McWhat?!?

Faced with the daunting task of raising thousands of dollars to take five kids to the Forensics National Tournament in Indianapolis this summer, I have spent the last several weeks enconsced in fundraising activities such as sending kids out in their professional business attire to solicit (beg) for donations, running concession stands, and supporting parents who held a giant yard sale – all typical fundraising activities.

Then I got a phone call and found out my team and I had been volunteered to join forces with another team and head up the first ever McTeacher’s night in our town.

“You signed us up for what?!? I asked.

“Working at McDonalds!!” my former friend answered a little too gleefully. “We make 20% of all total sales for the time we work. It’s a great fundraiser!”

I spent my entire day yesterday dreading my shift. I put myself through college waiting tables, and to be totally honest, I was NOT looking forward to returning to the food service industry. But I gotta tell you, working the drive thru is fun despite the fact that I kept getting in trouble because I slowed down the line.  I ended up knowing way too many drive thru customers and I had to at least say hi! It’s a small town.

Did you know drive thru’s have a timer that tracks the average number of seconds it takes to get a vehicle through? I had no idea.  I didn’t do much to help the crew’s averages, in fact, I probably would have gotten fired for being a bit too chatty.

But I did get to say hi to our vet, a gal from my husband’s office, a teacher I used to work with, two teachers I currently work with, former and current students, you get the picture. I even handed one of them my phone to take this shot which severely impacted our times, but we had a good laugh – people were not expecting to see me in the drive thru!

I finally got banned from hitting the little button that said we were done with an order because I hit it too early one time and deleted the order before it was served – oops! Thankfully the customer had her receipt, so the non-McTeachers could still fill her order.

I did some fascinating people watching which is a fun exercise in terms of character development. I never would have considered the drive thru as a good people watching place – who knew? You get to see inside people’s cars which is like a little window into their world.  The best (or worst) was the lady (thankfully in the passenger seat) who had clearly just left a casino and had her cigarette and cocktail in hand.  Apparently she needed some nuggets to go with her drink. I think I’d agree that a drink could definitely make them go down a little easier.

There was the angry grandma who was not so happy to get her “happy” meals for the also not so happy grandkids in the back seat. Another family had their dog in the bed of their truck. It was his first time ever to experience a drive thru, so we had to share a moment together. He was pretty excited about the whole experience.

You could also tell the weather has been nice by the somewhat shocking number of men who were beet red sunburned.  Apparently they don’t keep sun screen in their trucks, but I was surprised to find that a ton of people keep cigarettes in their vehicles! I clearly live in a secluded tobacco-free high school world because I had no idea how many people smoke in their cars. My 17 year old supervisor assured me that actually most people do in fact smoke in their cars and her wealth of experience in drive thru’s has provided solid evidence for reaching that conclusion.

The only bad part of the experience was that it reminded me of my age. The drive thru people are in charge of filling the drinks.  This is fine but the screen that shows all the drinks is way up high which means we had to crank our necks all the way back to see it. Then, being just a wee bit competitive I kept having to look at the little second counter to see how we were doing which seriously crinked my neck.

Unfortunately, McTeacher Night might end up with McChiropractor afternoon.

Seven Questions You Should Never Ask a Quilter

If you have a friend or loved one who quilts, and you would one day like to be the recipient of a lovely cherished heirloom, don’t ever ask them any of the following questions.  You may never get a quilt.

1.  “Why would you want to cut up perfectly good fabric just so you can sew it all back together again in another big piece?  What was wrong with it to begin with?”

 My dear husband asked me this when I first started quilting.  At the time, I didn’t really have a good answer for him because in some sense, his logical engineering brain came up with a good point.  If I recall correctly, I just stared him down.  He hasn’t asked that again.  Apparently he likes all the quilts around the house.

 2.   “You know that quilt you gave me? The cats love it.  I can’t get them off of it!  It’s their favorite place to sleep.”

The person who says this gets permanently removed from your quilting gift list.

 3.  “Is that supposed to look like that?”

This is a question that has different responses depending on who asks it.  If it’s a really good quilting buddy who asks it, you can safely assume whatever “it” is, looks like crap and needs fixing.  If it’s a non-quilter, you can safely assume they are lame and have no idea what they are looking at/talking about anyway.  You’re quilt is fine. Nod your head, smile, say “yes, it is supposed to look like that, thanks.”  Move ahead and consider scratching them from your quilting gift list as well.

 4.  “I needed to wrap a package and couldn’t find any scissors so I just grabbed those ones out of your sewing room to cut all the wrapping paper. Don’t my presents look great?”

