Monthly Archives: August 2020

My brief criminal career at “B and E”

There’s a beautiful house sitting on top of a hill on my regular route through the area. (It’s not the picture above, that’s just one from the internet to set the tone.) The house I am admiring went up several years ago and every time I pass it, I wonder about it…what it looks like inside, what the view is like.

I won’t be investigating that anytime soon, however, and it’s because it always brings back memories of my brief career as a criminal “B and E” man; I believe they call it–breaking and entering.

There was a house I admired a great deal when I lived up along the Missouri River some years ago. It also was a house on a hill; a big place that I just knew had a commanding view of the river and the bluffs beyond. I drove by that house and my mouth watered, thinking what it must look like inside, and then with a sigh, I would turn towards my little house with the tiny bedrooms and the commanding view of the neighbor’s trash racks. Ah, well, such is life.

Then the day came when I received a writing assignment to interview a person I didn’t know. I was to interview her at her home. I was given the address and since these were the days before GPS, I had to rely on somewhat more vague directions and my own abysmal navigating skills. “It’s a big house, sitting up on a hill east of town…you really can’t miss it. It’s the only white house on the north side of the road,” were my boss’s instructions.

Now, I want you to know that I really did listen to those instructions, but all I really heard was “big white house on the hill over the river.” Well, of course I couldn’t miss it…hadn’t I been admiring it for years???? I could not believe my luck. The story I needed to do wasn’t that exciting, but I was finally going to see inside the house on the hill. My excitement knew no bounds.

Although a set of detailed instructions was drawn out for me, I just crammed them in the camera bag without looking at them. I knew where the house was, obviously. I drove the rather complicated side road that led up to the front door, already admiring the view from outside and prepared to gush over the whole place when I finally got to meet my interviewee.

I knocked at the door and while I don’t know what I actually heard, I expected to hear, “Come in,” so that’s apparently what I thought I heard. Turning the door knob, I found the door unlocked and I went in. Walking down a long hallway, I emerged into an astonishing great room with windows all along the wall which faced the river. I had been right; it was beautiful! I stepped to the windows, with my back to the room and just drank in the sight.

I was on the verge of pulling out my camera, when a very brusque male voice behind me demanded, “What are you doing in my house?”

I turned around in some consternation: my interviewee was supposed to be an elderly woman. The man who stood in the doorway to another hallway was middle-aged and wearing a short robe and a very hostile expression.

Confused, I stammered, “I’m sorry. I am here to talk to”…and I gave the lady’s name.

“This isn’t her house,” he said, outraged. “She lives over there, on the north side of the road.” The north side. Oh, yeah, it was the north side I was supposed to go to; I remember now and of course, this was the south side, which meant that I….had broken and entered this understandably cranky man’s house. I was standing there, admiring the house and view after having illegally entered the premises!

A friend I told this story to said I should have tried to bluff my way through–“Yes, I’m conducting a survey. How do you feel having your home invaded while you were in the shower? You don’t like it? Okay…that’s one negative response.”

I was not that cool, however. I mumbled some sort of apology, stumbled back down the hall I had entered through and ran for my car before the man decided to call the police. I made it to the NORTH side of the road and conducted my interview with the sweet lady there who lived in a much less impressive house without a panoramic view and then I had to go back to work and explain to my boss that I might very shortly be arrested for breaking and entering.

Fortunately, everyone seemed to realize that it was a careless error on my part, but it has taught me a little bit about being so single-minded that I miss all the little clues that should maybe tell me I’m on the wrong path.

That’s why I’ll never see the inside of the beautiful house on the hill this time. My brief career as a “breaking and entering” criminal has dampened my enthusiasm for house touring. I’m better off if I just admire it from the road!

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Vocabulary quiz from hell

Or-Confessions of a twentieth century teacher teaching in a twenty-first century pandemic!

I am here to confess that I am about to commit a murder. The object of my slaughterous intentions is named Priscilla. Before anyone calls the police, Priscilla is the name I was forced to give my computer, because otherwise the students in my classroom thought I was yelling at them when I was actually venting it all on the technological bane of my existence.

I don’t ask much as a teacher, just some books, paper, pencil, maybe a blackboard? But over the years, it has slowly crept up on me that in order for this 20th century girl to survive in education, I have to learn something about those little impassive, Vulcan-like mazes with a keyboard and an attitude!

Very well; I sit through the computer training sessions, I listen to the techno-jargon, I scream a little inside, and eventually I learn enough about the current program to get by. And then do you know what happens? You guessed it! Some enterprising young mathematical and cyber wiz pipes up with, “Oh, you know how to do that? That’s obsolete; we have something much better now.”

Then, without so much as consulting me, a pandemic showed up. Can you believe it? It happened solely to make my life miserable, I’m sure. But it has forced a great deal of what a teacher does to go “remote.” “Remote teaching” is another term for “move over you 20th century dinosaur, there’s a new cyber-sheriff in town.” I took a computer class on remote classrooms and I learned about My Drives and One Drives and Google Drives and push button communication and scheduling meetings and posting assignments until I don’t know my Microsoft Teams from my Zooms…whatever happened to Skype, by the way? I understood Skype!

