Wednesday, August 26, 2015

It leaches, Part One

eople with anxiety fixate. Usually, there's some blob in their life they will choose to focus on, and even if it's not really stressful, they will use up all of their being to focus on said blob. All the synapses in their brains hem and haw over it, pulling this way and that. It becomes the only thing they can think about, and it leaches.

And like a leach, it drains.

Just recently I got to experience the fixation of worry over my Volkswagen Beetle (again). Any normal person may have just been annoyed with the dealings of a car, but not me.

I fixated. And shut down. Concentrating at work became almost impossible. When I found myself easing into the day and not worrying, I would stiffen up, and realize I wasn't thinking about the thing and begin thinking about only the thing!

You would assume that I would be over the moon about driving a Beetle, and most of the time, I am. Three years ago, however, the Beetle's 'check engine' light lit up and like any normal car owner, I took it to our mechanic.  He said to do away with the car -- shun! Be gone, you!

"Once you fix what's wrong, it'll be a domino effect," he said. Who knows what would happen next if we fixed the engine, but it couldn't be good.

But, instead of trading it in and getting money, I let sit at my in-laws for a while, and then at my parents for the rest of the time.

How much time?

Almost three years.

The Beetle is/was my dream car. When they came back into production back in 1998, I knew I wanted one as a junior in high school and hoped they would remain popular so I could eventually buy one.

I made a rash decision when I became an official adult with a job to buy one off the lot -- well, not quite off the lot because the one I wanted needed to be shipped in. So, off someone else's lot.

Not one of my finest moments, especially since I was just about to get married, just about to buy a house, and my soon-to-be wife was just about to enter her doctoral program.

I didn't think about long-term expenses.

The car has gone through much in our tenure together -- the biggest was the truck tire (we had no choice, it was right in the middle of the highway, and we were surrounded by traffic) we ran over.

That tire ripped apart the Beetle. We were lucky we didn't die in traffic. I steered the car off a close-by ramp:  the brakes were shot, the steering, locked, and we rolled through the grass, which slowed us down. We got out to assess the damage: flat tires, the front of the car was lop-sided, purple liquid sprayed all over the sides of the car, etc. The truck tire murdered my Beetle.

It was totaled, but, our insurance company didn't think so. It was still too new, so instead of paying off the car and getting rid of it, they had it repaired.

And my best friends worst enemies at Tom Wood Volkswagen were the ones that got to repair it.

Yippy. Skippy.

I was without that car for a long time. Three weeks? 64 months? Who can remember the time frame. What I do remember is the giant asterisk floating next to the car when I finally went to pick it up.

*I will never be the same again. Your insurance company should've just considered me totaled and called it a day. Instead, I'm going to cause you all kinds of trouble. You and me? We're going to be friends. Best friends.

It looked at me like the crazy roommate from a dorm room horror movies.

When I drove it home the first time, it started to shake when I reached anything over 50 mph. This was not normal, so I took at it back to Tom Wood the Devil. The next day, he told me it was a bent wheel -- so insurance covered a new wheel and tire.

I picked it up again, and as I hit 50 mph on my way home, guess what happened?

That's right! It was still shaking.

I took it back again, and they the Devil found a small crack in the suspension somewhere. Once that was fixed, I got to go back and pick up the car again. This time, the steering wheel wasn't centered. It was cock-eyed. Instead of saying anything, I was over it. I drove it home.

A few days later, a light on the dash board came on.

I took it back and told them the steering wheel wasn't right.

They had the car for a week after I spoke to them. At some point in all of this, I was sitting with one of the customer service reps Imps -- you know the kind, they only where golf polo shirts, pleated khakis, where white sneakers, and deal with customers like we're all idiots.

I tapped the desk gently as an eerie calm swept over me. "I am tired of playing these games," I hissed, my voice low. "You will take care of this, and I will get a rental car from you."

Or something like that. The room shifted. There was a moment of frost in the air. My pupils dilated, eclipsing my irises.

And yes, it was all finally taken care of after four completely different trips to Tom Wood.

When I picked up the Beetle, sitting in the back seat was a giant slab of anxiety, buckled in, ready for a ride. After all of that utter nonsense, dealing with Tom Wood became synonymous with anxiety. Driving into the lot was enough to bring out a panic attack.

And since it was a brand new car, I had to deal with the warranty. I was afraid to have any other mechanic touch the car in fear I would void the warranty. Tom Wood did every oil change for almost five years, and I swear, practically every time I went in for the oil change (after the truck tire accident), they would come get me while I sat in the lounge and tell me about more problems the Beetle had.

It was never just an oil change.

It was ridonkulous.

"There's a penguin lodged in the engine. We need to fix it for $300."

"But, I just came for an oil change. I don't have $300."

"You'll die if you don't fix it."

Then: "Oh, and we also just found out that your car has a tumor. It's benign, but it needs to be removed."

Every. Single. Time.

I tell you this prequel because, as much as I loved the Beetle, it has always come with its share of worry and frustration.

This is probably why the car sat for almost three years. Years of anxiety from Tom Wood created a nasty residue in my dealings with the car. Get rid of the car? I would just rather not deal with it.

And so it sat.

And sat.

I did not remain car-less, however. I inherited my grandfather's Ford Taurus station wagon. It was a band-aid. It got the job done, and so the Beetle was "out of sight, out of mind." Until this past spring and summer. The Taurus began to give me some trouble. To my chagrin, the engine was throwing oil on the alternator.

He suggested a better drive-able car before the 2015-2016 school year. Since we still had the Beetle in our lives, we decided a good option was to see if we could go ahead and fix it. It had to cost less than buying a used car. Had to.

As a teacher, I had all summer to deal with the Beetle and get it fixed.

I waited until my last week of summer.

If that doesn't say "procrastination," I don't know what does. It's the journalist in me. I work better under pressure with a fierce deadline.

Since I had the entire summer, I ignored it for a few weeks, and then, when I knew I couldn't ignore it any longer, it leached onto me. With nothing more to worry about, my anxiety began to creep in and take over. This project, fixing my car, became a cavernous mouth that yawned before me. If I dared enter, I would not come back out.

To deal with the car meant one thing: the unknown.

In my dreams, a Tom Wood worker would come out of the corn fields, stop me, and tell me the ball bearings needed to be replaced. In another dream, as I was buying milk, the head of a Tom Wood worker was in the cooler, and oil was coming out of his mouth. He spat black spittle my way, warning me, "The car will never be fixed! There will always be something else. Always."

Any normal person would've just called a tow truck to take it to a shop to see what really was wrong with it. Not I.

