Friday, January 20, 2012

Quick Thought

I was checking my gmail account tonight.  Lots of emails because that's where I filter my Facebook account. I read those in place of checking my FB during school.  Yeah, I'm a junkie; sue me.

At the top of the inbox has been the same ad all week: "Make him addicted to you: Avoid these 5 bad habits and make him love you forever".  Then it said "why this ad?" so that I could click and find out why gmail puts that up consistently.

Frankly, I don't want to know what sort of algorithm has generated the idea that I have five annoying habits that make men run screaming rather than love me forever.  Do I need these faults listed? Does gmail somehow know that I do not shave the tops of my feet in winter?  Can it somehow have leaked out in my emails that (gasp) I am cranky for about four days every month?

Huh.  I'm just going to vote that gmail is the dumbass ad salesgroup of the year.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

That Awkward Moment When

In every relationship there comes a point when the newness wears off and most of the fronting a person does- any pretending they might be consciously or unconsciously doing- falls away.  I don't think that people set out to deceive each other.  Quite the opposite.  They want a prospective beau to be able to see the best that is in them, minus the dull, everyday attributes or habits that might detract from the view of one's heart.  To that end, they might (and I admit nothing here) take extra time to shave their legs before that third date.  They might eat less at dinner or just stick to salad and say no to the giant brownie sundae dessert even though previously, that brownie sundae was the whole reason you went to that restaurant and when you turn it down the waitress (who knows you, your name and your sundae-snarfing habits) looks at you accusingly and with a little shock.

The old habits are easy to slip back into and once you have that other person hooked, at some point it's ok to let those shine through.  Little do couples know or realize that this is also the make or break point of a relationship.  If after the third month of dating your boyfriend wakes up, and for the first time puts on heavy metal music and skips making coffee even though he bought the coffee maker just because he knew you were staying the night, this should be a sign to you that a) it's alright to make coffee for yourself and/or b) should figure out that even though heavy metal makes your ears want to curl up inside of your head, this is a fact of his life and you will need to take that into consideration when scoping out the wider spectrum of his maleness.  In my oh-so-recent experience, none of those things have happened. Grey drinks stronger coffee than I do and so far, no obnoxiousness in the mornings.

Knowing how relationships tend to go, we have made an effort to not just put that best foot forward.  If I want a dessert, I order one.  If there is no coffee made, one of us will make it.  Hell, he gave me a coffee maker for Christmas because mine was old and I needed to replace it anyway.  Maybe it's just me but I really like getting appliances for gifts.  I hope he takes me seriously when I ask for power tools for my birthday.  Still, there are some things I have take care about in my presentation of self.  I have really horrible, horrible morning breath.  All human beings with perhaps the exception of the Dalai Lama are thus cursed. I believe this is God's way of controlling the human population.  My breath is particularly fragrant and gagging in the morning and I cannot stand myself.  No exhaling permitted without first brushing my teeth.  So the first thing I do in the morning is jump out of bed and scrape the green moss off of my tongue, gargle a little and get back into bed so that I can pretend that I am some sort of heavenly angel who wakes up with Crest at the edges of her smile.

The other minor problem is that I also dislike all morning breath, though I try to hide this little bit of information.  I also don't particularly like my own coffee breath and get a little self-conscious about it. Grey figured that one out pretty quick.  Besides generously and wordlessly brushing his teeth first thing, he has also taken to keeping Altoids around. Since when he makes the two hour drive to my house he drinks coffee, he also stops and buys another tin of Altoids and pops one in his mouth just before he pulls up.  We didn't discuss this beforehand and it never occurred to me to ask about it because it's just something he does.  I found out because I teased him about the increasing number of mostly full Altoid boxes on his kitchen counter.  From my vantage point - writing on his computer here in Tulsa- I can see six boxes and count that as six times he has thought of my comfort level without me even knowing it.  I tell you what though, he probably has no idea that I can kill spiders just by breathing morning breath on them.  I hope he never figures that one out.

The fact is that I have what some people like to think of as "strange dietary habits".  When my roommate moved in she had a conversation with her mom. Her mom said "Does she cook?"  "No." "She eat anything?" "No."  And then VP told her about how I it must be a White people thing that I use spray butter on my food rather than butter or margarine.  If you have ever used spray butter you know it's not really butter but some vegetable oil and flavoring and sixty other preservatives that make it taste good and which makes your food taste buttery without adding calories.  When I was a kid, I would eat nothing but bread and butter for dinner.  Lots of butter.  I can't do that as an adult but I still like the taste.

I also have days when I don't eat much- maybe 700 calories.  I eat when I'm hungry and I'm not always hungry.  My food choices are more often than not very healthy with lots of fruits, veggies and hummus involved.  But some days I'm not as hungry as others.  However, there are times when I'd eat the spoon if I thought it was edible.  And during those times, I also eat what I want.  In any given month, it all evens out.  At first, I was too nervous to even really eat in front of Grey.  The first time he saw me on a hungry day, I'm sure he didn't quite know what to make of the petite eater he was used to seeing.

