Back to it

I haven’t written on here in a while because, well, I think I joined lots of other people who were like bulls behind the gate at a rodeo. Last summer was Covid summer. This summer was our chance to get out there and travel.

And travel, we did! We made several trips to Chicago, one to Memphis for Elvis Week, and a couple little ones in between to attend concerts – Foreigner and Stix. (Those concerts were fantastic, by the way!) We saw friends we haven’t seen in a couple of years, and that was more than good for the soul. Yes, I know Covid is still out there. I had a personal experience with it this summer. However, I would not trade the time I spent with friends and family for anything.

The crowds in Memphis were lighter this year, probably because people from other countries were not able to fly in. We did the VIP tour of Graceland and had a great time connecting with people we had not seen in two years.

The hotel that my husband’s band was playing at (and where we were staying) has had a long history of not the greatest management. I have heard horror stories from other guests, and the hotel keeps reminding people that they are, in fact, renovating and trying to get everything up to standard. While traveling around with my husband, we have stayed in some really nice hotels and some utter dives; it all depends on where the show producer wants to put us. However, I had a moment on this trip that made me realize that you never know where you are going to meet the gems who are out there in society – the people with great spirit and motivation that lift people up when they’re feeling low. I wrote a Facebook post about this experience when I returned from Memphis, and I’d like to share it with you here:

One of the highlights of the trip to Memphis was meeting Jimmy, the air conditioning repairman at the hotel. Why was he the highlight? Oh, let me explain.

The hotel we stayed at was having numerous issues – torrential downpours caused sewage to back up into bathtubs (not ours, but other people had this issue), the main air conditioning was not working well and it was hotter than heck in the lobby and the conference rooms, and the staff was clearly overwhelmed by all the crazy Elvis people who had swarmed their hotel. We had a couple issues in our room; first, the tub drain was really slow and then stopped working altogether, and then on Saturday, after Joe played a 5-hour set and was absolutely exhausted and in pain, we got to our room to discover that our A/C was not working at all. After hearing horror stories from other guests about how they couldn’t get anything fixed in their rooms, I was dreading what was about to happen. I went down to the front desk, told them my problem, and rather than getting a rude brush-off, which I kind of expected based on others’ stories, the clerk said, “Hold on – we have our air conditioning specialist here.” She got on the radio and told him our room number, and Jimmy answered, “Headed to 423 now.”

Truthfully, I didn’t expect much. I felt bad for Joe, who had sweat during 5 hours of playing in a hot room and desperately needed some cool air. I thought the AC guy would take his time getting to our room.

Imagine my surprise when 2 minutes later, there stands Jimmy. “Y’all’s air not working?” he inquired. I told him it was working fine earlier, but it had quit while we were at the show. “Well, we can’t have that happenin,'” he said. “I’m going to get this all fixed up for you.” He glanced at Joe who was half-unconscious on the bed, really needing a nap before the next show. “He’s got to get some rest and he can’t do that in this stuffy room!” Yep, Jimmy was right. It was getting hot in there.

Jimmy took a look and said he was going to see if the fuse blew. He left, and in a few seconds, the unit turned on. Jimmy came back to check it over again.”Y’know, I’m gonna go get y’all a new front for this unit. I don’t want it turning off on you again.” He disappeared and reappeared with a new front for the unit and replaced that. As he worked, he talked and talked and talked, making jokes about how the AC temp should be lower than his wife’s age. “See?” he said, putting the air on 67. “If we kept it here, this would be her correct age. However, we want it here – to the age she tells people she is,” he said, turning it down to 60.

He kept us laughing while he fixed the unit and made sure it was going to work.As he was leaving, he said, “What time will y’all be done partying downstairs?” We told him about midnight. “Ok, well, I want to make sure y’all will be comfortable and be able to sleep. If this thing blows a fuse again or has trouble, you call me when you get back up here.”I asked Jimmy, “Even if it’s midnight? Don’t you sleep?” He shook his head and waved away the idea that midnight was too late. “I want y’all to be comfortable. I love my job, and it’s my job to make sure these things work for you. Before y’all go down to your show tonight, if y’all could just let the front desk now that it is still working, I’d appreciate it.”

The thing is that you could really tell he did love his job. It was wonderfully refreshing and I was so impressed with his enthusiasm for a job that many people would consider a drag during a Memphis heat wave.