I wanted to wait.

And in doing so, it turned into anxiety. I had every right to feel that way, though, because getting the car repaired and drive-able also came with it's fair share of trauma.

Something inside me must've known. Two weeks later would find me curled up in the fetal position, feeling the same way I did about dealing with Tom Wood.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

"The Marvelous Land of Oz" by L. Frank Baum

Boy did I choose the right time to read this book this summer. With transgender studies heavy in the media this season from the reveal of Caitlyn Jenner, I didn't realize that L. Frank Baum was so ahead of his time in 1904.

To become familiar with the various Oz books, I've done my middle school reader analysis by looking at all the covers and titles of the Oz books. I've learned the different titles and characters involved in each, and the name that has always returned to my Oz vernacular is the character Ozma, the princess of Oz.

I just had no clue that she was a he in the "Marvelous Land of Oz."

Seriously. Just when I thought "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" was a child's fever dream, Baum throws us another curve ball.

That curve ball is Tip, a boy that's trying to run away from some old witch that owns him.

Yes. He's a slave. Owned by a witch.

And he has no idea that he's actually Ozma.

Transgender studies and slavery? Where are the academic literature papers?

The witch's name is Mombi, and she is far worse than the Wicked Witch of the West. You have to remember, the WWoW had just one eye in the "Wonderful Wizard of Oz" and was barely even in that book. Sure, she had a hat that controlled the flying monkeys, but that was about it.

Mombi? She had spells and magic and evil all up in her sleeves just waiting to curse and destroy. I'm assuming a former lover had left her, and she just never recovered (maybe that former lover was the infamous Wizard?).

There ain't going to be no prequel musical about Mombi, folks.

I'm sorry.

Sadly, no house or otherworldly presence demolishes Mombi. Instead, she goes off to meet up with some accomplished magician to purchase some new spells. Or steal them. Or date said magician. In the end notes, it did mention how she used the Tinder app on her phone.

This leaves Tip alone to build a man out of wood with a pumpkin head to scare Mombi when she returns from her rendezvous with her boy toy the accomplished magician. The dummy frightens her for a moment, but she decides she'll just kill Tip.

Talk about a short fuse.

But she's dumb. She actually tells Tip that she's going to do away with him, but she'll just wait until the morning. Her back hurt, or something. This gives him ample time to escape, steal some magic powder, make the pumpkin dummy come to life, make a saw horse come to life, and here I am just giving you a play-by-play.

The "Marvelous Land of Oz" is easier to swallow than the first. Familiar characters like the Tinman, the Scarecrow, and Glinda all play important roles in the book. Although Tip escaping starts the book off, we find the true plot to be the Scarecrow reclaiming his throne to the Emerald City (yup, he's king) from a bunch of bratty girls who overtook the city with knitting needles.

More inanimate objects come to life with the help of that powder, and the motley crew scurries to Glinda and asks for help in reclaiming the throne. By the end of the book, we realize the bratty girl that took over the Emerald City nor the Scarecrow are the rightful owners of the thrown.

It belongs to a girl named Ozma.

She disappeared eons ago, and no one has ever found her. It was one of the most popular episodes of "Unsolved Mysteries."

Narrated by Robert Stack, we learn that the "wonderful wizard" had Mombi get rid of Ozma.

Wow, Mr. Wizard. Just. Wow.

Mombi does have some kind of heart because instead of killing Ozma, she just turned her into a boy named Tip. While Mombi is trapped by Glinda, she is forced to transform Tip back into Ozma.

And with that, the rightful ruler of Oz has now retained her throne. She was simply a he.

We'll see what happens in the third installment, "The Mean Girls of Oz," when Dorothy and Ozma, the two most popular girls of Oz, finally meet.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Live-Tweeting today's storms

We obviously have not enjoyed this summer as much as other summers (in Indiana), am I right? That is, unless you've gone on a ton of vacations. As we wade through another day rained-in, this time with the threat of terrible storms, I'm just joining the masses on Twitter. Just like water through a storm drain, these are the posts of my day:

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Liveblogging Event: Labyrinth

It's time to sit down and dissect one of my all-time favorite childhood movies: Jim Henson's "Labyrinth." Although this movie was a bomb in the box office, it has established a cult following that would've made Mr. Henson proud. 

I'm a little worried for my mood, though. It's already a gloomy day, and although Jim Henson's name is all over this film, it is a far cry from any of the Muppet movies. 

In celebration of San Diego Comic Con where everyone dresses up as characters and strut their nonsense all over the place, I thought I would celebrate at home with the viewing of this movie that has it's own cult following. 

We begin with our white pegasus jumping over the Tri Star Pictures triangle. I need to ask my mom if I have ever seen a Tri Star Picture in the movie theater. It's been ages since I've seen that beautiful horse jump over words. We need more horses jumping over words.

For those of you tuning in without any knowledge of "Labyrinth," let me give you a short plot synopsis so you don't think I'm too crazy. 

Jennifer Connelly is a bratty teenager asked to babysit her little baby brother. Instead of being somewhat responsible, she's nerd-tastically absorbed into some book or play about a Goblin King at the park. Like, the minute she gets home from acting it out in the park (late because she's supposed to baby sit) she yells at her stepmom, who has done nothing wrong, and runs up to her room to stare at her eyebrows in the mirror, with a paper crown on her head, continuing to recite lines. 

It's like, go to San Diego Comic Con, already.

Am I right? 

She wishes her baby brother away using lines from her Goblin King novel, and wallah! Her baby brother is gone, and she has to confront David Bowie (the Goblin King) to get him back.

Oh, and she and David are the only actual humans on screen -- the rest of them are puppets. 

And, go!

The nasty babysitter summons the Goblin King to take her brother away

SHUT UP! Do the credits actually include a CGI owl? It's bad CGI ala "Tron," and David Bowie is belting it out like it's his job. As he should. I mean, he wrote the songs.

Yes, there are songs

I can't wait for the karaoke addition to come out (complete with a David Bowie head bouncing over all the words).

We start off with Jennifer Connelly quoting some book in her hand.

"I have fought my way to you, beyond the Goblin City," she quoteths, all eyebrows and LARP (for you non-nerds out there, that stands for Live-Action Role Playing). 

She's late and runs home in the rain as David Bowie serenades us. He sings out how it "hurts like hell!" Whaa? Isn't this a kids movie? Shouldn't you sing something like, "It hurts real bad!" or "Ouch my boo boo!" ?

