Thursday, December 8, 2011

When Things Finally Happen...

I have been working at this publishing game for several years now. I have had plenty of failures, and some successes. My successes have until this time been on a fairly small scale with local newspapers, small literary journals and of course, this blog. All told, I've probably made $400 over the past 4 years between the KVSUN and my blog earnings. Not bad. However, any of my attempts to break into something bigger have yielded no result.

Just last week I got a rejection from a Children's magazine. They at least told me why they were rejecting my story, which was a tale about Ladybug the dog, that I had completely fallen in love with as soon as I wrote it, but which they said didn't have enough conflict to interest children and lacked emotional impact. That stung for a few days...but I appreciate the feedback.

Come to think of it, I've never gotten positive responses from any of my submitted children's writing. I think part of it is that there don't seem to be many obscure children's magazines...after all, who would buy them? Also, I need to take a workshop or a class of some kind. Clearly, my work is missing something.

The best successes I've had recently have been nonfiction pieces and I think they are getting such positive results because of the nonfiction workshop I took this summer. That really made a difference.

Anyway, this week...this week I recieved an email that stunned and shocked me. I had submitted a 400-word autobiographical story, "The Promise Pincecone," to Guideposts Magazine. I never in a million years expected them to accept it. They get tons of submissions and have a readership around oh, 5,000,000 people. It was a nice little story, but once I submitted it on an act of baseless hope, I sort of forgot about it. In fact, I regretted submitting it because it's very honest about the way things have been in my life this year...and doesn't cast the nicest light on certain family members in my life.

It was one thing to write about my family members when I was being picked up by obscure journals. What are the chances of them coming across my work? Pretty much nill.

But Guideposts accepted my piece. I stared at the screen at first...frozen. It reminded me of when I first looked at my positive home pregnancy test. I always imagine that I will jump up and down and scream with joy when these things happen...but instead I just sit there, shocked and in disbelief. An intense hot sensation spread across my face.

I quickly told my husband Anthony what had happened...and he was thrilled for me, but also I told him that at that point I was considering withdrawing the piece. After all, it was his dad I had been writing about. I printed him a copy and sat with my legs up on my chair hugged to my chest, waiting for him to finish reading it.

"Well, it's all true," he said. "I think you should publish it."

"I don't know..." I hesitated, "Chances are, your mom is going to find out about this and it's not worth causing a fight in our family just for this."

"You didn't write anything negative about my mom, just a few things about my dad," he countered. "And it was all true and you ended the story happily. This is a great opportunity for you and I don't want you to miss it."

We prayed and decided to go ahead and publish the piece.

Then I spent 2 hours trying to find a picture of myself. I don't have many that are good shots just of me. I finally managed to find a headshot my Uncle Ronnie had taken for me a few years ago where I look relatively normal.

I always thought I'd be ready when something like this happened, but I didn't feel ready at all. Only after about 2 hours did I start getting excited about it, and then I couldn't even sleep because I was so excited.

When I woke up this morning, I half expected to check my email and have another message from Guideposts saying they had changed their minds or something, but nope, it wasn't there.

I am not sure which edition the piece will appear in, but it will probably be sometime in the next year. I wonder if I will have to wait for the piece to come out before I can finally believe this is real.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Creative Juices are Still Flowing

It's been a slow year for me for submissions. It feels like many things have happened that have affected my writing. Last year, I was sorting through my grandfather's death, and then a few months later the suicides and upheaval at my school were awful. It seemed like I didn't like very much of anything I was writing, and when you don't like what you're is hard to get a groove going. Teaching high school is unfortunately all-consuming and most of my creative ability has been used up in lesson planning, play-directing, and creating the hated Yearbook.

I haven't been creating enough new work to get really excited about sending in very many pieces. However, it has not been a completely dry year.

This month, I had my poem (it's so dark and painful that I'd rather not publish it here), "Grandpa's Clothes," published in the Lit. Magazine, Midnight Screaming, and I just recieved word from "Whistling Fire" that they have accepted my creative nonfiction piece, "How to be debt-free," for their literary website.

In other good news, I am currently in the process of creating another human being. We are almost 8 weeks pregnant. However, I promise not to make this a baby-blog. This is still very much a writing blog. If I want to write about morning sickness, cribs, cute baby clothes and labor pains, I will create a new blog just for that. Of course, if I happen to write something particularly funny that I believe has universal appeal, it may drift over here.

This will be my last year working (PTL!) and when I stay home with my baby, it is one of my life goals to earn an MFA in creative nonfiction writing. I knew I wanted a writing masters, but I probably would have still tried to move toward fiction if I hadn't taken the Los Angeles Review Creative Nonfiction Workshop this summer. The workshop and this blog have shown me that while I love to read great's not actually my favorite thing to write, at least not while I seem to be incapable of developing a decent plot.

I am currently working on a new creative nonfiction piece called, "How I Became a Mountain Woman." I think it's going to be great, but I really want to develop it and try to get it published before I post it here.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Halloween Rant: My worst day of the year.

I hate Halloween. Don't get me wrong, I think cute costumes are awesome and I think Trick-Or-Treating can be a fun community activity. But since I've become a high school teacher, I've started dreading this day.

Vampires and zombies don't scare me. I don't like fake blood everywhere, but other than just looking tacky, it doesn't really bother me.

But you know what does? When teenagers and children dress up like pimps and whores. Now that frightens me. Sex trafficking is a gigantic problem in the United States and all over the world. Pimps, Madams, and anyone else who profits from the sexual exploitation of women, men, and children are, as far as I'm concerned about the lowest human beings on the planet. It doesn't get much more disgusting than that. And yet my high schoolers are dressed today as pimps and whores. Lovely. In my eyes, dressing as a pimp is akin to dressing as a child molestor.

I see them dressed this way, and I KNOW they are not thinking about the little children in Cambodia who are sold into slavery at the age of 8 and forced to have sex with 5-10 adult men a day. I KNOW they are not thinking about the young teenagers who get trapped into prostitution in the United States whose Pimps not only trap them into prostitution, but beat them up if they don't see clients, and charge them exorbitant rates for rent and food and make them pay off their "debt" to them by seeing more clients.

I know they are not thinking of this, because, hey, they're teenagers...they don't think about stuff. But shouldn't some adult in their life say, "No, you can't dress up as a whore for Halloween. We don't want to glorify sex slavery or exploitation?"

I lit into one kid today with a big purple pimp hat who thought he was really cool. It may have been mean to give him a hard time about it, after all, he was already at school dressed that way and not everyone is as socially concerned as I am. But still...why do we think pimps are cool? What kind of society glorifies that kind of filth?

Don't even get me started on the stripper costumes... You can be a slutty nurse, a slutty school girl, a slutty witch, a slutty candy corn, a slutty pin up girl, a slutty Alice in Wonderland... and all the costumes look like something from a strip club. That's what my sweet little high school girls are wearing, with their breasts and their legs hanging out everywhere. I just want to throw a towel over them and give them some real clothes to wear. Aren't we supposed to be protecting our children from being treated like sex objects? And yet we dress them like whores and strippers?

Just a few more hours and then I can go home and blank it all out.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A day in the Life of Sandy Hughes

My husband introduced me to the book, _A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich_ a few years ago. It takes you through the exhausting, life-threatening day of a man living in a Siberian work camp and if you can get through it, it's well worth the read.

I felt a little like Ivan today...okay, maybe it's a huge stretch to compare my life to a Siberian work camp, but occasionally it feels just a little bit like that. So here was my day today.

The alarm clock woke me and Anthony at 4:15 AM. The trailer was 45 degrees F. Anthony got up when the alarm went off, but I was so tired and cold that I slept in until 5:00. I stumbled out of bed and put on 2 pairs of socks, sweat pants and a jacket. I went to the bathroom and washed my face, brushed my teeth, and fought the desire to crawl back into the warm bed.

Around 5:10 AM, Anthony left. He has an hour commute to work. I spent 20 minutes on the computer and was upset to realize that my family had a girl's night planned for tonight which I had completely forgotten about and I couldn't decide whether to go or not.

I try to turn on the heater, which sometimes doesn't work when it is too cold in the trailer. Apparently this morning was too cold because the heat never turned on.

I made myself some oatmeal because we have very little food in the trailer. I did 10 minutes of exercise while stirring the oatmeal.

I still pondered whether or not to go on the girl's night and left a message on Anthony's cell explaining the dilemma.

I spent 20 minutes praying, journaling and reading a book by Elisabeth Elliot on how to know the will of God.

By now it was 6 AM. I got dressed and did my hair. I put away a load of dishes and did a new load. I threw 2 granola bars, a pear, a handful of walnuts and a piece of bread into my lunch bag. I looked at the calender and noticed how hellish next week will be with the homecoming game, the powderpuff game, the volleyball game, my 10 year high-school reunion, and a good friend's bridal shower.

I edit the house-building to-do-list and put a new list on trailer fridge. I also clear off old papers we no longer need to keep on the fridge.

