Sunday, February 25, 2024

The Skin I'm In

 This morning, after I washed my face in cold water and observed it closely in the mirror, I struggled to choose a moisturizer from among three jars on my dresser. Did my skin need moisture and brightening? Did my skin need moisture and sculpting and tightening? Did my skin need extra moisture and a boost of collagen repair? As I stood there deciding, I could feel my face draw and dehydrate. In truth, I needed all of them--immediately. 

What has become of me?

I am the girl who used to wash her face with whatever soap was available in the dish back on E. 38th Street:  Safeguard, Ivory, Caress, Irish Spring, or Dove. My skin was constantly oily. I used to use straight rubbing alcohol on a wad of toilet paper dabbed on my nose and forehead to rid myself of the shine and the greasy feeling. All of us had that skin, a gift from our Croatian father whose own swarthy complexion never got a wrinkle as he aged. I abused my skin for years, according to dermatologists, using harsh soaps and astringents, Laying Out for a tan and using baby oil. Even well into my thirties, forties, and fifties, I never understood all the Women Who Lotion religiously. 

I am also the girl who had storybook-worthy thick hair. I wore it long, and I had to shampoo it every single day or it would look greasy and stringy, especially at the scalp. It was incredibly frustrating. At times, I even washed my hair with dishwashing liquid, again using whatever was available at the kitchen sink, where all hairwashing was done since we had no shower. (You try washing long, long hair while taking a tub bath.) Forget conditioner because it made my hair lie flat and look--you guessed it--oily. On date nights, I washed my hair in the morning and again when I was getting ready to go out.

Now, I have dry skin and wash my hair about twice a week. My skin drinks in even the richest, most emollient creams and lotions like water. My lips are as dry as that old-fashioned onionskin typing paper. My gorgeous thick hair is a shadow of its former self, and I condition the ends.  I also use a volumizing spray at its roots. It all seems incredibly cruel to me. And terribly unfair.

Perhaps there should be a product for us, The Extremely Dry, that is Industrial Strength. It could come in a huge drum, and we could put on a bathing suit and merely stand in it, up to our nostrils, for about a half-hour each day. We could conveniently locate it near a television so that we could be occupied for that time and not be fidgety. When our time is up, we'd carefully emerge fully moisturized and ready for our day or for our restful night's sleep. Certainly, there are Safety Considerations, and Sanitary Ones as well, but that's for other people to figure out. I cannot be bothered with those sorts of Engineering and Science-y details. 

I feel a little better now, having thought of a Possible Solution. Do you have one? Share it--and your feelings about all this Unfairness--in Comments.


Wednesday, February 14, 2024



Authorities found the body of one of my former students on 12 February. Walt had been missing since late August when he failed to show up for lunch with one of his kids. They found him in a wooded area out past some hiking trails not so very far from one of my grocery stores. I drive past that area on that pretty road fairly often. There are nature preserves there, and some dog owners like to run their pets in the clearing. 

I remember when Rick came home and told me Walt was missing. It was sad and terrible news, and I knew it was ominous. "This won't end well," I said, "unless Walt is somebody else now." 

In October, the family and some friends organized a search party. "I feel so bad for the family," I told Rick. "Do you want to show up and help?" he asked. "No," I said. "I was his sophomore English teacher; even then, only briefly. And I don't want to go out and look for a body."

My time with Walt was, indeed, brief. He was added to my third period Basic English class about midway through the year. I already had his brother, who was a star running back for the football team, in my other Basic class. It was probably around 1983. Walt came from a juvenile facility where he had spent quite a bit of time. (You might recall from my story about Jeremy that my class was the usual landing spot for such kids.)  He was on probation and a short leash, but I didn't get any details. He was merely plopped into my class with a transfer form. As usual.

He gave me no trouble as far as routine discipline. He sat where assigned. He was respectful. He wasn't late to class. But did he bring a book, pen/pencil, paper each day? Not usually. I didn't make a big deal out of it and supplied whatever he lacked, as I did for everyone. No, the problem with Walt was that he was high almost every single day, and he often couldn't stay upright or even in his seat. He was a mess. Even so, when Walt wasn't too obliterated, he could be funny and charming. When he could manage to be sober, he was a gentleman. And he tried.

I found out from my usual Reliable Source--a smart, peppy girl from their neighbourhood named Darla--that Walt's dad and uncle were in jail. That Walt figured he'd end up there and share a cell with one of them at some point. He ran with a bad crowd that he'd hooked back up with the minute he'd gotten out of the facility. 

I decided that I wasn't going to send Walt out for being high. It was better to keep him in the room and try to get him to do something. One day two assistant principals knocked on my classroom door, called me out into the hall, and asked, "Is Walt in there?" When I assured them that he was, one asked, "Does he have his yellow gym bag with him?

