Why Are You So Quiet?

“Why are you so quiet?”
A coworker asked the other day.
“Talking is easy, just try it!
Do you really have nothing to say?”

“I’m sorry my silence offends you,”
I carefully replied,
“But you see, I’ve work to do,
And my mind is occupied.”

“Here, here,” my nemesis cried,
“That’s no reason for restraint.
Look at Betsy, Susan, Clyde,
They greet me without complaint.”

“Is this only a matter of greeting?
Why, I said hello just last week.”
(Sadly, for some it bears repeating.
I forget this, hence her critique.)

She continued our conversation,
Claimed it the most we talked since we met.
“It’s liable to cause a sensation,”
She said, “I’ll surely win the office bet.”

I did not like the sound of that,
Though I knew it was just a tease.
I tried again: “No time to chat,
I’ll return to my desk, if you please.”

Did she listen? Of course not, they never do,
These garrulous acquaintances we soon regret.
She spoke of shopping, shoes, the weather,
Or maybe it was her health, I forget.

The fact is, I’m with her still,
If it weren’t so tragic, I might laugh.
But as I’ll die here, I’ll write my will,
At last, it’s quiet, my epitaph.

When Girls Kiss at Gammage

I was at Gammage the other night.

That’s how we say it in Arizona: “I was at Gammage.” Old timers might say, “I was at Grady Gammage,” but most of us don’t bother with the full name.

Gammage.png

If a big Broadway show is coming to Phoenix, you can be sure it will be at Gammage and this year we’re getting a buttload of them.

Even… (drumroll, please)… Hamilton!

That’s coming up in January,and it’s the main reason we bought season tickets. Fun Home was the first show of the season and I was anxious to see it.

Do you know the story? It’s based on the memoir of Alison Bechdel. Basically, it’s a coming of age tale, but unlike most of the coming of age stories you’ve heard, this one involves a lesbian.

Husband and I knew the story fairly well without ever seeing it. Son saw it in New York twice, and from his descriptions and playing the soundtrack over and over, we knew it inside out. Plus, I read the book.

Our seats were in the Mezzanine area, and in general, I’d say that’s a nice place to sit. We had ample space in front of us, meaning people could walk to their seats with no difficulty.

Except for one guy, who was without a doubt the slowest shuffler I’ve ever seen.

For those of you of a certain age, just picture Tim Conway’s “oldest man” character from the Carol Burnett show. (See him here.) Dress him in khaki pants that are too short and a Cardinals t-shirt and cap, and you’ve got our man.

Here’s the drawing I made of him:

Arriving

That’s him shuffling in front of us, on his way to his seat. (Notice the three little lines to his right? That indicates movement.)

Please ignore the fact that he looks like he’s going to the bathroom. As I’ve said before, I can’t draw hands. I tried putting them in his pockets, but… look, just ignore that part, okay?

As to the musical, I must say, it’s interesting watching people’s reactions to a story you know well. There were lines that caused huge laughs, but Husband and I knew them so well we didn’t react.

That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy the play. Far from it. Also, that’s not to say everyone found it funny.

I think we were about a half hour into the show? Not sure, but it was about the time college-age Alison has her first experience with a girl.

You don’t see it happen, of course, but you do see them tangled in sheets. It’s the point where she starts singing: I’m changing my major to Joan!… I’m changing my major to sex with Joan!

The audience burst out in laughter and applause, with the exception of this guy:

Leaving

Yep. That’s when Shuffler shuffled his way out the theater. (Note how the three motion lines switched sides?)

I guess the subject matter was too much for him.

Shuffler aside, Fun Home was a great hit in Phoenix. If it makes it to your area, I highly recommend it.

Oh, one more thing: On our way out of Gammage, making our way through the parking lot, I noticed two women ahead of us. Older women, in their 70s I guessed, and they were holding hands.

Not like friends holding hands, but like a couple holding hands. For that is what they were. A couple.

And once again it hit me how very far we’ve come as a society. Sure, there are problems, and sure, we’ve got our Shufflers. But overall, things are so much better than they were. And if we don’t lose heart, I’m convinced they will keep on getting better.

Because eventually, even the Shufflers will get used to girls kissing.

Anyway. Those were some thoughts I had when I was at Gammage the other night.

