Saturday, February 28, 2009

Watching People

Have you ever been in a public place, not focused on anything in particular and found yourself watching people? When I say watching, I mean observing. People can be fascinating to watch, their body language, their mannerisms, and nervous behavior can make for interesting viewing. I enjoy sitting at a corner table in a restaurant, sipping coffee and either reading or writing, or even a combination of both. I don’t mind being alone in a public place, because you become anonymous, sitting in a corner with your back to the wall facing everyone else. It can be relaxing at times, too; sort of like stopping to smell the roses.

Years ago, I had an opportunity to observe an older gentleman and his interesting, yet amusing reaction to a young family sitting in his booth. I had stopped one day at a fast food restaurant for lunch with my friend on our way back from Quebec City several years back. Had I been focused on other things, I probably would have never noticed this simple example of human behavior.

My friend had offered to stay at the counter for our food, so I went to choose a seat. The restaurant was organized similarly to the McDonald’s or Burger King arrangement, with one end of the building for the kitchen and restrooms and the other end for the dining area. In this particular restaurant, there were booths lined along the perimeter of the building with window views of the entrance and exit of the parking lot and the street traffic. Then there were two islands of booths, rows of them on either side of half-walls to provide some privacy. I had chosen one end of an island booth, but facing the rest of the restaurant with my back to the kitchen area.

There were several other people scattered in different directions enjoying their burgers or chicken. Some sat near the wall away from everyone, others placed themselves in the middle of the restaurant, and still others sat near the windows to watch the traffic. It was a beautiful summer day, and the warming sun streamed in through the windows that lined the exit of the parking lot. It was such a warm day that the air conditioner was having trouble keeping the place cool.

While waiting for my friend, I noticed an older man walk into the dining area carrying a tray. From what I could see, he had a small coffee, or tea, and a sandwich and fries. He wore a wide-brimmed hat that looked well worn, a red and white cotton, buttoned-down checkered shirt, and a pair of brown, polyester shorts that went to his knees. He had on sandals and brown socks that were slightly darker than the shorts, and a small gray windbreaker slung over his arm. His hair was shoulder length, peaking out from beneath the rim of his brown hat, and his face looked like he had missed his morning shave for several days.

Considering that I’ve never met this man before, I immediately realized that something was wrong. He began walking down the aisle heading for his destination, but then something caught his eye and he hesitated. It was so obvious that you would have had to be blind to not notice. Had I not been already watching him, I would have taken notice. It was that blunt. He continued walking and sat at a booth to my left, almost in the corner of the room, facing me. He kept turning his head, looking to my right. His feet began shuffling nervously and he kept wringing his hands. I followed his gaze and discovered that he was looking at a young couple with their little boy sitting in a high chair.

My friend arrived with our food and I pointed out the old man and whom he was staring at. We contemplated for a few minutes what the problem could be. We discussed several possibilities. The more I observed this man, the more I realized what the problem probably was. That young family was sitting in his seat. With the wringing of his hands, and the constant shuffling of his feet, as well as him nervously looking over their way, it was clear to me that he wasn’t going to be comfortable until he was able to sit in that booth. He hadn’t even started eating or drinking his coffee or tea; he was that uncomfortable.

After a while of this, I noticed the mother cleaning up their little boy, who was probably about a year and a half, and head over to the restrooms while the father cleaned up their area. Seeing that they were getting ready to leave, the old man slowly got up from his booth, keeping a constant eye on the young dad, and slowly picked up his windbreaker and tray and began to walk over. I was in suspense and had to put down my sandwich just to watch. The old man strolled over and began talking to the dad. I couldn’t hear what they were saying because they weren’t speaking loudly, but the old man began to sit down where the mother had been sitting and placed his tray on the table. Minutes later, the mother arrived with her son, and the couple proceeded to gather their things and left.

When people are out of their routine, their comfort zone, they behave in strange ways. They tend to show their awkwardness in ways that they don’t realize. Body language can sometimes speak louder than words. What I found humorous about this situation was not necessarily how uncomfortable this man behaved when he wasn’t able to sit in his booth, but how normal and nonchalant he became the minute he could. His feet stopped moving. He calmly looked around the restaurant and out the window at the traffic, and began to enjoy his coffee and meal.

This situation made me think about how I behave when I’m placed outside my comfort zone, or when my routine is disrupted. When this happens, I become frustrated and antsy, and very impatient. I wring my hands, bounce my leg up and down on my toes, or start fussing with my hair. I’m sure there are other outward signs I show that I don’t even realize. How do you behave when you’re in that situation? Something to think about.