Sometimes you just meet the best people while traveling around, and Jimmy will always be someone I remember simply because he cared about what he did.

Other guests at the hotel had equally as pleasant encounters with Jimmy, so it’s safe to say that he is just one of those rare gems who spreads happiness wherever he goes. I did take the time to write a letter to the hotel commending Jimmy. I hope he gets a nice little bonus or just feels good knowing that he made an impression on a girl from Iowa.


Winding down, winding up

School let out May 25th, and it’s hard to believe that I’ve been on summer break for one week – probably because the end of the school year was a chaotic mess, as usual. I wasn’t able to check out on the 25th due to a bunch of late work being thrown at me, but I was able to get it wrapped up the following day. And now it’s time for a much-needed break. I am freaking tired.

My hubby and I left for a quick trip to Chicago soon after school let out so that we could celebrate his birthday and visit friends. We took in a Sox game (which was FREEZING thanks to a weird cold snap), walked around downtown Naperville, bought way too many books at Half Price Books (to add to my pile of unread books from the last time I went there), and had a good time with everyone we visited with. It was the perfect start to the summer and a great stress relief. I needed to laugh and be a little carefree for a while. Well . . . almost carefree.

Although the school year is done, now it’s time to work on this house, which I am hoping will be put on the market in the late winter/early spring. We have a lot of projects to do, and next spring I will experience more chaos than I will want to endure, as I will be trying to sell a house, buy a house, and get a different job in a different state and city (Chicago area). So many things have to fall into place at the same time, and I am freaking out big-time. What if one of those pieces doesn’t work out? What if I can’t find a job? What if I can’t sell my house? While it’s a buyer’s market in the Chicago area, that’s not necessarily true for small town Iowa. Not too many people are clamoring to get their hands on a 1953 ranch house. Moreover, I will be moving to a market where teaching jobs have a lot more competition.

Ah, so be it. I am not the only one who has had to face such obstacles, and there really isn’t anything I can do other than praying that it all works out.

We have been so busy that we really haven’t been antiquing that much. It is strange how a random find in a store will start curving your interests; I picked up a couple vintage Avon talc tins a few months ago – still full of the perfumed talc – and now it’s one of the things I look for. Back in the day – when I was around 23 – I sold Avon for a brief stint. I was newly graduated from college, full of naïveté, and full even moreso of nostalgia for Avon. I remember leafing through the booklets when I was younger and marveling at all the products. I remember my parents having some of the cologne bottles that were shaped like a pipe or a dog’s head. And yes, a part of me got taken in by all the wonderful MLM promises that one gets fed as part of a selling crew: the more you sell, the more you make! Recruit! Build your army! I even attending a few meetings when I lived in Sioux Falls, which makes me chuckle to think about now. It is entirely true that I sold Avon more for me than for anything I could possibly sell, although there were times that I made a half-assed effort at selling. I think I got an actual high when I received the new booklets; I would tear open the plastic and spend a good half hour just musing through all the products – the lipstick, the bath oils, the perfumes, and even the clothing and home goods that Avon tried selling for a bit. My first set of dishes came from an Avon catalog. Oh, I was so grown up!

I remember thinking how cool it was that I had my own grey Avon bag to carry around with my catalogs and Avon samples in it. Lord, the money I spend on samples!! Another downside of the MLM business is that the seller pretty much buys everything – even the catalogs – in order to make a sale. I was young and not exactly thinking practically; I was making decent money and had very few bills, so spending money on impractical things was much easier to do than it is now. I would order complete sample sets of lipsticks, perfumes, facial products, and whatever else. This was in the waning days of the “mini-lipstick”-type samples, and I loved having a little case full of them. (Now, I believe, the samples come in flat peel-back cards, which is not nearly as fun.) I mailed out catalogs and even walked through neighborhoods, carefully hanging my catalogs on a door with the door hanging bags that I bought. I received virtually no callbacks. The thing with being an Avon lady in the mid-1990s is that many people either already had an Avon lady or weren’t interested in buying what seemed to be an antiquated product. Even worse, I had become an Avon lady riiiiiiight when the Internet made shopping so easy that no one needed an actual human being to sell them anything in person. Yeah, my timing kind of sucked.

