Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I Whine, Therefore I Am

What do you get when you mix a 27 year old teacher with a big ol' bucket-o-adolescents? What is, a woman who doesn't feel 27!

I'm tired, kids. Tired. And my inner most self wants to check blogs and possibly post her own blog post--in fact my brain has been cooking this perfect blog post for a couple of weeks. I miss my blogging friends. I glanced at a few of you here and there, but I don't have the brain power to post a comment...not a comment, you'd want, anyway (oh, now I know somebody out there is saying "any comment is a good comment" but I don't know if this would hold true of my current commenting capacity). But, alas, by this time of night my brain is zapped like a bug in a blue light and my bed is singing her gentle siren song.

Today was The First Day. There are so many names to learn. I can't pronounce all of them correctly. The grading...it is back...already, there is grading. My classroom is 3,987 degrees. My feet hurt, oh how they hurt. I sort of miss my old students. I really miss The Summer.

I promise in a couple of weeks my life will mellow out (I have to make and keep this promise or it will never happen). I will return to the blogging world a new woman. Just give me some breathing room.

And one other word of advice.

Don't let movies like this:

or this:

or this:

convince you that surely teaching is a perfectly rewarding career. Because most days, people won't call you "O Captain, My Captain." Or stand on desks for you. Or hoist you above their heads and carry you in celebration of their educational victories. Or sing "For She's the Jolly Good Fellow" in your honor.

Nope. Not even close. Most days you feel more like this:

And then, to make matters worse, one of them will inevitably raise their hand (Finally!, you'll think, Someone wants to participate in our class discussion! you'll think)
and, without skipping a single beat, this individual will ask you if they can go to the bathroom.

I'm done. Amen.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Farewell, Summer

aka Freedom, aka Sleep.

As of yesterday my dreaded school days have returned. My thoughts on this: I forgot how tiring (read: overwhelming) this all can be. Let us pray that, amidst the many scheduled meetings I am to participate in/attend this week, somewhere from the stars above a large quantity of time will reveal itself thereby allowing me the ability to prepare for the students' arrival next Tuesday. You, instead of harboring secret thoughts about the upcoming school year this summer, I savored my time to live my life and "waste" time on completely relaxing endeavors. In other words, when it comes to my well-laid teaching plans for this year...I got nuttin'.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

This Might Just Be Too Much Information for You

No, seriously. It really might be. Stop reading now. I'm serious.

I could not resist. This is just too funny/shameful (because if I'm not being self-depricating then what will I do for a laugh?) to NOT post about...even when my 7 am wake-up call is only a few short hours away.

This, below, what you are about to see...this is what happens when your already crappy dryer completely craps the bed. Forever and ever. Dead and gone. And because you have no dryer, you haven't bothered with doing much laundry in a while other than the necessities you can get away with hanging dry.

Yes, that is all underwear. All nicely sprawled for drying on my living floor (and all over the chair, and along the couch). Alice and I both came to recognize a daunting reality this week: each of us were down to the bare minimum panty stash (the crappy, snagged ones you save for that certain season of the month, the too-large grandma panties, the maybe they'll fit me after 20 pounds tight little suckers). And we hadn't made time for the laundromat or for a visit to either of our parents' houses for this purpose. So, with a washer working, we figured we would have to make do because it was to "Maybe I'll just go footloose and fancy free today" dire. The sad part...this isn't all of them.

I don't think I'll be able to engage in this type of behavior after I go through the temple next month (I don't think I mentioned this here--well, now you know--I'm going through the temple next month and am very excited about this decision!)...at least not until I build up this kind of supply of garments.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Yet Another Social Faux Pas

I say things I shouldn't say sometimes (okay, more often than sometimes but maybe not quite all the time...wait, how would you define "all the time"?). And then I feel badly about these slips of the tongue later. It isn't like I open my mouth intending to be rude. I just speak before thinking. I usually feel badly about these comments immediately after they escape my lips. I mean, these things could be interpreted as rude (yeah...probably because they are rude). Like, "I used to be soooo like you in college, all hippie-ish with my Tevas and thrift store t-shirts, except I did my hair still because with this curl it was just way too frizzy without product."

