Sunday, November 29, 2009

Practice Makes Perfect

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," staring ahead at a 60-hour workweek ahead after an exhausting Thanksgiving holiday!  Forget being rested and refreshed. I'm trashed, and I still have three more loads of laundry to do.

Can't blame the kittens. Can't blame the daughters. Can't blame the elderly mother-in-law. Can't blame the spouse who had to work last night.

Only one person to blame. Me.

I have never learned how to say no.

When my mother-in-law asked to come here for Thanksgiving and make most of the food, I said okay. When The Spare said she would cook the rest, I said okay.

Except neither one of them lifted a finger to help clean up. And then there's the regular laundry, and the special queen-sized bed change. (How even the comforter got dirty I haven't a clue.) There was the obligatory entertaining needed to amuse the mother-in-law. Worries about Heir's health, which is tenuous. And I had to go to the doctor too. Sandwiched in between washing dishes. Pots. Pans. Plates. Silver. Because of course you have to use the good china on Thanksgiving, right?

All you young readers out there, start a trend.

1. If you don't invite someone for the holidays and they want to come, here's what you say: "Sorry, but I've been working really hard, and I want to rest."

2. If your kids or significant other are accustomed to lavish traditions, here's what you say: "We have to streamline here. I can't do it all. I can't even do half of it."

3. If someone offers to help you do it, don't believe them.

4. Look in the mirror and say, "No." Practice. Say it 1,000 times. Write it on a blackboard until you fill every space, like Bart Simpson.

No more. No more. No more.

The life you save may be your own. Just. Say. No.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Frank Talk about Sex between Gods and Mortals

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where every day is a holy day! We should rejoice and be glad in it!

It's certainly not my doing, but have you noticed that the gods aren't as bored lately as they used to be? Several of the commentees in my previous post made note of it. Greek deities, Roman deities, Norse deities, Celtic deities, even ancient Babylonian deities  --  all making a comeback! That's swell, don't you think?

Don't worry, though. We at "The Gods Are Bored" recognize that many, many gods and goddesses are still bored. They have been deprived of their praise and worship teams. Some of these deities are lost in the mists of time. Others are trying to mount brave fronts against missionaries from other faiths (won't name names). Alas, this is a sad state of affairs.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" will not rest until every unclaimed deity has a follower! Yes, it is a noble ambition. Thank you for noticing.

Everyone has his or her own view on divinity. Mine, needless to say, is pretty liberal. I must say, however, that I have trouble wrapping myself around the idea of sex between deities and humans. Why would a deity, male or female, want to do it with a human? Aren't They so much better than us? I mean, it's not like interracial dating, or marrying someone outside your faith. You're getting it on with a god!


(It need not be pointed out that certain popular religions cannot claim exemption from this celestial activity.)

As your government-sanctioned health teacher has taught you, unprotected sex often leads to unwanted pregnancies. Which begs another question. Why would a deity not take precautions to avoid a half-god, half-human offspring? Maybe some have learned this lesson the hard way and now behave more carefully while under the boardwalk.

I'm pretty sure I've never had sex with a god or an alien. I would remember, wouldn't I?

This merry musing arises from my reading of The Lightning Thief, a novel that proposes that Zeus, Poseidon, Athena et. al. are still up to their old tricks, still shagging morals and producing half-blood offspring. This is great fodder for fiction, and will probably be a ripping good movie as well, but for me it doesn't hold as much water as its predecessors, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Both LOTR and HP are set in alternate worlds where all sorts of mayhem can be posited to be plausible. In Lightning Thief, there's a camp for demigods on Long Island near Montauk.

One would think Zeus would pick better neighbors than Billy Joel.

Back to our thesis. There's ample evidence that deities have knocked up mortals. My question is, why? Mortals, even the best of them, don't have a clue how to raise a demi-deity. What happens? These god-sired hybrids end up experiencing violent deaths. Say what you want about taking away the sins of the world, but I doubt if that was what Jesus was thinking about while being crucified.

From the human perspective, I can see how one would be motivated to bang a god or goddess. They're higher beings -- they must be great in the sack. At the same time, I would caution a little restraint.  Nix that afternoon with Zeus. Go take a polar plunge and find some diverting amusement. Cedar Point springs to mind. There you can ride about five roller coasters, up and down at dizzying speeds, and not have to spend the rest of your life looking after a child who will at best seem to have delusions of grandeur, and at worst start a new religion that will imperil even more bored gods.

In closing, we at "The Gods Are Bored" would encourage you to avoid sexual encounters with higher beings. The affairs are fleeting and the consequences huge. Find yourself a nice respectable mate, one who will do all the dishes after a big Thanksgiving feast. Never met anyone like that? Me neither. No reason not to keep trying. Gods don't do dishes either.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Segregated Thanksgiving

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Sex, drugs, and rock and roll! Yeaaaahhhh.

Can I be candid? Of the above list, the only thing I would take right now is a roll. With butter and perhaps some jam.

