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 credit...my 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 over...so 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