Monthly Archives: August 2014


I’m experiencing your standard-issue vast array of thoughts and emotions this morning.

Truth be told, I’m still off-center about the death of Robin Williams. And the madness in Ferguson has me very upset. I’m a bit apprehensive about whether Remy will like the new prospective brother we’re going to meet this morning. Just when I decide to not subject myself to anymore insulting, ignorant, hurtful statements about teachers in general, I open Twitter. Oy.


I get to see the Js tonight at a concert their father’s playing on, and I’m pretty sure I’m getting together with the A’s at some point over the weekend. This afternoon, Kay and I are going to see Hundred Foot Journey and maybe enjoy some victuals afterwards. Sunday, we help Bob and Kay staff their open house, giving tours and answering questions. Yay, I feel important; like the Thistlefink Docent. :-)

So, as is always the case, there’s a sunny side to every situation. The quest for daily balance and serenity amidst the oncoming insanity continues.

I’ll check in later with a critter update.

Rat Fink, Rat Fink…

…what a donkey.

Why do I get so upset about seemingly ridiculous things? I couldn’t tell you. But it made me shake my head and smile this morning, as I went through some blog post history, cleaning up broken links (a job I hate, and often neglect). It’s a miracle I maintain my teeming throng of 100-some (worldwide) daily readers. :-D

From the “Rant” and “Boot to the Head” categories, here are five silly reminders of why I really need to keep my day job:

And the comments are fun, too.

Ah, I feel a retelling of the David Soul story coming on. Now there’s a laff riot, Jimmy. But first, the shower, the road and the school house.

Happy Monkday, fiends!

Bill of (Civil) Rights & other mistakes

Whooooaaa, camel. Notsafast.

Whooooaaa, camel. Notsafast.

Wait wait wait.

Yesterday, I heard a teenager say, My religion is my civil right! That’s true, yes? Well, no. Not exactly. I did some cursory research on how much the youth of America — indeed, all Americans — know about the paperwork that forms the raison d’état for our republic. The findings are depressing, long-standing and embarrassing (although to be fair, 1,000 people in a survey doesn’t strike me as a truly representative slice of America).

A good number of my middle and high school students cannot name the Vice President of the United States. Still more can’t tell me the three branches of government, or who was President before Barack Obama. Of course, this isn’t due to bad parenting or lack of intelligence or teachers abandoning good instruction. Rather, it’s a pervasive, nationwide complacency — apathy in epidemic proportions — with regard to government. This nonchalance has taken our youth hostage over the last three or so decades, and hasn’t let up in the slightest. I worry.

Therefore, with love for all and malice towards none, I give you something to share with the next person you find who either 1) misquotes the Constitution, its Bill of Rights, or the Declaration of Independence, or 2) mixes up the difference between a civil liberty and a civil right. Actually, it’s good for all of us as a refresher; I know it was for me.

The following is a translation of what happened in 1789, when Congress realized there’d better be some “oh, and by the ways” in the document in order to minimize abuses of power, and to ensure that each US citizen had a clear list of basic legal rights.

(RtB Edition)

  1. You can believe in whatever god you want, say basically anything you want, write whatever opinion you want, tell your government you’re mad at them anytime you want, and gather peacefully wherever you want (the five basic freedoms of religion, speech, the press, redress, and peaceful assembly).
  2. You have the right to own guns.
  3. If the Army wants to hole up in your house when there’s no war happening on US soil, you have the right to say no.
  4. Your home and your stuff can’t be searched or taken without good legal reason (search and seizure; probable cause).
  5. You can’t be tried twice for the same crime (double jeopardy), and if you’re accused of a capital crime, a Grand Jury of your peers will convene first, to see if there’s enough evidence against you to go to trial.
  6. If you do go to trial, it needs to happen as fast as possible, in the district where the crime was committed. You also have the right to acquire a lawyer, and to confront your accuser(s).
  7. You have the right to impanel a jury in a civil case (a case in which a plaintiff sues a defendant, usually for damages), as long as the amount in dispute exceeds $20.
  8. Outrageous bail amounts — like, say, $20 million — are forbidden. So is torture in prison (cruel and unusual punishment).
  9. The above is not a complete, final list of your rights.
  10. If numbers 1-8 fail to cover a certain issue, then the individual States get to make the call.

