Posted in Random

The Fog

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I took my dog on a walk the other night, and it was SO foggy out. The whole time, I was mesmerized by it.

It was like the neighborhood was closed for the night, like the curtain had been pulled and we weren’t walking on actual streets, but a set, a neighborhood backdrop on an empty stage. It felt like the world had been turned off. The fog muted / swallowed / absorbed all sound. The only thing I heard was the dripping of rain drops, which was odd because I didn’t feel any. It felt like we were walking in a bubble of light made by my phone’s flashlight, but as if that were fake too, a light just bright enough to illuminate us for the night, not the other way around. It only shone down, at our feet and the sidewalk. If I pointed the beam up, it bounced back in my face like hitting a force field.

I sneezed once, and it was the loudest sound in the world.

Nothing looked right in the fog. I thought I saw a branch or an object in the road, but it had no definition, and when I tried to shine the light on it, the light bounced back on me, keeping the thing in mystery. Later, I saw what could have been a snake in the street, a blurry dark line stretched across the asphalt. When my steps took me closer, I discovered it was a manhole cover, something that doesn’t look like a snake at all. Once, I turned around, and at the end of the street behind us, in the cone of moist light from the streetlamp, I saw another figure or two, and for a moment my breath caught. Their shapes looked so scary, and they made no sound in that weird empty quiet place. But then I blinked, and they became normal silhouettes, two people and a dog, but still their silence and shadowy outlines felt unreal and ghostly. Only now, do I realize that’s how my dog and I must have looked to them too, or to anyone peering out of the fake windows of the fake houses as we walked by in our bubble.

I love the idea of fog. It’s mysterious and creepy and beautiful and suggests rainy nights and cool weather. But in practice, it’s never quite what I expect. The first moment of encountering it is one of amazement and joy and eeriness, but I quickly get confused and frustrated by the very characteristics that make it fog– its blurriness and visual depletion. I find myself peering at / through / around it trying to see it better, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. I don’t know what I expect fog to look like, what I expect familiar locations like my neighborhood or school to look like in the fog, but whatever I expect, I’m always wrong somehow. Because that’s the whole thing– you can’t see it BECAUSE of the fog.

It reminds me of how I always thought it would be fun to watch the rain through the catwalk at my former middle school. But the beautiful sunny catwalk, on a rainy day, was– you guessed it– rainy. It was cloudy and gray and sometimes covered in condensation, and the rain falling and running on the glass obscured the view of the sky, which makes complete sense but always somehow amazed and disappointed me. Somehow I thought I’d be able to see the rain falling as well as the sky beyond it.

The mystery of fog is part of its attraction for me. Of course it’s that glowing fog off the ocean you really have to watch out for. That stuff is a killer. Literally. Also be wary of gold coins that turn into driftwood and 100-year-old curses. Looks like it’s time to watch John Carpenter’s The Fog again. And then to avoid walks in the fog for awhile…

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Posted in Life, Teaching

You’re Going to Be Disappointed

New Year means new goals, new promises, new challenges, new you.

Some people like to choose a single word for the new year, something that embodies their focus or intention for the next twelve months. I think this is a cool thing to do, but it’s not for me. I’m a resolutions girl through and through. I like a list, even if it’s a short one. My 2020 resolutions page includes a concise seven items.

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Here are two of my resolutions. The rest are for me to know and you to wonder about.

The first is a return to an old favorite. Monitoring my “Have to’s,” “Need to’s,” and “Want to’s” is one of the best resolutions I’ve ever made and one I recommend for anyone to work on. The second is a familiar goal with a small twist. I love reading and often finish 40-60 books a year, but this year I don’t want all my reading to be for pleasure. I want to read at least a couple of books that push me in some way.  Maybe it’s a difficult text that requires constant use of a dictionary. Maybe I’ll try to learn a new skill or subject and read something that requires study and memorization. Or maybe I’ll read something that challenges my political beliefs or worldview. I don’t know how I’ll go about it yet, but I’m determined to work for at least two titles.

I like my method of goal-setting. It works for me. This year, though, it’s like the universe is trying to force the one-word trend on me.

On Saturday, all Facebook wanted to do was show me people’s 2020 words. PERSEVERANCE. PEACE. OPENHEARTED. CREATRIX (<– I love that one). These are all very cool, and there’s nothing wrong with this way of embracing the new year. It’s just not something I want to do. But, inundated with these terms—STRENGTH, PRESENCE, TRUTH– I found my mind begin to wander… “IF I were to choose a word…” until, in a spectacular bout of stubbornness, I went old school Ghostbusters on myself. “No! Don’t think! Clear your mind! Clear your mind!” I don’t know why I’m so determined NOT to have a 2020 word. I just am.

