Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What Would Laura Ingalls Wilder Do?

I referenced Little House on the Prairie in class the other day.

The majority of my student had neither read the books nor seen the TV series with Melissa Gilbert.

I was astonished.

Those books were my absolute favorite from first grade through fourth grade.  I had the whole series, which had previously been my Aunt Peggy's.  The front of each book had a book plate with a picture of a girl reading and the name "Peggy Vance" carefully labeled in my grandmother's printed hand.  I used to imagine that the girl reading looked just like my Aunt Peggy when she had read those books and I liked the idea of copying her.

I read and reread them, skipping Farmer Boy (because, really, who wants to read about a boy on the prairie?).  I marveled over all of the details that Laura Ingalls Wilder remembered from her childhood, and wondered about the things she discreetly left out (What was it like to go to the bathroom in an outhouse when it was cold and raining outside?).  The books made me want to eat rice pudding and drink buttermilk (neither of which were ever offered to me as a meal option by my mother, but which seemed to be real favorites in the Ingalls household.  I relished the meals when my mom served venison because Laura ate it!).

The books were the source of endless dress up games and play acting and fighting imaginary prairie fires in a gingham skirt and flowered sunbonnet that my mom or grandma made for me.  I think I spent as much time pretending to be Laura Ingalls as I did actually acting like myself for the entirety of 1987.

I never cared too much for the show because I didn't really think Pa had such luxurious curly hair as Charles Landon and frankly I felt that Melissa Gilbert had no business playing a part that was clearly meant for me (I felt the same way about the short-lived Ramona Quimby television series so clearly I missed my calling to be a child actor--you could be seeing me right now on that "Where Are They Now?" show that airs on E sometimes.).  I hadn't even fully realized what a huge part of my childhood these books were until I found myself gaping open-mouthed at a room full of students who had never read them.

The classroom reference occurred because we'd gotten to the part in Huck Finn where Jim misses his family and confesses to Huck how guilty he feels about an encounter with his young daughter.  She'd had scarlet fever but had recovered and one day shortly after, when she was up and about again, Jim told her to shut the door.  She ignored him.  He told her again.  No response.  He yelled at her and she did not do as she was told, so he hit her.  She was stunned at his reaction.  Jim puzzled over this, then tried an experiment in which he snuck up behind her and shouted as loud as he could.  No response.  He realized his little girl was deaf, and Jim felt miserable about the way he had treated her.

My students wanted to know how realistic this was--could scarlet fever really make one lose their hearing?

Immediately I said yes, it could have devastating consequences.  Remember Laura's sister Mary in the Little House books?  The well-behaved blond one?  She goes blind after she gets scarlet fever.

My students did not remember Mary and confessed their unfamiliarity with Little House on the Prairie.  I spared them the lecture and even managed to keep my reading recommendation to myself (we're tackling Lolita next week, so I really need their full attention on Nabokov).  But I couldn't help thinking about everything they were missing out on!  I must have read some of those books a dozen times.

But it has been ages since I've sat down with Laura and Mary On the Banks of Plum Creek or anywhere else.  I can't quite remember the last time I read them.  Middle school?  Maybe early high school?  One of these days I just might have to sit down with Little House in the Big Woods and see if I can rediscover some of that wonder and fascination that had me longing for the pioneer life.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Assistant Principal

David has already started his job as assistant principal.  His official start date is July 1, but he is sort of taking the entire month of July off (due to his previous commitment to direct the summer school program for his old district and our pre-booked trip to Korea).  Fortunately, his new boss took that news very well.  Still, David is never one to be a slacker (seriously, this guy was reading How to Be the Best Assistant Principal In the Universe, Ever or some similarly-titled non-fiction as we lounged by the lake a couple of weekends ago.  I, of course, had ditched Huck Finn and my teaching preparations for one of those novels from the "thriller" section of the library where the title is in all capital letters, the cover is mostly red and black, and you can't remember much about the plot or the characters except that you spent most of the novel breathlessly turning the page and skimming ahead to find out what would happen next). 

So anyway.  David has been working hard.  Directing summer school in the morning, driving out to the new school in the afternoon to meet some of the staff, get acquainted with the building, and figure out all of his new responsibilities. 

