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Fish Slayer

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Image attributed to de:Benutzer:Felix Stember via Wikimedia Commons

Here’s the next chapter in my “Grannie’s Memories” series. She wrote them down circa 1967* and these stories are what is inspiring my Work In Progress. She was born in 1923 and grew up in her father’s restaurant in Marietta, Ohio.


 

My friends and I had a great time visiting all the stores. There was a music store run by Mr. Crippen – I think that was his name. It was such a long time ago. There was another building where Dr. McCurdy, the dentist, had his office upstairs. We use to love visiting Dr. McCurdy and his office nurse Miss Eisenbarth. That is… we liked to go just to visit, but when it came time to have our teeth checked, that was just a little bit different story. The doctor and his nurse were always nice to us and never once did they tell us to leave or that we were in their way.

One particular day, my uncle brought Dad some fresh, ripe cherries. Before I went to play with my friends across the street, Mom put some in a brown paper sack and I was to share them, which I did.

We visited the dentist office first that day. In the waiting room was a big glass fish tank with little fish swimming around in it. What fascinated us most about the tank was a big ceramic clown’s head. The fish would swim in and out the open eyes and mouth.

After a while, we got tired of watching them. The doctor and nurse were in another room with a patient. We decided to make up a new game to see how many cherries we could drop into the clown’s mouth in the fish tank. We had a ball doing this and enjoyed this new game very much. However, the game got old and we decided to leave.

Two or three days later, we were back in the alley digging for treasure (that’s another story too). Dr. McCurdy looked out the back window and called us to please come up to his office. The nurse took us right into one of the rooms with the big chair in it and he held a match box with some cotton in it. We couldn’t imagine what that was for until she said, “Girls, somehow our fish died the past few days and we were wondering what you were feeding them.”

I guess it hit us all at once – THOSE CHERRIES! I can’t remember if we cried or were just plain scared as she said to the doctor, “What can we do about this?” We didn’t know at the time that they had difficulty keeping straight faces.

After a few minutes, which seemed like hours, they decided what we were to do to pay for what we did. We were to take the fish and put them in the match box and cover it with the cotton. Then we had to take them down in the alley, where we had been digging for treasure, and have a funeral for those fish!

I guess they watched out the window while we did. I was so scared and I’m sure my friends were too. We didn’t visit there much after that.


*I’ve done some minor editing for the purposes of this blog, mostly sentence and paragraph structure and some word choice.

I’d Love to Hear from You!

Have you ever fed an animal something they shouldn’t have eaten? What happened? Did you ever have a fish funeral? 

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Shame on Me for Interrupting Their Conversations

Gif attributed to Obsidian Soul via Wikimedia Commons

I want to teach. But I simply do not have the emotional stamina. I can think of several careers where it’s common to find yourself crying in your car, but teaching shouldn’t have to be one of them.

I don’t like to cry in my car, but at least I’m not the only one who does it.

President Obama recently spoke against the extra tests we give our students. But I believe that this is only part of the problem with public education – especially here in Florida where the need for remedial college classes has risen for high school graduates who’ve “earned” As and Bs.

The first time I taught, nine years ago, my colleagues kept warning me, “Stop grading everything. You’ll burn out.”

Stop grading?

How are they going to know if they got the answer right or wrong if I don’t tell them? Isn’t that what education should be – learning how to get the right answer? How will they know if it’s right or not if I don’t tell them? I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature so that I could teach – not babysit.

After four months of grading approximately 140 students for accuracy, guess what happened? Yep. I burned out.

I was heartbroken. I love to be in the classroom. Around the time I resigned, my 11th graders had just finished reading The Crucible and watching The Village. I assigned them to write a compare/contrast essay which I never got to read.

Cue a good cry in the car.

At the time, I didn’t know that I should not have been eating gluten, but I knew something was wrong with my body, so my official reason on the resignation was “medical issues.”

Once I identified gluten as the culprit for my bad health, I thought that I’d like to give teaching another try. So I did.

Last month, I accepted a long-term substitute position for an 11th grade English teacher who was on a military assignment. I was excited. The textbook was better, I had a projector which plugged in to my computer, and this time, 3 of the 5 classes would be full of honors students. A breeze, right?

I feel like I spent last month herding cats.