Cut to: Jennifer Connelly thrashing about her room, yelling about her "stolen" teddy bear named Lancelot. I think she's got bigger issues if she's 17 and crying over her teddy bear. She runs to the baby's room, yells at him about how much she hates him (because he has the bear) and begins to tell him the story about goblins and how they're going to take him! 

And the babysitter award goes to...!

Cut to: Puppet goblins gasp because they're listening to her tell the story. They're biding their time, waiting for her to say the right words. They want to take the baby. It would be scary, but the goblins are kind of cute.

"Awww, let me pinch your cheeks."

Swats at me, "Stop it! We're about to steal a baby!"

Cut to: Jennifer can't get her baby brother to stop crying. She's tried every horror story. First, there was the goblins, but then she unleashed Jason and his machete, but that didn't work. After that, she told the story of Freddie Krueger. She started to tell him the story of "Poltergeist," but the TV scene freaked even her out, so she starts to wish: "Goblin King! Goblin King! Take this baby away from me!" 

Let's stop here and ask a question. Which character from the "Babysitters Club" is she? She's definitely not Dawn.

She's horrible. No wonder the baby is sobbing. 

They must have a mutual hatred for each other. 

Just so you know, there's intense music, lightning, thunder and rain pounding on the window which lets you know that her hateful wish is about to come true. 

She dramatically runs to the crib. The baby is missing! 

Then, there's an owl fluttering at the window, similar to the CGI owl in the opening credits, but this one looks real, or at least, puppety. The windows flutter open and the grandest entrance of all time happens: The Goblin King David Bowie!

Stop listening to his album "Tonight" and pay attention. He looks dashing in his mullet and cape. 

And is that eyeliner on his eyebrows? He's New Wave to the max!

He's all: "Forget about the baby," while he juggles three crystal balls. He's real smarmy right now, stealing babies and hitting on teenage girls. "Go back and play with your toys and costumes. But first, you must admire my eyebrows, my mullet and my leather tights."

Then they teleport to the labyrinth.

Jennifer begins her journey

The Goblin King David Bowie pulls a clock out of the tree once they've landed and tells Jennifer, "You've got thirteen hours to get your baby brother. After that, the adoption is finalized." 

"I started this," Jennifer whispers. "I will end it."  

Jennifer is all proud right now. 

"Come on feet," she declares. She skips up to the entrance of the labyrinth when she stumbles upon an ugly puppet peeing in a pool of water. His name is Hoggle, and he has bug spray that kills fairies. 

I'm being so serious right now. 

Hoggle reminds me of the grouchiest Billy Bob Thorton. 

Jennifer's now in the labyrinth while a drum machine and a bass guitar thrum. There's nasty vines, plants with eyes, and uneven ground in the labyrinth. She believes that there's no bend in the maze, and then, vest and XL button-down shirt billowing, she begins to run. "Maybe I'm not looking at it right, or whatever," she says. She gets nowhere because she's being a total brat again and kicks the wall. 

"I'm totally spazzing!"

As she catches her breath from the 50 meter dash, she meets a talking worm. He's very British and has fuzzy blue hair. He probably teaches culture classes at Worm Labyrinth College. He seems professorial. As of now, he's trying to convince her to have tea with him and his missus, but she's all "stranger, danger." He's not so much of a danger, though, and gives her a tip to start her journey through the labyrinth: just walk through the wall. 


But then they have a "Who's On First" moment with the world that

"Just go that way," he says.

"That way?" she asks.

"No, that way." 

And when she leaves, he says, "She should've gone that way, it would've led her straight to the castle." 

But then we wouldn't have a movie, right Blue Hair?

Cut to: Baby Brother Toby is crying as synth-drums tells us a song is coming. At first you think he's crying at the goblins laughing and trolling all around him, but then you see David Bowie with his high-waisted, tight trousers and a billowy pirate shirt. It's massively unbuttoned, and he's wearing a huge necklace. 

I would cry, too.

Oh, it's time for another song! "Dance, magic, dance!" he sings. Here's a sampling of lyrics so when you go to karaoke, you're ready:

"Put that magic jump on me/Slap that baby make him free." 

It reminds me of a saying I heard down south: "Hoo-wee, shut your mouth. Slap your grandma!"

Jennifer continues her journey through the labyrinth, makes friends

Let's just go back to Jennifer and her trials in the labyrinth. 

She's currently lost. She problem-solved and used lipstick to draw arrows on the ground to keep track, but the maze outwitted her because it wasn't Maybeline. Little people jumped up from under the stones and turned the arrows around. Now she's talking to door keepers that look like dogs without fur suffering from a serious skin condition. 

She's figured out their riddles, goes through a door and falls -- just like Alice, except the tunnel Jennifer falls into is filled with "helping" hands that grab on to her. 

That tunnel is a sexual harassment lawsuit just waiting to happen.

They form faces to talk and hit on her. They're very handsy. 

"Let me go!" she cries, and of course, they do. 

When she lands, Hoggle is down at the bottom. Don't worry, though, he's not peeing this time. She coaxes him to help her by giving him jewelry. 

Too bad he doesn't know the bracelet is plastic and from Claire's. 

At least she has a friend, now. 

Jennifer keeps calling Hoggle, "Hogwart." 

Hmm... I wonder if that's where Ms. Rowling came up with that famous school's name. 

Favorite part alert: Underneath the labyrinth, where they are, are giant faces in the walls called "false alarms" that are telling them they're going the wrong way, that there's terror around every corner, and that they should just give up. Hoggle keeps telling them to shut up. One of them is sad and wants to finish his line.

"Fine then," Hoggle says, "but don't expect a big response." 

"Oh, no, of course not," the face says, demurely. Then voice booms: "You'll never get out alive!" 

It's all very Macbeth. 

Uh-oh, David Bowie Alert! He's here to pester Jennifer.

"This is cinchy!" she says, all proud, puffing up her chest. "I'll be picking up my brother in just a few hours." 

"Well, if that's the case," Bowie says, and pulls another clock out of thin air, skipping ahead a few hours.

"Hey! No fair!" Jennifer cries, but whatever. She learns in a few scenes that fair isn't always equal. 

Let's introduce a new character, shall we? A trip through a labyrinth isn't complete without a ragtag team of misfits.

Jennifer finds a giant-horned-yeti-gorilla-bear that's upside down being attacked by helmeted goblins with naked chihuahua's on sticks. The chihuahuas are biting the giant-horned-yeti-gorilla-bear, but Jennifer is really good at throwing rocks. 

Aaaaand, the giant-horned-yeti-gorilla-bear is saved. We'll call him Ludo, pronounced Loo-Dough. Now that we're all friends, let's continue our journey. Come on, Jennifer, get a move on. This movie moves slower than I remember. It needs more David Bowie and synth. 

