Just another plastic bag of produce.

Sometimes I have to help the grocery store cashiers when I’m buying bunny food. Red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, or Romaine. Curly parsley or cilantro or maybe even flat leaf (a.k.a. Italian) parsley. On my way home yesterday, the cashier and the staffer bagging my purchase needed more help than usual.

I almost, not quite, but almost felt sorry for the cashier. She seemed new at the job. I suspect she has a hearing loss, too. Trust me; I recognize my own hearing-impaired behaviors when I see them in someone else. But where were we? Oh, I was checking out at the small grocery store on my way home from school.

The woman ahead of me in line was buying a six pack of bottled water. The bottled water ended up in a plastic bag. Huh? Put a sticker on it, people. I mean, really.

So I came in prepared; I handed over two cloth bags I always carry in my purse for times like this. Between the bunny food and hamburger buns, two bags should have been sufficient. But then, nothing seemed to go the way of “should” on this trip. First of all, my cloth bags didn’t make it to the end of the checkout right away; they got tangled in with the plastic produce bags. The first bags of lettuce ended up in a store plastic bag anyway.

While that was happening, I was distracted by a clueless clerk. “Is this kale?” “No, it’s parsley. Curly parsley.” She rang up kale. “Excuse me, that was parsley. Curly parsley, not kale.” Oops! She fixed it. And then – “Red leaf lettuce?” “No, it’s Romaine. That’s red leaf, coming up next.” She rang up red leaf. “Excuse me, that was Romaine. The red leaf lettuce is there.” I pointed. Ugh. She was lucky Chuck wasn’t in the checkout with me. He would have identified everything else on the conveyor for her. “And those are carrots” is his favorite line when faced with produce identification problems.

Finally, when I could look down toward the bags, I realized she’d packed my two bags with a few items, a store plastic bag full, and was reaching for another store plastic bag for two small packages of cookies. It was right after school, people. Don’t judge me. Sometimes a teacher just needs cookies. This was really ridiculous, though. I ended up bringing home way more single-use plastic than necessary.

Next time I’m stopping at the nearby grocery on my way home, I’ll avoid this particular pair of employees. If I have to deal with them again, I might react badly. And by badly, I mean I might loudly announce, “That’s curly parsley. That’s red leaf lettuce. That’s Romaine. And that’s celery, by the way.” Or I might glower at the  person bagging my groceries in twice as much plastic as needed. Growl.

If the produce is problematic, maybe the solution is to just buy cookies. Cookies might check out smoothly. Well, they “should”. However, we all know that “should” carries no guarantees.

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The Garden Begins!

The magic date for planting in my zone usually falls on Memorial Day. The forecast has been cooperative lately, so I started quite a bit already. I’m waiting a few more days with the tomatoes and peppers; they didn’t start well from seed this year. Better soil or better starter pots might be the answer – next year. For now, they get a little more time in pots on the deck before I measure the grid and insert the seedlings into the soil.

Square foot gardening gives me a lot of food in a relatively small space. So far, I’ve planted lettuces, spinach, parsley, peas, broccoli, and root crops: carrots, parsnips, radishes, turnips. It sounds like a lot – and if all of it comes up, there will be a lot of fresh vegetables around the O.K. Chorale.

The plot behind the new garage is restarting, really. I have a small parsley bed back there (bunny food!), and the raspberries are coming back nicely. In a year or two, I’ll have a significant raspberry patch again. I(hopefully!) protect the seedlings from the wild bunnies.

The onions and garlic that I planted last fall are coming up well. I finally figured out which was which, too. The garlic is almost ready to harvest. I’ll definitely do this again next fall: plant the bulbs, and then let them lie dormant during the winter and grow as soon as the ground thaws in the spring.

I just heard a grizzled old off-grid guy on television say, “When you live this isolated and off grid, there are two seasons: winter and getting ready for winter.” Here in the city neighborhoods, we do some of that preparation. I don’t need to chop wood, but I do grow and can and freeze a lot of goodies during the “Getting ready for winter” season. The big difference here is how relaxing and enjoyable the prep time can be.

Pictures, you ask? Later. I promise.

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But…but… it SHOULD!

(an encore post from the very humble beginnings of Compost Happens – enjoy!)