And that brings us to the vocabulary quiz from hell. I discovered that I could actually construct a multiple choice quiz on my online classroom and I was delighted…once I learned how to use it. Once the test was done, I was assured that it had automatically saved to My Drive. Then, I scheduled it to be posted for administration on Wednesday. It posted immediately.

NO, NO, NO Priscilla! I don’t want the kids to see it now! I want to schedule it for later! Where is the delete? Which button? Someplace is a delete! Ten minutes later, I finally hit delete, so it was no longer posted.

No problem, right? I can go to My Drive, where it’s saved and try to schedule it…not post it. Except I went to My Drive, and there was nothing there but a couple of empty files. No vocabulary test.

I wasn’t too unhappy; I probably inadvertently deleted it altogether. It happens, so hey, I re-wrote the multiple choice vocabulary quiz and tried again. I hit the button. NO NO NO, Priscilla! I wanted to schedule it, not post it now! I took another ten minutes to try and figure out a delete that didn’t wipe it out. I was unsuccessful, so another vocabulary quiz was sent into cyber-oblivion.

By the third test, my multiple choice answers were beginning to suffer. Option C: Who cares?, Option D: Priscilla sucks! I tried a third time to schedule and this time, nothing happened. Oh well, this one was saved in My Drive, I’ll go on. I put together some other quizzes and finally caught on to how I should schedule them to post later. Perfect! I’ll just go to my drive and get it and schedule it.

My drive did not have the Vocabulary Quiz from Hell. I don’t know exactly where it is, but I do know that I kind of hope it went back where it obviously came from. This 20th century teacher has taken My Drive on a trip around the bend! But only after I have murdered Priscilla!

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Staycations are stay-sucky

School began for me this week. The official end of another summer and as the kids trooped into the classroom, all decked out in their masks, thank goodness, the inevitable first question cropped up, “What did you do with your summer vacation Mrs. Fauth?”

This presented a problem, because usually I have some travel stories for them or some big parties or celebrations, etc. What could I tell them about this year’s vacation? “Well, children, mostly I stayed home and sprayed my groceries with bleach water.” I can’t tell them that, right?

They call it a “staycation.” This is a pleasant euphemism for, “I had no where to go, or no money to travel, or too much work to do, so I dressed it up by pretending that I wanted to stay home.”

I, of course, was helped in making the decision for a “staycation” this year by a little event called the pandemic. This did not stop everyone from traveling, but it did stop me because of my basic aversion to Covid 19. So, since cowardice was my guide, I was forced to find something positive about staying home all summer. I’m still looking!

What I discovered is that when you sit in your house for basically five months, you begin to have delusions. These delusions are that you think you have way more ambition and talent than you actually have. I kept walking down to the basement (my daily exercise) and eventually I got the bright idea to paint the floors. They had become so scratched! So, I dragged everything out of the rooms, rolled all of the floors with the special paint, and dragged everything back…thereby re-scratching all the spots that I had previously painted to hide the original scratches. My ambition is over it, now.

Judging from my back after that event, I soon became aware that this lovely little staycation might just kill me! After a week of sitting in a chair, convincing myself that I deserved a break and the chance to watch every episode of “Merlin” at once, I was beginning to try to jab flies with a fork (in lieu of King Arthur’s sword) and I decided I had better move on to something else, or else lose what mind I have left.

I organized all my pictures and that gave me a brilliant idea. I would catalog and journal about all of the previous vacations we had taken! After all, if I couldn’t go on a vacation, I could enjoy all the past ones, right? Unfortunately, the past ones have been so many, that they tend to run together and I never was very good with years, anyway. So after four fights with Roy over when we did what and what we saw when we were there, I abandoned the vacation memories book as the fast track to divorce. And just so you know, we DID go to Manassas Battlefield first on our vacation THREE years ago, I don’t care what Roy says!

I started wearing my souvenir Manassas Battlefield cap just to irritate him and that was the entertainment for a week on my staycation. Then I needed to do something else. What to do…what to do. I did spend a lot of time doing gardening. After several weeks of pulling weeds and leaving dirty handprints all over myself while I battled the mosquitoes, I finally remembered why it is that I don’t do gardening! Next year, there will be a nice crop of grass planted in the garden, and I will score some tomatoes where every self-respecting, garden-hating individual does—at the Farmer’s Market!

By now, I think you get that my little staycation has not been a rousing success. Just because we call it a stay-cation that doesn’t conjure pictures of sandy beaches and lovely mountain roads. For me, it will always mean the summer I stayed in my house and contemplated which wall to climb today. In short, I learned this summer that staycations suck!

So, when the fifth student into the room this week piped up with, “What did you do this summer, Mrs. Fauth?”, there was only one thing for me to say: “I stayed home and sprayed my groceries with bleach water.” She gave a little sigh and said, “Yeah, me too!”

Looking forward to next year and possibly a VACATION!

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Up from the down

I’ve made the difficult decision to disinherit my older daughter this week. And really, it’s not fair, because she was only trying to help. But after three weeks of me with my new exercise trampoline, she sent me a link to an exercise program I can use for my trampoline. And I’m like, “There’s a routine to this? I thought I was just supposed to jump up and come back down!!!”