At this point Hogwart, I mean Hoggle, has abandoned Jennifer and Ludo. She gets into a spot of trouble, and he yells out that he's coming for her. As he turns around, guess who's there?

The Goblin King David Bowie! In this scene, he looks like Avril Lavigne. 

Random scene alert! Jennifer is getting sidetracked by a bunch of singing, dancing puppets. They're a mix between the following: foxes, cats, vultures, Donald Trump, witches, and NSync. Their heads can come off, so she's throwing them.

The Bog of Eternal Stench, or Jim Henson's scene of fart jokes galore

I need to backtrack. As we know, The Goblin King David Bowie is not making Jennifer Connelly's journey easy. He keeps making threats about some Bog of Eternal Stench. When Hoggle hears this, he clutches his pearls. The Bog of Eternal Stench is worse than being unpopular! 

Well, since misfortune is at every turn, Hoggle and Jennifer (Ludo is MIA) slide down through the stone version of a McDonald's Play Place, and when they come out the bottom, Hoggle grabs a stick and holds on. Jennifer almost goes down too, but, whew, they save themselves. Later, they fall off the ledge and land on Ludo. 

They look down to see numerous buttholes puckering and spitting up juices. 

This must be the Bog of Eternal Stench everyone's been talking about.

We get it, Jim Henson. It smells, but did you really need to concoct a bunch of sputtering buttholes to drive your point home. 

As we survive the fart joke that is the Bog of Eternal Stench, we come across a chipper and brave small fox puppet that takes a deep breath and says he smells nothing. Jennifer, Ludo and Hoggle gain a new friend -- Didymus. He rides a shaggy white dog. 

Oh, no! Jennifer's in danger. She's hanging onto a tree, her feet dangle over the diarrhea pond. What's a girl to do? 

Easy, have her giant-horned-yeti-gorilla-bear call on the rocks to save her. They come bubbling out of the bog, and with every step, a fart. 

This land must've been thought up by Jim Henson's son. 

"Hey, son, what kind of land should I have in my new movie?" Jim asks. 

"Farts! Poop! A pond of Diarrhea! Sputtering buttholes!"

"Sounds legit!" 

Enough of this scene, let's move on. I sense a musical number coming on. Can you feel it? 

Let's just get on with this movie already

Apparently, The Goblin King David Bowie gave Hoggle a rufie peach that he is supposed to give to Jennifer to eat. This is all too college party for my taste. 

Jennifer takes a bite of the peach, and she's transported to some dream world. Everyone's wearing masks, and sporting Victorian fantasy hair. Jennifer walks around the room, about ready to Vogue, when her eyes meet The Goblin King David Bowie's eyes. Is it love at first sight? Did he pull up in a van? Is it a dream? 

It is a dream! She was drugged, or it was a spell, or something. It looks like she was stuck in one of his crystal balls. It broke, and she woke up in a junkyard.

But, did she get there?

Let's move on. This movie is beginning to feel thirteen hours long. The Goblin King David Bowie didn't take time away, he added it. Soon, I'll be stuck at some strange party wearing tight pants, donning a mask, sporting a mullet, and singing with David Bowie. 

Wait, the junkyard is a good thing! We made it! We're outside the Goblin City! Google Maps was right! 

All we have to do is walk down this street to get to The Goblin King David Bowie and...wait, what is that? A wall of machine parts just closed and a giant sentinel stepped out of it with an axe that would make Thor jealous. Hoggle takes some time away from peeing in a pool to jump on the giant, kicks off its head to find a goblin driving it, and throws him out. Hoggle can't drive it. It starts steaming, and he jumps out.

"I just drove my Goblin Sentinel out of the lot and got into an accident. My insurance company says it's depreciated. How can my Goblin Sentinel depreciate before its first oil change?"

Those Rabble Rousers made it too far. The Goblin King David Bowie has sent his goblins to stop them. I hope the fight scene doesn't last as long as the one in "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King." I actually fell asleep during the "Return of the King" battle, woke up rested, and the battle was still happening. The one major difference between these two battles? 


"Lord of the Rings" didn't have enough 80s synthesizer in it. Peter Jackson should've taken a lesson from Jim Henson.

Just when the battle looks grim, Ludo uses his super power to command the rocks to come and help.

Let's move on. We get it, puppets, you should be on American Ninja Warrior, but we've got a baby to rescue and a final David Bowie song to hear.

The climactic Jennifer versus The Goblin King David Bowie:

She's about to rescue her brother, but The Goblin King David Bowie is trying to persuade her to stay? To be his betrothed? To have a picnic? I have no clue what's happening. She just begins to sputter more LARP at The Goblin King David Bowie, and it seems to be working. He backs up, threatened.

"I took acting classes!" she says. "You didn't!"

The scenery is all falling down in piles of cloth, delicately fluttering to the floor like 80s pop trash. I guess this is the end of the movie?

It's missing just one thing: A shirtless Prince rolling around the floor on sheet music.

Just kidding.

It ends with a dance party with all the puppets from the labyrinth in Jennifer's room.

Best. Slumber Party. Ever.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

One wet and not wild summer

It was one of those days when we decided to grocery shop.

In the rain.

And it came on fast and furious.

After we rescued the groceries from the car, getting wet by doing it, we looked out the window to realize the downpours were never going to stop. We live on a main road, so in the winter, it's always plowed, but in the summer, well, you can't plow rain.

Unless you attached an enormous squeegee to the front of a truck.

Our house sits lowest around the houses on our street, so we've got two storm drains -- one in the driveway and one in the yard. We watched from the windows as the rain continued, and after looking at different radars, it wasn't going to stop. Not for over an hour.

And more was on the way after this current round.

This isn't normally a problem, but all the storm drains on the street, and the ones in our front yard, weren't working.

The water wasn't going anywhere.

We opened the garage door, armed with umbrellas, and watched as the water crept closer and closer to our house. I began to fear the water. It was too close to the garage.

We moved our cars, and I pulled up my Taurus station wagon, since it sits lower, so the bottom of it wouldn't get wet.

Small bouts of thunder and lightning still pounded and flickered in the sky. We had to do something. I changed into clothes that I did not care out (I should've just changed into a bathing suit), I waded out into the driveway in my trusty Crocs, and found that debris covered both of the grates. At this point, standing water was in the front yard and in our neighbor's front yard.

