why doesn't this schmuck have cash."
I wonder if those same people would get pissed off if I pulled out cash now.
It is strange, however. The other day I was in Target, and I paid cash for my purchase.
First there was the cashier, who looked angered and amazed at the green paper being handed to her. Maybe it was just my imagination, but I also got the sense she was angry about having to count out change.
Then there were the people behind me. The wait was obviously longer for them, because the cashier needed more time to count out the change.
In all honesty, I don't mind using my check card now, because the companies have made it unnecessary to sign unless over a certain amount. So when you head to your local McDonald's now, you use your card.
It's a brand new world, folks. We're becoming paperless. Still, cash, not credit, will help you out of many jams. Remember that.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Ramblings for the Weekend (11/4/2006)

I know. It's been a week. I've been busy with life and such. You know...a four month old and all.
So, without further ado: GRIM!
Doogie Yowser:
Neil Patrick Harris announced this week that he is gay. In other news: humans breathe, and the sky is blue. Maybe it was just me, but some of us knew for a really long time. Like Rock Hudson.
And No Flexing Either:
A man in upstate New York was booted for grunting at a gym.
Expulsion. Now I understand the reason why they have these rules, and good for the Planet Fitness gyms, but this is a little much. Cops had to escort the man out? That's a big deal.
Grunting seems to be a big problem lately.
First there's this guy who was escorted out.
Next, the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) has been receiving complaints about one of its members: Maria Sharpova. Apparently her "extremely loud" grunt is throwing off the other players. Wimbeldon (the premeire tennis venue) may place a ban on grunting all together...on all the players.
Have you watched tennis lately? One of the fun aspects of the modern matches is to listen to who can grunt louder and with more purpose. I will admit, however, that Sharapova sometimes sounds like a rhino in heat...and that's saying something.
I feel bad for grunters. Can you imagine a no grunting policy at UPS around Christmas time? Many workers would be fired.
It's a strange world we live in nowadays.
Political Moment:
You all know how I feel about politics, so the fact that I'm writing something speaks to how huge this is.
My lovely wife announced to me tonight that she will not be voting in the upcoming election. After the beef stew in my mouth fell to the bowl below with a soft splat, I asked her why not.
And I quote:
"What's the point? All of the candidates suck. The people we can vote for (we live in Robbinsdale, so some races have nothing to do with us) couldn't care less about us, and it doesn't matter which of these three guys becomes governor, they all stink."
Many rebuttals ran through my head.
"But we have to vote. We have the right to do it, so we have to do it."
"Then choose who the least evil person is and vote for them."
"Vote for the Communists!!!!"
On and on it went. Luckily my brain was kicked back into reality by my sleeping son shifting to find a comfortable sleeping position on my lap.
"Honey," I started, "We have to vote. We have the luck to be able to do it."
"But there's no good candidate," she responded.
"Think of our son," I tried. "Who's going to help him the most?"
A small "harumph" came across the room. "Not a single one of them," she said.
I bring this up because I'm not sure she's wrong. This year Minnesota's candidates are...well...pathetic. They're bland. They're mostly white. They're not really for us (in my humble opinion).
I'm just going to
vote for Tom. Sadly, I didn't realize this was a real deal until I started reading all of the links. Now I really hope Tom wins. We may not agree on everything, but the man sure is eloquent.
As for the upcoming elections? Hell, I'll take my lucky quarter in with me.
and finally:
(Warning: A very unprofessional and angry section ahead.)
Regardless of what recent readers have said, I'm going to talk about the event that really angered me last week. The IT woman at my school was told she was going to be bumped last week. Bumping, for the unfamiliar, is when someone with more seniority (and tenure) decides to take your job (is there more to it? Yes, but this is the short version). Our gal was told that someone would be taking her job. There are a few problems here:
1. The gentleman who is to replace her is not versed in Macs. Why is this a problem? Most of the school's computers are Macs.
2. The IT gal and I have an idea to simplify many of the technical issues the teachers have: create a manual. That's right, an honest to goodness manual that explains the FAQs from most teachers. If she goes, how can we finish?
3. I work very well with the current IT gal. That, in my book, counts for something.
It's the nature of the game of teaching. Again, these are the things you rarely hear about (we never talked about it in grad school), but bumping occurs. Hell, my job is nowhere near safe. I might be bumped at the end of the year. It just means that I go somewhere else to get a job.
That's why I've been trying to get everything organized. If I'm going to go, it's not going to be like a bomb going off. I want the school, the students, the faculty, and such to function well even without me.
Am I planning to leave? No. But it happens. I've talked about John Glenn before, but how about a refresher course?
John Glenn did the most dangerous thing a person could do in the 1960s. He placed himself inside of what was basically a gas can with a rocket on it and shot himself into space. He circled the Earth after being told he may not survive, and when told he may not survive the landing, he landed safely in the ocean. He had completed the most dangerous task at the time.
After a ticker-tape parade and such, he wakes up one morning and goes to the shower, a mundane task that most people do everyday (or every other day). What happens? He slips and hurts his back and was laid up for a while.
The point? Much like the characters in Slaughterhouse Five, so it goes. If I'm around, then I will work my ass off. If I'm bumped, then I go somewhere else.
Of course what do I know? I'm the Jesus Christ of my highschool. Could you pass me my nails? I could be wrong.