Words from a Noble Woman – Thoughts on Home and Hearth

As I present these meditations from our mysterious M.A., first talked about here, I find myself in a bit of a quandary. There are times she seems to contradict herself.

For instance, in the passages below, you’ll see how she first tells herself to not take her home too seriously, then in the second she says never neglect it. How do we reconcile these thoughts?

I think it’s important we realize that by all appearances, they are her private reflections. It’s natural that her thoughts drift from one idea to the next, first believing one thing, then another. It is, after all, how we grow as thinking individuals. Always open to new ideas. (Would that all people were this flexible, eh?)

Also, I can’t help but notice M.A.’s fondness for the semicolon. I counted up to four uses in one page alone! To own the truth, I grew faint. Did she use them correctly? Hell if I know, and I’ve been to college. (Perhaps, at least in this, Kurt Vonnegut was mistaken.)

But enough with our rambling preamble. Let us begin. Here are two more of M.A.’s entries (plus a recipe!) that I managed to decipher from her atrocious handwriting:

Continue reading “Words from a Noble Woman – Thoughts on Home and Hearth”

When Teachers Quit: A Lesson in Two Daves

Readers who follow this blog know that in my other life, I work as an Admin Assistant to the Principal of a large suburban high school.
Readers who don’t follow this blog… well, they know now. 

Monday morning, my administrator greeted me with, “I hope your weekend was better than mine.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“A teacher quit!”

My mind raced over the staff list, the various possibilities. Was there a news report I missed? Was someone arrested? I asked who it was — braced myself for the possibility it was someone I liked.

She said the name. It was one of our new teachers. For the sake of privacy, I’ll call him Dr. Dave.

Dr. Dave was one of the first of our new hires, and we considered it a stroke of luck someone with a doctorate was going to teach at our school. First and second year Spanish, no less.

Let that sink in: a man with a doctorate was knowingly accepting a position to teach lower level high school Spanish.

Amazing.

I met Dr. Dave about a month ago. The Department Lead was going to show him his classroom and give him a tour.

Dr. Dave had white hair, thick and wavy. He was stout, but not overly so, and he had a pleasant face.

Also, he spoke like Ricardo Montalban.

Yeeaahhh.

He sat on the couch near my desk and told me stories as we waited for the Lead.

He told me of the time he taught in Costa Rica. Everyone in the village told him not to open windows. They didn’t say why, just don’t open windows. He figured it was because of bugs.

But one day he was in his classroom alone and it was stifling hot. He decided to open two windows. Within minutes, the room was full of monkeys!

brian-mann-16601

He told me other things too. The important thing to remember is that he lived in Costa Rica for a time. Got that?

Three weeks later, I’m walking him to his classroom and he’s complaining about Phoenix’s humidity.

“I guess you’re used to it, but my god it’s humid here!”

I looked it up. On that day, the temperature in Phoenix, Arizona, was 91°F and our humidity was 36%. In San Jose, Costa Rica, the same day was 82°F and 94% humidity.

Yeeaahhh.

I realize I’m suspicious by nature, and just a tad cynical, so I let it pass. Maybe the guy just didn’t like heat. Maybe Costa Rica was long ago and he only remembered the monkeys. Maybe he was just having an off day.

Then, after eight days of school, he gives his notice. But not much of a notice. Monday would be his last day.

The reason? He said our kids weren’t smart enough.

Actually, what he said was that they didn’t know English well enough. He shouldn’t have to spend time explaining sentence structure or reminding them what a predicate was.

Also, they expected him to speak English. He refused. You can’t teach a foreign language by speaking in their native language. “That goes against everything my 37 years of training taught me.”

He quoted Shakespeare in his letter too. Or as he referred to him, “Billy Shakespeare”.

Yeeaahhh.

Later that same day, we had another resignation. By another Dave. We’ll call him Dave G.

Dave G. was hired under an emergency provision, allowing non-teachers with bachelor degrees to take “hard-to-fill” positions.

Not sure if you heard, but there’s a teacher shortage. Especially in Science, Math, and Special Ed. Dave G. was hired to teach Earth Science. 

I met Dave G. about a month ago as well. I showed him his classroom, found a teacher’s edition of the class textbook, and listened to his story.

He had been a meteorologist. He worked for a news station for awhile, then for an airline. They moved to Arizona about a year ago and he decided to try out teaching.