I went online to quickly email my family to tell them I am not coming tonight. Then I realize I haven't emailed my Aunt Susie back yet. I tell myself that I will send her a quick note. 20 minutes and 6 paragraphs later, I realize it is 7:10! I put on a thicker jacket, a beanie and a scarf and rush out the door to feed our 3 cats and 1dog. Then I scoop the dog poop, take out the trash, empty the compost bucket, and chain the dog up for the day so she will not climb out of her pen while I am gone. My hands and feet feel frozen from the cold and I can barely move them. I have to wash dog poop off my hands. At least we have warm water.

By the time I get to work it is 7:35. I go into the bathroom at work only to look in the mirror realize that I put a yellow polo shirt over a black bra and it is very visible. This is very bad for a female high school teacher. I spend 15 of my precious pre-kid minutes trying to find a way to conceal this problem. I find a grey t-shirt from a teaching seminar. I put it on under my yellow polo, but then I spot a large water mark on the polo where I set it on the sink, not knowing that it was wet. I wear the polo anyway. Now I am wearing grey and yellow, the least attractive colors on me in the universe.

My first few students start walking in. One student asks me if I have "finally gotten those scripts duplicated?" I have 2 classes for 1st period: Drama 1 and Drama 2. Drama 1 is working on their Musical Pantomimes today and I have them spread out in my classroom, onstage and in the cafeteria. Whenever I leave to help another group, the other groups wander around aimlessly and goof off. I am continuously walking from group to group to keep them on track. They assure me that they are ready for their performances next week, but I am skeptical. Drama 2 is in the classroom reading "10 Little Indians" by Agatha Christie. They at least seem to be on task.

In 2nd period, we are reading the Odyssey. I have to yell at a few kids who are trying to talk while I am giving directions. They get angry and glare at me. A few children try to sleep and I have to talk sternly to them.

During my prep period, I spend an hour grading and entering missing assignments into the Academic Detention Referral system. I enter 85 referrals.

4th period walks in. They are in a goofy moody today. I have to separate a few boys who will not stop talking and a few girls who will not stop laughing. We do our best to read The Odyssey despite their silly mood.

During lunch I take 10 minutes to walk down to the office, get my mail and try to see if there are snacks in the teacher's lounge. There are not. A few teachers and I discuss how long it takes to enter the academic detention referrals. The hallways are locked because the students have been throwing milk cartons against the walls and ceilings so they are not allowed in the hallways during lunch for a few days. I yell at a few students who somehow manage to sneak in and they glare at me and mutter under their breaths. I spend the last 20 minutes of lunch entering more A.D. Referrals- I enter about 25 more.

During Yearbook, Photo shop is still not working (it hasn't worked since the beginning of the year), and the yearbook drive where all our pictures are, is having problems, too. My editor complains and I weakly tell her that I have told the tech guy and I've told the principal and that is all I know how to do. I help the kids work on templates for the rest of the period.

In 6th period, half my class is gone and I have a bunch of talkative boys who are not paying attention to Odysseus' exploits. I yell at them for talking. They look wounded. They do a lousy job of putting their books away.

After school, I spend 2 hours entering 100 more A.D. Referrals. I try crossing things off lists, listening to music, timing myself to make it a game, and the old, "just keep chugging away and it will finally be done. None of these tactics have gotten me through the 35 more referrals I have to submit before I leave.
And now I am blogging instead of doing referrals because I am sick to death of them.

But I need to finish them so I can go home and go to bed. Tomorrow we are going to eat breakfast with Anthony's family at 7AM, and I am spending the morning painting the house we are building. In the afternoon, I will be going to the Valley fest where our church has a free craft-booth for children where I will be working.

If you made it through this blog, you are probably pretty exhausted. I know I am. This has been just one day in the life of Sandy Hughes.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ladybug, Crazybug: A Dog Post.

I first met my dog at the Animal Shelter in Southlake. She is a large black labrador with yellow eyes. She lay quietly in her kennel, staring hopefully out the gate. The workers must have had a soft-spot for her, because they pointed her out to me and made a big deal about what a great dog she would be.

I liked her quietness and how grateful she looked to be let out of the pen and played with. She was about one year old, but she seemed to have a deep sadness and fearfulness. She looked around warily, though it was clear she wanted attention. She was clearly undernourished and her ribs and hips stuck out sadly.

I took her outside and she ran around a little, but still seemed reserved and loathe to leave my side. At one point, she stood up on her hind legs, put her front paws on my shoulders, and looked deeply into my eyes with this desperate, "Please, please, take me home and take care of me," look.

I promised her I would take her home and take care of her and put meat on her bones and love her.

I filled out the paperwork and paid the fees and left. She looked sadly at me as I went. I promised her, "Hey, I'll be back after your surgery. And then I'll have a name for you and take you home and you won't be sad again."

I told my husband how sweet and calm she was and how I had decided to name her Ladybug because she was so Lady-like and because I like Ladybugs.

A week later I drove out and picked her up. She was still woozy from being sedated, but wagged her tail and licked my hand and let herself be led into my car.

That was the last day I would ever describe her as "calm" again.

Once she recovered from her surgery, put on 25 pounds, and got used to me and my husband, the crazy behaviors began. She whined incessantly when we left her in her crate. She peed everytime we introduced her to a new person. She became insistent that I should be with her at all times. When I am not with her, she whines and barks constantly. The barking begins the minute she can hear my car coming up the driveway.

I used to try to take her with me to my family's house...but she would scratch their screen doors, bark, cry, and whine, and would not leave their dog, Casey, alone, even after Casey had played with her for hours and finally wanted some time away.

Some mornings, my father-in-law shoots birds. Every bang from his shotgun sends her into a hysteric fit where she tries to climbs out of her 10 foot chain link pen and run away.

During the last thunder storm, we had to chain her in the yard outside in the pouring rain because every peal of thunder would make her climb out of her pen. It is not an easy climb. Her knees hurt her, her paws bleed, and if she gets to the top without us stopping her, she has to jump from 10 feet and land on the ground.

I once took a walk without her because she was having pain in her knees. I could hear her crying and barking hysterically as I walked away, but I ignored her (the books say if you ignore whining for long enough, the dog will stop whining-I've been ignoring it for 5 years now). Two miles down the road, she caught up with me, proud of herself to have found me.

Her yellow eyes follow me everywhere I go. My husband says its like she wants to be in my skin with me.

If I sit on a bench, she tries to crawl up in my lap. She doesn't jump on people anymore; we managed to train her out of that, but she does lick faces, glasses, small children, anything her tongue can reach. She weighs about 90 pounds and is nearly 5 feet tall when she stands on her hind legs, so no one is safe from the licking.

We have tried calming tablets, which did nothing, and prescription drugs, which made her sad and woozy and still didn't seem to calm her. The vet said that medication is the only thing they can do for these "nervous" dogs. So we walk a fine line. I spend time with her when I can, and we ignore the frantic crying and do our best to keep her in her pen or on a chain or on a leash because she will run away down to the creek if she can.

A lot of books say that once labs are over 5 years old, they will calm down. She is 6 now, and I can hear her crying right now. This is a dog who has been fed, walked, played with, and loved on a lot already today...but it is never enough for the L-bug.

For all that, I love her to pieces. She never gets tired of me and her loyalty knows no bounds. When the evil neighborhood dogs who are allowed to wander at will approach, she stands there, ready to defend me. When my neices tug her around on the leash and try to sit on her, she just looks at me mournfully with her giant yellow eyes.

Despite all her fear, I hope she is happy with us, at least as happy as a crazy, hysterical, nervous, probably over-bred dog can be.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Thanks, Los Angeles Review Writing Workshop!

My Creative Nonfiction writing workshop ended last week. It was only a month long, but I feel that my writing grew a great deal in that time. I wrote about love, marriage, family, death, coming to terms with loss, basically all those BIG topics in life. I struggled to portray my friends and family honestly but kindly. Overall, I am really glad that I took the workshop. Our teacher, Ann Beman, had great suggestions and was very supportive and helpful. And to think I almost didn't sign up! None of my fears were grounded and I think I have worked through some of my insecurities about my writing. The class was so encouraging, I have even submitted a few new pieces to literary journals.

I will keep you posted on whether or not I get accepted.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Flash Floods and Fires and Freaks, Oh My!

Photo Credit: Brandon Muncy at

Sometimes I get the feeling that I am not in Kansas anymore.

I was raised in the suburbs where semi-identical houses line up row by row. Everyone had a two-car garage, a little patch of lawn to mow and a small backyard area big enough for a pool and maybe a dog or two. My parent's house in Bakersfield was in a nice little cul-de-sac conveniently located near a good high school. Other children in the neighborhood were close to our age and many of our neighbors took their street very seriously.

On the Fourth of July, neighbors would buy firework packs and everyone would sit together to watch while the teenage boys and adult men lit them. Spectacular Christmas light displays appeared the day after Thanksgiving and disappeared by New Years Day, like clockwork. On Friday nights in the summer, one of our neighbors would light a firepit in their front yard and the adults would bring out their lawn chairs and sit and talk while the children played hide-and-go-seek around the neighborhood. Other than the occasional wind storm, gopher-sighting, or overgrowth of a mint plant, we were fairly insulated from the dangers of nature.

