Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Former Student

Yesterday, Ariana brought two of her friends ~ Ryan and Josh ~ to Carol's house. Carol's sister, Jannie, was down from Maine, and Carol thought that it would be nice for the family to get together.

What was interesting was that Josh was one of the students that I had when I was working as a substitute teacher. He was in sixth grade, and his class was one of the classes from hell in that school.

I had the misfortune of being assigned that class on the day before Christmas vacation ~ a time when even the best of students were a bit on the anxious and rowdy side.

Having already had experience with a class far more challenging than this class, I found the experience more annoying than overwhelming.

One of the things that I would do when I was called upon to sub was to wear my combat books under my dress and many large rings on my fingers that I would click like brass knuckles.

In talking with Josh, I learned that I was indeed successful in the effect that I was trying to achieve. The students found my fist full of rings to be truly an intimidating thing. Behind my back, they would call me "the raptor" because one large ring in particular reminded them of a claw.

I had to chuckle upon learning that revelation.

The next time I had Josh's class was when I subbed for the art teacher. When I saw that class on the roster, I knew that I had to have a plan of action.

So, after the class filed in and got settled, I announced to the class, specifically addressing certain individuals, which included Josh, "I have a folder full of orange slips and I know how to use them!" (The orange slips were used when sending troublesome students to the assistant principal for discipline.)

You should have seen their eyes pop out and their jaws drop!

The next time I saw the art teacher, I told her that the class gave me no problem at all. She was shocked.

Apparently, according to Josh, they consistently gave the art teacher such a hard time that once she made the whole class all put their heads down on the desk while she angrily chopped paper on the guillotine paper cutter.

Being a high school senior, Josh has grown much during those past 6 years.

Nevertheless, it was amusing to discover just how much power those fists full of rings held.

The First Paycheck

Yesterday, Ariana got her first paycheck ever. It was nearly twice as much as we would have expected. But then again, Ariana worked well over 40 hours for that pay period. Not only that, she actually received a small raise for her first week on the job. Not bad.

The first thing Ariana did with her paycheck was not spend it on whatever thing caught her fancy. Instead, she had me drive her to the bank where she opened up a checking account and applied for a debit card. She pocketed just under one seventh of her pay, putting the rest into her account.

In addition, Ariana got an application for a credit card so that she could have a line of credit already established for when she applies for a car loan in another six months or so.

I have this strong feeling that Ariana is going to be prudent with her money.

The reason for this feeling is seeing how conscientious she is with her job. When I was her age, I had no qualms about calling in sick whenever I did not feel like going to work. But not Ariana. She is firm about not wanting to miss any time from work, not even for necessary doctors' appointments.

It's really amazing to think that this conscientious worker did not even want to consider working at the sprout farm. In fact, she was dead set against it, and it was only at my insistence that she applied there for work.

But now that Ariana's become acclimated to her new job and having to work full time, she has become a lot more accepting of working at the sprout farm.

In addition, Ariana has shown determination in being a good worker.

If she is done with whatever task she was assigned, Ariana would either look to see who else needs help or ask her supervisor for a new task. I think that it's great that she's taken this initiative, especially when many workers take advantage of down time to sit back and twiddle their thumbs.

There are some perks to the job as well. Ariana gets to take home any left over sprouts before the rest are dumped into large containers to bring to the local pig farms so that the piggies can feast on fresh sprouts.

The sprouts that Ariana brings home are fresher than the ones you can buy at the store. And with all the sprouts that I have been consuming in the past week or so, I swear they're coming out of my ears!

All in all, I must say that I feel incredible pride in my daughter. It has been a true pleasure watching her rapidly mature right before my eyes.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ghost Hunting

Awhile back ago, Floss, Neil's second cousin from Salem, shared with me her excitement over a new hobby that she discovered. The hobby is ghost-hunting.

One of the tools that Floss and other ghost-hunters use is a digital camera. Ghosts can often show up as orbs or unusual light streaks which are indicative of ectoplasm. Of course, dust, light leaks and flashes, and smoke can also render the same effects.

Experienced ghost-hunters, like Floss, can usually tell the difference between the real McCoy and schmutz on the camera lens.