After eight days, he realized he was in over his head. “This is the hardest job I ever had,” he told my Administrator. She was sympathetic.

He said he’d stay on until we found a long-term sub, and given the fact he looked like he aged four years since we last met, I thought that was pretty swell of him.

So what are the lessons can we learn from our two Daves?

I believe there are three:

  1. Humility is Always Better than Arrogance
    If you’re having trouble with a job, admit it. Don’t push the blame elsewhere or claim you’re too good for it.
  2. Leaving a Job With No Notice is Not Cool
    Especially for some jobs. Like brain surgery. Not cool. Granted, teaching isn’t brain surgery, but it’s still not cool to leave your post without warning. For our school, five teachers gave up their planning periods to cover the classes until we could find a sub.
    Not cool.
  3. If You Live in Costa Rica, Don’t Open Your Windows
    Whether or not the monkey story is true, it sounds like good advice.

One final note: If you happen to know any teachers, tell them there are a few positions open in Phoenix.

Daves need not apply.

Lead Photo by JJ Thompson and
Monkey Photo by Brian Mann on Unsplash

Thoughts From a Noble Woman: M.A.’s First Entries

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I’ve been hard at work deciphering the scribblings of our mysterious M.A., and I’m happy to report I have a few entries to present today.

I’m giving you the first two I found, therefore I’m calling them the First Two Entries. (Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?)

Please keep in mind nothing was dated, so let’s not get too concerned whether they were actually M.A.’s first writings, hmm?

In the same way, don’t worry about whether I’m making all this up or not. There’s much to be said for losing yourself in story.

There are far worse places you could find yourself.

Continue reading “Thoughts From a Noble Woman: M.A.’s First Entries”

On Philosophy, Pronouns, and Stoic Women

Last week in an article in the New York Times, columnist Laura Collins Hughes referred to a recent performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

No, not that performance. The one Hughes spoke of was at an all-girls high school. Not only were all the roles played by girls, the word “man” was changed to “girl” throughout the script.

Hughes wrote:

“Thou art the ruins of the noblest girl that ever lived in the tide of times,” Mark Antony said over the dead body of Caesar, and I thought: When do we ever describe girls as noble? When, in the stories we tell, do we ever take them that seriously?

–from “When Women Won’t Accept Theatrical Manspreading
by Laura Collins-Hughes, the New York Times, July 17, 2017

To which I say, “Right?!”

It started me thinking – or rather, it returned me to thinking, as it’s not my first time – how powerful language can be, especially the words we choose to describe ourselves.

I’ve been doing some reading into Stoicism (because I’m weird like that), partly because it reminds me of my dad. He was a calm, quiet Norwegian. A perfect fit for Stoicism.

But also… well, have you ever read something and thought to yourself, “Yes! This, right here! This is meeee!” (Squealed in a most stoic fashion, I assure you.)

You find out you’re not a weirdo after all. Someone — okay, someone in ancient times, but still, it’s someone — thinks the way you do. Only smarter and with a better vocabulary.

Stoicism is like that for me. But there’s one little problem: it’s a wee bit masculine. Oh hell, it’s all the way masculine. I mean, they were all men.

(Okay, fine. I realize there were some female Stoics, but we know very little about them, and they don’t appear to have written anything. Not so much as a grocery list.)

So after hearing of the plucky girls doing Shakespeare, I started changing the language of what I was reading.

For instance:

The bravest sight in the world is to see a great man struggling against adversity.
― Seneca

becomes:

The bravest sight in the world is to see a great woman struggling against adversity.  ― Seneca, feminized

Granted, it’s a small change. Just one word. But that one word not only makes it more relevant to me, it’s done something more.

It got me to thinking: Maybe there are other women, maybe lots of women, who would like these Stoic thoughts too.

To tell the truth, I never felt I had much in common with other women. It wasn’t a gender issue, but more a mental one. I wasn’t as interested in the things they were (or what I thought they were – shopping, makeup, diets, fashion), which may explain why I always had more male friends than female.

But what if that was based on misplaced thinking?

Women are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them. — Epictetus, feminized

Consider the basic Stoic principles of humility, self-control, equality, justice — are those strictly masculine ideals? Of course not. Do all women practice them? No, but then neither do all men. That’s why we call them ideals. (Also, did you notice how christian they sound? Again, ideally speaking.)