Comparing the “should” with the reality and the end result

When one major appliance breaks down, nothing else should.
Reality: After the dishwasher died and I was getting grumpy about washing dishes, the cordless phone and the coffeemaker both quit. Of course, we just bought a pack of 200 coffee filters yesterday.
End result: I’m reading the sale ads. And the new coffeemaker has to take the same kind of filters.
2012 Sequel; our refrigerator gave out earlier this week. Appliance repair people were closed for the holidays. We are facing a Big Box Appliance Store on Black Friday to replace it. Hold me. 

Every family member should empty his or her pockets before putting clothes in the washing machine.
Reality: Husband sent his jeans through the wash with the cell phone in one pocket.
End result: It’s still sitting on the kitchen counter (near the nonworking dishwasher) drying out. Thank goodness he didn’t put the phone through the dryer, too!

When taking a car in for service, the mechanics should look it over thoroughly.
Reality: 5000 miles ago we took the car in. The computer couldn’t muster a code to tell them what to do. Despite our detailed description of the symptoms, they gave us the stock reply: “We can’t just throw parts at it!” Incidentally, when we called the dealer in the next big town, their customer service rep gave us the same line (“We can’t just throw parts at it!”) without even looking at the car.
End result: 5000 miles and several dangerous moments later, the computer finally gives them a code that leads the service folks to a likely repair.

should be eating fresh tomatoes and other yummy veggies.
Reality: I planted the garden three weeks late, so everything will ripen later.
End result: I’ll be serving BLTs every day when school starts.

2012 sequel: I brought in piles and piles of unripe tomatoes just before the killing frost arrived. We’re still putting yellow pear and red cherry tomatoes on our salads. Summer 2012 was a good year for tomatoes at the O.K.Chorale.

When the university sends out an email bill, the online site for payment should work.
Reality: The site was down for approximately three weeks.
End result: When the site finally came up, it was excruciatingly slow while every family that paid online tried to pay at the same time.

When I upload a digital picture to the computer, I should be able to find it again easily.
Reality: Pictures always seem to get saved somewhere random instead of in the file I thought I used as a destination.
End result: I grumble and use bad words when I’m searching for the pictures I just took!

Saying “should” is like saying “assume”; neither jives with reality.
Thank you for listening to me rant; I feel better already.
Smile. (Or is that an evil grin?)

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>Will swine flu fizzle or present a pandemic?

>Timing is everything, and “shoulds” are bogus, even when a pandemic is threatening.

I should make sure our medicine cabinet is stocked.
Reality: I usually buy over-the-counter meds when they’re on sale, especially vitamins & supplements. They run 2 for 1 specials so often I never want to pay full price.
End result: We have lots of some meds, we’re almost out of others.

I should make sure our cupboard is stocked.
Reality: Fear of Mother Hubbard Syndrome is alive and well, and we have plenty of canned and frozen foods – including the beef stock I made last night after grilling steaks. That will be one. good. soup.
End result: We’ll be able to last a few weeks if we’re quarantined. A month? That might be tougher.

I should go over my files and records from Public Health Training.
Reality: I barely have the time and energy to get my school papers corrected and recorded.
End result: I’ll pull the files when the first case gets reported in my state or in town.

Heck with all this! I should be gardening!
Reality: Wisconsin weather is fickle, and there’s still the potential for frost later this week.
End result: Planting will wait until the end of May.

I should write a knowledgable post about swine flu.
Reality: Swine flu posts abound, as do up-to-date articles. Search any reputable news site for swine flu and you’ll find updates.
End result: I think I’ll go check the medicine cabinet and see if I need to make a stop at Walgreens!

In between writing the rough draft and hitting publish, I received the latest newsletter for public health volunteers in my fair city. The advice is routine, and I hope the situation remains so. ——->Prevent germ transmission in standard ways, stay home if you’re sick, etc.
–>Store a two week supply of food and water and pet supplies, stock up on nonprescription medicines, and keep prescriptions current.
–>Keep a good supply of basic health supplies such as thermometers, gloves, soap and hand sanitizers, and cleaner/ sanitizers such as bleach.
–>Plan ahead: know how family members will be cared for if they’re sick.

Hmm…with aging parents and a kiddo in college, the last item on the list isn’t as easy as it sounds. Maybe I “should” make a few phone calls.

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>Shoulds are bogus, even in a snowstorm

>Ah, contradictions. This is a case for “Shoulds are Bogus.”

