The “What’s Toby Thinking?” Challenge

Toby, unlike Molly, is a rather enigmatic fellow.  While Molly is very clear in her demands (pick me up, play with me, pet me, love me, NOW!), I feel like we misinterpret Toby. So here’s your challenge, if you choose to accept it: What’s he thinking?

Does somebody speak “cat”? What does this mean?

Put your suggestions in the comment box to be eligible for the ultimate Readncook-Round-Of-Applause Award, so don’t miss out! : )

Sh$t The Teacher Says

I have a pretty good facade as an English teacher– sometimes too good.  It makes people act, or feel like they have to act, on their best behavior.  To compound this issue, I am hard of hearing, so I watch everyone, too.  Everyone, I think, can feel my eyes on them as I seemingly wait for them to slip: to not say please or thank you, to swear (Oh, my virgin ears!), or to say something uncouth.  No group has been more obedient to me as my second period class; they have been so obedient that they haven’t even talked.  My goal since January has been to get them to develop some kind of personality and to have the girl in the back stop rolling her eyes at me. They have been recently coming out of their shell by whispering during the school announcements.  However, last week we had an incident that burst the dam and let out a flood of talking.  What happened?  I read them the first chapter of To Kill A Mockingbird.

If you’re not familiar with the first chapter (well, then, shame on you!), it includes such incendiary words such as “jackass” and “son-of-a-bitch”, both of which I said out loud.  No one made a sound when I said jackass, but then they erupted into giggles when I said son-of-a-bitch.  I paused the reading, perplexed, “Now why did you laugh at that, but not at jackass?”   Apparently, s.o.b. is worse, and it’s funny when I say it.  I leveled my gaze at them, “Don’t you think I know these words and say them everyday?”.  They gasped and exclaimed, “You do?!”  I then told them about teaching English AP and using Anne Lamott’s chapter from her excellent book Bird by Bird titled “Sh*ttty First Drafts” to explain the writing process.  They were speechless.   “And guess what we all said that day in class?  Yep, you’re right, sh*t.”  They laughed appreciatively and I could feel my ranking on the “cool”-o-meter raise from the basement to the first floor (but not quite to the mezzanine).

Since then three things have happened: one, I continued my policy of not swearing in class (and they know I won’t stand for it if they do it).  Second, they have opened up, talked more, joked around with me– once I revealed that I, too, am human, they became more human.  Third, the girl in the back has stopped rolling her eyes at me and smiles instead.

That Was Embarrassing…

My last post was about my stats page addiction and what I could do to get over it. I didn’t expect the higher powers at WordPress to intervene and shut down my blog. It’s a rather unpleasant experience having one’s blog shut down.  On my dashboard there was red box stating that my blog had been deactivated because I violated the TOS and advertising policy, and if I was going to continue in such activities, I could take my  posts and leave.  The likes of me weren’t welcome.  It was followed by a line stating that they do occasionally make a mistake.

I racked my brain for what I could have done.  I’m not selling anything, making any money, or providing get-rich-quick schemes, and if people want to buy Pride and Prejudice based on my posts, I only benefit by knowing that other people will find enjoyment in the book.   (I am an English teacher, so please do not have any notion that that profession is a way to get rich quick.  Or at all.)  The only thing I could think of was linking a post to Amazon three weeks ago, so my readers could read a review.  In the meantime, my blog was branded with the Scarlet Letter, and anyone who looked at it would see that I had violated something.  It prompted my mother to email me to ask what happened.

I contacted WP twice, hoping for a speedy recovery. I didn’t want to move my blog or start from scratch; I’ve spent a lot of time developing this one. Fortunately, the powers that be felt my repentance, reviewed my blog, and reactivated it. It was shut down because it was flagged in an anti-spam check. While everything was dealt with promptly, I, and I’m sure all of you, would appreciate it if they reviewed the blogs flagged prior to deactivating them. It may have been routine on their end, but it caused a mini-heart attack on this end.

