Sunday, April 27, 2008

Lost Things and Dog Hair

This morning the unthinkable happened: Mom lost her Address Book. This isn't just any old address book, it is the ADDRESS BOOK. Everything is in there with the exception of the last novel by Dickens.

I've seen this book and it amazes me. Phone numbers and addresses are only part of the bounty to be found in this book. Mom has birthdays, anniversaries, blood types, complete health histories, clothing sizes, yoga workouts, and dog names in that book. The complete maintenance history of her last two automobiles is in there somewhere, along with the names of her favorite mechanics at PACC Auto.

It has a filing system that only she understands. There are rubberbands, paperclips, and sticky notes holding important places and delineating special sections. When she can't remember the names of family pets, she finds the special page that has all that information, in her compacted and unique penmanship.

The loss of this book was huge. It was all Mom could do to concentrate on her telephone call with me. Finding this book was so important that she was considering the possibility of going through the trash can.

Mom doesn't like trash and the idea of going through the trash is so unappealing that I could hear the stress in her voice and the feel the tension of her muscles, steeling themselves for this most distasteful of chores.

"Why would you have to go through the trash?" I asked, "You would never throw it away!"

"I might have forgotten and thrown it away," Mom replied.

"I don't think so, Mom... it's too important. You wouldn't do that, even if you were distracted."

"You never know. I've been really distracted lately."

She told me to wait while she checked one more place. "No, it's not there..."

"Where?" I asked.

"A place I didn't check yet. It wasn't there."

"Oh... have you checked all your purses?" I asked.

"Yes. All of them. If I don't find it soon, I will HAVE to go through the trash before it gets picked up tomorrow." She was sounding anxious.

"When did you use it last?" I asked, trying to be helpful.

"I used it to mail back Haley's phone charger. I had to double check. I know the address, but I just had to double check. So I had it open. When Haley was here, she left her phone charger."

"So it's all HALEY's fault," I said. But Mom didn't laugh. She was clearly very agitated. I told Mom that I always have to check too, because I forget the zip code.

"Well, THEN what did you do with it?" I asked, trying to sound thoughtful, "after you double checked?"

"If I KNEW that, I would know where it is," said Mom.

"Did you take it with you to mail the phone charger?" I prodded.

"No. At least, I don't think so. No. I can picture it... it was open."

"So you didn't mail it to Haley with the phone charger?"

"Mail it? Why would I mail Haley my address book? No. No. I don't think so," Mom replied. But the pause in conversation lead me to suspect she was considering that possibility. Then she was probably mulling over how she was going to call Haley and ask about the address book.

"Okay. Well, think carefully about where you were when you had it open. Then what happened next?"

"I don't know. Maybe I just won't think about it."

"Yeah, Mom.. if you don't think about it, you will remember."

It sounded like a plan.

"I will go take a shower. The hot water will sooth me. Maybe I'll remember."

"Good idea," I said, trying to sound cheerful.

"I really don't want to go through the trash," Mom said again. "I really have to find it. EVERYTHING is in that book."

"Maybe you should do that prayer... to the Patron Saint of lost things."

"The saint of lost things? Who is that.... I can't remember." Mom was born half-Catholic and dragged to Mass often enough but that wasn't helping in this situation.

"What was it that Auntie Chickie said about finding lost things... the prayer?"

"I can't remember," sighed Mom.

"Okay, I hope you find it," I said, before hanging up.

It came to me later, something about dog hair. My aunt had read this wacky thing about using dog hair to find lost items. My Mom and sister and I had chuckled over it.

But I was about to call Mom to tell her about the dog hair when she called me back.

"I found my address book," Mom announced with relief. "It was in the car. In a plastic bag. I looked one more time."

"Oh good.... so you DID take it with you," I said.

"I don't know why, but I did. Thank goodness. I didn't want to go through the trash."

"Dog hair, Mom," I said.


"Dog hair. Auntie Chickie said that Dog Hair helps find lost things."

"Oh. Okay. Whatever you say," said Mom, clearly not remembering the whole laughing-out-loud conversation we'd had in November about Auntie Chickie and the Dog Hair.

Mom signed off and probably spent a few minutes wondering about dog hair. I, for one, will be brushing Seamus tonight and mailing Mom some dog hair.

