Take a nap and learn to play the piano


Kitty in a hammock

A nap? Not me. I’ve never been that kind of girl. Until now.

Not too long ago, I found myself with some actual free time. (Yes, it was kind of like locating a unicorn.) In any case, while I could have headed over to the pool to get in some laps, I wandered into my room instead. Before I knew what was happening, I had peeled back the covers on my bed and slipped inside.

It felt so delicously naughty.

A week or so later, I did it again. I took a nap in the middle of the day. At first, I was shocked at my complete disregard for what should be the productive hours of the day. I was raised to believe that one should use one’s available time to move onward and upward. My 94-year-old mother would no doubt chime in here, lecturing me about the need to prepare for my retirement. “Old age is expensive!” she would certainly point out. “Use your time wisely.”

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Clearly, kids could teach us something about napping.

I do not have much of a history in regard to napping, though I’m pretty sure I was one of the wiggle worms my kindergarten teacher had to constantly admonish when we whipped out those wee blankies from our cubbyholes back when I was five.

And yet a pattern has emerged recently. I started napping on a regular basis.  Because I was feeling a tad guilty about nestling my head into that pillow at mid-afternoon, I felt compelled to see if what I was doing was good for me. Turns out, it is. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Napping offers various benefits for healthy adults, including relaxation, reduced fatigue, increased alertness, improved mood and improved perfomance, including quicker reaction time and better memory.” So, that’s good.

However, it is suggested that we keep naps short – between 10 and 20 minutes – because more sleepy time might make us groggy. This is true, and yet I can’t ever manage to wake from my afternoon delight until 40 minutes have passed. It is also recommended that one not nap after 3:00 PM, of which I am also guilty. Finally, nappers need to create a restful environment free of distractions. While I do try, my blue-eyed cattle dog does feel the need to spoon with me during naps and one of my feline friends can only find kitty comfort if he’s plopped down next to my face.

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It’s important to pick a good location for a power nap.

Then there’s something they call a powernap. Rather misnomer-ish, I think. Power and nap just don’t mesh, in my worldview. Still, “The 20-minute power nap — sometimes called the stage 2 nap — is good for alertness and motor learning skills like typing and playing the piano.”

I’d like to play the piano. In fact, the one thing I regret in my life is that I never took those piano lessons more seriously. So, perhaps I will consider power naps, as well as piano lessons.

In the meantime, I will continue to experiment with napping, on the chance that practice will improve my snoozing skills. Now, if only the dog would move over and give me some room.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

 

Teaching: The toughest job I’ve ever had

As we head into the holiday break, I am reminded that I now face just one semester as a teacher. I will then retire following 20 years in the classroom. With that in mind, I have been thinking about what is easily the toughest job I’ve ever had.

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I’ve had a lot of different jobs over the years. I was a maid for a while, so I cleaned other people’s toilets. I’ve been a server in a restaurant, as well as a bartender. I’ve worked in retail selling clothes. I stood for hours on an assembly line as a cutter in a press clipping bureau. I’ve officiated amateur sports, where on a regular basis spectators and coaches had no qualms about calling me names and questioning my parentage. I was a TV sports reporter where viewers took pot shots at my clothes and hair styles and print reporters gleefully published every error I made.

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I’ve a many difficult jobs. Teaching is, by far, the hardest.

But none of these rank with the toughest job I’ve ever had: Teaching.

I did  not become a teacher until I was 45, a mid-life career change that was not what I expected. I’d grown up with the adage “Those who can’t do, teach.” I thought working in the classroom would be easy, especially considering the jobs I’d had previously.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Here’s the thing. Most forms of employment require workers to complete tasks to receive a paycheck. Do your job. Get Paid. Simple. Teachers, however, have to make other people complete tasks. Of course, managers deal with this in the professional world, but teachers generally must make children complete tasks, and convincing kids of the importance of producing completed assignments on deadline is daunting.

I tried to be a hard-ass early on, which resulted in a mini revolution.

“We don’t need you!” A pretty student yelled from her desk. Then she stood and summoned the others, every one of whom followed her out the door. I stood in front of that empty classroom and cried.

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A good teacher doesn’t just pass information along. They must understand what a child is going through outside of the school day.

What I failed to realize was that children are individuals with individual needs. I teach in a Title I school where the vast majority of students live in poverty, their lives affected by abuse, neglect, addiction, hunger, homelessness, and abandonment. When I first became a teacher it never occurred to me that these predicaments made school secondary. It seems silly now that I never considered a hungry child might be unable to think about homework.

Slowly, I came to understand that teaching was not just about passing information along in an orderly progression. I also had to grasp what a child might be going through outside of school, before I could figure out how to help them grow.

I am now in the middle of my 20th year as a teacher. At the end of the school year, I will leave my classroom for the last time. Like any teacher, I wonder if I’ve done any good. I hope so, but rarely do teachers hear from students after they graduate, so we never really know if our classroom methods worked or not.

All we can do is hope.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

Fear: We need it

We are all afraid sometimes, though we don’t like to admit it. Humans tend to see fear as a weakness, as opposed to our body’s survival mode.

My sweetie pie, Ryan, by all indications is a tough guy. He worked security for two decades, protecting rock-and-roll bands, NFL players, and various other folks, which sometimes had him returning home with assorted injuries.

“I’m too old to hit people,” he declared one evening when he came through the door cradling a broken hand.

I mention this because, in his world, one never admitted to fear. Ryan told me that even on the day a man pointed a gun at his chest, he wasn’t afraid. So imagine my surprise when I discovered him so gripped with terror that he was barely able to function.