Just for the heck of it, I decided to try my hand at ghosting hunting yesterday.

In the morning, I took 22 pictures inside the house. Most of them were in the basement. Out of those 22 pictures, I got just one with an orb.

This shot was taken of the original well to the house that's now in the crawl space under our living room. There is a small orb in the upper right-hand part of the well that is just above the cable doing into the well.

I showed the picture to Floss. Having taken and seen many ghost pictures before, she is convinced that the orb in my ghost is merely dust. Oh well.

Later on in the evening, I decided to do more ghost hunting when it started getting dark. All in all, I took 122 pictures, most of them outside.

None of the indoor images yielded anything except for this picture of the living room (which is still crowded with all the stuff from my studio in wait for the contractors to come and finish their job). There is a little white orb on the green curtain in the doorway. It kind of looks like a door knob. But there is nothing there to give it that appearance.

Floss says that it's a bit hard to tell if this is the real deal.

Outside, it was orbs galore!

The one in this picture looks like a full moon behind the tree branches. And the full moon is only 4 days away and does rise in that direction. The only thing is that there are other trees behind this tree and the orb is about 6 feet off the ground.

Oh lookie! More orbs around that same tree!

But wait a minute! Look at this next picture.

Those orbs are actually the hoards of insects that have been flying around. Most of the insects were no-see-ums. However, a couple of fire flies did decide to join in on the action.

So all my outside orbs were bugs. Definitely not a "booyah!" moment.

Just so I would know what a true orb ~ a real ghost ~ looked like, Floss was kind enough to send me this picture of her first orb. Cool huh?

I've seen Floss's other ghost pictures, and I must say they are interesting ~ in fact, VERY interesting.

In order for me to get more information on the ins and outs of ghost-hunting, Floss suggested that I check out Ghost Study. She said that while they try to sell you all sorts of ghost-hunting swag, it does offer some useful tips and information.

My own research came up with Ghost Hunting 101, also a useful site.

While I don't think that I will rush off and buy myself an Electromagnetic Field Detector and throw myself as enthusiastically into ghost hunting as Floss does, I think that from now on, I will examine my photos a lot more closely.

Who knows? Maybe I'll bag myself a true ghost!


Yesterday was the perfect beach day!

The sun was brightly shining. The sky was a beautiful, sparkling blue. It was deliciously warm with just the right touch of humidity to accept the ocean's invitation to take a dip in its refreshing waters. Even the tide was just right.

It was a beach day that definitely would have met with Goldilocks's approval!

I wasn't actually planning on going to the beach yesterday. It was a spur of the moment decision after I picked up Ariana from work. So, on the way home from work, we stopped by to pick up her friend Ryan, and then gather our stuff and head out to the beach.

Ever since I have moved to Mattapoisett, I have not had to go to a public beach in order to get my fix of sun and surf. (However, I do miss the big waves at the Rhode Island beaches.) In fact I have become spoiled by the availability of private beaches that I have access to.

Even if my mother-in-law did not live in a private neighborhood that had its own beaches, a short bike ride up my road would lead me to a very delightful beach in a sheltered cove. There is also a small scattering of town beaches where no one has to compete for a spot to lay down a beach blanket.

We wound up going to a small private beach just a short distance from my mother-in-law's house. There were a few people there already enjoying the sun and the water. While most of the people ~ with the exception of their kids ~ decided to sun on the shore, the three of us went right in.

The water was great! It was nowhere near as cold as the folks on the shore expected. We stayed in for a bit less than hour.

One of the nice things at this beach is that the people are pleasant. The three of us got a great kick out of watching this one little ocean-loving boy run up to his grandmother to give her a big soaking wet embrace. Her tee shirt revealed a damp imprint of the little cherub's face much like the Shroud of Turin.

Soon the entire beach cleared, leaving just the three of us.

Having dried off and eaten the food that we brought, we too decided that it was time to leave.

How glad I was to follow that spur of the moment impulse. We were all glad that we succumbed to the ocean's siren call.

Today promises to be a day just as glorious as the one before. Already I hear the sirens singing.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Dog Gone!

That Gomez is at it again!