You just can't be too careful. I mean, that book has EVERYTHING.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Strange Fruit

There is an abundance of this botanical specimen growing all along the Lake Hughes portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. Its interesting shape demanded a picture.

Mike, a fellow teacher and one of my hiking partners for the day, carefully picked it and began opening it with his pocket knife. His efforts were hindered by my dogs, who wanted to get at it. The fact that we found it interesting was enough for them.

It looked and smelled a lot like a cucumber on the inside and Mike and I double-dawg dared each other to taste it. "I'm sure it's fine," I said.

"I bet the Indians ate it," added Mike.

"I don't THINK so," said Heather, Mike's fiance. She tossed the halves into the underbrush.

Further along, we spied some fruit growing off a different shrub - this one looked remarkably like apples, only smaller and not as round.

"Looks like an apple," I remarked to Mike and Heather.

"It's NOT an apple," she replied.

"Hey! Remember when we picked one on that one hike?" recalled Mike, suddenly animated as he aimed his camera. "It tasted...what? Kind of sour?"

"Yeah, it was sour," I said, continuing to walk. "It had kind of a dry after taste."

"You tasted it?" asked Heather with incredulity. "You are kidding, right?

" was kind of sour," said Mike.

"Not like an apple at all," I added.

"Good heavens," said Heather, with a tone in her voice that lead me to believe she didn't share our courage and unsettling willingness to try new things.

"We're still here," said Mike, rather smugly.

"It's a wonder," said Heather.

"Why? What's a wonder?" asked Mike.

Heather sighed and shook her head. "It's a wonder," she said, "that the human race has survived this long."

Cave Explorers

Today, the dogs and I joined Mike, Heather, and Nellie (Mike's mom) for a hike along the Lake Hughes portion of the Pacific Crest Trail.

The trailhead going northwest has some interesting features, including some mine shafts that look a lot like caves. I knew Mike, a fellow teacher and hiking enthusiast, would love them.

Nellie and Heather weren't so sure, choosing to stay outside while Mike prepared to explore a little. Unsure of what wildlife may be resting inside, I kept a handle on Duke and Seamus, but Augie would have none of it. If Mike was going inside, Augie was going inside, preferably AHEAD of Mike. This is a pack leader kind of thing that Augie finds extremely important.

"Don't go in there," warned Nellie. "You don't know what's in there."

"It's okay," Mike assured his mother, as he entered the opening and disappeared into darkness.

"Mike! Don't go in there... come back out of there," coaxed his mother.

"It's okay, mom... really," said Mike, from somewhere in the bowels of the earth. Nellie said something in Spanish that I loosely translated to mean blood, guts, gore, snakes, and certain death.

"Heather!" called Mike, an echo radiating off the walls of the cave and wafting outwards to the bright sunlight. "Come on in. It's nice."

"Um. No," replied Heather, "I don't think so."

"It's great.... oooh look.. there's a jar with something in it...."

"Um. No. Not unless you found yourself a flashlight," retorts the fiance, not moving a muscle and fixing the cave's opening with a baleful stare.

Nellie murmured something that sounded like "mi dios" and again exorted Mike to come back out.

"Hey! There's fresh scat in here," called Mike, with much excitement. "And look.. a nest!"

Heather put her hands over her face and sighed. Nellie looked like she was ready to start praying the rosary.

"Mike, you come out now," she said. Nellie is living proof that mothers continue to worry and cajole, long after their offspring pass thirty.

When Mike emerged, he had a plastic jar with numerous messages written on scraps of paper and crammed inside. He pulled them out, examining each one like an archeological treasure.

After taking pictures of the messages, Mike and Augie returned to the back of the shaft to return the jar to its original place.

"Your dog insists on being ahead of me," said Mike, attempting to find his way with only the camera flash and the light from his cellphone to guide him.

"He's showing dominance," I said.

"So...he'll protect me?" Mike calls from the darkness.

"Uh.... I don't think so. He just likes to be first," I said. And sure enough, Augie emerged from the cave first, with Mike behind him. I'm sure Mike appreciated the view of Augie's butt as he tried to climb out.