There are some things that I have cardinal rules about.  I don't go around making body noises around people and pretty much expect that same courtesy.  It's all cool if you or I or anybody just goes into the other room.  We can pretend nothing happened and that we are always rosy.  There's that rule, and everyone knows that rule.  Anyone who doesn't inherently follow that rule is weeded out within the first three dates (interesting side-note: did you know that the third date is now commonly accepted as the date where you have sex? I'm blaming the economy and the expenses of date night activities).

What I am going to tell you next might make you squeamish.  If you have a weak tummy or if you have any respect for me whatsoever, you might want to skip this next part.

We were in New Braunfels for a friend's wedding.  Grey's friend.  I don't like weddings much and tend to avoid them whenever possible.  But I am in love and will travel to Texas to smile at an entire room full of people I don't know and look pretty.  Because it's important to me that Grey is happy and that's much more powerful than my social anxiety.  We pulled up to the hotel just as the men and women were splitting for the night. Grey and I were graciously invited to go have Mexican food with the guys.  Yes, I inadvertently crashed a bachelor party.  As much as 30 somethings have bachelor parties.  And the food was authentic and good.  The men were kind and included me in their conversations even though I had never met any of them.  So that was nice.

But the next day I asked if Grey might wait at the front desk while I ran up to the hotel room. No, he'd rather just come upstairs with me.

Um, that's a problem.  The hotel room was very nice and the hotel itself is a historic landmark, built in the late 1800s in an art deco style.  They happy couple chose it because their wedding was art deco themed.  But the walls are thin, thin, thin and the bathroom door, when closed, still has daylight showing under the bottom and on the sides.  Nooo, it would be better if he stayed in the lobby.  But no, he did not get the hint so on the way upstairs (I was running at this point as it was just a matter of time before my guts turned inside out) I begged him to just sit in the hallway on a beautiful chaise lounge while I magically peeled the paint off of the walls. I texted him from the bathroom. "No more Mexican food. Ever."  Yes, I knew I'd be in there awhile and took technology with me so I could communicate with the outside world.

The wedding went off with a few hitches and the holiday ended peacefully enough.  Nobody had to evacuate the hotel because of my activities. New Years came and went life has gone back to being blissfully normal.  Well, as normal as you can be if you're me.

I'm not sure if Grey has any strange habits, weird quirks or if when I am not at home he bites the heads off of kittens.  I doubt it. So far our idiosyncrasies seem to match up.  That awkward moment when I took a sip of his favorite kind of coffee and realized that I'd have to dilute it by 50% to make it drinkable was sort of a nice one. Because I drink pretty strong coffee. And it goes pretty well with brownie sundaes.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Pretty Well Settled

I had 12 students show up all week for lunch detention.  We finished Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and all present agreed that it was the best book that they had ever read.  Six girls, six boys.  Most of them are low-level readers.  I am so happy.  Sometimes other teachers pop in at lunch just to behold the sight of these kids and I engrossed in our book and happily munching on cafeteria fare.  Some of these kids believe they will never be good readers.  Some of them don't follow the book so much as listen to my narration. That's ok too and that's also why I read it out loud.  They are interested in stories and in this book.  Every day they tell someone who was absent what is going on. It's normal and natural and this, I believe, is the way to encourage literacy. This part of the day is what reminds me why I got into teaching.  The big question is "What are we going to read next?!".  I offered the other Alexie book, Flight, and also The Hunger Games.  They picked Flight.  I'm not sure how they will like it since the story line is much different than the first book, so I offered to keep Hunger Games as a backup in case we decide to abandon the book.  I also tweeted Sherman Alexie to let him know how much we loved the book.

My regular classes are going well.  My 8th graders- cynical as they are- are just finishing and enjoying The Outsiders.  They like it and have done a good job so far.  They are impatient with reading and resist doing more than a chapter a day.  We are working on the attention span. I'm not sure if they know that part of it. Next up is Walter Dean Myers.  While Alexander Nazaryan may decry the usefulness of Myers, and insist that students would benefit more from Homer and Aristophanes, I advocate first getting children interested in reading.  Yes, perhaps Lysistrata with its overt sexual humor and Martial's epigrams are somehow elevated to high art and of benefit to readers, they can't get there from here.  I'm scaffolding.  Perhaps at the end of the year, as a reward. But until then, until my students understand how to approach a reading at all, I want them to learn to enjoy learning how to do that and Myers can help us farther along with his accessible language and stories that my students can identify with.

My 7th graders, having just finished up with an expository writing unit, are now eager to return to literature. They are perusing Virginia Hamilton novels and will seen become engrossed in the stories of early African Americans.  And for me, I have offered a school-wide initiative to help us get on the same page with vocabulary.  I'm selecting a word every week for the school, and we are putting it up on the marquis.  Then the word, definition and an example will be read every day with the morning announcements and the other teachers will join in to help reinforce the lesson.  I like it, overall. The faculty are seemingly behind the idea as well so we'll see how that pans out.  The first week was a success.