Even the honors students are so spoiled from “completion grading,” half of them didn’t bother to try. They realized I graded for accuracy, but didn’t seem to care. Sure, I had several star students (whom I very much appreciated), but these were HONORS classes. They were ALL supposed to be stars.

Do you know what happens when students don’t care if they have the right answer? They socialize during the lesson. At first, I thought, “Eh, they’re keeping it low. The ones who want to take notes can hear me. They have 4 days to complete the handout – they’ll figure it out.”

Apparently, I’d stumbled into some unicorn dust. It must have given me a false sense of reality. At least it was gluten-free.

Case in point, here is an example of how the students needed to fix an unclear pronoun reference:

“The wind grew stronger and the rain began. This made the campers look for shelter.”

The word “this” does not have a clear antecedent, so the sentence needs to be changed. An example of how to fix it would be, “When the wind grew stronger and the rain began, the campers looked for shelter.”

Instead, I got answers like this:

“The wind and rain make camper look for schedule.”

Seriously. Can you believe that answer came from two honors students? Why should they bother even to copy a correct answer when most teachers don’t have time to read it anyway?

And to be honest, I literally gave up my life for the month to grade for accuracy. I didn’t have time to wash dishes, make meals, or help my own kids with their homework. I barely had time to keep up with laundry.

So yes, again I found myself crying in my car.

But it wasn’t just the piles of half-hearted answers I graded, my burned out feeling came from the attitude. With the two standard English classes, if I asked them to stop the chatter because I was teaching a lesson, I usually got a sheepish smile and a “Sorry, Miss” in response. In the three honors classes, I received all the snark of an 80’s Valley Girl.

Where are the parents?

How dare I ask them to stop socializing so they can learn to analyze an educated argument? And yet, when I asked them if they planned to attend college? Most raised their hands. I doubt any college professor (or workplace boss for that matter) would accept “schedule” for “shelter” as good enough.

I don’t blame teachers who don’t grade for accuracy. It’s an impossible task to grade over 100 papers several times a week on top of all the other teacher duties. Toss in the interruption of standardized tests and retakes, and you’d cry in your car too. If I’d had an 80 student limit, I’d have been stressed, but not crying in my car. I wouldn’t have had to become passive-aggressive about constantly talking over conversations. I wouldn’t have to spend half my teaching time on classroom management.

But there aren’t enough teachers for an 80 student limit because it doesn’t pay enough for most people to justify crying in the car.

Hillsborough County once had a 1 cent sales tax to pay for a new football stadium. But I suppose education isn’t as important as football. You get what you pay for. I refuse to be miserable for so little pay.

It isn’t fair to my family.

I’d Love to Hear from You!

Are you a burned out teacher? How would you fix the system? Do you have a job where you are regularly compelled to cry in your car?

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Sometimes, Friday Is Not Fun

In light of the horrible massacre in Charleston this week, today’s post will not be my usual Friday Fun style. There are no words to express the sadness I feel over what took place in that church building. At the time of the shooting, I was doing the same thing as the victims. I was with my family, engaged in prayer and Bible study. Why should they have to die because their skin is a different shade than mine? They were people with as much right to happy life as me.

Someone said that haters like Dylann Roof are bent on bringing back “the good ol’ days” and not regarding how those days were not good for minorities and women. In what warped way can those days possibly be labeled “good?”

But this… this struck me worst of all:

Roof allegedly said, at the attack, that black people were “taking over our country. And [they] have to go.” These words echoed the sentiment that floored me when I was a teacher.

This attitude makes no sense to me. The white race wasn’t even here first! If people like that want to start shipping races back to their countries of origin, then they need to get on the boat too.

This is why I create characters like Ciaran. Please, learn from them.

The USA is country that is a tossed salad of cultures. If people like Roof and that former student of mine want a plate of plain lettuce, then they need to go somewhere else. I can’t imagine where ever they go to be very populated.

Personally, I prefer color and flavor in my salad.

My prayers are with the families and community affected by this senseless tragedy.

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I Love Ya, Tomorrow!

It’s a surprise! You’ll love it! Image attributed to Eva Rinaldi from Sydney Australia via Wikimedia commons.

Okay, okay! Sorry, but I’m so excited! I’ve had this song running through my head all morning. The Stone of Kings comes out tomorrow! 😀

*deep breath*

Okay, how about a more appropriate tune for the book?