I didn't even bother with an umbrella, and as rain tapped me like a million poking fingers, it soaked me through. I knelt in the water and scooped up all the grass and whirlygigs (from our Silver Maples) and threw them out in the street. I stuck my hand across the grate, but I still felt no suction. After a while, I manned the grate in the yard, while Steph took care of the grate in the driveway, and although we kept scooping and throwing all the wet crud out into the street, there was only a small amount of suction.

It wasn't just the debris causing the flooding, there was just too much water.

At this point, the water was half-way up my calves. When I knelt down in it, to check out the grates, my rear end was fully immersed.

Meanwhile, our neighbors came out of their house to watch.

Wading through the water, me soaked, and Steph with her vivid umbrella, they got their own Cirque Du Soleil performance.

Then, the Lady Neighbor started taking pictures.

I don't think they were of us, but I've got a feeling, if she wanted to get a shot of the entire scene, without trying, we were definitely in the shots.

And the rain continued to fall.

I felt very Bill Paxton to Steph's Helen Hunt.

We took a break to see how bad it was in the backyard. There was standing water in the "back forty" where Nigra goes Number Two, creating our very own cesspool. And if that wasn't bad enough, the cesspool took it's yucky fingers and moved mulch from one side of the yard to the other.

We returned to the front yard, and thankfully, the rain did start to slow down. All the drains finally caught up, and when we placed our hands over the grates, we felt the pull of the water going down. With all my being, I pushed my soul up to the sky and willed the clouds to continue the slow drizzle, or even, to stop.

At this point, we each manned a grate, gathering yard sludge, throwing it out to the street.

After an hour outside, doing what we could to combat the flooding, the height of the water started to fall. The drains pulled the water toward them, the rain finally stopped, and we were able to go back inside and throw a pizza in the oven.

The water never made it to the garage, but the weatherman was still on the news -- flash flooding was imminent, he said, and lucky for us, more rain and storms were on the way.

With no rest for the weary, I went out a couple more times throughout the night, making sure the grates were clear. Although there was standing water throughout the evening, the grates and drains were able to keep up with the second and third wave, and I continued to throw brown gunk from the grates into the street.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Liveblogging Event: Independence Day

Every July Fourth, I celebrate the birth of our nation with that crazy summer blockbuster "Independence Day." This movie came out in 1996, and the special effects still hold, but I think the message of this movie is what keeps me coming back: World peace is achievable. It just won't happen until aliens invade.

We start with the dramatic moon shot where the plaque from the July 1, 1969 moon landing sits, unfettered. For now. We pan across the footsteps still pressed into the moon dust. But wait. They're starting to vibrate and shift. 

Cue creepy shadow drifting over the lunar landscape.

Oh, great. It's a gigantic spaceship. It's like, every summer, when we try to get the family together for our annual reunion, some kind of aliens invade. Sadly, this year, it's "Pixels" starring everyone's favorite actor, Adam Sandler. No offense, Hollywood, but I like my aliens scary.

Cut to: bored scientists playing putt-putt while R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" plays on the tape deck.

Remember, this is 1996 -- tape decks still exists. And all the data these scientists are collecting are spooling into piles of tape. Piles and piles of tape. I feel bad for anyone that has been in charge of digitizing anything from the government.

Now, before all the drama starts, we have to be introduced to POTUS Bill Pullman. As he walks down the hall with his people, trying their best to be better than "West Wing."

"They're not attacking your policies, they're attacking your age," Cable Repairman Jeff's wife says. "The message has gotten lost. It's just too much politics, too much compromise."

Oh, Roland Emmerich, look at you try to come up with witty Aaron Sorkin dialogue.

What? Another character? Now, we cut to Jeff Goldblum, cable repairman, playing chess with his cigar-smoking dad in the park. Then, when he gets back to work from his lunch break, all the TV's are a mess, the signal is distorted, the pictures are all fuzzy.

Goldblum must work for Time Warner.

Stop! I can't keep up! Drunken Randy Quaid's been introduced, stumbling like a poor actor out of his red crop duster plane. Remember, everyone, he's going to be the comic relief, in real life and in this movie, rising to be the Comedic Savior in the last few minutes of the movie.

This is going to be impossible to keep up with -- Cable Repairman Jeff has figured something out about the signal the aliens are sending out while the rest of the world is realizing that a TV series in the 2000's called "Falling Skies" is going to take place on TNT, so they're running for the hills.

Uh-oh, we just got our first set of casualties. Let's send a plane toward the spaceship as it enters the atmosphere in a fiery combustion.

File under: What not to do when aliens invade.

And POTUS Bill Pullman tells his workers, "The best thing right now is to have people stay in their homes."

Luckily, later, he changes his mind. Because later, you know...lasers, death...

Cut to spaceships as they continue to enter the atmosphere, centering around big, important buildings in big important cities. Let's just focus on the one entering New York City, for now. People have been running and screaming with their luggage and children, while, of course, the only two people to get out of New York City with ease are Cable Repairman Jeff and his cigar-smoking dad.

I need Cable Repairman Jeff right now to come over and fix our Xfinity wifi. It's been cutting out the entire time I write this. I know he's busy saving the world with his 1996 laptop, but I've got real problems here.

While I fight the wifi, like Will Smith fights the aliens, I almost miss one of the best lines of the movie: "We advise that you don't fire your weapons at the spaceship because you might inadvertently cause an interstellar war."

Uh-oh, we're going to get our next set of casualties. This time, we're going to shine a giant Lite Brite at the spaceships to see if they want to play. Luckily, they do, but the aliens only know how to play Battleship.

So, now we've got Cable Repairman Jeff talking to POTUS Bill Pullman -- you have to remember, in order for a movie to be successful, the only man that can save the world used to be married to a woman that works with POTUS Bill.

"But I don't like Time Warner Cable," POTUS said.

"It's the only way your life will be saved," Cable Repairman Jeff said.

Cut to: all the people standing right under the spaceship's center on top of a building in Los Angeles.

"They're opening up!" screams the annoying red head from "Saved by the Bell: The College Years."

Yay, you, with you're one line in this summer blockbuster movie!

Just kidding, she's got another: "It's so beautiful."

So are jellyfish, Ginger. So. Are. Jellyfish.

As the timer on Cable Repairman Jeff's computers strikes zero, all those "beautiful" blue lights standing above all the major cities go kablewy, which leads to one of the more suspenseful shots during the first one-hundredth of the movie -- the plane POTUS Bill Pullman and his crew are on just barely make it out of the DC area as tongues of fire lick the tail of the plane.

All the while, Cable Repairman Jeff (luckily on the plane, too) has flashbacks during this flight out of hell remembering that one time the T-Rex was chasing his Jeep Wrangler.

