cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

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Has Spring Sprung Yet?


If Yoda lived around my geographics he might mutter: “Strange I think this weather is.” 

  
Plastic tulips to fool the moose that ate last year’s batch.
For instance:

One day last week I ate lunch out on the “patio” (back doors by my classroom) soaking up the delectable rays of 50+ degrees, only to wake up to snow flurries six days later.

This must be spring. That roaring lamb thing is in gear.

I know the calendar declares spring to be around March 21. Being too comfy to get up, I checked the Farmer’s Almanac on-line instead. I definitely got distracted on the way to corroborating the date:

According to folklore, you can stand a raw egg on its end on the equinox. 

Apparently the FA editors decided it was worth a try–and suceeded.

Some pithy verse:

One swallow does not make a spring.

Bluebirds are a sign of spring; warm weather and gentle south breezes they bring.

In spring, no one thinks of the snow that fell last year.

Don’t say that spring has come until you can put your foot on nine daisies.

Spring-time sweet!

The whole Earth smiles, thy coming to greet.

The vernal equinox signals the beginning of nature’s renewal in the Northern Hemisphere! 

  • Worms begin to emerge from the earth.
  • Increased  sunlight hours, with earlier dawns and later sunsets.
  • Birds are migrating northward, along with the path of the sun.

After checking out planting schedule links and other diversions, I discover Official Spring is Saturdayish and not Monday after all–Leap Year influence. Then again I knew it was spring about three days ago because:

1. A huge robin trilled a bodaciously loud and cheery morning song as I readied to get in my car and go to work. Having just read The Secret Garden, I felt compelled to chat with him. He must not have known the robin from that book as he utterly ignored me.

2. Cars are driving down the road with the ubequitious yellow bagged tires needing to be switched over from their studded weather partners.

3. Girls are wearing tank tops at school.

4. Daffodil points are cautiously peeking up out of the barren landscape.

5. Seniors are skipping classes more than attending them.

6. Black is no longer a first choice grab in my wardrobe. Got me a real hankering for purple, pink, and yellow.

7. Turtlenecks suddenly seem so negative. 

8. It’s not dark when I get home.

9. Primrose pony packs greet me outside the supermarket.

10. I set up my resin chair outside the front door. I’m catching any stray sun ray I can.

What spring signs are harkening your way?

 

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A Puzzling New Pastime


As much as I love to read in the evening, sometimes I find myself dozing off, getting soundly thwacked in the face. Noses do not generally make for comfortable bookmarks.

With the evening still stretching out ever so long–dark, dark at 5:30 pm *blech*–I try to find ways to stay awake until at least 9:30 or 10 pm. If I go to bed any sooner I am up at 3 or 4 a.m. [My body automatically wakes after 6 hours of sleep. Alarm clocks are a waste. So much for sleeping in. My family jokes about setting Mom instead of an alarm clock if we need to get up early]. I’m willing to get up at 5 a.m–not 4 a.m.

So–long evenings, what to do?

During the day, when I’m not teaching the joys of literature, I’m on the computer grading, answering emails, creating lesson plans, doing more grading, and I’m not real thrilled about jumping on the computer when I get home.

The hubs would be content watching a movie [we don’t do commercial TV] but that’s a lot like screen time to me and I enjoy peace and quiet after a full day of teen jollity.

We tried cribbage. Backgammon too. He’s a chess guy. I’m a checkers fan. Not a knitter.

And then, there I was at the library. Right next to the magazine exchange rack I spy  a new addition: puzzles!

I grew up watching my dad patiently wangle his way through landscape puzzles. Those teeny tiny pieces of chopped scenery boggled my little mind. It looked like boredom in a box and I avoided puzzles growing up. Besides the boredom factor,  I like life organized, and puzzles remind me too much of trying to fix something that was broken. Spin ahead a few decades, and standing there in front of all those free puzzles at the library I became somewhat transfixed. Dad always looked so calm slowly piecing together those pictures. Why not?

Bringing home a puzzle proved much more complicated:

  • a dedicated table is needed
  • a certain light is necessary
  • a certain dedicated area is both needed and necessary

It only took two weeks and five stores to find the perfect table. It took a half hour to clear out a corner. I’m still trying to find the perfect light. But–

We are now on our second puzzle. 

