Friday, November 30, 2012


Middle school kids are good at a lot of things, but one of their weaknesses is cleaning up after themselves. It can be infuriating to plan a fun event and find yourself yelling at kids and picking up garbage at the end. Then they always say the same thing, "That isn't mine," and give you a wounded look when you ask them to throw it away anyhow.

Today we took our students bowling. This field trip was a team building opportunity that we scheduled to take the place of our annual corn maze visit which was washed out by Hurricane Sandy this year. As I've written before, it's a great trip-- the kids are contained and easy to supervise, but they have a lot of freedom, too. Plus, the price is right: ten bucks buys two games and a pizza lunch.

For a hundred kids, they gave us 25 pies and a drink cup for each with unlimited access to the soda fountain. As a matter of practicality, we put their names on the plain white Styrofoam cups, so they wouldn't get mixed up. 

We all had a fun time; for the most part, the trip did what we hoped it would-- kids and teachers had the opportunity to connect and build even more positive relationships.

And when it came time to leave? Clean up was extra easy, probably because there wasn't any question about whose trash it was.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wait a Minute

Towards the end of Writing Club today I pulled out the puppets. "Anyone interested in writing a show?" I asked.

Four sweet little girls made a dash for my desk and gleefully swept away the monkey, the dragon, the elephant, and the moose, chattering excitedly about their ideas. How nice, I thought, and settled back in my seat, confident of some wholesome entertainment to come.

"The first rule of puppet fight club is never talk about puppet fight club."

Or not.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Presumed Guilty

I always tell the students that the morning announcements is my favorite show, and in some sense it's true. I love seeing former students, I like knowing what's going on, they have puzzles, trivia, and math challenges; seriously, it's a great way to start the day.

This year we have a new feature as well. Our principal offers "words of wisdom" every day, consisting of quotes and affirmative advice for the students. It's a cool way for her to connect with them daily, and the content is interesting and thought-provoking.

I can't say I always agree with her perspective however, and that presents a bit of a dilemma. For example, yesterday, she spoke about jury duty and she said that because someone had done something wrong, people had to miss work to serve on the jury. It sure seemed like the implication was that whoever was standing trial was guilty from the start.

It might be easier to overlook such a message were it not a metaphor for the education reform movement as a whole. Every school and classroom is swept up in the dragnet of failure, and any protest is characterized as complacency, or an excuse, or an axe to grind.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


We are starting the annual Letters About Literature assignment, and so we will spend the next couple of weeks analyzing model letters so that the students can figure out what will make a successful piece. The purpose of this activity is for students to write a letter to an author telling him or her how their book changed the student's view of the world or of themselves, and the first mini-lesson is that their letters should, "correspond not compliment." 

One of the exercises has them looking at a letter to Dr. Seuss about How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The piece is nothing but praise, no substance to it, but because I have found that this story is so very familiar to almost every student (regardless of ethnicity or religion) I always ask them to suggest possible revisions to the letter based on the lessons they might take from the classic tale.

You might predict that they would all have something to say about materialism and holidays, but the number one theme my students identified was rather that nobody is as bad as they may seem, and even the meanest person can turn it around.

Monday, November 26, 2012

What is This?

Thirty-five years ago I might have recognized it immediately, but today, even knowing what it was supposed to be, I could barely tell what this image portrays.

I need a different point of view.

(Hint: It snows green and red in the Alps.)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Earlier this year when we went down to Atlanta, I got a little app for my iPad so that my nephew and niece could write and illustrate their own stories. We had a good time creating tales that starred their new kitten.

It was a hit this weekend, too. The only glitch was that as they took turns using the iPad (they are really good sharers, those two) Annabelle accidentally created several pages in Richard's book. Today was the day when we were writing the text, so rather than delete the extra pages forever, the kids worked together to write one story-- the sequel to the kitten's first adventures.