Every year on the night before Thanksgiving, the local churches put together an "ecumenical" service for the season. Meaning that the service alternates between churches, and every year a different pastor leads the bash. All are welcome, so long as they're Christian, Muslim, or Jewish. It's rather like the National Day of Prayer. Go ahead and pray if you're a follower of the busy god. As for the bored gods, they're not even in the balcony.

Don't bored gods deserve a wink and a nod on Thanksgiving as well? If you think so, please leave an "ecumenical" comment, lavishing kindness on the bored god or goddess of your choice.

You can praise the busy god too, if you like. Gotta wonder why you would want to, though. He has plenty of attention by half.

May your travels be safe!

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Happy Day

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," offering a full slate of services to discarded deities, including career counseling, emergency praise and worship, and our ever-popular "follower finder" option! Please contact us for all of your deity needs! Our operators are standing by to take your call.

About ten days ago, my friend Nettle left a message on her Facebook inquiring about a ride to Pennsauken. She said she needed to go to an animal shelter there to see a dog that was up for adoption.

Thus began a faerie-guided adventure.

Turns out (no coincidences with the fae, remember) that the shelter Nettle wanted to go to was the one where I volunteer. Sunday last, I picked Nettle up at the El stop in my town, and she, Spare and I rode over to the shelter.

Nettle tried several dogs on for size. There was "Badger," a white showy sort, brimming with personality and vigor ... and highly sought after by other potential adoptive families. Then there was "Cara." Shy. Great big, scared eyes. Cross between a pug and a chihuahua -- so, essentially the size of a cat.

I rooted for "Cara" from the beginning, because she seemed like the kind of dog who could languish in a shelter for months because it was difficult to get a read on her personality. I just had a feeling, though, that "Cara" was a good fit for Nettle.

I suppose the faeries felt the same way, because last Wednesday Nettle adopted "Cara," and yesterday Spare and I helped Nettle take "Cara" to her new home -- Philadelphia!

"Cara's" history indicates that she was transported north from South Carolina. Talk about culture shock! From Dixie to Philly in just five months ... via scenic Pennsauken, New Jersey!

After we finished filling out the paperwork on "Cara," we took her to the car for her journey out of Jersey and across the bridge to the City of Buzzardly Love. That little charmer just sat on Nettle's lap and gazed out the window with an adorable curiosity. Then she got tired and settled in for a snooze. From the first moment "Cara" seemed totally at home with her new person.

I tried to give "Cara" a crash course on living in Philly, but she didn't seem to understand when I told her to say "Boooooooooo" and "Dallas sucks," and the ever-popular "Yankees suck."

The sun was setting when we drove up Market Street past Drexel University. I said to "Cara": "Well, doggie, this is symbolic, you see. The sun is setting on your previous life, and tomorrow it will rise on a whole new era for you."

Sure enough, this morning it is perfectly beautiful here in the Delaware Valley. Not a cloud in the sky!

I feel blessed to have helped a dog find a home. This was a new experience for me. All of my experience of the Almost Home shelter is kitten-fostering. Bring them home, pamper them, take them back. It was refreshing to see how careful the staff at Almost Home is about choosing good owners for deserving pets. My kittens must all get good families as well.

Speaking of kittens. This is where the faeries really went into overdrive.

While I was waiting for Nettle to finalize her adoption of "Cara," I had to ask. I just had to ask.

Any "hissie spitties" in the cat room?

Oh yes. Four weeks old. And the staff was worried that they might get sick from being around the other cats. Would I take them?

So in addition to bringing Nettle's dog home to Philly yesterday, Spare and I took possession of two semi-tame, fluffy kittens named Reba and Ramsey. The idea is to keep them away from the sick cats until they're eight weeks old, which will be just about ... Yuletide.

I'm leaving it up to the faeries to alert the Yule elves that two kittens will be ready for delivery on December 24.

Is it any wonder that Spare and I broke our pact not to mention "that holiday" and drove home from Philly yesterday singing festive songs of a certain season?

What a happy day! Love is in the air.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Checking the Little Box

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Now it's official. I'm dancing faster than I can. I'm Ginger, and Fred just went on crank. How's that for a multi-century analogy?

Tonight I stayed at school until almost 6:00. There's this program our school has called 21st Century Initiative. It's chock-a-block with federal funding which no one quite understands how to disburse. For instance, one evening this week another teacher just showed up on my doorstep and said I was "on the team," and a student had stayed after school to spend three hours in my company.

That student is a wonderful person and the very model of what a student should be. Getting paid to help him get into college -- and understand the work when he gets there? -- yeah. I'll do that.

This evening the student and I sent out some requests for information to colleges in Baltimore and Washington, DC. Asking colleges for information is rather like using a copy machine. No two web sites are the same. I guess they do that to keep spammers out. Student and I had to re-input every bit of information on every site.

There's one thing all these colleges have in common, though. Every one of them has a special little box to check if you are Hispanic.