The hubs worries over the quiet addiction that is developing. One little piece leads to another, then another, and soon two hours have gone by. I was almost late to work one morning as we battled out the last twenty pieces of placement. I’m in my coat, lunch bag and purse slung over the shoulder, and I keep muttering: I need to go. I don’t go because I found the tree branch piece and that means it connects to the sky, which bridges the roof to the chimney…Is there a twelve step program for puzzlers?

I am a bit puzzled over our new pastime. I feel dociled, like I’m in a folksy home. I’m nervous about telling the kiddos their folks are puzzling. They will no doubt smirk and nod and sibling-text how cute we are growing in our older years. Fine. They do all that already.

Any one else a puzzler?

Why We Say: #23


With this being a leap year I thought it appropriate to spotlight some jumping words and phrases.

“Jump the Gun”

Jim Bob tolerated the good-natured ribbing from the crew when he showed up to school wearing shorts and a cutoff tank top. “Hey, Jimmy Boy, are you jumping the gun about the weather? It indicated the sun poking out today–not a heat wave.”

It appears our hero anticipated raging temperatures suitable for summer. His wishful thinking reflects on the runner who anticipated running down the track to victory and started out before the official fired off a blank cartridge to start off the race.

image: morguefile/marykbaird 

Kangaroo

“I say, captain, what is that strange animal over there.”

“Which one? This country is full of odd animals.”

“That one that hoppitys about with a baby popping out its middle.”

“Oh–that animal.  Hmm, go see what you can get from that native chap, over there.”

A few minutes later.

All I could figure out is he said something to the likes of kanga roo.”

“Sounds like a fitting name. Write that one down. Let’s go exploring some more.”

 

Captain Cook and his crew probably didn’t have this exact conversation, but I imagine something similar occurred. Apparently when he asked what the big hopping critter was called, the aboriginal native said “kangaroo” which actually  means “I don’t know.” Makes sense. I don’t know how that baby stays put in the pouch as momma kanga goes bouncing around either.

image: morguefile/wallyir

Happy Leap Year!

 

Bonus: there is a cow scene

 

A Bit of Book Botherment


As much I proclaim to be a Book Bookster, I fear I’m not a proper one, for if I was,  wouldn’t I be scandalously boring about reminding everyone that September was National Get a Library Month (“get carded at your local library”) or that October was National Book Month? I’m not fully living up to my potential. I’m hoping it’s okay that I just read and blog about what I’m reading. Guilt does overtake me now and then that I should be organizing parties and perpetuating cute little cookies in the shapes of books or something. Perhaps I need one of those calendars that they tend to pin on the wall in the staff bathroom that spouts when it’s national Eat a Chili Pepper Day or National Hug Your Bank Teller Day. There must be a calendar app just for bibliophiles.

However-

In an attempt to make amends for not noticing October was National Book Month, I will reprint an article about books that have influenced a batch of Ted Educators. We do like our Ted Talkers.

If I were a Ted Educator and someone did ask me about a book which had influenced me, I would wholeheartedly reply: To Kill a Mockingbird for the reason that having read it I keep passing on my passion for it on to my students. It’s not just required reading. It’s required to read to understand our US country’s history better and how Jim Crow laws affect who we are today, and how walking around in someone else’s shoes should be a lifestyle commitment not just the answer to the question on the test of “name a famous Atticus quote.” I know the book makes a difference in my students’ lives because when they return to me three years later as seniors that unequivocally agree that TKAM  is “such a great book.”

As to the idea of books making a difference or creating an impact in live I provide for your entertainment and enlightenment John Green’s list of books he appreciates.

 

So, by the by–which book has changed your life? Or is there a book you want everyone to go and read right now?

Why We Say #22:Junk to Jeeps


Getting into the J zone of sayings with junk, jalopy, jazz, and jeep…

Jalopy: when a car goes south, south of the border

Archie probably didn’t buy his car from Mexico, although if he did, he might have bought it in the town of Jalopa. Since there was a shortage of cars in Mexico around the 1900s, many old automobiles would come to the country by way of USA cast offs. A car bought in Jalopa meant buying a worn out ride, sometimes a junky one. Eventually a jalopy car is what these were known to be called.

Junky Jewelry: be forewarned of Forney

Remember, those vendors are probably selling phoney Coach purses. Don’t buy one. Same goes for the watches. Stick to touristy stuff as souvenirs.

