Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Best. Compliment. Ever.

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I wasn't planning to write a blog post tonight.  I was sitting at the computer, playing around a little before class starts and doing that thing where you search for your name on the Internet just to see what pops up.

Which is a little depressing with my married name because the first site that came up was NOT my blog but some drugged out felon's youtube page called "My Life After Lockup."

Then I decided to search Twitter for my maiden name and found it linked to this site that rates teachers...and I almost didn't look because it is much more common to go online and complain about things than go online and say positive things.  And let's be honest, it's been a rough semester this spring...

But I did look.  And this is the post:

Ms. Haugh had a great influence on me without even knowing it. I had her as my English III teacher both semesters of my Junior year. Straight away I discovered that there was not going to be a corner to cut with her, which is why I received a well deserved C-grade my first semester. The first day of my second semester, I told her I was going to be a different student. The crazy part was, she believed what I said, and believed in me. This is when I realized the difference between "getting an A" and "earning an A."                                

Best. Compliment. Ever.

I'm not sure who wrote this; I doubt the author will ever see my response since I've married and moved hundreds of miles away...but if he or she does see it, know this: you made me cry tonight-in a good way.

Thank you.

And for the rest of you who ARE reading this post--if you had a teacher who helped you, who changed you, who gave you the tiniest bit of a different, better perspective in this crazy world, please tell them.  Even if you were in high school twenty or thirty years ago, reach out.  Let them know.  It's a hard job and one thing that makes it all worthwhile is knowing you made a difference.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bad Decisions and Big Hair

It's Finish The Sentence Friday again everyone, the brain child of Janine Huldie,   Another Bottle of Whine, Dawn's Disaster, Mommy For Real  This week's sentence is "I thought I was so cool when I..."
So, here goes...I thought I was so cool when I decided to get a perm and really go after that "big hair" look.
And if you have never seen my hair, you are probably thinking that this is no big deal, because back in the 80’s and early 90’s everyone permed their hair.

But let me give you a visual , to give you a little perspective.  This is my hair now, without a perm, without trying to make it big, with just the curls that God gave me:
And to really drive it home, take a look at me back then, BEFORE THE PERM, after blowing my hair dry upside down, teasing it, spraying it etc.
The last thing I needed in that mop top was MORE body. 
It is interesting to note that I couldn't find any post-perm pictures...probably because my post-perm hair was too big to fit into a picture....in fact, my post perm hair was too big to fit into most doors.
Believe it or not, it got worse.
Because in addition to deciding that my hair wasn't curly enough, I also decided that it wasn't dark enough.  Take another look at that picture.  That's my hair pre-color--the shade I thought WASN'T DARK ENOUGH.
So I went to the salon, got a perm and then a few days later went backand had it dyed it a shade that was supposed to be "chocolate" but is best described as "midnight-in-the-middle-of-a-black-hole."
It was NOT attractive. 

And even though I was super cool, and all "I know I look good" I still could hear a tiny little voice in my head suggesting that perhaps it was a touch, shall we say, dramatic against my fair Irish skin.  A voice that got louder when I saw the horrified look on my mom's face.
"I think it's a little dark," I said.  "The beautician told me not to wash it for a couple of days, so the color will set.  I think I'll go ahead and wash it tomorrow."
"Honey," my mom said gently, "wash it NOW."
Pretty sure I thought I was cool...but my mom was actually the cool one.
To read about all the other cool kids this week, please click on the link below:
Finish the Sentence Friday

The Truth Was Out There--Roswell Summer Vacation!

When I think of summer vacation, I can’t help but think about the annual vacation I take with my friend, Eric. We’ve gone every summer for the past 12 years now—yes, even after I got married.

Largely because Opie has NO DESIRE to go any of the places we’ve gone.  I tell him where we've decided to go, he stares at me for a long moment in horrified silence then says "Have a good time."

See, Eric and my goal is to go to the wackiest places possible, places no on in their right mind would visit. Which is why we’ve been to  The Lizzie Borden Axe Murder House,  The Waverly Hills Sanotarium, The Villisca Iowa Axe Murder House  (sort of an axe murder theme there for awhile), The Superman Convention in Metropolis, Illinois, Psychic Boot Camp, and  Snake World (which was basically a TRAILER in Arkansas that housed the largest private collection of venomous snakes in North America) and so on…

Let me tell you, it’s been HILARIOUS.

