Guess who’s coming…guess!

Can you guess?  Can you?  OK, it’s Cousin Pip and her Bean, Auntie Glenda!  They arrive on Tuesday, but we are in super cleaning mode now.  Mega cleaning mode.  Ultra cleaning mode.  Ugh.

Guests always require some prep, but this time we are cleaning not only the big house but our smaller houses (Smidge’s apartment and my Breadbox) and the Glamper too (the trip to Chicago was a very messy one).  I’m desperate to get the plasterers and flooring people into the Breadbox before Pip visits.  This is real world stuff, and not to be dismissed.  Auntie Glenda has allergies, so we need the house as clean as possible, and I don’t want to be embarrassed to show Cousin Pip my unfinished Breadbox!  Things must be spic and span.

The visit is an annual event.  Every June, Auntie Glenda visits my Happy Bean.  Every June, every year.  It’s all about family time.  They are Mother/Daughter in-laws, but also friends, so they look forward to time together and also to some time for Sara (Daughter Bean) to spend time with her Bestie and Sis in law.  Smidge and I are related too – cousins – and Cousin Pip is our cousin too, of course, but we are also all friends.

Friends and family.  It’s the BEST combination.

Moving on and up

This week, Bean’s  Granddaughter (#3) attended her high school orientation.  First of all, it seems like just yesterday that she was born, and now here she is ready to go to high school.  Second, it isn’t just any old high school, but a specialty High School Center for the Arts, visual arts to be precise.

Getting into the school was like applying for college.  They base their admissions on the applicants’ “strengths and skills level exhibited at the audition, prior training and experiences as stated on the application, recommendations from teachers or others included in the application, recommendations, student interviews, and student transcripts.”

We were hopeful when she applied, nervous for her for the audition, confident in her academic record, amazed by her artistic skills and abilities, but excited beyond belief that she was one of very few selected to attend.  Apparently, many apply but few actually make the cut.  But then we knew she had talent.  Now others know too.

And in just one month, we will attend the high school graduation of Granddaughter #1 (where does the time go?).  And next year, Granddaughter #2 graduates…  And so it goes, on down the line of five girls.

The little ones grow up, with our help, without it, and in spite of it.  We love them at every age.


FRIDAY…the 13th

Oh boy – watch out.  It’s Friday the 13th everywhere!  Fearful, spooky, a superstitious number (beware of triskaidekaphobia: fear of the number 13), and definitely a cause for concern and alarm.

But it’s just a superstition.  Superstitions are exactly that: superstition.  They are not based in fact; they are magical beliefs that something good or bad will happen.  Basically, it’s another way of saying “luck.”  One such superstition involves spilled salt.  Like who hasn’t knocked over the salt shaker once or twice?  This one involves the devil, sitting on  your left shoulder (and something about a guardian angel on your right).  You must toss some of the spilled salt over your left shoulder into the eyes of the devil to blind him and bring good luck.  Seems to me you’re just spilling more salt.

I’ve heard you shouldn’t walk under a ladder, but I thought that was so that nobody dumped a bucket of paint on you.  The broken mirror one is true, though.  If you break a mirror, you don’t have a mirror any more.  As for the black cat crossing your path…well, just don’t trip over him. That could be bad for both of you.

Some people believe that having and carrying around a rabbit’s foot is lucky.  Usually, these amulets come with a key chain attached for ease of carrying.  Sometimes, the feet are dyed different colors.  I find it odd that anyone would want to willingly carry around a dead animal part as a talisman for good luck.  And after all, it wasn’t so lucky for the rabbit who lost it.  It’s a matter of perspective.

These are superstitions, just like the number 13 is supposed to be bad luck.  Really?  But it’s not bad luck if you are buying donuts.  Then 13 – a baker’s dozen – is great. Donuts. Yum.

And let’s not overlook the fact that Friday is the last workday of the week.  Sometimes, it’s all about that one good thing. Happy Friday the 13th!!