And then I got married and moved to the country where nature seems to constantly try and destroy people. To get from Bakersfield to Lake Isabella, you have to drive 40 miles up a windy canyon road where accidents happen at least once a week. Sometimes people drive over the edge. Sometimes rocks or cows fall on their cars. Seriously.

The canyon takes you past the glorious Kern River, which, as a giant sign advertises, has killed over 240 people in the past 40 years. Do the math, people, that's like six people a year! Yet every Labor Day and 4th of July, people from Los Angeles drive up to the river with their families, drink beer, go swimming, and get swept away and killed. The signs are written in English and Spanish, but people ignore them.

On our street, most families own plots of 5 to 15 acres. We can see their houses, but they are pretty far away. There are benefits to having a lot of land. We have orchards, terraced gardens, an above-ground pool, dogs and cats, and room to expand. But every year, after the spring rains, the weeds begin growing and they grow like crazy. We mow them, weed-whack them, hula-ho them, cut them out with shovels, and pull them out by hand. Doing this once for 15 acres is difficult, but not impossible. Once would not be too bad...but a frustrating thing happens once we get them cut...they grow back. So a few months later, we have to do the whole thing again. It might be so frustrating that we give up, except that we have a very powerful motivation to keep the grounds clear: Summer Fires.

Every year in our area, there are brush fires. Usually, the fire department deals with these so well that they never come near people's homes. Up here, the firemen are revered and loved like heroes of old. The survival of our town depends entirely on these brave young warriors and if we forget from year to year how important they are to us, we quickly remember again when walls of flames come too near our homes. However, despite the efforts of our brave warriors, sometimes the fire gets out of their hands and destroys people's homes, especially if they haven't kept their weeds under control.

Having your house burn down is not the only danger of the fires. Sometimes fire season coincides with the summer rain season. A few years ago, we had a fire a few miles up in the hill country past our home. It had burned for weeks and just as the firefighters were finally winning the battle, we had this heavy summer rain. It only lasted about an hour one afternoon, but it was enough. When it hit all that burned land with no plants to stop the erosion, it started a flash flood. Helicopters swirled overhead, screaming warnings at us about the giant wall of water coming down the creek across the street from us.

I've always been a little envious of the people with the creek in their backyard. It's cooler in the summer and they can grow plants more easily than we can being on the hillside, and of course, they have a creek running through their backyard. But that summer, I stopped feeling envious of those people, when the flash flood tore trees down, the creek rose fifteen feet above its usual course, and people's backyards and buildings were swept away. We watched it all safely from the hillside.

There are many different reasons why people live up here in this rural community. A lot of people retire up here and purchase a small plot with a view of the lake. These people are fairly normal. Other people are business owners who like living in a small town. They are also relatively normal. However, other people are like us. We are bordering on freaky. We want to be independent. The land is cheap up here and most people can afford about 15 acres of land on this rocky, weed-filled, unpleasant terrain. We don't worry about the government collapsing or the apocalypse because we have our own water supply, have the capability of growing most of our own food, and we have many many shotguns and rifles.

Some people live up here so they can permanently subsist on welfare. I am not talking about unwed mothers who just need a helping hand for a little while while they care for their children, or families who would normally be employed, but have lost their jobs because of the economy and who need cash aid to survive. They are fairly normal, sort of sad, and will one day no longer require welfare. I don't bedgrudge the help to them because any one of us could be in that position at some point in our lives.

No, I am talking about people who make welfare their entire livelihood for their entire lives. Some of them are pretty freaky. They live in trailer parks, don't wear shirts in the summer, and are often addicted to all kinds of unattractive vices, like chain-smoking, beer-drinking, and other less-than-legal substances. It's amazing how many people up here have pain-management problems who require a constant supply of medicinal marijuana. Or medicinal crystal-meth.

Lake Isabella is kind of a strange place to live, what with nature trying to kill us and all the freaks who live up here. But on the days when the sky is not filled with firesmoke, you can stand on your own property and breathe clean air. There are no cookie-cutter houses up here. I sometimes drive through the suburbs when I visit my parents and I pity the people who live in those little houses. I wonder how they can stand being so close together with no stream nearby or no rocks to climb and no room for a garden. If bears or snakes or freaky neighbors come on my property, I know where the guns are and I know enough to protect myself. It may be wild and scary and barely tamed, but this is my home now and I like it that way.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Unintentional Admission

"Schools are going to be all run by computers now. It won't be long before everything is on that internet. What will you do instead of teaching?"

My mother-in-law and I were driving to exercise class together. We had been discussing my neice's education in the car when she posed this question to me.

I was a little taken aback. Linda is not affiliated with education in any way. She doesn't even have a computer, so I have no idea where she is getting this idea. I am a high school teacher who knows how to use the internet and I highly doubt the entire education systen will transition into completely virtual teaching any time soon. But there is no arguing with Linda, so I shrug and say, "I'm going to be a stay-at-home mom."

"Oh, you won't want to do that forever, Sandy. You'll have to do something when the kids grow up."

I sigh. Why is she making me think fifteen years in the future? I have enough to think about in this decade to worry about the next. But now I feel guilty for not instantly having a plan for when my hypothetical children grow up and my hypothetical future job disappears to a hypothetical virtual teaching system.

"Well, they'll need someone to run the virtual classes," I attempt. She interrupts,

"You never know, Sandy. There will still be too many teachers left over. Those jobs will be filled."

I wonder desperately what she wants me to say.

"I am going to be a writer." I blurted out the plans I didn't even know I had before I had a chance to keep the words in. A ripple of fear shoots through me. Why did I say that? It's too precious, too tenuous a dream to speak out loud to someone I barely trust.

She has nothing to say for a few seconds. I force myself to breathe and smile faintly, gripping my arm-rest until my knuckles ache.

"Oh," she finally says. "That will be nice."

"Yeah," I say and relax my deathgrip on the arm rest. Suddenly my plan seems legitimate. Of course I'm going to be a writer. How could I have ever thought otherwise?

Monday, July 18, 2011


The following piece is one I have been working on as part of my nonfiction creative writing workshop through the Los Angeles Review.

My white Dodge Shadow was parked at an angle outside the Bakersfield beauty salon. I'd always been a lousy parker. The chipped paint and the black gash on the passenger side made it stand out among the shiny new silver and white cars it shared the lot with.
"Are you clean?" asked Renee, my mother's hairdresser. I stared at him, slightly offended.
"When did you wash your hair last?" he said impatiently when I didn't respond right away.
"Yesterday." I said.
"So it's dirty. We'll have to wash it." With a frown, he led me to the sink and started washing my hair as my twin sister Carolyn waited nearby. She wore jeans and a button up shirt, but her hair was done
already, and Renee had placed her veil perfectly on her head. Her cell phone kept ringing and she looked worried.
"Sandy, it's Meghan again," said Carolyn, " I really don't want to answer it."
"That's fine," I said, "Bring it here."
I answered the phone, "Hi Meghan!"
"Where are you guys?" came a frantic voice coming from the other end of the line.
"We're still at the hairdressers. Renee is working on my hair and we'll be done soon."
I tried to shoot Renee a placating smile, but he wouldn't look at me.
"Okay, but everyone's waiting for you. The photographer will be here any minute. Get over here."
"Okay, Meghan, we'll see you soon."
"Is she really worried about it that much?" Carolyn asked after I hung up.
"She just wants to make sure your day goes smoothly," I answered, and then I lied, "She didn't sound too worried."
After thirty more minutes of enduring Renee's scrutiny, my hair looked amazing and we were ready to go. Carolyn and I piled into my old Dodge Shadow, aka, "The Magnum" and starting driving towards Taft Highway in Bakersfield, where the church is located. We turned onto the fast lane on Oak Street and were just passing the Empty Space Theatre when I noticed that my normally vocal car was more vocal than usual. It was growling and whirring and clunking.
"It's been doing this lately," I encouraged Carolyn. "It'll pass. It'll be okay."
Suddenly I felt the engine shudder and "pop" and I knew that the car was not going to be "okay." I managed to swerve over to the side of the street before the car lost power completely. There we were, stranded. Magnum was dead.
It had been Carolyn's idea to name the car "Magnum," after that silly Ben Stiller movie, "Zoolander." She and I had been freshmen in college when that movie came out. Magnum was really supposed to be "my" car because I had earned a 4.0 in high school, but we both hung our graduation tassles from its rear view mirror and shared the car through four years of college, cramming friends and stuff into the small two-door white hatchback with the red racing stripe and fin on the back. We drove it to christian camps to work for the summer, we drove it home to Bakersfield on weekends, and we drove it all over Riverside, where our college was located. One summer we loaded it up with energy drinks and candy and drove to Beaverton, Oregon and back to visit our friends.
Magnum had his fair share of accidents and breakdowns. A few years before I had gotten too close to a guard rail on a cliff and Magnum was forever marked with a long black gash on the side. Carolyn once ran into a trash can. We had both been involved in numerous fender benders, and then of course, there was that time that I accidentally set the car on fire. And that other time that I got a speeding ticket for going over one-hundred miles per hour in a sixty-five zone. The air conditioner hadn't worked in years and the fabric on the roof inside the car had long since sagged down and bore scratches from mine and Carolyn's attempts to force luggage and furniture inside that didn't exactly fit. Magnum had been our companion through our laughter, conversations, strained silences, and fights. All the boyfriends we went through, the failed dates, the disagreements we had with our roommates, the discussions about our futures, Magnum was there. But most importantly, Carolyn was there with me.
And now on the day that she was going to marry Dave, Magnum decided to die.
We called my father who immediately arranged to come and get us. A homeless man in the area helped us push the car into an empty parking lot so it wouldn't be on the street. Carolyn and I sat inside the car together for the last time and laughed about Magnum breaking down on her wedding day.
"We'll always have each other," Carolyn said, "We'll always be twins. Being married doesn't change that."
I said, "I know; you're right. We'll always have each other."

