Why This Teacher Hates Gum

Gum is evil.

It’s something I didn’t understand in my younger days. Now I do. I used to think gum was good. When kids’ mouths are closed, I teach, kids listen. I used to use Jolly Ranchers for this. I’d give loud kids two Jolly Ranchers each. I wasn’t rewarding students for misbehavior. I was punishing them.

Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 6.15.05 AMIt’s science. When a person chews a Jolly Rancher, the mouth fuses shut. There are two choices–fight it and lose teeth, or go with it, enjoy. Then wait twenty minutes or so until it releases its death hold. It’s almost like meditation training. Forced quiet. I was a new teacher. When you’re new, you use what you got. It was a good strategy–using the principles of adhesion to get kids to listen. Does that count as integrating curricula?

Fast forward to present time.

One student offered me gum. I politely refused, telling her I don’t chew gum.

“I don’t see the point in it,” I said. She looked mystified.

“Candy, yes. Good chocolate, absolutely. But gum gets chewed twice and tastes like an eraser. Why do all that work for nothing?” I recently saw an article correlating teen gum chewing with migraines, too.

In principle, gum’s cool. In reality, it’s nefarious. Why do kids put it under desks? They’re only going to stick to it later. They can’t remember to pull up their pants or bring their homework–how will they remember where they stuck their gum? Maybe there’s someone from Wrigley’s out there who can invent gum that doesn’t stick? A gum version of a Post-It note.

Once I had a vandal scrape gum. She flicked dirt near her eye. Then everyone was scared about kids poking eyes out cleaning messes they made on purpose, so now we have to make them say sorry instead. The gum remains.

It’s the middle of class. I’m explaining something. A kid stands up.

“May I help you? I’m about to impart the meaning of life here.” I’ve lost my thoughts.

“Just throwing out gum.” He saunters in front of me to the can farthest away. This gum, which has been flavorless for two class periods, cannot wait another moment.

It’s a teachable moment.

“Picture a business meeting.” I say, waving my hand across the imaginary board room. “My boss is giving a presentation. I stand up. I walk in front of him, sagging my pants. I nod. The Board of Directors look on…”

You sagging, Miss?” someone says. It’s an image that once imagined cannot be unseen.

I explain etiquette. Walk on the outside, don’t disturb, when eating or gum chewing at a meeting, be polite. Don’t crunch, munch and chew. If you have trash to toss, do it at a break in the activity, not while The Boss is speaking. Etiquette’s important. Conference etiquette. Meeting etiquette. Arriving late etiquette–there’s a finesse. We don’t teach it enough in schools. Maybe I should be grateful to gum for the opportunity to teach higher-level skills.

Classes ban food, drinks, and gum rather than teaching what to do with them in high society. I want my students to behave properly at fancy functions. “Gum” and “food” aren’t in the curriculum but food is a central focus of business. Employees are hired over lunch, companies built over coffee, investments solidified over cocktails or tapas. No one sticks gum under the table while talking with an investor.

But that’s not really why I hate gum. I hate gum is because Declan discovered it.

“Mommy, can I have gum?” At first, it was cute. A six-year old walking around chomping like a cow. Every once in a while, he’d spit a piece across the room like he was shooting a cannon. “I’m blowing bubbles.”

Next, he’d play with the gum, taking it out of his mouth, looking at it, wrapping it around his finger. What followed, naturally, was gum on things. Gum on shirts, furniture, toys. Gum strings, gum residue. Gum slime trails that looked like little slugs walked across my counter. Gum sculptures. “I made a dinosaur.” The germy “I’m saving this gum for tomorrow. I’m going to chew a world record of gum.” He chewed that piece for days, placing sticking it on stuff while he ate, drank, and slept.

The last straw was gum on my computer. Understandable. With iPads, phones, and tablets around, who’d know the iMac wasn’t touch screen? It’s the digital generation. I explained.

“Oh, I know that, Mommy.” What six-year old can’t program a computer these days?  I was talking down to him. “I wasn’t touching it. I put gum on it. I made a picture. It’s nice.”

There will be no more gum. I’ll ban it like Singapore.

I banished him from my computer for willful destruction of parental property.

“No more computer? Don’t you want me to learn?”

“Yes. I want you to learn. That’s why I’m giving you this paper. It’s what Mommy had when she was little.” Meanwhile, I used the computer to learn “How to remove gum from computers.”

Gum–a tool for learning. An instrument of utter destruction. It’s here to stay. The best I can do today is hope not to step in it.

The gum, I mean.