The Taming of the Roo: Part II

Morning Sickness. It sucks...or so I've been told.
As Little Leab was growing, he was making my wife ill. The first real major bouts of morning sickness came at the perfect time: my birthday.
There is one rule I have for my birthday: MHD. For those of you unaware of those letters, MHD stands for Mental Health Day. Every year, as a gift to myself, I take a day off from work.

One year I went to the zoo. Just me and the monkeys....
Most of the time, however, I go to the movies. I spend all day there by myself, which is nice. With my wife sick, however, my birthday was spent holding her hair. I knew she was really sick, because she didn't go to work. Mrs. Leab is a workaholic. There's almost no way she would miss work. If Jesus himself showed up and told her not to go to work, she'd smile at him and say, "Sorry, duty calls."
So with her praying to the Porcelain God, I knew she wasn't going anywhere.

There's a moment when you're holding someone's hair that you realize, "Damn...I'm having an 'adult' moment here." Damn kid's not even born yet and my life is changing.
Mrs. Leab's morning sickness would continue a little longer. It became a great excuse, however.
"You want us to see your play? It's six hours long...and about how your dad molested you dog? Yeah...the ole morning sickness is flaring up....Not sure we'll make it.
And, of course, my wife's sickness meant she couldn't help me set up the house. She could point and tell me where to put things, but the onus was on me.

The baby's room was covered in wall paper that would need to be taken down.
Here's a tip for you: score the walls...and steam the hell out of them. Worked very well.
It was difficult at first as I knew that I would have to give up my book room. Much like my father, I had a room dedicated to my books where I could store and read my books. Made life easier for school as well. I need a text? To the book room. Now I have a storage space where I have to rifle through boxes. Would I trade Poozer for a book room back? No, of course not, but it was still hard to pack up everything (and to be the one to do it).
The other difficult decision came when it was time to paint the room.
Yellow. Mrs. Leab wanted yellow. Just like my father, my lovely wife liked the color yellow.
We made a pact that we would not find out the sex ahead of time (that would be blown away by a talkative doctor), so the colors of pink and blue were pretty much out. I wanted a light green, but she wasn't having it. When I showed her a sample and she vomited on my shoes, I knew it was over. I could hear the bell ringing and fight being called. It worked out well.
Next: Classes...and appointments.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Day of Infamy