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Poem Involving my Twin Sister Carolyn and an Adventurous Man.

The Dream I Had Last Night.

I found an adventurous man who fell in love with me on the way to the lobby

after my twin Carolyn and I had gotten lost at 4 in the morning

back on the way from the spa.

He helped me find my way past the small chinese woman who was making clay slabs

which my Carolyn had refused to stop sticking her hands into

and who had given us directions which Carolyn ignored

and then she danced away where I couldn't find her.

The adventurous man helped me search for the white-towel clad twin of mine,

but I do not think she wanted to be found.

So instead he led me back down the lobby through all the hidden parts of the hotel

where chinese laborers made clay tiles and wove bed linens and cast suspicious glances at my foreign eyes,

as he explained that he could never leave the hotel.

I was going to leave, with or without Carolyn, and so we kissed

and kissed

and kissed the tragic kisses of people who will never see each other again.

I walked out of the hotel alone.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pardon me while I keen.

Well, I did it. I posted my first writing assignment for my writing workshop which I have been greatly enjoying. I spent all weekend thinking about what to write. I wrote my piece on Monday, let it rest for a few days and then revised it and posted it today.

If you hear a high pitched keening coming from the Lake Isabella area, it's me succumbing to writing anxiety.

Now here is the part of the blog where you choose your own adventure. If you don't want to listen to me whining, proceed to Roman Numeral I. If you want to listen to my whining, don't mind a repetitive use of the word "sucky," and would like to see a picture of Carol Burnett, proceed to Roman Numberal II.

I. I am feeling a little bit of anxiety about my first writing assignment.

II. You asked for it. I tried to make my writing evocative, uplifting, truthful, interesting, relatable, etc. But now that I read it after it's been submitted to the online forum where everyone else in the class has posted theirs which of course are incredibly good, I am reduced to 6th grade vocabulary: It sucked, sucked, sucked!

My writing is so freaking sucky. Everyone is going to hate it. What I was I thinking picking the topic that I did? What was I thinking signing up for this class? These people can actually write unlike little miss sucky-pants here who turned in the suckiest suckfest writing assignment. The other people in the class will be all like, "oh, nice work," but really they'll be thinking, "gee, that sucked," only they'll think collegiately and come up with some little clever synonmyn for sucked, further proving how sucky I am.

And all their lives are eclectic, bohemian, unconventional, where I am this boring little whitebread girl. Boring, Sucky, more boring.

Keen. Keeeeen. KEEEEEEEEEEEEEENNN! Did you ever see that Carol Burnett sketch where she's at a funeral and she teaches Robin William to keen? Comedy Gold.

I need to go back to work because I'm spending way too much time sitting around thinking about this.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A New Writing Adventure

Starting this week, I get to take a one-month online writing workshop hosted by the Los Angeles Review. The class is on the subject of nonfiction creative writing. I have had a lot of fun writing humorous nonfiction to be published in the newspaper or on this blog, so I am excited to see where this class will take me in the world of nonfiction writing.

I hope my writing is not too hyperbolic. I do have a tendency to exaggerate or "stretch" the truth for dramatic effect. Maybe they will tell me this is bad...or maybe it's good? I don't know.

It took a courage for me to sign up for the class. As soon as I heard about it, I wanted to do it, but I just...didn't. What if they think my writing is terrible? What if it's more work than I can do or will do? What if everyone else in the class has really amazing work and mine is just terrible?

It's interesting because if this were a swimming class or a pottery class, I wouldn't even worry about it, because I know I'm not a fast swimmer or a good potter. I just do those things for fun. But much of myself is wrapped up in writing and I worry that if I don't do well, it's going to hurt very badly.

And, after thinking about it, I realize that that could very well happen. I could get hurt. But that's a risk I have to take for my writing to develop.

One thing I'm proud of: The class cost $150 and I was able to use the proceeds from this blog and from my online store to pay for the whole thing.

I will keep you posted on the class and the things I am learning.

Friday, June 10, 2011

My Princess

If I were to write a fairy-tale, my princess would be able to handle sleeping on rocks, much less a pea.

If my princess slept a little fitfully her first night in the castle because of some pea-sized lump in her mattress, she certainly wouldn’t embarrass her hosts by mentioning it.

My princess wouldn’t need to be rescued- She’d be smart enough not to get abducted in the first place.

My princess wouldn’t need to marry into money to keep her kingdom wealthy-
She’d manage money wisely and set up an economy that encouraged thriving businesses.

My princess wouldn’t marry some prince just because he came along and climbed a glass mountain or killed an unsuspecting monster or any of those silly things.

She would know that just because a prince was the strongest warrior- it wouldn’t always make him the best husband, or the best king.

My princess would pick a prince who was smart, wise, kind, and generous...if she decided to get married at all.

She would wear sensible shoes so she could run if she had to, or walk all day without back pain.

My princess would be less concerned with royal balls and fancy dresses than with taking care of her serfs and seeing that justice was done.

In short, my princess would not be prissy, or selfish, or undignified, or stupid enough to eat an apple a witch hands her.

She would be all woman.

That is my kind of princess...and that's who I'd like to be, too.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Poem: Leaving Me Behind

Grandfather, how could you become so small

When I need you to be big?

You were so tall when I was a child.

And I was safe with you.

Grandmother, how could you become so angry

When I need you to be joyful?

You used to laugh when I was a child,

And I was safe with you.

Father, how could you get so sick

When I need you to be healthy?

You were so strong when I was a child,

And I was safe with you.

When did you all shrink?

How could you?

Now I’m the big one…

Now I’m the joyful one…

Now I’m the healthy one…

And now you’re all leaving me behind.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Past Adventures of Idiot Woman: Dating Disasters Part 2

This is the last half of a story that began with "The Past Adventures of Idiot Woman: Dating Disasters."
I've told this story for the past few weeks to family members and friends when I mentioned that I was blogging about it.

My wonderful sister-in-law Meghan, who I love dearly is married to my brother who I also love dearly, and is carrying a baby who I already love dearly though I have not met her yet, responded with this comment,

"I don't have a lot of awful date stories, that can probably be attributed to the fact that I wasn't really asked out all that much, which is sad in and of itself. Are you feeling sorry for me yet? Ha Ha!"

Well, I'd just like to say to Meghan and any others who didn't date around very much...don't worry, you didn't miss much, either.

If you're willing to date crazy people, weird people, cheap people, or people you don't know very well, it becomes really easy to get a date.

However...most of them end in disaster and they are not very pleasant experiences. Again- you didn't miss anything.

But I was young (I started college at 17), deeply lonely (I had just broken things off with my boyfriend from high school who I had been in love with), and though I have always been a very intelligent person when it comes to books and writing and the like...I just wasn't too bright when it came to things like who to date and who not to.

So that brings us to the Yule. And Isaac.

Isaac was very proud of the Tuxedo he rented for the occasion, and indeed, he did look very handsome. The red vest with the dark black tuxedo jacket made a striking picture with his olive skin, black curly hair, and did I mention the deep brown eyes?

Richard, Carolyn, Isaac and I were all going together so we piled into Richard's tiny car. Isaac immediately took out a bag from a local fast food place, pulled out a burrito, and starting eating it. I said, "You do know that the Yule is a dinner, right?"

"Yeah, but I won't be able to wait. I'm super hungry. I only got two servings of lunch today."

In all, Isaac downed three large burritos. He did not offer me one.

Carolyn and Richard did not take to Isaac very well. Richard in particular seemed uncomfortable, and Carolyn at one point pulled me aside and informed that Isaac, "looked like a vampire."

She was right- he did look like a vampire. A handsome one, but a vampire nonetheless.

So our dinner consisted of me and Carolyn trying to make polite conversation, Richard glaring at Isaac, and Isaac occasionally mentioning his stay in the mental hospital.

After dinner, most of the couples were going to Downtown Disney to walk around and see the sights. The four of us went, too.

When we got there, it was a little chilly and all across the parking lot young men were offering their tuxedo jackets to their dates in formal gowns who were now very cold.