 

[images: jamiewasserman.blogspot.com]

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Paying the Idiot Fee

boilerI just got a bill for fifty bucks. I had a leak in my boiler. As a rule, I don’t fix things that explode, flood, or have the potential to cause international incident. I’ll sheet rock a hole, patch, paint, lay flooring like a drunk Irishman, tile, and hack. I’ve got my own power tools. I once created and installed a system of shelves in my closet using just a jig saw, the “f” word, and piece of dental floss–an organizational breakthrough in a house that had one 18″ closet.

But leaking boilers are above my pay grade. The oil company sent out a super nice man–a trained musician who liked my dog. He’d decided that music wasn’t making him enough clams to eat at a sit-down dinner, so he went into something “practical.” Now he can fix anything. I could’ve listened to him forever.

It took him a full five minutes to diagnose the problem, four and a half of which were hanging the light, finding an outlet, and bullshitting with me.

“I checked under the boiler,” he said, “And I noticed that the leak’s not coming through the foundation.” I’d checked that. That one’s in the Moron 101 Handbook, which I read from cover to cover since I do things like put fans in closed windows and troubleshoot appliances that aren’t plugged in.

“Here’s the problem. A small leak right here.” There was a tiny pinhole leak in the 1939 copper pipe. It was spraying water on my head like a sprinkler system. A fine mist. But a mist nonetheless. Anyone with glasses who had looked up and really thought outside the box would have wiped off her glasses and noticed this fine mist. I don’t recall looking up. Just staring at the puddle on the ground.

“I can fix this, but it would be better for you to call your plumber.” “Better,” meant “much more economical.”

He recommended that I buy the insurance plan for all these parts which are not covered under the regular plan. My plan didn’t include water parts. Just oil tanks blowing up in the event of the apocalypse. As such, three days later I received a bill for $49.99. That’s approximately $600/hour if I subtract the time we spent bullshitting and run the math. He was a great guy. I’d pay $50 for the conversation, but still…

This made me think about my career choice. There’d have been no chance of me being a musician, because I suck, but nobody ever told me I could learn to fix pipes and boilers and make $600/hour while petting people’s dogs. I’d have paid off all my friend’s mortgages if I’d done that.

Heck, I’ve memorized and forgotten more facts and figures than I care to admit, but when the chips are down, I call in $600/hour musician-fix-it-genius to tell me water is falling down on my head.

I don’t want to make my students groan doing a “close read” of a bunch of Lincoln speeches because it’s listed in the Common Cores. I want them to read a ton of things about which they are truly passionate, ask questions and discuss when they need my guidance, dig deeper because they’re interested, then make a million dollars doing something they love.

Or better yet, take my money and fix that pipe. Because no one taught me how to do it.

 

Don’t Need to “Get a Sweater”

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 5.40.37 AMThe wood stove is on. Rural New England’s got “the-leaves-have-turned” chill that sparks my competitive spirit. It’s five degrees colder than urban New England where the collective effects of the sun beating off the black pavement and all the car exhaust produces heat.

Growing up, leaving off the heat was a triumph. “I didn’t turn my heat on until November 17th,” one person bragged. My dad tried to trump it, like when I try to outrun the guy next to me on the treadmill. Every year he said, “I’ll give everyone heat for Christmas,” and “Get a sweater.” We wouldn’t think of touching the thermostat. It was relegated to the male head of household, like hooking up stereo parts or packing the trunk for vacation. There are just things women don’t do. Even in modern times.

When I got my own apartment, my first thought was, “Who’s going to turn on the heat?” I pondered from the first chilly day in September all the way through the fall. I wondered “What day can the heat go on? November 17th? Christmas? Or should I try to knock this out of the park and go for Groundhog Day? I can WIN this!”

There are things a person can do to avoid turning on heat. Wear many sweaters…but there are only so many layers one can wear before resembling the inside of a padded room. Baking works, too. But that’s cheating, because the energy that runs the stove–gas, electric, or propane isn’t free.

What is the reason for the “Get a sweater” anyway?  Why avoid heat, historically?

Flashback. My grandmother used to give the look when I put sugar in my tea. “Have some tea with your sugar.” Clear cut sarcasm. The best way to combat sarcasm, I’ve found, is to pretend to be too stupid to understand it.

“Okay. Thanks, Grandma.” In order for this to work, the response must be genuine and innocent. Any touch of return-volley sarcasm invites doom.