We continued along the trail, stopping to wonder at the wildflowers and occasional lizard.

"If a snake surprises me," I said, "I may utter an expletive. I apologize in advance."

Mike and Heather laughed.

Nellie looked worried.

I hope it was because of the possiblity of more caves, snakes, and lizards... not because of me uttering swear words.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Too Many Cats

Because the kids are grasping addition and subtraction concepts so readily, I decided to challenge them a little bit and assess how easily they are transitioning to more abstract approaches to solving equations. They are still in kindergarten, but their sense of number is developing rapidly.

Most of them still require something concrete to solve for the sums and differences, as I expected. Some of the kids just whip through the problems and ask for more. Being a glutton for the punishment only small children can dish out, I decided to bump up the instruction a knotch and see what happens.

I worked with the class in small groups to help them figure out how to solve equations that don't give them anything to count or cross off. I showed them how to use their fingers or to draw dots on the paper to help computation.

Kael was doing pretty well on his own but was stumped with 0 + 6. The "finger" method wasn't quite working for him, so I tried to make it more concrete.

"How many cats do you have, Kael?" I asked.

"I don't have any cats. My gramma won't let me."

"Okay.. so you have what...? Zero cats?"

"Yeah. I can't have any cats. My gramma is allergic to cats."

"So, you have zero cats."

"Yeah, I can't have a cat. My gramma... her eyes get all puffy and then she can't breathe......."

"Okay, Kael," I interjected, sorry that I ever mentioned cats. "So you have zero cats. Let's say that SIX cats came into your yard."

I quickly drew six little dots to represent cats.

"Now, how many cats do you have?"

Kael stared at the six dots.

I waited.

"Kael. If you had zero cats and then six cats walked into the many cats do you have?"

Kael stared at the dots some more. Then he looked up at me with alarm and replied loudly, "TOO MANY!"

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Sneezes that Seizes~

This morning I awoke and remembered that I ate some ice cream sandwiches when I got home last night. I do not know how many and perhaps this is best. Naturally, I feel fat and bloated.

I went downstairs to have breakfast before swimming, which starts at 9:00 on Saturday mornings. The best part is that we get to stay and swim longer, something I dream about all week. I was looking forward to swimming immensely. Last Saturday we couldn't swim because Robin was busy. Next Saturday, I have plans.

There are allergens in the air so I sneezed. It was one of those Big Bad Wolf sneezes. I blew loose a rib or something. I am grateful I didn't pee, but upsetting the balance of ribs, muscles, and joints in the upper core region isn't that much better. Especially since I am supposed to be in good shape.

I babied myself during my breakfast and then went to get my swimsuit. It was hanging on its nice wooden hanger in the laundry room. I reached way up to get it down and promptly finished the job on my upper back and ribcage.

Now, I don't think I would have been so upset about this had I not sent my upper legs into spasms earlier this week attempting to repeat a stair-stepping move over and over again with my kindergarteners, all of whom wanted to do "20 of them holding Teacher's hand," followed by "lunges because those are so much fun." I repeated sets of 20 many times during recess that day. I felt virtuous, until the muscle soreness set in the next day. And the next.

So here I am, virtually immobile in my lower body and wracked with pain in my upper body. I remind myself again how lucky I am that I didn't pee. Some people pee when they sneeze. I didn't do that. I am in good shape!

Swimming, I tell myself, is going to feel SOooo very good in the warm water. I can stay late, as usual on Saturdays, and swim, swim, swim. My damaged upper body will unseize and my throbbing legs will untighten.

I mince my way to the car and drive carefully the half mile to the wellness center. In the left turn lane, the car stalls because I forget to keep enough pressure on the clutch. I park and it takes me awhile to disengage from the driving position.

I decide against my water fins for today and hobble into the lobby to sign in. I am SOOOOoo very much looking forward to swimming. I need to get into that water and just..... be.

There is a note on the sign-in sheet. "Sorry. Water fitness ends at 10:00 today."

I make a noise that must have sounded somewhat like a gasp. I stare at it. Then I flick it with my finger - since my fingers don't hurt. "Sorry, Kim," says Renee at the front desk, "Robin has an appointment this morning." Yeah, yeah, yeah. But what about ME?

