I’m A Lumberjack

Today is Michael Palin’s birthday. He was born on May 5th in 1943. That makes him 69 years old.

He was one of the original Monty Python performers, and is credited for writing many of the landmark sketches, including two of my favorites.

The Lumberjack Song …

… and the Parrot sketch.

Michael Palin was interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air in 1990. He said his father was an engineer by trade who became an export manager of a steelworks in Sheffield, though he didn’t necessarily want to do that. “I think he’d actually have been much happier to be a church organist,” Palin said, “but one was sort of pushed into the professions then.”

Palin’s own professional course has taken him through work as a writer on various British TV shows in the late ’60’s before hitting it big with “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” in 1969. Various television and movie triumphs followed, and in the post-Python years, a different kind of success with a series of travel programs.

Now he is head of Britain’s Royal Geographical Society.

This strikes me as a fairly jolly career path, and you have to be glad for a person who has won accolades in a succession of things that are fun, interesting and important. Unlike his father, Michael Palin was able to follow his passions and excel in the fields of comic absurdity and science – two areas that don’t often intersect. He did not become discouraged, allow himself to be re-directed or get “pushed into the professions”.

Unless, of course, his true dream was to be a lumberjack.

When have you taken on a job you didn’t really want to do?

119 thoughts on “I’m A Lumberjack”

  1. Good morning. The job that I really didn’t want, wasn’t good at doing, and couldn’t avoid was job hunting. I will not go into any details about this job. I will just say it was not much fun.

    A job I really enjoyed was substitute teaching. There were times when I was assigned subbing jobs that I didn’t want. I was always ready to serve as a sub any place I was assigned. However, some assignments were for more than one day and occaisionally the first day was so bad that I didn’t want continue on for another day.

    There was one middle school class that contained a grouping of almost all of the worst behaved kids in that grade. There was no way I could get them to do anything. The second day I had them sit in a half circle so that I could keep an eye on all of them at the same time. That didn’t help. I visited this class when their teacher was there and she conducted the class by asking them to write answers to her questions on boards she gave them that they would hold up. That was probably the only way one could get them to answer without being drowned out by all the noisy behavior in the room.

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  2. Another job I apparently didn’t want was entering my email address and name under the above anonymous comment.

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  3. It isn’t a pleasant story. My job as editor of the outdoor sports magazine was a passionate, all-consuming thing. I never worked less than a 60-hour week, but I didn’t mind. I knew I was doing work of quality that no other man on earth could do. Losing that job was more like a terrible divorce than an ordinary job loss. I was in grief.

    In that condition, I took a job managing a magazine to promote the health sciences at the U of MN. Unfortunately, my new boss was Laura, a real boss from hell. She was the most political person I had ever met, a person obsessed with institutional relations. One day the dean of the school of medicine said “Good morning” to Laura. She spent–I’m not making this up–45 minutes in her office that morning trying to figure out what he really meant by that.

    She and I were a horrible combination . . . gas and flame. She fought with everyone at the U, and when she fought with me it created such a blowup that I lost my job and she eventually lost hers.

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  4. My favorite from Palin, despite my love for Python, are the travel series.
    How do you get through life not doing many jobs you don’t want to do? School teaching comes with all sorts of extra assignments that are not fun: lunchroom supervision, bus loading/unloading supervision, study hall assignments, advising the prom, etc. And the ones you do for the kids, such as pep bus or dance chaperone.

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    1. I used to teach, and I know exactly what you mean, Clyde. In fact, I just had a lunchroom duty flashback while reading your post. Like feeding time at the zoo, but with slightly less domesticated animals. *shudder*

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        1. Hiya Tim – I’ve been working a couple of freelance jobs, and also I just got back from a trip to New York. So I’ve been out of circulation on WordPress for a bit. I’m just now getting some time to get back into the groove around here!

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        2. Thanks Barbara! :)
          And thanks Steve and Tim for reading my post. That’s actually a bit old, and a lot of additional stupidity has taken place since I wrote it. I may have to revisit that subject when I get a chance, as disgusting and depressing as the whole thing is.