The point is, she remembered The Great Depression and World War II when ration cards restricted the amount of meat, sugar, eggs, and butter for her growing family. My uncle tells a story of losing the ration book on the way to the store. He didn’t go there straight away–he stopped to play with his friends. Everyone went out in the dark to hunt and luckily, it was found. They would’ve lost the food for the month, let alone the sugar.

“Have some sugar with your tea,” is a flashback to times of no sugar. Grandma also saved every plastic bag and odd gadgets before we recycled such things. Never know when they could be of use. We don’t have to worry about sugar now. There’s no need to ration it. It’s mass-produced in countries where people should get paid more, and it floods the nation. No shortage whatsoever.

Where did the “get a sweater,” originate? Where did freezing become a badge of honor? Growing up in the 70’s with electric heat–the type of heat that was supposed to end up cheaper and cleaner but really ended up making houses unsellable relics with bills that got up to 4-500/month…that’s where the sweater began for us. Then we lived in a large Victorian to start a group home that never quite got going, while my parents did about fifty things to make the world a better place–soup kitchens, grants, helping others in need. Meanwhile, they, themselves worried how to heat the large home they bought with the helping-others package. It had a wood stove that heated the center column of the house. The rest of the large house…got a sweater. Getting a sweater burrowed into two generations of psyche.

I don’t waste money. I can afford heat. Rusty gathered and chopped two years of wood himself, taking trees for people after the hurricane and turning them into round pieces then woodstove-sized logs. “It’s exercise.”

But here I sit, with the heat on early, toggling between guilty and defiant.  I’m drinking coffee enjoying the calm. I toss another log in the stove. The gloves cover my pajamas with soot. Forgot about that. That’s what you get for putting on the heat so early. I put the heat on because I can.

I remember times of need. I’ll see the faces of students and others this time of year–no coat, “Christmas sucks” (because I’m not going to get anything). Some have as much heat as they want in utilities-included apartments, others are “getting a sweater” too. And some remain blissfully unaffected by the needs around them. Innocent.

The winter and holidays are times of great compassion and generosity–food drives popping up everywhere, “Give a dollar for this cause,” in every grocery line.

I don’t need to “get a sweater” anymore, I’m blessed. I’ll joke about sweaters on Thanksgiving. But for a moment, I remember the times when I’ve needed them. And think about those who still do.

 

[image: tipsyelves.com . They have some cool sweaters. If you dare….]

Nobody Bought the Farm

farm1“I like what you’re doing to the place,” I say to the man working at the farm stand. I’m getting a couple of onions and putting in my order for B Grade tomatoes. It’s what I do. Forage, trade, find, and pick food, and then preserve it. I ate the tomatoes I grew so I have nothing to can for the winter. I don’t like the tin-can taste of the stuff from the store.

I’ve been coming to this particular farm since I moved to Rhode Island two decades ago. I look around at the decorations. There were no decorations when I started coming here for the local fresh food. Just a shackish outbuilding with a simple old-school butcher shop and produce stand where the farmer sold pies he made that morning, made sandwiches to order, and cut you a nice steak for dinner if you weren’t a vegetarian like me.

I snap a quick picture of the artfully arranged bins of local in-season fruits and vegetables. There are now shelves of maple syrup, maple sugar, local honey, and little gift-baskety type things. This place is emerging as a New England boutique roadside farm stand. It has all the nuances of a shop that would attract locavores, GMO haters, store avoiders and foodies. There used to be time for a conversation when I came in. Now, I often have to wait in line.

It makes me smile, to be honest. I like waiting in line because someone who deserves success has a lot of business in front of him.

“Thanks,” he says. “But in ten years, places like this won’t be here. Everyone will shop in billion dollar businesses.
“I disagree,” I reply. “I think there’s a market for this, and it’s growing. I’ve been coming here forever. Back when shopping for boxed and frozen food in the grocery store was what cool people did. People laughed at the way I got my food. But now everybody will come here because it looks so beautiful…you have such a selection. Farms are cool these days. A lot of people don’t want to shop at the billion-dollar industries where food tastes bad.”
I’m not trying to make him feel better about his hard work. I’m simply stating a fact. Food freaks like me who used to live on the periphery are nearly mainstream. I’ve just come from another farm. There were lines out the door for both.
“Well,” he says, “I hope you’re right, but let’s look at this town. When I moved here, there were four Mom & Pop pharmacies. Now, there are other none. They don’t make it illegal, but they make it so difficult that you can’t pay. You have to be networked in. You have to get your discount. Otherwise you can’t keep pace with the prices. Stores are the same. Nobody who’s not a billion-dollar industry can do this. Just look around…”
Pause.  His voice trails off.
What he says is the truth. I can’t argue. We’ve built small businesses. I’ve lived this. Between building and fire codes that change a smidgen but cost a ton for no understandable increase in safety, tax regulations that reward big business outsourcing  production to underpaid labor elsewhere while ignoring local places with eight or ten employees, and new health insurance regulations, it’s really tough out there.
Some of today's fresh offerings

Some of today’s fresh offerings

It’s tough to be the little guy, even if you have a product the community loves, the best team in the world, and a business that makes the world a better place. He’s right. I can’t argue. There are no more Mom & Pop drug stores in town.

