I love you, Mrs. Green

Sitting in the yellow molded-plastic chair in the new classroom at the start of a new school year in a new school, the skinny girl with a pale complexion leaned forward in expectation and apprehension. Delicate shoulders squared, hands clasped together on top of the desk, her serious brown eyes surveyed the room. None of the other kids had talked to her yet.

The bell announcing the start of Frankie’s third grade year pealed through the school.

There were about twenty children in the class and some were obviously well-acquainted with each other.  Frankie heard some of the girls giggling and sharing stories about summer camps and family vacations.  Some of the boys were goofing off and doing gross things that boys do – belching, picking at body parts (their own) and saying words they thought were “dirty” but which really weren’t.  The big round clock on the wall with the audibly moving hands clicked to 8:04 a.m.  The kids all started looking around the room, craning their necks to see the door.  Where was the teacher?  The room became unnaturally quiet for a space full of 8- and 9-year-olds.

Then, with a whoosh and a squeaking of rubber-soled shoes on the floor, in walked a lovely young woman with long hair the color of straw, a light blue skirt and a blouse with so many flowers in the design Frankie looked at the floor expecting to see petals scattered there.  The woman’s arms were full of boxes; her slender frame in danger of breaking under the load.  She made her way carefully down a row of seats and set her burden heavily on the floor next to the teacher’s desk.  “Good morning!  I’m Mrs. Green and I’m the new third grade teacher.” she said with a smile that would have lit up the entire room were a sudden and total solar eclipse to have occurred.

The students stared at her with a mix of enchantment, skepticism and… hope!  The previous third grade teacher, by all accounts, had been a real sourpuss and all the kids, when they managed to think about school at all over the summer, had had varying degrees of anxiety about what third grade was going to be like. This smiling, pretty woman in front of the class left Frankie with the feeling you get when you think the M&M bag is empty and then realize there is still candy left inside.

Third grade was a swirl of joy, anxiety and revelation for Frankie.  Mrs. Green was a voracious reader and introduced the class to new worlds compliments of E.B. White, Ray Bradbury, Roald Dahl, Madeline L’Engle, etc… When she wasn’t reading to them, she was encouraging her students to explore the characters brought to life by these ingenious creators or, better yet, to generate their own.  Mrs. Green acted as though each child in her class was someone special and capable, and the whole class seemed to meet her expectation – with a couple of notable exceptions.  She was funny, sweet, challenging, thoughtful and a fierce proponent of her kids avoiding dullard status.

Frankie would sit in class and marvel at the energy and enthusiasm her teacher exhibited.  Even in the midst of flurries of silliness sprinkled with idiocy among her charges, she would forge ahead with her lesson plan, a disarming grin on her face, and get the class moving in the right direction.  Field trips, library visits, spelling bees and reading competitions punctuated third grade and inspired the class to strive for and accomplish more than was expected.

At the end of the school year, Frankie’s head was overfull of imaginings and possibilities.  She woke up one summer morning before her fourth-grade year started and looked out at the lemony yellow sun beginning it’s daily climb. She made her way silently down the stairs and out the back door, hopped on her bike and rode through the cool, quiet neighborhood before most of the neighbors or even her family were awake. There was a glorious sense of anticipation in her chest – why, anything could happen! She felt, for all the world, like Douglas Spaulding, in the opening chapter of “Dandelion Wine”, commanding the world to wake up and come alive.

(For many years I’ve wanted to express my gratitude to Mrs. Green for making such a positive difference in my life.  This post is hardly adequate, but it’s a start.   I love you, Mrs. Green! Wherever you are, thank you!)

~ This post was originally published on 1/15/2011 on Blipfillypicklepoo.blogspot.com and was edited for this publication.