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    2. I had some of those extra assignments as a sub teacher. They often aren’t much fun. At least in elementry and middle school you need to be there to stop fights and bullying and to help out with other problems or to just have some fun with the kids. I found this to be particularly true when superving elementary play grounds.

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  5. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    Yesterday I had the tedious and unwanted job of deleting many unwanted emails. BTW, I followed Krista’s instructions, opening an email, going to the bottom and unsubscribing. I hope that did it. So far it appears that it did–the emails stopped.

    tim, is there game night tonight? If so, where and when. I am available!

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    1. yes we can do game night. loudan wainwright is at the cedar and i was waiting to see if anyone remembered gme night. it has been linda and i the last couple but lets do it at 6 or 7 on cinco di mayo. see you then.

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  6. I always said that there were two things I would never do: sales or teaching. I used to work at a graphics supply store and I ended up being trained on a digital vinyl-cutting machine. It was used to create vinyl logos and lettering that could be stuck on windows or the sides of trucks/cars. Secretly, the only reason I agreed to take on this project was that it allowed/required/paid for me to travel to Boston for training. Boston was home to a high-school boyfriend with whom I had recently reconnected.
    Back in Minneapolis, I had to do demos for the machine: a little song and dance to SELL it. Then, for the only one we sold, I had to go on-site to TEACH the user how to use it. The machine had its machiney unreliable moments which made both of these endeavors very nerve wracking.
    Not fun and it didn’t work out with the old boyfriend, either.

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    1. Lisa, I can relate to the dislike for selling. Husband swears he has never seen anyone worse at sales than me. Some years ago, we had an ad in the paper to sell a used stove.
      $25.00 seemed like a very good price for a stove, nothing wrong with it. We had the stove sitting on our front porch in anticipation of selling it. By Sunday afternoon, we had had only two responses to the ad, and only one of those potential buyers actually showed up. The young couple seemed mildly interested but hesitant to buy the stove, so I asked what the problem was. Oh, she said, wasn’t sure the stove was exactly what she wanted. At that point, I was desperate; I wanted that stove off of our porch, so I made them an offer of the stove for free. They accepted that offer, but the husband said he’d need help carrying the stove to his trailer, his wife had a bad back, he said. We’ll so do I, so I couldn’t help, and husband wasn’t home. I recruited our next door neighbor’s son to help, and paid him $10.00 for his efforts.

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  7. I would say that parenting, while rewarding overall (and sometimes I wonder about that), is made up of dozens of jobs that I didn’t really want to do. I loved reading to the kids, but cleaning up vomit? Yuck. (However, I do have a great story about throw-up that I will have to tell someday.) Today, however, I find I have raised a child after my own heart – today is youngest daughter’s birthday and she wants to go to a used book sale with me and one of her friends.

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  8. The last job I held before retiring evolved from a job I loved to one I hated. I started out as a part-time fundraiser and grant writer. Then I foolishly let myself be talked into going full time, which I really didn’t want to do. Once I was full time, I was asked to take on the responsibility of personnel
    manager. Then someone got the brilliant idea that the school should offer the federal lunch program to its staff and students, and the next thing I knew, I was a Certified Food Manager and in charge of that too. At that point, it was not much of a stretch to lump responsibility for overseeing all administrative functions, and for good measure, the janitor, the cook and who ever else didn’t fit under the heading of counseling staff or teacher. Becoming the supervisor of the janitor was particularly troublesome, partly because the janitor is my next door neighbor, and partly because he is an unpredictable and volatile man who takes direction from no one. In a thirty year career in office management, I had come across a few “problem” employees before, but Parkey was in a league by himself. After 12 years of trying to work with him, I finally fired him. Even as I write this, I shake my head at all the craziness I had to deal with in my job as director of administration. So glad to be retired.

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  9. My dad convinced me to work with him for a while after I left teaching. He had started his own company and I think he rather liked the idea of it being a family business. But I knew going in that working with family can get ugly, and in time it did. I had to leave at a certain point, which disappointed him, even though he also realized it wasn’t working out well. Two stubborn Italian-Americans butting heads about how to do things…not good!

    Slightly OT: Yay for Monty Python! And for Michael Palin. He did a great job in a non-comedic role in Terry Gillian’s film Brazil, which I love.

