Old movies = happiness

I don’t know why I just titled this “old movies” when the movie I’m watching at the moment (or using as background noise) is Peggy Sue Got Married.  Yes, it’s set in the past, but since it’s an 80s movie, it doesn’t qualify as an old movie.  Does it?  If so, it’s going to make ME old, because I grew up on these movies.

peggysueThis is one of my comfort movies, really.  Nic Cage and that cartoonish voice are perfect for the part — all claims of nepotism aside.  Kathleen Turner has always fascinated me. She always seemed like such a talented actress, and then she just seemed to fall off the planet.  I saw her at some celeb event lately (I mean on TV, of course . . . not in person, as I’m sure that most of you would assume that I hung out regularly with the Hollywood crowd) and was shocked at how . . . well, middle-aged she looked.  Ok, beyond middle age.  Kind of just-passed-menopause-and-ready-to-be-a-grandmother stage.   I love almost all the movies with her in it.

I don’t know what it is about this movie, but I watch it whenever it’s on TV.  Currently I’m streaming it to my Roku player from Netflix.  I think it’s interesting how Peggy Sue got the chance to relive high school (in a sense) and did all the things that she thought she should have done back then — including dating the deep thinkin’ poet — and then she figures out in the end that she probably made the right decisions all along.

I started on an old movie kick when I had the opportunity to teach a cinema class at our school.  I was thrilled beyond words to be able to teach the class.  I had it for two years (four total semesters) and then it was transferred to another teacher after it wouldn’t fit in this year’s schedule.   I hope that I was able to share some cinema appreciation to my students, but I’m also impressed at how teaching the class affected me.   Until I taught the class, I had no idea that the AFI (American Film Institute) had rated the top 100 movies of all time.  Until I taught the class, I had never seen Casablanca.  Until I taught the class, I had never appreciated Charlie Chaplin or the wonders of early cinematography.

CasablancaAnd now?  I’m hooked.  I have been busy devouring the Top 100 list for the past two years.  I have seen Casablanca so many times that I could quote large parts of the movie.   Humphrey Bogart is the “Ahnold” of the ’40s, without the machine gun and robots.

Thanks to the great influence of my parents, I had been introduced to some of the great classics earlier in life.  My dad showed me One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and I believe I watched The Graduate with them too, although I’ve blocked out the uncomfortable silence that must have occurred when Ben took Elaine to the strip club and the tassels turned.  My parents also introduced me to Rear Window and the wonder of Jimmy Stewart.  I have discovered many other classics since then — the original King Kong, while cheesy, is fascinating just because of its age and what filmmakers with a vision could achieve;  It Happened One Night is hilarious and relevant still today, all while providing the modern age a treasured glimpse into life in the 1930s.   I fell in love with It’s a Wonderful Life and its idyllic portrayal of everyday life, while still appreciating the underlying message of love and hope.

Netflix has given me a quick and easy way of accessing the Top 100, and I hope to work my way through the rest of it soon.  At last count, I think I was about halfway through the list.  Being the kind of person I am, however, I want to see it ALL.


Gearing up

penI’ve been spending most of this week in frantic preparation for the year ahead, mostly in hopes that the year won’t be so . . . well, frantic.  It’s logic that only I can have, I guess, but the real goal here is to make this year as smooth as possible.  Last year involved traveling between two buildings, new classes, and new textbooks that didn’t come in until the last possible second, so it set the tone for a very hectic year.  For one reason or another, it just didn’t seem like I had the chance to sit down and plan things out the way I wanted to.  I was, as they say, flying by the seat of my pants.

So this week I’ve taken over the kitchen table with books, notebook paper, and colored pens, planning things out unit by unit.   It’s so uncharacteristic for me, really.  I might plan out the first unit or so, but I’ve found that any advance planning usually falls to the wayside about three hours into the first day of school, for one reason or another.   As of now it looks like I have the first two months (at least) planned out in both my middle school and high school grammar courses.  I almost feel smug.


I’m a little disheartened by the “Back to School” sales this year.  Usually all the stores run deals on notebooks: 10 for $1, or ten cents each.  I buy them by the box and keep them in my classroom for that inevitable excuse (“But I don’t have any paper!”) and then I sell the notebooks to the students for my cost.  Most of them are amazed that I would charge just ten cents for a notebook, and I tell them to be patient for the good sales and go get a box themselves.  It’ll last them the year and beyond.  Of course, most of them aren’t going to scour the ads and wait for notebook deals, so they’re content to buy them from me.  But this year the price went up; all the stores ran notebook deals for 15 cents each.  I still bought them by the box, but I have a feeling that former students who know about my little “store” (yes, they still stop in for notebooks even though they’re not in my class) will be thinking I’m trying to hustle them for that extra five cents.  It’s been ten cents a notebook forever.

