Life by Bells

I live my life to the rhythm of bells. Well, not bells anymore, I suppose. What I call bells have actually morphed into tones. I wake to a disgusting blaring honking sound from my alarm. The tones on my phone are varied to suit the personalities that might call me. I keep an awful submarine pinging sound for anyone whose number is not programmed into my phone, and know to ignore those pings.

At work, the class bells have been replaced by four loud tones that mean that the school day has begun or ended, and also signal the times during the day that students orderly transition from one class to another. Maybe not so orderly.

Credit: amazon.com

While at work one day this week, I had my fill of “bells.” At this time of year, I am scrambling to complete all the evaluations that are on my lengthy list. The rapid count-down to the last day of school sets off a near complete panic in me. I have a limited number of days to see everyone on my list. That I can accomplish the tasks is part scheduling magic, part luck and part ingenuity. What should be wide open opportunities to pull a kid out of class is stymied because of weeks worth of standardized testing time that is deemed absolutely and undeniably SACRED!

I waited patiently on this particular day for the students to complete a portion of one of those dreaded tests so that I could pounce on an unsuspecting victim and administer yet ANOTHER test. Once the students had been tested and fed, I was armed and ready. And then I heard a bell.

Well, not really a bell. I was a loud and obnoxious pulsing siren accompanied by Mr. Roboto stating “Evacuate the building. Evacuate. Evacuate.” I immediately thought that some eighth grader was going to be very very sorry that they had tripped that alarm. I automatically assumed a prankster. I obeyed the repeated command, and made sure to turn off my light on the way out of my office. I don’t know why. If the place burned down, would it matter if my office light was on?

Credit: Keep Calm-O-Matic

Moving 2,000 twelve to fourteen-year-olds out of a building has been practiced to perfection at that school and within a few minutes, they were all outside and standing at a safe distance from the building. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and after ten minutes or so, I sat down on a curb and stretched out my legs to get a little sun. By thirty minutes in the sunshine, I was feeling a little warm, and after forty-five minutes or so, Mr. Roboto proclaimed the “All Clear.”

That delay propelled me to a scheduled meeting, which we conducted. Through the meeting, though, I was keeping a keen watch on my watch – hoping that we would conclude in just enough time to squeak a WISC out of the student I still needed to see.

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Sure enough, I rescued my student from science class during the final two periods of the day. Because of the pressure of time, I had not taken a moment to engage in any small talk with this young man. We set straight away into the test, and had closed the last page of the protocol just as Mr. Roboto and his back-up squealing revived the earlier refrain. “Evacuate.” Surely this is a mistake, I thought. My student asked if we really had to go outside. Indeed, we did – so we headed toward the door, and just as I was turning off the light, old Roboto droned out the “All Clear.” Wonderful! Young man and I might have a chance to converse! We hadn’t but seated ourselves, when Mr. Roboto replayed his earlier tune and implored us to evacuate. This time we had made it to the hall before the all clear was sounded. That poor child and I were caught in a drill dance for the next several turn-arounds of all clears and evacuates.

Eventually, I gave up. The time was only a few minutes from dismissal for the day. On the final Evacuate, I packed up my computer, gathered my testing materials and purse and told the child to get his book bag and follow me. Outside, we were easily able to find his class, standing at a safe distance from the building in the parking lot. Luckily, they were not standing in the path down which I would drive my car to escape.

As I pulled out of the parking lot, old Roboto sounded the All Clear, just one more time. At least that I heard.

Hurts So Good

I’ve had the luxury of a week of spring break. Unlike many of my co-workers, I didn’t drive south to the beach or Disney, or jet off to some far-off destination. I have stayed home and hoped to get some things done. The weather has not been particularly pleasant during my time off, but it has afforded me the opportunity to get some nagging jobs done.

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During the last few weeks of work before the break, I noted that my shoulders and upper back were aching. I would be at least a song and a half into my daily drive home before I would notice that I was leaning forward and hugging the steering wheel of my car with my shoulders up near my ears. “Lean back. Let your shoulders drop down,” I would tell myself. “I need a massage,” I would tell myself.