I also ran into another issue: some ladies who seemed to want to buy Avon really only wanted company. When I moved into an apartment building that was well-suited to older people, I tried again at building a clientele in that area. A sweet old lady – her name escapes me now, but it was a very Italian-sounding name – called me one day to sample some products. She lived the floor below me, and I eagerly pranced down to her apt with my grey bag in tow. Her apartment was decorated in a very old fashion and was the typical stuffy, overly warm apartment that seemed the norm among the older residents there. As I lay my samples out on the table, I learned pretty quickly why I was there: this woman wanted to talk. And talk and talk and taaaaaalk. She was very sweet and very nice, and I have never been one to be rude without provocation, so I listened. The sweet lady talked my ear off for an hour, then she placed an order for something very small. I thanked her and left.

The routine would be repeated several times during the months I lived in those apartments. She’d call, I’d haul my samples down there, and she would talk until I expressed that I had to go somewhere – as nicely as I could express it, of course. I found out too quickly that these sessions were not exactly a good moneymaker, but it taught me a lot of about being patient and about the importance of listening, especially to people who seemed to have no one else. My Avon career was a bust, but I learned that sometimes interacting with people isn’t about what you can sell them; it’s about what you can learn from them.

Nevertheless, I still get a kick out of seeing an Avon brochure when I run across them. Occasionally I will order products that I have loved over the years, but many of the products I used to love have been discontinued and I notice that Avon keeps making their packages smaller and smaller, but charging more for them. Such is the way of the cosmetics industry, I know, but I still long for the days when one could buy a huge jar of face cream for a few bucks.

Fast forward to now, when I get a kick out of finding a vintage Avon talc tin for a few bucks. I suppose there is a metaphor in that statement somewhere about aging and nostalgia and the value of things, but I still am not recovered enough from the school year to try to form it completely in my head.


Eternally annoyed by fake spring

I am sure I have said it a few thousand times on this blog, but I really, really loathe March in the Midwest. The snow takes forever to melt – IF it melts – and when it does, everything is a muddy freaking mess. I dread letting the dog outside because it means the inevitable muddly dog prints all over the kitchen when she comes prancing back in. Sometimes winter forgets that it’s supposed to leave quickly and quietly and instead hangs around like a drunk party guest, making messes in the form of winter storm after winter storm.

I feel like the den mother for a riotous frat party who, while cleaning up the chaos of the latest party, picks up a blanket to find a sleeping Old Man Winter. After a couple weeks of having above-average temperatures and quickly melting snow, we are now under a Winter Storm Watch for Monday.

<sigh> Whatevs. It goes with the territory of living here, I guess. I should know that once that glimmer of hope sparks that maybe — just maybe — I could get my pond up and going in record time that it awakens the Snow Giant. So we’ll hunker back in for the storm, look forward with dreary eyes for the Big Melt, and then repeat the process all over again.

The Midwest seems to be slowly recovering from the pandemic. Mask restrictions were relaxed a little bit in town, but I’ve found that now we are at that awkward do-I-or-don’t-I mask phase. My husband and I went to some antique stores yesterday and the sign warning was gone from the door of the first shop we went to. When we went in, the people at the desk said it is our choice to wear one or not as I was putting it on. I said OK, and then removed it a few minutes later because, truthfully, I am so tired of wearing masks all day long. The store was full of people and about 1/3 were not wearing masks. Those that did seemed to be judgmental as I walked by them, and it was a really odd feeling.

Anyway, I know better than to keep writing about this topic because eventually I’ll tick people off or someone will get offended, so let’s just move along, shall we?

As I said above, my husband and I really needed to get out of town after being stuck here for too many weekends, so we took off to our favorite antique stores in Spirit Lake, IA. There are four stores that we visit in pretty much the same order all the time. By now, I remember where I saw something cute from the last time we were there, and it’s turned into a game to see if those things are still there.

I did manage to nab some decent tablecloths for chump change, so I was happy. Here they are!

This is such a classic example of Mid-Century cool that I had to get it. You want to know what the selling point was for me?
The starburst clock. I mean, c’mon!
This Wilendur was a steal, probably because it has some major stains on it. However, stains don’t scare me. A good soaking and some stain treating, along with a sun bath, will have this baby looking like new!
Two words: FOUR DOLLARS. I have no idea why it was only four dollars. It is not tagged, but there are no stains on it and it is bright and colorful.
Sometimes I buy tablecloths because of their style and color. Sometimes I buy them for the tags. Sometimes I buy them for the signatures (see below).
Vera. ‘Nuff said.