I’ve got nothing to reply, because who wants to say, “You’re right. It’s tough to hang on to the chin-up bar, but I hope we both do,” so I nod, take the onions, and say I’ll return Wednesday for the tomatoes.
I really love going to the farm. I’m secretly glad the tomatoes aren’t ready, because I get to go back when it’s slower and have another conversation, not only about produce, but about Yankee ingenuity and life.

“Grandma Cut Off My Ear”–A Lesson about Resistance

Screen Shot 2013-08-23 at 7.45.17 AM“She poked me!” Declan cried. We’re getting his hair cut. Declan hates haircuts. He cries and resists.  If I were our hairdresser, I’d accidentally cut out his tongue.

I dread taking Declan for haircuts. He makes a big, loud fuss. Our hairdresser recently moved to a spa-salon where everyone takes their beauty very, very seriously. No six-year old boy belongs in a spa-salon where everyone takes their beauty and fashion very, very seriously. Heck, I don’t belong at a spa-salon where everyone takes their beauty and fashion very, very seriously–maybe he inherited the no-fashion gene from me. But at least I don’t cry and scream, disturbing women relaxing with their facials and manicures.

“Remember when Louie the Barber scared me?”

Screen Shot 2013-08-23 at 7.41.52 AM“Yes.” I said. “You were two. He scared you. You’re fine now.”  When Declan arrived at the stage of toddlerhood where his gender became unclear and I started confusing him with a dirty sheep or sandy breed of French poodle, it was time to get a real haircut. My limited skills would no longer do.

My husband said, “No hairdresser. Let him go to the barber with the men.” My dad was going the barber. I asked him to take the poodle along too. I went for support.

The barbershop was small, with enough hair piled on the floor that an 80’s metal band must’ve been the last set of customers. There wasn’t a canister of antiseptic in sight. The band probably drank it after running out of Everclear. The barber was a real old-timer. The medicine pole remained from when they really did do surgery in this specific shop.

The barber found a booster seat, swinging Declan into the chair. Declan screamed. The barber, undeterred, held him down, snipping away. Declan screamed and thrashed, but the barber continued, only narrowly avoiding a stabbing, mullet, or mohawk disaster.

Declan’s hysteria lasted weeks.

“Aren’t they supposed to disinfect the scissors or sweep the hair?” I asked my dad. I didn’t know, I’m not a guy. Girl places are pretty particular about these things, but maybe guys don’t care about infections, germs, gym socks, or dirt. We didn’t return. I resumed the hair cutting duties a while longer.

Then, Grandma intervened.  She’s always been good at haircutting. Declan wheeled his head around. She stabbed his ear.

“AHHHHHHH!” Grandma did not get a good review on Yelp that day.

So, now, we are at the hairdresser. This total saint of a woman is much more of a psychologist than stylist.

“I don’t need a haircut,” Declan informs her. She tells him he does and asks him about dinosaurs and upcoming first grade.

“Remember when Grandma cut my ear off?” He responds.  She checks for signs of van Gogh.

“Grandma did not cut your ear off. It’s still there,” she says. “I won’t cut your ear off. I’ll be quick.” He cries. Spa customers watch. The one nearest says, “Oh, my grandson…” I think the lady in the leggings just shot us a dagger. Declan is still crying and there is a strip of hair cut down the back of his head. It will not do to leave now. Our hairdresser promises she will cut his hair in ten snips. It takes twelve. He tells her.

We escape, I tip, probably not nearly enough. I will bring a gift when I go next week.

I take the boy for ice cream.

“You only cried once today,” I say. “But you’re six now. Next time you won’t even need to cry at all.” A little neurolinguistic programming never hurts. Best to start setting up for the next haircut now.

Amazing how such little things from our past build up so much resistance and stagnation in our lives. The smallest things spiral into bigger and bigger problems and fears until we become incapacitated. This resistance makes us push when we should be pulling, avoid when we should be tackling, and judge when we should be seeing the full picture.