Last night he was looking over the school's discipline report from last year.  This is the name of every student who got referred to the principal's office with a short summary of their offense and the resulting action (example:  sticking hands out bus window, safety discussion with student, parent called; punching classmate in stomach, parent called,1 day In-School Suspension).  David was flipping through the list to see who the repeat offenders were.  He can pretty well expect that he will be calling their parents several times during the school year, so his plan is to go ahead and give those parents a call this summer to introduce himself so that their first encounter with him is a pleasant one.  Since it is quite unlikely that their future encounters will be so pleasant.

He was going over the discipline report last night as we were eating dinner, and both of us were cracking up at some of the offenses.  The violent ones weren't funny, of course, although "flicked his pencil at another student and hit him in the head" made me chuckle, I confess.  All the ones about kids cursing or saying inappropriate things had us laughing out loud.  The curse words were matter-of-factly written into the report:  "Johnny* said 'motherfucker' and disrupted learning time in the classroom."  Sexual jokes and innuendos were equally subject to punishment, but (much to my dismay) were not specified in the report.  One girl threw a boy's shoe across the gym in PE.  When asked to apologize, she did so "but with attitude."  When the teacher told her she needed to apologize sincerely, she said, "I'm sorry he's in this class!"

I find that hilarious rather than punishable, so this is probably why I am not cut out to be an assistant principal at an elementary school.  Although David laughed even harder at the two second-graders caught singing, "We are hustling, pimping, and stealing," so maybe finding humor in inappropriate language and behavior is an important quality in a school administrator.

The report was not long, especially considering this school has 750 students in it.  David can already tell he's going to have a trouble with a couple of kids, whose lists of offenses ran over a full page.  But he has a good sense of humor about the kinds of things kids do and say, and most importantly, he's truly sympathetic about why kids say those things and act the way they do at school (most of the time it's because they see that behavior/language modeled at home). 

He got a congratulations card from a family member that said, "Those kids need more people like you!" and as we sat giggling over the verbal threats of school children, I could see how true that was. 

Kids need discipline, of course, but they also need to feel like someone understands them.  David has high expectations for their behavior, but he also has a lot of empathy for their frustrations.

Which is why I think he will be the best assistant principal in the universe, ever.

*Not his real name.  Unless this incident actually happened to a certain Mr. Johnny Lewis, which may be entirely possible, but would also be entirely coincidental.  All of the behavioral incidents mentioned here are entirely fictional and intended to serve as hypothetical examples. 

Friday, June 25, 2010

Small Town Saturday Night

When I was in high school, the big Saturday night activity was cruising.  (Remember, this was back in the good ol' days when gas cost less than a dollar, we weren't fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the gulf coast wasn't being suffocated by an apparently unstoppable oil leak.)

Monica drove most of the time and the rest of us would cram into her maroon four-door Buick with its cushy and velvety maroon seats and we'd drive up and down the main drag in town.  The turn around points were the grocery store on the west side of town and the grocery store about half way across town.  Sonic and McDonalds were both in between these two parking lots, so we'd often stop for fast food.

Basically we'd just drive in circles to see who was "out."  Sometimes we would stop and talk to other carloads of people in one of the parking lots.  But if a few cars started congregating in either parking lot, the cops would come and then we would all have to leave and keep driving in circles so as to not be loitering. 

If no one was out, we'd head out to the country to the "party spots" which were usually bridges or specific spots on gravel back roads where people congregated when they could find someone of age who was willing to buy beer for a minor.  Sometimes we'd spot a bonfire and find a party and stay.  Sometimes we'd just drive by shouting out the car windows, "The sheriff is coming!" to clear out the party and send everyone running in a panic.  I'm not sure what the motivation was for this, it was just pure entertainment.

One weekend the summer after our senior year of high school, we saw a cute, older guy cruising in a big black pick-up truck.  We flagged him down and asked him to buy wine coolers for us (because we were very classy).  He whipped out some business card and told us he was with the Department of Underage Drinking and we just about peed our pants.  For all our wishing for wine coolers, we were actually good kids going to college on athletic and academic scholarships and we stared at that guy like he was about to drag us off to prison.  It turned out he was full of crap and just messing with us, but I suppose it taught us a lesson about flagging down strangers and asking them to participate in illegal activities.

