Thursday, May 20, 2010

Watching TV

My spouse and I were watching the final episode of FlashForward this evening. We know it's cancelled, we get why, but we'd watched the whole series so we figured we might as well stick around for the last episode. Somewhere around the last 30 seconds, our DVR tuned in to another channel to record something we'd programmed in, so we missed the final events. We looked at one another for a second and then he said, "I'm sure someone will tell me how it ended." I replied, barely looking up from my computer, "Just Hulu it." Then it dawned on me that television viewing has changed in ways we never could have imagined, and will never be the same.

When I was a child, television was in its infancy, and tv shows were events. Series television was a one shot deal; you caught it or you didn't, and if you didn't you hoped to see it in summer reruns. There was no way to record it, no way to see it again if you really liked it. Good shows or good episodes lived on only in memory, and in the resulting discussions about them. Later, syndication revived some of the more popular shows, and if your favorite was a hit show, you could watch them in syndication. Ad infinitum. The Honeymooners played in syndication for years; I Married Joan not so much.

Movies on television were my favorite. Each week, when the TV Guide came, I would flip to the back to see what movies were playing that week, excited if I found one of my favorites. I scanned quickly for a well-loved horror movie, or one of my cherised Bette Davis movies. It was such a treat. I learned the fine art of synopsis from those TV Guides too. The one or two sentences next to each movie title gave me enough information to know whether or not I'd be tuning in, and a little of what I could expect. Kids today don't have this valuable resource at their disposal anymore. I guess that's why, when I ask them to give me a brief synopsis, I get the whole story. They just don't have the skill.

There are a couple of movie shows that I recall lovingly from my past. Channel 7's 4:30 movie, on every afternoon at...wait for it...4:30. The Early Show, whose theme song,o "The Syncopated Clock" played while the screen showed a clock in a bell jar, came on at 8:00 pm on some local channel. There was the Late Show (with the same theme song as The Early Show) and it's followup, The Late Late Show (hey, I didn't say they were imaginative) which would be over somewhere around 3 am. And the piece de resistance, The Million Dollar Movie, on Channel 9. That was the best, cause they'd show the same movie all week, and all day on Sunday. I watched Rodan eight times in one week, and cried every time they killed the monster.

The Channel 7 4:30 movie would have theme weeks. Western, Love Stories, Horror and Science Fiction. I really looked forward to the Horror weeks, and the Sci Fi as well. Great old cheesy movies like The H Man or The Giant Behemoth would keep me out of my mom's hair while she cooked dinner. I loved those afternoons.

The real events were the big movie releases to television. Saturday Night at the Movies was the show that would hook you up with the most recent movies to television, and it was a big deal when they'd announce their fall schedule. Sometimes, a big movie was such a big deal that people would gather at someone's house to have a viewing party. We looked forward to those shows, and celebrated those television releases just as much as if we were attending a Hollywood premiere.

Television has become something entirely different now. We record; we DVR, we Tivo, we Hulu. Television is at our disposal now, not something we must rearrange our schedules for. The technology finally works for us.

Except this Sunday.

This coming Sunday is the series finale for Lost, and it feels like those old Saturday Night at the Movies days all over again. People are buzzing; parties are being planned. My husband has already suggested we call for a pizza so I don't have to cook. Once again, if only for one night, television will be an event, and the kids will understand its power.

I can't wait.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

When did I become the bad guy?

I haven't written in a while. I'll confess, the current situation has me paralyzed; I cannot write well because when I try I get sick to my stomach. I and those who share my profession have become public enemy number one and I am positively heartbroken at the polarization of the population. I am not going into detail here because I cannot. I'm afraid that I'm three years from retirement and I'm going to lose a majority of my pension through animosity and ignorance. I am not going to get rich on my pension; indeed I was already planning on working part time after retirement simply to pay my bills and buy food. How can people begrudge me so little when I've spent a career helping them and their children become qualified to have their own careers? I don't understand the world anymore, and it makes me sad.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Finding one's self

Yesterday some friends and I went to the Grounds for Sculpture in Trenton. I'd never been there before and wasn't sure what to expect. I figured there'd be art and nature. What I didn't figure on was that there'd be me.

When we got to the park I couldn't wait to walk around and immerse myself in the sculptures. What was really cool was that there were sculptures in and around the town itself, so you could see some art on your way to the grounds. I wish I'd been able to take more pictures of those pieces, but apparently I suck at taking pictures from a moving car. Actually, I'm a terrible photographer anyway, but having to hit a moving target was really a rough job. I didn't do well.