The school for the blind should be more flexible in receiving kids who do not take their buses.
Reality: Their dorm staff doesn’t arrive until a certain time, and that’s that.
End result: I had to plan to drop him off late in the evening, and then either find a hotel or make my way home over back roads late at night. In the snow. During deer season.

I should have left earlier in the day.
Reality: Amigo couldn’t get into his dorm at the school for the blind until 7:30 PM at the earliest, so leaving earlier was pointless.
End result: We watched the Packer game at home and then left.

We should have changed plans completely, leaving early Monday morning.
Reality: We didn’t know the weather would be as bad as it was or the traffic as slow as it was.
End result: We changed plans as we got closer to our first destination.

I should have prepared Amigo for the possibility of change.
Reality: Having too many options can cause him to melt down just as much as a sudden change can. There was really no way to prepare him.
End result: He had a meltdown in the van.

I should be grateful we found a hotel room down the road from La Petite’s apartment.
Reality: I’m very grateful. In fact, the other hotel in the town near Amigo’s school cancelled my reservation with no charge. I’m grateful for that, too.
End result: We’re nearly the only customers here, in this hotel in a small college town. It’s very quiet.

And shoulds or not, I’m glad we have a safe and warm place to lay our heads and rest. No matter what the morning brings, we’ll be all right.
And the hotel room has a coffeemaker, so at least one of us will be happy in the morning.

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>Just another really, really manic Monday

>Monday, Monday. We were still in the throes of the month-long disruption we call No Child Left Untested. My grade level couldn’t have science because of the domino effect that a testing schedule creates. Eager to start teaching science again, I pulled a few videos off the library shelves to help the kids build a little background knowledge before starting the Human Body unit. One, National Geographic’s The Incredible Human Machine, was a little on the long side, but looked promising. National Geographic’s educational videos are good quality, filled with great photography and valuable content. This one was on the elementary library shelves, so I presumed it was age appropriate.


The video started with a full screen shot of daVinci’s The Vitruvian Man in all his proportional glory. Any narration was lost in the hysterical giggles and noisy hoots of fourth graders reacting to this, um, detailed drawing. I stepped in front of the TV and reassured them that I understood they were naturally uncomfortable, this was a very famous drawing by a famous artist and they could take a deep breath and settle down as the movie went on.

Did I say settle down? The next piece in the opening discussed the body as art and showed a painter working on a nude portrait of a woman. The woman was tastefully posed, and nothing unseemly was shown, but it was enough to re-establish the hysterics.

I should have given up then. But shoulds, as my regular readers know, are bogus. The reality? I pressed on, kept attempting to settle the kids and redirecting them toward the paper on which they were to note new facts they hadn’t known before seeing this movie. The end result: They couldn’t keep it together. The class was officially off the walls with giggle fits and roars of inappropriate laughter. There was no possible way for these kiddos to learn anything from the video, no matter how fascinating the cinematography.

Later in the day I vented a little to my coworker in the 4/5 combination classroom. “It was a National Geographic film! Those are usually excellent!” She answered with a quirky grin, “Did it start with a naked woman being painted?” “OMG, yes!” She burst out laughing. “I had the same problem with the same video some ten years ago. I remember telling (principal at the time) that it was on our library shelves so I thought it would be okay!!”

Fast forward by a day and an email and the conclusion is this: it’s an old, old video. We’re clearing our shelves of all things VHS in the spring. This one will simply bite the dust a few months early. The principal knows about it and will field any phone calls. Hopefully, all will be well.
Until I actually start teaching about the incredible body machine….

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>"Are you watching the convention in Denver?"

>”I’m still getting over Hillary.”

Spoken by a teaching colleague, one with whom I’m so alike that I’m not sure we weren’t twins in a previous life, this statement started my afternoon on the first day back to school.

Political talk is an under the table kind of thing in schools. We shouldn’t use email for anything election-related, actively campaign, visibly support candidates while on school property, or even discuss politics if we might be overheard by parents or community members.

You know how I feel about the word “should.” Should, of course, is a bogus concept.

The reality: we quietly discuss politics among ourselves. We teachers often become politically active outside the classroom, put up signs at home and bumper stickers on our cars. We attend meetings, make donations, interview candidates in the name of our professional association, and we write letters. We write blogs!!

So when I saw our congressional representative outside the building shaking hands as more than 1,500 teachers and other school staff walked into our opening day meeting, I smiled. No, I more than smiled. I walked up to him, shook his hand, and thanked him for running for re-election. I wished him good luck in November because we need him in office.