This isn’t only a six-year old’s truth. Often times it’s true for me as well.

I think that means I get some ice cream, too.

 

 

[images: doblelol.com, pxleyes.com]

 

Blueberries and Pickles–No, I’m Not Pregnant

Rocky Point Blueberry Farm, Warwick, RI

Rocky Point Blueberry Farm, Warwick, RI

Last week, I picked blueberries in the rain. It wasn’t that pleasant. I was cold. When I reached into the bush, water shook from the leaves, soaking me to the bone. I got colder and wetter. I started to frown. There was one drop of rain on my glasses I couldn’t get off. When I wiped it on my wet shirt, I smeared both lenses until I couldn’t see the blueberries. And I had a migraine. Annoying.

I thought about homesteading. How I planted my garden, how my husband chopped the wood, how we try to get off the grid. How the stuff we can’t do–produce eggs or meat–we get from the farm around the corner. About how close I am to getting rid of boxes, store jars, and tin cans. As I sat in the middle of rainy blueberries wishing the weather would clear, I thought, “A couple hundred years ago, I wouldn’t have had a choice to make homesteading my…(dare I say)…hobby.”
Not picking very fast. Pioneers didn't check email while farmingI never thought of homesteading as a hobby. It’s a good activity–I started out intending to save money, produce better quality food, and maybe stop global warming, prevent a few small nations from blowing each other up, or attain enlightenment. It doesn’t save money. Farming is expensive and I give stuff away.  Friends visit and remind me they like my peach salsa.
“Homesteading” is cool, though. What people once mocked me for, comparing me to their grandmother, is now chic, hip, and in. I’ve never been any of those things–I’m enjoying my fifteen minutes of fame.
But whining about wet blueberries–weak. I could never be a real homesteader on the prairie…I felt somewhat disingenuous. The pioneers didn’t have an option. They would’ve picked blueberries in the rain. And been grateful. The work would’ve been there every day. No one’s great-grandmother in Oklahoma would have skipped a day because of a weather, a lunch date, or a migraine.
Because if they did, they would have died. I watch homesteading shows on the Discovery Channel. The Alaska ones are cool–no one comes to their rescue. “Excuse me Stop & Shop Peapod…can you deliver?” I think not. Conversely, I watched a few shows where modern families pretended they were pioneers–shows where people dress up and cry after the first few days. The Alaska people never cry. I have to toughen up and be more like them. Today, In the true spirit of Alaska, I’m weeding my garden and making pickles again because I killed my last crock of kosher dills.
“HOW did you ruin pickles??” asked my friend of Russian Jewish descent. No Russian ever ruins food–that might be the last vegetable you’d see until the reincarnation of Lenin. And a Jew ruining a Kosher Dill? Heresy. Doesn’t happen.
“I didn’t weight them down. The top ones molded.” I asked around, “Can I eat them anyway?” I was so looking forward to them–I’d just eat one off the bottom. My husband said no, it’d kill me. I rationalized that cheese is mold, and the life insurance is paid up…would the pioneers scrape off the mold? They wouldn’t have had mold to begin with. Because if they did, they’d have starved.
Prairie women. My heroes.

Prairie women. My heroes.

I googled in case everyone was wrong. Google said, “Don’t eat it, moron, you’ll die.” Not trusting Google is sort of like not trusting Jesus or the threat stated in a chain letter. I tossed the pickles.

I’d be a crappy homesteader. I didn’t pick enough blueberries–too busy finishing off a text conversation and dictating ideas into Siri. Pioneers wouldn’t have stood for such behavior. And I killed the pickles. I’d have eaten them anyway because Google wouldn’t have been there to save me. I must drink some imported french-roast coffee and contemplate ways to improve.
The weather cleared midway through picking.  I remembered why I love it. I go deep into the middle of the bush, where lazy people don’t pick. Then, I crawl under the bushes, where no one goes, either, except the grandmothers who are serious about their homesteading, and little, tiny kids.
When I’m  looking under the bushes, I see an entirely different view. Seeing the berries under the leaves where no one goes reminds me of teaching. The berries at the top shine for the world. They hog all the sunshine, tasting nice and sweet. But when you climb in and under the bush, you see the berries the world forgot. They’re there, clumped together waiting for someone to pick them. I like those best–they’re bigger and sweeter because they were left alone to grow at their own pace. They leap into the bucket with excitement ready to become part of something great. This reminds me of my students, the ones who get left behind by traditional academics and need someone to peel back the branches and leaves to let them see the sunlight, too. But when they do, it is always magic.
Maybe I’m a bad pioneer and homesteader, but thinking about the blueberries this way, I decide I’m a pretty good teacher.
I smile. And I pick one more bucket before it’s time to go home.
[image 3: candgnews.com]

Blame Someone Else Today!