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        1. I generally don’t like to fan the flames of conspiracy theories, Steve, but in this instance I think you may be on to something. Two sinister forces at work here, no doubt about it!

          Clyde – that’s funny stuff! :)

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        2. My son just bought a modest Hyundai, 2011 model, in San Jose so it has the Silicon Valley package, like rear view camera, everything wired into everything, all voice controls, etc.

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      1. Would you believe I’ve never seen it on the big screen? I went when it came out and about 10-15 minutes into it, my local podunk movie theater went into “fail” mode (which it often did back then). Projector fritzed out, and we got refunds, but I was not happy. Never did end up watching it in a proper cinema, as sad as that may be.

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    1. down to linda and i and considering loudan wainwright as an option instead. anyone one else coming or care to do loudan at the cedar? i think its 30 bucks for tix night of the show

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  10. I was for seven long months the manager in a Veterinarian Clinic. The Owner/main vet was having trouble with the staff, and I was supposed to “fix” things. He wanted someone who didn’t know how to do client scheduling and day-to-day operations – I did staff scheduling, ran staff meetings, etc…… I finally realized he really didn’t want to get along with the staff – at least, it wasn’t a priority of his – and I got the heck out of there. I learned a lot, in part that I’m not a very good people manager, and I won’t ever take a job like that again.

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    1. BiR, the wasband of a friend of mine, taught at the U of M Veterinarian School. In his estimation, many veterinarians choose veterinary medicine over human medicine because they don’t get along with people. I have had several veterinarians for whom I think that was true; I have also had one veterinarian where it definitely was not the case.

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      1. He may be onto something, in some cases anyway. This guy used the Seagull Style of Management (I actually read this in a vet medicine journal): fly in, s*** all over everybody, then fly out.

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  11. This year of teaching…hardest of my career…I hate these kids!! Well…maybe not all of them…but SOME of them. Well…to be fair…probably… just ONE of them. It was determined last week, after almost nine months of trial and error, that the little tyrant should have his own personal educational assistant – NEXT YEAR IN SECOND GRADE! Do I sound unprofessional? Unempathetic? Harsh, negative, cynical and bitter? Do I sound unaware there’s no such word as unempathetic?? Ask me if I care.

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    1. I saw some kids when I was subbing like the one you are dealing with. Did that kid turn you into doonadetuna? In one of my first sub assignments I was assigned to a third grade class room where there was a kid that could only stay out of trouble for a few minutes at a time. On the second or third day the principal told me that she would keep the kid in her office for the day. I was glad that she did that.

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    2. I know more than one primary teacher or principal who quite because of one student. People have no idea how little power schools have with such students. How one student can destroy the learning of the other students.

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    3. Jim – principals CAN be saving graces by temporarily removing disruptive kids from the classroom. WordPress turns me into doonadetuna when I don’t regularly post. Such comedians!

      PJ – this is a first grader with Aspergers and ADHD. Last fall at an IEP mtg, our bldg Spec. Ed. head recommended an assistant for him but the principal said his condition wasn’t severe enough to qualify, and besides funding had already been allocated for EAs and it wasn’t likely administration would approve more. BTW – I meant to send condolences a long time ago RE your fall. Hope you’re improving. That sounded so painful!

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      1. It’s great to hear from you, Donna! The year is almost over and you get the summer off! I could never teach, I’m sure. That kid is lucky to have had you for his teacher.

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        1. Summertime IS a perk, and SO necessary for revitalization, rejuvenation, restoration, and beer-drinking.

          Hope to see again at Rock Bend Krista!

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      2. Is he the little guy who was upending his desk at the beginning of the school years? Thanks for your empathy. It’s been quite the struggle, but I’m doing much, much better. Actually went to St. Agnes this morning, a month ago I couldn’t have done that. Linda, I have a loaf of Hungarian Rye for you.

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      1. Oooo, careful there Krista; careful talking about the weather. Turn around three times and spit now or something.

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        1. Sorry, Ben. I did as you instructed so that I would not bring about any bad luck with the weather due to my outburst. I’ll be more careful from now on.