In another hushed hallway conversation, a union rep and I talked about the need to have pro-education people in office at the local, the state, and the federal level. Like it or not, teaching is political. Decisions in Madison, decisions in Washington, and decisions made at City Hall affect the what we teach and how we teach it.

I could go on for a long, long time with a list of examples, but I have desk tags to make and a charter school board meeting tonight. So in closing, here’s a Should to summarize.

Teachers should be able to teach without politics.

Reality: Education is political. It is often driven by public perception. Government decisions affect everything we teach.

End result: Teachers need to be politically active. In order to be effective advocates for children, teachers need to vote for pro-education candidates. And in order to elect pro-education candidates, well, teachers need to step out of their classrooms and …. well, you know the rest.

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>Serenity or shoulds are once again bogus

>Husband’s parents should move into a more accessible apartment.
Reality: FIL can’t handle moving chores physically, MIL remains in denial and won’t take any action until he “recovers.”
End result: Husband and his brother will end up shouldering the emotional burden while brother’s wife and I help out with the practical end of things.

The ‘rents should take the initiative and sign the papers on the senior condo.
Reality: Their denial has kept them from acting.
End result: We’ll have to confront them directly.

The parental units, as the situation gets more and more dicey, should prepare power of attorney with at least one of their sons.
Reality: Denial.
End result: We plan to sit down with them and ask some hard questions and push for answers, including papers. They can revoke these powers after the move if they wish, but for now at least, it would make paperwork and downpayments much easier.

We can’t control their actions or attitudes.
We can control our own reactions.
We can work together, brothers and wives, to come up with a plan, but we can’t control the parental units’ reactions to it or their choices. Here’s where the wisdom to know the difference will come in handy.

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>Shoulds are, as always, bogus.

>I should have washed the windows when I filled the minivan with gas.
Reality: I didn’t have much time.
End result: I bought coffee instead, left the windshield-washing for later.

“Crop dusting” at neighborhood park should have been done on a weekend or outside school hours.
Reality: DNR had only a finite window of time, did it during the school day.
End result: My minivan got coated with the sticky film of an organic insecticide.

Car wash should have taken care of it.
Reality: Car wash track broke down as my minivan entered.
End result: Minivan front end covered with soap, washing code noted (in soap) on side window. Sticky coating of organic insecticide still present.

I should get a free car wash!
Reality: I had already paid. No refund available.
End result: Credit issued, I can go back to get the wash done when they’re fixed again.

Update: I went back to the car wash on a cool and cloudy day. The line was non-existent, and the service was great. the minivan is finally clean.
Now there’s rain in the forecast, but that’s fine with me.

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>shoulds are bogus, or good intentions pave to road to you-know-where


I should compost year round.

The reality: it’s too cold in our lovely winters. A banana peel placed in the bin in December will still look like a banana peel in April.

The end result: I feel mildly guilty throwing away coffee grounds, orange peels, and other biodegradables. Sigh.

I should have taken my own bags to the bookstore last weekend.

The reality: I didn’t. I had the bags sitting out on my dresser, and then I got caught up in my search for gift cards. I left without the cloth bags.

The end result: I left without the cloth bags. I realized it when we were checking out. Fortunately, I only needed one plastic bag. All in all, that’s not bad, but I really intend to make a habit of turning down the one-use plastics.

I should be exercising regularly.

The reality: I’m not. I was all set to start and then I got sick.

The end result: This too shall pass. Amigo has set a goal of exercising weekly, and I’m going to join him. Just — not today.

I should be eating healthier foods.

The reality: I’m feeling lousy and reaching for comfort.

The end result: I continue to pretend that lemon bars have enough vitamin C to have some nutritional value.

I should be resting and drinking herbal tea.

The reality: I’m wasting time blogging and drinking diet orange soda.

The end result: liquids are liquids, and they’ll help rehydrate my aching body and drippy nose. (More than you wanted to know, eh?)

Knowing that Husband missed three days of work with this virus, I should have made sub plans in advance.

The reality: Monday is a relatively easy day with a decent amount of prep time. I used my time to write sub plans for Tuesday and rest then.

The end result: It’s true. I saw the doc on Tuesday, and she told me I’d be sick for the week. Maybe I should have … no, let’s not start that again. I think I’ll reach for more ice water and yogurt.

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