Yes, I really did say this, and that is something you just can't back out of once its been said. No matter how smoothly you might attempt to try and cover something like this up, truth is you basically told this person they are a badly dressed, greasy hippie with bad hair.

Or, while manning the wine table (the obvious job for the solo sober Sister at the event) at a poetry reading, telling your fine state's poet laureate's mother, "Oh, I guess I don't need to ID you."

What am I? A complete social idiot? (Don't answer that).

It doesn't end with the rude comments. Sometimes the words that flow out of me are just plain embarrassing. Like the time I attempted (key word: attempted) telling my guy-friend (that I might have been slightly attracted to at the time) "Don't worry about your basketball shorts and baseball hat attire. You are a guy and guys can get away with dressing down and still looking good." Except, my neatly laid sentences didn't exactly come to fruition. It all came out a bit quickly, sounding something along the lines of "YOU SO SEXY DRESS!"

Yes, the seconds (or hours, I'm still not sure how much time passed) following that little slip were as awkward as you might guess.

Well, last night Alice and I headed to a friend's wedding reception. And by wedding reception we might as well say "High School Reunion" because many folks from my school days were in attendance--all of them in Alice's grade. Let me create for you a One Act Play of these events and how, once again, my large, unthinking mouth, was rude.

The Characters (all names have been changed to protect the innocent):

Lisa A former student body officer/it-girl. Compared to her counterparts, Lisa has a heart of gold.

Alice If you don't know about my very best friend and roommate, well, go here. It will only give you further understanding.

Rookie The one with the size 8, perfeclty pedicured and well accessorized foot in her mouth.

The Scene:
An outdoor summer wedding reception. A circle of reunited high school friends stand with babies on hips and highlights in hair. On the edge of the stage stand two loners on the verge of escaping the scene.

Alice: Hurry, Rookie, block me before those girls see me.

Rookie: Block you?

Alice: And walk. Quickly.

Rookie: Okay. Hurrying along.

Lisa: (exiting the circle and approaching the two near-escapees) Alice!?

Alice: (coming to a complete "I'm caught" halt and turning) Oh, hi. Lisa! How are you?

Lisa: Good. I'm good. I haven't seen you in so long.

Alice: I know, I know. So what are you up to these days?

Lisa: 3 kids. Living in Tennessee. What about you?

Alice: Oh, not much. Living in _________ working as a social worker at _________. And, oh, I'm sorry, this is my friend, Rookie.

Rookie: Hi.

Lisa: Oh, I've seen you before, I think. You look familiar.

Rookie: (Imagine a slightly factual, mostly sardonic voice) Oh, we went to the same school together. (She flashes a fake smile).

Lisa: Oh, right. Well... Errr... Ummm...

The End

I know many people dream of the perfect put-you-in-your-place words coming to them at exactly the right moment (instead of waking you at three in the morning two days after the fact). This scene could be construed as one of those sweet revenge moments, I suppose.

But you know that scene in Hope Floats when Sandra Bullock's character goes into the hiring agency to try and find a job and Polka Dot interviews her? And she's left feeling even more lousy about herself because some witch from high school tried to get back at her for the years of torment? I felt sorta like a bitter Polka Dot at that moment, except that I didn't exactly intend to be rude. Now, in that moment I was thinking to myself "Dude, you seriously don't remember me? Of course you don't--wasn't exactly on your radar, now, was I." But instead of saying, "That's funny, you look really familiar to me too" like any decent person with a heart of gold might do, I went ahead and let my mouth run ahead of me. And while it was sort of funny for a minute, I'm feeling kind of awful about it today.

Because the truth is I don't think I can be trusted to speak.

I must face the facts. I am better in writing. With writing, I actually have time to think (very, very carefully) about my words. In person I just come across as an insulting witch (or blundering idiot, you decide on your favorite).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Houston, We Have a Problem

Like any decent, red-blooded American female, I loves me some shoes. And, like any decent, single, financially stable(ish) career woman, I have way too many pair.