          Ben, the fields around here are looking really devastated. There has been a lot of soil erosion in Le Sueur and Rice counties. The fields were planted, some plants starting to emerge, and now I’m pretty sure that a lot of that seed went down the ditches and into the streams, to the Cannon River, to the Mississippi, and on and on… The rains have been heavy and we got hammered with hail one night (I think Wednesday). My rain gauge broke, so I don’t know for sure, but I think we’ve had about 4″ of rain since Wednesday. The night it hailed we got 1 3/4″ rain and the downpours have come regularly since – about an inch every 12 hours! The rows are gone completely from the fields and have been replaced with gullies. The ditches are full of mud and debris and the culverts are plugged. It also seems to me that there has been some movement away from conservation tillage practices. Contour plowing appears to have been abandoned and the fence rows are being removed. The damage looks severe to me – not any kind of expert though.

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        2. It’s OK Krista.
          We drove to the cities today and I think you have had more rain up there than we have down here. We don’t have water standing in fields like there is up that way.
          I did see some erosion. This time of year is always tricky; hoping things get established and growing without washing away.
          I think the conservation tillage is still there in the fall. But in the spring, seed beds are generally worked up to a finer consistency for proper planting. So then erosion is more of an issue in these heavy rains. And I don’t think people leave grassy water ways like they used to. Even contour strips are more difficult with the size of machinery.

          We’ve had maybe 3″ since last Sunday night.

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  12. my favorite jb i never should have taken was the one of vice president of the pta. the moms were unbelievable. i thought i could overcome the coffee klatch bs that has been the rule but realized tht the whole deal is set up to give power to witches who love to rule in their little power worlds. they organize create jam down our throats their agendas and then take the proceeds and piss them away in the most outrageous options imaginable. cookie dough and family fun night are the two evernts year after year. nets in the range of 100,000 dollars. they end up buying black barbies for multi ethnic class experience, bushes for the front of the school and a projector mounted in the ceiling to allow conference learning in certain instances. i got in trouble for telling them their choices were whacko and showing them how to give better value to the parents /grandparents/patrons who were supporting us. they hated me and ended up having meetings and making decisions without calling meeting so they didnt have to listen to my ideas. i find the democratic party to be similar. a bunch of taskmasters chasing their tails and missing the big picture. i am not meant for that arena. make me president or senator? nah, just shoot me.

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      1. No kidding! I could never do that. I avoid participation in any and all organizations that involve power-hungry folks, who are driven by a need to become the big, bossy fish in a small pond. That includes PTO/PTA, homeowners’ associations, and the like. You can keep that stuff. Life’s too short for that kind of drama.

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        1. You’re just smarter than I am I always reminded of that snoopy quote
          I love mankind it’s people I can’t stand

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  13. linda, jacque just let me know she cant make it, bir will not be coming either. 2 is fine or loudan is the other choice. let me know