My kids’ school supply lists amuse me.  Yes, I know that it’s important for teachers to specify the correct supplies to get, but each year they seem to take on a Mafia tone.  “NO bookbags with wheels!”  “Elmer’s glue — DO NOT buy the “no run” type!”  Capital letters, bold text, underlining, the whole bit.  I suppose elementary teachers can do that; elementary kids are supposed to have school supply lists.  After the elementary years, however, teachers resort to more simplistic demands.  “Please bring a notebook to class” or “Writing utensils are recommended.”  And we know darn well that there will still be kids in November who claim (whether from obstinacy or with justification) that they don’t have school supplies.  Needless to say, the cheap notebooks come in handy.

There’s always something exciting about the beginning of the school year, and I’m not sure if it stems from embarking on a new adventure with new classesclassroom or if it’s a leftover emotion from my own days of being the student.  I don’t remember many other first days of school, but I remember the first day of 7th grade so acutely that it makes me wonder why I have stored these memories in my brain for all these years.  Perhaps it’s because 7th grade required going into a new building; perhaps it’s because a couple weeks prior to that day, I had finally shed my tomboyish long hair and opted for my first perm and shoulder-length cut.  A grown-up cut.  Of course, I wasn’t used to having bangs, so I kept pushing them off my forehead, which meant that my 7th grade picture made me look like I was wearing a wig, but no matter.  I felt cool on that first day of school, and my biggest fear was that the 8th graders would reject me.  In junior high (back then we could call it that), it was us vs. them: the 7th graders vs. the 8th graders.  It was just the two grades that shared that one hallway where all the classes were held.  Thus, as a 7th grader, it was imperative that you had a good relationship with the 8th graders, otherwise your school existence could be made rather miserable.

And so I walked into the junior high building at an absurdly early hour on my first day of school — a characteristic that would follow me in later years.  In fear of being late, I am usually way early, and that day I wanted to draw as little attention to myself as possible.  So, my plan was simple: be early, and just blend in with everyone as they came in.

I was the only one there, of course.  I tried my locker combination a few times, found it fairly easy to operate, and spent the next few minutes decorating my locker.  Little magnetic mirror on the inside of the door, a few pictures of people I would see everyday (but it was a great honor to be represented pictorally in a person’s locker), and a few cutesy baskets to hold pens, pencils, and a few tubes of my newest addiction: lipstick (Wet & Wild, of course).

Setting up my locker took all of about four minutes.  Just as I was trying to figure out what to do next (the hallway was deserted still), the doors down the hall opened, and the Queen of 8th grade walked in.   She was what every girl wanted to be: beautiful, popular, and a fashion icon.  She intimidated me, of course, and I tried desperately to look busy behind my locker door.  Straighten the mirror.  Move pens from one basket to another.  Hang coat on the opposite hook.  Dang.  What now?

And suddenly, a presence beside me.  “Hi!” she said in her cute valley-girl voice.   “I love your outfit!”

I looked down at my outfit: jeans and a bright pink sweatshirt that said “Paris” on it.  She liked my outfit?  I stammered out a “thank you.”

“This year is going to be great, don’t you think?”  she asked in her perky, bubbly sort of way.

“Uh, yeah . . . ” I replied, not quite sure what to say about a question that evoked judgment about the future.

“Well, I’m going to go get my locker set up.  See you later!”  Off she went to the lockers on the opposite wall, her bag of locker decorations clinking while she walked.

I had been graced by the Queen.  She liked my outfit.

Thus began my 7th grade year.  And she was right — it was a great year.

I knew that somewhere I had a picture of me on this first day of school.  Too bad I didn’t remember how unflattering it was.  Oh well . . . chalk it up to teenage angst. (I think my annoyance is stemming from my mother, who was behind me fussing with my hair.  Note the front of my hair pushed way off my forehead.  Some habits die hard!)


(Scanning this picture wouldn’t have made it any better, so I didn’t take the time.  It’s a picture of a picture.)