I looked at Isaac. He looked at me and smiled.

Then he said, "I want to keep wearing my jacket, but I brought something for you."

He pulled out a black ski jacket with flourescent green trim.

"There; now we can both be warm."

"Thank you." I said- the icyness in my voice matched only by the icyness in the air.

So for the rest of the evening, when all the other pretty girls were wearing their dates' tuxedo jackets, I was wearing a ski jacket with green flourescent trim.

It was just downhill from there.

At this point, any intelligent woman would never go out with this person again. I wish I could say that were true, but then my name wouldn't be Idiot Woman.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Past Adventures of Idiot Woman: Dating Disasters

Not too long ago, I wrote the post, "Can Stripping in your Car Lead to True Love?" about the night I met my now-husband Anthony at the Yule, a Christmas Banquet held by my college (California Baptist University) every year.

I met him during my sophomore year.

What I haven't told you about yet was my date for the Yule msy freshman year.

I don't quite remember how I met Isaac. I think he was in the cafeteria, eating his third serving of food.

For some reason (I guess I was feeling brave that day), we started up a conversation.

He was a good-looking guy with black curly hair and deep brown eyes.

He was very tall and masculine- probably one of those guys who started growing chest hair in the 6th grade.

Isaac was a great conversationalist. I ended up sitting at his table for his fourth serving of food and talking to him for the next hour and a half.

He talked about really interesting things, and as he talked or listened to me talk, he would stare directly into my eyes with his deep brown beautiful eyes.

There was only one problem: he was crazy.

When I look back on it now, I wonder why in the world I ever went out with this man.

He was clearly a loony bird...and I was pretty well aware of it...but for some reason this didn't dissuade me from going to the Yule with him.

Sandy's Logical Brain: "Perhaps you shouldn't go out with clinically insane people."

Sandy's Illogical Brain: "He's really interesting...and cute! And he seems to like me."

Sandy's Logical Brain: "He seems very hungry. And the pupils in his eyes seem really, really dilated. Aren't those signs of drug use?"

Sandy's Illogical Brain: "Don't be so suspicious. Can he help it if he needs to eat a lot...and has big, beautiful eyes?"

Sandy's Logical brain: "All your roommates say not to go out with him. They are pretty smart people."

Sandy's Illogical Brain: "La la La la La...."

To his credit, Isaac never tried to hide his nature from me.

In fact, he told me, "Yeah, I used to be schizophrenic. I was even admitted to a mental hospital for a while and then they released me and put me on a bunch of drugs to control the schizophrenia.

But then after I got out, I went to a Tony Robbins Conference. That guy was great. He healed me! So I quit the medication after that, and I've been doing fine ever since."

Sandy's Logical Brain: "Red Alert! Red Alert! Danger, Danger, Crazy guy alert! Get out while you still can!

Sandy's Illogical Brain: "Wow, what an interesting story. This guy is fascinating. Let me stare into his eyes for a little longer."

A few days later, when Isaac called me up and asked me to the Yule, my illogical brain was still the one in control and I said yes.

My sister was going with a boy named Richard. That is a story in and of itself. But I digress.

Carolyn and Richard and Isaac and I all headed down to the ticket office to sign up for our tickets.

Richard paid for he and Carolyn's ticket.

When it came time for Isaac to buy our tickets, the lady at the window said, "That'll be $60.00 please."

Isaac looked at me and said, "I need $30.00 from you."

There was silence in the office for a very long moment. Carolyn and Richard froze. The other couples waiting in line froze. I felt my face turning an unattractive red color.

"Of..of course." I said as-if-that-were-the-plan-all-along. "Here it is." I heard the other people around me start to breathe and move again. Only Carolyn still looked perplexed.

I felt as if I had been slapped.

I wouldn't have had a problem paying for my own ticket...if Isaac had told me ahead of time! Thankfully, my logical brain had strongly suggested I go to the ATM that morning.

Isaac told me he'd call me later with the details and disappeared. I now had a ticket to the Yule to go on a date with a crazy boy who never even informed me I was paying my own way.

I could have still gotten out. The Finance Office would have given me my money back.

But I was determined not to miss the Yule my freshmen year...and I still wanted to give Isaac a chance. He had those eyes, remember?

Plus...I just didn't have the guts to make the phone call to break things off with him.

In my next installment...I will tell you about the date itself.

What about you...have you ever gone out with a crazy person when you really should have known better?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Trailer Life: Anthony versus the Poop Monster

In the life of a trailer dweller, few phrases inspire more fear than the utterance, "the toilet tank is full."

With those words comes blame and recrimination.

"Did you put enough water down the tank, Sandy?"

"I always put enough water down the tank, Anthony - maybe you didn't!"

And after a few more rounds of the blame cycle, my husband will volunteer, like a true hero.

"Fine. I'll deal with it."

"Oh, good! I'll cheer you on. From inside."

For any of you non-trailer dwellers, you lucky people with toilets that actually flush, let me explain how the toilet tank works. Basically, our trailer bathroom sits on top of a 20-gallon septic tank. When you use the toilet, you push a lever with your foot which opens a hole directly into the tank and sends all the bodily fluids and solids and a lot of water down into it.

Theoretically, the bacteria and the water in the tank will break down the solids and they will move out of the trailer into the pipes and eventually out into a real septic tank, where the poop can never be seen or heard from again. Theoretically.

What actually happens sometimes is that a poop mountain will begin to form directly beneath the toilet, refusing to be broken down, growing bigger and bigger, until the smell enters our living area and lets us know that there is something terribly, terribly wrong. We have to deal with this immediately, lest the poop mountain develop sentience and take over.

This is when Anthony will bring out the septic tank turner, a bent lightning rod attached to a drill motor, which we affectionately refer to as the "poop stirrer." He will insert the poop stirrer into a special hole on the side of the trailer and turn it on, which will fling all the fluids and solids against the walls at lightning fast speeds.

From inside the trailer, I flush as much water down it as it can hold, and shout inspiring cheers at my hero.

"You stir that poop, baby! You can do it!"

"Poop mountain, go away! Go to your home!"

The contents of the septic tank empty out into the pipes and so disaster is averted yet again. Until the next time the toilet tank gets full.

Monday, April 18, 2011

"You Want us to Live Where?"

My husband Anthony and I had just come back from a visit to his parent's place. They have about 15 acres of land. It is a nice property with one small residence, an above ground pool, an orchard, a large vegetable garden, a grape arbor, a flower garden, and rocks and weeds. A lot of rocks and weeds. It was my husband's dream that someday...when his parents built a larger home on the property, then we would move into their small residence (which was originally only meant to be a garage but they ended up living in it for 30 years) and eventually build our larger home on the property. At that point, the garage/house would actually be used as a garage.

Anthony and I had only been married for two years. We lived in a 2-bedroom rental a few miles away from his parents. Rent was cheap, and the house was hideous outside, but inside we'd created quite a comfortable little home for ourselves. A home where I felt safe and happy. Anthony often discussed the "move-up-there-and-build-our-own-house" plan, but it always seemed to be far, far away in the future like some kind of imagination game that we would play together. It was supposed to happen sometime after my in-laws built their house, which didn't exactly seem imminent since they hadn't finalized blueprints or broken ground in 30 years. So as a young bride I felt pretty secure knowing that we would not be moving from our cozy home anytime soon.

But then Anthony said something chilling.

"Sandy, I had an interesting talk with my father tonight."

"Oh?" I responded cheerily, unaware that my future was about to be irreparably changed.

"He said that he doesn't think he'll ever build their house."

"Oh... hmm...that's too bad," I said.

"So he told me that when we're ready, we can go ahead and start building our house."

"He did?"

"Yes, he is going to let us build on their house plot. We just need to move out of the rental."

"Umm, Anthony...if we move out of the rental, where will we live?"

"I think we can pick up a nice used travel trailer to put on their property and live there while we build the house."

Anthony was trying to make all this sound like a wonderful, wonderful thing that was happening, yet I felt something like the icy hand of death close around my stomach. I wondered if I was going to start vomiting.

"So...we're going to live in a trailer in your parent's yard?" I said, trying to control the rising hysteria in my voice.

"Only while we're building the house."

"How long do you think that will take?" I asked.

"Oh, a few years- however long it takes us to save up the money for the house."

"You think it's only going to take us a few years to save up enough for a house?"

"How hard could it be?"

"But...what about having babies?"

"I'm sure we'll have the house done in plenty of time for you to have babies."

A few days later, we started looking at travel trailers. By the end of two months, we had successfully moved out of our comfortable two-bedroom home into a 30-foot travel trailer from the 1970's. With fake wood paneling. Lots of peeling, fake wood paneling. The trailer was only 20 feet away from my in-laws house. What had I let that man talk me into?

I wish I could say I had a good attitude at this point...that I embraced the dream easily and was willing to do whatever it took to fulfill me and Anthony's dreams...but most of the next few months, I spent just going through the motions, trying not to sulk or act unhappy, and generally feeling miserable.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pork Chop Promises

I took the pork chops out of the freezer this morning and set them on a plate in the refrigerator.