Anyway, I’m back and am glad to be amongst all of my wonderful bloggers again.


Do They Make A Stats Page Patch? I Need To Quit.

Guess which one's me.

Ever since I’ve started blogging last month, my stats page has been my new BFF.  And it’s been a very good BFF.  It’s always there when I need it, ready to proffer up the amount of views, gossip about the tags that are most popular, and spy on those from Nepal and the Republic of Georgia who read my blog.  My new BFF has made me care about numbers and percentages in a way that I have never cared about before . (Don’t believe me?  Ask my high school Algebra II teacher who let me pass the class even though he admitted that I was “terrible, terrible at math”.)  My stats page has been generous with its time and views.

But I have to look at myself in mirror and ask “Have I been good to my stats page?”  For all its beneficence, I have turned into a needy, clingy, bunny-boiling blogger.  I sit at my computer demanding everything and more from my poor, abused BFF.  I constantly refresh the page calling out, “I will have new views…. Now!  Gosh darn it!  Still stuck at 8.  Hmmm…. Now!”.  My ability to focus is diminishing as I am like the anorexic who repeats everything she has eaten that day, steadily re-calculating the calories and fat grams,  “I shouldn’t have eaten that one M&M!”.  I believe I see a little orange box in the corner of my Word documents, imaging that someone out there likes the lesson plan I am typing up.  I drift somnolently up to the office in a trance to my computer.  The boundaries have been obliterated between me and my BFF.

Can this man empower me to stop checking my stats page?

It has to stop.  But how?  I’ve wandered the aisles of Rite-Aid and Walgreens and they have patches to ease pain, quit smoking and relieve car sickness, but do they have a patch for Stats Page Stalking?  Is there a gum?  A 12-step program?  Do I contact Tony Robbins to get results in not tracking my stats?  Do I seek Deepak Chopra’s help in creating a stronger, healthier body, mind, blog connection?  Do hypnotists specialize in stats pages or is it just losing weight only?  Or do I cut it out cold turkey?  But what about my i-Phone? Could I fall off the wagon by checking my WordPress app?  Maybe I should drop it in the toilet again– that solved my Words With Friends addiction.

Oh, wait!  My box is orange!  Gotta go!




Photos via and

The Existential Crisis Of The Semi-Colon

At the Punctuation Prom, you know where everyone is making their mark. The favorites, the exclamation points, are boogying down in their excitement on the dance floor; the studious question marks query together around the punch bowl, but the discussion is dominated by the quotation marks; the colon leads the conga line; the apostrophes cling to their partners shooting dirty looks to others that say, “My date belongs to me.”; the commas scheme to bring clauses together; and the dance is chaperoned by the periods: they will be there to the end. But where, oh where, is the semi-colon?

The hero of our story.

The semi-colon smokes silently behind the gym. Confused and misunderstood, he questions his role in sentences. He wonders if he’s just superfluous and irrelevant; does he have a real purpose? He knows his stated purpose: to join independent clauses and set off elements in a series that use commas. He takes a long drag and slowly expels the smoke. But why can’t others see him, understand him, ACCEPT him for who he is? Why does everyone want him to be something he’s not? Why just yesterday someone used him in a sentence as a colon: “Lydia has three requirements for a husband; good looks, military service, and charm.” What part of semi-colon don’t they get? Why does his sign have to be so confusing? People can never figure out what he signifies. Because if he’s not thought of as a colon, he’s thought of as a comma. For example, the previous sentence would be: “If he’s not thought of as a colon; he’s thought of as a comma.” Don’t people know that semi-colons don’t separate subordinate and independent clauses?

But that’s what really stings, he thinks as he reaches into his jacket for his flask. He takes a swig, reflecting on the fact that those people who think they know him best are the ones who constantly mis-use and abuse him. They, in their arrogance, feel they can place him willy-nilly in sentences; they breezily think, “Oh, a semi-colon will do here.”

