Posted in Life, Teaching

It’s My Brain and I Can Turn It Off If I Want To

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“WALLET!” my husband shouts from the car, as I bound across the parking lot to Walgreens.

“Oops!” I say, trotting back to the car to retrieve my wallet. I smile at my hubby. He does not smile back. This is after I asked to go on his errands with him because I needed something really important at Walgreens, then almost left the house without shoes, then went to Walgreens with him and bought everything except the one thing I really needed, then did his other errands with him, then remembered the thing I really needed from Walgreens and asked him to go back, then tried to go buy it without my wallet.

“How do you function?” he asks. “Seriously, how are you a teacher?”

I ignore him and go to buy the very important item.

The answer is, I function quite well, thank you very much. I am an organized, efficient, productive teacher who juggles my duties with confidence and flair. But all that remembering and accomplishing is exhausting, so sometimes at home I turn my brain off. I think this is a healthy thing to do. Everything needs rest, even the brain. Especially a brain that has to be so on-the-ball all the time. My friend Lori refers to this need for a brain break as a “responsibility hangover,” and it’s the perfect description. Sometimes we need a vacation from responsibility. It’s such a relief to not have to remember anything for a few hours, to let someone else do the thinking.

The problem is that I don’t let other people know when my brain is powering down. There’s no maintenance schedule for my brain. Updates are spontaneous and unpredictable, even for me. One moment I’ll be reading peacefully, without a care in the world, and the next hubby will be looking at me strangely asking, “Weren’t you in the middle of doing laundry?” or “Have you eaten anything today?” or “What’s that sound? Did you turn on the tea kettle?”

At this, I will respond with a glassy-eyed stare and ask, “Laundry? Eaten? Kettle?” as if repeating the last word he said will somehow give the whole sentence meaning. Then I’ll snap out of it and eat a sandwich or make some tea or put the clothes in the dryer before slipping back into blissful unawareness until hubby reminds me of the next important thing I need to do.

I make no apologies for this. There’s just no better feeling than allowing yourself to drift cluelessly for a bit, relying on others to remind you about things like wallets and shoes and food. I think everyone should do it. Although, admittedly, it would be better if we took turns. If you’ve ever found yourself hanging out with a friend when both of you turn your brains off simultaneously, you know what I mean.

This used to happen a lot when I was with my cousin Kelley. Separately, Cousin Kelley and I are both intelligent, hard-working, mature-enough adults, but people who have only met us together don’t know this because our brains shut themselves down when we come in contact with each other. It’s like how some women’s cycles sync up, but we do it with our brains instead.

Kelley and I once decided (on two low-battery brains) to drive around aimlessly in the middle of the night to listen to a new mix tape* one of us made for the other. There was a whole conversation about which car to take and who should drive, and somehow we decided that we should take Kelley’s car, but I should drive it. We headed a few miles west, turned off the bigger roads, and drove slowly and aimlessly– singing along to the latest Roxette or David Bowie song– on small streets where no one was awake but us. Soon, we were lost, but we did not care. A short time later, we were being pulled over because driving slowly and aimlessly down dark, uninhabited streets at three o’clock in the morning is apparently suspicious behavior. No big deal. We were neither drunk, nor disorderly, and I knew the police officer would recognize this as soon as he talked to us.

Then I realized I didn’t have my license because, at no point during the which car/ which mix tape/ which driver conversation did we consider which one of us was carrying her purse.

Oops.

Thankfully, the officer was kind and we got off with a warning. Kelley took the wheel, we both turned our brains on to medium power, and we went home.

Medium power is about where my brain is right now. School ended today at 3:40PM (I’m free! FREE!) and although it was tempting to go into sleep mode immediately, I knew that was a bad idea. I have quite a bit to accomplish in the next 24 hours, like laundry and packing and navigating travel plans, so I need to keep my mind at least 50% charged. Otherwise I’m likely to wander into a bookstore or decide to rearrange the metal lawn animals. (Come to think of it, they do need to stretch their legs…) But when all that is done, watch out world, because I’m hitting snooze on this thing until January. If you see me slumped on a chair staring dreamily into space with a goofy grin on my face or a little drool glistening at the corner of my mouth, don’t fret. I’m fine. I’m happy. Just put a cookie in my hand, pat me on the head, and whisper, “Sleep well, brain. You have no responsibilities here whatsoever.”

Snowflake

* Dear readers under 30, a mix tape is like a playlist made of thin plastic that can unravel and get stuck in your car’s tape deck.**

** A car tape deck is a narrow hole the dashboard of your car where you stick a tape and sometimes a plastic straw to get the tape out and sometimes a pencil to get the plastic straw out.***

*** A plastic straw is a small flexible tube that people used to use to drink cold liquids so they wouldn’t freeze our teeth or mess up our lip gloss, but are now instruments of the devil that murder turtles and will therefore incur dirty looks if seen in use.

Posted in Halloween, Life

Where Cute Meets Creepy

 

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Not everyone loves Halloween as much as I do. I know, it boggles the mind, but it’s true. Some people just don’t get it.

Me? I love all things creepy. Books? Movies? Costumes? Decorations? Urban legends? That tree on the corner that, in just the right light, looks like an old man holding a severed head? Yes. Gimme, gimme, gimme.

But it’s not just the spooky aspects of October that I find endearing. I also love the softer side. Like fall leaves skittering across the sidewalk and a cup of hot tea in a mug with a black kitten on it and a harmless children’s story about murder and revenge.

