Friday, June 29, 2007

Conquering the Home Office...Tape, anyone?

It is Day 2 of my "get organized project" in the home office. I sit amongst the detritus that is usually my favorite room in the house - perplexed as to what I should do next.

On the floor are notebooks - six of them at last count, 4 white and 2 blue and all empty. WHY does anyone need all those notebooks, you may ask? I don't know. They were stuffed into the cupboard I am hoping will hold all photographs that are in an elongated pile against the bookcase. There is also a smaller blue plastic notebook, with three rings and a look of newness about it.

There are photo albums, bags, boxes, and smaller bags - with photos that need organization. They've needed organization since 1982 so what is the hurry? I just have to get them into neat piles so they will FIT.

I have a brand new filing cabinet. It is metal, with two drawers. It took me a long time to pick it out over at Staples, only to find they didn't have the original one I chose - so this is the replacement, which cost $20 more. What makes it worth more money than the first one? I don't know.

But some guy named Joe with big black glasses begrudingly went in the back to get it for me. I venture to guess that, had I asked him, he wouldn't know why this one cost more money than the first one. Given his demeaner every time I go into Staples, I don't reckon that Joe thinks about anything too terribly much.

The top drawer of this $20-more filing cabinet is reserved for my doctorate stuff. It is there the paperwork trail of my program will be stored. Right now it is empty except for the application, which I faxed last Monday.

The bottom drawer is blessedly empty but there are odds and ends that need to be put there. But which ones? I don't know.

I have a few small and empty bookshelves amongst the set that Dan built into the wall for me a few months ago. It is my fervent hope that the completed albums might find refuge there. But hope springs eternal and I am haunted by the overfilled filing cabinet drawer that houses important paperwork that really MUST be sorted through... one of these days. This I know because every single time I go in there, mountains of overstuffed files rise up and attempt escape.

But upstairs on my nightstand are stacks of books. Books that were in various stages of being read and now they are ready for placement on the bookshelves. Which means less room for all the photo albums, not to mention the boxes and bags and more bags of pictures that seemed a good idea at the time.

In this organizational semi-frenzy, I have discovered half a dozen small spiral note pads. All of them have been used to some degree and I have no recollection of having purchased any of them. Why so many? I don't know.

And tape. You would think I had a depression-era type fear of running out of tape - that I needed to hoard it or something. But no. I just have a lot of tape. Two completely unopened 3-packs, several loose rolls wrapped in cellophane, and a few rolls that are obviously being used. I really don't need to tape a lot of things. I use tape at Christmas time and a bit throughout the year. Why so much tape? I don't know.

My love for office supplies is evident - all the drawers store various office supplies. Glue sticks, paper clips, binder clips, mechanical pencils, scissors, Sharpie markers, water color markers, calculators, index cards, sheet protectors, folders with 3-hole brads, folders without brads, colored third-cut folders, old folders bearing names of previous students. Peeling the labels off these old folders is like an archeological expedition. A student from 3 years ago and underneath that, another student, then another, going back to my very first classroom. "Tawon," is written right on the folder itself. Tawon who is a senior in high school by now. IF he made it that far. His ambition, as I recall, was to be a gangster.

And computer stuff. Stuff that went with the Dell that exploded and crashed about 5 years ago. Old floppy disks that store gosh-knows-what on them. CD Roms with names on them that look important but which ring no mental bells. Cords? Oh yes. A plethora of cords, all sizes. Should I keep them or toss them? I haven't needed them, obviously, in over 4 years so why keep them? But what if I NEED them and they are expensive and what a waste it would be to have to drive to Staples, endure the apathy of Joe again, just to buy a cord I stupidly through out one summer day when I was in a cleaning frenzy. Why? I don't know!

In a bag there is the collection of paperwork I needed for taxes. It needs to be stored. My storage boxes for old tax paperwork are in the garage. My rule of thumb is to remove one box each year and shred it. This way I can keep the pile of boxes at a minimum. This is on my "to do" list because the pile of boxes is beginning to lean precariously. Obviously, I haven't been following my own rule very well.

So here I sit. I play games of Free Cell in between bouts of productivity. I am determined to get this room in order so that when there is no time to do it in the near future, I can feel restfully assured that the mess isn't hopeless. I am cleaning and organizing using the time-honored "A.D.D." method of cleaning and organizing. Each discover and all errant pictures lead me off on a tangent.

One more game of free cell. One more attempt to organize paperwork and supplies.

I just hope I don't find any more tape. Or notebooks! No more notebooks.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Lament for a Favorite Antique Store

One of my favorite antique stores has been sold. It happened quickly because I wasn't able to say good-bye to Andrea, the owner, or find out the details.