Friday, February 27, 2009


“It’s time to get ready for bed,” Hubby calls to his youngest.

“But Dad!” he declares, emphasizing the "b" and "d" sounds as he walks down the hall to look at the clock on the DVR. He tilts his head to one side and says, “it’s only 6:27.” As if we didn't know.

“Yeah,” Hubby responds, “your bedtime is in three minutes. Go brush your teeth.” Kerry stomps back down the hall and into the bathroom to brush his teeth. He makes it obvious that he’s not happy about having to get ready now.

Why are kids so precise when it comes to time? It’s the funniest thing. They have no concept of averaging or estimating time; everything needs to be right at that minute. One example of this is the clock in my car. It’s about seven minutes ahead, not that I really planned it that way, it just happened. I don’t mind because sometimes I forget that it’s ahead and I end up with seven minutes to spare if I’m running late. Kenny and Kerry, however, always begin a discussion about time when they get into my car. Kerry, who loves to play with numbers, likes to point out how many minutes are left in the hour, while Kenny likes to talk about what time it really is. This discussion can go in several directions. Sometimes it ends with each of them happy about their interpretation of the time, or it can become an argument about what time it really is. “Who cares?” tends to be Kenny’s latest phrase, which seems to settle things. So middle school!

Aside from being so precise, they don’t seem to believe it’s necessary to do things ahead of time to lessen their workload. Kenny has grasped this concept, and in fact embraces it at times; thankfully! However, Kerry, who’s in second grade, gets a whole packet for his spelling words, one page a night, and refuses to do more than what he has to. Well, when it was basketball season, Kenny would have basketball games after school later on in the week, so we’d try to get Kerry to do an extra page earlier on so he didn’t have to worry about it after we would get home after the game. Sometimes it’s nearly 6:00 by the time we would get home, which means that leaves us little time to make supper, eat and have him get ready for bed, never mind have him do his homework. Talk about tears! He just couldn’t understand why we wanted him to do this extra work on a Monday when he had all week to do it. Poor kid, it felt like we were punishing, or even torturing him. Perhaps we’ve scarred him for life when we’re just trying to be practical.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

January Sunrise

January Sunrise

“The early bird gets the worm,”
they say, but I,
I got the sunrise!
How lucky am I?
Glowing red, crimson,
purple, orange, and yellow.
The sun is waking
with beautiful glory.
Heavy, gray clouds
glow with morning.
My headlights
illuminate the snow
and reflect off
the stop sign.
The lone tree
stands like a
sentinel, keeping watch
over the roadways.
Too early to leave
for work? Never!
What a beautiful way
to start my workday.
Makes every waking
moment worth while.
Thank you,
January sunrise!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

There's a First Time for Everything.

They say there’s a first time for everything, but I’ve been very fortunate so far in life. I know I should probably knock on wood here, but I have never broken any bones (or have I?), required surgery, or been stung by any bees, hornets, or wasps. However, my youngest stepson, Kerry, has had a couple of these experiences. He’s broken his leg sliding off a snow bank, and then chipped a bone in his wrist. He’s been stung by a bee on his ear, which had been hiding in the engine of a farm tractor we used to have, and in the leg by three hornets that were buried in the ground. In spite of all of that, he's a tough cookie, or perhaps it's part of what made him tough.

Even my sister, Gina, has had her share of bad luck. She broke her collarbone falling off the second step from the bottom at our house, and then broke her arm when she tripped on a motel rug while on vacation. She’s even had severe food poisoning. I have been truly fortunate; however, that changed slightly recently.

This past summer, Hubby was opening up our popup camper while I was standing just outside of it. It had been sitting on the back lawn, unopened and undisturbed for most of the summer. As Hubby was nearly finished cranking the camper up, I notice something come towards me; my face! I swatted at it furiously. All at once, I felt a sharp pain, like a needle stabbing my upper lip. I screamed and started freaking out, smacking my face where I felt the most pain. My husband just stood there with the crank in his hand wondering what the heck was going on. “I just got stung!” I screamed.

Angry, partially because I’m in pain, insulted because Hubby was laughing at my antics, which I’m sure was funny to watch, and worried because I’ve never been stung before, so I didn’t know how I’d react, I ran frantically into the house. I grabbed the Epi Pen we have in the cupboard, just in case, and then grabbed the ice pack in the freezer because it started to swell. Hubby came in, “You need to put mud on it,” he declares calmly.