There were some surprising transitions (Page 7: The kitten is using a really strong gun to blow up a robot. Page 8: The kitten is resting in a beautiful flower garden at night.), and a little disagreement-- one wanted to write a story for boys, the other, for girls, but in the end, the story came together nicely as a tale for people of any age.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Family History

Some time back, I got the results of my family DNA test. It turns out that I'm 97% of British Isles descent with a dash of Northern Africa or Middle Eastern ethnicity thrown in. Regular readers will note the absence of any American Indian genes and may conclude that my friend long ago was correct. (Click here to refresh your memory or catch up with that saga.)

We spent the day today visiting with family and friends, and so I broke the news to my mother's sister, our Aunt Harriett. She laughed, but it must have been kind of a blow to her after spending her 76 years believing she was one-eighth Choctaw.

As we chatted around the table, Emily and Annabelle were drawing and making cool accordian-pleat books. They handed a blank one to Aunt Harriett.

"You can call it All My Indian Ancestors," her husband said.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Instead of Sheep

This morning, when I was browsing online, I happened to see Marilyn Monroe's turkey recipe. Written in pencil on a sheet from a City Title Insurance Company pad (telephone? GArfield1-8530), it was a fascinating window into a real person who happened to also be Marilyn Monroe.

In my family, one of our traditional dishes is an oyster casserole. It was always on the table at my Aunt Sis's house where we spent the holiday each year, and the story is that the recipe came from Rosemary Clooney, via a mutual friend. The other must have from those days is mashed yellow turnip. When I was a child, those were the things I hated most, but now I personally prepare them for our meal.

Earlier in the week, I heard someone say that Thanksgiving is a time when emotions are close to the surface. I couldn't fully agree, until she made the further point that it is a time when our traditions, while comforting, are also reminders of those who are no longer at the table.

There is a lovely essay by Michael Chabon in the November issue of Bon Apetite magazine in which he warns that the act of returning to the same table, to the same people and the same dishes--to the same traditions--can blind you to life's transience. It can lull you into believing that some things, at least, stay the same. And if that's what you believe, then what have you got to be grateful for? He advises us to be thankful not for what we have, but rather for what we have lost.

Today I am thankful for both.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Freshly Remembered

I got to spend some fun quality time today with my niece and nephews. Our conversations were typically wide-ranging and at one point involved watching the trailer for Iron Man 3 with my older nephews. One Marvel thing led to another, and as we were discussing Thor, I remembered that it had been directed by Kenneth Branaugh.

"That's Gilderoy Lockhart to you," I said, but then I thought back to when Branaugh was kind of a sensation after directing Henry V. "You might like that movie," I told my nephew Treat. "It was great. Hey! Let's watch the trailer."

I pulled it up on YouTube without any trouble, and then the voice over started. You know the one.

It was a time of courtier and kings...
It was the turning point for the English throne...
It was one of history's greatest adventures...

And so it went on. For a moment, I was sure it was a really funny parody, and I giggled, but as it turned out, it was just a cheesy trailer from 1989.

Not at all what I remembered, which is ironic given the pivotal speech of both play and movie.

This story shall the good man teach his son,
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered

Or not.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Assignments With Friends

I have a colleague who, to me, has always seemed a little obsessed with preventing kids from cheating on tests. She teaches math, though, and so I realize it's a much larger issue for her class-- it would be silly, and a little obvious, for my students to copy each other's writing. I guess I just assumed that their integrity extended beyond the walls and purview of English class.

Today, though, my lesson plan included a few puzzles and other fun activities for them to exercise their thinking and creativity on the day before Thanksgiving break. I have to admit that I was a little appalled at how many kids were peeking at their neighbors' work to get a little help in solving the challenges. It almost seemed like a time-honored strategy, but where's the fun in that?.

Here's a version of one of the puzzles I offered:

Directions: Add two squares to the drawing so that every turkey has its own pen.

(Thanks to this site for the image-- mine was in a word doc and just would not cooperate with this format.)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Up and Coming

One day, several years ago probably, I crossed the line from teacher to old teacher. Although I didn't even notice it, clearly the boundary has been breached. Oh, I remember how it was when I first started, building relationships with the veterans, asking for guidance, hoping for approval, but secretly looking at them kind of critically, too. What could they possibly know that I didn't? One thing they weren't? Friends.