I seem to be obsessed with the colorful/comfortable/make a statement kind lately. Maybe a bit too obsessed. I call this "How Many, Many Feet You Meet" (because I'm a wee little dork who thrills in giving titles and nicknames and such). Enjoy...or salivate with shoe-envy.

You might want to click on the image to get the full effect.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Family and Shtuff

There is an undeniable fact about siblings. No matter how old you grow, your siblings will always have plenty of blackmailing material. They know all about your awkward years and how inappropriate you can act when you're angry. If they wanted, they could mercilessly embarrass you in a crowd about a former speech impediment whilst saying "Kentucky Fried Chicken" (turn the "kent" into an "f" and you'll see why I will never live this down).

Yes, siblings have dirt on you and a history that started the day you were born. Adjusting the sibling relationship from childhood to adolescence to adulthood can be a tricky path. I am lucky that my course with each of my siblings has run like smooth water under a bridge. And even if I don't speak to all of them every day, seeing one another after a too much time is always enjoyable, if not surreal. Suddenly the world makes a strange sort of sense again and I remember all too clearly why it is that I am the way I am.

Last week my (much taller than I am) Seattle-ite older (I always have to throw that in--my only payback for the tortured slavery that was youngest sibling-hood) sister and her husband were in town for her 20th high school reunion. Within 12 hours my mom's house already smelled like her distinct Seattle-scent (a hybrid of kale, herbs and seasonings, her "hippie oils", and damp fresh evergreen forest).

Stine and I are 11 years apart. She was half sister, half momma to all of us. I recall that it was Stine who disciplined me by squirting Basic H (my "naturalist" mother's Shaklee-long-before-it-appeared-on-Oprah-version-soap) on my tongue the first time I ever said "shit". I love her hippie Buddhist massage therapist health guru self to the core. She is good through and through. She is forever the animated drama queen. We went for pedicures together and chatted away and I was reminded of how much we all talk with our hands.

And, based on these photos from our visit, you'll see that she has one pose, and one pose only when it comes to the camera...Demure. She and her (not to be mistaken with know-it-all) knows-everything (no, really, he actually does know everything and expresses it all so eloquently) husband, Lyam, were kind enough to allow me to practice with my new camera while they chanted, showed off their tattoos, and chatted. The lighting was awful, but I made do.

My eligible bachelor brother, Richard, and his boys were around at the same time, and they haven't made any appearances on my blog yet so I thought I'd show off their boyish charm while I'm at it:

All in all, I'd say it was a good day hanging out with "my people."

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Jane Austen Guide to the LDS Singles Ward

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormons. Like most devout to their faith, mine means a great deal to me. But I'm not talking so much about the doctrines and beliefs I hold. Today I'm talking about culture. Like any religion, we have our own quirks which we'll simply call our subculture. Green Jell-o with carrots aside, the most intriguing phenomenon of this subculture consists of three magic words: The Singles Ward. As in, a congregation of young single adults. I am uncertain why it is, exactly, that we have these little side-groups. I think the philosophy has something to do with getting we singletons OUT of the singles ward. Preferably through marriage.

Imagine, if you will, a congregation of law-of-chastity-keeping adults in a religion that values marriage and family above most else and you'll soon see that carnage might easily ensue at any regional dance. Take that even further--the female to male ratio is often 2:1. It is dog eat dog in some wards. I have the good fortune of being in a ward where most of the males are "tolerable, I suppose...though not handsome enough to tempt me." Because of this blessing, petty competition doesn't plague my Sundays.