Andrea, a rather flamboyant young lady who favored colorful vintage clothing, wildly coiffed bleached-blond hair, and ankle-threatening spiked heels, often threatened she would sell the store and return to Oregon. I guess she just up and did it - which would be vintage Andrea.

Her shop was cluttered - but there was a method to her arrangements. One never knew what treasures could be found by poking around behind the old parking meter, Coca Cola machine, or vintage juke box. She made elaborate labels for each item out of old photographs, scalloped tags, and colorful ribbon. If she didn't write the label herself with typical curlicues and dotted points, she commisioned her friend Debbie, who often came in with food and her calligraphy pen, to spend a couple afternoon hours.

Debbie works down the street at the another antique shop that is more of a "junk" store than anything else. It is all Debbie can do to keep the owner organized and his addiction to Internet poker games often has Debbie leaving the store in annoyance. She never stays away too long.

The running gag between them concerns items they both consider to be the "world's ugliest antiques." Each will see how quickly the other can sell what has been picked out for them.

"Kimberli! Don't you just love this MOOSEHEAD?" Andrea would squeal when I came in the door, under the trellis and around some vintage baby buggy or milk crate or something. The moosehead was totally atrocious but Debbie had bet Andrea lunch she could sell the ugly 'kewpie' looking doll before Andrea could unload the moosehead.

"It's so... rustic. Don't you have a room that is kind of rustic, almost 'hunting lodge?' It would be perfect!"

I would always decline. That moosehead was truly awful. I think there was 19th century dust and mold deeply imbedded in it somewhere.

Another fixture of Andrea's store was Dottie, her much-loved and terribly spoiled chihuahua. Dottie had her own bed, her own bowl, and wore "outfits" that Andrea often made herself. Sometimes the dog would leave her bed and seek me out while I nosed around some distant end of the store. She really was a sweet dog, despite the feather boa and painted nails.

Andrea's store always had new items that she found in her travels - she often just up and drove places to acquire stock. One could always count on something unique when Andrea returned from a travel.

There was always food, coffee, and goodies in the store. People loved Andrea and flocked to her with these items of homage. She had a regular entourage of followers - and they were always a lot of fun.

Jim was a Japanese guy who worked for one of the aerospace companies. When he was there, Andrea played Broadway tunes on the Bose radio - and Jim was always puttering around, fixing things, putting things up, taking things down, moving something to the left.

"Jim's teaching me to play poker," Andrea announced one Saturday when I ventured inside (under a vintage garden swing, a huge watering can, and around an old fire extinguisher).

"Andrea's trying to teach me Spanish," Jim replied, immersed in the card game but humming softly with the radio.

"He's not a good student," Andrea lamented, pursing her ruby red lips and adjusting a sequinned and beribboned head band that held the wild brassy blond hair from her face. The headband was a sample of several she had acquired from a local crafter. "Aren't they just divine," she gushed, when I fingered one. For Andrea, yes... for me it would look like "dress up."

"Neither is she," said Jim. But neither of them budged from their place at the rolled-top desk. Over the desk hung some vintage wind chimes, an old road sign, a rusty shopping basket, and some old canteens.

Sometimes she would teeter on those shoes from behind the counter and seek me out for a chat. Andrea was kind, decent, interesting, and fun. She loved life, Dottie, old things, and Oregon. She always wanted to go back to Oregon.

"How did you end up here?" I asked one day, while Jim attempted to secure yet another garden arbor to the much-maligned bit of wall space allocated for it.

"I followed a guy," she said with a hearty laugh. "He was a policeman. We met when he was on vacation. Didn't last. Here I am!"

Another frequent shop denizen was Bob, who found old scraps and vintage furniture pieces almost beyond repair and created something different from them. He crafted mantles, tables, garden benches, and the like. Andrea always displayed them outside the store, on the sidewalk with elaborately decorative tags. I overheard Bob say to Andrea once that he liked to price things just under what people are willing to pay, so he won't have to cart anything back to his garage if it doesn't sell. This way, his wife wouldn't be annoyed at all the clutter in the garage - a space he was always intending to "clear out." Bob would lean against the counter, drinking coffee, calling Dottie a "princess" and generally procrastinating whatever it was he was supposed to be doing.

Many of antiques in my home came from Andrea's shop. She always promised to stop by one day and see where it all ended up. But the school year kept me busy and a month or two went by before I made time to stop by the shop.

