Category Archives: Rant

Readers are Leaders

I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember. Weekly Saturday trips to the library (where my mom would drop me off and pick me up hours later) were sacred. I scored very high on my first grade reading evaluation and often read books above my grade level. I preferred reading to visiting friends on weekends and after school.

But I didn’t like writing about what I read. In 5th grade Miss Jaderman evaluated our reading ability on small book reports we wrote for books we read. After 5 book reports we got a small pin, after 15 we got a better pin and after 25 we got a gold pin. While I eventually earned my 25 book pin, I got low reading marks for a few quarters and was recommended for the remedial reading class for 6th grade.

We were not expected to write much on the book reports, they were less than half a sheet of 8.5×11 paper. The top half was reserved for an illustration. After filling out the title of the book and author, there was maybe room for 100 words. But I hated doing it. I know I read more than 25 books that year, probably more than most of the class, but because I was so reluctant to fill out the book report forms, I was considered a poor reader.

At the end of the year we were given all of our book reports, bound between two sheets of construction paper with brass colored brads. I think my book report portfolio was orange. I think I still have it somewhere, I distinctly remember what it looked like.

A few weeks ago I found the book report pins. Strange how I kept them all these years, despite despising the method of earning them.

I guess this is one of these things I need to let go. My anger at Miss Jaderman for not realizing I was a good reader — just a reluctant writer and the shame I felt being placed in the low reading class in 6th grade (luckily my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Anderson, figured out I was a good reader within days and brought me back to the regular/advanced reading group).

Things like this could squelch the love of reading out of someone. I am forever grateful to Mrs. Anderson for this, as well as for fostering an even greater love of reading.

Random thoughts about COVID-19

Listen to Tony

Listen to whatever Anthony Fauci says. He’s likely the leading expert in this right now. He is the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Over the past couple of weeks we’ve had friends and family ask my husband, (who works at NIAID) what he thinks about COVID-19, what he advised them to do. His response has been, “listen to Tony”. As of this afternoon, Dr. Fauci is saying don’t go to restaurants or bars or other crowded places, and of course wash your hands and don’t touch your face.

Also:

“You know, I would prefer as much as we possibly could,” Fauci responded. “I think we should really be overly aggressive and get criticized for overreacting.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, March 15, 2020

Our next crisis might be clogged sewers

Update:UK’s sewage system in danger of gridlock from toilet paper substitutes

With all the panicked toilet paper hording, many people have resorted to buying facial tissues and at least one Facebook friend posted a photo of dinner napkins she bought when she could find no toilet paper. I even heard that one newspaper printed 8 blank pages for emergency toilet paper. Other Facebook friends are discussing what to do when all the paper in the house is used up (take a shower for #2 was one response). My immediate thought is don’t flush those facial tissues or napkins or paper towels. Hell, don’t even flush “flushable personal wipes”.

King Arthur Flour is out of flour

Of course. The hoarders bought up all the flour in stores, but I never would expect the king of flour to run out of flour! But it has. I can deal with no TP but I really need to bake bread. If not for eating, to deal with anxiety.

I deleted my Facebook app

I had a meltdown Friday night after spending the past couple days and several hours on Friday reading articles people posted on Facebook. I was convinced I was going to die and not live to see my retirement date or sit on the brand new deck or in the brand new “lodge” in warm weather. I would tell you what the articles were, but I don’t want you to have a meltdown too. Listen to Tony…

Facebook is not all bad

I did see some amusing things on Facebook today after I recovered from Friday’s meltdown*. My favorite was someone who’d just cleaned out their deep freezer after 20 years: “Threw out old frozen foods, the freeze dried remains of two budgies and ten betta fish, and found where the good glass containers were hiding.” I told them that they should use this as the first line in a short story or novel.


*just because I deleted my app does not mean I am not reading Facebook sometimes…

My lucky day — or two companies that did it right and one that didn’t (from draft)

Original draft 2015. No changes.

We’ve been in the market for new everyday glassware. We like the glassware we have, but several glasses have broken and they are getting a little scratched up. We’ve owned these Duralex Picardie Glass Tumblers since the kids were small. The batch we have now may or may not be our second set. Anyway, we needed new glasses and I first looked at Williams-Sonoma’s online storefront because we’d bought them at Williams-Sonoma in the past. The price was not bad for a set of 24, but the shipping and handling was a little too high for me. I am used to free shipping from Amazon. Amazon also had the glasses but for much more than William’s-Sonoma.

The other day I saw an email from William’s-Sonoma offering 20% off and free shipping so I ordered the glasses that evening. My William’s-Sonoma box arrived today, but it contained a (very nice) pizza stone instead of tumblers. I checked the invoice which clearly said Picardie Glass Tumblers and then went online to see how to return them. Because it would seem I was returning glasses I didn’t order, I called customer service and before too long spoke to a young man who said he’d send the tumblers out immediately and we’d get them by Monday. I asked if there would be a sticker to return the pizza stone and the young man said to keep it — and asked me if I liked pizza. I said thank you, I like pizza and have two pizza stones already.