Okay, so what’s the big deal, you say. Just read “man” as humankind. If these ideas aren’t exclusively male, then neither should they be exclusively female.

To which I say, Geez fella, lighten up! After several centuries of language going your way, you can’t give us a few quotes of our own?

Because just as it is for an all-girl Julius Caesar, changing the pronouns makes the quotes more meaningful to the average female.

She who lives in harmony with herself lives in harmony with the universe.
— Marcus Aurelius, feminized

A nice concept, isn’t it? A woman living in harmony with herself?

Imagine if young women were hearing messages like that, rather than “Jeans that Make Your Butt Look Great!” (from Seventeen)

Of course, I realize we’re not in the habit of quoting philosophy to our kids, either to our daughters or our sons. That’s not my point.

(Though if you do quote philosophy to your kids, I want you to know how much I love you.)

My point is… well, I’m not sure what my point is. Let’s say it’s my wish. I wish we had a Stoic equivalent for women. Because Stoicism is far more than tweetable quotes, it’s a way of life.

I wish there had been a female Marcus Aurelius who wrote down all her thoughts on how to live a good and honorable life. Maybe Marcus had a second cousin, twice removed.

Let’s call her Marcia. Marcia Aurelius.

But what’s the use of wishing? (Wishing is not a Stoic-approved practice.) Maybe we don’t have ancient philosophies to bolster us up. That doesn’t mean we can’t make use of them, or alter them if need be.

Or — hey, how ’bout this? — what if we wrote our own Meditations?

One day, someone will find a wise woman’s diary — your diary — filled with ideas, admonitions, private reflections; Empowering words on how to be a good, noble woman.

I really wish we had something like that. Tell ya what – I’ll work on mine if you work on yours.

Deal?

Waste no more time arguing about what a good woman should be. Be one. — Marcus Aurelius, feminized

Polly’s Party Game: The Feeding on Folly Edition

How do I get into these things?

Somehow, through no fault of my own, I wind up participating in some sort of friendly, “getting to know you” kind of game. And this is bad because I really stink at them.

It goes waaay back. Like in high school, when a friend would start with:

“Okay, so you’re on a desert island and you can only have two things–”
“Why two things? Who’s keeping me from having more things?”
“No one. It’s just you only have two things.”
“That’s dumb. Who goes to a desert island with only two things?”
“That’s all you have after your ship sank.”
“Wait, I was on a ship? Why did it sink? Are we at war?”
“Gah! Never mind!”
“WAS ANYONE ELSE ON THE SHIP? DID EVERYONE DIE?!”

Suffice it to say, I avoid those sorts of things. But the other day, Rhonda over at Pollyanna’s Path wrote of her Party Game, and me being the observant reader that I am, asked if she expected others to play.

And what with one thing leading to another… well… here’s me playing Polly’s Party Game. (Man. I really stepped into this one.) Continue reading “Polly’s Party Game: The Feeding on Folly Edition”

Too Fearful for a Disney Cruise?

She was there to inventory our printers. Or as IT likes to call them, our “copy/print/scan devices.”

She wore a royal blue polo shirt and khaki pants, no doubt going for that classic geek look. But her red lipstick and fussy hairstyle betrayed her. And not that this is in any way related, but her hair was platinum blond.

One day, I shall have the nerve to dye my hair platinum blond.

slava-bowman-161206A coworker knew her and asked about her summer plans.

“Will you be traveling again?” she asked. “I saw your pictures on Facebook last year. You took a cruise, right?”

“Traveling is overrated,” Platinum Printer Gal said. “All that fuss and bother, it’s just not worth it. And with the news lately… you’d have to be out of your mind to travel out of the country. I mean, everyday it’s something, you know? Continue reading “Too Fearful for a Disney Cruise?”

Four Broadway Musicals and the People We Saw There

Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 9.38.00 AMThis coming Sunday is the Tony Awards. Also known as: The Award Program You Never Watch.

This year my family will be watching, because two of the shows we saw in New York are nominated for best musical.

Oh my gosh! I haven’t told you about the shows we saw! Do you have a moment?

I promise I won’t go on for three hours, speeches will be kept to a 45-second time limit, and there won’t be any ‘who-died-last-year’ montages. But I promise you’ll meet some interesting people along the way, and we’ll have a swell song-and-dance number at the end.

Continue reading “Four Broadway Musicals and the People We Saw There”