And that is the Bill of Rights:  a fancy name for the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. Now, about these pesky definitions…

I guess it’s nit-picking, in a way. Guilty as charged, and it’s really not that huge of a deal, since the lines between the words have come to be quite blurred. But the above 10 items, while listed as rights, are in fact your civil liberties, or “freedoms.” Civil rights deal with the equal dispatch of those civil liberties within the framework of the law. offers this analogy:


[A]s an employee, you do not have the legal right to a promotion, mainly because getting a promotion is not a guaranteed “civil liberty.” But, as a female employee, you do have the legal right to be free from discrimination in being considered for that promotion. By choosing not to promote a female worker solely because of the employee’s gender, the employer has committed a civil rights violation and has engaged in unlawful employment discrimination based on sex or gender.


Then there’s the complex issue of granting civil rights under the law to people who really aren’t nice folks, according to “civilized society.” You know who I’m talking about: the pornographers, the flag burners, the America haters, murderers and rapists, etc. Like it or not, they have civil rights, too, even though their activities are abhorrent to a large section of our culture.

I for one am glad these laws exist. I would like to think that if I were ever upbraided legally for something I did or said according to my First Amendment beliefs, I would be relieved to have the law on my side.

The most cloudy and dangerous of all “rights” issues is when one liberty clashes with another, and further interpretation and arbitration are required. Enter the Supreme Court of the United States, whose job it is to come to a decision on the most sensitive and legally explosive cases of Constitutional law. The Pentagon Papers case comes to mind, when the freedom of government to keep military secrets clashed with the freedom of the press to report the secrets to the people. What a mess.

Speaking of mess, I’d better get up and get to cleaning around here. Busy week ahead before the busy week after that. Almost down to go-time!

Good stuff

And lots of it. I know this may strike you as odd — me posting about good things when school starts up in one week  ;-) — but there is a list, and I feel impelled to share. Of course, at the end of this little treatise, I shall ask you to do the same, for the general good. That, and your comments just make me happy. Behold, today’s…


1. Remy is improving on the sidewalk. The Thriller takes him out once or twice a day to practice, and while he still gets nervous away from the house, he’s handling it better. (Downside: he’s beginning to get a bit rotund from all the treats, despite the fact they’re only 2 calories each, and that he goes for bigtime runs in the dog park every day. We need to address this.)

2. Anne Rice has written a new novel in the Vampire Chronicles series, a longstanding guilty pleasure read for me. It’s been a long wait; the last installment was in 2003. It won’t be released until Halloween, though, bummer. Upside: I’ll have something to read on those sleepless nights during production week for the musical. Another bonus: Looks like Anne hit the mother lode by selling the series to Universal to be made into films. Yay, more Louis and Lestat.

3. Barring a significant blizzard that paralyzes the Midwest for weeks, I don’t think I’ll have to worry about making up snow days at the end of the year anymore. As my district runs “long” on the daily school hours, we should be safe under the new rules for calamity days. Yippy!

4. I have one week left to see my grandsons as many times as possible. I plan to take advantage of it.

5. I know it’s ultra-hip to not like television. We’re supposed to eschew it for going outside to play and riding bikes and gardening and sitting on the porch, admiring the beauty of nature. I get it. I barely have time for it during the school year anyway. Still, the fact is there is smart, entertaining, compelling programming on TV right now, and I have no reservations about saying I will set my DVR as often as possible to enjoy it. Thank the gods for on-demand viewing.

6. For the first time in 21 years, I have not bought school clothes. And for the first time in 21 years, I haven’t given it a moment’s concern. And…gray hair? Don’t care. :-D

7. There’s a person in my life whom I have allowed to infiltrate my soul and wreak havoc on my inner peace with astonishing regularity. I call “game over.” On goes my Teflon raincoat. *biNg*

OK, how about you? What’s your good news for today? Lemmehaveit!


Remington. Ever watchful for the next thing that's going to frighten him.

Remington: ever watchful for the next thing that’s going to frighten him.