One of the best trips was to Roswell, NM for the annual national UFO convention. It was actually 3 conventions in one as there are 3 different groups who put on rival conventions all over town. Roswell, for those of you who don’t know, is the place where a UFO supposedly crashed in 1947. The army first released a statement saying it was, in fact, a flying saucer. Later they retracted that statement and said it was a weather balloon. It is now the Mecca of UFO researchers. We thought it would be fun to go someplace where we are the most normal people around. Most of the people, however, were deceptively ordinary--until, of course, they started discussing their abduction experiences, government conspiracies, and the malevolent alien plot of world domination.

In any case, we began our journey on Wednesday. We actually thought we were off to a good start because we began a mere 40 minutes late…this is over an hour better than our previous vacation record! Unfortunately this fabulous start time was slightly marred by our nearly immediate stop and 10 minute search for the trip journal to record the fabulous start time.

The euphoria was muted even more when, after driving several hours, I realized that Eric’s route was taking us 2-3 hours out of our way. “This is better,” he assured me. “More scenic…more historic…it’s the actual Santa Fe Trail!”

My reply was so obscene that I don’t actually feel comfortable sharing it here. But this is the reason why the rest of our conversations that day went a little something like this:

Me: Remember when we were young and wild and you didn’t care about open liquor laws? And I’d sit here in the passenger seat, sipping vodka and telling funny stories to pass the time? Those were the good old days…good for both of us…

Eric: That never happened. I always made you put the vodka in the trunk and take your turn driving.

A little later:

Me: Since you picked this horrible route you should at least let me drink in the car.

Eric: Remember last year when you got us lost looking for that weird animal sanctuary? And you refused to turn around because of those stupid dogs that ran out at the car when we first pulled off the highway? I didn’t hear you offering to let me drink.

And then an hour or so after that:

Me: Remember when we used to make the deal that whenever we put the top down I’d let you strip down to your Speedos and get some sun as long as you let me sit in the passenger seat and quietly partake in refreshing vodka beverages?

Eric: That never happened either. I wanted to wear Speedos in the car exactly ONE TIME—when I was twenty-six and in great shape. But you threw a fit, even though you rode the whole trip in a bikini top the size of a postage stamp and Daisy Duke shorts. And you still didn’t drink and you still took your turn driving.

Me: We could make that deal now.

Eric: I don’t own Speedos NOW. I haven’t had a pair in ten or fifteen years.

Me: You could wear your underwear. Unless you’ve got on some tiny little bikini briefs of a thong or something horrible like that. Then the deal’s off. Eric:

The deal’s off anyway because you aren’t drinking and you are taking your turn driving.

This just goes to show you that, as much as I love him, Eric can be a completely unreasonable traveling companion.

And he might wear creepy underwear.

Even when I was nearly incapacitated by injury—we got out of the car to take pictures at the exact midpoint of the United States and I stepped on a cocklebur with my bare foot—he refused to admit that two or three shots of vodka would have a medicinal effect.

“You’re driving now,” he insisted.

Which is when I silently vowed that if we ran into any real life aliens in Roswell, I was going to turn him over to them for any number of probes and experiments.

That should teach him.

In any case, we finally arrived in Roswell around 5:30 on Thursday. Unfortunately, the address that the online reservation service gave me was wrong so we went into the wrong hotel, went up to the wrong front desk and demanded imaginary reservations. Then—sure that I was right and assuming that our room had been given to some other conference attendee with fistfuls of cash—I engaged in a loud, heated discussion with the clerk, insisting that I had booked a room days earlier. I even triumphantly waved my confirmation email in his face.

Which is when the clerk snatched the paper from my hand, pointed at the name of the hotel emblazoned across the top and said “That’s not us.”

I’m not going to lie, that was a little embarrassing.

But the conference itself was great! My only suggestion for the organizers is that they should find some way to let participants know which presentations are best experienced under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs…for example, we went to one so called laser light show that seemed to impress most of the audience but I’m pretty sure I could have done with 2 flashlights and some colored cellophane.