The fact that it had been sold was quickly apparent. My visit today quite literally sank my heart. Nothing hangs from the ceiling, there is no dog on a fancy bed in the corner, no trellises are to be seen, and the staid woman behind the counter, which lacks the roll-top desk and vintage wind chimes, is all business. The store has a rug now - and it is very clean. Almost sterile. No Andrea.

And the moosehead is gone.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Learn Chines Online

My favorite chatboard has some interesting advertisements that I usually ignore. But one kept popping up that got me curious. It says, in simple black and white, "Learn Chines Online." After a dozen or so exposures to this I began ruminating and then investigated further.

My first thought was that 'chines' is an instrument. Something like 'chimes' but with a new-age or some kind of ethnic twist. I wondered what 'chines' might look like and how they sounded and WHY in the world I'd never heard of them.

Then I thought "chines" was a card game or a fortune-telling game. You deal the cards and placed them a certain way and then read the official "chines guide" and told fortunes. I thought about the kind of pictures such cards would have. Would reading "chines" resemble reading Tarot? Or the I-Ching? I wondered where the "chines" cards came from. Did someone just make that up or was there a legitimate history that traces back to some ancient Afghan tribe that sequestered a certain and prized group of women who could read the "chines" only after special indoctrination that included smoke, ashes, celibacy, and some dead animal.

But alas, no. This ad promises that you can learn CHINESE online. Yep, an entire pictograph language ONLINE in no time. Forget the fact that Chinese is a tonal language that most westerners can only BEGIN to understand after long periods of intense study - locked in a basement in Beijing, no doubt.

So this is some money-making venture, I am sure, by somebody who purports to teach Chinese but can't spell it. I guess that as long as they pay their bills, we can continue speculating on the chatboard about the true meaning of learning "chines" online. You gotta wonder though - on a teachers' chatboard some advertiser is getting away with spelling an entire language wrong, and nobody has mentioned it.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Adventures with Alli - Day One

During my trip to Target this morning when I bought the pink-dog-tag-looking flash drive that didn't work - I looked for that weight loss stuff, the Alli. I figured with all the hype PLUS front page coverage in the L.A. Times and talk radio, there would be big old signs. But no! So I had to ask the pharmacist.

Tell me WHY I felt like I was asking for condoms? It was really hard for me to do!

The very lovely and quite slender pharmacist said that they didn't have any Alli in stock yet and that there would be a big o' display when they did. Then she gave me a funny look like I was trying to buy condoms and gave me a flyer. "You DO understand about this product, don't you? It makes you gassy."

I wanted to tell her that all I wanted to do was fit back into the stack of Size 8 jeans in my closet. But she would probably think I was lying or something. Pharmacists hear it all, I just bet.

I checked out in the Garden Department because I needed some pots. The lady behind me saw the flyer and I swear to Goodness... as loud as she could she says,


Everyone in line was staring at me like I was holding a box of lubricated and ribbed Trojan-enz or something, complete with a tube of K-Y, a paperback copy of the Kama Sutra, AND a pack of DD batteries. Sheesh.

I thanked her quietly and skulked out of there while she says,

"OH YEAH.. I was just there! Like, aren't we ALL looking for that stuff? But man... I hear it makes you all gassy......."

So on my second trip out this afternoon, to return the pink-dog-tag-looking flash drive that didn't work, I went to Walmart since I figured, using my powers of inference, that if Sam's Club had it, Walmart would have it too.

They did. Big display.... I mean, prominent. All it needed was a neon sign that flashed,


So I am trying to nonchalantly read the box and brochure and everybody and their stinkin' mother and whiny kid is there and I am RIGHT in the way of ALL of them and of course they see me and do a double-take and I feel like I'm in the magazine section checking out porno magazines or something.

So I circle around a few times and notice the display has a PHONE! A "hotline" in the display so you can call in front of everybody and their fat mother and whiny kid and ask...", what about this gas? Is it lethal? Is it LOUD? I mean..will people actually HEAR me? Will it smell bad?"

Finally, I just dive-bomb the display, weaving in between a curious store clerk and some lady with POINTY toenails she actually had DONE, complete with rhinestones and flowers.

I hide the big box, which has a SECURITY lock thingy on it, under my purse and go looking for the flash drive, which is halfway across the store.

Walmart on a Saturday is an experience you just don't NEED to have - especially when you have something in your cart that just begs people to peer in while you scan the computer-related paraphenalila for 2 gigs of "MORE POWER!"

The checkout line wasn't that long but the cashier had to leave to go look up a price which means a huge and rather loud family gets to stand behind me and STARE at the security-tied box on the check out counter, my copy of Prevention Magazine, and my Dasani water. Plus the Cruzer flash drive thing - but nobody notices THAT.

