Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Writers Workshop: The one who made a difference

This week's prompt:

Who have you forgotten about until right now? Think hard and list five people from your past that you really should have written something about by now but haven’t. Circle the name of the person who stands out the strongest. Write a description or brief memoir of that person.

I'm cheating on this one this week, kittens. You see, I'm writing about my second grade teacher, Mrs. Werner. She's someone whom I should have written more about on the blog before, but never had the chance to.

Until now.

I think about Mrs. Werner every now and then, but when I do, I get incredibly nostalgic. Out of my years of schooling, second grade stands out as the best year of my entire educational career. Allow me to describe the ways:
  • She made all of us in her class feel like we were family.
I realize that sounds rawther cheesy, but it's true. We all really loved each other. We teased each other every now and then, but her class truly was a bully-free zone--a remarkable feat for any classroom. And she loved us; she made time for each of us during the day, and even at her busiest, she always had a chance to talk to us. She'd eat lunch with us occasionally, in the lunchroom. She'd twirl the jump rope for us.
  • She celebrated our differences and made us appreciate ourselves for who we were.
We had a blind student in our classroom, and Mrs. Werner took the time to explain to us that, just because the student could not see, doesn't mean we should exclude her from anything. And the student never used her disability as an excuse for anything. After a few weeks, we totally forgot that Bea was blind.

But it was the little things, too, that mattered. I was the only kid in my class with naturally curly hair, when it seemed that everyone else was either blond or had these cute, straight hair pixie cuts. Mrs. Werner made me appreciate my curls. Same thing with the one boy in the class who had red hair and freckles. It may seem insignificant now, but for two kids who didn't look like anyone else in the class, it made the world of difference.
  • She turned me into a reader.
And not just any reader--a reader. Up till second grade I was into the skinny paperback picture books. Mrs. Werner introduced us to chapter books--real, big kid chapter books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlotte's Web, and The Trumpet of the Swan. She would set aside time during the school day to read to us, and often, we'd get so into the book that we'd bring our own copies into the classroom, and she'd have us take turns reading different paragraphs. It got all of us so much more into reading than ever before.
  • Even after second grade, she was always there for me.
I'd go visit Mrs. Werner's classroom after school as I got older, either just to say hi, or whenever I had a problem. She always made time for me, regardless of how melodramatic my situation was. She encouraged me, supported me, and listened. Most of all, she listened.

Mrs. Werner moved to another state when I was in sixth grade. I was devastated when she left. A few years ago I tracked her down and wrote her a long, long letter, but sadly, never heard back. I hope she received it. But most importantly, I hope she knows what a difference she made in my life. For she took a kid who really disliked school and herself, and made her see the potential and intelligence that she had inside herself. To me, that's more valuable than any lesson learned in the classroom.

I still miss her.

Thursday Thunks: April 29, 2010

1. Robins have red breasts. Why are their eggs blue?
Sorry, but my Magic 8 Ball won't answer questions unless they have a yes/no answer.

2. The doorbell buzzes at the same moment the phone rings. Who was on the phone?
The village, calling me to tell them that their idiot was missing.

3. It seems that there are several very popular memes each day of the week. Which meme did you first become a regular of?
This one! Now I'm not so much a regular. I post whenever I can.

4. It is about time that Berleen and Kimber meet in person. Should we start a collection to fly one of them to the other, or just hope Thom's bus and get from Hawaii to Kimber in Arizona and take her to Berleen in Minnesota?
Why not meet halfway in, say, Nebraska?

5. Tell us about your pets. Do you have one that you wish would run away?
I have two cats, Maggie and Gabby, and no, I do not wish that they would run away!

6. What was the last thing colored red that you wore?

7. I have a train that runs by where I live several times a day. I actually find it peaceful. What's the longest journey that you have taken by train?
Twelve hours, from Madrid to Paris. Slept in a sleeper car with five of my high school classmates. I loved it!

8. If Kimber threw a five dollar bill off a building that was five stories high, and Berleen threw a twenty off a build that was six stories high, who do you think would find the money?
Some kid who likes to stand at on the street, near the ground floor, and waits all day for money to fall from the sky.

9. If reincarnation really happens, whose life would you like to know that you have already led?
Jackie Onassis. Don't know why; her name was the first to come to mind.

10. What are your three favorite possessions?
iPod, DVR, cell phone. In that order.

11. A lot of people still believe that Elvis is alive. Have you ever worn blue suede shoes?

12. Do you have siblings? If yes, are you anything alike?
Sister Kitten and I do have some things in common, but we're different people.

13. Has anyone ever asked you to strip naked and cluck like a chicken?
You have.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Queen's Meme: The Gratitude Meme

More often than not, we don't take time out of our daily lives to count our blessings. Call me corny or cliched, but it's absolutely true. I know I'm guilty of this. There are days when I just wallow in a sea of self-pity. Every now and then I have to take stock of what's really important.