Twice this week, he has found a way out of the dog yard. The pulled sections of fence seemed to account for Gomez's recently chipped tooth.

Every dog seems to have a special talent. Emi has a unique way of annoying Big Fat Stevie, a cat twice her size. Gypsy likes digging and then barking at the massive craters she creates. Her brother, Gomez, is a canine escape artist extraordinaire.

While Emi's and Gypsy's talents were immediately obvious, it took some time before we discovered Gomez's special gift.

One day I was sitting in the kitchen when I noticed a black dog running in the side yard. "Gee! That looks an awful lot like Gomez."

It WAS Gomez.

Bringing him inside through the side door, I led Gomez to the back door and put him outside into the dog yard.

Once again I see Mr. Houdini running happily in the side yard.

Second time back into the dog yard, I walked the perimeter of the yard, checking the fence for any obvious breaches. Not finding any, I was confused as to how Gomez could have gotten out.

A few minutes later, the next door neighbor called to say "Your black dog is loose."

As usual, Gomez was trotting around, cheerfully enjoying the new sights and smells.

A more careful inspection was required when I did my second perimeter walk. I still did not see anything obvious, although I noticed that there was some digging behind the outhouse that connected to the dog yard fence.

Though I still could not believe that was the escape route, I nonetheless put some big rocks in the hole behind the privy.

That seemed to do the trick.

And I could not believe what an amazingly talented dog Gomez was.

While his sister Gypsy was always the bright one, Gomez came across as a hyper, though lovable goofball. Yet unbeknownst to any of us, he was a creative genius in finding unusual ways of escape.

Just think! This goober of a dog dug underneath the thankfully unused outhouse and popped out of the toilet seat! Not only that, the lid was down!

This was just the first of many escapes.

Usually months would go by in between escape sessions. Rocks, logs, flotsam and jetsam began to accumulate along the bottom edges of the fence in order to keep this canine contained.

Soon that wasn't enough. He would be gone without leaving a trace.

Gomez would somehow climb over all those obstacles and worm his through under the fence.

Because there was no obvious sign of an escape route, Neil wasn't convinced that Gomez was squeezing through under the fence. He tried staking down the fence in areas where he suspected Gomez was using for his elopements.

But those efforts were to no avail.

One day, when we had a light dusting of snow, my suspicions were confirmed. Gomez was indeed wriggling through the bottom of the fence.

His tracks led through the neighbor's wood shop area, onto Route 6, through our back field, by the garage, and to the driveway and side door.

From then on, I had to start lining the edge of the fence with heavy logs on the neighbor's side. That seemed to work well. And we had no escapes for more than half a year ~ that is until a month or two ago.

Having discovered and sealed up that breach, I thought we were as good as gold. But once again, this week, Gomez proved that he was more than worthy of rising to the challenge.

With the two recent breaches sealed up, it's been so far so good.

However, I can guarantee that lovable goofball is plotting his next escape.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Family History Series ~ Coming To America

I was 2 months shy of my fifth birthday when we came to this country.

In the days and weeks before we boarded the Queen Elizabeth I knew that we were going to America. I don't remember much of the preparatory details except for two separate details.

The first detail was the time when we were at what I think may have been the American Embassy getting physicals and shot to make sure that we were not going to be bringing any horrid diseases to the New World.

My mother and I were in a small changing room where she had to remove the clothing from above her waist and put on this shapeless paper poncho over her head.

I don't remember anything beyond that changing room.

The other detail was of my mother and me running into a woman on the street. Even though this woman was not a neighbor or a fellow Lithuanian, my mother knew her.

Apparently this was the woman who represented the charity that accepted the household articles, clothing, and ~ oh my broken child's heart! ~ toys that my parents would not be taking with them on their sea voyage to America.

I knew that the woman took my toys. However, I though that this woman was just holding my toys and will be sending them to me once we got to America. I did not know that I would never see my toys again.

Before you know it, the day of leaving England forever was upon us.

I remember riding in a van with my family and an older childless couple, the Kriaučūnai. Because no one we knew had a car, riding in the van was a big deal.

On the way to the big ship, Pone (Mrs.) Kriaučūnene was showing the others the cross pendants that she bought to bring with her to America. They were pretty pendants, with the crosses being striped in the yellow, green, and red of the Lithuanian flag.