Now that you have the appropriate theme song in your head, here’s the blurb and an excerpt. Enjoy!

Twelve year old Ardan is hopelessly distracted because he wants to meet a real faerie. But when he gets his hands on a mysterious red book loaded with faerie spells and accidentally sends himself three hundred years into Ireland’s future, he soon learns that there are more important things on which to focus his attention. Throw in some immortal druids, fun storytelling, a touch of forbidden romance, along with the music and antics of the legendary Irish harper, Turlough O’Carolan, and you’ll become swept up in a very real Irish mythological adventure.


 

Abandoning his work as he was so prone to do when he got excited about something, Ardan led Thomas into the library, but not before doing the forbidden—he opened its closed door.

Once inside the room, both of them forgot about looking for a story book. On Bresal’s hand‑carved writing desk was his curious little red book. The old scholar must have been distracted by the sight of his musician friend nearing the cottage from the library window and neglected to hide the book as usual. Its pages lay open, and unmistakable magic hovered over the leaves. They heard light random notes, like the sound of the tiniest of wind chimes played by a faint breeze. As they gaped, they noticed each tinkling sound corresponded with a tiny point of light which would burst and disappear above the book.

Thomas breathed out a gasp of surprise. “Who is this Bresal fellow anyway?”

Ardan could not answer. He began to wonder the same thing. His pulse quickened as he neared the book.

“What are you doing?” Thomas dropped his voice to a whisper as he grabbed onto the boy’s shoulder. The color in his face had drained away.

“I merely want to read it,” Ardan said. He shrugged away Thomas’s hand. “I do not think we should go near it.”

But Ardan continued nearing. Despite his own warnings, Thomas followed closely behind. Ardan picked up the book and began to turn the pages. He expected to hear more sounds and see the lights dance quicker, but instead, these features decreased until the pages settled again.

“What does it say?” whispered Thomas.

“Some is in Irish and some English.” Ardan’s gaze, as expected, went for the Irish text. He read aloud, “Solas agus airy biedh tú, Leabhar na mianach mo lámha chun saor in aisce.”

Right away, the tinkling noise intensified as did the lights. But what shocked Ardan was the book lifted from his fingers and hovered in front of him.

“Saints be blessed,” said Thomas and he let out a burst of high‑pitched laughter.

They both stared in awe a moment until Ardan saw Bresal and Turlough advancing toward the house from their walk in the garden. “No,” he gasped. His heart hammered at the trouble he would be in if Bresal found them out.

“Does it say how to reverse it?” asked Thomas, his voice raised in pitch.

Ardan’s gaze scanned the pages, desperate to avoid punishment, but none of the lines written in Irish appeared to fit the need. When Ardan reached for the book to try another page, it shied away from him. Frantic, he read aloud one of the English lines without comprehending the meaning.

“A need I have to mend a mistake, a new time please, for lives are at stake.”

Nothing happened.

“This sounds like the right one,” said Thomas. “Perhaps you should say it in Irish.”

Ardan could not find the Irish counterpart and so struggled a moment with the translation then said, “Is mór agam a cheartú botún, le do thoil A am nua a shaoradh ó na terror.

The book filled the room with such a bright light, Ardan could see nothing else.

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Wednesday Welcomes: Jeff Salter!

I hope you guys don’t mind, but in light of the holiday, I’m taking a blogcation. 🙂 I’m reblogging this post to remind you that if you’re looking for a great Memorial Day read, check out Jeff Salter’s tribute to the Greatest Generation 😀

Shea McIntosh Ford - Author

In light of the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, I’m very happy to have Jeff Salter on my blog today! I read (and loved) his book, The Overnighter’s Secrets. Once I catch my breath, I’m very anxious to read Called to Arms Again. Take it away, Jeff!

Tribute to the Greatest Generation
By Jeff Salter
            Very much appreciate Shea’s gracious invitation to appear here today. Talented author, Shea Ford, is a friend and colleague at Astraea Press.
            I think it’s especially fitting that this column appears in the days leading up to our annual observance of Memorial Day. As my family does, Shea’s family includes a lot of military veterans.
Important and timely
            Have you ever read a novel which seemed so important and timely that you could hardly contain your enthusiasm about it? Have you ever WRITTEN such a story?
            Well I have. At least it seems that…

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Remembering Grannie

I'm so proud to have been able to call her my Grannie.