I lied, there's another suspenseful scene, this one featuring our very own Indiana-born Vivica A. Fox, best known for her time spent on "Celebrity Apprentice." Of course she makes it to the concrete storage room under the bridge, while the fire from the spaceship's blast eats away L.A., that's not the suspenseful part. It's whether her labrador retriever, Boomer, makes it, too. In a movie with such high stakes, it's not the human actors we care about. It's the animals.

And here endeth Act 1.

Randy Quaid is driving his RV with his step-kids, and he's all proud about how "for ten years, I've been sayin' it!" about them aliens and their heinous attack (he believes he was abducted, figured they'd come back), but the real mystery is Miguel, one of his kids. You see, Miguel's older brother, earlier in the film, was all angry at Randy Quaid about Miguel's medicine and how sick Miguel is. As they drive through the desert, Miguel is drenched in sweat. "Pull over, I don't feel so good," he mutters.

I want to care about Miguel and his strange sickness, but I don't even know what Miguel has. How can I care? Is it diabetes? Is he pretending to be sick from his vaccines?

A sequel to this movie is in the works (dramatic sigh), and I believe that Miguel, as well as his siblings, are aliens that have disguised themselves. Randy Quaid's character believe's he's was abducted about 10 years ago, I believe he truly was abducted.

You see, Randy Quaid married one of the aliens. She and her children were on a stakeout mission, abducted Randy and chose him to keep them safe.

(In a scene that didn't make the final cut of the movie but was put in a re-release, Randy Quaid talks to Miguel about how his mother didn't have the medicine once and she was alright. Something tells me that mother and Miguel, as well as the kids, are aliens and need the medicine to handle Earth's atmosphere.)

The children will have an awakening, soon, because they think they're human right now, but Miguel is the first to break. Years later, the others will, too.

They'll call their alien people, and that will be how the sequel will start.

OK, back to the action. These aliens don't realize how pesky we humans are. They attack, we attack back. The first attack won't be as successful. Remember all aliens have better technology than us -- if they didn't, well, they wouldn't have invaded, right?

Protists on some planet in another galaxy have yet to create the tools needed to fly interstellar to come and get us.

In the following scene, Harry Connick, Jr. stops playing the piano and coaching young people on "American Idol" long enough to stick a cigar in his mouth and fly a jet, alongside his gal-pal Will Smith.

Another great scene, alert! Another great scene alert! Will Smith lands from parachuting out of his spazzing jet, approaches the alien jet he shot down. The hatch pops open, and Will Smith leans in and punches the squiggling alien right in the face and shouts, "Welcome to Earth!"

Heroes aren't made, people. They are born.

Meanwhile, on Air Force One, before Harrison Ford told the terrorist to "get off my plane," we've got everyone arguing about whether or not nuclear force should be used against the aliens. This is Roland Emmerich's chance to write in his social commentary about nuclear weapons. If you didn't catch it, he uses Cable Repairman Jeff to state his stance: they're bad.

But a major plot point comes out of this argument when Cable Repairman Jeff's father shouts, "What about Area 51! You knew then!"

So, I guess we all know where Air Force One is headed.

Down on the ground, amidst the destruction in Los Angeles, Vivica A. Fox finds the First Lady, and that's all fine, and all, but the best part is when we cut to Will Smith dragging the alien he punched, in the parachute, screaming about its smell, and its heavy dreadlocks and bemoans, "I could've been at a barbecue!"

And the refrain goes: Heroes aren't made, they're born.

And it just so happens that a bunch of character storylines are going to intersect at Area 51. You can't write this stuff! I mean, er...

Randy Quaid's RV crew, as they drive across the desert, meet up with Hero Will Smith, and with their powers combined, decide to head to Area 51, just as Air Force One lands.

Now that we're in Area 51 (it's a lot smaller than I thought it would be, and it's lit like an IKEA), we learn that a spaceship landed in the 1960's, and here we have Roland Emmerich using the famous Area-51-weather-balloon storyline. It works, Roland Emmerich, this time, but you've got a lot of explaining to do with that sequel coming out.

Now that we're all comfy-cozy in Area 51, one of the scientists (he played Data on "Star Trek: Next Generation) geeks out with Cable Repairman Jeff and gives a tour of the spaceship they recovered back in the 60's. Cable Repairman Jeff is so smart that he already knows more about the spaceship and he just looked at it. You have to remember, Cable Repairman Jeff went to MIT, but was lured by Time Warner to work with them. Cable Repairman Jeff has already hooked up his mid-90's laptop running Windows 96 to the spaceship.

New York City shouldn't have had any cable problems with Cable Repairman Jeff in the vicinity. The things he can do!

While Cable Repairman Jeff plays science fair with the spaceship, POTUS Bill Pullman finds out what we already knew, the aliens haven't come to just blow up a few major cities. They're here to blow up all the cities. Speaking of POTUS, his lady was rescued by Vivica A. Fox in her roaring semi that still works after the alien --

Oh, who cares...we're at one of the more frightening scenes in the movie: the alien dissection.

Remember how Hero Will Smith dragged that alien in the parachute? Well, it's been playing possum, waiting for the right moment to attack. "I've been biding my time, humans," it whines. "Biding. My. Time."

In a scene reminiscent of Willow Smith's first hit, the alien whips its hair back and forth, whips its hair back and forth, and then takes them dreads, grabs the scientist we've all grown to love, and slams his five o'clock shadow against the glass.

The scientist's arms and legs are sprawled out against the glass like those cat posters. You know the ones. "Hang in there!"

Willow Smith, er, I mean the alien turns the scientist into a puppet and hoarsely whispers to POTUS Bill Pullman and his buddies that they're all going to die.

Just because.

"Do we need a reason?" it asks in a hiss.

"Yes!" POTUS Bill Pullman said.

"Well, you're not my mom," it shrieks, and then too bad for the alien because the glass isn't bulletproof and, we find out, neither is the alien.

All this dreadlock-and-shooting drama is happening as Hero Will Smith steals a helicopter because, well, he can.

A fellow soldier raises a gun to Smith's head, not realizing who he's up against.

Smith says, "Do you really want to use that? I need to save my wife that will appear on 'Celebrity Apprentice' someday."

The soldier is so starstruck that he trembles as he lowers the gun. Hero Will Smith is off to save Vivica A. Fox from the smoldering ruins of her career, I mean, the base they were supposed to meet.

Meanwhile, POTUS Bill Pullman allows for the deployment of a nuclear missile against the aliens, even though we already know how Roland Emmerich feels about them. At first, we think it's successful, but then we remember the title of the movie is "Independence Day," and this is only July third.