And here is the thesis of my post today: I think Jane Austen understood too well the social complexities of the Singles Ward, though she wrote of life and courting rituals and annual income and social status and other such cultural observations as a Protestant minister's daughter in early 19th century Great Britain. I think this is the appeal of dear Janey to most Mormon women around my age. Because, ask just about any of them (except Alice, NOT Alice...Alice hates Jane...and Anne Shirley, for that matter--so she's no judge!) and they'll tell you Pride and Prejudice holds a special place in their heart...or at least Mr. Darcy does. While Austen is appreciated by more than just we single Mormon girls, I think we are hard-wired to connect to Austen in a manner that most cannot. Because, apparently, a good man is hard to find in early 19th century England as well. And lucky for Austen's heroines, they usually find one. Which gives we Mormon girls a false sense of hope for our current conditions.

Take, for example, the scene that played out after church yesterday. Alice, Sephalo, and I were exiting the building discussing the following: were we or were we not going to attend a boating activity this coming Saturday at a local reservoir because it all depended on who was in attendance. And then, conversation drifted into the ever-important who was dating whom, who had stopped dating whom, and who was engaged to whom after only three short weeks of knowing one another (yes, this is a recent development in my ward--and it wouldn't be the first time one of these deprived singletons jumped the gun a wee bit too early). I laughed to myself because it all smacked of Jane Austen so completely--the gossip outside the parish church, the debated attendance at local events. But my plot thickens.

As we gossiped away a certain older "gentleman" (we'll call him this, though I'm not too certain whether this is the case or not) who has, if observation serves me correctly, been staring at my every move during the past several months, also exited the building and stopped just outside our gossiping circle. Fumbling with his cell phone, acting nonchalant, trying, I suspect, to edge into our clearly all-girl conversation. And I wondered to myself, is this guy a Mr. Collins? Or is he more like Marianne's Colonel Brandon? Important side note--my singles ward, rebel that our bishop is, doesn't follow the typical turn-31-and-you're-on-to-bigger-and-brighter-things rule. So this certain "gentleman" is rather old for a girl of 27. Late 30's, possibly 40, I'm guessing. Anyway, back to the story...I've never really had a conversation with the guy beyond when he pipes in and makes a comment during my Sunday School lesson. So, frankly, I'm leaning toward the Mr. Collins camp. And I'm also suspecting that his pitiful shyness explains most of why the guy is still single.

Which brings me to his eavesdropping. In an Austen novel, the story develops through instances of eavesdropping. Think about it: "She is tolerable, I suppose...but not handsome enough to tempt me." One of the most famous lines in an Austen novel--unknowingly overheard by the eavesdropping skills of one Elizabeth Bennett. But have you ever tried to have a good gossip conversation while someone eavesdropped in an unskilled manner? It makes a girl uncomfortable. I felt bad for him, but I couldn't help but think "Run along, little buddy, run along. It is better for you that way."

After the conversation died out, I simply sauntered away with the girls, walking home with my roommate, dear Alice. My conclusion that this guy is of the Collins-variety convinced me that throwing him a bone would only make matters worse. That, and the fact that I am an awkward flirt feeling even more awkward after this guy's eavesdropping. An escape seemed to be my best option.

Which leads me back to my thesis. Jane Austen understood too well the social complexities of the Singles Ward, though she wrote of life and cultural observations as a Protestant minister's daughter in early 19th century Great Britain. Yes, it is too true. Janey has seen me through my fair share of singles ward havoc and has given me the ability to laugh at it all.

And most importantly, my red-blooded, law-of-chastity-keeping self can't get enough of Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy exiting the ponds at Pemberley. Am I alone here?

Oh, and Sephalo, if you are reading this, you know who I am speaking of, I believe, so please do keep this a bit hush-hush so as to not embarrass the parties involved.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Lessons in the Arbitrary

My sister, who shall remain nameless as I have many sisters, recently took her adolescent daughter and her daughter's friend to the theater to enjoy a chick flick. The advertisements for this particular film did not indicate the sexually explicit innuendo that was a near constant in the dialogue nor did it mention the questionable "props" that were featured in the film. And so, two hours later, she exited the theater with these two 13-year-olds asking questions she was not prepared to answer, most of which she shouldn't have to answer.