I really blame the internet more, though. I was looking for a good cardio activity for myself and after rejecting the selections of ballroom dancing and sumo wrestling, I found some wonderful material having to do with the cardio benefits of a trampoline. That sounded like fun…after all, how could you go wrong with a trampoline? Well, I’m glad you asked!

In the first place, the best cardio workout I’ve had so far was the day it arrived and I realized that “some assembly required” meant trying to string together about fifty bars, wires, legs, nuts, bolts and little plastic covers that weren’t quite big enough to stretch over the sharp edges. That little four-hour experience not only got my blood pumping and my fingers blistered, it also allowed my eyes to sting shut under a flood of pure body sweat and my profane vocabulary to reach a new level of perfection, honed by my utter frustration!

Eventually, I got the whole thing together in a reasonably upright position and then it was time to read the little booklet that came with it on the things you could do with it. I figured I just stand on it and bounce up and down, but the pictures on the front of the pamphlet told me I was in trouble. The main picture showed a woman in living color and tight red spandex jumping so high on the trampoline that she achieved a spectacular splits high above the bar that I used to keep me upright while I went up and down an inch or two!

For a couple of weeks I went down and climbed on the trampoline and bounced up and down a little, enjoying the way my washer and dryer and freezer seemed to float into mid-air with each jump. I was consoled by reminding myself that it takes time to get good on a trampoline and besides, my knee hurt sometimes so I couldn’t jump too hard, plus watching my appliances go up and down as I jumped made me a little nauseated.

Then my grandsons came for a visit. They were enchanted by the trampoline! Those energetic little beans could jump for hours and within an extremely short time, they were achieving jumps that I couldn’t even dream of. The final straw came when I went downstairs to observe my older grandson jumping on the trampoline, kicking up his heels between bounces, all the while unwrapping and eating an ice-pop he found in the freezer! So much for slow as she goes; the boy had beaten his old grandmother by a country mile..or rather, bounce.

I’m still trying with the trampoline, measuring my progress in ups and downs and all the little hazards in between. I’m not sure what it does for my cardio, but it’s a great little time-waster when I should be doing laundry or cooking a meal.

And that brings us back to my daughter. She thought it would be helpful if she sent me some suggestions for exercise routines on the trampoline. She didn’t realize that I wanted to live in my little up and down world, convincing myself that five minutes a day bouncing only high enough for my feet to lose contact minutely from the canvas was all I wanted. Nevertheless, she is disinherited. I don’t want you to worry about this, though. My fortune consists of a couple of twenty-dollar-bills stuffed in an old soup can and buried somewhere in the back yard, so she’s really not missing much. My fortunes tend to go up and down as well!

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Grandpa’s Job

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I believe I’ve already discussed the responsibilities of a grandmother when her grandchildren are visiting. Well, this week, the second time the boys have visited this summer, I put a little research into the grandfather in this equation. And I made a few discoveries along the way.,,

When the boys visit, towels, underwear, swimwear and socks melt away as though they don’t exist. Grandpa jumped into the shower and came out, dripping wet, eyes full of soap and exclaimed, ” Where are the towels on my towel rack?”

“The boys needed a towel to dry off after playing in the hose,” I said. “The towels are in the dryer.”

“They needed all the towels?” was his incredulous response as he stood in an ever-increasing puddle of water.

“Well, the dog and the cat needed towels too, didn’t they?” I answered. “There will be towels coming out of the wash in an hour or two.”

“Why didn’t you wash towels sooner?” he grumbled, attempting to dry himself on the bathroom rug and a dirty t-shirt. Apparently, it is not Grandpa’s job to do laundry.

He wandered through the house, kicking pieces of cardboard, tape, pipecleaners and tissue paper aside as he walked. “Don’t you think maybe the house should be cleaned?”

“With three days of the visit still left, are you mad?” I said, closing the cap on the glue and picking up the freezie wrappers from the counter. “It will just reappear if I put it away.”

“I really think you could keep it a little better under control,” he said, sitting down and rising quickly as he made contact with a collection of legos left in his chair. I gained from that conversation that cleaning the house of children’s chaos is not Grandpa’s job either.

“I could really go for some fancy salads and maybe a cheesecake,” he said, coming into the kitchen.

“Tough, we’re having hotdogs and mac and cheese,” I said, blowing the hair out of my eyes and I balanced the chips, pickles and ketchup on the way to the table.

“I don’t think you should feed me that stuff, just because it’s easy and the boys like it,” he said, attempting to make a hotdog look edible by drowning it in mustard. Cooking is also not Grandpa’s job, then. So just what is it?

This question was answered when I stepped out the door tonight. I tripped over the bikes and wagons in the front yard, skirted around the balls and bats and kites in the side yard and followed the sound of the shrieking into the back yard, where two boys had teamed up to totally drench Grandpa in a spirited water balloon fight. Then I remember, oh yeah, Grandpa’s job is not to cook, clean or do laundry. Grandpa’s job is to have fun! I sense an inequity in the genders here, but it isn’t likely to change. Grandma really sucks at water balloon fights!

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