I swear they are talking in low tones to each other, in between yelling at the kids, who are pulling down the displays.

("See? She buyin' that stuff... that stuff that makes you all gassy.... s'pose to help you lose weight..." "Baby, don't you be THINKIN' I'm gonna buy you that stuff...")

THEN I get to pay for it and you can just imagine the look I got from the cashier - some girl with a muffin-top she displays proudly under her blue associates vest. The packaging flummoxes her and she turns it over and over in her hands. She realizes she can't take the security thing off. So, she CALLS for somebody to come remove it!

I swear TO GOODNESS, in front of EVERBODY she announces that she has to go to electronics to get the security cord thing off of "this weight loss product....."


Okay. And I have to stand there while she weaves through the crowd and she is gone for whole minutes. While the huge and loud families behind me stand there and cluck their tongues.

So - I got the stuff home.

I ate chicken and took one. My stomach is a bit... acidy.

Later I ate a Pollo Bowl (most of one, anyway..) and took another one. My stomach is a bit acidy.
So far, so good. No gas.

I would like a nice glass of merlot, but I don't want to push my luck here.

There is only so much "gassiness" one can blame on the dog.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Long-Remembered T-Shirt Crime

My good friend and colleague asked me today if I wouldn't mind stepping into her room to help her finish painting grass on the tee shirts that first grade is decorating for their upcoming zoo field trip.

Every year the first grade teachers buy plain white tee shirts and decorate them with acrylic paint and animal stamps. This helps the kids stand out in the crowd and provides a nice souvenir for the children - since they aren't allowed to visit the gift shop.

She was using green paint and I asked her if she had more than one shade - to make the grass more interesting. She said that yes, she was "allowed" to use more than one shade of green on the grass.

Then she gave me a jaundiced eye and made me promise not to "get her in trouble" by "doing anything wrong" with the tee shirts.

I had to laugh out loud when she very seriously told me that my "tee shirt crimes" were long remembered by first grade and that they were "talking about them today" when giving her the "rules" about making the tee shirts.
Allow me to preface my explanation here by telling you that I came from a school that made zoo shirts every year. However, THAT experience was nothing like the experience of making zoo shirts at THIS school. As I quickly discovered when it was time to make the shirts for the first grade zoo trip.

There are rigid rules for making zoo shirts and these rules are never to be bent, disregarded, or broken. This is because all the shirts must look the same. The deviance allowed is the choice of animals. These rules are sacrosanct. They are to be adhered to with the greatest respect and reverence.

I shall recount them for you:

Rule 1: All children are allowed a choice of TWO (2) zoo animals to have stamped on their shirt. No more and no less. Exactly two.

My crime: I let the children pick as many animals as they wanted. The only guideline is that they had to fit.

Rule #2: Only teachers may stamp the animals. The children are not allowed to stamp the animals because they will make a mess.

My crime: I let the kids stamp their shirts. The kids were to wear the shirts so why not have a hand in making the shirts? (Yes, they made a mess.)

Rule #3: There are to be NO animals stamped on the sleeves. Refer please to Rule #1.

My crime: There are two sleeves with perfectly good surfaces.

Rule #4: Despite the fact that the stamped animals cry out for details, there are to be NO DETAILS applied to the dried stamped animals. No eyeballs, no stripes, no tusks, and no tips on the tails. No claws, no whiskers, and no pink tongues.

My crime: Eyeballs, stripes, tusks, tail tips, claws, whiskers, and pink tongues were added to the animals once the paint dried. The kids had a blast. Once the details were added, you could tell what the animals were supposed to be. (Remember, they made a mess when stamping them in the first place.)

Rule #5: Grass is grass. Just grass. Two colors allowed.

My crime: Grass is good, but numerous flowers and a tree for the monkey is better. (Too much HGTV, I think. Things need to "pop!")

My final faux pas: Writing "Road Trip 2005" on the sleeve with a sharpie marker.

The shirts turned out beautifully. They were full of character. The other shirts were neat, tidy, and tame. My kids' shirts were a bit over the top.

I have never, to this date, been forgiven for this. I think they are putting the rules into a rule book and any new teachers have to sign a memo of understanding now before they are allowed to make zoo shirts. I think my friend and colleague was forced to sign under duress.

So... I helped my colleague with grass. Just grass. No flowers, no trees, no details. ("Was it YOU who added a tree for the monkey? They were talking about that today too. It must have been YOU.")

Her animals were clearly resting or standing in the grass. My animals were clearly hopping over it and bounding through it. She took this in stride and even thanked me for my "help."

My wavy, wind-blown, two-toned grass did give her cause to scratch her head though.