Pomp and Circumstance

This is Graduation week at the University of Richmond where my bean is the Online Writing Lab (OWL) Coordinator (& tutor) as well as a Writing Consultant assigned to specific courses.  Faculty are required to attend graduation ceremonies and other events related to graduation, so these are typically annual rituals.

Wednesday night was what they call School of Professional and Continuing Studies (SPCS) Night.  This is the event where those receiving bachelor, graduate, and some specialized degrees are honored for their achievements.  And afterwards, they feed people some pretty nice foods and drinks.  However, before entering the auditorium, one must don protective hand gear in order to avoid hand injuries from all the applause they will do for the honorees.  One lucky faculty member will also be honored with a University Chair (a real chair with a seal on the front and a plaque on the back) and the title of Itzkowitz Family Distinguished Adjunct Faculty.  Bean was once a contender, but since she is no longer teaching directly (other than when she is in a classroom consulting), she has fewer associations among students who would nominate her.  Eligible faculty is nominated and voted on by the student body, and the winner is always a well-kept secret until that night.  It’s exciting to see who receives the honor of “the chair” … and the opportunity to speak at the graduation ceremony.

Several years back, like most universities, the SPCS division of the University of Richmond as well as the Arts & Science School where Bean once taught, all shifted their focus from true writing instruction to a more critical thinking posture.  In Bean’s humble opinion, this was a fine idea but one that seemed to come at the expense of fostering and furthering the students’ writing skills throughout the rest of their studies and, of course, post graduation.  Most universities and colleges believed that students were being taught writing at the high school level.  Bean disagreed, not because the students could not write but because there are nuances to writing throughout the disciplines and their various assignments that these students are not prepared to understand and carry out.  However, Bean works as a writing consultant in the courses that replaced the writing instruction, and she continues to assist and instruct students who may still require such encouragement, and she also urges the better writers to aspire to an even higher level.  Most of them manage, but sadly not all can even be coached through.  Good writing remains a skill some are incapable of achieving over the course of a single semester. Time is not on their side.

The graduation itself is a black-tie, dress-up time for everyone involved.  Bean got her Master’s of English Literature through the School of Arts and Sciences at UR in this very same venue, so it has a certain nostalgia for her.  The cap, gown, and hood that Bean wore at her own ceremony there hangs in the front closet, willing to go, but not without Bean wearing it.

Usually, she would be in the second row of the faculty section, directly behind the dignitaries, such as public servants from fire and police, listening to the speakers and watching the be-gowned and anxious walk the stage to receive their diplomas from the President and Dean, some with dignity, some with nervousness, some with gratitude for the opportunity to become educated, and some with humor (via signs on their robe backs or atop their mortar boards, a bit of comic relief).  Some have a huge fan base in the audience which erupts at the mention of the student’s name.  Shouts, cheers, air horns, and laughter punctuate this semi-solemn event, reminding us that these are humans and life is to be lived.

This year, Bean claps from home, not able to hike across the vast parking lot, walk through the Robins Center to the other end of the building to check herself in and then back to the lobby to stand for over a half hour in her assigned position for the eventual processional of faculty.  But she tells the dollies here all about how special graduation days were for her own ceremonies, and how a good education empowers people to achieve more than they might without a degree, their ticket to their dreamed-of success, and reminds them to keep reaching beyond what they believe they can do and be.

Are these students now prepared to enter the real world and assume their places in society?  We hope so: our dreams and wishes for the future rest on their shoulders.



Chicago…going down?

Uh-oh.  Yes, we got ourselves in another pickle trying to get outta town, driving up when we should have stayed down, and then down but without GPS.  They need better labeling.  Upper Whatever Street.  Lower Whatever Street.  Get me outta here any street.  It’s dark down there (despite any sort of lighting, which isn’t always there), scary, and confusing.  It may look light and bright, but…   Just saying.