One of the other stupid things we did was what we called "trunk cruising."  It sounds exactly like what it was.  If there were several of us in the Buick, or we ran into more people we wanted to cruise around with, we'd just put a couple of people in the trunk.  Often we would pair up boys and girls to create a romantic atmosphere, what with being trapped with someone else in a small, dark, airless space, obviously being very romantic.

We found no end to this amusement, especially when we'd go to Sonic and place an order:

"Two cherry limeades, please."

The carhop would deliver them to the driver's window.

Monica would say, "Oh, they want those in the back."

The carhop would obliging move toward the back window, whereupon we would shout, "No!  The WAY back!"  And then Monica would pop the trunk and the two people in the trunk would sit up and get their limeades.


But hilarity could lead to danger, as when we had a couple of people in the trunk and sort of forgot they were there as we turned up the radio and careened along the backroads, possibly exceeding the speed limit slightly, at least when the Buick caught a little bit of air bouncing over railroad tracks.  We got back to town and popped the trunk to find one of our friends with a bloody lip and bump on her head, since she was obviously unprepared for the bouncing around.  She got over it, but it definitely wasn't the romantic trunk experience she had imagined.

I guess we knew something about making our own entertainment, but we were also very, very stupid.  Still, everytime I go to Sonic, I still picture the carhop's face when the trunk popped open and our two friends sat up to get their drinks.  And I still laugh about it.  Maybe this is what they mean when they say you're always seventeen in your home town?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ten Things That Are On My Mind

1) Hot.  It is hot.  Wiltingly hot.  Smotheringly hot.  And I like hot weather.  We had friends over last night and as they said their good-byes around ten o'clock and we saw them out the front door, we were hit with a wave of sultry air that felt like walking into a steam room.  And this was ten o'clock at night!  It is freaking hot.

2) Huckleberry Finn.  I'm teaching it this week.  In a class about censorship.  Tomorrow we have to talk about how we're going to talk about the "N" word.  It is not a conversation I'm really looking forward to because I don't want it to get used lightly, but I also don't want to censor language in a course on censorship.  This reminds me of why I like to teach Victorian novels:  their controversies are less controversial.  I mean, people get pregnant out of wedlock and if you're not reading carefully, you can miss it entirely and not know what they're talking about a few chapters later when they start having whispered conversations making arrangements regarding the character's "condition."

3) Babies!  I know so many pregnant people right now that it is unbelievable.  Two sets of twins and four other babies on the way.  The way pregnancy is going around you'd think you catch it like herpes.  Oh wait...  Also the film Babies, which I saw a couple of weeks ago and found quite fascinating.  A sister of a friend of mine is adopting a baby from Ethiopia, and I've been following their story here.  Also I'm planning a baby shower for one of my friends and we're hitting that point where we've been to enough showers that we're sort of out of games.  Do we just have a gameless shower?  I feel like I need to get creative about this...  Suggestions would be welcome.

4) Arrested Development.  I watched season 1 of this show on Netflix instant queue and loved it.  Like I still think about it and giggle.  And sometimes Buster reminds me of my brother...

5) Suits and dress shoes.  David signs his contract today and as the assistant principal, he has decided he needs to stock up on dress clothes.  Evidently athletic shorts and t-shirts are no longer acceptable career wear for him.  He got three new pairs of dress pants over the weekend and we went suit shopping on Sunday but found nothing to suit him (he's very particular about flat front trousers and jackets that are fitted but not too fitted).  After a while, every gray suit jacket starts to look alike so then I insisted we take a break and tackle suit shopping again another day.  Also David, in all seriousness, showed me two pairs of nearly-identical shoes and asked which I liked better.  I had no preference, so I picked one.  He said, "I already own these in brown, so I was going to get these others in black."  I'm so glad my shoe collection is not boring.

