Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My Awesome Speech at the Girl Scout Jamboree

Lately I've been having fantasies about being president. Like, a black SUV stops in front of the house, picks me up, and drives me straight to the White House, where I take over immediately.
 I never had these fantasies before. As a woman of a certain age, I know that presidents have to be male. This is America.

Even though I can't really dream of becoming president, I can still be the featured speaker at the annual Girl Scout Jamboree! I've drafted my speech, and I'm waiting for them to call. You can read it below:


Hello there, lil' ladies! My, look at you! All clean and well-groomed, shying away from those pesky bugs so your uniforms won't get dirty! Oh, that takes me back to my youth in the 1960s! I was a Girl Scout in good standing for years. I still have my sash, and it is covered with badges. Cooking, reading, health care, safety, dance, art, pet care, citizenship ... I've got tons of badges. I'm very proud of them.

This is no exaggeration when I say that I trudged through icy cold slush to sell Girl Scout cookies. I know, I know, it's something that could be an urban (actually rural) legend ... but in this case it is absolutely true! I trudged through icy cold slush to sell Girl Scout cookies!

How do you know it's true? Because I got my feet icy cold and soaking wet, and I didn't sell any cookies! You see, Girl Scouts, every girl in my neighborhood was also a Scout, which meant that she was also selling cookies. The competition was fierce. The winners, of course, were the girls with powerful daddies who could take the cookie order sheet to their offices and factories and get orders by the dozen. Here's your first lesson! Life is all about wealth and power, and if you don't have it ... I mean, if your daddy isn't rich, you might as well give up on those cookies and any other big dream you have. You'll be able to supply your immediate family with nice, fresh cookies, and they will love you for it. But those big orders? Forget it. The deck is stacked, my dear little tots.

Speaking of stacked decks, you know all those uplifting speeches you get from your Girl Scout leaders about how you can be anything you want to be? I really hope you don't believe that. Start with your Scout leaders themselves. Who are they? Mommies who cram Scouting into their already over-busy days in some tedious, middle management position where they report to male supervisors. There's nothing fake about the New York Times, and they are here to tell you that the top is not within your reach. Seriously, you should do what I did. Toil anonymously for years, lose your position to a man, and become a school teacher! Better yet, save yourself the frustration of losing your job to a man and go straight into school teaching! At least then, at age 58, you won't be painting cinderblock all summer in the heat like I'm doing. You'll be ready to retire, possibly with a pension!

Dear Scouts, the list of things you can't do is long and wide. Pretty much choose a profession that doesn't require you to care for other people tenderly at a low wage, and you won't be able to rise far in it. But don't be sad! Think of all the good things you can have as a woman in our society! You can drink wine, and sell Mary Kay cosmetics, and wear fast fashion, and own lots of cats. Who doesn't love cats? Adopt a cat, revolve your life around it, and give up those silly plans to pursue a STEM career!

Remember when everyone told you a woman would be president of the USA some day? Me too, and look how that turned out.

I'm just trying to protect you from the crushed and broken dreams I see when I look in the rearview mirror at my own pathetic but predictable life. From age nine, when I couldn't try out for Little League, right up to the present, I've played second fiddle to men who -- if they were better at all -- weren't that much better than me. At the risk of being repetitive, let me say again: Save yourself the bother. Set your lil' eyes on a service profession. Only do it in a hurry, because society is encouraging unemployed men to seek those jobs too. I know of at least one mediocre male nurse who got a job in a jiffy! Look smart, or you might not even be able to snag one of those coveted, low-paying, high-stress service jobs!

I know what you're thinking: What's good about being a woman? Ha ha! At least you'll know for sure that you are the parent of your child! What dad can truly say that? *fist pump*

Oh no! Don't cry! Whoa ... I'm making you cry! No no, there is a silver lining, my children.