Each time student and I came to that little box, we laughed. He is, you see, Hispanic.

He wants to be a writer. I don't know why I would thank the bored gods for dumping him into my lap, but I think this partnership was meant to be.

I think I'm going to encourage him to start a blog.

What else is going on in the Annals of Anne?

Well, Decibel the Parrot got hold of my middle finger and tried to sever it from my hand. He ground away, down to the bone, and only gave up when Spare screamed at him. What an adorable pet! Everyone should own a parrot.

Staying after school to help Student is one matter. Listening to the loquacious Mr. Bigwand and his chipper wife every Wednesday night in the "alternate route" teacher program is another. For some reason known only to him, he called on me last night. He pointed in my face and said, "How are you and I different?"

Oh, was it ever on the tip of my tongue to say, "I'm human!"

But instead I pulled out the tried-and-true. "I'm from Appalachia," I told him.

Which sent him off on another long-winded diatribe about how my formative experiences go into the classroom with me. And they do, of course. I didn't need him to tell me that ... over and over again.

Then, during a break, he blundered by me and said, "By the way, lovely part of the world." As if he has traveled the length and breadth of Appalachia, weighed it in the balance, and found it satisfactory.

So there's my "teacher." A guy who can sum up Appalachia in half a breath by saying, "Lovely part of the world."

I was tempted to show the guy a lovely part of my anatomy. But I need the grade. Gee, he's one swell instructor! Where's that evaluation form?

Saturday I have school from 8:30 until 1:30. All of this is keeping me so young!

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Exit 56A

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," dusting off the Old Time Religions since 2005! If you can read this, thank Jupiter. The deity, not the planet. We may not use His numerals, but we sure use His alphabet.

These tough economic times have led many people such as myself to seek a livelihood in the teaching profession. As those of you who do it know, it's one demanding job.

Teachers like me are called "alternate route." Meaning that we haven't sat through 30 credits of tedious pedantry on metacognition, but have instead earned a living while retaining enough personality and vivacity to lead a classroom. (*snicker* "Metacognition" sets off the spellchecker! *snicker*)

Alternate route teachers have to attend 200 hours of classes on how to teach. While we're already teaching. Starting in 2010, the state of New Jersey will make wannabe teachers take 30 hours of classes before they can even get an alternate route certificate. (*snort!* "Wannabe" doesn't set off the spellchecker!)

Through a complicated process worthy of any state government, we stragglers in the "old" alternate route program must get two sets of classes finished by December 31. I'm squeezing in right under the wire with Phase I-A, which I should have taken before Phase I-B, but which I began after Phase I-B because I didn't qualify for Phase I-A before I was hired, and the school enrolled me straight into Phase I-B.

Yeah. I'll bet it's just like that in your state too.

Anyway, the classes for Phase I-A are held in Sewell, New Jersey. In order to get to Sewell, I have to take Highway 55 and get off at Exit 56A.

Alas and alack! Here's the very devil of a problem!

If I get off at Exit 56B by mistake, the road takes me straight into Wenonah, New Jersey. Buzzard capital of the Eastern Seaboard. Also known as Anne's Heaven.

Yesterday as I was careening down the highway, shoving cookies into my mouth in a fruitless effort to quell my stress, I nearly chose Exit 56B instead of Exit 56A. I remembered just in time that I was going to Alternate Route Teacher Class Phase I-A, and I took the correct exit.

As I rounded the cloverleaf, I gazed longingly in the direction of Wenonah. And there, in the dusky autumn sky, I noted a lone vulture, winding its way to the good ol' winter roost -- no doubt to be reunited with about 200 close friends and family.

Oh, to be buzzarding instead of sitting through a long class on Bloom's Taxonomy for Higher Level Learning!

I'm not one to hook class, though. I dutifully turned the trusty vehicle onto Delsea Drive and wended my way to class. Signed in. Nodded in all the right places, just like a student. Watched the gal next to me send surreptitious text messages, just like a student. Failed to recall a single thing from the prior week's lesson, just like a student.

At the end of the long evening, the peppy instructor checked his calendar and determined that next week is Thanksgiving. He announced that we would not have class next Monday.

There are Gods and Goddesses! O happy day!

Next Monday, when Mr. Johnson and The Spare think I'm at class, I will instead be in Wenonah, in spiritual communion with the Sacred Thunderbird. Rarely has Thanksgiving been more welcome!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wouldn't Work with People


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where today the tables turned on us!

Not literally. I'm not lying under 75 pounds of varnished walnut.

What happened was this: Spare and I took a friend to the pet shelter where we volunteer. The friend wants to adopt a dog. A small, older dog who will enjoy city life and the company of two cats.

My daughters and I have fostered more than 60 kittens for this shelter. Usually when we enter the door, we're either picking up tiny waifs for a temporary stay at our home, or dropping off slightly larger, well-fed and healthy waifs for someone else to adopt.