6) Korea.  Our trip to Korea is coming up at the end of July.  Brandon is making some kind of itinerary for us that includes outdoor markets, major tourist attractions, a baseball game, a trip to Suwon, and who knows what else.  I have never been to that part of the world and I am so excited and so curious about it.  I will be documenting the trip here so *get excited!*

7) Ticks.  We went to the Lake of the Ozarks over the weekend and hiked on a couple of short trails.  I found no fewer than 10 ticks on me in about two hours.  I am so grossed out by ticks.  Also ticks make me think of the summer that Jamie and I lived in Colorado and Monica's family was there visiting one weekend.  Monica's little sister was about five and she was very interested in the tattoo of a turtle that Jamie has on her foot.  She studied the tattoo carefully and then looked and Jamie and said suspiciously, "Is that a tattoo of a tick?"  Jamie was slightly offended told her no, it was a turtle.  Later she said to me, "Only a kid from Nevada would think of that!"  This is probably true.

8) Key lime pie.  I'd really like some.  I've never made it before.  I have an idea that it would be difficult, but maybe I need to take on that challenge.

9) Dog hair.  It's everywhere!  Little Mac got a haircut, which has helped a little bit, but Cooper is the real culprit.  It's horrifying to wash our sheets and find the dryer vent filled with dog hair.  And yet we continue to sleep with the filthy beast.  He's our fur-baby.

10) Summer reading.  If I could spend my summer any way I wanted, I'd read a novel a day.  I'm not quite there yet, but I'm teaching a novel a week and making time to read on the side and it is so delicious.  I haven't read anything wonderful yet, so I'm definitely open to recommendations.  Next on my list is to read Dickens's The Mystery of Edwin Drood and then read the novel Drood that fictionalizes the composition of Dickens's final (and unfinished) work.  I've also requested a nonfiction book from the library called Methland and I'd love to find a really good suspenseful mystery... 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I love this.

I love teaching novels.  I love standing up in front of a classroom of eager 18-22 year olds and talking enthusiastically and earnestly about literature and why it matters.

I'm teaching Fahrenheit 451 right now, in a summer class on Banned Books.  It.  Is.  So.  Fun.

Fahrenheit 451 is a twentieth-century American novel, which is not my area of expertise.  In fact, none of the novels I'm teaching this summer is in my comfort zone of nineteenth-century British literature (did I just call nineteenth-century Brit lit my "comfort zone"?  How embarrassing.).  And yet.  I am having a wonderful time.  These kids--all twenty-freaking-four of them--are smart and sincere and they really mean it when they talk about how Fahrenheit 451 teaches us to resist conformity and think for ourselves.  It's adorable.

I had them start out doing a short writing assignment today, responding to the epigraph of the novel:  "When they give you ruled paper, write the other way." - Juan Ramon Jiminez.

I told them to get out their own ruled paper and tell me how that quotation relates to the novel.  Many of them literally wrote the "other way" on their ruled paper which was so freaking cute

It turns out that teaching twentieth century American novels is fun, too, because they offer cultural references that students readily pick up on, most of them being more familiar with the Cold War than they are with the Crimean War.  So we've been able to have conversations relating Fahrenheit 451 to Eminem lyrics and Nazi Germany and high school cliques and The Blind Side and Jonathan Swift.

Also, I am totally charmed each time one of them calls me "Doctor."

I can't believe I get paid to show up and talk about books for an hour and a half.  This is why I finished grad school.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dog Days of Summer

My favorite time of the day is about 8pm on a summer night.  The day is over, but the night feels so young when it's still light out.  When we walk the neighborhood there are so many people out and about with their dogs and even though my dogs have very questionable social skills and we sometimes have to cross the street to avoid an ugly growling incident or an awkwardly long sniffing of the privates, I love to see people walking their pups.

Or not walking them, as the case may be.  The family who lives behind us (our backyards back up to the same alley) is a Chinese family who moved here to put their kids through school in America.  They have four kids who all went to medical school.  Their youngest daughter moved back home to go to school and brought her husband and their doberman with her.  The parents have a yappy little rat terrier of some kind and he and the doberman make a hilarious duo, with the terrier running circles around the doberman's long legs.  Also the doberman wears booties (much more successfully than Cooper did).

We got home last night from this new Mexican restaurant in our neighborhood that we hoped to make "our" Mexican restaurant but this was the second time we'd eaten there and unfortunately we just don't like it.  The rice is yuck and the enchilada sauce is just no good.  There's another Mexican place we like much better except they don't have outdoor seating and it's "family-owned" in the sense that an eight-year old bussed our table and filled our water glasses last time we were there which sort of made me uncomfortable.  So we are still trying to find our favorite.