There have been many people (who we'll call "Celebrities") born on this day.
Let's look at a few:
John Cleese:
Perhaps one of the funniest people to ever live on this Earth, John Cleese turned 67 today. This man will forever be known for his silly walks, calling King Arthur, "a pansy," and, "a chicken," and for walking around an apartment half naked while speaking Russian (if you don't know what I'm talking about, find out).
What most people don't know, however, is that beyond his comedic skills lies an incredibly smart man. Graduated with a degree in law from Cambridge, and is well spoken.
Theodore Roosevelt:
The Bull Moose was born on this day 148 years ago.
Beyond his famous quotes ("Speak softly, and carry a big stick"), he had a photographic memory, and is known to be the father of the Teddy Bear. How? It's about a hunting trip. After no animals could be found, someone captured a stray bear cub and offered Roosevelt the opportunity to shoot it. He refused, saying it was, "unsportsmanlike." Like wildfire, news of his deed spread (this included a cartoon drawing of the President refusing to shoot the cub). A few weeks later, a function was held at the White House, and someone (supposedly Roosevelt's wife) had small dolls in the likeness of bears made as card holders for the place settings. The bears were taken home as souvenirs...and that's how it began.
Other interesting notes? He was asthmatic, but conquered it (and would be known for being tough).
"Good to the last drop," (The Maxwell House slogan) came from him.
Once delivered a one-hour speech in spite of being shot moments before by a would-be assassin. That is tough.
Other famous people born on this date:
Lee Greenwood: Wrote the overplayed post 9-11 anthem "God Bless the U.S.A."
Roberto Benigni: "My English...I used it all up!"
Niccolo Paganini: Incredible operas were given to the world by this (no kidding) triple-jointed composer.
Oh, and then there's one other guy...but he's just some...unimportant teacher...so let's just move on, ok?
John Gotti: Well...you can't win them all. This former mafioso may have been born today, but he died of Cancer.
Matt Drudge: That's right...the Internet reporter himself came into being today.
Kelly Osbourne: Ozzy's daughter turned 22 today.
Ted Wass: Best known for being the dad on Blossom, he has now become an accomplished TV director.
Ivan Reitman: The man who gave us such films as Ghostbusters, and Kindergarten Cop turns 60 today.
Happy birthday to all, some of whom are alive, some of whom are not.

Why I Should Listen to Radio More Often

My son had to go to the doctor today, which was unfortunate (though they love him there and lavish attention on him. I swear, random nurses stopped in to smile and wave at my son...kids not even one and already a player....), but he survived getting shots.
He's been really sick lately, which is unfortunate, but a part of life.
So I'm driving to the appointment listening to Don Shelby and Jeff McKinny (or "The McSkinny" as they called it) on
WCCO. One of them, I believe it was McKinny, was reading out of the recent issue of "Entertainment Weekly" (which made for thrilling radio). The subject was Sascha Baron Cohen's upcoming film Borat, which is getting hammered by some critics who don't have a sense of humor (oops, my real feelings popped out there for a second...sorry folks). So they are reading his interview to the audience when Shelby starts talking about how people think, even though Cohen is Jewish, that he is an Anti-Semite.
Except Shelby doesn't say, "Anti-Semite." Nope. He says (changed for pronounciation), "Anti-[See-mite]."
Thus begins a banter about See-mite versus Semite. As McKinny and Shelby banter, Shelby suddenly says (again for pronounciation), "You ever been in [See-men]?"
The air goes dead. I was chortling, because I had this vision of Don Shelby as the Peter Graves character (Captain Oveur) in
Imagine Don Shelby saying, "You ever seen a...grown man naked, Billy?"
Yet the radio remained dead. It was at least five seconds before McKinny said, "Uh, no (Quick laughter). What else is on the list?"
This is why I should be listening to the radio more often. Where else but here can you get "Entertainment Weekly" read to you and have an Emmy-winning news anchor turn an ethnic slur into porno.
Good stuff.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Some Grief...Some Joy