As far as the pet shelter adoption process goes, I was totally in the dark, until today. My pets are all serendipitous acquisitions (except for Decibel the parrot -- my biggest mistake thus far in a long life). It was a whole new experience, walking into the familiar shelter in search of an animal to take home for good. And the shelter had a nice group of little dogs from which to choose. My friend liked two of them. I liked them both too. It's nice to know I'll get to see whichever one she winds up with.

As we played with the little dogs and sized them up, something occurred to me. Cats and dogs live with us for years, sometimes for a decade and a half. But when it comes to choosing them, we do so quickly. "I'll take that one, thanks. He's adorable!"

Funny part is, the ending is almost always happy. You walk into a pet shelter on any given day with your pet carrier, point to a kitty, bring it home, and for the next 14 years it sleeps peacefully at your feet every night and rubs your leg when you come home from work. It works just as well with a dog, if you know what size and mix you want. The first pooch you point to will adore you after the first bowl of Alpo.

Can you imagine it working this way with people?

Just imagine. You go to the people shelter, looking for a companion. The attendant brings out a man (or woman) meeting your age and size preferences. A quick perusal, an application fee, and out you walk with your new person!

Well, that's ridiculous, of course. We're the thinking species. We search and search for the perfect human companion. Some of us never find that person. Some of us go through a dozen rotten relationships before finding a decent partner.

To me this proves one thing beyond all doubt. Cats and dogs are superior to humans. On any given day, you can walk into any given pet shelter and cart home a fine companion who will bring you bounteous joy. Try doing that with Homo sapiens. Go ahead. I dare ya.

Love at first sight only works with shelter pets. Remember where you heard this, because some day I'm going to start charging a fee for such sound advice.

Image: Casey Jones, one of my favorite fosters.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Semper Fi

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," Pagan and patriotic since 2005! I'll venture a guess that there aren't many Druids in the Daughters of the American Revolution, but there are some. At least one. That's me. I pay my dues every year.

You all know that I have trouble linking, so if you want to read the editorial I'm going to rant about today, just biff on over to The Wild Hunt to get all the details.

A journalist for the Chicago Tribune has suggested that religious tolerance, particularly of minority religions like -- oh, let's just pick one -- WICCA, might have contributed to the violent shooting at Fort Hood. Never mind that the shooter was a Muslim, or that he was unbalanced. Fort Hood has a reputation for multi-faith tolerance. Our friend at the Chicago Tribune thinks such tolerance in the military is a big, bad idea:


“Fast forward to 1999, when an Austin, Texas newspaper published photos of a Wiccan ceremony at Fort Hood. Theologically conservative Christian clergy joined with indignant Congressmen to protest the Army’s acceptance of Wiccan practice. As reported in Hannah Rosin’s contemporaneous account for The Washington Post, these clergy threatened to disrupt the protests, going so far as to call on Christians not to enlist or reenlist in any branch of the military until Wicca was banned from military posts. But the Army brushed off the threatened protests. Again, according to the Washington Post article, Fort Hood spokesman Lt. Col. Ben Santos said at the time that as long as a religious minority does not interfere with discipline, the military will help it find an off-base leader and a place to practice its beliefs … in light of the fact that the Army and various government agencies appear to have disregarded warning signs about the shooter’s contact with religious radicals who have since praised his murders, a tragic irony bubbles to the surface: might the emphasis on religious inclusion and interfaith acceptance have allowed the sinister to walk, undaunted, disguised as the spiritual?"

(Jason at "The Wild Hunt" added the emphasis. And the italics. Now I can't turn off either. I stink at computers.)

We at "The Gods Are Bored," whether we can adjust font or not, do not approve of using religious beliefs as a qualifier for military service. First Amendment issues aside, this is just ridiculous. It's an all-volunteer military force these days. Are you going to turn people away because they're Wiccan?

I know this is an incredible reach, but go along with me for a minute. If an invading army is advancing upon New Jersey, bayonets fixed, I personally will not care if those defending me are Christians, Jews, Pagans, atheists, or Believers in Alien Abduction. Thank you, soldier, for defending me. May your deity or deities bless you.

And with no due respect to the Chicago Tribune editorialist, Tom Levinson, I would simply ask: Has there been a single case of Wiccan violence against fellow Christian soldiers in the history of the U.S. military? Hey, we know how much press that would get if it did happen. So it hasn't.

Patriotism is not solely the province of certain kinds of Christians. That's what is wonderful about America. You want an all-Christian military? Go dig up Richard the Lionheart and set him in charge again. Medieval mindset and all.

I'm Anne Johnson, N.S.D.A.R. 723499, and I approved this message.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Niccolo and Me


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Do you have what it takes to rule a Principality?

This is my dear old friend, Niccolo Machiavelli.

I can't remember the first time I read The Prince. I know it wasn't in college, because I took The Divine Comedy one semester and didn't sign up for The Prince during the following term. Maybe because I felt like I was missing something, I picked up a copy of The Prince and read it, somewhere along the line.