We got home from the not-favorite Mexican restaurant and saw the son-in-law on his bicycle in the alley.  They had a cart thing hooked up to the back of the bike for kids to ride in--not one of those enclosed pup tents, but an open-air, double-seater cart.  Instead of a kid, the yappy little terrier was perched on one of the seats, harnessed in, with a big doggy grin on his face.  The doberman (not wearing booties at the time) was patiently waiting along side the bike.  The son-in-law explained that the terrier can't keep up with the doberman on their nightly bike ride/run so they bought the carrier so that the little dog can come too.  Adorable.

I asked him if he would offer rides to other dogs in the neighborhood and he said that we can borrow the cart for our dogs if we want to.  Now we just need new bikes!

Tonight we were walking the pups around the block and saw two ladies walking, one of them pushing a stroller.  They commented on how cute my dogs were and I was saying the same thing about their baby when I realized that they had a shih tzu in the basket underneath the stroller!  He was totally chilled out, just hanging in the basket. 

I think Cooper and Mac might have been a little jealous of these sweet rides.

So far we have no plans to give our pups the lazy way out on our walks, but as Little Mac gets older, I'm thinking that maybe we could find a little cart that we could harness to Cooper and he could pull his sister around the neighborhood!  How cute would that be?

No, it's a great idea.

Friday, June 11, 2010

We Apologize for the Delay

I meant to post this long ago.

Remember this baby

Sam was born a year ago on April 17.

He's a big boy now:

My scar appears to be glowing due to diligent application of sunscreen. 

I did not share my Bud Select with Sam, even though he was very interested.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

City Mouse vs. County Mouse

I have become a City Snob.

We live within the city limits of our midwestern city and even though we ended up here by a series of coincidences, happenstance, and dumb luck (midway location between our two jobs, a neighborhood we could afford, a motivated seller), it has become clear to me that this is where we were Meant To Be.

I love our nice little neighborhood.  I love that the guy next door is super handy and always willing to let David borrow tools.  I love that his girlfriend is always bringing me extra bunches of stuff from her herb garden.  I love that the little old lady across the street used to work for the police department as a receptionist and has made herself our neighborhood watch.  I love that the family down the street runs a pizza place not far away.  I love that there is a Muslim family living next door to a house with a statue of Mary in the front yard.  I love that the lesbians on the corner have a chihuahua who thinks he's tough stuff.  I love that the African American woman who has a beagle named Daisy goes to church every Sunday wearing a hat.

I love that we are within walking distance of a grocery store, a dog groomer, a beautiful park, a coffee shop, two elementary schools, and within short driving distance of major chain stores but also family-owned Italian restaurants, a Home-Eco General Store, and half a dozen more coffee shops.

I love telling people I live in South City and I honestly feel a little bit sorry for people who don't live in South City.  For people who think that it's worth a commute just to have a bigger house, or a bigger yard, or an attached garage.  People who live in a neighborhood where all the houses look a like and none of the trees are big enough to offer shade.  Suburban, subdivision living is just not my style.  And David has felt the same way.

Sure, some day we'd need a house bigger than our two-bedroom, one-bathroom bungalow.  But we'd save for a house in the city or at least very close to the city so that we'd still be 20 minutes from downtown and the trees in our yard would be big and old and shady.

Moving to the way-out far-West suburbs was never on the agenda.  Don't get me wrong--we have friends who live out there and who have very nice homes and who are very happy there.  They moved their by choice, even after living in the city.

But strip malls and subdivisions are just not what I want in a neighborhood.


Yesterday David accepted a job as vice-principal of a very good elementary school.

It's way out in the county.

It will be a 40-minute commute.  Each way.  All highway.  A reverse commute, since most people are living in the county and working in the city.  But still.  That's a LOT of time in the car.

Neither of us has had more than a 15 minute drive to work in the past, so this will take some getting used to.  David is not looking forward to the drive.  In fact, despite his previous desire to stay in the city, near the stadium, near our favorite restaurants, he thinks about that drive and is ready to pack up and move us the county (obstacles like selling our house and affording a new one nonewithstanding, obviously).  But I am...  resistant.