Yep, I had one.

If you live with a fearful dog, you know that life is not normal, or at least what other dog owners might consider normal. Visits from family and friends are adventures in abject terror. There’s no showing off your incredibly intelligent, good-natured, pretty pup to adoring friends and family who want nothing more than to get to know him. There are no tricks performed, because it’s difficult to get him to demonstrate “shake,” “lie down” or “Bang!” (play dead) when he’s hiding where he feels most secure: in the Thriller’s office downstairs, behind the couch, and under my desk or the coffee table.

I should say at this point that we have indeed made progress with Remy over the last eight months. Negligible progress, but progress all the same. Bob, Seamus and Helen have come over to help us with the “stranger danger” issue, all with encouraging degrees of success. Still, we know the mountain is high, and truthfully, we may never reach the summit. According to the vast amount of research we’ve done through buying several books, watching countless training videos, consulting dozens of websites, having him evaluated by someone who specializes in dog behavior, and purchasing hundreds of dollars worth of training products, it is possible he will always be this way. We are crazy about him regardless, but it isn’t easy sometimes.

This morning was not easy.

While Remy loves the park (both the dog park and the public park near our home), he is completely terrified of walking on the sidewalk. To go to the city park, located under a half mile away, we must transport him by car.

On the advice of popular dog trainer Zack George, I decided to introduce Remy to sidewalk training by desensitization: putting him in an uncomfortable situation for small bits of time, until he no longer fears it. This was to be done by leashing him and taking him to sit in the front yard, near the sidewalk. Sitting calmly for a few seconds earns him a piece of jerky, his favorite treat. After sitting for a few moments, walking a few feet of sidewalk is introduced, and so on, until more distance is added to the walk. The goal is to desensitize him to the sidewalk and all its accompanying distractions and noises.

I took Remy out on his park leash, and sat him down at the end of the front walk. So far, so good. I treated and praised him, and repeated the action four times. Then, I started towards our driveway — a total distance of about 15 feet. That’s when he went berserk.

He began pulling and running, darting (crouched low with his tail plastered down) every which way at random, circling me so I had to jump in order to avoid being tangled up and tripped — just trying to escape. He appeared to forget where the front door was; he pulled me so hard the opposite way (away from the house), that with all my might I could not stop to bring him to a sit (incredible how much power a 55-lb. animal can generate). He didn’t care that he was at this point gasping and choking, or that I was trying, in my calmest voice, to bring him back to me, or that he could smell the jerky in the pouch hanging from my belt. I had to lean away from him and pull as hard as I could, because he was beginning to drag me towards the street. This beautiful, smart dog had completely lost his mind.

With only overstretched biceps and a small cut on my finger reopened as damage, I finally got him back to the front steps. Once he recognized the door, he made a beeline for it. Inside, I unhooked him and he ran for the space under my desk like he’d been shot out of a cannon. I sat down on the floor next to him, cradled his head in my hands, and broke down in tears.

By the time the Thriller came home from his doctor appointment, both Remy and I had calmed down, but when I tried to tell him what happened, I started bawling again. As is his pattern, he began to devise a solution to the problem. Using a special leash we bought a couple months ago that’s designed to offer comfort to anxious dogs, he tried the experiment again, walking Remy on the sidewalk just in front of the house. A couple of times, he began to really pull. At that point, the harness’s “squeezing” compression motion kicked in, and it slowed him down long enough for him to respond to a “sit” command and have a piece of jerky. He repeated this about nine or ten times in front of the house, then brought Remy in. He made the same dash for my desk, but he didn’t seem as distressed as before. In fact, he unwound from his curled-up, defensive position and had a peaceful nap.

I know that patience is key, and overall, we try to exercise that virtue with Remy every day, because you can’t reverse the fallout of whatever happened to him in just a few short months — if ever. We will continue to make his healing a priority because we love him and he deserves it. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t much more than we’d bargained for initially, but I have to believe Remy “found” us for a reason, and we owe it to him to give him our best every day, in spite of his fears and hangups.

Of course, that’s not to say that Mama won’t have the occasional meltdown herself. :-)