Long ago, when life was tough and short, women got all the props for keeping the Tribe alive. It was an honorable thing to be a mother, and an honorable thing to keep the peace and solve disputes and issue wise directives. Women were so respected then! So, you ask, how can we restore that essential balance between the genders, short of a massive population crash? Well, I'll tell you. Pray to a bored Goddess. There are so many wonderful, powerful Goddesses out there who've been marginalized by the Big Daddy God. If enough of you Girl Scouts turn your back on the Great I Am and start putting your faith in a better basket, you could indeed change the trajectory of this sagging nation.

So I want all of you out there today to contact your legislators and demand comprehensive health care. It's a right, not a perk. Then I want you to drop those patriarchal Bibles in the recycle bucket and start dealing out the love to the Goddess of your choice! Don't waste time on Christianity the way I did. The captains of that ship will always be men. Find yourself a better boat.

If enough of you Scouts ditch the busy God, you could be part of a Great Awakening in America. Perhaps it would at least give you positions of religious leadership, which are, after all, the jobs your foremothers held in the Days before Time.

One last thing. The only insect you really need fear is the common mosquito. Everything else that crawls should be quietly respected. How would you like it if some bug looked at you and said, "EWWWWW!!!!! Get it AWAY!!!!!" Damn, that shit's gotta end.

Thanks for listening, and enjoy your Jamboree! And may the Goddess be with you.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Across the street from my house there are eight healthy, mature trees slated for the ax. The trees have big red X marks painted on them. (See Exhibit in previous post). Additionally, there are two ornamental trees also bearing X marks.

Today was a Sunday, which meant that I would immerse myself in the New York Times for a few hours like I always do when I'm home on the weekend. I took the newspaper and sat out on my front porch, which has always been kind of like the Shady Rest with such a leafscape across the street.

While I read the paper, I also watched my neighbors walk past the house that is slated for demolition by the middle of August. (In case you're late to this news feed, the house is in great shape, stem to stern, but the property was bought by a developer who wants to build two houses on the property, somehow necessitating the destruction of all those trees.)

It was interesting to see peoples' reactions to all those X marks and the real estate sign "lot for sale."

One man stood and stared, shook his head, and moved on.

The young jogging girl didn't notice.

A woman my age from the next block over stopped and talked to me about it for 30 minutes. She explained the importance of everything being brand new (and that master bath!). To whit, busy working millionaires don't want to spend their weekends on home improvement and maintenance. They want everything new and perfect. She estimated the yearly property taxes on each house would be $30 to $40,000. You read that right. Five figures. Yearly.

My neighbor whose house will be next to the destruction/construction came out, found the surveying marks that delineate his property, and put posts by them. He is rightly concerned about incursion. We wondered together if perhaps the largest of the trees might be on someone else's property.

A couple walked by with their dogs. They stopped, looked, said something to one another, moved on.

A neighbor who frequently walks his dog past my house looked at the sign, looked at me on the porch, and shook his head sadly. He was wearing earbuds.

A black Mercedes Benz with tinted windows pulled up in front of the sign and stopped. I could barely see two people in the car. I heard a phone ringing in the car. It rang seven times and then got picked up by an answering machine. The Benz drove on.

A man in a maroon SUV drove up. Stopped at the "lot for sale" sign. Reversed to the other edge of the property. Drove forward again very slowly. Stopped at the sign again. Then moved on.

A few other dog-walkers went past without noting or commenting.

My Beta cat slept on the back porch. Gamma tiptoed around. He's kind of spooky.

Snobville is very quiet in July and August. Most folks go to the Jersey Shore. There's a feeling in my heart of All Hell about to be broken loose.

Nor did reading the New York Times improve my sensation of Impending Doom.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Through the Lean Months

One of the biggest misconceptions about public school teachers is, in part, true. Yes, we do get July and August off. But we do not get paychecks in those months.

There are some single teachers at the high end of the pay scale who can spend the summer touring Europe or Alaska or some such. I'm not single, and I'm at the low end of the scale. The way low end.

Fortunately I found a summer job. I did it last year, when I wasn't blogging. I am doing it again this year.