Well, we all know that some market vendors aren’t totally on the up and up when it comes to the authenticity of their wares. Purses, watches, clothing–consumer be wary. Forney, a manufacturer of cheap jewelry, may have started the knock-off industry, junk merchandise. Spotting a “Forney ring” became a buyer habit. The name changed to “phoney” and today we are still on the lookout for poorly made merchandise claiming to be the real deal.

 

watch out for those phoney phones

Jazz: mixing up the beat

There are many different thoughts to the origin of Jazz. Why We Say claims the word is derived from the Louisiana French verb “jasper” which means to speed up, chatter, or make fun. As we know, “it don’t mean a thing, it it don’t got that swing.” doowop doowop doowop

Jeep: initially an Army ride

When the US Army designed their “General Purpose Car” they probably didn’t know that the “G.P.” would eventually been shortened to jeep.

GP=jeep

morguefile image: click

one last minute “j”: jumping the gun

This one is easy. About 35 years ago, racers started off at the bang of run firing off a blank cartridge. Anticipation was undoubtedly high, so it wasn’t unusual for a runner to start off before the bang, which became known as jumping the gun.

Why We Say #21: In the Know


As the year wraps up it’s time for one more round of Why We Say sayings. Since being in the know is a valued asset, we shall dive into the in and outs of “in”:

In the Bag
A: “Have you got the test figured out?”
B: “Yeah man–it’s in the bag?”

This exchange indicates speaker B has oodles of confidence about his upcoming test, that he can count on scoring well upon it. He may not realize his confidence harkens back to days when they traipsed off to the woods to collect their game. Much could be said about the one that got away, so what was already in the game bag is what really counted

In God We Trust
Glancing at American currency a person will find the motto “In God We Trust.” This is the result of Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase acting upon the many requests of people who wanted some expression of faith upon the country’s currency. Beginning in 1864, a bronze two-cent piece had the stamped “In God We Trust.” [Maybe this is where we get the expression of getting our two-cents in]

In the Groove
Though it might be difficult to find an LP to play upon a stereo system these days, back then, the needle had to be aligned with the phonograph groove in order to be played. Getting things lined up just right does allow for being “in the groove”–feeling groovy?

 

In Hot Water
Why is it being in trouble means “you are in hot water?” Soaking in a hot bath, or hot tub is actually preferred to cold ones. Then again 21st century thinking needs to be set aside for the time being to understand that if one needed to protect the castle in the 16th century, boiling water would be poured down on invaders. Thus, being in hot water means you are no doubt up to no good or about to get in trouble by getting into trouble.

In a Jam
No, this is not a reference to Winnie-the-Pooh and his penchant for getting noses and paws stuck in sweet pots. This is more like a Paul Bunyan reference of sending logs down the river to the mill and having them bulk up in a tangle and needing to straighten things out before they can get going again. All I know is we have named the office copier Bob Marley because it’s always jammin’–and that is not so sweet.

In the Nick of Time
“Has the meeting started yet?”
“Not quite–you’re in the nick of time.”

Being late to meetings is not the best way to make an impression. If you could travel in Mr. Peabody’s Way Back Machine you might earn yourself a notch or a nick in a piece of wood by showing up to the town meeting. Contrary to urban rumor St. Nick is not the patron saint of habitual tardy meeting attenders.

And so ends the 2015 collection of “Why We Say.” I leave you with one for the karaoke fans out there…

In the Limelight
No limes were hurt in the process of this blog. However, once long ago, a ball of lime helped whiten the spotlight while performers stood center stage. While I’m not sure about the technical process of lime and spotlight whitening, I do know that if someone is in the limelight they have all the attention for that time being.

 

Happy New Year!


For most people, January marks the start of a new year. However, as a teacher, September is the beginning of the year for me. September is when the odometer of the year’s passing begins once again. August is the last of my holiday months and each day draws me closer to the start of my calendar year: September. I actually consider January as my mid-point.

As I write this post I am lounging in bed at 8:25 am. This is the last Monday of the school year where I won’t have either essays to grade or think about assigning. I’m usually up by 5 or 6 am, so staying in bed past 8 0’clock is borderline sloth for me.

As I proofread this post it’s 6:09 am and I have four minutes before I must scamper into my morning routine. It’s Friday of my first week back to school. How can four days make one weak?