I hate change, for one thing.

I also hate house-hunting.

But mostly, I'm a City Mouse.  Not a County Mouse.

So we'll see how this commuting thing goes.  A lot can change in a year.  But we're not making any definite plans just yet.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My Wisdom Teeth; Or, Terrible and Ridiculous Things That Happen to Me

I had my wisdom teeth removed a few years ago.  And by "removed," I mean, my gums were sliced open, my wisdom teeth were busted up into tiny pieces that would allow for removal due to the extent to which they were impacted, and I had huge hollow spots in the back of my mouth where copious amounts of food ended up everytime I tried to eat something solid.

Also, I fainted.

PART I:  Needles

It all started, obviously, with the teeth.  My dentist recommended it and so I dutifully added myself to David's dental insurance plan, scheduled the surgery, and started interrogating everyone I knew about their wisdom teeth removal experience.

This, of course, varied widely from, "It was a complete nightmare and my face swelled up so much I couldn't talk and then I got a fever and almost died," to "I took a couple Advil and when I woke up from my nap, I was fine."

(Like my brother, who stayed awake for the procedure, had his wisdom teeth pulled with local anesthetic, and was like totally fine the next day.)

So really I had no idea what to expect, although I had heard that the "prep-talk" was the worst part--you know, when they tell you all of the terrible things that might possibly happen while you are under anesthesia (FYI: you could die).  I was a little anxious when we got to the orthodontist's office and so I asked nurse or assistant or whomever it was who wore scrubs and called me from the waiting room if my husband could come back with me.

She said no.


(To her credit, I think she later regretted telling me no, as she ended up having to go fetch David not even five minutes later.  He had been reading a magazine and was like, "What?  Is it over already?"  Ha.  Not hardly.)

I was feeling a little more nervous by the time I sat down in the reclining dental chair.  And, let me just add, that I am not at all freaked out by the dentist.  I love the dentist!  I think this is because I have never had a cavity (I know, I am a dental marvel) and so going to the dentist is always a pleasant experience where the dentist tells me what great teeth I have and reminds me to really brush way in the back on the left and then sends me home with shiny polished teeth and a free toothbrush and a travel sized toothpaste.

It was not the dentist thing that was getting to me.  It was the humongous set of long, scary needles left sitting out on the countertop.

I mean, seriously.  Who does that?  There at least five, maybe six of them.  I can see them still.  Long, silver, and horrifying.  The nurse saw me glance at them and I must have had some kind of visible reaction, because she quickly covered them with a paper towel.

But it was too late.  By this point, I couldn't stop thinking about needles going into my mouth and gums and the "prep-talk" was in full swing and when she got to the part about why I want to avoid a dry sockets, I lost it.

By which I mean, I fainted.

While reclined in the dental chair.

I think I managed to mumble, "I don't feel so good," and then I woke up with wet paper towels on my forehead, an oxygen mask on my face, and David staring down at me, looking kind of pale and shaky himself.  (Looks like there was enough room for him to go back with me after all!)

Once I came around, I felt OK, even though waking up from fainting is one of the least pleasant experiences ever, except possibly slipping into fainting.  The nurses were all friendly and sorry and they joked with me that usually it's only the big guys who faint on them.  And then they explained that they would not be removing my wisdom teeth that day because they can't put me under anesthesia after I've fainted of my own accord.

They rescheduled my appointment but couldn't get me in for an entire month.  The orthodontist also gave me a prescription for Valium that he suggested I take the morning of my next appointment.  Also he said I should eat ice cream the night before to keep my blood sugar up.

So I went home and repainted the bathroom and tried not to think about the fact that I had to go back and face it all again in just a few weeks.

PART II:  Jury Duty

In the meantime, I got called for jury duty, so a week and a half later, I reported to duty downtown.  I was secretly sort of excited because I watch Law and Order and I imagined myself helping to serve the justice system in a meaningful way.  Or at least get to sit in on an interesting trial.  I knew that most of them were drug violations and most trials only lasted two or three days.  I brought a couple of books, thinking I'd just pass the morning by reading, but there were televisions blaring so loudly I couldn't hear myself think, although I could hear every word of every cell phone conversation that every person around me was having and it was miserable.  I sat there all day and finally my group got called back.