But I was astounded to learn that the truth about aliens has not been discovered because of a conspiracy between both the government and organized religion. Apparently, the government doesn’t think we can handle the truth and organized religions don’t want to admit that aliens caused evolution by interfering with our genetic structure millions of years ago. It is now clear that I will not only soon be interrogated by the FBI, the CIA and other nefarious secret government organizations but I will also, no doubt, be excommunicated.

But I’m getting ahead of myself again…

The first thing we did Friday morning was try to find the actual crash site. It is about 35 miles outside of town and the road is only marked by this raggedy old sign. We got out of the car, took a few pictures, and this other group of people told us that no one is allowed to go to the actual site anymore.

“All part of the government conspiracy,” I said.

Two of them nodded along with me but one woman shook her head and said, “No, I think it’s just private property now.”

“Allegedly,” I said.

And the other two nodded even more emphatically.

But you know what?

They were cowards.

They weren’t interested in what some people call “trespassing” but Eric and I call “exploring.” So we had to wait for them to leave before we could go ahead with our own search. And, according to the different signs posted, it was actually private property…and yes, it was the middle of the desert where it was so hot I thought I might actually burst into flame…and admittedly we spent over an hour driving up and down unmarked gravel roads avoiding cows and sheep and various other livestock but we did find a gated off area and managed to wander around a bit until we were pretty sure we could identify the area in question (though, to be honest, we’re not exactly map-reading, navigational geniuses so it’s possible that we were wrong).

Then, when we got back to the UFO museum, we saw a sign that informed us one of the reasons that the crash site is off limits is because of the “excessive danger of TARANTULAS and RATTLESNAKES.”

“The question is,” I told Eric, “did the government MAKE UP the tarantulas and rattlesnakes or did they PLANT THEM THERE to further the cover up?”

“We’ll probably never know,” Eric said.

And we felt suitably paranoid and suspicious enough to spend the rest of the day getting freaked out by people giving convincing and somewhat alarming accounts of what really happened 60 years ago in Roswell…did you know that Jerry Marcel, the army guy who was instrumental in the alien cover up, came forward years later and basically said the government was lying, he believed that a UFO had crashed?


Later we went out to a presentation at the Roswell fair grounds and it is interesting to note that slamming vodka and Sprite in 105 degree heat can occasionally induce feelings of nausea…this feeling is not noticeably improved by a 20 minute viewing of wobbly home videos of a supposed UFO.

Was it a UFO? I have no clue, I thought it looked by a big black dot.

However, I turned my attention to the presenter and—since this was back in my younger, single days-- was mildly amused to feel a sort of “He’s a long-haired UFO chaser but what a great smile” type of attraction (it is possible that this was due to the vodka as well).

Then, sadly, he spoke. “I saw me the UFO” he said. “So I went and got me muh videah camra.”

Then he revealed that this is what he does for a living; he sits around his house all day drinking beer, smoking dope (I’m speculating on this last bit) and pointing his “videah camra” at the sky for hours a at time.

I need this guy’s life.

After dinner things were a little disappointing. We went to a presentation called “The Great UFO Mystery” and the biggest mystery was “When are you actually going to stop talking about astronomy and talk about UFOs?” Eric and I tried to lighten the mood with a few jokes and witty repartee during the presentation but considering the woman right next to us actually got up and MOVED TO ANOTHER SEAT, I think it’s possible that everyone did not appreciate our humor.

Next we drove out to fairgrounds for a fireworks display …which would have been a lot cooler if the fireworks display had actually been scheduled for the fairgrounds and not behind the planetarium on the other side of town.

In any case, the last day more than made up for any disappointment. We met “The Alien Hunter” who makes his living investigating claims of alien abduction and perused his collection of alien implants. Strange as this may sound, this guy was actually NOT a loon. He was articulate, educated, and explained to us the scientific methods he uses to investigate these claims.

Honestly, he freaked me out.