Great song.
It was pointed out to me today that I seem to concentrate on the negative when it comes to my job.
There is a great deal of negative, but there is also a plethora of positive.
Everyone I know complains about their job. If work was went to be fun, it would be called super action fun time...but it isn't.
As I left work today, a few of my colleagues explained to me that they read the blog, and one in particular, who I actually trust, pointed out that most of my posts swing toward the negative. She's right.
So I figured I should discuss some of the positive aspects of my work.
Are there negatives? Sure. Every job has them.
So what are the positives? Well, for one, there the students. Each and every one of them brings something interesting to the table. Regardless of how frustrated I get sometimes, I enjoy working with the students. It's the reason I'm a teacher.
It's not the money.
It's not the colleagues.
It's not the actual study of English (though I love the literature we read).
No, it's the students. Today, for example, my fifth hour made me laugh so hard that I had to stop my teaching and laugh. Never really had that happen before in an English class. It was great.
But what about the school and my colleagues?
Yes, I have talked about how there have been problems. Bickering, stupid issues in the building, and more, but through it all there are some things that happen at my building that make me smile.
The members of my department all get along. That sounds like something small, but in reality it's a big deal. Another teacher I know works in the Minneapolis district. In her department in her building, the teachers don't talk to each other. When the department meetings come around, the teachers cordially sit and listen, but there's no passion...no warmth among them. They only see each other as other teachers, not colleagues, not humans. I'm not saying I'm best buddies with everyone in my department, but we talk to each other and are aware of our lives. My colleagues have taken an interest in seeing my young son, for example.
Beyond my department, there are people willing to talk to each other about more than just interdisciplinary issues. I may just be an English teacher, but I talk to many of the Science teachers on a daily basis.
Other positives?
There are teachers that care about the students, but they also care about how the other teachers are doing. It's nice to see. For example, the teacher I spoke to today actually gave me constructive criticism about what I have been writing about on the ole blog. She took the time to explain it to me. Most teachers (some of whom have approached me) instead of talking to me in a practical way instead freak out. Most teachers, however, just talk to me about what I've been writing (and thus help create a community which we're supposed to be working toward).
There's a great deal of school spirit. Every Friday most of the teachers wear our school colors to show they love the school (which means we see a great deal of red).
The teachers, for the most part, know the students' names.
These are just some of the different positive aspects of the school I work at. Again, there are bad days and annoying beauracracy, but that happens everywhere.
I like my job. I do. There are just some days that I feel stressed. The next few days (which are teacher conferences in St. Paul) will be nice.
Of course I'm just a new teacher who, "doesn't get it." I could be wrong.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Ghosts of the Past

Apparently last year's theatre kids came to the school today. I saw only one of them...and that was by chance.
I'll be hiding in the booth....
Don't tell anyone.

Grading Time

I love grading time.
The teachers are frustrated by trying to get everything in on time.
The students are worried about the grades and (for a few days) change their behavior in order to hopefully boost them.
Today I had a student bring me food in an attempt to suck up.
"Mr. Leab...I heard you like Starburts, so I bought you a whole bag...for no reason."
Here's how this should really sound:
"Mr. Leab. I'm freaking out about my grade, so I am attempting to bribe you with food in the hopes you will nudge my grade up...and you won't move me."
This student's attempt failed.
As for getting my grades in....Jeez that's hard. We have to use the online grading system, which I hate. I don't trust it. I've put things in before only to find that it wasn't saved. It's annoying.
Then again, it could be worse. Some of my colleagues have talked about times where they had to fill out cards. Card after card of grade that was then turned in so the grades could be sent. That would suck.
I get that the computer is supposed to make it easier, but there are so many steps. Even the manual we get is about the size of War and Peace. Keep it simple, dammit.
And then there are the parents. "You haven't taken into account that my son has (fill in the blank disease or issue). That's why he's failing."
No, he's failing because in six weeks, he's turned in one assignment. Plus, he doesn't listen in class. You want to help, get him to listen.
As a side note, I'd like to welcome all of my students who have stumbled on to/searched for/ taken by force my blog. Let me make it clear to you that it's not that big of a deal, and you can't blackmail me, so don't try it.
Then again what do I know? I'm just the teacher with three bags of Starbursts in his desk....I could be wrong.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Ramblings for the Evening (10/13/06)