We had been selected to be jury members for A Very Important Trial that might last THREE to FOUR weeks.

Of course, everybody around me starts shifting nervously and looking panicky, and I'm right with them, imagining myself sequestered in a stinking motel with these people and thinking, "No!  I have to have my wisdom teeth out!  And also we've already bought plane tickets for our trip to Oregon!"

So then they say that if we have a hardship, we need to get up and stand in line to go tell the judge about it.  Now, I had no idea if the judge thinks wisdom teeth and vacation are hardships, but I sure as hell do, so I got in line.  I was pretty nervous, too, because I had to walk up to the judge on the bench, surrounded by all these lawyers with yellow legal pads, who were scribbling furiously as I explained my hardship, punctuating every statement with a lilting-question tone because I was nervous and therefore sounded like a nervous person trying to imitate a Valley Girl circa 1992.

I cleared my throat:  "Ahem.  Well, you see, I'm scheduled to have my wisdom teeth removed? And maybe that's not such a big deal, but it is the second time I've had to schedule it because I have this needle phobia?  And so I passed out last time?  And so I had to get this anti-anxiety prescription to go back?  And also we bought plane tickets to fly to Oregon the first of August?  So I don't know if that qualifies as a hardship..."  and then I trailed off and stared desperately at the judge.

He sort of smiled and said, "Um, yes.  I think it does."

And so I was dismissed.

PART III:  Surgery, Addiction, and The Apocalypse

And you might have thought it was smooth sailing once I got out of Jury Duty.

The fact was, I did get my prescription and I got to the orthodontist and this time--guess what--they said it was fine if my husband came with me while I was being prepped for the surgery.  So David held my hand and then I woke up all loopy and told the nurses how much I love him until he dragged me out of there and home to the couch.

Recovery was pretty brutal--my face was bruised and swollen and my lower jaw was incredibly sore because they'd really had to dig around in there.  I kept popping the pain pills but I also had this crazy fear that I was going to get addicted to the pain pills because I don't know pain pills are addictive, right? but when I tried going without the pills, well, I was in pain.

I sat around with a bag of frozen peas on my face, feeling generally miserable, and David did the caretaker thing he always does, which is to be really attentive for about ten to fifteen minutes and then to lose interest entirely and ignore me until I feel better.

Just in case recovery seemed to be going well, the day after my surgery, a huge summer storm rolled through.  Damage was incredible--fallen limbs, fallen power lines, flash flooding.  Our block alone lost three Bradford pear trees.  You couldn't drive anywhere without a tree limb (or entire tree) forcing a detour.  We lost electricity.  I kept mumbling that this was why we needed to be prepared to live off the grid or at least have a generator.

Losing electricity meant that we lost air conditioning.

Also our ice maker.

Also the ability for our freezer to keep things cold.  Things like bags of frozen peas and popsicles, which were my only forms of comfort and sustenance, respectively.

We spent a hot, sleepless night at home.  The next morning we took refuge at my friend Jamie's apartment while she was at work.  It was about 110 degrees in our house, and Jamie still had AC and a freezer.  So we loaded up the dogs and drove over there.  She was like the only place in the world that had power--we were supposed to call and check in with the orthodontist--they had no phone line.  David was trying to make birthday reservations for me for a dinner that I could store in the huge gaping holes in the back of my gums--the restaurant was closed because they had no electricity.

Part IV:  A Dramatic Confrontation Followed By Tears

So we dragged ourselves to Jamie's apartment.  David was watching the ballgame when the dogs started scratching to go out.  Obviously David was long-past his attentive-caretaker stage, so he let me take the dogs out while he watched the Cardinals.  I had Cooper on a leash, but I let Little Mac wander since she will never run away and leave us (even if we wanted her to, which we only sometimes do).  As the dogs sniffed around and did their business in Jamie's front yard, a man came over and wanted to know which apartment we were in.  I told him that we were visiting apartment 1W.  At this point, I was feeling a little loopy from the pain meds, but it occurred to me that he looked vaguely familiar.

About the time I realize that he is the landlord I met when I went with Jamie to tour this apartment, he tells me that he is the landlord and that dogs aren't allowed in the apartment.