The dog days of summer

I went to my parents’ house in South Dakota over the weekend in order to do some school shopping.  I wouldn’t have wasted my time if I would have known what a bust my shopping trip was going to be.  HOURS of shopping, and I bought . . .


. . . one pair of black pants.  All those great sales, and that’s all I could come up with.  And believe me, I tried on tons of clothes.

What’s  my problem, then?  Well, it’s simple.  I hate the curent styles.

Really.  I don’t know how many T-shirts I saw that have ruffles down the front, or button-down shirts with ruffles down the front.  Obviously ruffles are in, but therein lies the problem.  I hate ruffles.  I hate them even more on a T-shirt.  I supremely hate them on a button-down shirt.  I just hate them.  Period.

My second gripe of the day: stretch fabric.  Now, I love stretch fabric in certain types of clothing.  Pants, for example, look much better with a wee bit of stretch in them.  My problem, however, comes when I am trying to find a button-down shirt that fits nicely.  A little bit of stretch is OK, but it seems that all the shirts are beginning to go overboard in the stretch department.  I usually buy a large in button-down shirts because of . . . well . . . certain inherited features of my upper-mid region.  And a large button-down shirt will, without stretch, fit perfectly, with just enough room to move.  But with the stretch added in, it guarantees that any time I move my arms, the fabric pulls at the buttons, which it turn looks like I’m going to bust out of the shirt . . . no pun intended.  And yes, I would just buy an XL, and that would just solve all my earthly problems.  The problem is that an XL is too big.  They key, of course, is either finding a shirt with just the right amount of stretch or no stretch at all.  And in today’s fashions, that is getting to be impossible.  EVERYTHING has stretch.  Or ruffles.

Walking through the mall, I’ve found, makes me feel incredibly inept.  Perhaps it’s my age talking here, but when I walk by the stores designed for today’s teenagers, I can’t help but feel initimidated.  The music pulsing out of its doors, low lighting, and shabby-looking facades are all designed to keep parents out and lure in the young and trendy, and it works.  All I have to do is walk by the stores and I feel my coolness level drop dramatically.  (Not that I ever had much to begin with.)   Long gone is the hippie-inspired green and pink trim along the store I used to shop in as a teenager.  Now it almost seems that you need to flash ID before entering such stores.

Shopping is no longer a peaceful experience for me.  As I walked down one corridor after another, all I could hear was the boom boom emanating from the trendy clothing stores.  One genre of music blended into another, clashing, meshing, but ultimately all sounding the same.  Since when did clothing stores have to sound like clubs?  How is one supposed to converse with the sales clerk (much less the person you went in there with) when the music drowns out everything?  Maybe that’s the point.  No need to converse, really.  Just text your comments to the person next to you!

It was one of those weekends with hot, humid weather — the sort of weekend where you feel somewhat guilty because you’re sitting inside, enjoying the air conditioning, but the second you step back outside to assuage your guilt, the heat suffocates you until you no longer feel guilty.  High, high, high humidity and 80-something degree heat = misery.  It truly was miserable outside.  I love going for walks around my parents’ farm when I’m home, but the second I started walking down the driveway, I had to turn back.  It was too much.

The heat and humidity also made for some great storms, although none of them hit our area.  They went north, they went south, but none of them hit straight on, and that’s perfectly fine for me.  Given the fact that these storms were producing baseball-size hail, I was perfectly content to have the storms go in a different direction.

Driving back to Iowa, the sky swirled around the heat and humidity, constantly threatening to send down rain, hail, tornadoes, or a combination of all three.  I get horribly nervous when I drive in storms, so I was constantly scanning the radio stations for the updated radio report, but the sky pretty  much looked like this the entire time:


As you can see, I am demonstrating my immense talent at driving and taking a picture at the same time.   I finally bought another small point-and-shoot camera to use in times when I didn’t want to lug my Canon DSLR around.  In the above instance, it would have been rather difficult to look through the viewfinder and shoot a picture while trying to keep the car on the road.  (Chances are that the next few pictures would have been of the grass, the sky, and broken glass as my car rolled into the ditch.)


It’s that time of year

back_to_school_bannerIt’s fair week here in our small town, and I cannot believe that the summer has already flown by.  I mean, it seems like I just cleaned up my classroom and walked out with an armload of books, ready for a break and a fresh start in the fall.  I say “fall” loosely, because it seems that school starts earlier and earlier every year, and it no longer is limited to the fall, but mid- to late-August.  This year it’s beginning on the 17th for us teachers, with the regular circus beginning on the 19th.  Oh, how I long for the days when the school year couldn’t begin (by law) until after labor day!