This generally comes from a loved one who must be temporarily (or possibly permanently) banned from the sewing area.  See my post “Scissor Slut” for more on the sacred status of scissors.

 5.  “Did you ever finish that one quilt you started a long time ago that you were telling me about?”

I work on quilts based on whatever I feel like working on; hence, my giant pile of unfinished projects.  As a result, this is another one with two potential responses.  If it’s done, you say, “Yes, I did.  I gave it to _____________.  If I’d have known you loved it so much, I would have given it to you!  Bummer.”  Or, if it’s not done, you say, “Nope.  I got sick of it.  Hope you weren’t planning on snuggling up in it anytime soon.”

 6.  “Why do you need more fabric? Don’t you have enough?”

Only husbands (or at least the person you share a checking account with) asks this question.  It is not worthy of an answer, merely another stare down.  If my husband asks twice, I just have to ask if he really needs another gun. He’s an avid hunter, and I think one or two guns would kill whatever he’s hunting just fine, but what do I know? Since this question generally silences him on the amount of fabric I need, I would say that I clearly don’t know much about guns or hunting.  In fact, I know guns like he knows fabric.  ‘Nuff said.  

 7.  “How long are you going to take at the quilt shop?”

Another question from the love of my life.  My answer?  It could be hours buddy.  You better just drop me off and leave. . . . Love you!

Shakespeare and Freshmen – Good Times

Think back to your freshman year in high school.  You lived through moments that defined your life . . . at the time at least.  Now, you probably can’t recall what they were.  Think back also to your English class.  Do you remember what you read? Do you remember your first introduction to Shakespeare? As a 9th grader in the USA, you probably read Romeo and Juliet.  It overwhelmed you. You had no idea what the characters were saying. Your teacher probably spent lots of time expounding upon Shakespeare’s mastery of language and all you were trying do was figure out what the hell was going on and why the nurse was so annoying.

I have vague memories of reading the play when I was 14, but now, as a Freshman English teacher, I’ve read it probably 30 or more times.  I just started my third reading so far this year.  I have to stagger them in my sections to avoid reading it with all my sections at one time.  That would be just too painful.  Not that I don’t like William, I do.  It’s just that his writing includes much more than plot and for many 9th graders, understanding the plot is difficult enough without even mentioning Will’s masterful use of language.

Some of them do get it, and that makes it worth it.  Others struggle through and ask, “Why do I need to know this?  My life dream is to be a diesel mechanic.  Will I use this?”

My answer? “Um . . . ya . . . Open to Act II.”  I wish I could say that I have some profound answer that changes my students’ lives and their attitudes toward Shakespeare, but I don’t.  The ones that get it, get it.  They borrow my complete works of Shakespeare and read several plays on their own.  I have some of these every year.  The ones that don’t get it, muddle through.  I am sure that they will live perfectly successful lives as mechanics or engineers, and they will not feel a gaping Shakespearian hole in their lives.

In any case, I shared the following video with my students this year.  They loved it, totally got the story and began to understand the differences in language between the Elizabethan era and their Texting world.  It ended up being a pretty good introduction to the play.  It made me laugh and reminded me what it might feel like to read the play for the first time, rather than the fortieth. Even “The Three Little Pigs” in Elizabethan verbage would be tough to understand without knowing the story first. Enjoy.

Scissor Slut

Yes, they actually come in a velvet lined box. Diamonds do too.

I’m a little bit crazy about my good fabric scissors. In fact, I guard them kind of like how Rumpelstiltskin guarded his name, and like good old Rump, I get a little crazy when somebody steals my scissors and potentially ruins their magic.

There are paper scissors all over the house, but for some reason, occasionally one of my kids will grab a pair of my good fabric scissors to cut wrapping paper or some chunk of cardboard they need to decorate their science fair board.  They don’t quite understand the ensuing meltdown.  “Geez mom, they’re scissors,” they’ll say as I snatch my prized scissors from their hands while screeching, “Oh my God!  You didn’t actually cut paper with these did you?”  I clutch them to my breast as if I have just rescued a child from an oncoming semi-truck or a princess has just guessed my name, while they stare at me like I’ve completely lost my mind.

What they don’t understand is that my quilting scissors are sacred.  They really are just scissors, but there’s something about cutting fabric with a really sharp pair of shears that just . . . satisfies.  It has a certain sound and feel that dull paper scissors could never hope to replicate.