Friday the 13th. So many people were scared to be out because...bad things happen today. Didn't happen to me.
Oh well.
So, without further ado: YOU CAN'T SEE ME
An Open Letter to Some Teachers:
Dear fellow teachers from my district,
Thank you so much for telling the teacher of our class the other night not to give us a break. That was brilliant.
No really
I enjoyed feeling my legs fall asleep as I watched that video at the end.
It was even BETTER when we still left at 6:30...even though we were supposed to leave earlier.
Maybe it's because you, oh I don't know, didn't listen to me when I said, "That's a really bad idea."
"Oh, but we could leave early," you whined.
Hey, we all had a long day. Hell...we're all having a long year so far. Thanks for getting our break, our chance to get away from the education setting, taken away.
Maybe it's because you haven't been to many of the classes, but those of us who are veterans understand: They will go until the time is up...always.
Remember that.
You also don't get to complain about not having the break...when you asked to have it canceled.
ESPN Oops:
Tuesday afternoon, while driving over to Maple Grove to pick up my son, I was listening to ESPN Radio when they started talking about
Cory Lidle. The sports pundits were going on about he and someone else were dead. Then they cut to Mayor Mike Bloomberg's press conference.
The listeners hear:
"Mayor? Do we know the names of the people who have died?"
Bloomberg responds quickly. "We are not at liberty to release the names of the men who died in the plane crash. I'm not going to do that. Until we have successfully contacted the next of kin, we will not release those names."
The press conference suddenly disappears, and the radio goes silent for five seconds. In life, that's not so much, but in radio, that's a lifetime. You can almost hear the directors, producers, and on-air talent at ESPN thinking, "Oh crap! We've spent the last few minutes talking about this pitcher and how he's dead...and they haven't contacted the next of kin.... His wife doesn't know yet."
After those five seconds, one of the on-air personalities says, "Well...we can only hope that his wife and 6 year old son have already been told of this tragedy, and they are not learning of this from our station or its affiliates."
I think my jaw dropped to the floor of my car.
Could you imagine being Lidle's wife or son and hearing that your significant other/ father (respectively) was dead from a radio station?
Not hearing it from an authority, but from some guy shooting off his mouth about why he hated interviewing the pitcher?
This speaks to two of the problems:
1. There is so much competition now, that they will do anything to get a jump ahead. During Martha Stewart's trial, one of the stations had a guy doing semiform by the court doors. I mean that's insane. I understand the need to hear what's happening, but at what point will we draw the line? Will stations start dropping bugs inside people via food in order to get the scoop? "CNN...reporting live from John Michael Karr's stomach. We'll hear the verdict...FIRST!"
2. Technology has allowed us to be so fast, that thinking has been replaced by the flying of fingers over cell phone or Blackberry keys. A friend of mine told me about being in a car accident, and watching some guy pull out a phone and text someone. Next thing he knew, he was talking to the cop, and the guy who hit him was talking to a reporter.
It's too easy now. If I had DeRusha's cell phone number, I feel confident I could get him to a story quickly if I needed to (this is not a dig on DeRusha. Let me make that clear).
Of course, only about 22.5 million Americans are apparently reading the "new" media, so who cares?
Dear Fox Sports:
Dear Fox Sports,
Please stop cutting away from at-bats during the Mets game to show fans doing things like buying hot dogs. I missed a go-ahead run for the Mets so I could watch John Rubenstein ("lifelong Mets fan") buying and eating a kosher hot dog for the camera. Not cool.
Yesterday was PTC time (Parent/Teacher Conferences). I really don't like conference time, because everyone is on edge. The kids and parents are fretting about the grade, and the teacher is trying to figure out how to break bad news (Yes, it's not a doctor talking about death, but some people flip out...more on that later).
The conferences were good overall.
Predominantly I, once again, saw the kids and parents I DIDN'T need to. I'm glad that the parents that did come out care enough to talk to their kids' teachers, but it's the parents of the kids who are failing that I want to talk to; that I need to talk to during conferences.
Highs and lows:
High: Meeting some of the parents was great. Apparently my students like me (I pay them to say that), and several parents talked about what I was doing or discussed how I was teaching. It was nice.
Low: A parent who was not happy with me not sugarcoating my discussions with the kids. "Do they really need to know there's sex in Romeo and Juliet? Yes.
Low: The parent who asked me not swear in class (this included "Hell"). Seriously? They say and hear worse from adults.
High: Watching a parent cry from hearing about how wonderful her child is. Apparently I was the first teacher to say that her child was something positive. It was a nice moment.
Low: The mother who cried at her child's failing grade.
High: Getting to the end of my line.
Low: Watching parents walk out of my line, because they were tired of waiting. I went as fast as I could.
High: No one exploding and tossing my laptop across the room (this happened one year to another teacher).
Low: The parents who were upset with me telling them, "The conferences are over now. I know you've been waiting, but leave your name, number, and email, and I'll make sure the teacher contacts you. I guess I should explain. As the head of the department, I wanted to check in with my fellow English colleagues that were still there (several left a little early). There was a line at one teachers' station, so I told them they needed to leave an email. The look on the parent's face was told me she was pissed. My colleague knew it as well and decided to be generous. "I'll see her," she told me. So I acquiesed.
It was definitely better than last year, but I admit...I missed the blogging time.
In a few months...round two.
and finally....
The Adventures of Frank:
Frank (another teacher) had a student who brought a gun to school. The student somehow got the gun from his father. The reason? Partly due to the recent rash of school shootings as well as due to frustration with staff and fellow students. The student had a gun and a list. The key here isn't the gun, but the list. The list had names of staff and students. Frank's name was on that list. It's not clear if the list was students and staff who were safe or who were targeted. It's scary to think about how a student could choose to kill a teacher or choose to leave him or her be.
We have had a student at my school removed for bringing a fake gun. He wanted to scare students who had picked on him. I just can't imagine.
Then again, what do I know? I'm just a teacher. I could be wrong.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Ramblings for the Evening (10/06/06)