Thanks, Mimi, for giving me this opportunity for reflecting on what I'm grateful for in life. :)

1. What are you most grateful for when you first wake up in the morning?
Having a job, when some of my friends have lost theirs. Having a roof over my head. A reliable car. Family and friends I can always count on.

2. What are you most grateful for when you go to bed at night?
The same things that I'm grateful for in the morning.

3. Who is the person who has had the most influence on your life?
My mother.

4. Is there someone you'd like to thank for something special they did for you but haven't yet? Take the time to do it in this meme.
Oh man...there are a few people for whom this would qualify, and they don't read this blog, but here my former minister: thank you for coming into my life during the most difficult period I have ever faced. Your support and confidence in me meant a lot to me during this trying event. I will never forget your willingness to listen and lend an ear. Thank you always for helping me become who I am.

5. Who was your favorite or least favorite teacher?
If you could talk to them now, what would you say?
Mrs. Werner, my second grade teacher. This actually ties into my Writers Workshop prompt this Thursday, so if you would like to know more, come back Thursday for a special post.

6. Do you say grace at mealtime?
Only when I'm visiting my parents.

7. Name one thing you take for granted everyday.
Sometimes I complain entirely too much about various things, such as my messy house and some situations at work. I realize that some people have it worse than I do. It can't always be me, me, me all the time.

8. Have you ever looked back at your life and realized that something you thought was a bad thing was actually a blessing in disguise?
Yes, lots of things. They've only made me a better person.

9. What are the top five things you are most grateful for in your life?
  • family and friends
  • my cats
  • my house
  • having a steady job
  • music, reading, and writing: my best coping outlets

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thursday Thunks: April 22, 2010

I haven't thunked in awhile now. I thought tonight would be good to get back into the swing of things, particularly blogging.

My oldest demon (aka Demon #1) is in Oklahoma! The musical this weekend. Yep, my kid is a drama geek. Have you ever been in a play or musical? Were you in the drama club in high school?
I was in the drama club in middle school, but not high school. Back in middle school we did musicals that were expressly written for the middle school stage; we never did traditional ones like Oklahoma.

Of course, the year after I graduated, Sister Kitten's class did the HMS Pinafore. Go fig.

You are walking down the road and the cops fly by you and stop at the house just a little ways down the street. It's the way you were going to go... do you take a detour to avoid it or do you just keep walking because, hey - you had the idea first! or do you walk by out of complete curiosity?
I take a detour, because, with my luck, I'd be called as a witness to the crime. And Lord knows what's going on there...

I drop a green crayon from the roof and Kimber drops a yellow one - which one will grow wings and fly before it hits the ground?
The yellow one...I've never seen a green bird.

What is the first section of the grocery store you go to? And I know that sentence doesn't sound right, but I don't care.
The pasta and cereal aisles. I save the refrigerated stuff and the produce for last, so they won't have time in my cart to spoil.

Do you like questions that have a yes or no answer or do you like to actually think for yourself and come up with something original?
Depends on the degree of laziness I'm feeling at the moment.

The wall directly in front of you... whats on it?
Blue paint.

Sea salt?
No salt. High blood pressure runs in the family.

420. You know what it is. It's a time, it's a day, it's a way of life. Did you celebrate yesterday?
Noooo...but does anyone else find it ironic that one's Facebook status is limited to 420 characters?

Can you read a tape measure?
In inches or centimeters?

The city/town/village that you live in... it's population is.....????
45,000--or one Dunkin' Donuts for every 9,000 residents.

If a laptop fell out of the sky do you think you could catch it? And if you did, do you think it's Finders Keepers?
If it's a Macbook pro, hells yeah. And yes, I'd keep it. If it's a Dell, I'd let someone else catch it.

Driving down the highway, driving down the interstate, driving down a dirt road that you are sure goes absolutely nowhere... whats the longest distance you have ever driven in one trip?
1,000 miles, driving one way from Cleveland, Ohio, to Hartford, Connecticut.

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?
Let's ask Mr. Owl:

(And according to YouTube, that was the ORIGINAL commercial!!!)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Writers Workshop: Papa Cat's Guide to Grooming

Join in the fun over at Mama Kat's by clicking here.

Here is the prompt I chose this week:
What does that tell you about your father? List five products your father used (or uses). Write a longer piece about, at least, one of them.

Weeellll...Papa Cat is not exactly one who primps himself. He keeps his hygiene to the barest of bare minimums. I'm not even sure I can even name five products that he uses on a regular basis (or used to use for that matter). But I am definitely sure of the one product that he used to use all the frakkin' time. Read on...

So here are the products, in no particular order:

1. Irish Spring deodorant soap
Because he thinks Mama Cat's Dove Beauty Bar is too girly for him.

2. Barbasol Shaving Cream

He's been using this stuff for as long as I've been alive...and probably for as long as he's been married (37 years this June). And probably much longer than that.

3. Crest Toothpaste
Because it's what Mama Cat buys. Papa Cat did the grocery shopping once and bought something other than Crest, and there was a near-riot at the Cat Family Homestead.