I have all kinds of fabric scissors, probably far more than are actually necessary, but I love all of them.  There are the little scissors that look like a bird with a long beak for snipping threads, rag quilt pruning shears, small ones, pinking shears, and classic fabric scissors.  This doesn’t even begin to touch the variety of rotary cutters sitting in a basket on my cutting table. I have every size available, and in some sizes I have a choice between regular and ergonomic handles.  I need every single pair. Really, I do.

Delicate applique pieces require my super sharp small pair that easily cut around tiny flower petals.  This task cannot, under any circumstances, be completed with a rotary cutter or , God forbid, regular, dull paper scissors.  Well, maybe it can, but I’m not trying it.

I choose which rotary cutter to use depending on a variety of factors.  If the fabric is thick, I need the big ones.  If I’m going around a curve, the little tiny one is absolutely necessary.

My shiny silver Gingher scissors are a must have for larger applique shapes.  I also need them just in case I ever decide to sew an actual piece of clothing ever again.  They are absolutely required for cutting out patterns.

I actually saved money from my food budget in college to buy these scissors.  I needed a dress for some event that I can no longer recall.  The only way to afford the dress was to sew it, so I borrowed a sewing machine and saved for the fabric and pattern, only to realize that I had no way to cut it all out.  I vividly remember riding my bike to the fabric shop and investing in my still favorite pair of scissors.  I think they cost $35, which was roughly half my food budget for the month and a significant investment at the time, but since I still have and love them, I feel like I’ve gotten money’s worth.

As I think about my scissors, I wonder if it’s not the scissors that I love so much, but the beginning stages of a project that the scissors represent.  The cutting stage of a quilt is the beginning, creative part, the playful part, my favorite part.

Funny that I also “cut” when I write, but that kind of cutting comes at the end of the process.  Sadly, the delete button on my keyboard doesn’t quite give me the same excited feeling as when I’m cutting fabric for a project. In fact, I kind of hate cutting my writing, but I think that’s another post.

Tree Trash

My Daughter’s “Trashless” Dream Tree

Despite the fact that my fourteen year old daughter never stepped a foot out of the truck to participate in our annual tree hunt this year as it was “way too cold,” she still managed to give us quite a few instructions on the size and shape of the tree we should get.  It needed to be tall and narrow, not “bushy.”  Living in Northern Nevada, we get pinion pines and finding a tall narrow one can be harder said than done, but we managed.  She approved of our find and then asked if she could please be in charge of the Christmas decorations this year. “Really,” I said.  “Why?”

“Because last year it looked like Santa puked Christmas all over the house, and this year, I want it to look pretty,” she replied.  Hmmm, Santa puke? She followed this with, “Why can’t we have a pretty tree with ornaments that match? Do you have to cover it with all your ‘tree trash’?”

Yep, tree trash.  That’s what my kids call the treasured ornaments and decorations that they spent countless hours creating.  The tongue depressor reindeer, the glitter and glue angels, the red and green chains to count down the days until Christmas, it has all been reduced to “tree trash,” and much to their dismay, I saved it all. Every single bit of it. They’re my favorite decorations, but apparently their dad and I are the only ones in this family who consider them decorations and not . . . trash.

Which begs the question, what is a holiday decoration? A box of fancy matchy bulbs from a store or a pile of faded construction paper, glitter and glue? My teenagers would choose the former; I’ll take the latter every time, but what are they decorating for?  I would say that at fourteen and sixteen, they’re still overly concerned with appearances, and they don’t really want all their friends to see the lovely ornaments they made in preschool despite the fact that most of their friends made the same exact things they did.  They’ll figure it out someday.

We spent one evening this week dragging out all the holiday decorations, but a full two-thirds of them went back into the garage as I decided to go ahead and let my daughter be in charge of the decorating.  I’ve always thought of myself as something of a minimalist in that I don’t like clutter, but when it came to decorating this season, she put me to shame.

She surveyed every decoration and decided what could come out and what had to stay put.  I did insist on most of the handmade ornaments for the tree, but none of the handmade pictures, cards, or large creations made the cut unless they went in my bedroom.  She informed me I could decorate my bedroom however I wanted it, and since my husband and I are the only people who like all that stuff anyway we could put it in there with us.  “That’s awfully generous of you,” I said.  She didn’t answer.  Sadly, her brother agreed with her.

I have to say that she did an impressive job, and now I know I have prepared her to handle the Christmas decorating responsibilities as an adult.  It was also a good compromise.  I have enough tree trash to make me happy, and she doesn’t feel like Santa puked on us . . .  though I do miss the reindeer one of them made out of a hanger and pantyhose that I usually hang on the door to the office.  I might just have to sneak that one in.