Anyway, once we got into the park I found plenty to photograph. It was a beautiful day and the walking was nice, even if it was a little hot. Just exploring an outdoor museum on a gorgeous day was a wonderful stress releaser. We walked, we laughed, and we had a great time. Finally, some time after lunch, we found a little table in the shade of a stand of bamboo and sat for hours, talking, laughing, and sharing a fine mood with everyone who passed by. And the people who passed by were all so friendly and willing to stop and chat for a few seconds. I think I'm still kind of high on that good feeling today, because I just feel so at peace.

Now I think I need to go back in the summer when the leaves will be on the trees and the park will be in full bloom. It was pretty yesterday, but should be glorious then.

Another thing I never expected was the peacocks. Not that I'm surprised by peacocks or anything, I just didn't know they had them. So many of them. And that peacocks make a sound that sounds like a cat in heat. A really loud cat in heat. I would think that if I heard that sound late at night I'd be nervous.

So now I must check out mapquest to get the directions. I want to go back.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter 2010

Happy Easter!

Well, here we are on the verge of true spring, and the world came back to life like Christ in the cave. Tim and I went to the boardwalk today, an Easter tradition I haven't observed since I was fifteen. That's a really long time ago. The weather was beautiful and after the winter we've had here in the Garden State, I think everyone was ridding themselves of the cabin fever that blizzards can bring about. What I noticed, though, that even though the boardwalk was packed, people were happy and smiling. There weren't too many kids putting up a fuss, and everyone just seemed at peace. The salt air will do that to you. I'll bet those kids slept really well tonight too.

Tim and I played our first miniature golf game today too. It was pleasant and we enjoyed each other's company while battling the hills and valleys of the standard miniature golf course. Mini golf is a relaxing pursuit; it's not REAL golf, so the stress level isn't there. It's just a nice way to spend some time (and 18 bucks-yikes!) and enjoy looking awkward while you hope for the freak hole-in-one to boost your score. This particular course has "caves" to get you out of the sun for a while, and Tim particularly enjoyed that aspect of the course. He's fairer than I, and shuns the sun at every opportunity. The caves are his favorite part of this course.

All in all, the boardwalk was relaxing and a fine way to spend this sunny Easter Sunday. Being there always makes me happy and content; my goal is to spend much more time there this summer, as I need all the spiritual restoration the beach affords me.

Bring on summer!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Spring break has always been a time of purgation for me. It’s the time when I switch my seasonal clothes and start trying things on. Last year I had to buy new clothes because nothing fit; things were all too small. This year, I was glad I saved those smaller clothes. Once again, most of the clothes I wore last year didn’t fit, but this time it was because they were too large. It’s a nice feeling.

So along with purging my wardrobe I’ve been trying to purge the crap that has accumulated around my house. My problem is in deciding where to keep the stuff I actually want. Right now, my dining room table is cluttered with all sorts of miscellaneous…er…crap…and I’m here writing this blog. Mostly because now I have to categorize all of it and then find a place to keep it where I’ll actually be able to find it again when I want to use it. You see, I’m a saver. See the title of my blog page for the reason. I save everything because “I can use” it. And I’m sure I could, if I could actually put my hands on it when I do need it. Therein lies the key: retrieval. It’s not just putting things away, it’s putting them away in places that make sense. I haven’t gotten that down yet, but I keep working on it. I’ll be downright dangerous if I ever get organized.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


It's been a while since my last post and tonight seemed like the opportune time to indulge in a little wordvomit. I've been unable to write recently, first because of some technology issues, and second simply because I've been stagnated by depression over the state of...well, my state.

Recent developments in the NJ State House have made me feel like Public Enemy #1. Somehow, the horrendous state of the NJ economy is my fault for wanting to, oh I don't know, pay my bills, perhaps? The media has hyped up the governor's anti-teacher rhetoric so badly that I feel that I'm constantly on the defense, even when I simply go out to lunch. All around me, people are complaining about "those damn teachers" and how our union is "too strong" and we're a bad thing for this state. I'm sorry...I wasn't aware that preparing the youth of NJ for a worthwhile future was a subversive act. The idea that everyone in the state (or so it seems) begrudges me the medical benefits that saved my life, or the hard-earned pension which will still require me to work part time to pay my bills after I retire actually has made me sick to my stomach lately. Now they want me to take a wage freeze next year. I no longer get automatic raises and depend on a longevity increase every five years, with next year's to be my last. My wages have been frozen, so to speak, for the last five years. But I'm greedy; excuse me. I actually thought I was doing important work for which I should be rewarded with a fair and equitable income that would pay my bills. Silly fucking me.