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It was a dark and stormy night…

(Originally posted on Blipfillypicklepoo.blogspot.com on 12/11/2010 – edited for this posting)

LucyandSnoopy

                                                  Charles Schulz

The winds shrieked like a woman who has just learned her beloved is a germy cheat. The forecast had called for flurries, but looking at the white-out conditions from the dining room window, she was pretty sure someone on the “storm team” should be fired – or worse.  It felt decadent to be so cozy and warm, snuggled into the too-big sweater that was pulled out for all manner of occasions calling for comfort – feeling punky, getting over a heartbreak, not wanting to pay the gas bill for frivolously turning the thermostat to 68 degrees.  The slipper socks with the faux leather soles purchased at Kohl’s were a nod to her mother who used to knit slipper-socks rather like them for her to wear in cold weather. Sipping  a cup of hot cocoa  she looked around the dining room – at the papers scattered across the table, bills, to-do lists, requests for donations to find a cure for cancer, feed the hungry, stop violence, run crooked politicians out of office, etc….  Did anything ever really get done?  No matter how much she tried to keep this all in check, it seemed to multiply two-fold for each thing she actually got done.  Very discouraging.  She picked up one of the marshmallows sitting next to the cup of hot cocoa and popped it in her mouth.

A sharp rap on the front door brought her out the chair she was sitting in at the end of the table – one of the chair arms bit into her thigh as she moved toward the door.  She couldn’t imagine who it could be at this hour. She glanced up at the wall clock and saw it was only 7:30 p.m.  Reaching for the door handle, she was startled by a second hard rap on the door. She stepped back from the door, absentmindedly rubbing the sore spot on her leg.  There were windows in the door with glass that let in the light but distorted the view of what or who was on either side of it.  She hadn’t turned on the porch light when it started getting dark, but she could see there was someone or something very large standing on the other side.  The third knock was hard enough to rattle the glass and she finally just grabbed the doorknob and pulled open the door to find a large man holding a shovel and looking cold and miserable.

He looked a bit comical wrapped up like the mummy against the weather. “Can I …. ?” She could almost see the words being ripped out of the air by the punishing gusts of wind.  Huh?  “Can I shovel your walk?’ he said gruffly looking a little annoyed.  Is he kidding?  The blizzard was keeping most of the snow pressed nicely against the side of her house, the side of the car, the sides of everything.  The walk was surprisingly clear. The cold was cutting through her sweater and she wanted to slam the door to keep the house at it’s normal constant 64 degrees.  What was this guy thinking?  She started to say “Thanks, but no” when she noticed that in the space of time she had taken to determine she didn’t need this guys services, he had adjusted his stance and was now poised, shovel over his head appearing to look straight through her.  She yelped a pathetic sound and ducked, at the same time trying to shove the door closed with her slipper-shod foot, as she saw him begin to bring  the shovel down rapidly toward her head.  There was a thunderous sound as the shovel hit it’s mark….

She jumped almost out of her skin as the shovel crashed down on a spot just to the left of where she was standing. She tried to swear at the mummy man, but it was hard to get even a word past her pounding heart currently lodged in her throat.  On the floor, under the blade of the shovel, was a small, spreading pool of what looked like blood – very grisly.  Looking up the handle of the shovel, up past the big hands that held it and the arms the hands were attached to, she locked eyes with the would-be sidewalk clearer. He looked expectant – perhaps waiting for a thank you.  With comically raised eyebrows she asked, without words, what the heck had just happened.  He raised the shovel off the floor and dunked it into the snow at the side of the porch.

Just inside the door there was now a puddle of goo and unidentifiable material.  What was it?  The man no longer appeared menacing and was standing looking at the floor too.  Her lips pulled back in disgust, she slowly bent down to get a better look.  Her knees crackled as she got down to a squat and she had to put a hand on the door jamb to steady herself.  Peering at the floor she suddenly burst out laughing.   The victim of the shovel attack was the toy she had bought for her cat a while back.  It was a big rat on wheels – wheels hidden so that when the thing moved across the floor it had an eerie life-like quality.  It had scared the cat and he would only deign the interact with it long enough to knock it away from him – which he must have done tonight in the midst of the goings on at the front door, sending the toy boldly into the line of fire and to it’s doom. The unexpected guest at her door had acted the hero.