Here endeth Act 2.

Cable Repairman Jeff has started celebrating the Fourth of July a little too early.

"It's five o'clock somewhere," he mumbles, stumbling around with a half-bottle of booze, kicking trashcans and slapping white boards, when his father's all, "Get your act together you louse, or you'll catch a cold."

"You're totes brill," C.R. Jeff says, grabbing his father's face in his hands.

Moments later, C.R. Jeff is somehow sober enough to shoot a gun aimed at a can sitting on the spaceship.

Don't forget that, in just a couple of days, C.R. Jeff has not only repaired all of New York's cable, but has also figured out how to give the alien's computer system a virus using the sophisticated Windows 96. How this works is news to me because have you seen the screens on the spaceship's computer system? The spaceship screen doesn't even showcase numbers or letters. The spaceship's screen looks like the Matrix with green lines of code scrolling up and down.

This plan is crazy, but even crazier? When some skeptic cries out, "Who will fly this thing?"

Hero Will Smith steps forward and says, "I can." Hero Will Smith, who was rejected by NASA, finally gets his swan song into space.

So let it be written, so let it be done.

Now that we have finally figured out a way to possibly bring down the aliens, by working around their defenses, we cut to different scenes from around the world, using morse code, telling every other nation what the plan is. A British man stands up and says, "It's about bloody time."

Like, what?

That's Roland Emmerich telling the audience "of course the world is waiting for America to come up with the plan to save the Earth."


So, while we get all set up and recruit random pilots (including Drunken Randy Quaid), POTUS Bill Pullman, who also used to be a pilot, stands atop a truck and delivers the speech that needs to be delivered when aliens do invade. We, as a world, must finally come together to defeat them, giving us, for the first time ever, one common enemy.

Now we wait.

And as we do, let me take a moment to relate this to a show on TV right now. If any of you have watched "Falling Skies" on TNT, this part of the movie is very reminiscent to season four's ending when Noah Wyle and his half-alien daughter fly one of the spaceships to the moon to destroy the alien power source.

Hero Will Smith and C.R. Jeff have loaded the spacecraft and have successfully flown it into the mother ship. My question is this: The aliens wear these slimy body suits with dreadlocks, and the inside of the spacecraft looks very, oh, I don't know, easily accessible to humans.

These things have tentacles. How do we know they didn't hang themselves from the roof of the craft to fly it? When the aliens stand, in their slimy suits of armor, they are huge, but C.R. Jeff and Hero Will Smith fit snuggly in the cockpit chairs.

While I sit and quietly debate this, POTUS Bill Pullman and his entourage fly toward one of the many flying saucers, shooting missiles at it.

That spaceship is massive. It's like throwing specks of sand at an elephant. Once one of the missiles makes it past the force field, we know the virus has worked, even though I'm not convinced the alien system would allow a laptop running Windows 96 to sync up with it.

Did these people have access to USB C already? I can't remember if Bluetooth was a thing in 1996...

With the planes swarming around the spacecraft, and Hero Will Smith and C.R. Jeff sending a virus to the mothership, these aliens are getting P.O'd. They're about to take out Area 51, when Drunken Randy Quaid finally flies out of nowhere, ready to shoot a missile up the spaceship's butt. Of course it jams, making Drunken Randy Quaid question his lot in life.

"Do me a favor, tell my children I love them very much."

And up he flies, screaming, "Up yours!" filling his role as the Comedic Savior.

The spaceship crashes into the desert mountains in a fiery burst of orange and yellow.

Now that all the spaceships on Earth have been taken care of, we have to take care of one last piece of business -- the mothership. Somehow C.R. Jeff and Hero Will Smith, along with whoever helped them, have attached a nuclear missile on the spaceship. It's so convenient that the alien technology and the human technology can work together so well. While smoking their "When the Fat Lady Sings" cigars, they press the "send" button.

Once the "package has been delivered," C.R. Jeff and Hero Will Smith try to fly out of the mother ship, and as they do, the doors start to close, leaving the smallest space for the spaceship to slip through. This suspense device was also used recently in "Jurassic World" when Chris Pratt was trying to run out of one of the cages that was closing. I shall write an essay about this suspense device and the movies that have employed it.

As you all know, they both make it safely back to Earth, and they're greeted by all the main cast members out in the desert. They smile and joke about how they promised each other fireworks as they look up at the destruction of the space ship burning up the mountains, as well as debris from the nuclear space explosion raining down through the atmosphere.

I think the real danger has just begun: putting out those fires and all that radiation from the nuclear space explosion.

As I watched the ending for the umpteenth time, a little piece of movie magic died for me. As they all stood and looked up at sky in joy, the green screen effect was evident. When I first saw the movie, I thought they all were really out in the desert, and the spaceship in the mountains was superimposed or whatever it's called. I blame HD TV and the evils it has wrought watching older films using special effects.

Oh well. I will leave you with one final thought as we conclude another Fourth of July.

When I first saw this movie back when I was 14, I remember thinking: How are they going to clean up all those spaceships?

What. A. Mess.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Because there's a strong push for me to write about food right now

I need to tell you about food right now.

I was going to write this long post on Facebook about my past two nights of dinner for all my foodie friends out there, but I was afraid it was going to be too pretentious.

Like, "I only eat free-range chickens that have been fed organic microgreens."

So, instead, I'm going to be pretentious on my website. Not too pretentious, though. I don't want to lose friends and alienate people. I'll leave that to Facebook right now.

It's doing such a nice job.

There's a gigantic push to eat and buy local, lately. It's super-trendy to run screaming from Walmart and run cheering to a local farm stand, instead. I've been a part of this trend for a little while now. I still go shopping at Aldi and Meijer, but whatever the local farm gives us for the week is used to plan out or dinners.

If they give us a giant head of cabbage, we shred it and put it on shrimp tacos, or I use the whole thing to make from-scratch coleslaw.

Our farm of choice is Tuttle's Orchard. It's so much more than just apples, regardless of the word "orchard" in its name. It's in the next county, and although it takes about 25 minutes to get there, I go each week with a song in my heart to pick up a tote full of locally grown fruits and vegetables, and if they aren't local, they're from a Tuttles-approved farm in a neighboring state. Or a not-so-neighboring state.

"Where exactly is this orange from?" I could ask, holding it up like it's a murder suspect.

"That's from Sassy Fred's Citrus Grove in Clermont, Florida."

I'm happy to know exactly where my food is coming from.

Now, here's where I'm going to start getting all pretentious and hipster-like.

You've been warned.