A number of years ago we received items from Amazon that we didn’t order (this was the year that sort of overwhelmed Amazon during the holiday rush). When I telephoned Amazon to see how I could return them the person on the phone asked if I got all my orders. I said I had gotten them but how should I return the items I received. She told me to keep them. The items were nothing I wanted — a country and western CD and a game for preschoolers, so I gave the game to our neighbor and the CD to charity.

Both Amazon and William’s-Sonoma did the right thing. They made a mistake and took the blame by telling me to keep the item(s). I had to do nothing as a result of their mistakes except to enjoy the items I didn’t order. Last Christmas this was not the same with another company I do business with.

Last December I ordered several Barnes and Noble gift cards for Christmas gifts and had them sent to my mother’s house. I also ordered a Nook GlowLight™ for myself. When I opened the packages and envelopes from Barnes and Noble I found an extra gift card for $50 and a Samsung Galaxy Tab® 4 NOOK® 7.0 that I had not ordered. Nor were they charged to me. The gift card was addressed to a Donna somewhere in Missouri or Tennessee (my mother opened all of the gift cards before I got there — we won’t talk about how they were almost recycled) but the Nook was addressed to me yet had another address on the invoice.

I am basically a good person, but I don’t necessarily want to go out of my way to be that good person. I called Barnes and Noble to see what I should do and if they could send someone to pick up the items. I said I was worried that the folks who ordered these were hoping to have them in time for the holidays. They assured me that replacements had already been sent. They also said it was not possible for the packages to be picked up and that I should either send them back via UPS or drop them off at a Barnes and Noble store. So right there Barnes and Noble was not taking the blame in their actions. Granted — the gift card was probably the USPS’s fault) but still, I don’t think I should have gone out of my way to return the items. My sister-in-law (well, ex- but who’s counting?) offered to take them to UPS where she works and drop them off, but the hours she works did not match the hours the store was open so that didn’t work.

I eventually brought the Barnes and Noble items back to Maryland and dropped them off at a Barnes and Noble nearby, but the encounter was less than pleasant. It took a while to explain the situation to two different managers. All I wanted to do was to make sure the folks who ordered the products got them. But everyone seemed confused. It took longer than I planned to simply drop off something I didn’t order.

Barnes and Noble should have told me to keep the items or sent a UPS person out to pick them up. They did neither. I already owned two Nooks, so I didn’t need or want one, but could have given it away to charity or a family member.

The whole Barnes and Noble issue came back to me the other day when I ordered a book on barnesandnoble.com. In order to download it on my Nook GlowLight I had to jump through the hoops of entering my username, password and credit card I used to buy it. Amazon is not like that. I can seamlessly switch from a Kindle Paperwhite to a Kindle Tablet to my computer to my Nexus tablet.

I shunned Amazon for years over Barnes and Noble, but not any more.

A dysfunctional non-profit (draft from 2009 or 2010)

Addendum

Wow. I don’t remember writing this ten years ago, but I imagine that I didn’t post it because I feared the wrath of the outgoing Director of Operations in case she stealthily read my blog. The film group is still going strong, even after the death of our president. I continue to do the website and write and send the emails. We have only two other active board members — the doer-of-all-things and a film reviewer who helps select films and has some contact with some embassies. We met last weekend and decided the show must go on but two out of three of us are tired of it.

We’ll probably keep going. I promised to be more active after retirement. I also suggested that the doer-of-all-things say a few words before each film, mostly about how we really need help.

Original Draft

Before I had kids I don’t think I ever volunteered for anything — but once they were in school and I got a taste of volunteering for school-related events and organizations, I couldn’t get enough. That was also around the time I’d acquired a new skill (web design) and my “talents” were needed.

One non-school organization I volunteered to create a web page for was a local film group. I found out about it because I’d heard about a film on public radio that didn’t get wide release and I saw that this film group was showing it. I was so excited about this group that I bought a season subscription and soon after volunteered to redesign their web site. They invited me to join their board of directors, and I’ve been on it ever since.

The board consists of a president (the original founder of the club), a film discussion leader, a treasurer, a secretary (who writes all the press releases), a web designer and email list keeper (that would be me), and a director of operations (a job that has the most frequent turnover rate).

The president is sometimes hard to work with. She has strong opinions about what we should do as a film group and sometimes I disagree. For instance she decided we should not serve coffee or bagels this year because she thought the price was restrictive. While she did give in to allowing coffee to be served, she steadfastly refused to provide bagels. Instead she bought a few dozen tiny muffins which were gone long before the last patron went past the coffee area. However, I understand that this film group is ultimately hers. She founded it and, I think, should have the final say, even if the board disagrees.