The term "Machiavellian" has come to mean something sinister and manipulative. Actually The Prince is pretty pragmatic. Common sense, if you happen to be running a biggish show. The book is just dense enough that you forget most of it if you don't read it once a year, so after two or three years it's like reading a whole new text.

No offense to Niccolo, but The Prince is also an effective sleep-enhancer. Put that puppy next to your bed and turn to it at night, and you will save a fortune on lavender and white noise machines.

I'm thinking about The Prince tonight because I have a student who is struggling with the whole concept of school. As is often the case with such students, this one is exceedingly bright -- if not terribly well educated. I just ordered a copy of The Prince for him.

Now you're saying, "Wait a minute, Anne. You're going to give a kid with a middle-school reading level a college-level text so full of big words it puts you to sleep?"

Yep.

You see, it's not the substance of the gift, it's the suggestion. I would never tell the student this, but if you hand a teenager a book about how to rule, he or she might internalize the notion that ruling requires education and higher level thinking.

When I give the book to the student, I will tell him that the best thing to do with it is to put it by his bedside and read a page or two each night. I won't hide from him The Prince's magical, sleep-inducing qualities. But I will also hint that there's gold in them there pages. Gold that can be mined in little nuggets. The first of them being that an effective ruler has to exert self-control before trying to control other people.

We're having a bit of a blow here tonight. No better time to curl up with Niccolo Machiavelli. My lids are growing heavy just thinking about it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mean Old Pagan War Gods

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," laughing through life with the help of ignorant morons! Why should Veterans' Day be any different?

My good friend Hecate has a post up today in which she links to a moron writing about how many wars have been avoided since monotheism shoved out the bored gods. After all, doesn't Christianity tell us to love one another, to turn the other cheek, and to treat others as we would have ourselves be treated? Yea, verily.

So, back in the dark days of polytheism, people waged wars in the names of their deities. God has cleaned this up. Seriously, I kid you not.

Okay, I am kidding. Where once people fought for their gods and goddesses, people now fight for their god. And what's most amusing about it (actually it's not amusing at all) is that Christians have fought Muslims, who have fought Jews, who are still fighting Muslims, who bombed the World Trade Tower in an attack on Christians. All of whom worship the same god.

Ah, harmony, harmony! Love thy neighbor! Don't be a Pagan! They don't love their neighbors!

It being Veterans' Day today, the Spare and I were trying to sing some patriotic songs. It's doggone tough to find one that doesn't mention God, except for the National Anthem, which can't be sung by anyone due to impossible octaves and indecipherable lyrics.

Hecate's post got me thinking about hymns. So here, in honor of that peaceful deity who exhorts his followers to turn the other cheek, are just a few catchy lines from popular songs in his honor:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored
He hath loosed the faithful lightning of His terrible, swift sword,
His truth is marching on.

Onward Christian soldiers
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before.

A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing.


If you would like to remind me of other peaceful lyrics pertaining to the busy god, please leave a comment. I must run to night school ... another dose of the blowhard Mr. Bigwand.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What's Missing from the Health Care Bill?

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Are you ready for some health care? Yes? For your sake I hope it's a problem that begins below your forehead.

There's been much made of the exclusion of payments for abortion from the House bill on health care. Let me tell you, we at "The Gods Are Bored" aren't going to think highly of this arrangement. It stinks up the joint.

But there's something that stinks worse and has stunk worse for a long, long time. It stinks so bad that I haven't heard one word about it in all these health care proceedings. My guess is that the politicians are just overlooking the stinker once again and leaving our American population at the mercy of a whole set of crippling and fatal illnesses.

Readers, have you ever sought medical care for a psychiatric condition?

If you can say no, you are one lucky duck.

Health insurance has always had two standards. There's the standard that covers every last band-aid when you fracture your femur. Then there's the standard that pays back pennies on the dollar (if at all) for your consultations with doctors and psychotherapists regarding your mental illness.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I haven't heard a thing about coverage of mental health conditions in this current round of trying to make all Americans healthy. To me -- with all apologies to women who want to control their own bodies -- this omission even trumps the denial of coverage for abortions.

The inability to get basic insurance coverage for psychiatric illness is a huge pet peeve of mine. Why? Reasons? Hmmm. Do you want the whole list, or just the top ten?

When I was a kid, my family was impoverished by my mother's bipolar disorder. Then, as now, medical insurance didn't pick up much of the tab. I compare the severity of my mother's illness to a bad case of multiple sclerosis. Even on Mom's best day, bipolar disorder impeded her ability to function on a basic, normal level. At its worst, the illness brought great risk to her life and the lives of her family members.

But, oh well. She should have been able to snap out of it, right? After all, it wasn't like multiple sclerosis. She wasn't in a wheelchair. She could walk and talk.