A new year typically calls for new year’s resolutions. I don’t much prescribe to resolutions,  instead I form goals. Here are a couple so far:

1. Go deeper instead of wider. I teach seniors which means they are maxed out on absorbing much more information. This year I’m going for them really understanding at least one aspect of each unit. They don’t need to know the entire litany of Anglo-Saxon history,  but knowing that Beowulf was one of the first epic hero archetypes is something that will distinguish a faithful film adaptation from a ridiculous one (Angelina Jolie’s version).

2. Mix more fun in with firm. I have the reputation as a toughie–my son would bear the brunt of this distinction when he was in school. “Dude, your mom yelled at me.” He would then say something like, “You probably deserved it.” They had nowhere to go on that one. But, I also have a sense of humor, and I’m sure I can combine a jib with a jab when the occasion calls for it.

3. Be a more of duck than a sponge. Both deal with water, which I translate to stress.  A duck lets water roll off its back and swims merrily around in the pond, whereas a sponge absorbs the water until saturated and can’t properly function anymore. 

4. Work smarter, not harder. Testing for comprehension is big news these days. We are all tired of being over-tested. Students especially. Grading tests is not so great either. Measuring academic success can take the  form of discussion, a presentation, or a project. I’m hoping for less paper proof of knowledge and more creative measures of learning achievements.

5. Respond more than react. Reacting is typical: “Are you kidding? You are 20 minutes late to class and now you want to go to your locker?!?” Or “Admin is switching to early release schedule for a pep assembly!!! Finals are coming up–what are they thinking?!?” If you have a proper response to these scenarios let me know. I realize it involves something to do with removing exclamatory tone and waving of arms.

Anyone else consider September their new year beginnings? Parents? Students? Other teachers?

As with my resolutions, these will no doubt epic fail before October is ready to roll. That’s why I disguise  them as goals–if I fail, I have an excuse to keep trying.

BookMarks 


You know you are a book nerd when you start collecting photos and misc tidbits about books. Here a few I found cluttering up my files:

  Do you know the French have a word specific to their country addressing booksellers? I came across the word Bouquinistes in a review and became intrigued. The photo and info are both from Wikipedia.
Bouquinistes are small bookstores in Paris, on each side of the River Seine. They are green boxes made ​​of wood. They were classified as a World Heritage Site in 1991. The word bouquinistes is used only in Paris. The word comes from bouquin, book in French slang.

Gluten-free is the new buzz in product promotion. I spotted a sign signifying a snack as being gluten-free: an apple? Really. I did have to stop and click when I came across this sign in a used books store display window: 

 
Another slice of book interest, a Kindle ad in a magazine: 

 
Have you come across a free library tucked away somewhere expected? I discovered this one situated in a quiet little neighborhood. It looked child-centered. How fun it would to be a kid and check for new books or exchange ones out! 

   
What about you, dear readers–any fun, interesting, wonderful noteworthy bookish bits to share?

Cricket’s Hamlet Adventure: Day Four–LOC, Death by Folger, and Abe


Waking up at 3 a.m. either means I am not adjusting well to the time difference or I am so excited about another day of Shakespeare I can’t wait to get going. It’s probably both. Today was especially exceptional. 

I did manage to go back to sleep after working on my lesson plan that is due on Friday, but I still woke up early. The problem is museums and such don’t open until 10 a.m. and Folgerizing begins at 9 a.m. I did manage to get 15 minutes of looky-looking at the Library of Congress. Here–ooh with me: 

outside entrance

  

ceiling

  

stairs leading up to gallery overlooking reading room

 
Amazing, eh? I applied for my reading card on-line and needed to pick it up. Unfortunately, that was at the Madison building across the street and I was now out of time. Nicholas Cage made it look way too easy popping into the LOC to check out

books during his National Treasure stint. I’m determined to spend more time there. I guess I’m foregoing lunch tomorrow at the corner bistro.

Other highlights of the day:

  • Handling rare books and diving into further Shakespeare research.
  • Practicing for our upcoming group scene–I dibbsed Horatio for Act Five, Scene Five. I have always appreciated Horatio’s quiet dedication to Hamlet.
  • Learning how to sword fight from a Shakespearan actor, and we were all filmed for an upcoming documentary highlighting the Folger Academy.
  • We then received lines and “died” on the Folger Library lawn.
  • I couldn’t end the day so easily, so I roused myself and trotted off to the Lincoln Memorial. I would probably still be walking if I hadn’t come across a DC bike rack. I rented the bike for the very reasonable amount of $8.00 for 24 hours and trekked down the path. At 9:30 at night it was teeming with tours, families, and people of all ages and walks of life. I can’t imagine what it must be like during the day. 