Ok, rant over now. On to other stuff. Which is a nice word for me...stuff. I once directed a production of one-acts and vignettes which I billed _Stuff_, as it was really a conglomeration of various ideas and genres. It was fun, and enabled me to work with some fun kids. Stuff has always been one of my favorite words, as it is such a utilitarian word. It can do any number of jobs in the language, and yet doesn't pin one down too much. I'm fond of not being pinned down lately, since I'm really seriously considering what I'll do when I retire from teaching. With all the economic flak lately, I was afraid I'd have to put that retirement date off, but I realized that no matter what is done to my salary or pension, I really will need to retire on schedule. I've loved teaching, but really, I will need a change in three years, so June of 2013 is my target retirement date. Of course, if the business of education gets any more ridiculous, I might go out in April of that year, since that's my actual anniversary date. Guess I'll have to wait and see. So now I'm left to consider what to do with my life. I can empathize with my seniors, looking forward to a future filled with promise and the unknown. I like it! Guess it's time to think about what I want to be when I grow up.

Well, this post has been a little scattered, but that's been my state of mind for a couple of weeks now. I need this spring break, just to have some time to get my head back together. I promise my next posts will be a bit more focused.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Technology Smechnology

Technology's really got me bumming today. I cannot access the internet on my school computer, so all those papers I was going to download and print out are going to have to wait. I'd do them on my home computers, but they're all dying a slow, painful death as well. The worn out laptop on which I'm writing this blog post is slow as molasses and pretty wonky, but it's all I've got right now. I just needed to vent about this because everything I've touched both yesterday and today has pretty much fallen apart in my hands. Not a good feeling. Oh, and I'm not just talking about technology, either. The food I tried to make for dinner last night literally crumbled in my hands. I gave up and went to bed around 9 pm last night simply because I couldn't take any more epic fail in my life.

So this afternoon, I tried to connect again. Still not working. I asked the tech guys at school why. They don't know. No reason for this. Really? They threw out a few suggestions, and I have to admit, it felt good to say I'd already tried all of those things. Then again, it made me feel bad because I'd already tried those things and I still can't connect to the internet.

So tonight, I'll spend time safeguarding the stuff on my school computer, backing up or moving files, and getting it ready for what may have to be an overhaul. In the meantime, I've got to end this post...this computer is driving me crazy.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Found Recollections

So today I was searching my flash drive for some class activities that I want to work on and found a brief journal entry from a couple of years ago. This is what I wrote then:

Today I helped an old lady into her wheelchair. Her daughter (I assume it was her daughter) was trying to get her into the hospital for an infusion for her anemia. It was clear to see the older woman was fragile, weak. Her daughter got a wheelchair and was struggling with it, getting tangled in her poncho and getting frustrated. I helped, not because it was the “right” thing to do, or because I felt my conscience tugging at me, but because I could see the daughter was scared and frustrated with more than just the chair. I know how it feels to be scared and frustrated with an overwhelming and overwhelmed system. As I looked around the registration area of the hospital I remembered bringing my father to the same hospital for his radiation treatments. We were scared. I was scared. Underneath, I knew he was dying even though he was responding well to the radiation. I tried so hard to keep my attitude positive and I held out hope for a very long time, but it was futile. So I recognized the fear in the daughter’s eyes as she fought with the wheelchair mostly because at that moment, I felt it too. Once you feel a feeling, it’s easy to recapture it. And I’d felt it twice. People who haven’t had a loved one with a terminal illness have never felt that fear, but those of us who have will never forget it.

As I read this, the day came back to me quite clearly. I was in the lobby of Community Memorial Hospital in Toms River, awaiting an appointment with a dietician to draw up my diabetes meal plan, and I saw this little scene play out in front of me. I still can recall not only that daughter's frustration, but my own reaction to it. Tragedy makes brothers and sisters of us all.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Harder Fight

Almost 8 years ago, I began my battle with cancer. I had just buried my father, who died of lung cancer, and my mom had been gone for almost 20 years, also from cancer. I was scared when I got my diagnosis, but also determined to fight. We'd found it early and things looked good. I thought that once I had beaten cancer, I could kick anything. I was wrong.