I will not consider this a civilized nation until mental health issues achieve parity with all other health issues, especially where insurance coverage is concerned. Just now we live in a country where many of our mentally ill citizens turn to street pharms or liquor stores to self-medicate. People who are savvy enough to know they've got problems can't afford treatment ... or they're told to snap out of it. Or they shop around for affordable care, only to get the poorest excuses for doctors and therapists.

Right this minute ... I literally mean right this minute, a member of my family is seeing a doctor for treatment of debilitating panic attacks. How are we paying for this treatment at Chateau Johnson, where we have "full" insurance coverage? We're writing a check. And getting no reimbursement, because our insurer says we could get the health care from someone in their network.

Who will be in the mental health care network when this highly-anticipated health care bill goes to President Obama's desk? Do we know? Did anyone bother to ask?

Naah. No one bothered to ask. Stupid loonies. They should snap out of it. It's all in their heads.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

ZzzzzzzZZZZZZZZzzzzzz

WTTGAB! Anne is tired. See Anne yawn. Yawn, Anne. Yawn.

Go to bed, Anne. Look! See the bed, Anne? It is soft. It is warm.

Good night, moon.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Benches on a Boardwalk

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," coming to you live and kicking from the great state of New (*coughcoughcoughHACKcough*) Jersey! Remember our slogan: "New Jersey and You: Poisoned Together!"

Now don't you wish you lived here too?

On Friday morning I found myself in the seaside resort of Ocean City, New Jersey. The skies were cloudless, a fine breeze stirred the sand, and I had two early morning hours in which to stroll the boardwalk before returning to the teachers' convention.

Having grown up in the mountains, I have trouble loving the beach. I've never quite gotten over that whole tidal thing. You know, water running uphill. Bothers the hell outta me.

Then there's the crowds. The tacky shops. The high prices. The lack of parking. The broiling sun. If that's your idea of vacation, you go. I'll stay at home and clip coupons.

However, on a November Friday, the boardwalk holds none of its usual nuisances. The stores are closed (no high prices). The sun is welcome (not broiling). Parking is overwhelmingly ample. And the people are few and far between. In this case, the whole seaside resort thing suddenly becomes appealing to me. I can even handle high tide without the jitters!

With soaring spirits, I set out for a stroll.

Let me backpedal for a minute, purely in a navel gaze mode. Summer before last, I went with Mr. Johnson to Ocean City to pick up the Spare from an overnight stay. Mr. J and I went onto the boardwalk, and I couldn't make it one block. My arthritic hip was so bad I just couldn't walk that uneven surface at all. It was hell.

Flash forward to 2009. The hip is fixed. I can stroll and stroll! If you've never been disabled, and subsequently fixed, you can't imagine the high it gives you to walk three miles on a boardwalk, where once you couldn't limp more than a block.

So I set out for a stroll on the quiet, postseason Ocean City boardwalk.

At first, I loved it. No people! No noise! Nothing but the waves, the sun, and the occasional biker, or the thump thump thump of a determined jogger. The stores were all shuttered. One had a sign in the window: "Open every weekend, except during bad blows." Well, I liked that. Seemed sensible to me.

I walked to the north end of the Ocean City boardwalk, turned around and started south again. Somewhere between 14th and 16th streets I had a sea change. (Imagine that!) The dead, deserted boardwalk began to weigh on my merry mood. It seemed so empty. Such a shell. (another bad pun) And so, as I turned back toward 9th street, I decided to walk the other side of the boards. The side with the benches.

There are two or three benches every 20 feet or so on the Ocean City boardwalk. Some of them face the sea, but many of them face land. I had noticed before that the benches all have dedication plaques on them. I'd just never read any. Now, in order to ignore that incoming tide, I started to study the plaques.

Major discovery here. People love their families.

The vast majority of the plaques are dedicated to departed "mom moms" and "pop pops" who brought children and grandchildren to Ocean City for a great time. Apparently these deceased grandparents were highly successful at creating happy memories. Bench after bench records how much people are missed, how much they loved the ocean, how much their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews loved them.

My family also made an annual vacation trip to Atlantic City when I was a little girl. (We lived in the mountains, so a mountain vacation was no fun. Or some such.) I remember these trips to the shore as traumatizing events. My mom had bipolar disorder, and she didn't forget to pack it in her suitcase when we went on vacations. So basically, visiting Atlantic City for a week only meant I had no place to hide from her fury.

Like most little kids who grow up far from the sea, I was afraid of the waves breaking on the shore. I didn't want to go into the water. Mom would have none of that. Well, she put up with it for a day or two. Then she lifted me up roughly, strode out into the surf, and dumped me there. Then she took a picture of me, wailing in the brine. Then she spanked me for crying.

Is it any wonder I can take or leave the beach?

Anyway, all morbid memories aside, it was quite cathartic to see all those benches, lovingly inscribed to people who doled out love and joy by the beautiful sea. May they have found the Summerlands. May they be dancing with the nixies. Forever and ever, so mote it be!