But now, the tables have turned, the shoe's on the other foot, insert your own proverb here, and younger, less experienced teachers are everywhere. It's just another part of the job to negotiate a professional relationship with them, never mind a personal one.

This year, as a result of our expanding enrollment, we have gone from 2 teams to three, and so now we Dolphins share our space with the Sting Rays. Some of that team were on our team last year, but of course there are new folks, too, and one of them is the science teacher. She is young and brash, and the introvert in me has taken some time to warm to her.

Last weekend, on our trip to the beach, we found some fossilized ray teeth, and when word got back to my friends on the Ray team, they were curious about it. After a grade level meeting, I quickly filled them in, and as one thing led to another, we exchanged a little fun trash talk, something about dolphins this and rays that. I was laughing as I turned to leave, when the new girl gave me an ironic salute.

"Peace out, Flipper."

I kind of liked that.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dukkas and Don'tkas

There are basically three reasons to make some things from scratch: 1) it's cheaper, 2) you can't readily buy it, or 3) the way you can buy it isn't the way you like it.

This Sunday finds me tearing up the kitchen-- in addition to the sauerkraut I started a couple of weeks ago, I have a little kim chee going, some vegan pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins, and I'm also toasting the spices to make some dukka to go with our roasted cauliflower soup.

What's dukka, you ask? It's a delicious nut and spice mix from Egypt. You take a hunk of bread, dip it in olive oil, and then in the dukka. We love it around here, and here is the only place we can get it.


1/2 cup hazelnuts
6 tablespoons coriander seeds
3 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 cup salted roasted pistachios
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the hazelnuts in a pie plate and toast for 12 minutes, until fragrant and the skins blister. Transfer the hazelnuts to a kitchen towel and let cool. Rub the nuts together to remove the skins and transfer to a food processor.

In a medium skillet, toast the coriander and cumin seeds over moderate heat, shaking the pan, until golden and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Spread the spices out on a plate and let cool completely, then finely grind in a spice grinder. In the same skillet, toast the sesame seeds over moderate heat until golden, 2 to 3 minutes.

Transfer the sesame seeds to the plate to cool. Add the coriander, cumin, sesame seeds and thyme to the food processor along with the pistachios, cayenne and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper and pulse until finely ground. Transfer the dukka to a bowl.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Some Habits Die Hard

This morning I was facetiming with my mother. She's coming to town tomorrow for the holidays, so I wanted to get her flight info and wish her safe travels.  I was sitting in an easy chair by the window during the call, and rather than allow my face to be darkened by backlighting, I turned sideways so that my folded legs were against one arm and my back rested against the other. It wasn't the most comfortable of positions, so I was wiggling a bit to find a sweet spot as we chatted.

"Do you have to go to the bathroom?" my mother asked me.

(Full confession: As a kid, I was notorious for getting caught up in something and rather than pausing, I would just do a little dance until the moment was more convenient to visit the restroom. My family might say that I never outgrew that particular quirk. Whatever...)

"No!" I answered, and started to explain, but then I stopped and said, "Mom! I think now that I'm fifty you can stop asking me that question."

"No I can't," she replied. "You'll always be my little girl."

Friday, November 16, 2012

Bless My Heart

Tonight the way the November light drains slowly from the sky pleases me. The black, black silhouettes of phone poles, power lines, and lately bare trees against the yellow-washed horizon and the silver nail of the moon in the indigo dark above is almost too good.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Not So Super

My classes have been competing in "Super Sentence" tournaments the last couple days. The premise of the activity involves finding sentences we love, breaking down their components, and then composing our own sentences that somehow rise above the norm.

The competition itself is head to head brackets where the winner goes through to the next round. The judges are the other students in the class, with a reminder every round to vote for the sentence not the person, along with random debriefs where kids have to justify their votes based on our agreed upon menu of criteria. I never vote, unless it's a tie.

It's a fun and engaging activity for most. I do my best to keep the stakes low and to pad the disappointment of defeat by praising each sentence myself. Still, there are always bruised feelings, which I also try to turn into teachable moments about writing and audience.