Was this trailer false advertising? Possibly so--but aren't they all. Could she have walked out? Yes. But how many of us have actually walked out on of a theater that we felt a little bit uncomfortable in? I can count two times that I've done this in my life and half of these early-exits were with this particular sister. And both times I didn't have the guts to ask for a refund because I figured it was up to me as the consumer to research the films/plays I watch and make a decision based on that research. Knowing that I paid good money for a movie, my cheap side insists I stay while my angelic side (yes, I have one)says "sunk cost, sister, get the heck outta here!" My cheap side, as you can tell by my two early-exits record, typically wins out. But I digress.

My question is, as a consumer, shouldn't I have some sort of quick-guide which tells me the appropriateness of a film? Oh wait, there is one: enter the MPAA Film Ratings System. This ratings system, as many of you know, places a film in four categories: G (General Audience), PG (Parental Guidance), PG-13 (Parental Guidance for children 13 and older), and R (Restricted Audience). Now, there is an NC--17 rating, but this particular rating doesn't register on my radar and I'm assuming the same of my readership, so I'm not going include it in my discussion here. We'll just say that I rely on these four little categories to determine which films I will see and which films I will most likely skip. But, I think there is a fault or two in this system. No offense to the board who is, in all actuality, trying to provide a needed service. But the truth is that your little system ain't working so well.

Did you know that the ratings of films are selected by vote. Yes, the board of Los Angeles-based parents votes on the rating after viewing and holding a discussion. So if the majority says PG-13, and a few say R, PG-13 wins out. Bada-bing: you take your 13 year old to the movie they've been harrassing you about for the past month "because it's only PG-13, Ma!" and regret caving in within the first half hour. All the while knowing, that if you, as a parent, would have cast your vote that baby would have been a solid R. No discussion needed.

Now, if you research a little more you will discover why a film received the rating that it did with little warnings like: Rated PG-13 for "drug usage" or "partial nudity" or "strong language" or "adult content." Now, I know what drug usage is, but how much drug usage is going to take place in this particular film? And does it convey that drug usage in a positive or negative light because that makes a difference for me. And that strong language, are we talking I stubbed my toe in the dark and maybe slipped a curse out or are we talking about the kind of language I hear in the halls at the public high school I teach at? And adult content, what the heck is adult content? And we all know the nudity in Schindler's List isn't the same as the nudity in some films. You see, for me, their additional guidelines don't guide me all that much, rather, these guidelines serve to confuse me even more.

So, here I am, little old consumer, left dumbfounded, uncertain, and pretty sure I don't even want to go to the movie for fear of what my eyes or ears might be accosted with when I thought I was going to watch a kid's film with "mild violence". But I am not here to merely complain. I also want to offer a solution.

Film-makers, here's the thing: You have got to start making more appropriate movies for general audiences. While I'm not one to say "censor, censor, censor," especially when it comes to one's art, I'm one who thinks "selling sex" isn't an art form. And please do tell me how most major blockbusters should be considered "art" because last I checked it was more about plots, special effects, and big name-actors than being artistic. (As an unnecessary side note: strangely, many of the "artsy" indy-films I've been to aren't as prone to accost my senses.)

I repeat myself: You have GOT to start making more appropriate movies for general audiences. Movies that aren't pushing envelopes. Movies that entertain. Movies that don't just drop the f-bomb because they can do it and still receive a PG-13 rating. You, Hollywood, are forgetting your audience is a human audience with a variety of values and standards. We go to these blockbuster kinds of movies for two glorious hours of suspended reality and sheer entertainment. We don't go for the sexually graphic material. Some of us actually cringe when it comes to violence. And I can stop my students from dropping the f-bomb, sure, but you just shout it out willy-nilly and there ain't much I can do about it but shake my head in disappointment.

Film makers, did you know that I get a little worry knot in my stomach when I say, "Let's catch a movie"? Some weekends I have my choice of either the one sole G-rated film with talking pandas (every 27-year-old single female's dream) or 12-16 R-rated violence-filled, sexually-laden, language-defiling films at my local mega-plex. Surely you can do better than that. Because, at this rate, I, the movie-lover among movie-lovers, am just not going to show up anymore.