When I get into the water I am so upset and I hurt so badly I can't look at anybody. And the water? It is tepid. It is lukewarm at best. It is NOT warm and comforting. It seems SOMEBODY forget to adjust the thermostat last night. I silently curse SOMEBODY because this water is not meeting with my very rigid expectations.

I begin my warm-ups and burst into silent tears, feeling like an idiot. Everyone is staring at me. Nobody wants to say anything. I know they are thinking that somebody must have died or that one of my dogs is sick. I can't say anything because I feel so stupid for crying in the first place.

I say nothing until Elyssa asks if I need a hug and I tell her I feel ridiculous. She responds that I look ridiculous, so I laugh.

Then I tell her I sneezed this morning and something came loose. Half the class is menopausal women so they all laugh in commiseration.

"Yeah, we understand," calls Barbara. "Just don't sneeze in the pool."


Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Unbearable Lightness of Napping

Otis J: The picture of contentment.

Food Fight~

Today, when the kids were finishing up Group Time, I let them play for about 10 minutes while we finished up a few things. I walked over to the rug area and noticed that several students had dumped ALL the classroom beads onto the metal trays we use for magnetic letters. Every single bead in the classroom - mini-beads used for stringing and patterning, beads used for counting and sorting, and the larger beads used at the beginning of the year.

"Yikes," I said, "what are you all doing?"

"Making food!" replied Alyssa.

"Yeah," said Jason with way too much enthusiasm, "we're COOKING... making food!"

Several other kids nodded in agreement, happily pretending to mix, stir, and allocate portions.

"Okay," I said, "But this mess will have to be cleaned up as soon as I get back from the restroom."

They nodded their assent and continued to "make food."

"Don't burn anything," I warned as I left.

Five minutes later, I returned to the classroom. Mrs. Aguilar was standing at the rug area, hands on her hips, looking very unhappy. My parent volunteer was shaking her head and the student assistant was hiding her face in her hands, trying to control her laughter. There were beads EVERYWHERE, all over the place. They were under the tables, in the workroom, strewn about the rug, and scattered in all directions.

"What happened?" I asked.

Jason and Alyssa answered with much excitement.


Sunday, April 06, 2008

Senseless Death~

This morning I opened the L.A. Times to find the death of a 21-year old local boy in on the front page. He was killed in Iraq. His body was flown by the military to the local airport. The photographer took the picture as the mother and sister were leaning over the casket.

I read about this stuff all the time. A couple weeks ago, it was another SoCal boy - I cried then and I just let loose this morning. His mother was hugging a flag-draped box. Cold comfort when your child is dead.

I don't know this boy. He attended the local Christian high school. The hearse carrying his body drove by the school and teachers and students lined the sidewalk to pay their respects.

I know devastating loss. We all probably do - and the older we get, the more familiar we become with the shock, the pain, the grief - and the anger.

When my father died, I felt all these things and continue to mourn him. But he was 67 years old and in poor health for years. In a way, his death wasn't senseless in the way this boy's death is senseless. My father lived his life the way he wanted to live it - this boy never had that chance.

The Times reported that the young soldier joined the army against the wishes of his parents. He wanted to be a teacher and spoke of it often to his high school counselor and often returned to the school after graduating to sit in on his favorite teacher's class.

Not thinking he was ready for a full-time college career yet, he joined the army. He wrote to his father while in Iraq, telling him he still wanted to teach. He just wasn't sure how to go about it yet.

I think of the mother and grandmother and the sister and the father. I think of them and the awful grief they endure, because of circumstances. What happened to their son was certainly nothing they planned or wanted. What happened to him was the result of policies by people in power - who get to make these decisions. Death was not on this boy's mind when he joined the army - life was on his mind. He needed time to think and to grow. He thought joining the army was a good thing.

I also think of this teachers. They taught him. He sat in their classrooms and he joked around and he did his work, or he didn't do his work. They scolded him, they talked to him, they made marks on his paper. They read his words. Maybe they smiled and shook their heads when he cocked his head just so.