I thought I had successfully cleared my head of this parasitic inspirational intrusion. Then my metaphorical Stay-Puft Marshmallow Men started showing up.

On Sunday, I wrote a letter to my dad– a thank you note for a Christmas gift and a copy of something he asked me to send him. When I pulled a plain white envelope out of my stationery box and opened it to insert his letter, I realized the envelope was full of words cut out of magazines.

Now, this isn’t strange in itself. I like cutting words out of magazines for found poetry and art and decorating journals, and when I have words left over (you should always have words left over– never use all your words) I often keep them in an envelope. But how an unlabeled envelope of unused words got put back into my box of brand new stationery is beyond me. At the time, I pondered it for a moment, shrugged, and then sent the letter to my dad, leaving the extra words inside. (I figured he could use them for something.) It wasn’t until a few hours later that I realized the implications of my discovery and, literally, gasped. The universe was trying to TRICK ME into choosing a 2020 word! Well, it didn’t work! Ha! My dad can choose one if he wants, but I deftly averted the universe’s clever ploy.

So… the universe chose a word for me.

Monday, I went back to work. [Insert sad violin music here.] The first thing I saw when I walked into my classroom on Monday morning was a small rectangle on the floor. I picked it up and turned it over. This is what I found:

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Before you start spinning myths about how that word got there, NO, I don’t possess a set of magnetic poetry in my classroom (want to buy me one?), and YES, I’m sure that magnet did not exist in my room in 2019. (I’ve been in this classroom for four years, and I am very organized.) I truly have no idea where it came from. I only know that it was sitting there, on the carpet, waiting to mock me the day I returned to work: DISAPPOINTED.

Well, the joke’s on you, Universe, because I refuse to accept your word. I am my own person! I shall not be owned by a word! I am free! FREE, I tell you!!! (But that’s not my word either. I don’t have a word.)

In conclusion, embrace the new year however you want, and don’t let anyone force any particular inspirational method on you. You be you.

Meanwhile, I’ll just be over here hiding from the universe and trying not to be disappointed. Don’t mind me.

Posted in Reading

Marketable Mashups: The World Needs These Books!

This is the time of year when everyone is posting lists of books they’ve read. But what about all the books we WANT to read? And more importantly, what about all the books we WISH we could read, but we can’t because they haven’t been written yet?

I’m a big fan of cool musical mashups. Give me Glee, give me Pitch Perfect, give me more more more of that awesome dance scene in A Knight’s Tale. TV crossovers are fun too. I get a kick out of seeing the ER doctors guest star on Friends, and that episode of The Simpsons with Mulder and Scully from The X-Files is still one of my all-time favorite pieces of television. So… why not apply this cross-contamination amazing plot blending to our favorite books? I mean, come on, who WOULDN’T want to read these future best-sellers?

10 Literary Mashups That Need to Be Written ASAP:

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* On THE ROAD

A beatnik narrates his carefree travels through an apocalyptic landscape.

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* Something WICKED This Way Comes

One Halloween night, a carnival comes to Green Town, Illinois, bringing with it a misunderstood little girl named Elphaba and a cast of talking animals who sometimes break into song.

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* Emma Eyre

When witty, precocious young Emma becomes governess at Thornfield Hall, she tries to play matchmaker for grumpy old Edward Rochester by reuniting him with his wife, Bertha, but things do not go as planned.

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* We Have Always Lived in the House of Leaves

Constance and her sister Merricat live in a house that’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside with their insane uncle who continually writes his memoirs over and over again, sometimes backwards, sometimes upside down, sometimes with only one word per page.

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* Anne of Green Eggs and Ham

Desperate not to be sent back to the orphanage, an orphan girl attempts to endear herself to her new family, school, and town by offering everyone she meets a unique home-cooked meal.

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* The Martian Chronicles of Narnia

Four children discover a magical wardrobe that leads to the harsh landscapes of Mars. Will the children succeed in colonizing the red planet? Or will they succumb to the Great Loneliness and perish?

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* The Lord of the RING

A Hobbit named Frodo receives a mysterious videotape that warns him he will die if he doesn’t journey across Middle-earth to cast it into the Cracks of Doom.

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* Life of Pie

When Alice’s Aunt Polly dies and leaves her famous pie recipe to Lardo the cat, Alice goes on a quest to learn the delicious secret, which takes her on a 227-day journey in a rowboat with Lardo.

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* Knuffle Bunnicula

Trixie adores her beloved stuffed toy, but when plush vegetables turn up with their stuffing removed, her parents begin to wonder. Could Knuffle Bunny be… a vampire?

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* Gone with the Wind in the Willows

An epic Civil War drama about the lives, tragedies, and tangled love affairs of a mole, a badger, and a toad.

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Ok, people, let’s make this happen. Get to writing.