Remembering how it helped subside the pain for Kerry the times he got stung, I head for the only place where there’s exposed dirt, our garden. I began to take the muddy soil and place it on my lip, all the while remembering how we had put cow manure in the garden the year before. Yuck! Cow poop on my mouth! Gross!! As I'm dealing with the idea of having manure on my lip, I began to realize how the pain seems to be subsiding. Hmmm, I guess there’s something here. Then my wonderful husband walks up to see me and starts to laugh. My upper lip has swollen to twice its size. The boys come to see and also recognize the humor in my new appearance. How wonderful it is to be laughed at, I so appreciate it.

On to my next adventures....

We heat our home with wood during the winter. I just love the heat that we get from the wood, especially when we’ve had our subzero temperatures this past winter. It feels so cozy. I also get a satisfaction knowing that we've worked to provide for ourselves to stay warm. There’s something about being self-sufficient that makes you feel good. Well, last winter, my husband taught me how to use a hatchet to split some small, dry logs for starter wood. I had done some pieces earlier and my confidence began to build. I tried to continue being cautious, but my confidence grew, and I began to get a little cocky, because I knew what I was doing. Let's see about that!

One evening, Hubby was in the kitchen upstairs and I decided to go split some wood, the woman who is also able to provide. Ahem. Well, I started splitting some small pieces, making sure that I moved my left hand as the hatchet came down on the top of the log. Crack! There’s one piece. Again. Crack! Another one chopped. I kept going and going, feeling very confident in my abilities now. I did a few more small logs, which kept on for about ten to fifteen minutes. Crack! Crack! Crack! Suddenly, Crack! Aaahhh! D**n! Hubby comes running down the stairs, knowing full well what just probably happened. I had not taken my hand out of the way in time and had sliced my left thumb. Fortunately, the hatchet wasn’t as sharp as it could have been; I could have really done some damage. Instead, I sliced a nice chunk off the side of my thumb. Not enough to require emergency services (thankfully!), but enough that I left the hatchet exactly where it fell and never touched it again. Splitting small logs is now the sole task of my husband; that is understood. Some things are just not meant for me to tackle.

I still continue to exercise my ability to warm our home. Usually, I wear good slippers to go down to the basement to throw some wood in the furnace, something solid. However, this past Monday, I had a pair of crochet slippers on instead. I did think twice about it, but was too lazy to walk across the living room and put the better slippers on instead. I grabbed a couple of small logs and managed to accidentally knock one off the pile. It didn’t look very big as it headed right for my foot. What amazes me most is how I just stood there and watched this piece of wood fall, aimed for my foot and land squarely on my big toe. I hadn’t done anything to stop it from happening! I just stood there and watched it fall and land on its target.

The pain!!! I was grateful I was alone in the basement, because let’s just say, I remembered all the bad words I learned as a kid, French and English, and then some. I think I broke my toe, although it doesn’t appear broken. There’s no swelling or bruising, just pain, lots of pain. I guess I’ll have to wear my husband’s steel-toe boots whenever I go to put wood in the furnace.

What lessons have I learned from my experiences?

1) Do not stand in front of a popup camper that has been sitting idle for part of the summer. I’ll end up being the first target any bee, hornet, or wasp will see. It just takes one to create a lot of pain.

2) Leave all chopping or splitting of wood to the expert, my husband. He’s stronger and more experienced in such matters.

3) Wear appropriate shoes when working with wood. Who needs broken toes?

4) Last but not least, don’t get too cocky about my luck. Things can happen in a blink of an eye.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Brotherly Love

It’s amazing some times how children can be when they’re being scolded. Yesterday, my two stepsons, Kenny and Kerry, were having one of their many wonderful and enjoyable spats (sarcasm here). Kerry, the youngest (7 going on 17), was asking his brother to get off his bed because he had spent a lot of time to make it and worked hard to make it nice. Well, his brother, Kenny, moves at his own pace sometimes (middle schooler here) and wasn’t fast enough for Kerry. Well, the next thing I hear is Kenny telling him that he’s getting off and that he didn’t have to pinch him. I called Kerry over to scold him about pinching his brother.

Kerry sat down in time out for a while, and then we talked about what he did wrong and how things could have been done differently. You know, the usual parent/child discussion. Thinking he understood what he did wrong, I sent him to apologize to Kenny. Listening down the hall to make sure that he’s being nice about it, I overheard Kerry telling his brother that he was sorry for pinching him. Then, he proceeded to tell Kenny that he needs to respond faster next time. Whoa! “Kerry, get your little butt over here!” I called.