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  14. Oh, there was also the job of cleaning the apartment above ours vacated by a bunch of male, Thai students back during my college days. Pretty sure I’ve written that story before. For the benefit of the newbies I’ll retell it.
    Wasband and I lived in an old house that had been converted into living quarters for a bunch of students. Two, side-by-side apartments took up the lower floor, one of those was ours. Above us, the remainder of the house was divided into four separate rooms all of which shared a bathroom, and two of which didn’t have a kitchen. When the four or five male Thai students living immediately above our kitchen moved out, the building became remarkably quiet. Even the roaches that had been so plentiful in our kitchen vanished in a matter of days. A couple of weeks later I got a call from our normally very surly landlord. He was very solicitous and inquired if I would be interested in cleaning the Thai students’ apartment? I wasn’t particularly fond of the idea, but we were, as most students, always broke and looking for a little extra income, so I asked what he’d pay. “Name your price,” he said. Now that response should have set off all kinds of alarms, especially from him, but I saw the opportunity to make a fast buck. We agreed on a price, which seemed high for cleaning a two-room apartment. How bad could it be?
    When I entered the apartment it became immediately clear why all of our roaches had disappeared from our kitchen below. In every corner, and along walls were coke bottles half filled with sugar water. They had served as roach traps, and the bottles were full of dead roaches. Cleanliness had not been a virtue of these young men; the place overflowed with dirty ashtrays and miscellaneous litter, but cleaning the rooms was pretty straight forward, and I felt I was making pretty good money until I got to the refrigerator. That’s when I discovered that the fridge had been left unplugged with food in both the small freezer section and the larger cooling box. The thing reeked and was crawling with maggots. In the freezer was this furry looking glob with mold in different colors growing all over it.
    At this juncture I consulted with various neighbors to determine how best to deal with this mess. The consensus was that the only way to deal with the fridge was to bring it down a flight of stairs and into our back yard. There the contents would be easier to deal with, and a garden hose could be employed to rinse out the worst of the smelly residue. One next door neighbor, a grad student from Chicago who had worked in a city morgue there, in a fit of bravado volunteered to remove the blob from the freezer. He had seen it all before, nothing could gross him out, he asserted. He donned the rubber gloves and reached in to remove the unidentified blob, which instantly dissolved and oozed between his fingers releasing a stench that proved too much even for him. It was a memorable moment, five adults around an old fridge each relieving him or herself of whatever was in our stomachs.
    Need I tell you that I spent the entire check I received for this job buying pizza and beer for the whole crew who had taken part in this memorable project? I never again agreed to clean an apartment for that landlord; I’m pretty sure if I had, I would not have had any helpers.

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        1. Trying to alter a plan with me is sort of like trying to U-turn an ocean liner; the chances of my having a cell phone actually charged and with me at the same time are slim. I enjoyed the cribbage refresher course, though, and even avoided being swept. Next time I’ll be prepared and have a couple cards up my sleeve.

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  15. Evening–

    In fact I spent part of today playing a lumberjack. Storms last night knocked a few trees down. The one across our township road our neighbor cut up before I saw it. I cut up one across another township road and then cleaned up a few things around home.

    Bad jobs? I think any job has those certain days…
    Days farming when everything breaks. Days at the college when everyone and everything is against me. Cleaning out the freezer at my Mother-in-laws. Milking cows when it’s muddy and they’re covered in mud half way up their legs and they swat you with their wet, muddy tails… dead calves… frozen silos, frozen, broken manure spreaders.

    I was president of a board of directors because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I served on a dairy coop board simply because I was there when the vote came up and not because I had any qualifications.

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  16. Currently, I gotta say I am not a fan of my job as “dog calmer.” I dread thunderstorms, not because I don’t like the thunder and lightning myself, but because my dog does not. His “Thundershirt” helps, benadryl can take the edge off, but these lovely 2am thunderstorms mean I can’t drug him before I go to sleep (the benadryl will wear off before the storm hits) and by the time he is up and panting and quivering, we just have to ride it out as the drugs won’t hit his system until the worst is passed by. He’s a sweet dog and I feel bad for the guy – I wind up sitting up with him so he won’t wake up Daughter. Pant pant pant, pace pace pace. Drrroooooooollll (often on me).

    Other current job I wish I didn’t have is helping a friend in housing crisis move. She’s a good, smart person, so it is difficult to go in and see the conditions she has been living in – she has been the proverbial frog allowing itself to boil because she didn’t realize the water was getting hotter…some of this week’s topics have been quite timely (clutter, mitzvahs, etc.) and have been a balm as I try to sort out courses of action. Last weekend I left her house in tears. Today I left feeling like maybe I had helped make progress. But if I don’t see another black contractor-grade garbage bag for awhile after next weekend, that would be grand.

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    1. Sorry about pooch and your sleepless night. Hope your friend gets her housing crisis sorted out so that she doesn’t go from one bad situation to another. Hope you’re not her only resource, Anna, that’s a big burden for one person to shoulder.

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      1. Thankfully, I am not her only resource, though one of her two main trusted non-family resources. And there is a plan in place for transition to new digs. It is one of those “blessing in disguise” situations – she is losing a house, but now can recalibrate for changed health and economics and (hopefully) create for herself an improved place to be, physically and otherwise.