This may sound insignificant...but it's not. Taking frozen meat out of the freezer is a promise to yourself. It's a promise that sometime in the next 2 or 3 will return to the meat and actually spend time preparing and cooking it before it spoils. Meat is expensive.

Our pork chops came from a local student who raised a pig for FFA. The 1/2 pig that we purchased cost about $4.00 a pound which is not bad when you consider that it was locally raised, killed, and butchered in healthy conditions. For me to actually remove the meat from its frozen security, thereby risking high-quality humane organic $4.00/lb meat to the possibility that I will be too busy to prepare it before it spoils was a big deal. It signifies that I have something very valuable in my life again: TIME.

It's been at least 3 months since I defrosted meat. Most of the people I know my age are in the same situation my husband and I are. Both people work full time and spend the weekends trying to tackle the dishes and laundry that accumulated throughout the week. I can't imagine trying to do all that with kids, too- but people do.

We've been eating a lot of peanut butter in the meantime. Is this what the feminists envisioned when they pressed for equality in the workplace...that husbands and wives would be equally stressed and have equally small amounts of time to take care of their families? I don't know.

In any case, the play I was directing is over. The yearbook I was creating is done. All I have to do for the rest of the school year is just teach, which all I really wanted to do from the beginning.

I actually got to sleep in until 6AM this felt like heaven.

I feel so good...I am even thinking about defrosting a chicken!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

You Can't Take it With You

There is a scene in the play, "You Can't Take it With You," where Grandpa Vanderhof gets visited by an IRS agent because he hasn't paid his taxes. Ever. When the IRS agent asks him why, the grandfather just replies that he doesn't ever see tax money going anywhere useful and he throws the responsibility back on the agent to explain what they need all that money for. The IRS agent mutters something about the military needing it, and roads and schools, and of course, the constitution. The grandfather argues that the constitution was paid for a long time ago and maybe those other things are important, but he thinks they're only worth about $15.00 for the lot.

We sent in our federal income tax forms today. I do often wonder about the purpose of all that money.

Roads and schools are good...but doesn't my state pay for most of that?
The military is good...but do they really need that much of my money for it?
Is my money paying for people on welfare?
Or unemployment benefits for people who've lost their jobs in the recession?
Again, I see the value of taking care of our fellow citizens, but does the government really need as much as they're taking?
I think the national parks are a good idea...I can get behind paying taxes for those.
I like my firemen and my police officers, but again, doesn't my state pay for those, not the federal government?

In any case, I think it's all worth about $10,000 a year for someone like me. Unfortunately, they take considerably more if you're a debt-free married couple who both work with no kids.

They're like, "congratulations for paying cash for your house and not getting knocked more taxes!"

If the federal government was a business, it would be a pretty lousy model. It doesn't generate any of its own income and it's not self-sustaining. Couldn't some of the smartest people in this country figure out a way to make the government just a little more independent? I mean, if someone gave me so many billions of dollars a year, I could invest it and earn interest on it and hopefully figure out a way not to keep needing billions of dollars a year, instead of just spending it all every single year.

Here's what I'd like them to do with my taxes this year: Hire a financial analyst. They might have to put my taxes together with my parents in order to do this, but between the two, it'd be plenty. The financial analyst could come and take a look at the federal budget and trim the thing. That is what a business would do if they were billions of dollars in debt.

Aah, well, it's only money, right? And you certainly can't take it with you.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hope is a thing with feathers

I went outside yesterday morning and breathed in the fresh spring air.

For the first time in a while the future seemed bright.

Is it that the play I'm directing is almost over?

Is it that the yearbook is almost completed?

Could it be that I finally got enough sleep?

Or is it just spring?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Harper Lee for President- Revisited

I had an unprecedented amount of traffic on my blog this month. So much traffic, in fact, that I began wondering what on earth I had written or done that made so many people visit my blog. A little on-line sleuthing soon delivered some answers.

It turns out that President Obama recently presented Harper Lee with a special award for her book _To Kill a Mockingbird_. Apparently "Harper Lee President" was a popular search title on Google for a few weeks, and my blog post, "Harper Lee for President" was in the top 6, so quite a few people clicked on it. What a fun, serendipitous thing to happen.

I am still working in my short story, "Alvinia." I am developing the character of Mistress Georgette, who is the primary mover and shaker in the story. She is the character in the story most like me, or should I say, most like who I would like to be. The title character, Alvinia, is a fairly flat character- your general, run-of-the-mill pretty girl with a little spunk.
But Mistress Georgette is truly a force to be reckoned with. She is clever and compassionate, but both qualities are tempered with practicality. She's a business woman in a man's world, but she can work within the system to get what she wants without making a fuss. She is lighthearted and handsome, but always dignified, and anyone who disrespects her does it at their own peril, because this a woman you want on your side. I have based her partially on Dolly Levi from "Hello, Dolly," Bathsheda Everdene from Far From the Madding Crowd, and myself when I'm in full teacher mode. Mistress Georgette is going to not only help Alvinia in a clever and peaceful way, but she's also going to get what she wants in the process.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go write the thing instead of just waffling on about it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hello Mother, hello Father, I’m a new teacher at Kern Valley...

I found this in some old computer files. I wrote it during my first year of teaching and forgot all about it. It's a spoof on, "Camp Grenada," by Allan Sherman.

Hello Mother, hello Father,
I’m a new teacher at Kern Valley
School requires a lot of training
And they say we'll all teach well when they’re explaining

But I was teaching and lecturing
When I noticed they weren’t listening
they were talking, they were laughing,
all my students are so aggravating.

All the students hate the teachers
And my classroom’s full of creatures
from the food that kids have left there
All these ants are climbing up on my chair.

I went out to see my car,
They had keyed it, they’ve gone too far!
they egged my house and ding-dong ditched it
And they laughed at me when I pitched a fit.

Take me home, oh Mother Father,
Take me home, I’m bad at teaching!
Don't leave me in my classroom where
the smell of body odor lingers everywhere.
Take me home I promise I will make your meal
Or wash your car and shine the rims and wheels.
Oh please don't make me stay
I've been teaching one whole day.

Dearest Father,
Darling Mother,
I could stay in your old cellar,
Let me come home, though I’m thirty,
I would even clean your house if it gets dirty.

Wait a minute, here’s my paycheck
and a student just hugged my neck,
making friends now, gee that's better
Mother, Father, disregard this letter.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Where's the Love?

We are studying Romeo and Juliet in my 9th grade class right now. We had a class discussion on Love at First Sight and whether it existed or not. This led to a discussion of what True Love really is, and that conversation yielded what I feel are some tragic statistics.

Out of 50 freshmen,

4 believed in the existence of "True Love,"

16 said they didn't know,

and 30 said they didn't believe it existed.

Where are the ideals of 60% of these kids? They are 15 and 16 years old...isn't that when you should believe in Love?

Sadly, I estimate that at least 25% of these students are already sexually active. Perhaps their opinions on love could explain why it seems that they have few morals when it comes to sex. Maybe they think, why wait for Love when it's not real?

Of the 4 who did believe in love, they gave some interesting evidence. Also interestingly, these are students who I am fairly certain are not sexually active.

#1 said, "I've watched a lot of romantic movies with my parents. That makes me think Love is real."

#2 said, "My Mom's boyfriend really loves her. That's why I believe in Love."

#3 said, "I fell in love with my niece when she was born this year. The moment I saw her, I loved her."

#4 said, "My Dad and Mom got married when they were 16. They have been married now for over 20 years, and they still love each other."

When I was a teenager it never entered my mind that Love wasn't real. I have never believed that every person has a soul mate; I don't believe the Bible teaches this, nor have I seen it to be true in life. But I have always believe that True Love existed, even if there were times I wondered if it would happen to me.

I was able to share with my students that I believe that Love is real. I told them about my Mom and Dad and how God brought them together and how they have been married for over 35 years and love each other. I told them about my husband and about being married for the past 5 1/2 years and about how I believe God created us for each other.

They looked at me like I was some sort of idiot. It's the same look they give me when I encourage them to wait to have sex until they're married, or at least wait until they're out of high school. Or at least be In Love with the person they have sex with.

Or at least demand a nice environment to have sex IN.
Nice hotel room= okay environment
Back of boyfriend's junky car= bad environment
House they own together as a loving married couple= really good environment
Dumpster in the alley behind the mall= really, really bad environment (I wish I had made this one up...but it's sadly a true story I heard once.)

When I was in the church youth group during high school, we performed "True Love Waits: The Musical." (Yes, there is a musical about this!) It was all about waiting for marriage to have sex. It was campy and silly...but it was sweet.

I don't know if it changed anyone's opinions in the youth group; most of them ended up preggers before the end of high school anyway, but there were a few of us who believed in the ideas. Me and my sister (La Therapista), and my now sister-in-law, Meghan (The Bennett Blurb. Meghan is expecting a within-wedlock baby with my handsome brother and we are just all SO excited!), believed in waiting for marriage. I think a few others- Carrie, Sarah, maybe a couple more, but it's painful now to look back at the cast picture...because so many of the kids in that group went on to lead destructive, painful, love-less lives.