Two years ago, I was diagnosed with diabetes. No big deal, we'd control it with diet and exercise, and once I lost the weight it would be gone. Wrong. Turns out that, comparatively speaking, fighting diabetes is SO much harder than fighting cancer was. Oh, granted, for the cancer fight there was surgery and radiation to contend with, but with those, all I had to do was, basically, show up. The doctors and technicians did the rest and here I am, 8 years later, still cancer-free. (I hope...still have my annual check up next month.) But with diabetes, it's really all up to me. It's figuring out what to eat, and when. How many carbs can I have at each meal, what kinds of carbs can I have, when can I eat them and how much exercise do I have to do. It's a daily battle for the rest of my life. Sometimes, it takes me an hour to plan out a few days worth of meals for myself and my husband. Oh, and that's the other thing...the stuff I'm supposed to be eating is stuff he can't. He's got a blood clotting disorder and will spend the rest of his life on blood thinners, so figuring out the dietary requirements for both of us is sometimes a monumental task. Sometimes I want to just forget it all and order a pizza. But I can't.

My last A1C (the blood glucose test that shows you how you've managed your sugar for the last three months) was 10.1. Normal is about 5; 6.5 would be optimal for me. That scared me. It's now not just an issue of being overweight and not looking good. Now it's, "Will I go blind?" or, "Will I need to have my feet amputated?" or even worse, "Will I die?" And it's not something I do just until I kick this disease, like radiation treatments were just till I kicked cancer. No, this is every day for the next however many years I have left on this earth.

I used to complain about tracking for Weight Watchers. I hated it. I felt it put too much emphasis on food, having to think about it so much. Had I done the Weight Watchers tracking, I might not be in this predicament. Now, the tracking for diabetes is far more involved, and much more time consuming, and yet, I must do it, every day. EVERY DAY. Sometimes that bothers me, so I've done something to keep that in perspective. I've posted my last bloodwork results right on the refrigerator. Some people put pictures of bikinis, or of a dress they want, or, heaven forbid, a "fat" picture of themselves. That just didn't work for me. No, my A1C results reside right there on my fridge--I should put a copy in the pantry too.

So now I have this second fight on my hands, literally. All the doctor can do is scold me if I don't do what I'm supposed to; he can't do it for me. No one can, and I've determined that I want to live. And not just exist, but really live. I don't want to be an "old" lady just because I get older. I want to be able to enjoy my life-take a walk when I want to, feel good and have fun. So now I will remind myself every day...yes, EVERY day...that it's all up to me. And with that, I will end this and get on my stationary bike, as much as I hate it, because that is part of today's battle.

Cancer was easy. Diabetes is hard.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


So we had these blizzards…

In February of 2010, Mother Nature got pissed at something…maybe our total disregard for the environment, maybe our total disregard for each other…something. On Friday 2/5 into late Saturday 2/6, we had a blizzard. Got about two feet of snow, more or less. The drifts were up to my hips and digging out was arduous. Still, we got through it and made it to work on Monday. Not too bad. Until Tuesday night. The snow started around 7:30 or so, but they said more would be coming. Much more. Well, for a while, it looked iffy…we got a few inches Tuesday night and school was closed for Wednesday. I could deal. My husband and I went out and shoveled the slush, and boy was it heavy. We were glad it was only a couple of inches. Snow had changed to rain and we thought we were good for tomorrow. Then the snow came back…in spades. The changeover was around 3 pm, but this time it wasn’t the pretty, fluffy snow of the weekend. This was heavy, wet snow. It weighed down the tree branches…it broke wires….it blew transformers all over Bricktown.

So now, it’s 2:41 am Thursday morning. Of course, there’s no school again tomorrow. Good thing, because it’s going to take most of the day to shovel this snow away. There has to be another 10 inches out there, this time packing snow. I’m dreading that shoveling experience, and the only plus to it is that we already shoveled the first six inches earlier, so at least there’s that. The plows have been going down our street two at a time. This does not bode well at all. I’m most grateful that we did not lose power, as so many people in our town have this evening. Although I saw flashes of light several times tonight, our transformer held…our lights never even blinked. That may have been my use of my mother’s mojo. When we had thunderstorms, she’d always light a candle to ward off the lightning and hopefully any loss of power. It usually worked….if we lit a candle, the lights would stay on. So tonight I lit candles. I figured that if worse came to worst, at least we’d have some light if the power did go out. This time, the mojo worked.