The Lincoln Memorial was a prime directive on my touristy checklist. When I finally got up the steps I got the wobbly little smile and that welling of tears that comes with being reunited with a dear friend. Abraham Lincoln’s memorial is beyond description. His presence is both comforting and mesmerizing. I wanted to hang out for awhile to absorb and reflect but energy, darkness, finding my way home all pressed upon me. Here are the pics: 

    
 
I did arrive back to the hotel safely, although a bit drenched with the effects of humidity. When it’s 84 degrees at 10 pm, you can imagine day temps are a bit overwhelming.

So this Hamlet quote is devoted to the DC Bike folk:

“For this relief much thanks.”

Cricket’s Hamlet Adventure: Day Two


After going to bed well after 11pm, drifting to dreamland to the continuing firecracker pops of Fourth of July celebrants and the  police sirens indicating aforementioned celebrants needed corralling, I realized my depth of tired from my very full first day. 

Second day

I slept in: 7:10 am. Jet lag, so far, proves no problem. 

Hmmm, whatever shall I do until 3 pm when I return to prepare for the welcome dinner? Since I’m walking, not being adventurous enough to attempt tour buses, taxis, or Metro buses, I fiddle with Google and determine the Smithsonian American History Museum is doable. I plug in Siri and her Google Maps expertise, and off I trot.

Forty minutes later I arrive with only five minutes until opening.

Highlights:

  • Third one in the door and I bee-line it to American Stories and gaze upon Dorothy’s Ruby Reds. 
  • I then promptly lose my school district’s iPad by leaving it on top of a display case. Great–fifteen minutes newly arrived as a tourist and visions of an angst filled day erupt. Prayer, and an angel of a docent, *shout out to Craig* my iPad and I am reunited via lost and found. The security man admonishs me to be “more careful” and I shall be.
  • Continuing on as a thankful and much more careful school teacher tourist, I return to discovering the Americana that reminds me how unique America is in its history. For instance, two favorite presidents as I’ve never seen them before:

The first statue of George Washington. They had gyms back then? Pretty impessive abs, GW.

  •    

Lincoln’s life mask. A bit macabre until realizing this was first cast when he was alive in 1860. Photographs are one thing, but this impression indelibly reveals a realism photographs can’t deliver. Moving through the Civil War exhibit I come across his last known photograph. I tear up. What a great man. What a great loss. I am emotional in each of the various military exhibits, reflecting upon family members who have served or plan to serve, and those, not just family, who have sacrificed for our country. Eyes and throat swelling with emotional realization of what sacrifice means, when I entered the Star-Spangled Banner exhibit, especially viewing the Ft. McHenry flag–yes, THE flag. 

Other highlights:

  • First Ladies inaugural gowns which both caught both the personality of the First Lady and a reflection of the time period.
  • A video of a nurse who had a reunion thirty-four years later with the Vietnamese baby girl rescued and was christened Kathleen. “They said we were killing babies during the war; here’s proof we saved them,” stated the nurse.
  •  DC is amazingly clean and everyone is so nice. From docents to other tourists, everyone is polite, friendly, and helpful. This teaches me to not believe in Bruce Willis’s Die Hard movies. DC does not stand for downright corrupt. It’s clean and nice, at least in my encounters so far.
  • I briefly stopped in the National Art Gallery. The beauty of exquisite masterpieces rendered me speechless at moments. Being inches from a Rembrandt reminds me how beautiful is the creativity of the human soul. 

    one of the many paintings that I beheld

     

After a much needed nap, I readied to meet my Hamlet Homies. We pizza-ed, we chatted, and we were briefed on our itinerary. We shall be Hamletting from 8am to 9pm Monday through Friday. This is the reason I’m here. “This isn’t the beach,” the director gently admonished us. “There are sixty other people who would love to be where you are.” Gulp. The pins she handed out carry a new meaning: 


To be or not to be committed to giving up my personal agenda of wanting to be a DC tourist (at least more than one day) and instead immerse myself in my Shakesperean scholar potential. 

We will see what Will holds in store for me. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…

 

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