For July and August, my profession is interior painter at my school. The day begins promptly at 6:00 a.m. and ends at 2:30 p.m. This year we have a crew of four. Already we have completed a corridor and a classroom. Today we were in an air-conditioned guidance office, but that won't last long. (This photo is from last year. I was painting the ceiling in the auto tech shop.)

How did I get from graduating 15th in my class at Johns Hopkins University (1981) to a 40-hour-a-week paint job at thirteen bucks an hour (2016 and 2017)? Life is curious. The answer, I think, can be summarized with a line from the movie Mad Max: "Maybe it's just a result of anxiety."

But la di dah! Unfulfilled potential, or luck of the draw? Who cares? I'm a painter!

This is what I have learned by being an interior painter:

1. Edge first. Then roll.
2. Move all furniture. Don't paint around stuff.
3. Getting up early in the morning is a good thing.
4. Being able to move fairly nimbly at 58 is a really good thing.
5. Paint rollers never come clean no matter how long you work with them.
6. Screw drivers are not, after all, incomprehensible.
7. The custodians are the nicest people in the school.
8. Physical fatigue is preferable to mental fatigue.
9. Painting is far easier than teaching.

When I started on paint crew last year, I had a bad attitude about it. I thought, "Look at you, Anne. What a loser you are! What happened to that novel you worked on for 15 years? And the other ones you were going to write? How did you become a school teacher, and not a very good one at that?" And much more of the same.

The first week nearly killed me. As bad as I needed the money, I didn't think I would make it. But I needed the money. So I persevered.

By the beginning of August, I noticed something. I no longer got winded climbing the stairs. The paint poles weren't as heavy. I could carry more cans and tarps. And I finally figured out how to open and close the cans without splattering paint everywhere.

Then I decided to go on a hike.


Why not? Nothing like a pleasant little jaunt on a summer's day.

This is the trail head for Glen Onoko Falls. It is in the Pocono Mountains. If you read up on it you get the picture really fast that this hike is not for sissies. And it wasn't. I should know, because I did it!


Glen Onoko Trail actually has three large waterfalls. This is number two.

By the time my daughter The Heir and I got to the top of Glen Onoko Trail, I was the only person my age to be seen. Everyone was younger! As far as the "trail" goes, you're looking at it. It was basically climbing rocks, straight up.

Without becoming a school teacher, I never would have seen these waterfalls. Without becoming a painter I could never have had the stamina at age 57 to climb those falls. Forget Phi Beta Kappa! I'm Far Better Hiker!

This year I am back to blogging along with my painting. I double dog guarantee that I will engage in some sort of extreme outdoor trek some weekend soon. You'll hear all about it.

The moral of this sermon is: How wonderful to be mostly pain free, able to move and breathe and smile! With a little money to pay the bills kicked in as part of the bargain.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

There's a Word for Everything

Remember a few weeks ago I wrote about how to make your little property more oxygen-friendly? I said that I wait until winter and then cut certain trees down to the nub. They come back in the spring as "bushes."


Remember I said that this "bush" has been here as long as I've lived in the house I live in now, i.e., since 1987?

You don't remember that? Don't feel bad. It happens to all of us.

Anyway, the bored Goddess Cloacina tells me there's a word for this. It's a verb: coppice.

When you coppice a tree, you cut it when it's hibernating. In the spring when the sap rises, and there aren't any leaves to gather sunlight, the tree trunk sends out new branches. Can you believe it? By doing this you preserve the tree in a kind of eternal youth. It will live decades, just like this. And then if you let it get tall, it'll get tall. Or not, you can keep it small.

There are trees in Europe that date to the Middle Ages that have been coppiced. When I was back visiting the family farm in Appalachia, I noticed signs of coppicing there too.


This practice makes me happy, because I have a maple in my back yard that I am growing to make a staff for myself. It's nice to know I can do that without killing the tree.

And speaking of killing trees, I came home from work today to this, across the street:


The general rule of thumb in many forests is to mark "cut" trees with yellow and "save" trees with blue. Look at the color choice here. It could be any color, but the evil developer reveals his inner soul with one swatch of paint.