I work with teachers who have lost students to senseless death. We don't talk about it much. We just say something in passing, or poke a finger at a picture in the paper and someone says, oh yeah, I had him. Or somebody plants a tree in memory of a child who was the passenger in a car that was in the wrong place, at the wrong time. The tree grows and half the students don't know this girl's name anymore. Her teachers remember, but nobody goes out to the tree - or trees. There are more. But most people at school don't remember anymore. Just the families recall.

My first class of students will graduate from high school this year and they don't look or sound anything like the little kids who rolled around on the rug and painstakingly learned how to write the letters of their names. I have lost only one of them to senseless death. She was ten years old and died in an off-road vehicle accident. She would be in high school now, being a mean girl or sending text messages to her friends. But she died a completely preventable death and I grieve for her when I think about it.

I can't know how this young soldier's teachers feel. I think they are very sad and some of them are taking his death harder than others. Sometimes it is just a matter of personality. There are teachers who love each and every student and there are teachers who keep them at arm's length, letting close only a chosen few. Me, I love them and let them go. I cried when my first batch of firsties left for middle school. Now, I think, I won't see them anymore unless they come back.

I think that some of his teachers are proud of him and his sacrifice for our country. Like me, they are patriotic. But maybe they are unlike me in that I am getting cynical about this need to be in another part of the world, policing them, when we have so many reasons to spend that energy, that time, and and that money here at home.

The money it cost to transport his body to the regional airport could have paid for tuition, books, and clothes to wear to an interview.

He wanted to be a teacher. And he can't come back.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Snakes on a Plane....

....well, cobras anyway. Or huge anacondas with murderous eye gleams. Or, mambas. I don't care for those. Especially the green ones with those whippet-thin bodies and lightning fast reflexes.

That is what it would take to get me to JUMP from a perfectly good airplane. This is a philosophy that has suited me well in all my years and I rarely have to revisit the whole idea. I mean, you never know if you are going to be happily ensconced on a plane, reading a magazine, when some drunk herpetologist's menagerie gets loose and begins to wreak havoc on the plane.

Well, my niece is going to jump from a plane for her 18th birthday. She and I share a birthday, which I feel a bit guilty about since her mother, my only sister, had to push and shove and grunt and break blood vessels for hours in order to give birth to my niece on my birthday. Although touched by the sentiment, I just knew it would come back to bite me in my significant ass one day, snakes not withstanding.

My sister told me, via eMail, that I could "contribute" to this little endeavor as an 18th birthday present, considering, she writes, that I am having "a significant"
birthday this month. I replied that I would happily send a check. But thoughts linger.

How often, I wonder, will my niece and I have SIGNIFICANT birthdays the same day in the same year? I guess not ever. This is the year she turns 18, old enough to vote and be drafted for war - but not old enough to buy a drink or play cards in Nevada. This is the year our birthdays are like Halley's Comet. They mathematically coincide and need to be celebrated in a big way.

I am supposing that my contribution isn't just monetary. I ask my sister for birthday suggestions and infer that I am to abandon my perfectly good nasty-snake theory of jumping from planes and actually hold hands with the niece and JUMP?

It would be historical. I turn 50 - a half century. She turns 18 - legal adulthood. We would do this in Lodi, of all places. A place familiar to me because of a song that was played on the radio each morning my father would drive me to school during the period my mother was in the hospital. I was around 10 years old. I rode in the front seat of the Mustang. A band sang about Lodi and being stuck there. Lodi is a place where wine is put up and people get stuck.

I find the whole idea of jumping put of a plane in Lodi beyond preposterous. Ludicrous to the Nth degree. My formerly-hospitalized mother would kill me if the fall did not.

I have, in my lifetime, conquered my fear of snakes. Except for the ones mentioned above. But I consider that fear an issue of safety and sobriety. It is reasonable to be fearful of green mambas curled up where they don't belong and just waiting to do damage - like chasing significant birthday holders from planes.

Diego and Power Tools: Don't Forget.

Like most teachers, I work hard to plan classroom activities that promote learning in many curricular areas. Literacy is first and foremost, but I can integrate it with science most days of the week. Then there is math, something we do every day because the kids need to develop number sense so they won't get taken advantage of by eMail SPAM and sneaky mortgage broker scams.