I'm sure I'll never be named on a plaque on a bench by the sea. No problem. I don't want a plaque. What I do want is the love that leads family members to bestow such honors.

To any bored God or Goddess within earshot, please hear this prayer:

May I be worthy of a bench on the boardwalk.
May I be worthy of a flower on the flood.
May I be remembered often and fondly.
May the Summerlands open to me.

Busy day tomorrow, and night school Monday. Catch you soon, my friends!

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Moron Teachers Gather to Gamble

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," home from the annual state gathering of public school teachers, aka NJEA Teachers' Convention! This shindig is held in one of our nation's premier pustules, Atlantic City, New Jersey.

I believe I was living in New Jersey when casino gambling was given the A-okay for Atlantic City. The A.C. boosters promised that bringing Vegas-style casinos to the hurricane-prone coastal zone would rejuvenate the economy of poor old Atlantic City. Well, the casinos have come, in all their excess, but the rest of Atlantic City still looks like Detroit. Where they also touted casinos as the tonic for urban blight... and were also dead wrong.

I went to the teachers' convention because my teacher-mentor suggested I attend a few professional development seminars. In other words, I got the message that I'd better get my butt to Atlantic City by hook or by crook.

Thursday I drove to Atlantic City. It takes about an hour from where I live. I found the convention center with no problem and even got street parking nearby. So far, so good.

I had about two hours to spare before the seminar started, so I browsed the mammoth exhibit hall. Didn't they used to give away pens and magnets and stuff at these things? I walked out of there with two re-usable bags and a few business cards. And a snobby sinking feeling that I was in the company of multitudes of morons.

This feeling was confirmed in spades when I attended the seminar.

One of the recurring complaints about Anne as a teacher is that she does not activate higher level thinking in her students. The seminar was called "Strategies for Activating Higher Level Thinking in Language Arts Settings," or some such ... in other words, just what the doctor ordered.

The meeting room was very small. Good thing I got there early! (My regulars know that this is a TGAB maxim: Always get to a meeting 30 minutes early.) I got one of the last seats available.

So the seminar leader dude launches into his presentation. He does so by modeling.

Those of you in the teaching biz know all about modeling. I even did it as a substitute teacher. How modeling works is, you show a person or a group how to do something, and then let them practice. This dude was modeling "vote in your seat," which I've seen before in teaching settings. But in this case, the "vote in your seat" was just a prelude to the strategies for higher level thinking.

Except we couldn't get to the strategies for higher level thinking, because some of the morons in the conference wanted to talk about how teachers get blamed if students don't succeed. It was totally off topic. Totally. And no matter how hard the presenter tried to get the two loud morons to stop talking, they just kept at it, because they wanted to make their points.

Pinky swear, I wanted to yell, "Hey, you! You with the bald head and beer gut! Shut up, moron! I want to learn something!"

When the fat moron finally shut up for 30 seconds, the presenter launched into his presentation. And it was good stuff. Stuff I can use in my classroom. I was drinking it all in, taking notes (sort of), and imagining how it would work with my students.

And then someone's cell phone went off. In that small room, it sounded like a tornado siren. And the moron it belonged to TOOK THE CALL AND STARTED TALKING OUT LOUD INTO HER PHONE.

New Jersey, do you want to know why your students aren't learning anything? It's because they're being taught by apes!

Can it get any worse? I'm sitting in a windowless room (which I hate), in Atlantic City (which I hate), being thwarted in trying to learn new skills (which I really hate) by a top-notch selection of Garden State morons (hate, hate, hate!).

What really nailed the coffin shut was the end of the presentation, when the presenter said, "Well, I had three strategies I wanted to share with you, but we only got two finished." And that was that. He packed up and left.

With much gnashing of teeth and many dirty looks toward the seminar-ruining morons, I found my way back to the doors of the convention center. New Jersey teachers were strewn everywhere, in long lines and packs, waiting for ... what? Oh, for the love of fruit flies! They were boarding casino buses! Bally's, Harrah's, Trump Plaza, Caesar's! Time to gamble, teachers! We all know how much money you make! Now it's time to revel in that largesse!

Those who can't do ... gamble.

Morons.

As for me, I got in my dusty Dodge and drove south, to the family-friendly and casino-free tourist mecca known as Ocean City, New Jersey. There I passed a quiet evening grading papers in a cozy bed and breakfast inn.

One final moron moment, and then I'll bung off.

Friday's seminar was called "Creating Writing Communities in Your Classroom." This one was held in a huge room with plenty of seats. And they filled--at least 250 of 300. It transpired that the seminar was going to be about the wonderful uses for web cams in the classroom.

There was one problem. The presenter couldn't get his web cam to work. He admitted he'd been trying for an hour before we even filed into the meeting room. He then admitted that at his school, he had assembled the entire 7th grade -- more than 150 students -- in the cafeteria for a "virtual field trip" to a New Jersey zoo. On that occasion the web cam hadn't worked either, and 150 7th graders sat for an hour in a cafeteria, waiting to see lemurs on a screen. Vividly recalling my own behavior as a 7th grader, I could clearly imagine the mayhem that must have ensued as our earnest presenter tried valiantly to bring his "virtual field trip" to fruition.