Of course, I understand that with most schools being climate controlled, there really is no reason to hold off the commencement of school until after the typical August blanket of heat and humidity has dissolved.   We’re good to go as soon as the teachers shake off that zombie-like stare and begin to feel like their old selves again.

It’s a typical pattern that I will spend most of August resisting the urge to begin really long, time-consuming projects in order to procrastinate working on school stuff.  It’s like the opposite of a nesting instinct because it’s an instinct that tries to distract me from what needs to be done.  In fact, that anti-nesting instinct is the very feeling that provoked me to begin this blog a year ago.  I wanted to do something — just not school stuff.   It was a good move, because this blog satisfies my urge to write and also allows me to connect with others who enjoy the same things I do.  I’ve met some great people just by reading other’s blogs and maintaining my own.  So if you’re one of the handful of people who regularly stop by and read my feeble ramblings, thank you.

I’m feeling motivated to make the upcoming school year as stress-free as possible.  I’m sure by October I will be laughing at my naitvetee, as I often do, but I know I have to do something in order to keep my sanity a little better this time around.  You see, last year I began teaching high school AND middle school, and because the two buildings are currently not together, that meant that I’d be doing some traveling back and forth to the different buildings.  Basically I’m half time at one building, then I get in my car and zip over to the other building and spend the rest of the day there.  And while the arrangement does provide some wonderful variety, it just about kills me every day.  I didn’t go into last year being supremely organized, and trying to deal with the new situation, the new classes, and my lack of organization is what just about did me in.

This year (I told myself), it would be different.  I’m playing around with some options to help make being a multi-building teacher a little less chaotic, both for me and the students.  I created a website that will house all my lesson plans, class information, resources, etc.  I’ve done that in the past, true enough, but it was always part of some company’s setup, so the URL was always hard to remember for the kids.  This year, using the great discount I get at ICDsoft for creating new websites, I bought a domain with just my name so that the students have no excuse for not remembering it.   There it is — use it, kids!

Now, if I can only fight this weird urge I have to go buy a bunch of school supplies I don’t need.  As someone who has an admitted fetish for office supplies, that will be more difficult than it seems.


If I could freeze this moment …

It’s Saturday. The day’s high was 68 degrees. I spent about 80% of the day outside with my boys, cleaning up the yard a bit and sitting in the sun, getting my daily dose of Vitamin D. After the winter we’ve had, I figure I’m probably severely deficient.

If I could freeze today and relive it for the rest of my life, I would. Mild weather, nonexistent wind, and a perfect day to do just about anything. I tried to be ultra productive, of course, but the sun won in the end. I came darn near to falling asleep while sprawled out in a chair on the deck. Continue reading “If I could freeze this moment …”


Radio will never be the same

paulharveyI had expected the news for some time now, for when Paul Harvey made one of his rare appearances on his own show, something didn’t sound right.  His son has been covering for him for several months, and now and then I’d hear a snippet of news about Paul Harvey’s health, but nothing major. The last time I heard his voice this past week, however, I noticed how weak he sounded.  He was 90, so what did I expect?  But still, it was a voice I grew up with, and millions around the world have done so as well. Continue reading “Radio will never be the same”


Going on the record about records

Just when I thought I had exhausted all my obsessions about all things retro, a new one popped into my head a few weeks ago as I was browsing old radios on eBay.  “Wow,” I thought, “wouldn’t a retro-style record player look superb in my new kitchen area, by the fireplace?”  Of course my inner retro guru immediately agreed with my thoughts, and I started browsing what was available on eBay.  Predictably, I ran into a few problems: a) old record players are not in great shape b) the descriptions for the models frequently said that they were in need of repair or hummed and c) the really good restored ones are waaaay out of my price range. Continue reading “Going on the record about records”


Casey’s, it’s time to change the policy

For those of you who live in the MIdwest, you are painfully aware of the extreme temperatures we have been experiencing lately.  Oh, sure, we like to brag to the southerners about how rough we are here; how weather-hardy we are because we’ve survived a blizzard or two. Of course, those boasts would be far more impressive if we lived, say, in a hut in the middle of the prairie with no electric furnace, but that’s beside the point. Continue reading “Casey’s, it’s time to change the policy”