Snow days are bad for my diet though. I have this compulsion to bake during a snow storm. Saturday it was muffins; today it was chocolate cake. At least I make the Weight Watchers versions, so that’s a bit better. I also cook—soup, stew…chili’s on deck for tomorrow, even though I have no cilantro. I’ll make do. The thing is to fill up the house with delicious smells while the wind whips around outside. There’s comfort in knowing I’m not alone in this. Maybe that explains the mad rush to buy bread, milk, and eggs when the forecasters predict snow.

Speaking of snow, the forecasters are mentioning yet another storm…I hope they’re wrong this time. My diet and my back cannot handle another blizzard.

Privacy Settings

“You should never eat alone.”

This is a lyric from an African song I overheard during a presentation at school today and it got me thinking. The lyric is about sharing, and it reminded me of a scene in Logan’s Run where the protagonist is upset that his female companion saw him eating. In that society, eating was a private thing, much like going to the bathroom, and to be seen eating was highly embarrassing. It made me wonder what makes us choose the privacy settings of our lives. It seems to me that privacy is a very subjective thing, and that modern society has changed our views of privacy. I see it in my students and the things they feel entitled to post on their Facebook and MySpace pages.

I think the erosion of privacy began with television. Having strangers come into your living room night after night (or day after day) started to ease our feelings of who is a stranger and who is not. Fans of television shows began to react to the characters as though they were real people, as evidenced by the interaction between fan and actor in real life. Many television villains have been accosted on the street and treated as though the actions they performed on last night’s show were actual things they did in their own lives. Some fans have had a hard time distinguishing between fantasy and reality, and the idea of what is private, for that actor, changed.

Privacy took another hit with the daytime talk show phase. Starting with Phil Donohue, through Sally Jessy Raphael, and most famously, Jerry Springer, talk show hosts have encouraged people to air their dirty laundry on nationwide television while viewers watched like ghouls at a train wreck, eager to stuff their empty lives with the scandals of others. These shows furthered the idea that interpersonal relationships were mere sideshow attractions to be gawked at by a curious public eager to see sensation over substance. These talk shows evolved (if one can call it that) into the courtroom shows, beginning with The People’s Court with the infamous Judge Wapner, and spawning a myriad of like-minded “Let’s sue em” shows like Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown and…well, you get the picture. Here come de judge, and he/she’s makin money!

More recently, we’ve seen the burgeoning “Reality TV” market. It started with Survivor and has grown exponentially until we’ve been barraged by the likes of The Bachelor, The Bachelorette (naturally), Shark Tank, and (unfortunately) Jersey Shore. Viewers become so involved in these shows that they follow the cast members as if they knew them personally. One show even mocked its own genre by calling itself “Big Brother.” 1984 is here, and privacy has never been so threatened. These shows further the idea that revelation is fun…it’s entertainment, and furthermore, it’s the fifteen minutes of fame we were all promised so long ago.

So what’s with the overlap of entertainment with reality? What’s the harm? In my mind, the harm is of great importance, because once we devalue our privacy, it’s very easy to give it up. By viewing the revelation of what should be private moments, ideas and actions, it gives permission for us to reveal our own little secrets. Because we’ve seen it so often, it becomes part of what we accept as normal. We bare our souls to total strangers on the internet and feel like we’re safe because it’s just words on a screen, but many don’t realize that those words, once they’re sent into cyberspace, can float around for a very long time indeed, and perhaps come back to haunt us. We blog; we post; we IM, but who’s really reading us? Who will read these words once I post them? And what inferences will be made about me by those who do read? These are consequences most don’t even consider, and that’s frightening to me.

What will privacy look like in 10 years? In 50? And will world events cause those who already think privacy is “no big deal” to give up privacy altogether, perhaps without even realizing it? I think that’s what scares me the most…that people won’t even realize they’ve given up their privacy because they had so little regard for it in the first place. But there’s hope. I’ve spoken to two former students who are in the process of removing pictures from their Facebook pages because they realize that prospective employers might not appreciate them; that they’ve revealed too much…and that’s a start.