Being the unabashed brat that I always was, I asked Pone if I could have one. Of course my mother let her deep mortification be known in a most emphatic manner. But Pone, being the sweet and gentle soul that she was, gave me one of the crosses to keep as my own.

On the Queen Elizabeth, our family of 4 shared this one tiny room with 4 bunk beds. (Not until I had seen "Titanic" had I realized that we were in steerage.)

Lying in my bottom bunk, I was anxious for the boat to get moving. I thought that if I turned this crank that I saw protruding from the bottom of the top bunk (or somewhere near it) that I would get the boat to move. But while I was awake, the boat stayed put.

Sometime later, long after the boat started to move, the family was up on deck. I heard someone say that we were going by the coast of France. I didn't see anything remarkable other than this big mustard-colored smudge on the horizon.

The sea voyage did not agree with Roma.

But for me it was a different story. There were huge decks to run on, shuffle board games to disrupt, elevators to ride, men's bathrooms to explore, and fellow passengers to annoy.

There were new experiences to savor and enjoy.

In particular, there was a male passenger ~ a bearded fellow wearing a tweed jacket ~ on deck who had an interesting drink with a little stick poking out of the glass. Not being able to resist the temptation, I took the stick out of the glass and put it in my mouth to sample the delicious drops of nectar. Once my curiosity and taste buds were satisfied, I deposited the little stick back into its original glass.

The days at sea went by with a blur.

"Billy Bud" played at the ship's theater; but I don't think that I saw it.

My family had prime rib in the ship's dining room; but they thought they would starve because they could not eat the small portion of meat that was cooked to an unaccustomed rareness.

At the life boat drill we had, the Captain told my parents that my life vest was too small. Yet, the vest that they put on me was the one labeled for children.

One day there were party hats and noise-makers on our cabin bunks. But I was never allowed to wear a party hat ~ especially outside the cabin. Somehow I understood that these party hats and noise-makers were for adults only. But I wonder if my parents ever did anything with them.

Eventually, the Queen Elizabeth arrived safety to New York. I never did get to see the Statue of Liberty because I was asleep while the ship was pulling into harbor; and nobody thought to wake me for that sight.

When we disembarked, I saw American flags everywhere. Even little kids were waving American flags. I wanted one, too. But I never got one.

The priest from the St. Casimir's ~ the Lithuanian parish in Providence ~ was there to meet us. I don't know how all 6 of us ~ my family and the Kriaučūnai ~ all fit in his car. But then again, those were the days of big cars and no seat belts.

The last thing I remember when leaving New York City was riding through the streets and having to look up high in order to see the sky.

Time Flies

Has it already been 19 days since my last blog? Where has the time gone?

Where has the month gone? Another 10 days and June will be history.

Anyhow, I am SO glad that the warm weather is finally here. It's still not as warm as I would like it to be; but at least it's warm enough to sleep with the windows open.

Ever since I realized that I would not be able to get my business off the ground in the time frame that I was hoping for, I had been in a bit of a holding pattern.

Finally I realized ~ especially with our resources dwindling fast ~ that unless some major miracle manifests itself really soon, I have to put my plans of being my own boss on hold and start looking for a (gasp!) job.


Back to that grind of scouring thousands of job listings and sending off countless resumes in hopes that one of them will yield at least an interview, let alone a job offer.

So far, buying a lottery scratch ticket has been more fruitful in yielding results.

I did have an interview this past Monday, however. It was for an entry-level position as a marketing specialist at a company that deals with "direct media marketing" (which most people would call "junk mail") and business process outsourcing.

While I have had limited on-the-job marketing experience, I am confident that I have the smarts to pull off this job ~ not only to pull it off, but also be a smashing success at it.

One thing that seemed to be in my favor was my three years experience of having worked as a window/distribution clerk for the U.S. Postal Service. In fact one of the first questions my interviewers asked was how much mailing and postal experience I've had until ~ duh! ~ they noticed that it was right under their noses on my resume.