I have found that I am falling down a strange rabbit hole of collecting after I purchased this bowl a couple months ago:

It doesn’t look like much, but I could tell it had that classic restaurant ware look, and the weight of this bowl confirmed my suspicions. This is a great piece of restaurant ware by Bailey-Walker China. The best part if the date on it:
It kind of blows my mind that something from 1936 that so many have eaten from is now sitting in my kitchen in 2021.

As I was perusing the shelves this weekend, I happened to look under a stack of dishes to find a nice collection of restaurant ware by Buffalo China:

While I am not usually a fan of anything with avocado green, I was able to get 6 crazily heavy platters for $6/plate. The pattern is in great condition (looks faded here but it isn’t) and it even has a cool starburst design on it. This particular pattern is called Oakbrooke, and it also can be found in brown and harvest gold.

Although I much prefer the diner china from the middle of the century, I loved how solid and heavy these were. I would love to find more of the Bailey-Walker pieces.

I’ve been on the hunt for Pyrex ever since I happened to notice that Pyrex is worth more than gold these days, apparently. A starburst casserole dish that I bought years ago is now selling for around $500, and other pieces are in high demand, too. I decided to start watching for Pyrex pieces while antique shopping, and up to today, everything I have found has been priced way high. Imagine my surprise when I spotted a couple of divided casserole dishes hiding behind a school desk!

This is a piece I have actually wanted for quite some time now (because starbursts – DUH!) but everything I have seen has been way overpriced. This little guy came with a lid and was a reasonable $16. Sold!
This one came with a holder and was also $16. Yes, yes, I will take that off your hands . . . thank you very much.
It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that this holder is actually to a Corningware piece, but it’s OK. I have other Pyrex casserole holders that will work with this one. Still looks pretty cool, though.

The last focus of my vintage adventures has to do with spice cans. I have a weird obsession with old spice cans. If they have the right colors and the right font, then I feel compelled to buy them if they are reasonably priced. Behold, my spices of life:

Anytime someone uses a star to dot an “I,” well, I’m probably going to buy whatever it is. Great vintage colors and fonts all around!

That’s it for now!


The Covid blues . . .

I’m not going to lie; I’m so freaking tired of events being canceled. Everything that my hubby and I have gotten tickets to and have looked forward to has been canceled; all of his band gigs have been canceled or postponed to a later date. We keep setting our sights on the next thing to look forward to, and then it just vanishes.

It’s my pity party and I’ll cry if I want to. Please do not lecture me about how selfish this sounds because I have news for you: I KNOW. Back in March, when my husband and I returned from a band gig in Georgia, the Covid thing was just starting to get serious; my school ended up going online the week that I returned. I remember thinking at the time that we’d have a few months of this and then be back to normal.

No such luck.

I miss live music. I miss seeing my friends in the music industry. I miss watching my husband do what he loves to do. I miss normalcy.

Then again, at this point, I don’t even know what the benchmark is for “normal.”

In spite of all the upheaval – both local and nationally – I have tried to not only keep busy with school tasks, but I have focused on enjoying the antique jaunts that my husband and I are able to make. Accidentally, we stumbled upon a new area of collecting when we were in the local antique store just after Christmas and we spotted a super cool panther TV lamp – in white! I’ve seen them in black before, but this one was a rare beauty.

The downside is that it does not work, but we are getting it repaired ASAP. It just looks cool, and the eyes light up. That started us on sort of a panther binge, for just as we spotted that one, we saw a sort of sibling to it:

He is a planter rather than a light, but once again, he just looks cool. The hubs and I started thinking about how awesome it would look to have an entire shelf of these things in different colors. Hi, eBay. Thanks for there in our time of need:

He works, and he’s beautiful.

There’s a chartreuse color out there as well, and I’m keeping my eye out for a deal on that one. After we obtain that color, I think we’ll be done with our panther collection.

However, I might not be done with my TV light collection. When we were shopping and saw the panther, we also saw this immaculate specimen:

This thing doesn’t even look like it’s been used. The best part is that when I was doing the research for this lamp, I could not find another exactly like it. The company, Bilt-Rite, (evidently from Chicago, according to the stamp) apparently made a similar model that contained a tiny aquarium on one side (poor fish!) and a planter as well, along with the light part and patterned overlay. After scouring eBay , Etsy, and the internet in general, I could not find another one just like this. I was drawn toward its classic MCM style, and had the shop owner not put it on hold for me, I would have missed out on it. The day I went to go pay for it and pick it up, she told me that another MCM fan was in and really, REALLY wanted the lamp. Thank god for small town antique store owners who operate on the honor system.