I can't expect teenagers to have the same Christian ideals that I do. But I wish they had Hope...and more loving relationships to serve as models for them.

What do you think? Do you believe in True Love? Also, why don't more teenagers have hope or ideals? The only answer I know to these problems is Jesus.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Bang and Then a Silence

She kept daydreaming about the gun. There it was, in the little box. The men always kept it loaded, "just in case."

When her husband had first brought the gun into the house, she had not been pleased, but that made no difference.

She had never liked guns.

Now, however, she found herself thinking about them in detail- specifically, the sounds.

A bang, and then a silence.

The silence is what she was most interested in- being silent, and quiet, and still.

A sleep that no alarm clock would interrupt for her.

It's not that she was miserable.

She was just...tired. It seemed like the harder she worked at her job, the more responsibilities they gave her. Day in, day out, leaving early in the morning and coming home late at night.

For years she had worked, and now she was just tired of it. She could have just waited it out until retirement...but she was tired of waiting things out, tired of doing the sensible thing. Tired of being a sheep.

She had often thought that suicide was one of the most selfish decisions a person could make...but now it just seemed like a way to get some rest.

She tried not to think of the shiny black gun.

"Stop acting like a teenager," she would think to herself. And the thoughts would go away...for a little while.

But the next time something broke at work or her husband ignored her or she hadn't gotten enough sleep again...

There it was again, in her mind, a bang and then a silence.

"It is finished. I have had enough," she would think, and she would feel her feet tingle, ready to move towards the box with the gun. And then she would think better of it, and try to change the subject in her mind. And go back to work the next day.

But one day, she knew, the timing would be just right, and she would finally get some rest.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Further Adventures of Idiot-Woman- Installment 2

Whenever I say to my husband, "honey, I'm reading a new book..." he gets this crazed, glazed-over look in his eyes.

He knows that this means I will develop some wonderful new idea that I am convinced will change everything for the better....and turn our lives upside down in the process.

He knows it is no use to try to dissuade me, I must try the new idea, even if it kills us both.

So when I told him I wanted to learn more about investing in the stock market, Anthony wasn't exactly thrilled, but as usual, he let me have the freedom to try it out.

And what's the first thing I do?

Step knee-deep into a steaming, feculant pile of scam. I even managed to rope my supportive father in with me.

My Dad and I both signed up for the "Rich Dad, Poor Dad Stock Success" 3-day workshop, which we paid $200 for the privilege of attending.

It seemed like it was going well for the first day. It was all so simple.

Learn their system and you can quit your job, make more money than you ever dreamed possible, and do it all while only working 30 minutes a day!

Being currently stuck in Yearbook Hell, this was very tempting to me. I visualized being able to quit my job, stealing the entire shipment of books, and setting fire to them while all the high school students wept. It was a beautiful dream.

The point where I started to lose faith in the excited "teachers" and "success coaches," was when they told us that we should try to extend our credit lines so we could pay for their expensive, $10,000 up-front courses.

My husband and I are ONE month away from paying off our student loans. We have promised ourselves that we will never "do" debt again.

The second point where I started to lose faith was when I started asking the "success coaches" (aka salespeople) about how well the system worked for them.

They would say, "Oh, great! Best decision I ever made," but then....their eyes would slide off to the side. THEY WERE LYING!

I am not even that good at detecting lying. But 5 years of teaching high school have taught me that people whose eyes slide off to the side like that...are lying to you.

Some of the "techniques" they taught were downright illegal (like using your Health Savings Account as a "whatever I need from the pharmacy, like food or school supplies" savings account.)

Some of the "techniques" were highly risky. "No, there is no risk in short-selling stocks. None at all." LIES!

So, needless to say, my father and I looked at eachother after the first day and talked about how neither of us trusted these people.

In fact, we left half-way through the second day, when the presenter started berating us for being so ignorant as not to see the great "opportunity" they were giving us.

To our Dad and I were the first people to walk out. I hope we weren't the last.

I guess I'm just not "ready to be rich."

Oh, Idiot-Woman, what new ideas will you follow next?

Does anyone have any swampland in Florida for me to purchase?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Oxford Adventures: The Boy I left Behind

During my Junior Year of College, I studied abroad at Oxford for a Semester. It has by far been one of the best experiences of my life. You can see above some of the adventures I had.

Picture #1: This is me and a friend from my program in the stocks at Warwick Castle.

Picture #2: This is me and another friend at Shakespeare's House in Stratford on Avon. I'm the one in the grey sweater.

Picture #3: My twin sister Carolyn (La Therapista) and I went to Bath together. I'm the one with the red hat.

I had many adventures in Oxford...but the one I will tell you about today has to do with the boy I left behind in America.

Anthony and I had met in the December of 2002, the winter of my Sophomore year. You can read that story here at the post, "Can Stripping in Your Car Lead to True Love."

Although I knew that I cared for Anthony deeply, I still had mixed feelings about making any sort of commitment to him, especially knowing that I would be gone for 3 months in the fall of 2003. So all Winter, Spring, and Summer of 2003, we dated...but we weren't in any kind of formal relationship. We both wanted to take things slow, and I enjoyed the freedom of seeing Anthony when I wanted to and having time to myself when I wanted to. I would see him about once or twice a week during the summer and once or twice a month when I was away at college.

When I left for England, it was with the understanding that we were both free to see other people. I was curious to meet boys from Oxford. Some of you long-time readers will recall that I have sort of a freaky obsession with England and all things from the UK, so I didn't want to miss any opportunities to fraternize with with my fellow students, if I met one who I liked.

I mean, seriously, the whole of Oxford University...full of 20-something well-to-do young men who spoke with British accents...was a drool-worthy contemplation for me at the time.

So I left Anthony, got on a plane, and went off on my grand adventure.

Before I left, he handed me an envelope and instructed me not to open it until I was in the air. Inside, was $300 and a note saying that it was a gift to help me and that there were no strings attached. It ended up being an incredible help. I had very little spending money and what little I did have, I spent on traveling to Ireland, Scotland, Paris, etc., so there was not always enough for food.

Once I arrived in Oxford I got settled in to my new living quarters provided by my study abroad program and began my classes. The first Monday I checked my mailbox, and there was a letter from Anthony. Tuesday, I checked my box, and there was another letter from Anthony. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday...same thing. The post doesn't come on Sundays, so there was no letter then, but there were two on Monday to make up for it.

Anthony wrote to me every day while I was England. I made plenty of British friends, both girls and boys, and I did get a few date offers here and there...but none that I was even remotely interested in taking. I dropped all pretense that Anthony wasn't my boyfriend, and whenever I did get date offers, I would just say, "Oh, I have a boyfriend in America."

For my birthday, he sent me a bouquet of 24 roses. On the one year anniversary of the day we met, he sent me more flowers. Once every two weeks or so, he would send me a care package with plenty of food in it and phone cards so that I could call him long distance.

It was as if he were saying, "You don't have to commit to me...but I'm still going to take care of you, and you're sure not going to forget about me."

By the time the Michaelmas Semester was were any reservations I still had about Anthony. I hated leaving England, you understand. In a way, it was like coming home...every book I'd ever read and loved...being there was like living it. But there was nothing there for me...I was still a stranger in a strange land. The British young people were very funny and polite and friendly...but I never lost the feeling that I was an outsider.

So when I left England, it was with a heavy heart...but I knew I was coming back for someone who loved me and that I could finally say without any reservations that I was in love with, too. For weeks before it was time to leave, I had obsessed over the moment when I would see Anthony again. Would he still love me? Did he still remember me? Would it be awkward between us? I wanted to see him again as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, there was a mix-up with my plane flight. It ended up coming in two hours earlier than my parents or Anthony knew, and I thought they would be there when I got off the plane.

...I didn't see them anywhere...I was even a little afraid I wouldn't recognize Anthony. I looked at every dark-haired young man I could find, and none of them were him.

I found an uncomfortable airport chair and broke down and cried. It didn't help that I was horribly sick (poor nutrition, remember?) and brought home a terrible cough that would plague me for the next six months. I called Anthony's cell-phone, wretchedly hoping he would pick up. He didn't. I left a message and waited. And coughed a lot.

"Sandy!" I heard my name...and there he was...coming towards me, this man whose letters had followed me half-way around the world. We hugged and kissed and I cried, and I promised I would never leave him again like that. And I haven't.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Trailer Cat Chronicles or Confessions of a Crazy Cat Hoarder

At night, the trailer cats wake us up by running under the trailer, chasing and yowling at each other. Sometimes they run back and forth on top of trailer and other nights, mewing to be let in through the ceiling vents.

When we let them inside, they are calm most of the time, but if they start running after one another, they can make the entire trailer shake.

We have a small herd of trailer cats: three to be exact.

There are 30 feet in our trailer, so you would think that would give each cat about 10 feet to itsself, but...they all want to be in the same spot, of course.