The funny thing is that Kerry honestly believed that Kenny was at fault for the whole thing. He takes matters into his own hands, but then on the other hand, his brother sort of deserves it if you think about it. He’s the one who showed Kerry how to be mean to his brother. At least that’s what I tell Kenny when Kerry’s not listening. Anyhow, after yet another heart-felt discussion with Kerry, he came to understand how he needed to make the right choice and NOT pinch his brother. Such brotherly love. I can feel the warmth emanating from their rooms now. Parenthood is so great!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Saving "Baron"

This past Saturday, Hubby and I decided to take a little trip with the kids around the valley were we live. We packed up the boys and headed out. The boys and I had been on our school vacation, so we enjoyed a day out of the house, different from what we’ve been doing all week. We didn’t realize what kind of interesting twist our trip would take as we started off.

We turned from the side road we’d been traveling on and onto the main road when we saw a husky walking along the shoulder with a broken chain. He looked very much like the dogs we used to have a few years back. We used to have several huskies, a white female named Kate, a couple of black and white ones, and one who was white and red named Baron. We had to find homes for them because we didn’t have the time to give to them any more, plus Hubby changed jobs and the bulk of the responsibility was left on me. Especially later on when Kate had a litter of 8 puppies. Well, this dog we saw on the side of the road looked very much like he (or she) could have been one of Kate’s pups.

Hubby, always the good Samaritan, and lover of animals, decided to pick up the dog so it wouldn’t get bumped, and try to find out where he lives. He backed up his truck to the intersection where we had just turned out from to meet up with the dog. He jumped out and grabbed the dog’s leash, calling him Baron. The dog was friendly and really sweet. He jumped in the truck without hesitation and tried to get in the front with us, but I held his collar and kept him on the floor between the boy’s feet. My hand and sleeve of my leather jacket was beginning to get all wet from the snow and ice on him. We drove about a quarter mile down the road where the dog was coming from and Hubby went in to ask if they knew who owned the dog.

While he was in the store, “Baron” continued to sniff out his new surroundings. His fir was clumped together all over his back with crusty, icy snow. Because of the warmth of the truck, the ice was melting off and creating a muddy, wet mess all over the truck. He had a kind of wet-dog-smell, but it wasn’t a stink, rather it smelled more like he had been to the dog groomers recently, so the smell had a hint of shampoo to it.

Hubby came back into the truck laughing. I asked him if they knew where the dog lived. He told me that where we had picked him up was right across the street from where he lived. He was on his way home. Apparently “Baron” makes a habit of taking a walk every once in a while to visit those who live in his domain, and then heads back home when he’s finished. We kind of laughed the rest of the morning about it. Here we were, trying to do the right thing and help out a dog and his family, only to “kidnap” him just as he was only a few steps from his home.

Will we do things differently next time? Probably, by checking the homes around where we find him might be a good step. The funny thing is that we never even thought about the trailer across the street. In fact, we had forgotten that it was even there! At least the end result was that “Baron” ended up home, safe and sound and we had something to laugh about and a story to tell our families.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Welcome All

Welcome to my first blog. I teach middle school language arts and am currently working on perfecting my own writing craft. I’ve written before, but only lately have I become more serious about writing. In fact, I’ve developed a philosophy that in order for me to teach writing well, I need to practice the art. It’s like attempting to teach others how to become a gourmet chef without ever having stepped into the kitchen, or having never eaten anything other than fast food. In other words, practice what I preach.

I’ve recently learned that in order to be a great writer, I need to be a great reader. I’ve always believed that the more one reads, the better a communicator they become, whether it is through speaking or writing. Your vocabulary increases, and you develop a larger sense of style when it comes to your writing. I’ve been reading lots of blogs, instructional books on writing, and autobiographies lately and have found myself thinking and writing drafts along those lines. I will eventually provide a list of the reading material that I’ve read, along with links to blogs that I have found helpful.

In one of the blogs I’ve been reading, the author states how blogging is a way for writers to practice their craft. If you take it seriously, blogging can be a way for us to stay disciplined and make sure we write on a daily basis. It could be about a number of things. I plan on using this blog to write about a variety of things that go on in my life. I won’t limit myself to only one topic, style, or genre, because writing encompasses a variety and practicing the variety only makes me a stronger writer. I may feel like writing about something funny or frustrated from the day, or I may want to describe a scene or situation I’ve experienced. Perhaps I’ll want to write it in the form of a poem, or short essay, or even as a journal entry. The point is having the freedom to write.

Whichever the case may be, blogging is a way for me to practice my craft, and perhaps meet a few people who feel the way I do along the way. Sit back, enjoy, and please feel free to comment.

~ Theresa