I’m so proud to have been able to call her my Grannie.

Fannie Mae Goodman once owned her own tap dance school with her cousins Judy and Naomi. At first it was called the Goodman School of Dance until they changed it to FanJuNo. Years later, she taught my sister, cousin, and I basic tap steps, which shows how much patience she had for it because I was never any good. Because of Grannie, I have seen and loved almost every Shirley Temple movie.

She had a big heart and told some of the best stories. One of my favorites, oddly enough, was one I always seemed to forget. She reminded me of it every time I offered her a root beer:

When she was a girl, her mother use to send her down to the drugstore for her “spring tonic.” There was a soda fountain there and the soda jerk would prepare her a root beer with castor oil mixed in well so she couldn’t taste it. One year, there was a new soda jerk, and he failed to stir the castor oil…at all. Grannie stuck her straw to the bottom of the glass, where all the oil was, and got a big mouthful of it. She never wanted another root beer for the rest of her life.

Grannie passed away this past Saturday. She was going to celebrate her 90th birthday on November 29th of this year. We had planned a big shindig to surprise her. I was going to host Thanksgiving for the family the day before and every once in a while I’d get anxious about it because I’d be participating in NaNoWriMo too. But I’d remind myself, it was for Grannie and the stress would be totally worth it.

I would seriously rather feel the stress of those two days, than the sadness that aches me now.

Grannie was one of those wonderfully tenacious women who never failed to make you love her. Because she always loved performing in a show, I could compare her to classic beloved actresses like Maggie Smith or Julie Andrews. But Grannie was better because I was fortunate enough to know her personally. To me, she outshone any Hollywood star.

I could be completely selfish and upset that she died (well, I am anyway). But I know she was ready even if the rest of us were not. I think she seemed almost immortal because she was always ready to joke and laugh with us. But I also know she felt her age. She had tap danced all her life, up until about 7 years ago, when her balance failed her and she fell too many times. As she got older, she complained more and more about “Old Arthur” especially when she was crocheting (a hobby she passed down to me). It actually took me a while to figure out that Old Arthur was arthritis. She had such a young spirit, Old Arthur was just something that got in her way, but never really stopped her.

But God decided it was time for her to stop. It comforts me to know that she was content with His decision. It also reminds me that we can plan and plan as much as we want, but we must remember that in all things it is His Will that is done (Luke 12:13-21).

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Tryin’ To Keep Things Happy

Teach the children well… Image attributed to ChrisTheDude via Wikimedia Commons.

Yeah, it’s 10 pm Sunday night, I still don’t know exactly what I want to post about for Monday. Well, actually, I’d like to talk about the idiocy of certain Alabama sorority alumni. But I don’t want to get negative.

Instead, I’d like to commend those students who took a stand against those who only look at the color of someone’s skin. Especially Melanie Gotz, who from what I can tell helped to get the ball rolling on desegregating UA chapters of those sororities.

It’s so sad that this issue still needs addressed.

Oh, to live in the world of my kid’s TV programming. Our favorite is Peppa Pig where everything ends in everyone falling down in giggles or jumping up and down in muddy puddles. Honestly, those prejudiced Alabama sorority alumni could learn a lot from that show.

Hmm, it’s interesting that I find a preschool programme to be smarter than a college sorority alumnus. I’d like to think that means that there’s hope for the future. 🙂

But maybe it’s not to late for them.

I have a suggestion. Since the policies of the sororities “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race,” then those who express discrimination ought to be “instructed” before being allowed to further identify with the sorority.

They should have to watch the “Delphine Donkey” episode of Peppa Pig and then appropriately answer these questions:

1. What did Daddy Pig learn from Delphine Donkey about his so-called expertise on the English language?

Responses should resemble statements such as, “Just because you think you’re superior doesn’t mean you actually are.”

2. What were the implications of Delphine singing Peppa to sleep?

Responses should resemble statements such as, “Just because someone’s different, from another country even, doesn’t mean they can’t contribute something for the benefit of others.”

3. What lesson can we learn from the “Bing Bong Song?”

Responses should resemble statements such as, “It’s okay to be silly, and it’s easier, and more fun, to be silly if some of us are a little different from others.”

What do you think about the Alabama sororities finally taking the steps to desegregate themselves? Do you have a question to add to the test?

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