"Yes, he does. Why?"

"Okay. We have information that he has a gun in the bag. You need to send him out here and make sure he brings the bag with him."

(Dear Readers, you and I know now, in 2024, how much is So Wrong about this conversation. But it was 1983; I was 24 years old and in my third year of teaching; school shootings were Unheard Of.)

I was too dumb to even be in shock, I think. I merely went inside and said, "Walt, they want you to go to the office. Please hand in your book and your work, and be sure to take all your things with you." He did exactly that, and I never saw him again. 

Every so often his name would pop up in the local paper. He'd be arrested for a rash of break-ins at gas stations or convenience stores. He'd threaten the cashier, say he had a gun, but he never did. I'd read the article and shake my head. Poor Walt. 

Poor Walt, found dead under the trees in the brush. I feel sad and helpless and impotent. What in the hell did I do for him, all those years ago? Him or Jeremy? Sometimes it feels as if what I was up against was insurmountable. For some of my kids, they were in a hole so deep, my ladder couldn't begin to step them up and out. A lot of people who lay blame on our education system and teachers need to shut the hell up. They have no idea.

Despite the life that Walt led, he didn't deserve to lie cold and alone in the woods. I hold him in my heart.


Friday, February 09, 2024

In Which I Lighten Up My Life And Get A Little Airheaded

 Let me just say this:  I'm feeling delightfully lighter in February. After 48 straight days of Absolutely No Sunshine Whatsoever, we've been treated to several bright, happy days of sun. Yesterday and today, I took my daily walks without a coat or a jacket in 60 degree temperatures. Yes, it will all come crashing down next week, but until then, I'm basking in this Joy. 

And fresh air! My windows are open! Can you even imagine that--in Northeast Ohio! in February! What luck!

Another reason I'm feeling lighter is that this morning, I watched as a volunteer from the Vietnam Vets of America came to my home and picked up bags of clothes and several boxes of dishes, shoes, purses, and two pieces of furniture from my porch. All that stuff is now G O N E from my home. Hooray for decluttering and giving to a good cause.

Now let's see if I can declutter my head a bit and dump off a few things here.

1.  This ad was in the Cleveland Plain Dealer a little while ago and hurt my eyes and my feelings:

First of all, absolutely nothing in this estate sale interests me, thanks to the ad's key words and phrases:  Every room full (they were hoarders); CB radios (no one ever left the house or had contact with the outside modern world); precious moments (dust bunnies galore and stuck in the 80s); bennie babies (Precious Moments turned out NOT to be the moneymaker they thought, so they glommed onto these, which tanked even worse, and, again, dust); seasonal (my experience with this is that many Collector-type people also collect tons of Xmas and holiday tchotchkes which also sit around collecting dust; these types of items do not sell, even at garage sales, trust me). 

Also, let's talk about The Spelling now, shall we? Obviously, it's Beanie Babies, not bennie babies, like some sort of homage to Bennie and the Jets or the drug benzedrine. And it's collectibles--the noun form--not collectables--the adjective form. An easy way to remember is "if it's an Investment, it's a collectIble." Sigh. I know, I know, I should stop reading the Classifieds.

2. On my walk today, in addition to a dandelion, I saw this and it made me smile:

I apologize for the quality of this photo. I couldn't get very close because this is not a friendly cat. It's also Not Their Cat. Did you think I was just posting this for the Irony?

This is a neighbourhood stray who hangs around on various porches. It's the first time I've seen it on this particular porch, however, and I'm rather surprised. This is where a St. Bernard lives. There must be something really good inside that Chewy box. You know what they say:  no risk, no reward.

3.  Finally, this conversation occurred on Monday night:

Nance:  I'm exhausted. I was so busy all day. (proceeds to list all chores accomplished that day)

Rick:  Wow. Well, thank you. That was a lot.

Nance: Oh, and by the way, I barely had enough battery left to finish using the leaf blower on the porch. Then I saw the charger wasn't even plugged in. What's up with that?

Rick:  You what?

Nance: I used the leaf blower to blow all the peanut shells and sunflower seed detritus off the front porch. It's ridiculous out there, you know? And the battery went dead, and I had to put it in the charger, but first of all, the charger was crammed behind stuff on that shelf, and then it wasn't even plugged in.

Rick:  I unplugged it.

Nance:  But why?

Rick: (carefully, looking right at her) Because I assumed that we wouldn't be needing A LEAF BLOWER in the WINTER.

Nance:  (light finally goes on) Oh! 

So tell me--What's lightening up your life in February so far? (And do you have the Winter Dumbs like me? Sigh.)

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