The end of a long week.
Let's get to it.
So, without further ado: WIIIILLLLIIEEE!
Hockey's Back (06 Edition):
My wife and I are still season ticket holders for
The Minnesota Wild. Last night was the first regular season game of the new season, and boy was it fun. Not because of the team, but because it was my son's first ever Hockey game. Here he is at the tender age of 15 weeks (and how cool is it that I can still use "weeks" instead of "months" or "years" to describe his age?), and he was loving it!
He never cried once. When the horn went off, we, of course, covered his ears to protect them. He also made my wife very happy as he frowned when Mike Schmidt hit the higher note during the National Anthem.
The Wild won the game in overtime...but the Leab family had already left. The game started late due to all the pregame hoopla, so we left just after the third period started. By the time we got home, I was able to catch the game-winning goal AND then see the Mets beat the Dodgers (Go METS!). It was definitely exciting, but I freely admit that I spent more time staring at my son watching the game then the actual game.
Other notes from the game:
Will got his
picture taken at the game. Unfortunately for us, the woman who did had never used a digital camera...ever. She hit the button and moved at the same time.
The "Let's Play Hockey" moment was done sans swearing, unlike
last year, because the person chosen was a soldier who returned from The Middle East. The only aspect I didn't like was how the announcer told this whole story about how this soldier (or Sargeant) returned from a fire fight to one of the tents to relax, and the Armed Forces Network was showing a Wild game...and happened to show his dad. It's a great story, but it was delivered as if Jesus himself turned the TV just so this soldier could see it. I can't explain it better than that. It wasn't magic, just coincidence.
Anyway, he did a good job, but he was followed around the rest of the night by these drunk guys who kept taking pictures with him. You could see it in his eyes: he REALLY wanted to punch the hell out of them.
The food prices are insane now. I needed to buy a bottle of water so Little Leab could eat. It was four dollars for a small bottle. I couldn't do it. I went to the bar instead and asked the bartender (holding up a picture of my son) for water so I could make formula. She was sympathetic and gave me the water (slightly warm as well) for free.
The moment of the night came between the first and second period. As one of the on-ice attendants (or staff) was shuffling off, he hit a divet and fell backwards. His head hit the ice so hard that we could hear it on the second level. He was down for a few seconds. My wife, who witnessed the whole thing (I was getting the water), said that he was woozy when got up. You hate to see it, but it is schadenfreude (taking pleasure from other people's pain).
Little Leab was beloved by every single person around him. The couple in front of us talked about their one year old (who was at home asleep). They also marveled at the fact that Poozer was on my lap hanging out in the sling with no problems. The woman REALLY wanted the sling.
The couple behind us talked about how much they missed having their kids at Poozer's age (there's were three and five and very moody). One woman sitting three rows in front of us asked if she could "borrow" Little Leab so she could "hopefully get on the big screen." See, she thought that he was SO cute, so he'd have to be put on the screen. Suffice to say...we did not lend him out.
The low point of the night came when I ran into a student of mine who works at the Xcel Energy Center. He explained to me he was going to be expelled after being accused of stealing a purse (I advocated for him as he couldn't have done it, because he was in my classroom at the time of the crime. Apparently that didn't matter). I was pissed after he told me that. This is a kid that is only 18, has been through rehab, and who I have been working with on a daily basis to help graduate. Has he made mistakes in the past? Yes. Many of them, but this time he didn't do it. That's being ignored, however, as the girl says she has friends who will back her story up. I guess three high school students are more trustworthy than a teacher....
I also didn't get my free calendar as the boxes hadn't arrived as we were leaving. DisapPOINTED!
This will not be the last game I attend, but I must admit that both my wife and I were surprised at how well Little Leab took to this. He was asleep when the Wild scored the first goal. The horn went off, and he opened his eyes, looked around, and then fell back asleep.