Bango is the white Calico. She is the oldest, the first, and the head honcho. She keeps the other two in line and is the first to pick a fight.

Tail-light is the tortoise shell. She is second oldest, everyone's favorite, and never worries about who's in charge. She just plays. She will play with cats, people, and even dogs.

Mystery is the grey one. She is the youngest, the laziest, the scaredest, and the neediest. All she ever wants to do is sleep inside the trailer.

When Mystery appeared (mysteriously), and we decided to keep her, my in-laws began wondering if I was a cat hoarder.

My husband tolerates my eccentricity because he sees that the cats amuse me. Plus, he knows I'm crazy and that most of the time, it's best to humour me.

We spend about $30 a month on all their food, which I realize is a completely unnecessary expense. If we were really serious about saving money, we would have never acquired the cats to begin with...but...

...the cats make me happy. I think it's funny when they run around, doing unexpected things. I love it when they all try to sit on my lap. It makes me laugh when they chase each other. When I come home from work, they all seem to magically appear near my car, greeting me when I come home.

I even like it when they try to eat the food off the table or out of my hands. I try not to let them do this, but it cracks me up when they do.

I can't stop photographing them. It's not that they do anything particularly photo-worthy, I mean, they're just cats, but...I just want to get as many shots of them as possible.

I have promised my husband not to acquire any more cats as long as the all these herd-members are living.

I intend to stick to that promise...but it might be really difficult!

What about you? Are you a crazy pet hoarder, too?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet"

We are studying Romeo and Juliet in class right now, so yesterday we discussed whether we would still be ourselves if our parents had named us something different.

I shared with the darlings that my parents had named me Sandy after one of my father's favorite cousins. I have only met my 2nd cousin Sandy a few times, so I don't have very many ideas about who she is- but I got the impression from my father that she was a sweet, caring person.

Something else I shared with the darlings is that Sandra means, "Helper of Mankind."

I have always taken pride in the idea that I was a "helper." I don't like to see pain or suffering- I want to make the world a better place. One of my spiritual gifts is Mercy, and when I see tragedy my heart breaks every time. I believe that is the sort of person Jesus would want me to be, too- someone who puts an end to suffering and shares hope with people.

That is one of the reasons why I became a teacher. And yet...I have to be so strict with my rules to keep order and to keep them from hurting themselves and eachother, that it just wears away at me day after day. I am all alone in that little classroom on top of the hill. It's only me and them and I often wonder how much longer I can keep it together.

I am tired of being the person who is yelling at people and disciplining them. You would think that after five years, I would fall into some sort of pattern that would be effective and that I could live with- but instead, I find myself turning into someone I don't like.

The weird thing is- I feel like I'm being the meanest person on the planet- but yet the kids still treat me like I'm way too nice. I don't think I'm cut out for this job.

"Mrs. Hughes" is not the same person as "Sandy." And I am tired of being "Mrs. Hughes." I would rather be "Sandra Rose" again. I want to be sweet and pleasant and fun- but instead, I'm strict, and unyielding and on guard... and even though it may be what the kids need more than anything...I don't like it. I feel like I'm not "Sandra Rose" anymore. I wonder where she went? Will she come back this summer?
-because I sure miss being her.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Letter to a Season

Dear Spring,

I have noticed that you are trying to keep from doing your job for as long as possible this year. The frost is still arriving every morning and just last week, we had snow! This is unacceptable. Why should we be penalized for your tardiness? You had better come soon!

I'm sorry, I know how mean that must have sounded. I didn't mean to be so harsh- I really love you, Spring, and I don't want to hurt your feelings. It's just that it's been so very cold lately and we're all getting a little antsy down here.

I'm tired of being cold and wet and in the dark. I'm tired of empty gardens and defrosting the windshield of my car. I know you're probably with Summer and Fall, partying it up, but don't you think it's time to come down here now?

If you would only come soon, I promise I would plant some carrots in your honor.

Sincerely- Sandy

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Can Stripping in Your Car Lead to True Love?

It was already dark by the time I circled the parking lot at the restaurant.
I was two hours late and I still had to change into my formal gown. I was afraid to go into the restaurant to put it on in case my date should see me before I was ready to see him.

I hoped to find a fast-food restaurant or a gas station nearby to change, but instead I drove past office building after office building with no luck.
Time was running out. With a deep sigh- what a long day it had been- I pulled into a dark parking lot and drove to the farthest corner I could find.

"Any Hobos out there?" I wondered. "Enjoy the show."

It went against at least 95% of my upbringing and training to strip in my car in a parking lot, but I decided to follow the 5% that told me not to stand up a date and suck it up and do it anyway.

By the way, formal gowns were not meant to be gotten into easily. There wasn't much room in my tiny, two door car, but I decided to make the best of it. My elbows kept slamming up against the windows, I kept tripping over the dress and body parts got free that I usually keep carefully contained. It was a sorry mess, but I go the dress on.

My cousin had done my hair at about 7AM that morning and suffice it to say, it wasn't looking so hot by 7PM.

So by the time I changed and finally found a parking spot half a mile away from the restaurant, I walked in with sore feet, sickly hair, and a formal dress that needed all the bows in the back retied....I wasn't feeling so glamorous.

My friends saw me,
"Oh Good! You're finally here. Your date is waiting for you!"
They helped me re-tie the bows in the back of my dress.
I did what I could to my hair in the bathroom at the restaurant.

Then, with my friends helping me, I walked to our table, where I met a polite, dark-haired young man who had a corsage for me. He pulled my chair out for me.

I sat at the table, still feeling jittery from the ordeal of just getting there, and took a deep breath.
He said, "Hi. I'm Anthony. It's nice to finally meet you."

"I'm Sandy." I said.

I don't really remember everything we talked about...just that in a whirwind of anxiety...I felt calm around him.

He didn't seem to notice that my hair was disheveled or my dress was rumpled or the slightly frantic look in my eyes.

Later, we drove in my car back together and he noticed we were out of gas. We stopped at a gas station that was almost closed. He took care of everything. He convinced the workers to keep the station open for one more car, he paid the scary homeless people some money so they would go away, and he paid for and pumped my gas for me.

As I sat in the car, feeling very much like a lady, very much taken care of, not anything like the jittery girl who had taken off all her clothes in the very same car only a few hours before- I thought, much to my own surprise, "If you want me, Anthony Hughes, I'm yours."

We were married about 3 years later.
We've been married now for almost 6 years.
I can't believe it's been almost 9 years since that night. Since the night I met my Anthony.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Would you like some cheese with that...

Warning: The following post is extremely whiny. If you are a "pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps-and-stop-whining sort of person, this post will merely irritate and enrage you.

I haven't written a poem in three months. My Alvinia short story is stalled. My Marilyn Marlin book will probably never see the light of day. This blog is supposed to be about trying to get published, and the various wacky adventures I face along the way...but I haven't submitted anything for publication in like 4 months. I've got nothing.

Do you think creativity is a finite resource? I think it must be. I only have so much of it, and I spend way too much on things that don't really matter (cough...yearbook...cough) and by the end of a long day teaching kids, directing a play, and creating this frustrating yearbook...I don't have much to write about.

I feel like I'm betraying myself by not putting my time and creativity towards writing, and putting it, instead, into parts of a job that quite frankly don't matter. There are people who love yearbooks. My cousin, Jennifer Pfeffer adores yearbooks...and she is a yearbook goddess. She loves them. Good for her. She needs to come take over my class. She's welcome to it.
This is my cousin, the yearbook goddess's blog: She's having a her blog is probably a lot more fun to read than this one, so just go on over. Click on the link...don't even bother to finish this whine-fest. It's fine...I understand. Her yearbooks are way better than mine anyway. And she like most of my friends and relatives, gets to have a baby, unlike me, whose biological clock is going cucko and who will probably never get to have my own children at the current rate our plan is going.

So why am I spending hours moving tiny little pictures around on a freaking computer screen to create a book that is going to sit on somebody's shelf for the next few years and collect dust instead of working on my own writing or my own things that I care about?

You may be asking yourself, "Aren't the kids supposed to be working on the yearbook?" Yes, yes they a perfect world, where I know what I'm doing and can teach them how to be independent. So, yes, if I were a good yearbook teacher, the kids would be doing all the work...but I'm not.

I don't how to do this stuff, much less teach them. And I don't want to learn. I'm sick of it. I'm sick of every child in the school and their parents wanting something from me and pitching a fit when they don't get it. I'm sick of having no power over this book. My principal made many decisions about how this book was supposed to be, and now she's gone, and I'm stuck with her choices, and I don't like them.

So why am I not using my precious resources on writing? Or how about this- why I am I not spending 3 hours a day planning lessons for my 9th grade English classes, who desperately need to learn how to read, instead of working on this insipid picture book?

So what do you think? Is Creativity finite or limitless? How do I keep enough for me by the end of the day?

This is the end of my rant. Thanks for bearing with me. We will soon return to our regularly scheduled, less-whiny blog posts as soon as I finish this bloody yearbook.

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