Category Archives: nostalgia

Free Reading Friday: The Upside of Unrequited

upside of unrequitedI really enjoyed The Upside of Unrequited. Considering how much I loved Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, it’s no real surprise that I found Becky Albertalli’s “companion novel,” very enjoyable.

As much as I really liked Simon, I think this book spoke to me more. Probably because like Molly, the main character, when I was in high school, I too was a fat girl who had a darn lot of crushes and no actual boyfriends to speak of. Sure, I may not have had two moms or a twin sister who seemed to be developing a romantic life well before me, but I had a plethora of very good friends, none of whom seemed to be struggling romantically the way I was. And I attributed quite a bit of that to the fact that most of my friends didn’t have the same sort of waistline I did.

I actually saw myself quite a bit in Molly’s character. Granted, I would have never sworn around my folks the way she swears around hers, but I did have a pretty good relationship with my folks. But, like Molly, I kept a LOT of things to myself. Like Molly, I spent a lot of time throwing myself into projects to keep busy and keep my mind off all the ways I was unhappy. Like Molly, I think I was suffering from depression (only mine were not diagnosed). Like Molly, I never really felt comfy in my own skin and could not see myself the way others saw me. Like Molly, I had a big heart and was a great friend. But also like Molly, at times I was a rather “shitty” friend–because I wanted to be happy for them, but I was so jealous of them that it was hard at times.

And like Molly, I pretty much never acted on my crushes. I was far too afraid of being rejected. I had crush after crush after crush. I admired from afar. Even when I thought a guy liked me (which I actually thought a few times), I was too scared to act on it. And, as a result, I ended up losing out on what I later found might have been actual relationships, or at least dates.

It took me a long time to find my confidence and be ok with who I am. I’m glad Molly was able to do it (to a large degree) over the course of a summer. I wish my journey had been that short!

This book is great for just about any teenager who has ever struggled with his/her self image. It’s great for anyone who has ever had unrequited crushes. It’s wonderful for anyone who is LGBTQ+. It’s just a wonderful book.

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Travel Thursday: Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh castle.jpgAlthough I think London is the foreign city that has my heart, Edinburgh is a close second. I don’t know if it is the stunning architecture, the incredible history, the friendliness of the people or the fact that it is just big enough to feel like it would take months to really see it all, but still small enough to feel homey, but I adore it. In fact, despite my sheer adoration for everything London has to offer, if I was really going to pack my family up and move them to a city in the UK, I’d probably pick Edinburgh. London would be the place for me if I was single, but Edinburgh definitely seems more like my speed with a husband and two kids.

Not that I’m moving over seas any time soon (or ever).

I’ve only been to Edinburgh twice, but both time I’ve visited Edinburgh Castle. I guess that’s not really a surprise since both times I was leading a student trip and if there’s a castle or cathedral in the area, it seems student trips will stop there. We actually visited three castles/palaces and three cathedrals during our nine day trip (and one of those days was spent entirely in flight).

Edinburgh viewEven by castle standards, Edinburgh is pretty spectacular, if for no other reason than it has the best view of any castle in the UK that I’ve visited. I love the fact that it is set up on top of the hill. The view is breathtaking. Since I’d already visited the castle three years ago, I didn’t do nearly as many touristy things on this visit. I’d already seen the crown jewels and watched the one o’clock gun fired. So this time I spent a lot more time just walking around and taking everything in. I got to casually stroll through the castle, which was lovely. I spent time looking out over the entire beautiful city. It was such a nice break from neurotically counting my students to make sure they were all accounted for.

It was also nice to have just a bit of time to myself. On these trips, I rarely let students out of my sight, however, since there is only one way in or out of the castle and I knew my students would have no way to get into any trouble or get lost inside the castle, I was able to give them all an hour to just explore and enjoy. Sure, I made them promise to stay in pairs (and most stayed in groups of 4 or 5), but I let them feel a bit more grown up and explore without one of the adults looking over their shoulders. This also meant I got some quiet time to myself. Sure, I could have hung out with the other chaperones, but we’d also been together pretty much nonstop and it was nice to just walk around and take it all in.

The history at this castle is pretty amazing. Even by the old standards of the UK, this castle is old. St. Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest building within the castle walls dates back between 1130-1140. It is so amazing to not only see this building still standing, but to be able to step inside and touch this piece of history. I also have to admit to being more than a little obsessed with the TV show Reign for awhile, and even though I know that about 90% of the “historical” element to the show is bunk, I still loved following the story of Mary Queen of Scots. To me it is so cool to visit the castle where she actually gave birth to her son, James VI.

Although I’m not big on military history, one of my chaperones is a former Marine and he thought it was pretty cool that the Scottish National War Museum and memorial are located inside the castle. He did have a slightly funny moment when he saw what was labelled as a soldier’s privy and thought it might a bathroom set up for military members (as part of a thank you for their service). Since he had to go to the bathroom, he was disappointed to find out it was just a exhibit of what bathrooms were like at the time prisoners of war were kept in the castle.

castle far offSpeaking of bathrooms, the only downside to visiting the castle this time was that I really had to go to the bathroom! I got a little turned around and could only find the bathroom in the cafe. Unfortunately there were only two stalls and the line actually extended out the door, around the corner, up the first set of stairs, onto the first landing and partially up the second set of stairs. I think I spent 20 minutes of my free time in the queue waiting for relief. I was really glad I had not followed the lead of my students and gotten coffees to help warm up on the slightly blustery day.

Long wait for the bathroom aside, it was a great day.

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Wildcard Wednesday: 4th of July

Charleston beach.jpg

This year I decided to take students to the UK during my family’s regularly scheduled trip to the beach. Since the only reason we go to the beach is because my in-laws orchestrate a big family get together there, my heart was definitely more set on the UK trip. Plus, we stay at a beach house my SiL owns, so I knew my husband’s family would be able to be a bit more flexible with the beach week. And if not, it would save me two 12 hour drives to Isle of Palms and a week in the same house with 14 other people, most of whom are only related to be me by marriage.

True to form, as soon as my MiL knew the dates I’d be going to the UK, she arranged for our beach week to be moved. It’s not the first year we’ve had to mix it up, although the other time was also to accommodate a student trip to the UK three years ago. Luckily my trip coincided with my in-law’s 50th wedding anniversary, so they were happy to move things around so we could have a big family party to celebrate this milestone. That trip was scheduled for the end of June and we just missed being at the beach on the 4th of July.

Wild Dunes is a surprisingly popular destination for the 4th of July. Since my in-laws knew two years in advance when my trip would be, it was no problem for my SiL to make sure her beach house was not rented out for the holiday week. So this year we celebrated America’s independence without any sparklers or bottle rockets as setting off fireworks is illegal on the Isle of Palms. For some reason we also didn’t have the traditional cook-out, even though there was a grill at the beach house. We had my FiL’s homemade spaghetti sauce (which I regret to say I am the only who is not a fan of it–too much meat and not enough spice), pasta, garlic bread and salad. It was a perfectly fine meal, if a little strange.

My family did celebrate our independence a bit by going out to a really awesome breakfast at Acme Lowcountry Kitchen. I cannot give them high enough praise. Truly awesome experience. Delicious food, good service, plus we got to eat on the covered patio, which was really nice. I’d been there once before with friends, but I got to introduce my husband and kids to it and they loved it. Especially my son who, despite ordering from the kid’s menu, had way more food than any of us. He was in breakfast heaven.

We spent our day walking the beach and hanging out in the nearby pool, which the kids loved. Both were insanely crowded though. We usually go to the beach over Father’s Day week and even though mid-June is way cooler than July, the beach and pool are never as packed. We actually had someone plop down in front of us on the beach (complete with three beach umbrellas and chairs), partially obscuring our view of the beach, which has never happened before. There were just a lot of people.

Although we had to buck some of our usual 4th of July traditions, we did get to see some pretty cool fireworks, even though they were a little far away. A little after 9 we headed up to the top balcony of the beach house and waited for the city display to start. It was a little slow at first and the fireworks didn’t look very impressive, mostly because they were rather far away, but as the minutes ticked by, the spectacle picked up. The finale, which didn’t happen until about 9:45 was one of the most impressive I’ve seen in awhile. It was gorgeous. My son loved the fact that several of the fireworks formed hearts. My daughter was so tired after a day at the beach and the pool that she completely slept through them!

The only real downside to the day was that the “entertainment” that happens at the Boardwalk Inn next door didn’t stop playing at 10 as usual. Every night during the summer there is a live band next door in the pavilion between two of the pools. The bands begin playing around 7 and have to be done by 10. Since they are outdoor and our beach house is right next to the pavilion, we can hear every single note played. One night, my son was in the bathtub and he yelled out, “Mom, they’re playing ‘Sweet Caroline!'” Then he started singing along. That’s how loud it is every night of our vacation. My husband and I have to listen to mediocre cover bands cover mostly the same songs for at least an hour every night. Even with the TV on watching Netflix, we can still hear the music.

On the 4th of July I was excited to watch an episode of Preacher and figured that the band was going to finish their set with a song or two with their remaining 10 minutes. Nope! Because it was the 4th they played until 11. We still watched Preacher, but had to rewind a few times because the choruses of “Born in the USA” and about half a dozen CCR songs were so loud. It was annoying, but I was glad they didn’t go completely cliche and play “Proud to be an American,” which every other band had played at some point leading up to the 4th.

It was definitely an interesting holiday. I’m glad we went, but I think I’ll be happy to go back to mid-June next year.

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Travel Thursday: UK Day 1-Edinburgh

Edinburgh long.jpgThree years ago, I led a student trip with EF Tours that went through England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. While I loved each country, since it was an 11 day tour, we didn’t get much time to spend in each country. We spent the most time, four days, in Ireland. From there we took a ferry over to Wales where we spent less than 24 hours, most of which was either on a bus or in a town well after everything had shut up for the evening. The next morning we were on the road heading to Edinburgh. We got to spend a day and a half there, but it was not nearly enough time. I fell in LOVE with Edinburgh.

So, when we were planning our next trip, I knew Scotland had to be more of a destination. In fact, I wanted it to be one of our primary destinations, so I picked the England and Scotland tour. I was so excited to be going back to one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited.

We landed in Edinburgh, after some rather hellacious turbulence, a little before 10 in the morning (UK time). I’d been up since just before 9 am EST, which meant by the time we touched down, I’d been awake for 20 hours. Since the best way to avoid major jetlag is to stay awake and keep on trucking, that is exactly what we did. We boarded a bus, amidst some truly terrifying wind and headed first on a bus tour of the city and then on a walking tour of it. Despite being on a plane and a bus for many hours, I still managed to get over 14K steps in on that first day during our walking tour.

Scotland Writer's MuseumSince I was sleep deprived, I don’t remember every single place we walked by on that first day. However, one of the first places we passed was the Edinburgh Writer’s Museum. On my first trip no one had alerted me to its existence, but it was in a simply amazing building. Since we were walking and only stopping for pictures and a brief explanation of what the place was, I didn’t get a chance to actually visit, which was probably for the best since it is dedicated to Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. Although I have read some of Burns’ and Scott’s poetry, Stevenson is the only one I feel really acquainted with and even then, I’ve only read two of his books, Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, so a visit to the museum might not have been the most interesting to me. Still, the building was the perfect example of why I fell in love with Edinburgh on my first visit. The buildings are breathtaking. Even the “new” portion of the city looks completely historic.

We passed by the museum on our way from the new section of town to the old. Although, like I said, it’s hard to separate the two since pretty much every building in the city looks like it is at least 200 years old. One think the Scots definitely have on us is a sense of true history. America is such a baby country in comparison!

Since our tour guide found out early on that many of us were Harry Potter fans, she made sure to point out some historic Potter sights. The first of which was the Balmoral hotel, the place where JK Rowling wrote several of the Harry Potter books. She also took us past the Elephant House cafe, where Rowling also worked on her books, making sure to mention the cemetery the cafe looks out over where many of the names of her characters came from. In fact, not long after we stopped outside the famous eatery, which was jammed packed with other tourists waiting to pay homage, we headed to that very cemetery.

Edinburgh cemetaryWhile my group was quite hungry and wanted to find lunch rather than explore the grounds of Greyfriar’s Kirkyard looking for their favorite character’s names, we did get an initial look around, which included some really cool stories about hauntings that supposedly have taken place in the graveyard. In addition to some rather terrifying looking mausoleums, when we met back up with the rest of our group, we found out that some of them had a sort of spooky encounter while they looked at the graves. One of my students went to pick up what she thought was a piece of trash on the ground, near one of the mausoleums. Despite being gated, as soon as she got close to it, she heard strange noises coming from inside. At first she thought they might have been animal noises, but then realized it was some sort of metalic clinking. Only one other person was near her, a fellow classmate, and he heard it to, but moments later, it went silent. They said they didn’t stay to find out what had made that noise, but bolted pretty quickly.

gothic rocketThe Kirkyard was the last official stop on our walking tour. After that we had plenty of time to explore on our own before we had to meet back at the Walter Scott memorial, which our tour guide lovingly referred to as the Gothic Rocket. Apparently it is open to climb up for a small fee. A few of my students contemplated it, but realizing how exhausted they were decided that since they’d been up for about 28 hours, they shook the idea pretty quickly. Instead they spent their time doing a little shopping among some of the “posher” stores on the main drag. I’ve been to the UK five or six times now and I’m not really that interested in shopping, especially not for clothes, but I went in and stood in the front of stores while they had looks around I did find a Whittard’s tea shop, which I know from previous trips that I love, so I did get my group to head in and to my delight, many of my students also fell in love with their tea. I think everyone walked out with a Whittard’s bag.

Despite being so tired that some of my group actually fell asleep in The Jolly Ristorante while waiting for their food, we had a great first day in Edinburgh. By the time we got to our hotel, Edinburgh First Pollock Halls, which was actually dorms for the University of Edinburgh, we were very ready to go to sleep. We’d been up for about 32 hours and wiped out doesn’t even begin to describe how we felt. Still, we were all excited about our next day, when we’d get a chance to explore even more of this amazing city.

Edinburgh city

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Wildcard Wednesday: Flying

I took my first plane ride when I was six years old. For many people, this might not seem very impressive, but it was 1981 and people didn’t fly nearly as often. By 1982, I was flying as an unaccompanied minor 2-4 times a year and felt like an old hand in the airplane biz.

As a kid, I loved flying. Since I was flying from Indiana to California (and back again), I had nearly four hours to kill on each plane ride and I filled that time with books, games, toys and snacks…lots of delicious honey roasted peanuts. I was pretty cute back then, so I could always get the flight attendants to give me extra peanuts. In fact, one year, in large part because I was very upset to be leaving a visit with my dad in order to go back home with my mom (who I lived with 10 months out of the year), I was actually allowed to pass out all the peanuts to the passengers. One man was so appreciative he gave me a card with $5 in it. Back then, that was a heck of a lot of money for an 8 year old.

Today I am not quite as enamored of air travel. Knowledge of airplane malfunctions and crashes, no matter how statistically small, have taken their toll. That’s not to say I don’t fly. I still really love traveling, but I’m far more wary when I step on an airplane. I spend the entirety of take off and landing either praying or holding my breath and hoping all will be well. After all, statistically, malfunctions and crashes are more likely to happen at these times. Once I’m in the air I’m usually pretty ok, but the turbulence which used to remind me of the thrill of a roller coaster now has me seriously on edge.

Recently I flew to the UK. The first leg of our flight was from Indianapolis to NYC. We were in a tiny plane and actually in the completely last row of said tiny airplane. We felt every single dip and bump. It wasn’t horrible, but I spent way too much time trying to distract myself from worrying over noises, dips and shaking. Thankfully I had a student I really like sitting next to me and was surrounded by several rows of my other students, which kept things pretty much upbeat. It was the very start of our British adventure and everyone was not only wide awake, but super excited about the trip, so my nerves were mostly ok.

Our flight from NYC to Edinburgh started off pretty well. We got off the ground with no issues and even before we were airborn I found out the vast selection of in flight movies were available, so I settled back and started Game Night, a movie I’d wanted to see when it was in the theaters. Not only do international flights offer a plethora of movies, but they also feed passengers. And often. During those six hours we had two meals and a snack. I wasn’t even half way through with my first movie before the flight attendants were in the aisles offering that initial snack, which was great. I hadn’t liked the sandwich I’d had while we were laid over in NYC, so I gave it away. That bag of snack mix and Coke Zero were very welcome. Not as good as honey roasted peanuts would have been, but I understand the change.

Since I knew we’d have to hit the ground running when we touched down in Scotland the next day, I tried to get some sleep. Despite having a comfy neck pillow, tons of leg room (somehow I’d managed to score a seat that had double the leg space because it was located at the end of the mid section of the plane, right in front of the bathrooms) and a sleep mask, I really couldn’t sleep. It wasn’t just because my seat didn’t recline. I’ve never been successful at sleeping on planes. There is just too much noise (even with earplugs), motion and lack of true comfort.

Although I was quite sleepy after being up for 19 hours and knowing I still had at least 12 more hours to be awake, I gave up and started watching Red Sparrow, another film I’d wanted to see in the theater. I was pretty glad my seat was not near any of my students as I could only imagine the comments I would have gotten from them about the content of the film.

We flew into Scotland during a rather nasty storm that had wind gusts of up to 50 mph. Since we were on the tail end of it, we were able to land safely, but we encountered the worst turbulence I’ve had in my 30+ years of flying. I have never once been motion sick on an airplane, but it took all my concentration not to throw up during that landing. Others on the plane were not so successful. Thankfully none of them sat near me. Unfortunately, several of them were right next to other members of my group, so once we were off the plane, I got to hear very detailed accounts of the vomiting that took place somewhere behind me.

Although the flights may be longer, I really do prefer international flights over domestic ones. I like all the little extras you get: sleep masks, earbuds, movies, extra drinks and food. The food may not be the best, but it’s also not horrible. In fact, on the flight from Heathrow to NYC, I had a truly tasty pizza twist thing. Plus, I got to watch The Greatest Showman, Thor: Ragnarok and most of Bad Moms. Sure, they were movies I’d already seen, but they kept me entertained and happy. Over seven hours on that plane felt like less than the just under two hours from NYC to Indy, mostly due to the movies.

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Teaching Tuesday: Student travel

travel picture.jpgI’ve just arrived back in the states after traveling for nine days in the UK with 18 students and 3 other adults. This is actually the fourth trip I’ve planned and led to the UK and although at the end I was exhausted and so ready to be home, I’m already planning my next trip!

I led my first student trip 16 years ago, long before I had any children of my own and when the 23-32 hour travel days were not quite so hard on me. My first trip was through Explorica. We took the London Theater tour and it was a lot of fun. As part of the trip, we got to see two West End productions, Blood Brothers, which all but one person in our group of 13 did not care for, and The Woman in Black, which we all adored and were even rather scared by. My only problem with this tour was that our guide was strangely anti-American. He was constantly making snide comments about America and Americans, which I thought was odd considering he was leading a group of them around London. We also got paired with a middle school group and since most of my students had either just graduated high school or were going to be seniors, the age difference was huge. I felt so bad for the one male student in my group, who had just graduated, who had to room with 3 boys going into 8th grade. He was pretty miserable.