Hockey's back. Everyone rejoice.
Education Rant:
(This is going to be slightly vitriolic, so Katie Couric...you may not want to read.)
Sometimes teachers act like the students they teach. I know this blog is read by my students, by my colleagues, by other teachers, and possibly some administrators.
My school is, in my opinion, a powderkeg.
The teachers are all on edge right now trying to deal with the new schedules and time constraints.
The students are having a hard time dealing with all the homework being thrust upon them.
The administrators and the teachers are dealing with angry parents and angry students.
Then, hanging over everyone, is the damn referendum, which we are reminded of every fifteen minutes now. If one more person comes to me and says, "Hey, did you know that you're going to lose your job if it doesn't pass," I may have to hurt someone.
There's a great deal of pressure that everyone is feeling right now, so the last thing we need is for the staff to turn into cliques like the high school students and for petty arguements to start now.
I look at my colleagues who look haggard right now. You can see it in their eyes. The English teachers leave every night with stacks of work, and there are some teachers leaving with almost nothing. There's a disparity, that's true, but it doesn't help that the ones leaving with nothing are complaining.
I watched two teachers have the most petty argument today over who should be allowed to make copies first. I'm worried that the pressure that's increasing in the building is going to push teachers to points of no return...or worse yet...quitting.
A teacher, who I won't name, had the guts to explain to a class how I was a bad teacher. This is to students. "Leab is a horrible teacher," was one quote. Several of the students who were in my class came to me and told me this. When confronted, the teacher denied it, but other teachers verified that this teacher (yes, this is really bad grammar, but identities will not be shared) had ripped the whole year in the teacher's lounge. How does that foster a community?
Yesterday I sat in a meeting and watched my colleagues meltdown. I saw finger pointing, I saw angry shouting, and I saw a person almost burst into tears (thus backing up the whole "pressure" point I've been talking about here). Now I am very good at leaving work at work and home at home, but this went with me. I had to vent...for a long time...to multiple people. That's how angry I was.
Today I went to the teacher who almost broke down and tried to talk about what happened. I was met with stiff resistance. The question was asked, "Are you ok?"
The response to me was, "Yeah..fine," in a very terse manner.
"No really," I continued, "Are you ok?"
"Fine." Very cold, very impersonal. I am now on this person's shit list. I didn't argue, however, and I didn't push it.
I may be a caustic prick, but I work hard to keep decorum. When I was cut off at the last staff meeting, I rolled with it and sent an email. When I was told I would (probably) lose my job, I rolled with it, and started thinking about back-up plans.
But when I was told that I don't do enough for the students, that's when I get angry. I hate doing this, but this is for my colleague who said that I, "don't care enough."
1. I currently advise two clubs for free. Anime Club and Video Game Club. Are they the best clubs ever? No, but the students get the chance to bond, and I have grading time. This winter I will be adding a third club (again for free) in the form of Knitting Club. Why? Because the students need someone to adivse them, and this allows them to meet and to deflate after a hard week. Beyond that, I have been asked to start a German club so students can learn German (because it is no longer taught at my school).
2. I do all the technical theatre work for the school for free. Beyond that, all of the tools in the shop are tools that I bought with my own money and donated so the kids would have the necessary equipment to build sets. When I say all the technical theatre work, I mean it. I have been called in to help with anything that comes through the building. I'm the only person in that building with a working knowledge of the light board in terms of how to fix it and how to work it. I am the only one who can fix (though against union rules) the electrical issues.