In the last few months, I have had a rare stroke of tablecloth luck. I haven’t cleaned any of these yet (waiting for summer when I can lay them in the sun) and they are certainly not ironed yet. AlthoughI’ve run across some doozies that were WAY overpriced (which I ignored), most of the ones I got were fairly priced and too good to pass up.

Exhibit A:

I will admit that this cloth was on the higher end of what I’m usually willing to spend. However, I know that anything that has such a classic 50’s style like this is very collectible and very worth it.

MCM Christmas cloths are super collectible, and this one was a freaking steal – something like $8. Yeah, I’ll take it!
This cloth was decently priced and was even signed (see below). Google/eBay/Etsy searches reveal that this tablecloth commands a decent price in resale.
The color doesn’t quite come through on this pic because the yellow is a very faint color, but I’m a sucker for daisies and sunny colors. This fits the bill!
This bright-colored Wilendur had a raggedy tag on it (below), but again, I loved the cheerful colors in it.
This is my personal favorite. I love simple, flowered prints. No tag on this one, but I absolutely love it.
I have a variety of simple damask tablecloths, but red matches my kitchen, it fits my table perfectly, and it was in great shape.
Not my usual style, but it’s red, has a nice MCM vibe to it, and once again, it was in great shape.
This cloth had “my green” in it – that lovely jadeite shade, and it looked to be fairly old. It was in wonderful shape despite a little fading.
No tag, but I liked the red color and the simple, flowered pattern.
Small square tablecloth with some fading, but I liked the colors.
My apologies for the horrible picture. This is a California Hand Prints find in perfect condition. Any time I can find a cloth with a tag on it (see below), I am excited. The picture does not do this cloth justice. It is not faded at all, despite what it looks like.

My last find might turn into its own quest. I picked up this glass for about $2.00 from an antique store, and I loved the funky birds that were on it. Although I missed the signature on it initially, a vintage-finds FB group that I am part of helped me identify this as a Dyball glass. It seems virtually impossible to find a full set of these; the one listing I found for the full bar set was astronomical, so if that is how these things are usually priced, I’m going to count myself lucky that I found one for next to nothing.

I still have to photograph and post the fantastic luggage set I found, and I promise to do that soon. That one deserves its own post!

Until next time . . . keep the faith that all this craziness will end soon.


And now, FOUR months later . . .

My last post before this one started off “Two weeks later,” drawing attention to the fact that I had been steadily writing up until the two weeks prior. Imagine my surprise when I looked to see that my last post was four months ago. Yikes!

In my defense, Covid has brought a whole new element of chaos to my job – as it has most jobs. In addition, I have found that block scheduling requires a whole new set of planning magic, and doing that planning has kept me on my toes. Writing, of course, fell to the wayside.

Covid has not only kept us home a lot more because of social distancing, but it has also obliterated my husband’s music career. He plays with a tribute band that mostly backs Elvis Presley tribute artists, but they also play with other tributes. Most weekends are taken up with this band, and I travel with him when I am able to. Now it’s December and the band hasn’t had a gig since MARCH. For a man who has played in bands constantly since he was a teenager, this is a little bit of a shock to the system. We were about to head to a New Year’s gig in Indiana, but now that too has been canceled, thanks to Covid. Needless to say, I am so ready for all of this crap to be done. I haven’t been to a live music event in nine months, and that is a very odd feeling for a couple who used to enjoy live events multiple times in a month.

In the meantime, I’ve been visiting antique stores whenever possible, as it is one of the hobbies that my husband and I truly enjoy. I go for the tablecloths, Pyrex, and other 1950s goodies; he goes for the vinyl. After suffering through a dried-up tablecloth market, I have begun to find them again in stores. I have piles that are waiting to be washed. Most are not tagged, but that is OK. I don’t have to have a tag on it for it to be one of my favorites. If it’s the right color or a cool Midcentury pattern, then I might still buy it. Although I still love finding an unexpected Wilendur or Startex, I have also turned them down because they’re bad colors or just not my kind of look.