On the other hand, there were plenty of loons. For example the guy who said he got involved in UFO studies after a “strange being” entered his bedroom and touched him (like he‘s the only person in the world to be creeped out by some stranger in his bedroom!). Or the woman who was forced to run around her bedroom over and over again. Or the guy who was abducted continually for about 10 years until he found Christ and then he quit his job and moved to Roswell to start The Alien Resistance Organization in order to get the word out. He was even handing out stickers that had an alien head inside a circle with a line through it (like a no smoking sign).

You can’t buy fun like that, not in any store.

I had, of course, come up with an alien abduction story of our own but the only place where people were invited to share their stories was at the Biblical Studies of UFOs. Considering that one of their books blamed homosexuality on aliens and further considering I was already getting dirty looks for daring to wear a tank top to the presentation, I didn’t think we should tempt fate any further. So we left, drove all night to get home and considered giving up our careers as teachers and becoming UFO researchers…just as soon as we get an appropriate videah camra.

                      Roswell @2003

For other summer vacation stories, check out the bloggers at the link below:

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Underwear Should Not Be Optional

It's Theme Thursday everybody--and the first Theme Thursday I've been able to participate in for awhile because of the whole "three jobs" issue. In any case, Theme Thursday is sponsored by Jenn at Something Clever 2.0   and features a group of my favorite bloggers who all write on the same theme. This week's theme is advice. And since I've already used my best dating advice here, I thought I'd do another blast from the past.

As most of you know, I used to teach high school in St. Louis. And when I was there, I somehow ended up in charge of the "at-risk" kids from the inner city. In all honesty, it was the toughest job of my life--and the most rewarding. But, I jumped into it without knowing all the details. Like the fact that being in charge of this group also somehow put me in charge of the annual talent show.

Yes, I agree, the connection between troubled students and talent shows seems tenuous and odd. Which is why my advice is: If you are asked to sponsor the annual high school talent show--whether you're working with at-risk kids or not at-risk kids, basically if there are kids involved--RUN in the opposite direction, shrieking NO!!!!! at the top of your lungs.
Because it’s Hell.


In fact, I’m somewhat convinced it’s worse than Hell. So, if ever you find yourself standing before the judgment throne of the Lord God Almighty and He gives you a choice between the fiery pits of Hell and sponsoring the Talent Show, CHOOSE HELL!!!!!!

Trust me, it will be a lot less painful.
Here’s a look at the show the year before I moved to Okahoma:

The day started with a little activity I like to call “censorship.” This is when I review all the music that we’re using in the show and make sure it’s school appropriate. You see, when you are in charge of an event that is largely run by at risk teens, the administration seems to worry that there will be song lyrics that are a touch vulgar and/or sexual in nature.

It is interesting to note that this same concern was obviously not expressed that same year at the Winter Sports Pep Rally when the basketball team boogied out to center court to “She Does It Like A Nympho.” Oddly, my inquiries to the principals about this discrepancy were never answered.

But I digress!
Anyway, first thing in the morning, I headed to the theater to review the lyrics...which means some of you are wondering why I would wait to the last minute to begin such an activity.

You, clearly, have never sponsored a talent show.
The thing is teenagers can be crafty.  Sometimes the songs that kids try out to and the songs they bring to dress rehearsal are not always the songs that make it to the theater on the day of the show. So, I reviewed them several times throughout the whole talent show process.

So, I listened to the music while a couple of girls from my group put up last minute decorations. Unfortunately, I was interrupted by the sight of 3 students from my first hour class who were meandering through the theater to see what was going on.
“You guys are supposed to be in class!” I told them.

“Don’t worry,” they assured me. “We have a sub.”
Which is when I screamed “You’re supposed to be in MY CLASS!”

“We have a SUB,” they said, like I didn’t hear them the first time.

Which, oddly, I already knew since I ordered the sub so I could ORGANIZE THE TALENT SHOW.
And I was just about done screaming horrible threats at them when another group of kids from the group wandered in. These little pumpkins weren’t actually supposed to be in MY class, but they were supposed to be IN CLASS so I cheerfully added them to the rant, waving my hands in the air, making ridiculous threats, and barring them from my sight for the rest of the day.