I left that seminar vigorously vowing never to try anything ... ANYTHING... involving a web cam and oovoo in my classroom.

Oh yeah. I forgot to mention. The Friday seminar was shaken by another cell phone bleat and another supposedly-educated professional who wanted to entertain 250 people by talking on the phone during a meeting! Somewhere there's a college that granted a degree to this semi-human potato blight.

I won't argue that the person most responsible for a child's learning is the teacher. But I will say that many teachers bear responsibility for their students not learning, because the teachers themselves aren't active learners. If you spout your pet peeves, or talk on the cell phone to your friend Wanda, in a seminar setting, you aren't learning anything new. If you schedule a fancy presentation about the latest online technology, and then can't get it to work, you're achieving a negative. No one will want to make the same mistakes. It seems to me that a good many New Jersey teachers are leaping into Moron Lake and dragging their poor students along for the swim.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Cancel It.

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," today hosting a worn-out, frazzled wreck of a female who's trying bad moods on for size! WHERE'S THE XXXL?

You know what holiday I hate? Xmas. Cancel that dud, and do it now!

It's bad enough that department stores start decking their halls with boughs of holly in September, but now things have gotten even worse. Halloween wasn't even rung in and out before all the stores everywhere were shoving it aside for Xmas!

Pardon the rare burst of bad language, but that sucks.

I can't really blame the Christians for this despicable annual ploy to separate me from my money and my sanity. Xmas has always been marked by various praise and worship teams, some of them in lavish ways. In these modern times it belongs exclusively to Jesus, however, so I'm gonna heave my bad mood in that direction.

Can we skip it? Please?

Recipe for disaster? Take the darkest month of the year (Northern Hemisphere) and shove a merry, jolly, ho ho holiday right into the darkest part of it. Bombard people with subliminal messages that equate gift-giving with immortality and/or orgasms. Expect people to host dinners and parties for people they don't even like in the summertime. And the best part? Watch your kids bite their lips as their friends show off new, fancy tech equipment that their parents can afford and you can't.

Just once. Just once in my life. Just once in my life I WOULD LIKE TO SEE THE GRINCH TAKE THAT SLED UP TO THE TOP OF MOUNT KRUMPIT AND DUMP DUMP DUMP IT!

I'm not mean like Ebenezer Scrooge. I'm just sick of everything that goes with Xmas. I would like to be able to go into stores and not have my eyeballs filled to the plimsol line with red and green glitz! As my friend Seitou pointed out the other evening, who picked that color scheme, anyway! That shit don't match!

(Well, that's not how she put it. She's more ladylike. But still, she's right.)

You know what? There's only one place on Earth where I can have any control over Xmas overload. And that is right here at TGAB.

Time for a pledge.

I pledge avoidance
of the fact
that Christmas is coming.
I will not mention it
in any way, shape, or form,
from this moment
until December 24, and maybe not then.


Hold me to it. I am fed up as hell with this eternal holiday.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Brief Samhain Navel Gaze

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where today our teaching skills will be judged by the district superintendent! No wonder we're up and blogging at 5:00 a.m.

Housekeeping: Congratulations to Buzzardbilly, winner of three magnificent vulture greeting cards! BB, I'll be in touch.

It was mad rainy here at TGAB on Samhain. So, of course, one of my jack-o-lanterns gazed at the sky in dismay. (I carved them myself. I don't make a science of it.)














This is the Shrine of the Mists, done for a rainy Samhain. I had other plans for it, but the weather didn't cooperate. On the other hand, here is an interesting phenomenon.

I bought cheap votive candles for my pumpkins. I had trouble getting them lit. When I did get them lit, however, they rocked on with maximum longevity. I suppose I lit the one pictured at about 6:30 p.m. I put his "hat" on so the rain couldn't get in to snuff the candle. Wow, that worked!


When I went to bed at midnight, The jack-o-lantern was still glowing. It was both lovely and eerie in the dark night. I decided to let it burn. The grass was so wet, and it was on the shrine, so I figured I wouldn't start a forest fire.

Mr. Johnson is a night owl. When he came to bed at 2:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, he reported that the pumpkin was still burning. I got up and looked out. Sure enough, I saw an orange glow, two little eyes and a crooked mouth.

I went to feed the horse (that's what I call using the loo at night). When I came back to bed a minute later, the pumpkin's flame had extinguished itself. Isn't that interesting? If you don't think so, you've wandered to the wrong site. Go talk to Rush.

Final photo: Gnome Henge, the annual gathering of lawn gnomes in front of Chateau Johnson.

Now I must go and prepare for my day teaching school. Please keep me in your thoughts. We need this job I was lucky enough to secure.