It’s ten o’clock. I’ve put the boy to bed. I’ve cuddled. I’ve kissed and hugged. I’ve discussed the meaning of life. Now, I’m sitting with my tea and a book.

Stomp, stomp, stomp. A little face appears in the threshold.

“Can someone help me with the blankets?”

“No. Go to bed.” I should be able to sit down once or twice a year without “Help me, get this, MOMMY, MOMMY I NEED WATERRRRR!!” I just watched a survival show. They got chucked in the woods naked. I’m here to tell you not one person died from not having water for 8-12 hours.

“GO TO BED!”

“But I need help. The blankets are wrong.”  It’s the same game every night. It’s either food, water, blankets, or a monster…anything to get out of bed. It’s better for all parties involved if I get up because if my husband gets up again, life as Declan knows it will end.

Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 6.55.10 AMI walk down the hall into The Room, which has been ransacked. This explains the problem with the blankets. I check around. Nothing critical has been stolen–the matchbox cars, cardboard scraps, corner-eaten board books, the nearly moldy half-apple on the nightstand. And heaven forbid, the dinosaur collection. All present and accounted for. No criminal in site. We’re safe for the moment. But I am not happy.

“WHAT happened HERE?” I inquire.

Declan stares right into my eyes. “Alvin did it.”

Alvin the Chipmunk. The imaginary friend. Declan memorizes movies. The chipmunk movie left us with six imaginary friends, Alvin being the most nefarious. Alvin is responsible for all mischief in the house. He comes with us on all road trips. He walks beside us in the store. People watch us while Declan discusses the meaning of life with Alvin and disciplines him when necessary.

This got me to thinking. I need an imaginary friend. Hmm….. Who could it be… That’s it!!  Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 6.56.46 AMMr. Green Jeans. Mr. Green Jeans can help me around the house and with the garden. And when I fail to get something right, I can blame him.

“I didn’t leave the door open. It was Mr. Green Jeans.”

“Mr. Green Jeans didn’t get around to cleaning the kitchen. And he messed up my dresser, too.

“My teacher evaluation data isn’t finished because Mr. Green Jeans didn’t finish the pile of correcting. He was responsible for the graphs. I was supposed to be teaching.”

“Mr. Green Jeans burned your dinner, here’s a salad instead.”

I think it will work. I think of all the times I threatened to bring Alvin to the ASPCA.  I should have been thanking him instead. Because now, I will have Mr. Green Jeans to help me explain away the chaos that is my life.

I went running yesterday. I pushed by a tangle of vines growing from a stone wall, when all of a sudden I saw something dead on the side of the road. A chipmunk. Squashed.

Alvin? God, I hoped not. I still hadn’t thanked him for Mr. Green Jeans. I went home frightened, and said nothing. Declan was in the yard.

“Have you seen Alvin?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said. There was a living, scurrying chipmunk five feet away from us under a tree, digging up a nut and watching us both.

“Phew. There he is,” I said.

“That’s not Alvin,” Declan replied. “That’s….” the chipmunk sprung away, “Leapster. He jumps high.” I’m sorry. They all look alike to me. Sort of like freshmen trying to dress goth when the school year begins.

With a nod, Leapster ran off into the woods, making the promise he’d be back later that day to make sure Alvin to destroyed something.

It was a promise he kept, as I found torn up egg cartons and a million boxes littering my dining room. Alvin was making a maze.

I turned to the figure at my left. “Mr. Green Jeans,” I said. “Go clean the cellar. It’s horrific.”

“I’m not doing it,” he replied, standing firm. “Alvin made the mess!”  My own imaginary character revolting and shifting the blame. That’s not the way it’s supposed to work!

In either case, blaming people is an important part of American culture. Put this effective strategy to work for you today. Do it now–go mess something up and blame the nearest person. You’ll feel great immediately. It’s a tactic that works every time. It works in law, government, education, corporate America, business, banking… Why not follow suit? Once you get the hang of it, do it at least once a day. It’s fun. Then take the extra time you have in not remedying the situation and…

You guessed it…

Enjoy just one more cup of coffee.  On me.

And Alvin, I suppose, too.

[images: hollywoodchicago.com and ghosttraveller.com ]