Was that special person out there? The one who would really understand him? The one who knew his potential? The one who would see his rhetorical greatness? Someone who would use him the way he wished, no, needed, to be used?

Someone who will use him a sentence connecting two independent clauses? “Jane looks for the best in everyone; Elizabeth judges too quickly.”

Someone who will use him to connect a series? “I have three favorite characters: Mr. Darcy, who strives to win Elizabeth’s heart; Elizabeth, who learns the error of her ways; and Jane, who teaches us all about the virtue of patience.”

Or that very special someone who will use him in elliptical constructions? “In Derbyshire, one can find a good husband; in Meryton, a soldier.”

As the music floats through the air, the semi-colon looks up at the stars, crushes his cigarette into the ground, and walks off alone into the darkness.

Everything’s Just Ducky!

Meet Stewart, my rubber duck. Stewart and I have been traveling around together for a long, long time (19 years!). Stewart came into my life when I was 16 years old-- and how this happened is a very long and complicated story that involved a boy. The point here, really, is that he (Stewart and the boy) ultimately showed me that Steve was the ONE. See the purple ribbon around Stewart's neck? That's from Steve's graduation party when he received his bachelor's. The lamb next Stewart is Olive, named after The Olive Branch B&B in Broadway, England. My friend Jessica got her for me to commemorate our Cotswold hiking trip. I wanted to name her Jessi-baa, but Jess wouldn't let me. Stewart, too, went hiking through the Cotswolds.
Here is Stewart resting on a Roman wall somewhere between Bath and Tormarton.
Stewart gets refreshments at the Old Spot in Dursley.
This is Steve. If you can't tell, he's driving.
Stewart helps us navigate. Actually, he helped navigate me to Steve. Out of all of the guys I dated, Steve was the first to understand Stewart's importance to me. When we first started dating, I got a double-whammy of the Humboldt crud and bronchitis. Steve took care of me by bringing me soup, crackers, 7-Up and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Seeing the depths of my misery, he realized Stewart was across the room and asked, "Would you like me to bring Stewart over here?" If this isn't love, then I don't know what is. Steve fully embraced the fact that his (then) girlfriend had the tendencies of a five-year old.
This is Stewart on my bed at my grandma's house in Michigan. Not only is Steve accepting of Stewart, my family is, too (if you don't believe me, the polar bear needlepoint on the wall made by my grandma was done in homage to my cousin Jennie's stuffed polar bear, Bear). My grandparents included Stewart as part of the family. One special memory is when my grandfather's health sharply declined and I had to make a last minute trip to see him. When I finally arrived to his hospital room, I presented Stewart to my grandpa. His face brightened as he said, "It's Stewart!". When I had to return home, I said my final goodbye to my grandpa before heading off to the airport. Stewart provided comfort on the plane ride home.
Stewart has friends. This is Reed from the Seattle Public Library.
Reed lives on my desk at school (he's on the far right behind the vampire-- "I vant to duck your blood!"). These ducks remind me of the special people in my life. Vampiric duck and Fairy duck are from one of my most thoughtful co-workers. She's always thinking of others. Angel, Devil, and Baseball duck all came from the same student who failed my class. She kept asking me, "Would you like it if I got you a duck?" I said, "I would like it if you passed my class." I think giving me ducks instead was always her master plan. Luau duck is from Hawaii. The Jumping Out Of Box duck is from another co-worker and comrade-in-arms. Again, another person I am so thankful to work with-- we make great collaboration and happy hour buddies.
More ducks. These are two bookends that I stole from an ex-boyfriend (the one who sent me the Coca-Cola socks). I consider them to be my "reward".
Reindeer duck was a surprise from another teacher I work with who I have had the chance to get to know better this past year. Like my other ducks, he serves to remind me of the talented and dedicated teachers I am fortunate to work with.

Somewhere, I have a student drawing of an aristocratic duck name “Mr. Darcky”.  Where did I put him?!