Earlier this fall, my hubby and I visited some our favorite antique stores in Spirit Lake, Iowa. As we were standing at the register, I happened to notice an adorable display shelf in my favorite green color, complete with vintage-looking decals. It became a perfect place to display my spaghetti glasses and some polka dot bowls (not vintage, but still cute) that I had found on that same shopping trip. It even has a dowel for displaying tablecloths or whatever else. Here it is with a hastily-folded Christmas cloth that I picked up this past weekend. The cloth is stained pretty heavily, so my folding was designed to mask the major stains.

I am a sucker for vintage Christmas cloths in general, but this one was too much. The colors, the starbursts . . . it was a gem that I had to have. Here’s a closeup of its beauty:

In upcoming days, I will be photographing the rest of the tablecloths that I have picked up lately, along with an amazing luggage set that was so unique that, again, I just had to have it. I’ll also be sharing some of my rekindled Pyrex love – something I indulged in years ago but kind of pushed it off to the side in recent years.

I am hoping this upcoming semester will allow me to have more time and energy to write. In the meantime, I want to leave you with my favorite Christmas gift that I received this past weekend. This is my dog, Miss Molly Mae, dressed as Elvis.

Hilarious, is it not? This artist totally nailed my Molly’s expression, and the fact that it also shows our Elvis love is the best. (Note the dog bone-shapes on the jumpsuit!) You can find the artist at, or on Etsy: .


Two weeks later . . .

I thought it was a mistake when I saw that my last post was from two weeks ago. I mean, that went by like a lightning bolt.

I still haven’t gotten around to taking pictures of the last batch of tablecloths I got during our last antique store run, so all of you who hate that sort of stuff can breathe a sight of relief. For those of you who love that sort of stuff, I promise that the pics are coming. Someday.

I now have one week of the new school year under my belt, and I’m exhausted. I’m sure the students are too, frankly. Although we had a partial block schedule in the past, this year is daily block – 4 periods of day, 1.5 hours each. So, basically, if you are sitting in a math class and you abhor math, it’s going to be a looooooong period for you. I shudder to think of having that long of a math class when I was in school. Math and I did not get along. That probably explains why I am an English teacher.

New year + new virus = lots of new routines: masks during passing time and when in close proximity to students, plexiglass on lunch tables, cleaning desks between each period, making sure you know exactly where each kid is sitting during each class period with strict seating arrangements, etc. I am a fairly relaxed teacher, so this is, well, different. I do not like the hesitation I feel with every decision, wondering if it is “Covid approved.” I do not like seeing the hesitation on the kids’ faces when they are unsure whether it’s even OK to move around the room to grab a tissue or plug in their computer. I’m trying desperately to create a normal, nonthreatening environment as possible, but it kind of feels like trying to pick strawberries with my hands ties behind my back. If I were a student, I would feel very strange if I asked a question and saw my teacher have to pull up her mask before being able to approach me and answer me. That’s the introvert in me. That is why I am trying very hard this year to make sure the introverts in my class know that while we do have some stricter rules, we do not have to sit there, muted and still.

Today will be a day of planning for the upcoming week and some relaxation. My aching back is not letting me sleep in very much these days, so I’m dragging a little. Such is life.

Stay tuned for the pics of the tablecloths. I got some good ones!


The cicadas tell the time

I’m going to miss sitting outside in the morning with my coffee, listening to the pond. That quiet that surrounds me during those moments is crucial to my well being, I think. No other sounds can be heard except the water running from the waterfall and the fountain.

See how my fountain looks sort of wonky? Funny story.

I used to have the fountain sitting on top of a platform in the middle of the pond. It had two extension tubes at the top so it was just visible over the surface. It was lovely.

Then a new neighbor dog decided that my pond was going to be his personal swimming pool. Every day he would come over and get in one one side, swim around a few laps, then get out the other side. My fountain sometimes got knocked over by Swim Dog, and during one of those swimming episodes, the extension tube got knocked off and sank to the bottom.

As you can see, my water isn’t all that clear this year. All the products I have tried have not cleared up the algae in the pond this year, and I can’t go too crazy because I still have freaking tadpoles that are in the pond. I honestly do not remember them still being there in August, but I also know that the frog love got a late start this year due to, well, let’s just say due to 2020. That seems to be a nice catch-all for anything weird that happens.

When I dug the pond, I did so rather impulsively. I didn’t really think about how making a deep pond would kind of be a pain in the butt when it came to maintenance. The thing is about 3 ft deep in the middle, so when an extension tube sinks in greenish water, I ain’t gonna go get it. I was hoping that the tadpoles would have been teenagers by now and that I could do a water exchange in the pond, but no dice. Apparently they don’t want to grow up.