Er, at least I thought that last one was harmless until I shared it with my 7th graders. They were horrified. (Kids these days… they take things like murder so seriously.)

Here are a few of the things that have ranked high on my cuteness meter this month:

Scaredy Cats

I like to display book recommendations from my classroom library, and in October, I tend to showcase the more terrifying titles. I have one student who turns the scary covers around so he doesn’t have to look at them when he’s in class. The book that creeps him out the most is Shutter by Courtney Alameda.

ShutterCover

Scaredy Dogs

This weekend, Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden hosted a Howloween Party. Uno elected not to participate in the costume contest, but he had a great time meeting all the other dogs and posing with the pumpkins.

Howloween

This Guy

This October marks my twentieth Halloween with this handsome panther.

Gink

Seven years ago, I wrote this post about Gink on my former blog. At the time, he was almost 13, and I was feeling nostalgic and worrying about him getting old. I didn’t realize he was only just entering middle age.

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When I adopted this crazy kitten in 1999, I had no idea we’d still be together today, but I’m so glad we are. Gink has lived in five homes with me, and has seen me through almost as many relationships. He definitely likes Hubby better than any of my previous boyfriends. (A cat always knows.) The feelings are only sometimes mutual. (Gink has middle-of-the-night habits that some light sleepers find a bit trying.) Hubby jokes that Gink made a deal with the devil and will never die. I ask you, would that really be such a bad thing?

Cute Things Come in Creepy Packages

I happen to believe that all babies are cute. All of them. So when I saw the tiniest scorpion I’d ever seen in my bathtub earlier this month, I squealed with glee instead of fear and took its picture before setting it free in the back yard.

Come on, how can you not find those tiny little pincers adorable?

The Story That Horrified My 7th Graders

Jon Klassen is a picture book author and illustrator. You may know him from his stories I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat, or you may recognize his artwork from books such as Pax and The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place.

Well, he also has a story in the book Half-Minute Horrors. It’s called “The Legend of Alexandra and Rose,” and it is BRILLIANT. In one page, with one illustration and less than 25 words, he tells a macabre tale AND demonstrates the different meanings of the word “legend.” So clever. So creepy. So (apparently) disturbing to some twelve-year-olds. (Oops.) Here’s the terrifying little tale:

Legend

(One girl was so bothered by it that I told her an alternate version of the story where Alexandra planted roses all over the yard because she knew how much Rose loved them, and Rose was so happy she gave Alexandra the room with the big window. See? I’m not a completely horrible teacher…)

Three More Days…

There are only a few days left until Halloween. It’s time to starch your witch hat and feed the bats and finish digging those graves buying that candy for the trick-or-treaters. In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for the cute and creepy creatures lurking in the corners. 👀

Posted in Halloween, Life

None of This is Normal

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It’s the last week of October, and this is the first blog post I’ve written this month.

If you’ve been worried about me and wondering why I haven’t been bombarding your inbox with creepy stories, strange decorations, and a general, 24/7, over-caffeinated zeal for all things Halloween, thank you for your concern, but fear not. I’m alive and well and currently sitting in a room with not one, not two, but THREE skeletons. And one dog. And a gnat that keeps landing on my face and driving me crazy.

I realize it’s not normal for me to take my favorite month off from blogging, but really, nothing about this October has been normal.

It all started when our hardwood floors exploded. Not exploded exactly. They… grew. Actually, it was more like they swelled up, but I hate the word “swell” (*shudder*) so I’ll use expanded. But that doesn’t sound right either. Let’s put it this way: Over the course of four days, the terrain of our beautiful hardwood floors metamorphosed into hills and valleys and mountain ranges that made it look like the monsters from Tremors were living under our living room. So that was fun. Then a parade of well-meaning professionals came to our house, measured things, scratched their heads, measured more things, and said, “That’s not normal.”

Well, duh.

We are still in process of figuring out exactly what kind of monster is haunting our house.

Then there’s the rain. I live in Austin, Texas. In case you’re unfamiliar, we’re known for our music, our tacos, and our dry spells. There are restaurants here that serve 100¢ margaritas when the temperature hits 100 degrees, and they often do a pretty good business even in September. Fall usually arrives in late October with the first real cool spell blowing in around Halloween.

But this year… it’s been raining. A LOT. And on October 15th, the temperature dropped into the forties and stayed there for a couple of days. And then it rained some more. It’s still raining. In fact, it’s rained so much that the water treatment plants can’t keep up, and we’re now having to boil our drinking water to get the demons out.

I’m telling you, this October is weird.

With my house randomly redecorating itself and the sky always dripping a strange wet substance, it took me a while to get into the spirit of Halloween. But finally, it got into me. I decided if October was going to be weird, I was going to be weirder.

So one night, when it stopped raining for a few hours, I went out into the front yard and started setting up a cemetery (because there’s nothing creepier than seeing your neighbor hammering tombstone stakes in the dark).

It turned out pretty well. Except for these folks…

Once the yard was sufficiently creepy, I decided I couldn’t let my ruined hardwood floors ruin my Halloween indoors*, so we got a new roommate, and he livened things up a lot.

Now I’m ready for my favorite holiday, and I have the empty candy wrappers in my trash can to prove it. The yard is decorated, the house is decorated, and my costume is coming together. There’s only one thing left to do: decorate my blog.

Expect a few treats headed your way over the next week. Better late than never.

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* I swear I did not realize that rhymed until after I wrote it.