And so the majestic oak is slated for death, while its little offspring across the road lives on, diminutive and child-like. This consoles me.

A little free advice: Coppice a few of your trees! Why buy some expensive and fragile little bush when you can grow a nice native that will require no maintenance and will rock on for decades?

The economy is humming, so this free advice is really free. I won't have to pay you to take it. Have a nice day!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Perfect Together

In a million years I never thought I would say this ... but I love New Jersey.

Today my daughter The Heir and I went to Absecon Inlet for a short beach day. It was so festive! There were kids everywhere, swimming and having a good time, and the parents and grandparents were all so chill. Someone near us was playing old school rap on a boom box, and folks were grilling burgers right on the beach. I volunteered to photograph not one but two cute couples with the surf in the background.

Speaking of surf, on the Jersey Shore the waves can knock you right off your feet, face first into the sand. But if you live in Jersey long enough, you learn where to go. Absecon is an inlet. The waves don't crash. They swish lightly to shore. Today the water was so clear that Cloacina gladly accepted an invitation from Oshun to check out the awesome school of dolphins that cavorted just beyond the pier.

Regarding the dolphins, almost everyone thought they were seeing a shark. Including me. Looked just like the fin you see in all the Jaws movies. But the lifeguards weren't perturbed. So I went to the guard stand, and the conversation went something like this:

Anne: Um, should I be concerned about the fin I just saw out there?

Lifeguard: That's a dolphin. Sharks swim under water.

Anne: I should know that! Geez, maybe we all ought to take tests before they let us out on the beach, huh?

Lifeguard: Nah, that's what I'm here for.

Sweetness and light, don't you think? And that same guard had to streak into the water two times to rescue little tots who got in over their heads. That's what he's there for!

The sky was bright blue, the water was bright blue, and there was a boat named after The Spare.

You'll just have to believe me. I couldn't zoom.

I always take the back roads to Atlantic City, or Asbury Park, or whatever beach I visit. Today, driving home from AC, we passed roadside farm stands full of peaches and corn and crabs, and then we drove through the peach orchards, and then we drove through the blueberry farms, and the trees and the earth smelled so sweet. Everything is green and ripe, and the sun didn't set until 8:30.

Years and years ago, New Jersey had a tourist campaign called "New Jersey and You: Perfect Together." The masot's name was Perfy. Oh, I used to belittle this weird-looking thing, and the whole smelly state! I'm a proud Appalachian, after all.

Just now I'm feeling that New Jersey and I could be perfect together.

You see, across the street from Absecon Inlet beach is a high-end shore house that had a TRUMP flag (and a big one) flying from the second floor. And across the street at the beach, Heir and I were almost the only white people, and all of us had our backs to that damn flag!

Did you ever notice that the sea shore smells different from the rest of the world? Of course you've noticed that! Well, the rest of New Jersey is starting to smell pretty good too. We've all turned our backs on Donald Trump, and soon Chris Christie will be history as well.

Then it may well be perfect. Perfect.

Friday, July 14, 2017

5 Br 5 Ba

O frabjous day! My computer is humming contentedly again. So, once more into the fray I go!

I have played  hostess to many bored Goddesses in the past twelve years, especially feeling the presence of Queen Brighid the Bright. Still, Brighid never moved in the way Cloacina has. Possibly because I never had a spare room until recently.

I thought it would be difficult to converse with Cloacina, who is after all an ancient Roman deity, but by golly, that one year of Latin in high school has set everything on a smooth course! I've got the prefixes and suffixes and the root words, so we communicate very well indeed.


This is a Goddess I can get behind. My bathrooms have been spotless since She arrived.

Bear with me a moment while I post a photo:


This is the house across the street from my own. Isn't it charming? And those two beautiful oak trees. They warm a Druid's heart. You can't see it, but behind this house is a two-car garage with a one bedroom apartment over top. The house was built in 1923.