Every morning, after we complete our morning business and I determine that most of them still have no idea how many days there are in a week, I briefly explain what we will do during group time. Group Time is my favorite part of the day. It is a series of open-ended learning experiences that engage the kids and allow me to assess their progress.

Today, I begin explaining what we are doing. Diego, who has been practicing a triple back-flip on the rug, leaps up quickly on his knees and asks, with very wide, smiling eyes and much enthusiasm, "What about woodshop?"

I am speechless for a moment or two. I've yet to discuss wood-working with them in any way. In fact, I am 100% certain the subject has never come up. Not even in a story. So his question surprises me.

I do remember, though, that earlier in the week, Diego had asked for a piece of wood. I tried to steer him towards the blocks but this just annoyed him more. What he wanted was a PIECE OF WOOD so he could BUILD A CAR.

So, maintaining my professionalism, I repeat his question.

"Woodshop?" I ask, maintaining a straight and very quizzical teacher-face.

"Yeah.. you know. Where you... you... where you.... build things like book cases and drawers and things."

"Well, Diego.... I don't think we can do woodshop today," I reply.

"Why?" he asks. He is completely guileless, in his own world most of the time but sharp as a tack on most academic measures. He just doesn't understand some things - like the failure of his classmates to hand over their snacks at recess, or their general unwillingness to give him anything of theirs that he happens to want. That just boggles his mind.

"Gosh, Diego," I say, "I didn't bring the power tools."

"Oh," he says and then sinks back down onto the rug. I am half afraid he will ask me why. But he doesn't and this avoids a circular conversation that I can't get out of unless I use a teacherism or change the subject very quickly and get all excited about it.

During writing time, I model for the children how writers make lists and then show them how I make one when I want to remember things.

"Good," he says, while using his journal as a waving-palm fan and warming up for a triple somersault with a twist.

"Yes, Diego.. it IS good. This way we don't forget things."

The children proceed to write and I wander around, looking and listening.

A minute later he yells to me from across the room.


"Yes, Diego?" I answer, deciding if I should admonish him for shouting across the room when he is supposed to be writing.

"Don't forget."

"Don't forget what, Diego?" I ask.

"Don't forget. You have to write it."

I am busy trying to redirect two boys who are mistaking their journals for medieval weaponry.

"Write WHAT, Diego?" I ask, hissing to the dueling knights and tossing each journal to a different location in the room.

"Don't forget. The POWER TOOLS!"

Comprende teflon?

My dear friend Ann had a classroom story to tell last week. All the better when you consider that a teacher just can't make this stuff up.

Ann has been beside herself lately with the lack of listening skills exhibited by her second grade students. We often vent to each other about how stuff goes in pretty well but comes out sounding a lot like crickets. Ever the intellectuals, we just don't understand why the kids don't process what we try to teach them. Nothing, we complain on the drive home, seems to stick. Except how to clog up the toilet with paper towels or how to spray water all over the floor from the sink.

In frustration, Ann put down her overhead pen the other day, in the middle of a lesson they just weren't getting, and talked to the kids about the importance of LISTENING and keeping what is said IN the brain. Being an engineer by training, Ann wanted the children to remember this important information and went about it scientifically. She decided to use "analogy" as her method and then repeated herself, with much seriousness, "Boys and girls, we want to have VELCRO brains, not TEFLON brains."

Once the crickets clear, she showed the children an example of VELCRO, which just so happens to be on her watchband. She made that hideous velcro noise that all teachers hate and said again, "velcro - this is VELCRO. Things STICK to velcro. We want words and ideas and information to STICK in our brains like VELCRO." She makes the awful noise again with the velcro on her watchband. (When I tried this the next day with my kindergarteners, we never got past the "making noise with velcro" part.)

Then, she added, "Boys and girls, we don't want our brains to be like TEFLON. TEFLON coats a non-stick frying pan." The children assure Ann that they understand the properties of teflon and velcro.

Having finished her explanation and demonstration, she returns to the lesson that was interrupted because of teflon brain activity. Within 10 seconds one of her second graders, Tillie, asks again what she is supposed to do. This, despite the fact that the procedure HAS been explained several times, modeled, and reinforced with the velcro/teflon analogy.

"Tillie," says my dear friend wearily....."WHAT DID I JUST SAY?"