Monday was cool and rainy – a perfect day to complete some of the errands on my list, including getting a long overdue manicure. I tried to get an appointment at French Nails – my favorite salon where they play movies while they pamper my feet and hands – but they, too, were taking vacation. I couldn’t go back to my previous shop because they would know that I had abandoned them when they saw that someone else had done my most recent manicure. I didn’t want to have to explain why I had left them. I had to find a different salon – just for this one time. I found one near one of my errand stops at Home Depot AND as an added bonus, the salon was right next door to ATL Massage. “Perfect,” thought I. I could park once and get both my hands and my poor, aching shoulders pampered.

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I’m not new to massages. I’ve had several in my life. Each time that I go, the massage therapist works on major knots in the muscles of my back. Each time they suggest that I go regularly to keep those knots under control. Each time, I vow that I will, since the whole experience is so relaxing. Each time, I let a few years pass before I go back. This time, before I even got back to the table, I purchased two massages. I HAD to because they were offering a second massage for half price. I’m not about to turn down a BOGO, so I signed up for two sessions and added the hot stone treatment for good measure.

I was escorted to a room with a massage table in which the lights were low, some essential oils were being diffused, and lovely, calm Oriental-styled music was playing. I began to relax immediately. My massage therapist entered the room. She was a teeny tiny young Asian woman wearing scrubs and Crocs. Yes – of course I wanted a deep tissue massage and could she please focus on my shoulders and upper back? Yes, indeed, I had purchased an hour session. Yes, I will disrobe and shall I put my clothing on this chair?

Some friends at the lake and I had recently discussed the level of undress with which we were comfortable when getting a massage. I thought of my more modest friends who keep vital garments on when they go for a massage. I believe that any bashfulness I may have had completely disappeared when, in preparation for Eric’s birth, I asked my doctor if I could have more than one person in the delivery room with me. Dr. Barootes told me that I could sell tickets to the event if I wanted to. I considered it. Childbirth allows total strangers access to secure areas that are otherwise entirely off limits. Childbirth demolishes one’s privacy and modesty.

I had nothing to be ashamed of. Rather – the parts that I am ashamed of would be hidden. Since I had asked for my therapist to focus on my back and shoulders, the most troubling of my many trouble zones – which protrudes from the area around my belly button and spreads across my entire mid-section – would be completely squished and spread out on the table as I lay on my front under the strategically placed blankets. I took off every stitch of clothing I had and snuggled in – front side down, face in the cradle  – under the warmed blankets on the massage bed.

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Annie, my masseuse slipped into the room and began to warm some lavender scented oil. Ahhhh, my favorite! She told me that she was warming the stones and that they would be used later in the hour. Warm, smooth, stones were going to feel goooooood! I happily closed my eyes and she began the massage. Annie quietly explained that she used a hybrid of Thai and American styles of massage. Thai includes heavy pressure pushing down on specific parts of the body, while American involves circular movement and pressure that moves around on the body. Great! Let’s go! Sigh!

If it weren’t for being able to see the tiny little toes of her Crocs, I would have sworn that somehow, Annie was swapped out for a 350 pound Andy once the massage began. There was no way in the world that the tiny little thing that I talked to whilst fully dressed was able to force the amount of pressure through her hands that she did! She was simply too small.

Annie knew what she was doing. It didn’t take but a few minutes before she was kneading my upper back at exactly the place that I ached. She would push against something solid a few inches toward the spine from where my bra straps would be (if I had one on!) and eventually her hands would slip from the edges of the solid, and in the motion, a little cracking sound would be heard. I asked about the source of the noise. Muscle knots. She was pushing, kneading, pinching, rubbing on two knots that extend from the tops of my shoulders halfway down my back. I asked if Annie would be able to take care of those nasty knots. She would, indeed, but not likely in one one-hour session. Good thing I got that BOGO!

Friends – I have enjoyed every other massage that I’ve ever had. Sure, there were moments during each that were a little uncomfortable, but never before would I have described a massage as painful. In order to endure my experience, I had to reach far back into my repertoire to when modesty was lost and recall the relaxation breathing techniques that I had successfully employed during each of three childbirth experiences. Little Annie, positioned at the top of my head, accessed my knots and pushed so hard on them, that I believe the only thing that kept me from being pushed down along the table was my chin, which was hooked over the table’s edge. I tried to ignore the agony by focusing on my breathing and looking straight down at the floor. I started to hiss the /s/ sound with each exhalation and worked very hard not to add the /t/, /o/ and /p/ sounds and bring this torture to an end. Annie moved silently around me and attacked those knots from every possible direction. I found it helpful to alternate the hissing /s/ with a soft /sh/ sound upon exhaling, and, again, had to concentrate so as not to add the /it/ to my expelled breath. Annie asked me if I was OK when she heard my noises. Oh yes! Just fine!