So now I have the fountain perched on one of the shallow rims that go around the edge of the fountain and I just make it do a little arc. Looks kind of Wal-marty, but it still makes the same nice noise, so I don’t care.

Swim Dog’s reins seem to have been tightened by his owners, for I have not seen him in several weeks. His swimmin’ days are over, apparently.

The cicadas are out in full force, chattering the nights away, which means school is starting soon. And they are accurate, for this whole next week will be filled with meetings as we prepare for what will probably be a very unusual school year. You know – UNPRECEDENTED. Everything this year has that adjective blanketing it. Last night at a faculty gathering, we were guessing how long it would take until we would have to shut down again after school started. We should probably start a wager on that one.

The big question of the year is, “Are you ready?” Some say yes, some say no, some say they will just be winging it this year. After you’ve been teaching for 20-something years, it’s pretty easy to “wing it” and make it look easy, but this year, that’s all any of us can really do. We could be super organized and map out the entire semester, but we don’t even know if we will be having in-person classes the entire semester, so why bother?

I will miss sitting by the pond, sipping my coffee, and not having to strategically plan my bathroom breaks. I love my job, but there is a reason summer break exists, and it’s so teachers everywhere can take a deep breath and remember how to relax again. We’ve had an extended break of sorts, and although I have been working on school stuff for the past couple of months, I am ready to be back in the classroom again. The year didn’t end normally, graduation wasn’t normal, and we never got to say goodbye to the seniors like we normal do. They were just gone. We were all gone. I had a few students stop by the other day to say “hey” before they went off to college, and I just about cried when I saw them standing on my front porch – three awesome girls whom I never had a chance to say goodbye to when school called off. I haven’t even seen them since mid-March, so it was lovely for them to take time out of their beautiful summer day to bring me some mini candy bars and chit chat for a while.

Those moments – those are why we teach. As great as summer break is (and necessary), that’s not why most teachers stick with this industry. It’s because of those kids who turned out to be decent human being and will go out to make the world a better place. It’s also because of the kids who are total shits but have a reason to be, so we stick with them until they stop being so angry at the world. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

This job is a strange mixture of soul-killing stress and joyful exhilaration and every emotion in between. I love it and I hate it (the stress, the grading, the endless hoops to jump through to prove I’m doing my job) but every fall I get that little tickle of excitement where I want to buy ALL THE THINGS in the school supply aisle and am excitedly pouring over my rosters for the year.

The cicadas are my ending bell for the summer and my starting bell for school.

I just hope all that chattering isn’t some weird code for how 2020 will get even stranger than it already has.


Tick . . . tock . . . tick . . . tock

Such is the sound of August – every year. School will be starting back up in a week and a half, and for the first time since I started teaching, I am mentally prepared to go back to school, probably because, well, I’ve been out of school since mid-March. While I always need a mental break after a hectic school year, this was a little too long. The school year ended with an abrupt karate chop, and it’s just not normal. I’m used to ending the year frazzled and exhausted, and while I was getting there in mid-March, I hadn’t yet hit the true craziness of the year.

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Goodbye, July?

I did a doubletake when I looked at the calendar this morning. July 28? Can that be accurate? It seems like five days ago when I was just getting back from Branson.

It feels like I fell down a rabbithole somewhere, and I guess I have. I started the tedious process of trying to get my materials ready for the school year. This year is a wee bit different, of course because I have no idea what the school year is going to look like.

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A quick trip to Branson, MO

The period from March 19 until now is the longest I have stayed home in a while (that’s right, Covid-19 – I’m looking at you!). I have gotten pretty used to hitting the road regularly with my husband’s band and photographing the concerts while I’m there. As of now, we have missed a good handful of gigs and more are getting canceled by the day. For the people in the music industry, this is a rough time. Those who depend on this income as their sole livelihood have had to scramble to enact Plan B.

My husband and I were going to celebrate our 1-year anniversary on the last weekend in June by going to Branson, MO, where we married, but my son’s graduation stopped that plan when it was rescheduled for that weekend. No biggie. We just pushed the vacation back a week. We needed to get out of the state of Iowa so badly! We were tired of this house, tired of this town, and – to be honest – tired of the endless cornfields and flat land of Iowa. It was time to travel.

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