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    2. I quit the one job that had parts that were truly unpleasant for me – it involved managing people (not my forte) and wrangling high school students during the summer. The latter part of that meant that I had to be the heavy when rules were broken. In one case that meant calling 3 sets of parents at 7am to have them come get their kids from the program for a particularly severe infringement. One set of parents was understanding (and disappointed with their kid), one kid’s parents were out of town so he was retrieved by an aunt and I didn’t hear from Dad until the next week…Dad was mad at me until he found out Son had been off campus in another kid’s car in the wee hours (Dad was an insurance rep and had firm rules about number of teens in any car and not riding with drivers he hadn’t met – then Son was in extra trouble). The third kid I just felt bad for – his mom clearly was more concerned about the inconvenience of retrieving her child than the infringement, asked me if I couldn’t just punish him there (um, no – he broke one of the rules we said on Sunday meant he would go home), could I send him home on the Greyhound (maybe), why didn’t I call earlier (I had been trying to get ahold of her since 7am, it was now 1pm). This poor kid had been in my office all day telling me his mom “wouldn’t care” – clearly she cared about the rules and disruption to her day, but not her kid. No wonder he acted out, he needed attention. Dad (parents were divorced) swooped in at the 11th hour and got Son (who was pleased that Dad cared enough to show and a little unhappy because he knew Dad would actually mete out punishment). Wonder what happened to that third kid – seemed like a good kid, just made a poor choice. And clearly deserved better than he got at home.

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      1. Some of these kids end up at the alternative school (office) where I volunteer, Anna. Almost every time I go in I hear another sad, sad story.

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        1. I read a great article the other day about an alternative program in Washington that is taking a different approach to kids when they act out in class – rather than punishing them, giving detention, etc., they start from a place of, “what’s going on in your life that is causing you to act this way.” By providing a safe place for the students to talk about how their non-academic life is affecting their behavior in school, they are improving both how the kids perform in school, but also giving them better tools to deal with what are often horrid life situations. Neat article.

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  17. I sure wish I could post a picture.

    The rain stopped, the clouds cleared away. The woods dripped softly and the spicy, sweet scent of last fall’s decaying leaves filled our senses. It was intoxicating. The adventurous ones moved out for the hunt. An hour later individuals began returning to the kitchen with more than they could carry. Plastic bags full, paper bags full, boxes full – the icon of spring spread across the kitchen counter top. Then Joe returned and placed on the counter something none of us had ever seen. It was almost 14 inches long and weighed over a pound. It was in perfect condition and was as fresh as a newborn baby. I do wish I could post a picture. I’ve never seen such a harvest, or such a … thing.

    We sauteed them in butter and wine and ate them out of the pan. We went out to the bonfire and passed the pan around the circle, picking them out with our fingers and savoring them, dripping like the trees.

    So, for breakfast this morning I had an omelette with morel mushrooms sauteed in butter, white wine and garlic. Not good for the waistline, I know. But how often do you have that?

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        1. Krista – do a guest post about it and then we can all see it… :) (In your spare time.)

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    1. Very nice Krista! A guy at the college had a picture of his morals being as big as a pop can. I thought that was the largest I’d ever seen! Still none in my normal spots… guess I have to go searching more.

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  18. The only time I remember having to do a job I hated was when I had to accompany my mother to Los Angeles when she had surgery. I was a sophomore in college, and my mother had been duped into undergoing surgery that was being touted to cure MS. The surgery was essentially a reaming out of the carotid arteries. I knew that it was a sham and I was horrified to go with her to CA and see this chicanery in action, knowing she was hoping beyond hope it would work and that she was refusing to listen to any information to the contrary. It was as awful as I thought it would be.The doctor eventually lost his license to practice medicine due to insurance fraud. My mom realized quite soon after we returned home what a farce it was.

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  19. Off to our little choir’s spring concert. If anyone is looking for free afternoon entertainment, Prospect Park United Methodist Church, 3:00. (Across from the Witches’ Tower.) Treats afterward downstairs in the fellowship hall.

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    1. Ah – I hope it was grand. Seems like it was a choral sort of afternoon. I was treated to Chanticleer with/by my mom this afternoon. So lovely to just close your eyes and listen to the textures and clarity of choral singing.

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