Credit: themontcalmclub.com

I tried to picture my happy place – gently swinging on a hammock under the shade of a palm tree on a private tropical beach. I counted seconds. I sang childhood songs in my head. I closed my eyes hard and prayed. I waited and waited for the hot stones – which I was sure would be a sign that my torment was through. Not so. Annie’s attack on those knots was only augmented by the heat and the solid surface of those stones, which, once cooled, were deposited in a perfectly straight line along my lower back.

After what seemed to be forever, but actually was exactly one hour, Annie quietly spoke the words I had longed to hear. We were all done. I should rest for a few minutes before getting up. I did. I got up, I had survived. I rolled my shoulders and – it felt good! I was invigorated, revitalized, restored! Annie advised me to drink plenty of water to rid the toxins. I looked forward to being less toxic. Annie suggested that I might like to use a heating pad later in the day if I was sore. Sure. Will do! I took my energized self home.

Five bottles of water and about eight hours later – I sat close to an outlet so that I could press the heating pad alternately on my excruciating shoulders. I hurt. Badly. But – I can’t wait to go back. It hurt so good.

 

 

 

 

 

Road Warrior Women

There’s nothing quite like taking a road trip with a friend. I love to hit the road and explore. I guess all those trips that we made with three little boys between Ohio and Manitoba didn’t quite get me my fill of the open road. Those trips are entirely another story.

Photo Credit: www.ministry-to-children.com

Over the past few years, I have had a consistent road trip partner. Rhonda (pictured with the “What a Jackass” scarf in Silky Sass) and I have shared a number of wonderful road trips.

Our first real trip was not meant for sight-seeing or vacationing. My son, Eric, was coming back to the Fort Drum, New York after a year-long US Army deployment to Bagram AiB, Afghanistan. Rod and Eric had worked the phones and internet during his last few weeks of deployment, and the result was an Ford F250 diesel pick-up truck that he purchased and would be driving while at Fort Drum. That truck had to make it from Buford, Georgia to upstate New York. I had to be at Fort Drum when he arrived back on American soil. It made sense to me that if the truck and I both had to get to Watertown, NY, we might as well go together.

Ready to hit the road in the F-250

I needed someone to share the drive with me and Rhonda was willing for the adventure. An adventure it was. You can read all about it on the final few pages of The Charm.

There could be no other trip that would match the drama and excitement that we had on our way to Fort Drum, but we keep on trying! Our junkets have taken us to Savannah, Southern Pines, Blowing Rock and DC. Somehow, we are always able to find a little adventure each time.

Rhonda makes the perfect travel buddy. Last fall, we experimented and invited Cece and Karla to join us for an overnight trip to Blowing Rock, North Carolina. We needed to test them out to see if they could hang with us. So – a one night drive into the mountains, with a stay at a slightly creepy but wonderfully nostalgic motel, followed by a drive down a southern portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway was a perfect audition. They passed. Barely.

I’m in the process of planning a few more road trips – possibly one to Manitoba this summer and a return visit to Washington, DC. There’s just something wonderful about the open road and a friend or two that make for finding some adventure.

Four Road Warriors

 

 

Another New Trick – Silky Sass

When I first started my teaching career in rural Saskatchewan, I had a secret. The winters in Rouleau were cold. Really cold. Add to stay warm, I needed to dress in layers. During the coldest of days, one of the bottom layers that I would wear to work was a sleeveless T-shirt that had “Same Stuff, Different Day” across it in bold, black letters. It didn’t exactly say, “Same Stuff”, but you know what I mean.

That little secret message helped me to keep my sense of humor while teaching all of the grade five and six students in the school. Believe me – a sense of humor was necessary.

For years, I tried to figure out how I could recreate a work-worthy garment that could carry a sentiment that only I would know was there. Something that said what dared not be spoken. Something that I could smile and calmly touch rather than mutter under my breath.

I eventually had an idea. If a message were written on the center of a scarf, it would magically disappear when the scarf was gathered up and tied around my neck. To make the idea a reality would require me to take up a new hobby. I would learn to dye silk.