Because of the farm we go to, we've also introduced ourselves to some local meats and honey and pies they sell in the store. It's getting to the point where some of our dinners are about 80% local. My goal is to become 100% because there's a certificate involved.

Now, the past two meals have not been fancy, mind you. The menu consisted of BLT's and barbecue.

For the BLT, let's start with the bacon. I will never buy processed bacon from the regular grocery ever again. We call it fatty-fatty bacon, and the taste of it is buttery, porky, and complete insanity. The tomato, although not from Tuttles, came from a Tuttle-approved farm in Tennessee. It's flavor was also filled with complete insanity.

Like, ohmigawd, this is what a tomato tastes like! Everything else up until this point has merely been Play-doh!

Sadly, it was the only tomato we received in last week's tote, The skin was tender, at the peak of its ripeness, and as I sliced through, the enviable deep red of a Crayola crayon went all the way through.

Yeah, so the sourdough bread and the mayo were from Aldi's -- nothing fancy. Shh. Don't tell anyone. (Kidding. I live and die by Aldi's -- it owns Trader Joe's. Literally.)

But the sugar snap peas were from Tuttles, and we sauted them up in butter and salt.

For the BLTs, I realized we could go 100% local/homemade: I would love to make my own mayo, and a friend of mine makes a killer loaf of bread. The only reason I would do this is because it's a personal challenge, it is not necessarily something I strive to do.

Our barbecue dinner would be a little tougher to go 100% homemade, since I'm not sure hot to bake brioche buns.

Tuttles has a freezer section with many local meats to choose from. There's ground beef, bacon, bison, pork, chicken, and sausage. They also have pre-made shredded pork barbecue.

We put the barbecue on two open-faced brioche buns (that we got from Aldi). On top of the barbecue, I scooped a small mound of scratch-made coleslaw (this rendition had local cabbage and beets). I will never buy jar coleslaw sauce again. Ever. It is now a mortal sin. I touched a jar the other day, and my fingers burned. Since you can't just have a sandwich by itself as a full meal, I roasted up squash and zucchini (grown at Tuttles).

The barbecue was lucky to be followed by a dessert. We picked blueberries last week in Virginia and brought them all back with us. Those need to be used, before they go bad, and we also have raspberry bushes in the backyard. So, although the crumble I made to go on top isn't necessarily the healthiest (with its butter-and-brown-sugar-goodness), the berries are "superfruits." I think it's safe to say that all those balance each other out to the point where I didn't even eat dessert. It's the same philosophy when you eat off of someone's plate, those calories don't count.

Not every meal is that ridiculous when it comes to local fair, but I feel a small sense of pride shopping at a small local farm. The best part is, they recognize us now, we go so often. Let's just hope they're not getting sick of us.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

He wanted to write, but something held him back

his summer, my goal was to Blogpost the Summer Fantastic. Luckily, summer is far from over, but I am not posting it fantastic. It's more like Blog Won't the Summer So Spastic.

I had goals, these lofty goals. I would write, constantly, and post enormous amounts of nonsense. I would press the words out of me like a grape stomping celebration, but it's been all sour grapes. I wake up, go work out, spend my morning drinking coffee and just being (enjoying all the mornings I can whilst free from a school schedule). Yard work might commence, TV shows may be caught up on, but I still have pages and pages of time to sit down, edit a novel, and write out some parts for this so-called bucket of a website.

Lately, I've been freeze-dried. I didn't finish up an overly creative school year that exhausted me. I was looking forward to having gobs of time to Blogpost the Summer Fantastic, but something is in my brain crawling around.

I can feel it. It's got over 100 legs, it's segmented, and it's inching up and down my synapses, shooting electric currents through my body. It shoots a warm shiver down my spine, and the feeling goes away for a moment, and then it returns.

It isn't constant. It's not a body snatcher. It only happens when I think about writing. I decide: "I will finally sit down and write today."

And then, my brain starts to feel the feels. It's almost like having the heebie jeebies.

There's a cartoon on Exploding Dog with which I relate. I want to create, but something is holding me back: failure, the blank page, no audience, anxiety.

I'm finally breaking through. When it comes to creating, we need to make sure we give ourselves permission to create garbage, even if it's public.

Once we give ourselves permission, there's no stopping.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

When things get turned upside-down

We're in the heart of tornado season, but for me and people I work with, tornado season came early.

Everything around us has been pitching for a while. The clapboard walls were shuddering, shaking up something fierce. It wasn't until this past semester when the winds bore down on us. There have been watches for some time, but once January hit, and the school board OK'd the changes, warnings were in full effect.

About two years ago, the middle school principals in my district forged together and approached the, then, newly elected superintendent about the middle school schedule, which was slowly offing us left and right.

The superintendent came from a middle school background, understood the mystery beasts that young adolescents were, and work began to fix the current schedule which fracked good teaching from us and left us tired.

After a year of research, a vote from the school board, and a semester of planning and preparing, the middle schools are officially moving from a seven-period day, where we teach 54-minute periods, to a block schedule, where we'll spend 90-minute periods with our students and see them every-other day.

We also grouped teachers together on teams, eliminated study halls, upped the amount of elective choices, and starting in August, we'll be set loose with all this newness.

But, before we knew what all of this was going to look like, the unknowns were sentinels standing guard around the school, and the only thing we could do was speculate. Rivers of gossip helped keep the rumor mills turning, and some of those mills caught some fish of truth, but mostly, it was something to keep us busy.

It was thrilling. We were pioneers.

Change was on the move. For a few, it was insanity. I'm sure they all got stomach aches thinking about all the question marks that floated around their heads. I'm the only journalism teacher, so a lot of the changes weren't going to affect me, so I got to watch in awe as the tornado whipped through, careening over here, and then swiftly going over there.

I wasn't totally safe from the wind. Even my hair got messed up when I found out that I had so many students signed up for my classes, that a fellow teacher in the building was going to help teach the overflow.

It was such a weird sensation, really. We were mindfully preparing for this new school year where we met with kids every-other day, where five teachers shared a group of students on a team, where we would be able to do some amazing things with our time and our craft, and all while we were finishing out the current school year where we rode through a seven-period day.

I know change is sometimes this big, bad, wolf. I'm super-weird and welcome it. Some major shifting needed to happen, and now that it's all falling into place, it has reignited some fires, and it's definitely making the future more exciting. I see a step in some fellow teachers' walks that were not there before. Sure, there's much uncertainty, but the good news is -- we're all weathering this together.

There's energy when things are turned upside-down. I will see what kind of elements this energy charges once August hits, but luckily, since it's still June, I've still got some time to spend by the pool.