Tragedy – No More DIY Costumes at our House

I miss these days.

Today is Halloween, I will be heading off to teach high school English dressed like I normally do which, according to my teen age daughter, is boring.  All of the high school students will also be dressed in their normal clothes: jeans (pulled up or down to varying degrees and with varying degrees of “fashionable” holes), sweatshirts, and t-shirts.  Anyone who dresses up in costume will be sent home to change.

Why? You might ask. Does the administration not have any sense of fun?  They do, but not this day.  Let me explain.  If you’ve gone shopping for teen or adult sized costumes anytime in the past ten years, there’s not a whole lot for guys and all the girl costumes are some variation on a stripper theme.  You can choose to be a stripper nurse, a stripper witch, or sexy stripper pirate chick; you get the picture. The sexier, the better.  It’s not just the girls, boys push it too.  If given the opportunity to dress up, they’ll often stuff balloons down their shirts and become some sort of scary fantasy woman with breasts that would make any normal woman tip over, literally.

Two weeks ago, my daughter and I were in Wal-Mart looking for bright tights.  We found them, right next to a much larger assortment of fishnet stockings. It seems that if a costume isn’t sexy, it isn’t a costume, and hormone-laced high school kids love this.  Hence, the sad ban on costumes.

This makes me miss the days when I spent hours constructing costumes for my kids.  My favorite ever was the rose bush costume.  My daughter was two, and I made her a pink jumpsuit with leaves on it, and then she donned a bonnet to which I glued a bunch of fake rose petals.  She looked like one of the babies in an Anne Geddes calendar.  One year my son was a skeleton, and then on Oct. 30, he broke his foot.  We got to put a break in his costume “bone.”  Another favorite was his 4th grade costume.  He went as Bo Duke of “The Dukes of Hazzard.”  We dressed him up in a plaid shirt and cowboy boots, and I got to curl and feather his blond hair.

I spent hours at my sewing machine making a tiger costume, a dinosaur, a ladybug, and an itsy bitsy pumpkin outfit to celebrate their first Halloween as infants.  I think I still have most of these costumes in a box in the garage, or my sister has them in her basement.

Every Halloween, the kids would get all dressed up for school and then parade around the elementary school gym to the tune of “Monster Mash” before the class Halloween Party which consisted of as much candy and goodies as the room mom could get the other parents to donate.

This is all over.  No more monster mash parades or class parties, and I’m guessing my participation in creating their costumes is over as well. Though there will be dress-up days at school for Homecoming week, its just not the same. They won’t dress up again for Halloween until they leave home, and then I may not want to know what sort of costumes they choose.  I’m fairly sure they won’t dress up as an adorable a rose bush or broken skeleton.

My Man-Child has Cold Feet, Literally

Over the summer, I had the quilt that I normally keep in the trunk of my car, my denim bus blankie, in the house.  When my son saw me folding it up to put back in my car, he asked me what I was doing.  I told him I was putting it back in the trunk.

He had the audacity to tell me NO, take the quilt from my hands, and set it back on the couch.  “That quilt has to stay in the house on the couch,” he said.

“Why?” I asked.  “We have plenty of snuggle quilts in the house.”

“Ya,” he replied,  “and none of them are long enough to cover my feet anymore.”

I stared at him, up at him.  Oh. My. God. I thought.  I’ve watched him grow over the past two years,  from about the same height as my nose, to being able to set his chin on the top of my head.  That is no small feat as I am 5’9” tall, but I didn’t realize how tall he’d actually become.  Somehow, even though I watched it happen, it snuck up on me.

I stood him up against the door frame where we’ve marked his growth over the years, and we measured him.  My baby boy is 6’ 2” and growing, and he’s right.  The only quilt that will cover his feet if he lays on the couch to watch TV is the one off his bed or the one out of my car.

I guess I didn’t realize how much he’s grown.  Either that, or I still think of him as my little baby boy whose favorite thing is to sit on my lap and read stories.  Well, it used to be.  He would crush me if he sat on me now which he still does occasionally just to amuse himself.

He told me that he does not want to be taller than 6’4”.  Period.  And, like a typical sixteen year old, he seems to think that now that he’s made his declaration, he will stop at 6′ and 4″.  “Of course, sweetie.  Whatever you say.”

Now, despite my declaration to stick with wall hangings for a while, I need to create  giant, long quilt to cover my baby’s toes.

The things we do for love.