I have had some trouble with the construction.  I've had bronchitis twice since it began. I was sick over the whole holiday and have had to stop running.  Let me say that again: I had to stop running for the time being.  Running is how I stay in shape and it's how I keep my asthma in check. I cannot and should not be exposed to a dangerous work environment and I tried pretty hard to ignore or deny the implications.  But my last trip to my doctor- where he advised me to find a different job while giving me a steroid shot in the butt- that made me see the light.  The remodeling is going on all around us, and all precautions have been taken.  We are stuck with just dealing with the dust, mold and noise.  And probably some asbestos too.  There was a public meeting to address health problems for students and faculty and the companies told us we would need to transfer. That's what the environmental officer said, anyway. I met with my principal and we decided that if I can't get someone in one of the adjoining buildings to trade with me, he will transfer me to another school.  I'm just getting going in this school; why would I want to switch in the middle of the year? I feel as though I am part of things there and part of the force that will get us past the CRT gatekeepers at the end of the year. I'll keep you posted, but it's most important to be able to breathe and I'd rather just work with people rather than any litigious entities.

But what about my kids? Where can they go? How can they even know to ask?  To be continued...

Monday, January 2, 2012


I've been thinking a lot about quiet lately.  I admire a quality in Grey that I wish I had and that's his ability to rest effectively. I wake up in the morning with sixty things on my mind. I want to write and have a list of tasks to accomplish.  The first task is to make a mental list of the things I need to do.  Then I prioritize them and begin worrying about what I will and will not get done that day.  Thirty seconds later I am out of bed and  making coffee. He seems to wake up and open his eyes.  Then he says "Good morning". Sometimes he even goes back to sleep (of all things!).  

Sometimes at night I can't sleep, for all of the things I need to do, the things I haven't done and the endless stream of humanity I have yet to help flow along. I need to grade a set of papers, go running, buy more healthy food, stop drinking so much coffee (I say as I pause to take a sip of the steaming liquid) and somehow find and apply for professorships.  The consequences of not doing so many things seems grave.  Students won't get timely feedback and their next papers will suck.  If I don't find a better job I am going to keep getting bronchitis from all of the things floating in the air at my current job.  If I don't do a better job of planning curriculum, my kids aren't going to pass their CRT's.  If I don't do the layout of the newsletter, nobody will feel connected to each other at work.  Etcetera, etcetera and so on and so forth until I worry about becoming unemployed.  Then things really take off.

If I'm unemployed, I could lose my house and if that happens, I won't have any friends left.  I don't know how those two things work; they just do in my tornado brain.  If I am jobless, homeless and friendless, then I will end up living out of a shopping cart with my little old Eleanor in the child seat and a machete. And for some inexplicable reason in this particular nightmare fantasy, I am also wearing pink crocs.  You can't hack at someone with a machete and run away in pink crocs.  It just wouldn't make sense.

I remember living six miles out in the country, away from our small town of 3,500 people. Our nearest neighbors were in the next gulch. We had a phone but no television reception. I loved the quiet. I read and painted and explored the out of doors. I had a 35# recurve bow that I got pretty good at shooting.  I slept in some mornings and worked very hard but seemed to have time for the things I needed and wanted to do. Not much company out there, save the elk and deer and rattlesnakes.  But plenty of time to think while uninterrupted.

Like I said, sometimes I need to just do nothing.  It's not that I'm lazy or depressed even, just busy as all get out and in desperate need of a break.  For the past, oh I don't know, maybe ten years, I have rushed from job to after-job-job, to school to home to fitness to animal care to homework and finally to bed.  I don't think I've put enough of my energy into taking time to develop relationships, to calm the inner beast or to just sit still and rest. I used to visit my grandparents twice a year.  In their home there was no wifi and few distractions.  My favorite times were those when my grandma and I would visit with one another and talk over coffee.  But it always seemed to be outside of my regular life.  And I aim to change that about myself.

Last night, Grey and I went to Hastings.  He took some time to explore the store- Tulsa doesn't have a Hastings anymore and I think he greeted this one like an old friend.  I went to the coffee shop and ordered a tea, sat and read a book for almost two hours. They have a fireplace there and I set up camp not across but directly beside it.  I caught myself smiling, engrossed in the adventures of Anne Shirley, and occasionally was distracted only by the visage of the man himself checking in on me.  It was lovely and quiet. And when we got home, we made salad and talked, then read some more with some chamomile tea and Eleanor tucked between us on the sofa.

I have things to do.  School will start again on Wednesday. But I'm going to start unplugging at home more often. Probably I will turn off my phone on weekends except to make phone calls and maybe I will even restrict internet access on weekends too.  I ought to have time now to manage my work life during the week.  No more grad school for me- I've learned my lessons. And now it's time to learn once again about quiet.