The job of director of operations (a name that one of the folks who held that job created for himself a few years ago) is probably the hardest one, but as with all of the other positions on the board, has no set list of duties. The first person that held the job when I became involved in the group did the following:

  • ordered the films the president chose
  • sent the films back to the distributor
  • acted as treasurer
  • sent email alerts to our patrons reminding them that a film would be shown the following Sunday
  • instructed me as to how the web site should look

After that person quit we found a new treasurer and I took over the email alerts, so the job was a little easier on this member of the board. I think that this person then took on the responsibility of helping the president order the films as well.

He lasted a year and when the president could not find someone to take over, asked if I’d help out. I did, but I hated the job. I hated contacting the distributors, especially if I had to do it over the phone. I hated the tension of wondering if the movie would get to the theater on time. I hated the fact that the job took up so much of my time.

Luckily midway through my year as the director of operations a patron of our film club decided to take on this job. She was recently retired* and wanted a new challenge. She did a great job and added “outreach” to her list of duties. Because of her we increased our film patrons. She also had many ideas for the group.

I agreed with some of her ideas: sending emails to the local embassies when we were showing a film in their native language, increasing patrons by inviting other groups, and continuing offering free bagels and coffee when the president was ready to give up doing so.

However, I did not agree with her idea of sponsoring a film festival or sponsoring a trip to a film festival. She also had grand plans for our website, based on her cousin’s advice. She thought our site is boring. Her cousin’s site is trashy and reminiscent of something from the late 1990’s. She wanted to use our email list to send out a request to see if the film patrons wanted to join her on her trip to Africa this summer. I guard our email list ferociously and refused her request.

She still wants our patrons to be able to order tickets online and pay with credit card. While I agree that might generate more income, I don’t want to be responsible for credit card numbers of anyone but my own. I foresee big problems if we accept credit cards, especially online.

Three weeks ago this woman sent an email to the board announcing her resignation. The email was hurtful, in my opinion, and if it were directed at me I would have thought, “good riddance”.  However, it seems that some members of the board, including the person it was directed at, have asked her to reconsider.

Yesterday she sent another email saying that she’d reconsider if she were given the rights to making all decisions regarding the operations of the group.

I was shocked. In my opinion, what she is asking is to have the dictatorship (which is what I think we really have) transferred from the president to herself.

If it were not for the group losing the treasurer and most probably the director of operations, I’d resign myself. This is just too much for me to deal with. I hope that the president calls a board meeting to discuss this because it is too much to handle over emails.


*A few years ago I discovered some interesting fun facts about the woman who was briefly the Director of Operations’ position.

Pregnancy Shaming

Not long after my son was conceived in May of 1992 I suspected I was pregnant. Sometimes you just know. I peed on a stick to check and when the pregnancy test confirmed I was probably pregnant I told one or two people at work. I waited until the school year was over before I had it confirmed by my ob-gyn. My husband and I talked about it and we agreed that I would take more time off than I did with our daughter. Raising two young children 18 months apart would probably be difficult. We also began talking about selling our house in Alexandria and moving closer to my husband’s job in Bethesda.

In the fall, when I returned to my teaching job and more people discovered that I was pregnant, I was summoned to the principal’s office where she told me she heard that I was pregnant and asked me what my plan was for after the baby was born. I smiled and told her I thought I would be taking a year or two off, expecting her next words to be congratulatory. Instead, she asked me why I didn’t tell her before the end of the school year in the spring. I explained that I was not 100% sure about the pregnancy until after school was over. She said that she knew that I told at least one person and told me that I was irresponsible for letting her place me with the 6th graders who would need more consistency* than 4th or 5th graders would. Then she asked me if the pregnancy was planned. Shocked, I told her that it was planned — very much so, but after the meeting I wished I told her that it was none of her business.

I taught up until winter break that year, then was placed on bedrest for 3 weeks because of early labor. The rest of my time at the school that year was filled with feelings of guilt. I don’t think she ever acknowledged my son’s birth, even after my extended maternity leave was up and because I was unsuccessful finding a teaching job elsewhere I pretty much begged for forgiveness so I could work there again.

When I did return to the school I discovered that one of the women I told about my suspected pregnancy in the spring had been reprimanded by the principal for not telling her.

Even now, nearly 25 years later, when I think about the principal’s words that autumn my gut clenches and instead of remembering my second pregnancy with pure joy, much of what I think about is what the principal said to me and the guilt she made me feel.

Some of you, maybe teachers or principals out there, may think the principal was right but it never occurred to me that my leaving mid-semester could do any harm. Perhaps, if you agree with her, you think it is good that eight years after that conversation, I decided teaching just wasn’t for me.