On my second trip, I decided to try out EF tours. I was immediately impressed with their service. We went on the Discover England trip and it was amazing! Granted, we had a slightly rough start as our flight out of Indy was cancelled. We spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how to get all 12 students and 5 adults to the new flight they’d managed to get us on in Chicago, but eventually EF got us a bus service and instead of flying to O’Hare, we rode. This meant a rousing game of balloon volleyball in the Indy baggage claim area waiting for our bus to show up and then some rather amusing races in O’Hare as we waited for the terminal to open so we could go down to our gate. We arrived there about 3 am and the terminal didn’t open until 5. The kids never once let the delay get to them. We had a blast.

The tour was also really fun. This time our guide was an aspiring actor and not only were several of the girls drooling over him, but he was entertaining and seemed to like Americans. Plus, on this trip we got to see a show at the Globe theater, which was just awesome. I’d wanted to do it on the first trip, but hadn’t quite known how, so this time, I worked with my EF tour consultant and he’d arranged it for us. Even though we had to stand to watch the show, my students LOVED it.

Three years ago I branched out a bit and took students to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The tour that we went on The Britannia, is one that no longer exists. My group had an absolute blast. We got to visit Platform 9 3/4, stay in a haunted hotel in Wales, did a haunted underground tour in Scotland (even if it wasn’t remotely scary), and ate absolutely delicious bon bons while touring the Ring of Kerry in Ireland. We were paired with a rather obnoxious group from Texas, but we all bonded over just how obnoxious the Texas mothers were (it wasn’t really the students who were the issue). We saw some amazingly beautiful places on the trip, but trying to squeeze 4 countries into 11 days was a bit much. We spent way too much time on a bus and hardly saw anything of Wales or Scotland. One issue of student trips is that they are sort of “tastes” of countries, so a lot gets missed.

Our most recent tip was a bit more limited in scope. This time we decided to explore only England and Scotland. We spent 9 days moving from Edinburgh down to London and it was pretty fantastic. We never spent more than 5 hours on a bus (and that was a hard day) and got a chance to really explore more of the cities we stayed in. The kids definitely got a taste of very different cities and life styles and it was cool to talk to them on the way home because some absolutely adored the fast paced life of London and others much preferred the slower pace of York or Edinburgh, but they all found something to love. When I asked for their favorite moments, they had trouble narrowing it because they’d loved so much of it. Even at their most exhausted, they were thrilled to be on tour.

Traveling with students is pretty phenomenal. I love getting to see them out of the classroom. They are more relaxed and let their guards down, so they really share their personalities with me. They laugh so much more. They confess their quirks and love to be silly. They geek out over places they’ve learned about in history classes or sights they’ve seen in movies (we saw several places where various Harry Potter movies were filmed). They marvel over how much they enjoy visiting places they knew nothing about and maybe weren’t even initially enthusiastic about seeing. They develop new friendships. They learn about other cultures and really listen to people they meet from other countries, which is so cool. Their feet ache and they are sleep deprived, but they still laugh and sing on the tube as they ride back to the hotel after being out for 15 hours. They try bangers and mash and haggis and fish and chips. They eat more ice cream than any human should consume. And they love it.

I can’t explain how much I love seeing the looks of joy on their faces when they see something they’ve always wanted to see. I can’t explain how much I delight in giving them a piece of the world so far removed from the tiny little town they come from. I can’t explain how much I adore seeing them interacting with people from other countries, truly enthralled in their experiences. And I won’t lie, I really enjoy how appreciative they are to me for giving them the experience.