3. I am now the chair of my department, and though it is actually a "Co-chair" position, I am the one doing the work. The "Co-chair" is there so that if I am not listened to, he will be. As such, I have been checking in with each member of my department during the week to make sure he or she is doing ok and to find out what I can do to help. I have even approached the principal about the fact that some of us are feeling a wee bit "crispy" right now, and we could use some positive reinforcement.
4. I know each of my students' names and talk to them almost everyday. I stay after school sometimes just to talk to the kids. To find out how they are and how I can help.
My advisees are also a priority. I check their grades constantly, talk to their teachers, and check in with the kids constantly.
5. I have never given up on a kid. Last year, I taught a kid to read a clock. He was a sophomore in high school and could not read a clock. I taught him how to do it. When he came to me about wanting to drop out and just have kids, I talked him about why he needs to finish high school first. When he got in trouble with certain teachers, I made sure to back him up.
I may be the guy who takes your cell phone and keeps the battery, but I'm also the guy who argues for you not to be suspended, because I know that means you won't be learning from me, and that makes both our lives difficult.
Say what you will. You can rip all you want when I'm not in the teacher's lounge (which is all the time. I refuse to go in there, because it's a haven for negativity). You can talk about the fact that more and more of my advisees are leaving the school. I don't care.
I took this job and this life, because of the students. I don't show up to work for my colleagues. I do it for the kids.
If you give me a compliment about my teaching, thanks, but that's nothing to listening to Senior learn from my advice. That's nothing to watching a student understand what I'm getting at about life.
To my students reading this, that's what I'm getting at everyday in class. It's not about the material in a rote sense. It's about you getting the tools to function in everyday life. Romeo and Juliet? They were impulsive. They didn't think things through before acting. You can say that would never be you, but look closer at your choices.
Why did I have a whole conversation about "love" with you? Because the word is so misused by the people your age that it's sickening in some ways.
And yes, it's also to challenge you. I will say and do things that other teachers won't, because you need that challenge.
And to you my colleagues, you need to challenge them on that. If a student says, "I hate George Bush," call them on it. "Why?"
Make sure they have a real reason beyond trying to fit the mainstream or just think they way their parents do.
That's our job.
And don't ever question my commitment to the kids. I may bitch, but I show up everyday ready to go.
And to my freshmen, one key piece of advice:
You don't know the world.
You don't know everything.
Don't try to act with me like you do. I've been through and seen more than you have just by the fact that I have lived longer. If you try to act superior to me, I'll bury you. I've done it before, and I know I'll have to do it again.
I don't mind joking with you, but there is a line.
Never forget: I am not your friend.
Senoritis Stopped?:
The University of Washington is trying to
stop Senoritis. The gist of the article, for those who don't like to read (and why are looking at my blog then?), is the school recinded several students' admissions to school, because their second semester grades went waaaaaay down. Now personally I would love to cop out and say that this is great...because it didn't happen to me (I had Junioritis, folks), but the real answer is that this IS a good thing.
Last year, I watched so many seniors try to just coast there way out. One kid I knew got a 1 (the equivalent of a D) during his final semester. He had already made it into college, so why did he need to care anymore?
Are there downsides? Of course. The one kid not finiding out until after registration? That's horrible. Get it done earlier. Still, this is not limited to only the state of Washington. Apparently Minnesota is thinking about doing this at U of M.
Again, I slacked (sort of) my Senior year of high school. I took English and Theatre electives my second semester.
It was worse in college. I only stayed for my wife, so I had two classes. One with 8 students, the other with one (yup, just me).
So remember, dear reader, that big brother (in the form of colleges) is always watching.
Then again what do I know? I managed to pass my classes even though I wanted to get the hell away from my school. I could be wrong.