4. Fresh Burst Listerine
Again, see #3.

But for number five...well, how can I not write about this one?!?!?

5. Aqua Net Super-Hold Hair Spray

There is a story behind this, kittens. You see, as a growing kitten, I often woke up to the sounds of Papa Cat emptying out a can of Aqua Net as he got ready for work. He was a man who lived in deep denial that he was balding, and had a rawther large comb-over. Papa Cat would use about an eighth of a can of Aqua Net on his head to hold the comb-over in place. It was not a good look for him. Neither I nor Sister Kitten would mention this to him, but Mama Cat did--constantly.

As we got older we'd mention that he polluted the ozone layer every time he used the damn Aqua Net. Papa Cat would just roll his eyes. Like I said, he was never big on grooming, but man, he really wouldn't get rid of that comb-over.

Until one day...he discovered he was going bald in the back of his head.

It was weird how he first found out. Embarrassing, actually. He attended a Board of Finance meeting in town, which was recorded on public access cable. He stood up to speak, said what he had to say, and then sat down. The Board of Finance thanked Papa Cat for his comments.

Papa Cat made us all watch this Board of Finance meeting. He was that danged excited to be on television. As we were watching, he noticed a short, balding man stand up to address the board.

He didn't realize it was him.

He asked if he was really that bald.

We nodded.

A week later, he went to Louis the barber, the man who had been cutting his hair for nearly twenty-five years, and had the comb-over chopped off.

Papa Cat no longer uses the Aqua Net.

His hair--and the ozone layer--are much better off without it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Upcoming book reviews (!!!)

Yep, you've read that title right...I actually have some book reviews coming up soon! I finally managed, albeit slowly, to work out of the little rut I had gotten myself into. OK, it was a majorly huge rut. I hadn't really read or absorbed myself in a good read since...last July? September? Anyhoo, it's been at least six months since I finished a book cover to cover and felt completely satisfied and non-stressed. I'll be posting these reviews sometime within the next two weeks. I've got some time off coming up, which will give me an opportunity to write some posts.

But first, I am going away, once again. I'll be going on a quick trip to Niagara Falls this coming Monday, and will be returning home sometime Wednesday. I'll probably be posting sometime next Thursday or Friday; yo no se.

But I will give you a hint as to one of the books I'll be has something to do with one of the two red-headed comedians I'm going to see in the upcoming weeks...(look at the countdowns to the left of your screen to see whom I'm talking about)...;)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Writers Workshop: Are you really afraid of THAT?!?!

Go to Mama Kat's blog to get in on all the fun!

So here's the prompt I chose this week:

Where does that fear come from? Write about something that frightens you that other people might find ridiculous. Write about it in a poem, a story, or whatever.

When I was a kid, I absolutely adored The Muppet Show. I mean, seriously worshiped it. I had a metal Muppet Show lunchbox with matching Thermos. I had a poster of Miss Piggy in my bedroom, and my favorite sweatshirt when I was little was a Miss Piggy sweatshirt. The first movie I ever saw in the theater was The Muppet Movie. I was three years old when it came out.

But there was one thing that absolutely frightened, I mean, terrified me whenever I watched The Muppet Show. No, it was not Animal nor Sam the Eagle. It was the opening bumper, when the production company's logo came on before Kermit even introduced the guest star. It looked like the logo was about to zoom out from the TV screen and hit you. Not to mention, there was a really scary timpani-and-trumpet fanfare that accompanied it. The production company, in case you want to look it up on YouTube, was ITC. I accidentally watched a clip not long ago and it still scares the crap out of me. It came on TV one day and I very quickly turned it off. As a kid I would hide in the kitchen until the logo went off the screen and Kermit appeared again.

I didn't tell anyone about this fear. Not a soul. Obviously I'm telling all of you now, kittens, but up until about three or four years ago, I thought I was all alone. And then, one day, I was searching through Yahoo groups when I found one called "Scary Logos." And there, I found a group completely devoted to all of those scary, scary production logos of the 1970s--the Screen Gems "S from Hell", the Viacom "V of Doom," and the synthesized "WGBH" logo.

None of those logos ever scared me.

But that damn ITC one still does.

I still think it's an irrational fear...but it's one that I have.

P.S. Don't even think about sending me a YouTube clip with the ITC logo on it. Or rawther, ANYTHING with the ITC logo--pictures, screencaps, whatever. I will NOT find it funny. AT ALL.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Happy Easter from Conan O'Brien and Martha Stewart

Well, my darling kittens, I'll be heading off to the Cat Family homestead for the holiday, so please enjoy these Easter greetings from Conan and Martha. They go together like the chocolate and peanut butter in the Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs. So please enjoy these two clips while I am away. Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Cadbury Eggs unleashed!!!

I love this Cadbury Egg campaign...I think it's from either Britain or Canada...but it's just awesome. I posted some of these last year, and I just HAD to post 'em again.

Happy Easter, my darling kittens!!!