Some time ago, a developer bought this property. Very soon he will demolish this house and the garage. He planned to put two houses on the lot. Instead he's going to demolish everything, build one house, and try to sell the vacant side of the property for someone else to build a house. The oak trees will be chopped down, as will four mature trees along the property line off to the left and out of the photo.

Snobville's planning board gave him the hearty green light, of course. I went to the meeting. I don't know why I bothered to stand up and ask the board to vote the project down. It was a waste of breath.

There are no structural problems with this house (Cloacina prefers the word "domicile"). It needs some updates, but it has its original wood floors with the cute trim and a center hall staircase with carved banister. It has a finished basement, which means it has two small bathrooms and four bedrooms (if you count the room in the basement as a bedroom).

But hey, let's tear this old gem down and build something brand new and shoddy!

You know what I've noticed about modern day Americans? Everyone wants their own bathroom.

One of the things the greedy bastard developer is going to do in his shoddy new construction is provide each bedroom with its own bathroom. This is the rage these days. All you need to do is look at the multiple listings, and you'll see that newer homes all have restrooms everywhere, kind of like ballparks. Or hospitals. Or hotels.


My grandparents had one of these when I was growing up. It sure wasn't pleasant, I didn't linger in its confines, but it got the job done.

(Cloacina finds this appalling, but She's also dismayed at the modern home with its five-and-a-half bathrooms. How to keep them all shiny clean?)

I have to wonder about children being raised in homes where they have their own bathrooms. Talk about privilege! They're literally growing up without ever having to smell anyone else's stink. Call me gross if you like (Cloacina is again appalled), but I believe we should all get a little whiff of something unpleasant now and then. It keeps us grounded as mortals. It teaches us to love other people because they are mortal too.

The house being torn down once had seven people living in it. Seems like it's a fine size for a family like that. The house that will be built in its place will have three bedrooms and three-and-a-half baths, including -- of course -- a master bath.

The whole concept of "master bath" baffles me. Why does a bathroom need to be luxurious? Why have a bath tub so large it takes forever to fill, or a shower with granite tiles? No one spends more than 30 minutes in the tub or the shower. Forty-five minutes, tops. Why does that room need to be private and posh? Oh yes, I forgot. Privilege. How can I forget that I live in Snobville, where privilege flows through the streets like milk and honey?

Sadly, I don't think you've heard the last of this demolition/rebuilding project. It's right in my face, literally, and I can't do anything to stop it.

However, when the house goes up on the market, my Bernie sign will return to my front lawn. Let them know that workers live in my house. Workers, who share one restroom and a water closet.

Time for a bath ... just as soon as Mr. J is finished his shower.

All hail Cloacina!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

He Haunts Our Dreams

You would never know it, but this used to be a humor blog.

I poked fun at the Christian Right for their politics and prayers, calling them "chippies." Now look around. They're in charge. First thing they did, they sat one on the Supreme Court. Our vice president is a chippie and a scary one.

Scary. The operative word is scary.

I made brutal fun of W and Cheney and all their chicanery. Now, when I see W on t.v., my eyes tear up with nostalgia. I miss that daft little bugger.

It's nearly impossible to poke fun at our current sitting president. I know, I know, the late-night hosts do it, and memes do it ... but for me, this is too scary to be funny. No one sat in a lifeboat and laughed while the Titanic was sinking.

This morning I was at a teacher meeting, and two of my colleagues reported having dreams about Mr. Old and Ugly. So did I, which makes it three.

My dream is the closest I can get to being funny about the sitting president.

I dreamed that he was flirting to me and trying to grab my ... do I even have to elaborate?

So I said to him, "Okay, I'll have sex with you if you give up tweeting."

How's that for a soothing night's sleep? I woke up in dire need of Pepto-Bismol and a long, scalding shower.

The man haunts my dreams. He is a menace to society and a menace to my personal sobriety.

Maybe Cloacina will avert her gaze and allow the plumbing in the White House to back up, overflow, and soak the carpeting.