Lesson #1

Lesson #2

The last time I had dyed anything was when we tie-dyed some t-shirts back in the ’70s. That wasn’t quite the look I was after. So, like any self-respecting person that really wants to learn how to do something – I went to the source: YouTube. I’ve learned how to do lots of things from YouTube like repair refrigerators, unclog hair from sinks, and build a blog. Certainly, lessons on dying silk would be there.

Sure enough. I found plenty of instruction, and was led to a couple of ebooks that gave me step-by-step instructions on where to order supplies, how to make a frame, dye the fabric, and steam and wash the work! I dutifully completed the ebook lessons, and from there – I started creating. Thank you, Pamela Glose.

Rhonda and her scarf.

I am NOT very artistic – that makes silk dying my kind of art. The dye has a mind of its own when it meets with the silk that I use. There are things that a person can do to control it, but so very much of the finished work is left up to chance.

I‘ve created scarves for each of my HOV friends and others. I’ve made some for people at work. My Mom has one with all her grandchildren’s names written on it. And I’ve begun a small collection of my own. I love the colors. I love to watch them move and flow on the fabric. I giggle at some of the things they secretly say. I’ve smiled and gently touched them while wearing them at work – safely keeping to myself what I might otherwise slip out of my mouth.

Secret Sassiness.

I’ve learned something new – how to dye silk AND that maybe I do have at least a little art in me.

For my friend, Kim.

 

And I’ve found another way to stray from the recliner.

 

Old Dogs and New Tricks

You CAN teach old dogs new tricks! I’m proof. I’m solidly between 7 and 8 dog years old, which makes me old-ish in both people and dog years. I’ve learned some new things over the past few months, though. I’ve taken on some new hobbies.

Walking is one of them. OK, so I’ve known how to walk since I was about 10 months old (mere days in dog time) – I was an early achiever. I’ve tried to walk the dogs regularly, but between incredibly hot and sticky weather in the summer, and rainy weather in the fall and winter, along with a few canine injuries – I just wasn’t getting in as much walking time as a person of 7 – 8 dog years should. The time I might have been walking was being replaced with time in the recliner.

Torture Equipment

I needed to do something about that. So – Rod and I pooled our Christmas money and purchased our new evil enemy. It’s a Sole. Treadmill. After Rod did copious internet research and spent several hours checking out the selection at a local fitness store, he brought home the monstrosity. It only took the help of one neighbor to carry it into the basement and assemble it.

Since that day, I have banked about 10 miles per week. I admit that with some pride because I don’t really want to walk on the treadmill. I would rather spend La-Z-Boy time; however, my waistline dictates that I must walk.

I don’t mind exercise. In fact, once I start I rather enjoy it, and I know that I feel better for the 10 mile weeks. I am not, however, a work-out fiend, like those that spend hours per day at a gym. There is no way in this dog-eat-dog world that I would subject myself to a public gym. No one needs to witness me suffering so. Besides, it would be frowned upon to yell out in public the ugliness that I spew upon the Sole.

I’m only smiling because Rod is taking a picture.

However, I dutifully make my way to the evil enemy at least four times per week, set the Sole on “interval” and walk (and even jog a little) for 56 minutes. In that time, I cover 2 miles, even though:

  • It makes me sweat. It has been said that horses perspire, men sweat and women feel the heat. Well, that’s bull, because on that Sole, I sweat. A lot. I don’t like to sweat. It’s wet and nasty. I rarely sweat when I’m sitting in the recliner, but for when I have a hot flash, which are not voluntary. Why would I want to cause myself to sweat? And after sweating – I need to shower. That means standing up. That means not sitting in the recliner.
  • It hurts. My calves ache by minute 32, which leaves 24 minutes of PAIN. One of Eric’s PE commanders in the Army said that “Pain is weakness leaving your body.” If that’s the case, I’m spilling weakness all over the Sole. I’m not a masochist, yet I persist through the torture all the while knowing that the recliner is oh so comfy!
  • Though I don’t consider myself to be a control freak, it bothers me that the Sole determines at what pace I will walk and how many hills I will climb. When I want to take a leisurely stroll, the enemy forces me to jog or climb a hill. And it doesn’t listen to me when I yell at it to slow the hell down!!

Yet, I continue. I know it is the right thing to do – like eating an apple for a snack rather than a bag of Ruffles. Sigh. Such is my love/hate relationship. The Sole hates me and beats me up. I hate it right back. The recliner loves me. And I love the recliner.

My love.