"I don't know," replied the girl, swishing her dark blonde ponytail and fixing Ann with a look of total indignation, "I don't understand Spanish."


Visualizing Victoria~

I am happy to report that I have finally talked with Victoria. This lovely young lady has been Dustin's girlfriend for quite awhile now, but I have only seen her in fleeting flashes or heard her laughter as they visited in the next room.

In the old days, when people came to visit, they would come to the door and knock. Then whoever was closest to the door would open it and exchange pleasantries while the intended recipient of the visitor gathered thoughts, straighted hair, and tucked in clothing.

I guess that was BD - Before Dogs. Dogs have a tendency to loudly announce visitors at the door and then carry on for some time afterwards, each demanding to be acknowledged, petted, and admired. Sometimes belly rubs are called for - and this really elongates the "entrance" and makes a lot of noise.

So, Victoria calls from her car and Dustin does the old O.J. Simpson ad, leaping and bounding through the house to let her in before the dogs have her arrival figured out. Sometimes it works, but these aren't hound dogs for nothing.

I have "met" Victoria, of course, but only in passing. I think each encounter involved me wearing my pajamas and working furiously at something on the computer while she looked like a deer in the headlights. I guess I am THAT intimidating. Especially if my jammy top doesn't match my jammy bottoms. It has been known to happen.

So, the other night, I finally get to talk to Victoria the Dancer and Speaker of Russian. What to say when you find out that somebody is a dancer and speaker of Russian? Something stupid - like, "Gosh, I have been wanting to teach my kids how to dance but I am SO not a dancer." How lame, and made worse by Dustin saying, "What are you saying, Mom?" (No, not that I want Victoria to teach my kids dancing. AS IF the girl has any spare time at all.)

And the Russian? Heck, that is quite the feat. The Russians use an entirely different alphabet. I know because I get SPAM from cyrillic-writing people all the time. They must be under the impression that I speak it, read it, write it, and spend money in it. Otherwise, why would I get it?

So I admired her prowess with dancing and her tenacity with her studies and the speaking of Russian. I also admired the ability to pronounce those pesky Russian names and read those feather-light tomes of Russian literature.

Last night, Dustin and Victoria went to the ballet. She actually convinced him that was an endeavor worth his time and energy. He bought a new sweater and wore coordinating VANS.

I was very proud.

So many books, so few shelves...

Today is the day I promised myself that I would organize my books and find places for the piles that have somehow sprung up around my house.

I am not sure how this happened, but there are books in many places where books don't generally hang out. This has occurred over time - a matter of days, and weeks, and months. I will admit that several trips to Barnes and Noble, armed with gift cards, have contributed to this local diaspora of the written word.

There are, however, problems with just putting the books away. I like my books organized by genre and author. I have become lazy during the past few years with reshelving the titles I pull for this purpose and that - and my system is not as svelte and delineated as I like. So, in order to add the bevy of new books to the library, I have to find my system and start repairs.

Complicating matters is the fact that Dustin's college texts now constitute their own shelf, but they haven't been placed with my college texts, and this creates dichotomy and divisiveness. It bothers me every time I look at it.

Another problem involves my family pictures. When I first arranged the framed photographs, there were places for all of them and the effect was aesthetically pleasing. But as I began shelving new titles, the pictures got rearranged. Now they look crunched and uncomfortable, which was not what I had in mind when I carefully placed them.

Bookshelves are for books, not knick-knacks or bric-a-brac. It is fine to have a framed photo here and there, if there is room, but it simply doesn't DO to have the visages of treasured family members scrunched in among the books - as if I were trying to find a place for them.

When Dan installed the latest set of bookshelves for me, I happily placed the pictures and they looked okay. Not fine, not wonderful, but okay. It was a temporary arrangement because I knew it was only a matter of time before books would take over, kind of like crab grass and wisteria.

The walls hold photographs, artfully arranged. But with the addition of more books, their days of hanging around in here are numbered. Too many frames on the wall and the room begins to look cluttered.

I may need more bookshelves. It is only a matter of time. I am thinking that construction, to expand this room eastward, may be in order. In the meantime, I may have to canvas the house for the placement of possible book annexes.