Tuesday, March 3, 2009

TAKS ELA. Today. Hurray!!

The script is now over and students begin

To work by themselves ‘til they get to the end.

Some work really fast, some take frequent breaks,

But all understand that this test is high-stakes!

I actively monitor all through the aisles

And twiddle my thumbs every once in a while.

I sharpen the pencils that have worn to a nub.

And issue the dictionaries that came in my tub.

“Yes you may go on to part number two.”

Hooray! That means that we are almost through!!

Again through the aisles, checking out the essays.

Some are quite good, some . . . a little risqué.

Now there’s one person left, others look on with fervor.

And I have to admit, I’m, too, an eager observer.

He raises his hand. He’s done, I presume . . .

I’m wrong: “Mr. Korpi, can I go to the restroom?”

Oh, so close, yet so far away.

The TAKS has a way of making hours feel like days.

Finally, all tests are turned in,

And the process of learning can again begin.

And so until April, when we do TAKS once more,

We will practice and practice in preparation for,

The ultimate test, over which we obsessively stress,

‘cause we know our progress is measured by its success.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The perfect gift

Growing up, I was always getting taller, but I was also also struggling with getting a gift for my father every time his birthday, Father's Day, Christmas, and Arbor Day. Now before you miss my point, YES it is strange that I got a gift for my dad of Arbor Day, but believe me, that aside, a tree gets old REALLY fast.

It doesn't matter what we (my brothers, sister, mother, neighbors, The Pope) got my dad, he invariably forced a smile and a kind word as he opened it--"Geez, just what I always needed . . . . (insert thoughtful gift here.)" Consequently, he ALWAYS was prompt in returning the gift to either the retailer from which the gift came or to Wal-Mart if he didn't know where it came from or what it was. It got to the point that we didn't know what to get him, and the question always came down to "What would be the most convenient for him to return?" We got into the habit, before "gift receipts" were chic if not common practice, of including the sales receipt with the gift.

It almost seemed like he enjoyed the process of returning the item more than the item itself. Whether it stemmed from his penchant for standing in lines at Customer Service, his desire to save money, from his totally altruistic, modest personality in which he truly felt he didn't "deserve" nor wanted to "bother" others with the "hassle" of a gift (a trait I either inherited or developed independently with the same symptoms of someone with a penchant for standing in Customer Service lines--which I loathe.) But I digress . . . (and digest . . . ) . . .

Being my Dad's son, one year for "Beluga Whale Appreciation Day," I surprised my father with what I thought was the Perfect gift--for him at least. Did I get him a card that said "I don't deserve nor want this"? Did I get him a nice property insurance policy? Did I give him a personalized Acrostic poem of his name (hard to return)? NO.

I got him a pair of high-heeled ladies shoes that weren't even his size much less his style and color . . . with the receipt, of course.

At the extreme, embarrasing risk that he might actually like them (hopefully secretly, at least) I gave him a gift I KNEW he'd (probably) for sure take back, with the added potential embarrassment of having to return such an item. What I didn't think through is that either he could either tell the customer service clerk that he was returning them for his wife (afterall, I used this line when I bought them), or that my father, confident in his peculiarness, would not be embarrassed by telling the customer service clerk that "they didn't fit, nor were they his color." When I thought how he might actually enjoy "alarming" the clerk, it only reaffirmed my notion that he would enjoy the gift, but lessened my pleasure of the "ironicness" (or is it "ironisism") of the gift itself.

Being my son's grandfather, he thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the gift. He returned them promptly the next day while making up a story about how the scuff marks came about on the bottom of the 1/8 inch heels.

Fast forward to today, then rewind a couple of days to three days ago, the slowly advance forward to one day later (putting you at two days ago.)

This is the day my wife (no blood relation to me or my father) actually returned two gifts to Kohl's, one from each of her kids given to her on her birthday.

Now before you say, "How can a mother return thoughtful gifts from her children?!?!" Rest assured that not only did the wait an appropriate two week before doing so, but that the children really didn't pay for the gifts themselves, but rather only picked them out in haste as their grandfather's son urged them on, knowing the sly trick of his father all along.

With everyday being a one-day, once-in-a-lifetime-if-you-are-a-Mayfly sale, I knew that when I went to Kohl's to get my wife the Jumbo-oversized-super-sized fry pan (not to be confused with the 'you are too jumbo-oversized-super-sized' AB-CRUNCHER from years ago--wound still healing), my kids would want to get their beloved mother some jewelry.

Last Christmas, my wife did the best imitation of her fahter-in-law as she opened up her "buy one get one free" sterling silver necklaces from her son and daughter. If she was a worse actor than my father, you might thing she was sucking on spoiled lemons when she opened the gift. Since those were the FIRST she had received from her kids (recommended by their cheap, "unromantic" father), she kept them, and has even worn them once (all the way from the living room to the bedroom where her jewelry (deep) storage box is located.

Whe she opened the Amethyst necklace (from her daughter-also the "full-priced $50 item") and then the matching Amethyst earrings (the "get the next one for a buck" item") from her son, she looked like she was sucking on a rotten lemon . . . that had been dropped into a vat of spoiled sauerkraut that was infiltrated with sewage.

She smiled as she tried them on.

I had the receipt stored safely in my top drawer.

The kids were elated as they saw the "genuine" joyous expression on their mother's face as she quietly contemplated what the heck in her wardrobe mathed with purple Amethyst, so what if it was her birthstone. She gave me that knowing look like I was behind it all.

I gave her a glowing nod in acknowledgment of making my kids and wife happy.

As it turned out, the whole situation was really a no-lose proposition. My kids genuinely got their mother something they hoped she'd like, my wife enjoyed the gifts, if not the pure, genuine look on her children's faces as she opened the gifts, I looked like a hero when she opened her "not an Ab-Cruncher" frying pan, and SHE got what was a $50 "gift certificate" to a great store once she returned the gift with the reciepts I had kept.

My kids have long forgotten about their gift to their mother and don't even notice when she doesn't wear them or how they are curiously missing from her tangled jewelry cabinet.

Best of all, instead of getting something else she really wanted, my wife just had the $51 credited back to the credit card, an unselfish act that means she got nothing more out of the ordeal but the hassle of the return process.

Good thing she's my father's daughter (in-law.)