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A beautiful dive on a colorful reef ended in panic and confusion.

We were scuba diving on a shallow reef, not much more than 20 feet deep. In retrospect, the dive was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever been on. Colorful coral heads jutted up from the sea floor, each sporting its own small world with jewel-like fishes darting about. Pre-historic-looking rays flew by. Sunlight sparkled, diamonds in the water.

There is a rule in diving that one never, under any circumstances, leaves their partner.  Diving alone is always dangerous. But on this day, I was so enthralled with the colonies of dazzling creatures – dark blue damsel fish with their improbable turquoise spots, industrious coral shrimp, shy, orange clown fish – that I lost track of Ryan.

I spotted several rays that lazily glided my way and took off to meet them. Something made me turn around. That’s when Ryan emerged from behind a rocky outcrop. Our eyes met. Then, he removed his mouthpiece and yelled, a silent, shocking scream. I watched, unsure of what had happened.

Once we returned to the boat, Ryan was unusually quiet. Something was seriously wrong, but he wouldn’t explain. It wasn’t until we returned to our hotel room, that his problem became clear.

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When a fish went into a small opening, Ryan followed it inside, and then was unable to get out.

“I followed a fish into a small opening.” Ryan sat on the edge of the bed and stared at the floor. “Then, I couldn’t get out.”

I understood immediately. The terror he must have felt at being stuck in a watery hole gave me chills.

“I was afraid.” The pain in his eyes froze me in place.

“You had every right to be afraid.”

He shook his head. “No! I’m never afraid.”

No matter what I said, Ryan’s gloom remained. Finally, I suggested he speak with the two other men we were diving with. Both were master divers with many years of diving experience.

Later that evening, I watched Ry laugh with the rest of our friends, finally at ease. “What did they say?” I asked.

“They told me there isn’t a diver on the planet who hasn’t panicked at some point. And that if I ever dive with someone who says they’ve never been afraid they’re lying, and I shouldn’t ever dive with them again.”

The truth of the matter is we need fear. The ability to fear is the reason humans have survived. Fear makes us aware of danger and forces us to focus and take action. Ultimately, fear keeps us safe. In Ryan’s case, he managed to calm himself enough in that small cave to drop down, dislodging his snagged tank from the top of the crevice. Then he slowly backed out.

“So, you feel better?”

He nodded. “But I’m never doing that again.”

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

A Different Point in Time

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What if we could travel through time?

I love history. In fact, I’m a certified history teacher, though I only taught history one year. That said, I sometimes find myself pondering what my life might have been like had a been born at another time.

I consider, for example, the 17th century, especially when I’m feeding my three black cats. Originally, cats were considered sacred, especially in ancient Egypt where they were symbols of grace and where harming a feline could result in one’s execution. Several thousand years later, however, those same creatures became feared. Especially, if they were black.

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Just one black cat in the 17th century would have branded me a witch.

As they weave around my legs, mewing for their dinner, I sometimes remind my feline friends that their ancestors did not have it so well.

“You know, four-hundred-years ago, you guys would have been toast,” I say, staring into a trio of golden eyes.

Of course, I too would have been burnt bread. As a red-headed, freckled woman who is not accustomed to always doing what she’s told, I would have quickly been branded a witch. Back then all a woman had to do was refuse a guy’s hand in marriage or speak up against some injustice and wham! the locals would pull out the witch card.

And it did no good to object. “No, really, folks. No spells being cast around here. And those black cats? Not mine. Never saw them before.”

But since they had a really good test to determine one’s witch status, there was no need to worry. My neighbors would have simply bound me in ropes and tossed me into the nearest river. The theory went that, if I drowned, I was innocent. But if I managed to break free of my bonds and surface alive, well then, I was indeed a witch. So they’d just dry me off and burn me at the stake.

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When watching the Vikings series, I sometimes consider what my life might have been like back then.

I also consider my ancient Irish ancestors, especially when watching the History Channel’s Vikings series. I like to think of my red-headed forbearers swathed in blue paint, staring down those big, muscle-bound, blond invaders, though there is no unequivocal proof that the battle gear of the day included said azure paint. I’m thinking life would have been rather messy back then, with all the mud and gore left over from those marauding Northmen. And cold. As a girl who’s lived in the desert for three decades, just thinking about those icy winds blowing through the cracks in my wee wooden hovel makes me snuggle down into my blankie. Now, if some strapping Viking warrior decided to stick around for a while, I might reconsider.

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Would I have been a heroic type, à la the Viktor, Ilsa, and Rick in Casablanca? Or would I have been a coward? I can never know.

I also opine about what my life might have been like had I lived during World War II. In my mind, I would have done all the right things: save the innocent, fight with the resistance, be a hero. But let’s be honest. We have no idea how we might behave under such dire circumstances. I might just as easily have been a coward, worried about my own survival, running around like a five-year-old with my hair on fire.

Every once in a while, I wonder what my life might be like had I been born a bit later. Perhaps my quest to be both a sportscaster and a sports official might not have been so rocky.  A time when teachers, family members, and prospective employers might have encouraged me instead of shaking their collective heads at the absurdity of my desires.

The bottom line, however, is we can never know what we’d be like in another time, because we would be different, inexorably altered by our experiences and the circumstances of the period in which we lived.

So, while I enjoy my musings, even given the opportunity to time travel, I think I’d stay right where I am and not change a thing.

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.