The interview was a short 15-minute deal ~ what one of the interviewers called a "meet and greet." They were going to be doing a series of these quickie "meet and greets" until Wednesday (yesterday) before they trim the list to a handful to invite back for a second interview. They said that I should hear from them by the end of the week.

15 minutes.

That's just about the number of minutes that experts say that it takes for an interviewer to decide if a specific candidate is appropriate for the job.

I hope I did well during my 15 minutes of fame.

It would be nice to have that job and be working for that company ~ especially since that company is growing fast and will have passed the $20,000,000 mark before the end of the year.

Hell! It would be nice to work ~ for a change ~ for a place that isn't struggling financially and doesn't have to cash in collected bottles and cans in order to replace a cordless phone that went flying off the company van after an employee carelessly left it there.

It certainly would be nice to not have to have to start all over again with a job search that yields nothing more than frustration.

It's not easy finding a job ~ a decent job that is.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, I should be earning a median wage of $52,660 as a college graduate. Yet, in my last job as business manager for a local animal shelter (the one that had to cash in those bottles and cans) I got paid less than a high school drop, whose median wage is $22,308.

In fact, the most that I had ever made ~ at the best-paying job I've ever had ~ still paid $42 a week less than what the average high school graduate gets.

What is wrong with this picture?

If I get this marketing specialist position, I would be getting paid what I should be for my educational level.

At least Ariana has a job. In fact she is the only one of us who has been able to get a job.

Last Friday Ariana started working at Jonathan Sprouts, a local sprout farm, as a packer. But even she, a recent high school graduate, still has a long way to go before she reaches the median wage for her level of education.

Saturday, June 2, 2007


Yesterday was Ariana's high school graduation.

What a more perfect day for an outdoor graduation ceremony. The day was gorgeous. The sun was blazingly glorious, and the weather deliciously warm. Such a beautiful day, unlike the damp, dreary, and yucky day that we had today. Why! I even came home with a sexier version of a farmer's tan, even though it was more of a sunburn instead of a tan

Ariana's morning graduation preparations started off in a less than typical manner.

Shortly after 10:30, documentarian Tami Gold and her associate David from AndersonGold Films, Inc., arrived to film Ariana getting ready for her big event and to interview the both of us for a project that they had been working on since the beginning of last year. It was really nice to see them again, as they are awfully sweet people who have become friends over the course of the project.

When it was time for Ariana to go to the school, I asked Tami and David if they could drive Ariana to the school because I had a little surprise that I needed to attend to ~ hang the crudely spray-painted banner that I had made the night before. (I almost got caught by Ariana when I tried to sneak it outside before she got into my studio to use the computer.)

After the surreptitious deed was done, Neil, his mother Carol, and I were off to the high school.

Because we had arrived early, we got choice seats in the bleachers over-looking the football field, which today served as ceremony grounds.

The grads-to-be filed in at 1 o'clock in a grand procession.

The valedictorian gave thoughtful speech on gratitude. The band, led by one of the graduates, played a rather long, but impressive, medley of songs from The Phantom of the Opera.

Finally, the moment that all parents, relatives, and friends have been waiting for had arrived! It was time for the seniors to receive their diplomas!

When it was Ariana's turn I did something that I have never done at any graduation ceremony ~ or any event for that matter ~ before. I let out a loud yell. Neil and Carol were far more decorous in their behavior. However, I could not let Ariana receiving her diploma unacknowledged. I wanted her to hear my yell of joy.

She finally did it! After those four seemingly interminable years of struggle, Ariana finally had her diploma in hand!

The closing of this chapter brings the beginning of a new chapter.

What a glorious day for celebration, not only for Ariana, but for all the seniors graduating that day!

Needless to say, we were all very proud of Ariana and her accomplishment. Not only had she capped her completion of four years of high school, Ariana's struggles had not gone unacknowledged. In fact, during the Senior Award Ceremony two days before her graduation Ariana was awarded a plaque in recognition of her perseverance, effort, and attitude.

With the ceremony now over, it was time to go home.

There was a surprise waiting for when Ariana got home. We had Ariana sit in the back seat with Neil so that he could catch the expression on her face as we approached the house.

There it was ~ that crudely spray-painted banner that unabashedly proclaimed our pride to the rest of the world , or at least to all who drove by our house.