The only downside (aside from extreme exhaustion) is that it is a LOT of work. Sure, I got a mostly free trip to the UK (except for lunches and souvenirs), but I put in more hours than I can count getting ready for it. There were recruitment meetings, parent emails, pre-tour meetings, more emails, paperwork to collect and organize, health issues to memorize and plan for, dietary issues to plan around, packets of information to put together and go over, tip money to collect, more emails–and that was all before we even left. Once we got there, I was responsible for 18 students for 9 days. I had to make sure everyone had their money, passports, tickets, and luggage at all times. I had to make sure everyone was up in the morning and in their rooms in the evenings. I had to make roommate assignments that pleased as many people as possible. I had to make sure no one got lost and made it on to all forms of transportation, including the London underground during rush hour. I had to make sure that during “free time” all students were with a chaperone. Since we were paired with two other school groups, I also had to make sure my kids didn’t get lost on walks to attractions. I cannot even count the number of times I counted heads to make sure they were all accounted for. When kids had medical or dietary or personal issues, I had to deal with them. I had to miss out on a few things I would have liked to do because a student wasn’t feeling well or a few of them didn’t want to go on one of the walking tours. And, I had to take and post pictures of our trip on Facebook, Tweet about our trip and send daily Remind messages so parents could be at ease that the kids were having fun and ok. I’m not sure I got more than 6 hours of sleep the entire trip.

It was worth it though. Traveling with students, while very stressful, is so rewarding. I’ve built relationships with those kids that will thrive and grow. I’ve inspired a love of travel in them. I’ve given them a real glimpse into the world outside their tiny neighborhood and they will never forget it. They may not have been happy with every moment of our trip, but they arrived home with overwhelmingly great memories. They grew in so many ways and really, as a teacher, that is what I live for.

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Throwback Thursday: Creepy dolls

all the dollsOne of my favorite things about going to visit my nana was her collection of porcelain dolls. I was obsessed with them. They decorated just about every room of her house. Every summer when I went to visit my grandparents, I found myself hanging out in the formal living room with the dolls. Not that I was really allowed to touch most of them. They were antiques after all. I was, however, allowed to sit in the room with them and make up names and elaborate stories for them.

terrifying dollsHave you figured out that there wasn’t much to do at my grandparents’ house? My grandparents were older than pretty much everyone else’s. Although my parents had had me in their very early 20’s (my mom was 20 when I was born), my grandparents didn’t adopt my mom until they were in their late 30’s. Even when my mom was a kid, toys had not been a priority for them. My mom was allowed to play with dolls, although “play” might not be the correct word as many of her dolls were very delicate and appeared to be there more for display than play. She did have a collection of Barbies that my nana kept for me to play with, but aside from a very out of tune tiny toy piano, and three baby dolls made of plastic (including the one on the left, which was known as “Kissie” because you could squeeze her cheeks to make her kiss you–just imagine this heading toward your face), the Barbies were the only toys I was really able to enjoy. Sure, I could bring my own toys, but as I was only at their house because I was visiting my dad for the summer, I didn’t even have tons of toys from his house I could bring with me.

intense stare dollThankfully what I did have was a very active imagination and a penchant for making up stories. Even with my own toys, I much preferred the elaborate back stories and plays I made up for them than I did having to play along with other kids. My Barbies, Cabbage Patch Kids and baby dolls all had intricate family relationships (with my other toys), jobs, hobbies, talents, etc. The hours I spent at home with my own toys helped me during those times I had no choice but to play on my own and truly create hours of entertainment for myself. A less creative child in that environment would have gone crazy.

But I LOVED those dolls. All of them.

As I grew older, and my nana did too, her ability to care for her precious antiques began to wane. The dolls, which had once been meticulously cared for, including regular cleaning and rotation so they didn’t get sun damaged, were neglected. It’s not that my nana no longer cared about her collections, but more that she was unable to really care for them. In her last decade of life, I’m not actually sure how often she even made it back to the formal living room where the majority of her dolls resided. Not that her house was huge, but her mobility was so limited that she rarely did more than go from bed to the the living room, with occasional stops in the bathroom or kitchen when really needed. And since she never made it back to the living room, I don’t think any of her many, many cleaning ladies did either. Why bother if the boss won’t see it?

creepy lighting dollAs a result, over the last decade I’ve watched the dolls I grew up loving and sort of playing with slowly morph into creatures from horror films.  I think the first time I saw the transition was when I introduced my husband to my nana. Although she wasn’t really up for it, I gave him the “grand tour” of the house, spending extra time in the living room and telling him how much time I used to spend playing with the dolls. He gave me a dubious look.