Now looking at the carnage, she became aware that the still spreading puddle was some sort of dark, thickish fluid filling in the toy that made it all soft and rodenty  She laughed again. Her laughter appeared to have an impact on the man on the porch.  He looked perturbed and unappreciated.  She stood up, crackling and popping,  explained her mirth and thanked him for his gallantry.  His face, previously pinched with irritation, broke into a warm smile and he let out a great gust of laughter that was quickly cut off by another intense blast of wintry air. After a moment’s consideration, she invited him to step inside for a cup of hot cocoa and to warm up a bit before continuing his evening.  He accepted and as she started toward the kitchen to get something to clean up the mess, she rubbed the sore spot on her thigh, turned briefly and said, “Leave the shovel outside!”

Posting posts previously posted …

editorrejection

Recently I have been reading some of the writing on my other/older blog.  Much of it is years old and I have not gone back to it unless someone calls my attention to an error in spelling/grammar or a formatting issue.  The words seem fresh and enough removed from me that I read without the shrill inner critic ruining the moment.  It’s a pleasant shock to read stuff that came out of my thick old skull… and like it  find that it makes me laugh/sigh/wonder without that nattering voice in my remarking about what I “should have” written/said/thought.

Editing becomes a cleaner, less personal matter.  I don’t feel I’m losing a limb if I boldly excise extraneous words.  Leaving things to sit for a while gives the “statue hiding in the block of marble” a chance to take form (to severely overstate the importance of my “art”). It is fun to re-visit these previously posted posts, re-work some things and post them again… here!  It’s not that I believe my writing is brilliant or even interesting (to anyone other than me); time has gentled my eyes to what is me – to what is my own – and that is a very good thing.

 

 

 

My computer is listening to me…

(originally posted on Blipfillypicklepoo.blogspot.com on 12/4/2010 – edited for this posting)

Snoopy 9

Snoopy by Charles Schulz

Imagine my surprise the other day to find out that my computer has a speech recognition software program on it.  I was deep into making excuses to my writing coach about how it would be easier for me to write if I could just say the things I wanted to say and have someone/something take down the words so that I could edit them later.  In the midst of this brilliant excuse for not being able to write, the coach tells me to type “speech recognition” into the search bar on the start menu of the computer.  Lo and behold, up pops proof that my last lame excuse for not writing has just been blown out of the water.  It turns out this type of software is a standard part of Windows Vista.

I cautiously clicked the link to open the program and was greeted with an option to enable it.  I did.  The software assured me that before I could do anything of any consequence with this program,  I would need to have a microphone, preferably a headset for “proper boom positioning”.  After a series of clicks and whatnot, I was directed to a tutorial that would teach me how to operate the program so that I could become the writer I had always told people I was.  There was much info about how to train my computer to listen to me, recognize the peculiarities of my speech patterns and even anticipate what I might have meant to say when it couldn’t understand me.  At the end of the tutorial, an ominous message blinked letting me know that it was important to be aware of the settings for the program.  If I was not careful, the computer would “listen to everything” I said.  Holy cow!  I wasn’t too concerned about this because I didn’t even have a mic yet.

So while I was laughing with my coach and trying desperately to come up with some other reason I couldn’t possibly write, I heard a “blip” – I looked over at the computer and there, at the top of the screen, was a little dialogue box with a message…”Listening….”  EEP.  I think I might have screamed or at least gurgled in shock. That’s when I found out that the computer also comes equipped with a mic.  Probably not as sensitive as the headset-type mic with “proper boom positioning” but sensitive enough apparently.

We figured out how to put the computer to sleep (ostensibly it could not listen to me while it was sleeping) and then I whispered to my coach… “I think to make is start listening, I have to say (tone lower still) ‘start listening’.”  “Blip” …. again with the little message at the top of the computer screen “Listening….”.  Terrifying.

That’s a pretty good mic!

I spent the next couple of hours training my computer to the quirks of my voice/speech patterns and messed around with using voice commands to open and navigate within a variety of applications/programs.  It was very cool and before I went to bed, I made sure the computer wasn’t just sleeping but was off.

Then, today, I started writing.

Several hours later, I disabled the speech recognition software.