It is difficult for me to talk because my face is at least twice its normal size and also my lower jaw hurts like hell from teeth-bone being busted up in it, but I explain to him that our power went out with the storm and it's too hot to stay at our house.

He repeats that it's fine if we are there (oh, yeah, like we need your freaking permission to be in a friend's apartment?) but no dogs are allowed.

At this point, Little Mac runs into the street and nearly gets hit by a car.

And I lose it.

By which I mean I become slightly hysterical.  I scream at Little Mac and get her back in the yard, then I start making sobbing, hiccuping noises and I ask him if he wants me to take my dogs home and leave them there to roast because it is 110 degrees in my house and doesn't he think that he can make an exception for a freaking power outage and I'm not sure what else I said because I was hysterical and loopy.

He started backing away from me, looking panicked, and then and he sort of stammered that he supposed it was okay as long as they dogs didn't stay the night.

And then I shouted at him, "You think I WANT to stay here tonight with these dogs?  You think that is what I WANT?"

And then the dogs and I went inside and I started screaming at David for sitting in there watching the Cardinals game while I fought with Jamie's landlord with my huge fat bruised and swollen face and then I sat down in Jamie's computer chair and started sobbing.

David turned off the TV and said, "That's it.  We're going to the lake."

So we drove home, threw some stuff together, and loaded up the car and drove to his grandparents' house.

Part V:  Refuge, Bowling, and Digestive Distress

David's grandparents had no land lord, plenty of air conditioning, a freezer, ice cream, popsicles, and, mostly delightfully, special geriatric ice packs for elbows that fit perfectly around my jaw.

I camped out on their sofa for about two days and then decided I felt good enough to join them on their weekly pilgrimage to the bowling alley.

Where I, still looped up on pain meds, proceeded to bowl the BEST I have ever bowled in my entire life.  I mean, seriously, my bowling score is usually somewhere in the 80s.  But THIS day, I bowled a 144.

I wasn't close to beating any of the old farts on the g-rents' team, but I was hanging in there with the special ed group home kids on the lane next to us (who quickly became my biggest cheerleaders and best friends).

High on my bowling victory, I then proceeded to down an entire large Frosty from Wendy's while we trekked through the SuperWal-Mart on David's grandma's weekly shopping pilgrimage.

Then we went out for Chinese.

My stomach started lurching before we got to the restaurant, and I tried to subtly communicate to David that I seemed to be having a serious form of digestive distress, but Chinese buffets hypnotize David to the extent that no one's needs matter more than his own desire for cashew chicken.  And also fried okra because this is the Chinese buffet in Branson.

He actually told me to just wait a minute and then added that I didn't have to eat if I didn't want to.

Not wanting to scream at him in front of all the old folks we had met up with for lunch, and also not sure I could open my mouth without vomiting, I tried to endure my agony in silence.  I spent most of the lunch hour in the restaurant's bathroom where (horror of horrors) his grandma and her friend came to check on me.  Finally when I staggered back to the table, clutching my stomach and looking at least as miserable as I felt (still with the bruised and swollen face), David managed to pull himself away from the freaking dessert bar long enough to see that I was doing my best to disembowel him with my glare.

He quickly surmised (at long last) that I needed to get the hell out of there before I murdered him and had explosive diarrhea, the order of those events being totally equivocal.

So he drove me back to the g-rents' homestead while I moaned piteously and told him that if he ever chose a Chinese buffet over my digestive distress again, that we were seriously over.  Seriously.

I got to the g-rents' house just in time to lose it.

And by lose it, I mean that I threw up my Frosty all over their guest bathroom, which made me thank my stars that David's grandma is the most fastidiously clean person I know because if you have to lie on cold bathroom tile that is not your own, at least you want to be sure that it is freaking clean.

I felt much better after I barfed up the Frosty.

The next day the power was back on at our house (the answering machine finally picked up--we'd been calling every few hours) and my face was shrinking back toward its normal size (thanks to the geriatric elbow-ice treatment) and we headed home.

And at the end of the day?  Well, I got out of jury duty.  I hit my bowling record.  David has not had to choose between me and a Chinese buffet (and for the sake of our marriage, I kind of hope he never has to).

And I'll never have to have my wisdom teeth removed again.