“Really?” he asked. “You played in here? Why? These things are awful.”

 

At first I figured it was a rather typical reaction by a guy who’d never known the joy of playing with dolls. But, as I looked a bit closer, I started to see that it wasn’t my husband who had a warped sense of childhood imagination. It was my beloved dolls that were warping.

The damage wasn’t quite enough to change my love for them though. After all, I had spent so many hours of my childhood with them that I could ignore a few flaws. As my children came along and got old enough to listen to me and keep their hands off, I showed them the dolls as well. My son thought they were strange, but much like me, my daughter liked them. She wanted to play with them, but I reminded her they were delicate and she was not allowed to. To my great surprise, my nana actually gave her one of the dolls that was still in pretty good shape. It was dressed in a blue crocheted sweater that was not exactly clean, but the doll itself was lacking any major damage. My daughter cleverly named him Blue Baby. He now resides on a high shelf in her room, but I do take him down and let her play with him from time to time.

doll with cracked faceThe rest the dolls, however, were starting to develop serious damage from years of neglect and exposure to the sun. I’m sure the fact that some of them were already over 100 years old probably didn’t help. But many of them were literally cracking up. I mentioned this fact to two of my friends, who happen to be sisters, as we were out to dinner one night. We were all talking about aging parents and grandparents. She replied that she’d always found antique dolls creepy. I was surprised considering how much I’d loved them and even collected porcelain dolls myself as a kid (although they were not antique or of any real value–we got them at swap meets).

The next time I was at my nana’s house, I snapped a few pictures of some of her more degraded dolls and texted them to my friends. One of my friends loved how creepy they were and begged for more pictures. Her sister, however, sent me emojis with horrified expressions and begged me to stop giving her nightmares.

doll with receeding hairAfter that, it became a kind of game. I’d look for the creepiest of my nana’s dolls and text them to all of my friends. The creepier the doll, the better the responses. One friend told me if my nana was ever looking to get rid of them (which I knew she would never do as she still saw them as valuable), she’d like them to put out in her yard for Halloween. Another wondered if my nana’s house might have a secret opening into the gates of hell–I told her it would explain the constant smell of sulfur (her house is supplied with water from an old well). My doll texts and posts on FB became a source of great amusement and horror to my friends and family.

When I sent one of the texts to my friend who finds the dolls the most horrifying, she was appalled as it looked like the doll’s brains were coming out. It was actually just a wig separating badly from the doll, but when I looked at the picture again, I too saw something straight out of a zombie movie.

wind up crawling babyIt’s sad to see beloved memories of my childhood disintegrating. With my nana’s recent passing, the fate of the dolls gets even sadder. While I did love them in my childhood, I have no place for them in my life. Even if they were in good shape, my house just isn’t one where antiques fit in. Even her antique furniture, some of which my husband really likes, would look odd in our house. And we are definitely not a display kind of house, so even her few dolls that are in decent shape, can’t find a space here. Much to my daughter’s dismay, we’ll have to make due with just hosting Blue Baby.

 

Thankfully after my nana died, my mom had a company come in to take everything we didn’t want out of the house–separating into a junk pile headed for the garbage and a sale pile heading for an auction. This meant that I was saved from having to actually deny my daughter the ability to bring any of the dolls home. This was definitely important to me as one of her most coveted items was what I can only describe as baby weeping angels. I’m actually not sure which I am more terrified by, the grown up ones in the Whoniverse or baby ones I found sitting on my nana’s back patio.

I’ll let you be the judge.

weeping angels

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