*I was a special education teacher. Our teaching practice involved a special education teacher supporting a mainstream teacher in a grade level for the year.

Where’s the coffee? Where’s the pie?

In 1990, back when I still read newspapers. Back before kids, I read an article about a new television series in the April 30 Washington Post. I trusted Tom Shales, the journalist who wrote the article because he’d never led me wrong when it came to entertainment. Maybe it was because he was born in Elgin, maybe we just had/have the same tastes in television.

I probably would have watched it anyway because it was the brainchild of mastermind David Lynch — a director whose works Dean and I liked. We’d seen a presentation of some of his very early works at a local (now long-gone) art theater, and we saw pretty much anything he’d done that far (except Dune).

Dean and I loved the first season of Twin Peaks. Our next door neighbors also loved it and we’d often watch episodes together, drinking damn fine, and hot, coffee and eating pie. We even had a Twin Peaks dress up party for the final episode. My friend Totty came as the Log Lady. I don’t remember who I dressed up as. Too bad that was before smartphones with cameras because we would have definitely taken photos.

Back then, I don’t think I knew anyone else who liked Twin Peaks. Certainly no one at school. There was no Internet on which to discuss each episode with strangers. (at least not in our house). We just liked it, talked about it among ourselves and when we did run into someone who’d seen the series we’d talk with them about it.

We bought the DVD set when it came out and Clare got into the show, so much that she took it to school, then Olympia (not far from the filming location) and shared it with friends.

On one trip to Olympia, we visited North Bend, Washington where parts of Twin Peaks was filmed and ate pie and drank coffee at the Double R and posed for photos in front of the Great Northern Hotel and it’s nearby iconic waterfall.

Needless to say, we (or rather I) followed with interest the rumors about the revival Twin Peaks series. Totty heard about the series and suggested we get together to watch the first episode. We were not able to watch it the night it aired, so we planned on watching two episodes the week after. Totty brought an apple pie she’d baked and I made some coffee. We settled down to watch the revival of what had been our favorite television series 25 years ago — and possibly still was our favorite.

Well… the owls are not what they seem. If someone had been secretly filming us our expressions would have gone from happy expectation to confusion to bewilderment to disappointment to sadness. As the credits rolled for the second episode, Totty remarked that it sure was not what she was expecting and said, “Where was the coffee? Where was the pie?”

Damn right — where were the coffee and pie? Where was the charm?

Dean and I watched episode 3 a couple nights ago and, after some strangely Eraserheadesque scenes, it got better. I am not giving up on the series, I am just going to go into the rest of the episodes with much less expectation.

2016: My year in review

When I was a teenager I would write a last journal entry the last hour before the end of the year. I was usually babysitting, so was awake at that time — and never was out partying because I was not popular enough to party on New Year’s eve.

Here’s my personal review in pictures…

In January we trekked through a blizzard to attend a Burns' Supper
In January we trekked through a blizzard to attend a Burns’ Supper

In February we threw Mom a surprise 80th birthday party
In February we threw Mom a surprise 80th birthday party

and helped Andrew move into his own apartment in DC.
and helped Andrew move into his own apartment in DC.

In March we visited Austin, Texas and obtained a new chum
In March we visited Austin, Texas and obtained a new chum

and we also visited Chris and Sheri in Winston-Salem in March.
and we also visited Chris and Sheri in Winston-Salem in March.

There have been heated discussions on Facebook and elsewhere about why it is not right to call 2016 the “worst year ever”. Dean and Clare both agree that it is wrong to call it that. I don’t agree with them. There have been many worse years in the world than 2016 — with that I will agree. If the Bible is to be believed, the year Noah had to build the ark because God was pissed off at his people enough to drown all but a handful. Then there were the years of the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, and the years of plagues and the two world wars, and the Holocaust. Yes indeed, there were many horrible years in the world — much worse than 2016 when a handful of celebrities died and Donald Trump won the U. S. presidential election. So, no, 2016 was not the worst year. But it was my worst year, especially if I tack on the last week few days of 2015.

It was not all bad.

Sure, 2016 had some mighty fine parts. I traveled to some fun places — Austin, Texas; Southern California; Olympia, Washington (twice); Illinois (countless times). I got to hang out with my brother and his family more than usual. I saw my brother marry a wonderful woman.

Despite all the exciting travel and good times with family, I lost two very important people in my life between December 27th, 2015 and August 26th, 2016.

Addendum

One of my favorite people ever, my Aunt Ginny, died December 27, 2015. Her husband, my Uncle Jack called to tell me the news when we were on our way back from our semi-annual post-winter trip to Chincoteague. Then my mom got worse and worse and died in August, three days after I turned 60.

Yes, 2016 was definitely my worst year.