I had some dreams ... they were klowns in my koffee.

(With apologies to Carly Simon)

This is my journey through job transition from a toxic environment to a better life. Join me for a few thoughts and a few laughs along the way.
What are "klowns in my koffee"? They are the factors large and small that make you less than you are. A "klown" can be a grossly incompetent boss,
a short-sighted policy or a moronic coworker. They won't kill you, at least not immediately, but they abrade the soul
as you scrape past them to get through the day. Sometimes it's best to dump them out of the cup.


Day 264 - Teachers' Gifts on A Budget

Daily Kup (My Life in Dreams)
I had a strange dream last night. I often dream of a house where we lived when I was a child. It was an old farmhouse, a portion of which had been built before the Civil War. It creaked and groaned and was an uncomfortable place to be alone. I would often have the disquieting feeling of being watched when no other living person was there.

Later, as an adult and more than 1000 miles away, I would dream of the house dragging me against my will up the stairway or down to a dark corner of the basement. In the dreams, I never find out what lies in wait for me because I wake quaking before reaching the end.

My family sold the property to a man who boarded it up and let it stay vacant for twenty years. During that time, it was vandalized repeatedly. I drove by on a visit to see the front door broken in and gaping like a black mouth. I stayed in the car.

My family, still feeling a sense of ownership for the property that was no longer theirs, would occasionally slip into the house to retrieve a vintage light fixture or other item from the increasingly stripped and damaged residence on the theory that the whole place likely would be torched shortly anyway. My brother said that the interior walls had Satanic graffiti. I went there myself once through the overgrowth with a shovel to dig up the rose bush that my father had given my mother for their first anniversary. The city eventually bulldozed the whole thing into the cellar when the floors started to collapse.

But, in my dreams, it's always there.

I've been working on lucid dreaming, the type of dream where you realize that you are having a dream at the time. These dreams are frankly a whole lot of fun, though I've probably wasted the potential in sophomoric dream-time pursuits like telling off obnoxious people or flying by flapping my arms. The whole key seems to be to try to do the opposite of what you usually do in the dream until you establish control. Fear is the last to come under control.

In last night's dream, I bound through the front door of the house and up the stairway. It's dark because the windows are boarded but somehow I'm still able to see. Horrible, guttural screams emanate from the bedrooms. I yell, "What's going on up there?" I stride toward the room where most of the noise is coming from and fling open the door. There is a young man lying on the bed and he is very ill. Somehow, I'm not surprised by this and set about evaluating his condition and getting him blankets and water. More unearthly sounds come from the room that was my grandmother's bedroom and later my room. Again, I walk directly there and demand to know what is happening. Two very pregnant young women are in labor. I knock the plywood off the windows to let in the light and start to get supplies to help them delivery their babies just like I know what I am doing.

When I woke up, I had a sense of "Well, that takes care of that." And I think it just might.

A-Plus for Frugal but Friendly
We don't have a lot of extra resources for gifts for each of the kids' teachers. Attila the Son, in particular, has a small and dedicated army of intervention people who see him for an hour or so a week each. A gift card for each one of them would be the fiscal equivalent of getting a root canal, but without the novocaine.

Teachers get a lot of kitschy "teacher stuff" -- which must be fun when you start your career and tedious when you look out over apple tokens of every size fifteen years later. Right up front, I'll acknowledge that people get and give too many coffee cups, seasonal guest towels, and stuffed animals wearing message T-shirts.

And I'm going to contribute to that since it's hard to get frugal vessels to contain good wishes for a bunch of people whom you barely know.

Ah, the ubiquitous coffee cup. Can be useful. Can be clutter. Wonderful and actually beautiful coffee cups show up brand new with their $6 original price tags intact at thrift stores for 50 cents. This fact alone points to the clutter conclusion but I'm not going to dwell on logic.

In a splurge of handmade optimism, I've been rounding up unique (to me, at least) coffee mugs for the past several months. With my little battalion of individually selected mugs looking all shiny and new, we whipped up a batch of rich and chocolaty cocoa mix.

Rich Instant Cocoa with Marshmallows and Chocolate Chips

3 cups instant nonfat dry milk powder
2-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 cup powdered nondairy creamer
1 cup (or more!) mini marshmallows
1/2 cup (or more!) mini semisweet chocolate chips

Mix the dry milk, confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder and nondairy creamer in a large bowl. Scoop 1 cup each into 6 plastic bags and top with marshmallows and chocolate chips.

Seal bags and attach directions: Blend 1/3 cup cocoa mix and 3/4 cup boiling water together until chocolate chips begin to melt.

Some people make 1/3 cup (one serving) bags but this didn't seem nearly enough. With the air pressed out, sandwich bags of cocoa mix roll nicely and fit into the coffee cup. Cover with colored plastic wrap and a nice tag for a yummy and considerate gift.

The total cost is about $1.04 per gift, including children eating additional marshmallows and chocolate chips.

And when the cups are donating back to the thrift store, you can buy them for 50 cents and start all over again.

Premature New Year's Resolution
FedEx and UPS trucks drive up and down my cul-de-sac at least four times a day. In the future, I resolve not to sing "The Wells Fargo Wagon" from "The Music Man" while waiting to see if it stops in front of my house.

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