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Lake Isabella, CA, United States
I am an aspiring writer in the Kern River Valley. This blog is a "test kitchen" to try different writing styles and to work through the many rejections and the handful of acceptances my work has received. But no matter what other people say about my writing, at least my mother thinks I'm a good writer!

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.