Even so, today, I totally screwed up. In the last round of my last class, I mentioned that should the male student win, he would be the only boy champion of the tournament; all the other class winners were girls.

Was it any surprise then, when all the boys voted for him and all the girls voted for his rival? Of course it was a tie.

And since it was up to me? It remained so.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

You Dirty Rat

There's a pivotal scene in the latest Bond movie where the villain describes how his grandmother rid her island of rats. She lured them into a barrel, and then rather than killing or releasing them, she left them until inevitably they turned on each other.

Was anybody else at our department meeting today?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Different Stripe

I have a lot of striped shirts, mostly because I prefer to wear t-shirts and pants to school, and plain t-shirts sometimes seem a little more casual than what I'm going for. It might be hard to tell that I'm going for anything at all, and it probably should be, because I don't give my wardrobe a lot of thought.

Evidently, there are some who do, however. This year, for some reason, my students have been commenting on my clothes. They talk about my shoes and my tie-dyed socks, but more than anything, they want to know what's up with the striped shirts.

Shrugging it off only adds fuel to the fire, and I confess to becoming a little self-conscious about it-- one kid even put stripes on the fish that was supposed to be me on her team t-shirt design.

Lately, though, I've had a little luck in turning the tables. When someone asks why I wear so many stripes, I tell them it's because stripes are awesome. "Who's with me?" I ask, looking around, and I can always count on 3 or 4 others wearing stripes, too, to give a little shout out.

Today the whole thing took a turn. As I was getting the kids settled after lunch, one student came up and threw her arms over my shoulder, wagging her finger back and forth between our shirts. "Stripe club!" she said.

"Who's with us?" I added, and just like that, stripes were much cooler.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Call Me Skyfall

I saw the new James Bond movie today, and at the risk of seeming egocentric, it was clearly all about me. The franchise and I have something in common: this year is the 50th anniversary of our entrances into this vale of tribulation. As much as I'd like to think we both have aged nicely, thematically the movie addresses staying relevant in a changing world, a challenge that faces Bond, M, and MI-6 itself, with the central question for all of us being how to balance the benefits of experience with the inevitable ravages of time.

Perhaps Tennyson, as quoted by M, said it best:

We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Nothing Wrong with a Good Head Scratch

There are awkward moments in certain conversations when someone mentions an idea or a person or an event that is unknown to you. What to do? Do you interrupt the speaker and declare your deficit, or do you nod knowingly hoping you'll be able to make some sense of the reference in context?

This dilemma might be intensified when another person in the discussion admits to not knowing the particulars and so asks to be brought up to speed. In order not to be enlisted in the tutorial, you must avert your eyes, but not so much as to reveal your ignorance.

Or, so I've been told.

These days, I'm not too proud to admit it when I read or hear a word I'm unfamiliar with. Such was the case today when I read Maureen Dowd's op/ed piece in the NYTimes. The starting point of her essay was the throw-back nature of Mitt Romney's popularity among white guys of a certain age; Mad Men was used as an exemplar, but then Dowd noted that that particular TV show "seems too louche for a candidate who doesn’t drink or smoke and who apparently dated only one woman"

Louche? Cool word! And the best part is I know it now.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Chicken-headed Folk on Penny-farthings

When you pay to stay at other people's homes you are hostage to their taste for the duration of your rental. For the most part, the place we are staying this weekend has been beautiful at its best and inoffensive at its worst. That doesn't rule out bizarre, though. You decide where on the spectrum this particular piece of art falls.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Home Away from Home

We are spending the weekend with my brother's family in a vacation rental about an hour and a half outside of town. The house is incredible-- definitely one of the nicest places I've  ever stayed in my life. Surrounded on water on three sides, it has wide, heart of pine floors, tons of windows, 5 bedrooms,  several porches, a huge kitchen with 2 sinks and 2 dishwashers,  and plenty of other amenities that made the harrowing drive down rutted dirt roads through pitch dark farm fields totally worth it.

Over the years we have rented a lot of vacation homes.. That sort of accommodation just fits our needs better than a hotel ever could. Plus it's fun to imagine what your life might be should you actually have a home in this location. Predictably, there has been much variation in the quality of the places we have stayed

I know the boys will never forget the place where palmetto bugs and centipedes shared their room. Then there was the gorgeous house in the middle of the woods-- once inside it was all hard wood and vaulted ceilings, but you had to get past the mosquitoes to enjoy it. Another time we stayed in a place in the California canyons that hadn't been touched since the 70s. It still had the original shag carpeting, velour furniture, and mirrored walls which Treat crashed into at full force. ( To be fair, it also had a fun little pool, a hifi stereo, a nifty LP collection,  and a pool table.)

There have also been lovely things like the adirondack chairs and ceiling fans on a certain porch in Maine, the crooked wooden floors in the upstairs of the same hundred year old fisherman's home.. I particularly liked the bread maker in one place we stayed, and you can never say enough about an ocean view and beach access. In other homes there have been fabulous kitchens, huge tables we could all fit around, bright sunrooms with comfy couches, and big living rooms with giant TVs and fireplaces.

In the end, it really doesn't matter as long as it's big enough for all of us to stay together.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

No NaNoWriMo fo Me

I just got an encouraging email from the sponsors of NaNoWriMo. might have finally started to come down from the creative high of week one. If you're feet have nearly touched the ground now, it's possible you've started to panic (even if this isn't your first year, you might have started to panic by now). There are all sorts of panic. Why am I doing this? Where do I go from here?

I appreciate their sympathy, not because I'm trying to write a 50,000 word novel this month, but rather because these days panic is pretty much the professional status quo in my neck of the woods. NoWri is unfathomable at the moment.

Even so, the contact was doubly valuable to me because today was the day when our writing club met. Believe it or not, 14 kids spent an hour after school writing and reading each others' work just for the fun of it. Amazing! Those kids regularly refresh me with their creativity and talent. Words and ideas flow from them like water from a spring. At one point, they were talking about using online document sharing to help a student who wasn't even there (she has a weekly conflict until December) work through being stuck in her novel's plot, and before they left, they tried to convince us to let them meet twice a week.

I wish I had the time to do that.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


The election is over,
and the world awaits.
Hasn't it always been there?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Catching Dreams

Twelve years ago tomorrow we sat in Bill and Emily's living room watching election results. It was Heidi's birthday, and we were there to celebrate. Vic and Judy were there, too, and Treat was 5, and Riley was 8, and the next day my sixth graders were making dream catchers, so the boys and I sat on the floor measuring yarn and counting out beads and pipe cleaners and feathers and zipping it all into plastic baggies.

At some point, I made a model of the project with a red, white, and blue color scheme and as a finishing touch, we peeled off our I Voted stickers and fixed them to the middle of the net. The evening wore on and as no clear winner emerged, first the boys went to bed, and then Vic and Judy headed home, and then we thanked everyone and went home, too.

Who could have imagined that the election would not be decided for 28 more days? Back then, that seemed like an eternity, day after day fraught with drama, but now, so much has happened in the time since, that it's hard to remember the angst of it all. Even so, tonight we'll sit down to watch this election's returns, with fingers crossed that there will be much less contention coming our way.

Today, before I left my classroom, I took a long look at that dream catcher. It hasn't aged a bit; the colors remain steadfast and the message is clear.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Light Bulb

Today was the last day of the quarter and I required my students to turn in all their work on the three poems I assigned a couple of weeks ago. Many were not finished, despite a clear deadline, but there were several mitigating factors, among them a storm called Sandy and a storm called middle school.

It's easy for those who are not familiar to shrug off what a major transition it is from elementary school to our developmentally crucial place at the focal point of education. Primarily, we are trying to ease kids from reactive to proactive agents in their own lives, and inevitably there will be stumbles.

I think that explains the freak outs and shut downs I tried to counsel my classes through today. Student after student came forward with anxious expression. "Is this good?" they asked, thrusting their writing at me.

"What do you think?" was my reply.

And at the end of each class, most kids proudly turned in work that represented a lot of writing, and perhaps more importantly, a lot of thinking.

Even so, not everyone was satisfied, and I completely understood why. Tonight when I got home I enthusiastically opened the Home Depot bag that I had prominently set on the dining room table. One of our lamps in the living room shorted out on Saturday, and as annoying as that was, I knew just how to fix it. Last night I got the parts, and today I was eager to get the job done. In under 10 minutes, I was turning the switch and illuminating the room.

If only every job could be like that one. Right kids?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Wisdom of Crowds, Part 2

Oh the polls! At this stage of the presidential election there are so many new polls every single day that it's hard to consider any of them that valuable, never mind that the race is so close that the predictions are always conflicting. Most of the time, I'm with Abbie.

Sure, if you care, you can try to generalize across survey results; my preferred tools are this Wall Street Journal site and this New York Times site (you should try them, they're kind of fun really).

Even so, at last today I heard of a measure that might actually be useful. The people in this particular national sample were asked not who they would vote for, but rather who they thought was going to win. President Obama was favored by a margin of 54 to 34 percent, with the others unable or unwilling to hazard a guess.

If you ask me? I think they're on to something. (Especially after this post.)

But only Tuesday will tell.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Today may very well have held a defining moment in my social media life. For the first time, I unfriended someone. She was a high school classmate who lately has rounded some sort of bend and entered into a place where it seems reasonable to post rambling rants about creator and country. These screeds are too appalling to ignore and so unhinged that I cannot even agree to disagree with her. I'd post an example, but I can't, and for that I'm glad.

Friday, November 2, 2012


Part of most teachers' responsibilities is administering standardized tests. In the interest of full disclosure, I must now confess that as a student I looked forward to standardized tests. To me, they were like a day full of puzzles and trivia, and I flew through them gleefully. I liked everything about them, especially the ritual-- the interruption of our daily schedule, the number two pencils, the careful bubbling, the odd minutes assigned for each subtest, the incantation of the proctor reading the directions.

Imagine my thrill, then, the first time it was my voice chanting those magical words, Read the directions to yourself as I read them aloud...

Well, over the years, despite my love of being the sage on the stage, my attitude toward standardized testing has evolved. Interrupting the daily schedule, my students' learning time, no longer seems like such a great idea. I have also learned that not all people are like me, and these assessments are no fun for them. In addition, as an educated educator, I question not only the value of the data we are collecting, but at times, the questions we are asking. (But that's above my pay grade.)

Just today, I was reading the sample question and answers on a language test to a group of very capable students. The task was to look at a sentence and evaluate the sentence structure. Swimming in the river and quacking were the ducks, was the original passage. Odd phrasing, true, but kind of interesting. Then I recited the other options, one of which was, The ducks they were swimming, and in the river they quacked.

My students laughed, but one raised her hand and said, "I kind of like that one."

And I knew just what she meant. It was unusual, but evocative, and technically not incorrect. (For the record, the example was grammatically sound as well.) The rules of standardized test proctoring are clear, however, and I knew how I must respond, despite any collateral damage to my credibility as a writing teacher who encourages creativity.

"Read the question and do the best you can," I said.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


I love all the warm and fuzzy positive stuff on facebook. Sometimes I even want to repost or share, but I refrain out of respect for my friends. I trust that they will find their own affirmations. Still, it's tempting. Just tonight I was nearly convinced that I should share this:

We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness.

We are monkeys with money and guns.”
-Tom Waits

I felt it was a bit complimentary to my last post. Then I read this:

Don't let negative and toxic people rent a space in your head. Raise the rent and kick them out!
-Robert Tew

It seemed kind of relevant to work lately. But then I read this one:

When we dwell on our troubles, in our minds they grow worse than they actually are.
If we magnified blessings as much as we magnify disappointments, we would all be much happier.

And I thought, yes, yes!

But then I tried to fix the dishwasher with the part I ordered and found that it didn't fit, and after 30 minutes of trying to find a work around without success, none of that stuff seemed relevant anymore.

Never mind the money and guns, where are those monkeys with wrenches when you need them? Wine and dominoes anyone?