Then I grabbed one of my girls, this enormous and incredibly tough chick I’ll call Kiki and put her in charge of the door. “Do not let another kid in here,” I told her. “And if anyone shows up, tell them to GO BACK TO CLASS!”
Kiki took to this responsibility with the dedication of one of those guards at Buckingham Palace, marching back and forth in front of the door, and shooting angry glares at anyone in a six feet radius. As I was off to the side, listening to the song lyrics, I could hear Kiki in the background, yelling threats that were much more inappropriate than mine and telling various people to “Gitcher ass bacta class.”

I probably should have stopped her but you know what?
It made me happy.

Right until the horrible moment when this incredibly young looking student teacher tried to get into the theater to ask me a question.
Apparently her education classes had not prepared her for an encounter with Kiki.

Nor had they prepared her for my giggling reaction to the whole mess…I think she wanted me to expel Kiki on the spot or at the very least send her to In School Suspension but I couldn’t stop laughing.

I mean, I made Kiki apologize and I apologized and I even took responsibility for the entire misunderstanding.
But I was laughing so hard I could hardly get the words out.

Stress. It’s a weird thing.
In any case, in spite of the fact that I was pretty sure I’d be getting an angry call from this girl’s mentoring teacher and maybe even her mom, I couldn’t reflect on her angst for long because it was 30 minutes to show time and I had to confront 2 of my little darlings about their last minute song switches.

“Destiny,” I said, cornering one of the performers. “This isn’t the song you brought to dress rehearsal.”
“I changed it,” she agreed.

“Change it back,” I said. “Because there is no chance you’re getting on stage and dancing to a song called I GET IT IN.”

“Come on,” she said in that you’re such an idiot tone that only high school girls can do really well, “It’s not dirty, it’s about dancing in a club.”
“I listened to it,” I responded in that don’t screw with me tone that teachers need to do really well. “And it’s about what some nasty people think about doing after they leave the club.”

But I am not an unreasonable woman. I told her that if she could actually explain to me what the word “it” referred to in a way that didn’t make me want to shower, she could dance her little heart out.
She decided to change the song back.

And you know what?
That wasn’t the most disturbing song conversation of the whole day. The most disturbing conversation involved a song called “Stanky Leg.” I think the fact that the song is performed by a group called the G SPOT BOYS should have been enough to convince the kids that it wasn’t, perhaps, school appropriate but teenagers are not always deep thinkers. Instead we had to go into a long horrifying discussion about what a “stanky leg” actually is.

For those of you who don’t know (and I hope that’s MOST of you) let me just say it involves women who have a lot of sex.
And if you think that’s revolting, imagine discussing that fact with a 17 year old boy.

Yep, I loved that job.
Anyway, once we got the show underway, things were a little smoother…right until the formerly Stanky Leg dancers got on stage and I realized I made one of the classic blunders: I didn’t check their costume from all angles.

I also checked all costumes before the show… a lesson I learned during dress rehearsal when one group of guys ran onto the stage in short lycra running tights, no shirts, and open leather jackets. But I didn’t check the outfits from all angles...or with all moves being performed.
Which means that about three steps into the routine, the audience and I all got a nice long view of butt crack.

Note to self: If I ever sponsor a Talent Show again, underwear will NOT be optional.
However, before I end, I do want to share a really uplifting moment from the show.

We had this one little singer who tried out and was quite good…but he was nervous about performing. A situation heightened by the fact that he’s special and tends to have a little trouble reacting to things in an appropriate fashion.
So he got on stage, started to sing, and totally forgot the words to his song. It was awful…he got all teary-eyed and flustered, until about 5 of my girls started singing the song, to get him back on track…and they sang it with him the rest of his performance.

I’m not going to lie, it choked me up a little.
When he came off stage, he was still upset and was worried that people were laughing at him and Kiki hugged him and said “Who cares? You made the show, the rest of these people were too scared or lame to even try out!”

It was so spontaneously sweet and kind that I wasn’t even that upset when she followed that with “So tell those a**holes to shut the f*** up!”
Although I do wish she hadn’t been so close to the microphone.

For other advice, check out the other Theme Thursday posts by clicking the link below:
For other advice, check out the other Theme Thursday posts by clicking the link: