Sunday, November 22, 2009

Adventures in Munchkin Land

I swore I would never substitute teach again, but that old adage about desperate times and desperate measures has forced me to swallow my pride and lower my expectations for decent human behavior in order to bring home some very lean bacon. This is a slap in the face because I am trying to get away from teaching, but now I'm doing it for much less pay, no benefits, and I went from the best and brightest students to the kids at the bottom of the barrel. All of my classroom experience is at the 9th-12th grade level. I have subbed at a few different points in time, and once in college I subbed 1st grade for one day, one very very long day, and swore off elementary school forever. But, in my effort to work every day possible, I'm having to take some assignments in the lower grades. Needless to say, I have renewed respect for elementary teachers, and I have been really tired lately.

My adventures with the little people get off to an auspicious start when the principal stops me on my way to the kindergarten classroom and tells me one of the kids in this class has been going to the bathroom and defecating in the trash can. He asked if I would please monitor restroom usage. I must have looked pretty horrified because then he said, "other than that, this is a great group of kids." Yeah right, the "good group of kids" ship sailed at the word defecate. The fun continued with an afternoon of squealing, snot, crying while flailing on the floor (a kid not me, although I was tempted), tattle-telling, and general destruction to the classroom. You saw Kindergarten Cop, right? The only redemption was that it was a half day assignment.

Round Two: Another campus, another kindergarten class, another half day assignment (thank the good Lord). Everything started off great. Then came the Six Crisis followed shortly by the Seven Crisis (luckily in kindergarten they can't count very high or this could have gotten much worse). An adorable little boy, we'll call him Adam, who had been coloring quietly, spontaneously burst into tears. Not just a trickle of tears, but full on sobbing, gasping for breath, snot running, eyes red crying. I thought surely someone must have put a freshly sharpened #2 pencil through his hand. I rush over, scan for blood, find none and ask what is wrong. "I can't write a six. It is impossible," says Adam. Impossible sixes quickly turned into a dislike of having to write his name so often-"on every single paper"-and a hatred of school in general. Being a gifted educator, I had Adam sit on he carpet with me and I asked him to write the letter "C" on his paper and then add a loop on the bottom to create a pretty darn good six. Crisis averted...or not. After looking at his six and comparing it to mine he burst into a fresh round of sobbing because his wasn't good enough. This time there was no consoling him despite my giftedness as an educator. He is becoming a distraction for the entire class and I have to do something to regain control. It is here that the apples come into play.

Whoever came up with the apple system is a genius. There are many variants of the system, I remember airplanes when i was a wee tot, but I'm partial to the apples now that I have witnessed their power first hand. When nothing else would make Adam stop his tantrum, I was forced to utter these words: "If you don't settle down right now, I'm going to have to move your apple." A hush fell over the room, eyes widened to the size of saucers, Adam made a weak attempt at cooperation. Then the reality of a moved apple overwhelmed him, and the fear sent him into a fresh wave of paroxysms. By this time my empathy reserves are depleted and he is no longer adorable, so I move his apple. There was an audible gasp from the class. Adam finally pulled it together and went back to his seat. Now, I have no idea what happens when an apple gets moved, but it must be bad. Once the other kids knew I wasn't afraid to move an apple, I had their total cooperation for the rest of the day. These are some powerful apples. At what age does the apple cease to instill a sense of dread? Can you imagine if our penal system was based on the apple chart?

So I thought after all this it would be an uneventful afternoon. Adam had other ideas. I give out the next math packet which requires me to tell them what shapes to draw. Reading from the directions I say, "Draw seven triangles." this sends Adam into orbit. "Seven! Seven triangles! That's impossible! Who can draw seven triangles?!?" I'm silently thinking, "Everyone in this room but you," but I was very proud of myself for keeping that thought to myself. He goes on to say, "If you had said to draw four triangles I could, but seven is too hard, it's impossible." I'm seeing a tough road ahead for the kid who thinks writing "6" and drawing seven triangles is impossible. Now starts a new snot, tear, sob filled hissy fit that any latte deprived celebrity would envy. Adam is saying, "I hate school. Why does school have to exist?" I'm momentarily distracted from the snot by his excellent vocabulary and sentence structure. "I just want to learn at home. This is too hard and it is only going to get harder. I wish school didn't exist! I want to go home immediately!" Except that last bit sounded like, "I want to go home immediatwy!" I tell him there are just two hours left until he can go home, but he keeps saying "I want to go home immediatwy" over and over and is getting increasingly loud about it. How much air can five year old lungs hold? Every time he says "immediatwy" I get tickled and the more he says it, the more I start to lose it which just makes him more upset. I can sense this spiraling out of control, so I remind myself I am the grown-up in this situation and I rein it in. I finally tell him he doesn't have to draw the seven impossible triangles if he will just sit down, be quiet, and stop crying. Three minutes later he was fine, but I wanted to go home IMMEDIATWY!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shopping for Spouses

I recently saw a show on National Geographic or some other educational cable channel about American men who get wives from Russia through web based services. I have often heard the term "mail order bride" in movies and on TV, but I guess I never gave much thought to what it really implied. It always sounded antiquated, but apparently it is a thriving business in the modern era. I am disturbed by this phenomenon for myriad reasons:

Category 1: Sad Reasons

These women have pretty poor prospects for a decent life in Russia and are willing to marry odd, unattractive, American social outcasts. It is sad that their lives are so bad they will leave home and family and come to a place where they do not speak the language (none of the women featured spoke English) and only know one person. This puts them completely at the mercy of these men and does not give them a Plan B should things not work out. (The men pay the travel expenses to get them here and their families would be hard pressed to get them back.) There is at least one known case of a Ukrainian girl being murdered by her American husband. Once she got here, she no longer wanted to have sex with him-for very obvious reasons-and he ended up killing her. How sad that the state of things in Russia is still so bad that this is a viable option for women.

Category 2: Eww Gross Reasons

Seriously, what kind of man does this? There are 300,000,000 people in America, you can find someone here! One man said American women were too independent and he wanted a more traditional subservient wife. He felt that Eastern European women were more appreciative of the life he was offering. For one guy, this was going to be wife number three. Hmm...two failed marriages already, maybe you shouldn't be married, or maybe some counseling is in order. This guy was a total creeper too, and I'll give you a dollar if he isn't a closeted gay. In some cases the age differences were disturbing; 18 year old girls and men over 40. There was one guy who, despite being a bit unfortunate looking, was not bad. He had a good job, was in shape, and didn't seem like he had any bodies buried out back. He seemed very sincere about finding someone who he could really love. I am sure he could find a nice homely American girl, but I sensed the prospect of old fashioned dating and the potential rejection that come with it had this guy terrified. He actually went to Russia to meet the girl he'd been emailing. It seemed promising, they looked about right for each other (I should note these are not Russian beauty queens) and were both really excited. He even brought her a really pretty diamond necklace; shiny gifts do a lot to improve the physical appearance of an ugly guy. Their dates, however, were excruciatingly awkward and painful to watch. She spoke about five words of English and he spoke no Russian. They had a translator (the woman who ran the Russian side of the web site's operations) part of the time which made things even more uncomfortable. The humor did not translate either direction and there were lots of awkward pauses. Now I can, and have, imagined scenarios where not speaking the same language is in no way a deterrent to, and may even enhance, a very successful short term relationship. This however involves copious using of the lips for activities other than talking. In this case, I don't think the guy had ever kissed a girl before, and half the time that pesky translator was there trying to seal the deal between them so she could get a commission. I have a vivid imagination, but I cannot imagine any situation where this type of matchmaking is not strange.

Category 3: Selfish Reasons

Give me a freakin' break. As a single 31 year old woman I cringe at the notion of men from the country in which I live paying big money to buy Russian wives. Now, I should clarify that there is no way in hell I personally would ever have anything to do with any of these men, nor would any other woman I know. BUT, we can't have these guys importing wives. We need them to hook up with the weird and unattractive women of our own country who, because of their unattractive weirdness, are willing to go to great lengths that more attractive less weird women will not in order to snag one of the few decent single men still in the pool. These women are wild cards and they are screwing up the odds! There is also the possibility that men willing to drop some cash on a wife could siphon off a few gold-diggers here and there, further tipping the dating odds in favor of normal women (by normal women I mean me and my single friends).

Just a quick recap: I DON'T THINK AMERICAN MEN SHOULD BUY RUSSIAN WIVES. It is just creepy gross. Man up and go through the pain and humiliation of dating that the rest of us Americans suffer through. Hopefully, it will payoff for all of us someday.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Most Random Compliment Ever

It usually seems to me like guys have it pretty easy; they can be ready to go anywhere in 15 minutes or less and they never have to wear pantyhose. But one thing that I would never envy a guy for is having to talk to girls. Especially bitchy girls who turn around and make fun of them on the Internet for trying to chat them up.

A few weeks ago a guy was talking to me in a bar and it was really all I could do not to laugh right in his face, bless his heart. (I read in a book once that southern women can say incredibly insulting things about people, even right to their faces, and it's OK as as long as they add "bless your/his/her heart" at the end. Of course the book was written by a southern woman who said a lot of insulting things about people.)

To start with, the guy had to be at least 15 years older than me, and seeing as how I'm no spring chicken, he was definitely old enough to know better. This is pure speculation on my part, but I'm betting there is more than one ex-wife in his life. Anyway, I had noticed him much earlier in the evening, but not for any positive reasons. He obviously didn't have a problem being the center of attention. I had gone unnoticed by him until I stood up to change seats after some people left our table, at which point I hear a very loud, "Hey, girl!" which I did a most excellent job of ignoring. Point of note for any gentleman readers: women do not like to be yelled at in bars (or anywhere really). If you meet a girl that likes being called down in this fashion, she is NOT, I repeat NOT a girl you actually want talking to you.

Thinking the crisis has been averted I continue to enjoy the band and talking with my friends when the empty seat next to me is suddenly very much occupied. The guy, let's call him Bill*, introduces himself by kissing my hand which makes it very hard for me not to spew wine out my nose from laughing. Now, I should mention that I am 100% in favor of chivalry and charming gestures including but not limited to the hand kiss, but the guy is buzzed, has been acting a fool most of the evening, and already yelled at me from across the room, so any notion that this is a genuinely chivalrous and charming individual is already out the window.

Bill, staying true to the playbook, offers to buy me a drink which I politely decline much to his chagrin. He proceeds to tell me how he was in marketing for years but got tired of working for "the man" so he became a handyman. He tells me how he's always loved fixing things because he's "good with his hands." When he says "good with his hands" he does the head nod in combination with an eyebrow raise implying the double entendre. Second point of note for any gentleman readers: no woman is going to let you put your hands on her based solely on your own admission that you are "good with your hands" no matter how much head nodding and eyebrow raising accompany the phrase.

So poor Bill is up to bat and the count is 0-2 and the pitcher has just thrown him a curve ball. Translation, my friend has assessed this situation and announced we are leaving because we have to get up early for work the next day (not true on my part as I am still unemployed). So in a last ditch effort to win my fickle affections, Bill decides to pay me a compliment. A simple "you're pretty" was too plebeian for Bill, he--wisely--avoided commenting on my ample bosom, no, he went lower in the anatomy to pay homage to my beauty by saying..."you have the most photogenic knees I have ever seen." Seriously, I'm not making this up, "photogenic knees." I have spent a great deal of my life in shorts and skirts, and no one has ever said squat about my knees. In fact, my knees are the worst things going on south of my hemline, but according to Bill they were beautiful enough to be captured on film for the enjoyment of future generations. This brings me to my third and final point of note for any gentleman readers: when paying a compliment to a woman it is best to stick to the classics like "amazing eyes," "beautiful smile," or my personal favorite "really cute dimples." There are lots of times when innovation is appreciated, but when paying a compliment to a girl you just met and would like to know better, it's best to use proven methods so she doesn't spew wine out of her nose laughing at you, say "bless your heart," and run home to write about the whole incident on the Internet.

*All names have been changed for the protection of the inept.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Thank you so much to everyone who has been reading and commenting on my blog! It has been fun to see your responses. Sorry I have not written in a while, I have several posts in progress that will hopefully be entertaining to you all. I hope you have been sincere in your positive feedback on the blog and not just feeling sorry for the poor unemployed girl because I'm about to send the link to a bunch of people! There is one new post below and more should be up early in the week.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What the Funk?

Since my arrival in Austin I have been in a bit of a funk. Not having a sense of purpose or a source of income has not allowed me to be my usual fun-loving self. However, when my friend proposed we go to the Elephant Room (a renown jazz venue on South Congress) on a random Wednesday to hear Monster Big Band, I realized I desperately needed to get out on a "school night" (it helped that there was no cover charge). So we get dolled up and head downtown generally feeling great that we now live in a place where you have such a fantastic live music opportunity on a Wednesday. The club is great; basement level in an old building, low lighting, exposed brick, and the palpable feeling of days gone by. The band is even better; sixteen piece big band plus a great singer. There is a mix of young and old (literally a grandfather and his two grand kids at a table one over from mine) rich and poor (me representing the poor in this case), and everyone is there for the music, and everyone is having a great time; but no one is having a better time than Crystal Funk.

From the second I saw Crystal I started thinking about what I would write about her that could adequately describe what I witnessed on this otherwise banal Wednesday. Let's start with the physical description. Black pleather snake skin fancy lad hat (I just learned this term "fancy lad" over the weekend, but basically it is the little beret type hat golfers wear), red suede sleeveless knee length dress (to show off unshaven underarms and allow the freedom of movement to do high kicks, and yes, there were many high kicks), and black jazz shoes such as one would wear in an actual jazz dance class. As soon as the band strikes up the first chord she appears on the left side of the stage. Please keep in mind, there is no dance floor in this joint, she's just wedged between tables and the stage. She begins a series of movements that, for the sake of simplicity, we will call dance. This is an odd combination of every tribal dance ever witnessed on the National Geographic Chanel, interpretive dance from New Age churches, and the choreography from the movie/musical Chicago. I know a lot of words and I can't come up with any combination of them that could ever truly describe Crystal's dance. During the first song it is a bit distracting for the audience and, judging by their faces, several members of the band. There is a lot of pointing and giggling and many a confounded glance exchanged. I figure she just really likes this first number and will take a seat when it is done, but I could not have been more wrong. She continues to dance to EVERY SONG of the entire night. She never once sat down for a break. So as not to deprive anyone of the magic of the dance, she moved to the front of the stage, then to the right, and continued to circulate at intervals throughout the night. At one point a brave soul from the audience joined her for a slow dance, but it was obviously too restrictive for her, she needed to have the freedom to kick and slide without the interference of a partner. Later on a woman who seemed a bit vexed by Crystal stood up and did her own impression of these unique moves, much to the delight of the other patrons, but Crystal was too busy dancing to even notice.

Was she high? Probably. Was she mentally ill? Possibly. Was she drunk? She was drinking beer, but just enough to refresh between songs. All I know is I have never in my life, on my very best day, in my most shining moment felt as good as Crystal Funk did dancing to Monster Big Band at the Elephant Room on a Wednesday night. This was either the craziest, highest, or most confident woman I have ever seen in my thirty-one years of life. Which ever of the preceding adjectives truly apply, I think I learned a few lessons about life from Crystal: 1) Enjoy every moment to it's fullest 2) Don't be so concerned with what other people think about you 3) Never ever for any reason stop shaving your underarms.

Thank you Crystal Funk, for pulling me out of my funk. I will never forget you.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tacos at the Track

Since I have moved to a very health conscious city, I figured I better rededicate myself to getting in shape. I have been trying to get to the track at a school not far from my apartment a few times a week. The track, the school, and the neighborhood are perfectly nice and safe but I like to call the area "Little Mexico." I am the only white girl using this track. Luckily I'm still tan from the summer and usually get to the track before sunrise, so no one has realized "which one of these is not like the others."

Yesterday was an interesting day at the track though. There are taquerias on every corner around the track so it isn't unusual to smell Mexican food, but yesterday I was detecting a very strong scent of cumin on a particular stretch of the track. I'm very familiar with the smell of cumin because when I first started cooking I had a few mishaps with over seasoning and learned quickly that a little cumin goes a long way. So I thought it was very odd to be getting such a strong scent of straight cumin while trying to work out. On my second lap around the track I get back to the area with the smell and it is still really strong. At this point I notice some dirt sprinkled along the track, more concentrated in some areas than others. It looks like the sand out of a sand trap on a golf course. Then it occurs to me that there is no sand on the field inside the track and that this isn't sand at all, it's cumin. This, as you can imagine, led to many questions in my curious little mind. 1) Why would someone have cumin at the track? 2) How did the cumin that was inexplicably at the track get spilled? 3) Did someone have flavorless tacos for dinner because they spilled the cumin on the track? I spent the next quarter mile trying to rationalize the mystery of the cumin with no luck. At that point my attention turned from tacos to CHiPs.

A guy in a black tank top and white shorts, sporting some lovely body art passed me at this stage in my workout. I get passed at the track with unsettling regularity, but this guy flew by me. I don't make much of it at first, but on the next lap he passes me in the exact same spot. At this point I notice his hair. It is thick and black and all feathered up like Erik Estrada's. I then have a vivid picture of him jogging in full California Highway Patrol regalia. This amuses me for another quarter mile until he passes me again in the same spot. Then I realize this guy is doing two laps to every one of mine, and even though I'm not very fast, that is a bit ridiculous. When he passes me a fourth time in the same spot and has run two miles in the time it took me to do one, I come to the only possible conclusion: he is half Mexican, half gazelle. He does not have a hair out of place, is smiling, hasn't broken a sweat, and could probably sing a show tune at full volume as he runs. I'm not holding up near as well. If he is a gazelle on the track, I'm a sloth. Perhaps I'm being too hard on myself, maybe I'm more like a chicken which is, apparently, the fifth slowest animal on land.

Needless to say, instead of feeling accomplished and invigorated after my workout, I just wanted to grab some tacos on the way home.

Friday, September 11, 2009


The past seven times the calendar has landed on this day I have experienced a conundrum, and today is no different. First of all, has it really been eight years? Can time really be passing by this quickly? How do you adequately acknowledge the events of this day in 2001 without cheapening them, being utterly cheesy, or making it more about you than the actual remembrance?

When I was teaching we stopped for a minute of silence at the end of the announcements before continuing on with our day, but seeing as how we had a mandatory moment of silence everyday, I'm not sure this 9-11 moment of silence really stood out as anything different. My students all lived through that day and have dealt with the ramifications of it, but for the most part they were too young to grasp the levity when it actually occurred. They oblige in the silence, but I'm not sure it has much effect on them.

I have seen no ads for any sort of TV specials or an address from the President this year, but I would imagine in 2011 there will be all manner of tenth anniversary spectacle.

My news feed on Facebook today is littered with Alan Jackson song lyrics and reminders not to forget; as if that were possible. I was driving to work listening to NPR and the announcer had breaking news that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. He obviously didn't know the magnitude of the situation, and the way he said it conjured up a picture of a small private plane; in my mind the plane suffered more damage than the building. I was totally unprepared for what I saw on TV later in the day.

Movies have been made, money raised, a deluge of first responder TV shows launched, monuments designed; but soldiers are still deployed and families are still incomplete as a result of one day.

It feels wrong not to acknowledge it at all, but no acknowledgement really seems appropriate. I guess all we can do is say a prayer for those affected directly, support the troops, ensure this country remains one worthy of all that sacrifice, and make the most of every day because time really is going by this quickly.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Best Relationship I've Ever Been In

Remember the episode of Sex and the City when Miranda gets Tivo and it changes her life? I totally get how she felt now. I held out on getting the DVR, but when I moved, my new apartment came with a fantastic 42 inch HDTV already installed, and it only seemed right to subscribe to the HD cable programming which happens to include a DVR. After the first two days I was ready to change my Facebook status to "Kelly is in a relationship with...her new TV and DVR."

One of the best things about my new cable service is the palladia channel that shows live music in HD. I am currently watching the drummer from Kings of Leon drink bottled beer from a straw someone is holding to his lips so that he doesn't miss a beat on the drum kit. I would like someone to start holding my beer bottles for me when I go out. I am so excited to see this band at ACL this year. I don't know how the lead singer manages to maintain that level of vocal intensity without losing his voice, but it sounds amazing, and not just a little sexy.

Lucky for me, while I was watching Kings of Leon, my DVR was recording the series premier of The Vampire Diaries on the CW. I have successfully managed to avoid the CW up to this point, but dammit if I don't love a good vampire tale. It used to be a mild interest, but Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series launched me into full on obsession. The vampire on the CW is desperately trying to be Edward Cullen, but he's just not quite there; thanks to the DVR I'll probably record and watch a few more episodes anyway. I draw the line at watching Gossip Girl though.

The worst thing I watch on TV is Flipping Out on Bravo. It is ridiculous, but the guy is so delightfully bat shit crazy I cannot help but watch. I act like I'm above reality television, but the reality is that in addition to Flipping Out I watch America's Got Talent (there is a lady from Houston going to the finals Monday who is a cancer survivor and she sings opera, which I don't even know much about, but she is so good I cry every time I hear her), this season I got suckered into The Next Design Star on HGTV, and of course the ultimate, Top Chef. I'm a little peeved I missed Top Chef: The Master's, but that was before I had my DVR, thank goodness I don't have to worry about missing anything of that nature again. Design Star and AGT are both winding up soon and I am not going to get caught up in them again. I don't feel too bad about Top Chef because it is as much cooking show as reality show. My absolute FAVORITE show is No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain on the Travel Channel. I guess it is kind of reality, but more documentary. Tony is an amazing writer and has a great way of illustrating things. I would recommend this show to anyone who likes food, travel, witty repartee, or learning about other cultures. It is a seriously amazing show.

Aside from the reality, I'm ready for The Office, 30 Rock, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, The Mentalist, Castle, and Chuck (which barely made it) to come back. I'm giving up on Heroes after a sucktastic last season. I'm not happy Life was canceled, and a little bummed Friday Night Lights airs its season on Direct TV before coming to NBC. What is REALLY making me HAPPY is Glee on Fox. If you haven't seen this show, go on-line and watch the first two episodes post haste. Maybe I like it so much because in addition to attending high school I worked in high schools for eight years, but it combines all the social awkwardness of being a teenager with all the gooey goodness that is musical theater. I defy you not to smile while watching this show.

I think this post makes it abundantly clear that I have too much time on my hands. Not that I watch more TV than before, I've just never gone to the trouble to write about it. I discuss it at length with my friend, Jason, and sometimes my sister, Jill, but it is kind of sad to see it all written out here. I must get a job so I can start going out again. I'm seriously excited about my DVR though, and once I am out on the town again, it will still record my shows for me! However, I will make every effort not to write odes to my DVR and beautiful TV again.


Well, this has gone well. A year and a half later and no new posts! Obviously, I've been very busy. Now, however, I find myself with some extra time on my hands. I felt it was necessary to quit my job, move to a new town, and start a new career. The only problem is I have no idea what that new career should be, and I decided to embark on this adventure during a major recession. Go me! I mistakenly thought employers would recognize all of the valuable skills I gained over the past six years in the classroom and be falling over themselves to hire me to put those skills to work for them. HA! I really shouldn't be so negative as I've only been seriously job hunting for a month (I EARNED that summer break). I thought I was being very savvy when I attended bar tending school this summer so that I'd have something to fall back on if I didn't score a "grown-up job" right away (plus I've always had a dream of being a bartender, I don't know why) but apparently you have to have two years bar tending experience (and at least three tattoos) to even be considered for a bar tending job. So, here I am, feeling kind of blah because I don't have a job. Please don't misunderstand me, if I won the lottery or married a rich man and didn't have to work, that would be AMAZING. But, it's hard to enjoy your time off when you have a finite number of dollars in your account, no more guaranteed income, and the rent is still due on the first. Somehow none of this stopped me from getting all new living room furniture when I moved though. Totally worth it because I spend most of my waking hours in my incredibly sleek new living room trolling the internet for jobs; the ambiance eases the pain. The good news is, I have time to write! I just finished reading a HILARIOUS book called Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster. She chronicles her experiences in the two years following being laid off from her job. This included creating a blog site, and it eventually landed her a book deal. I'm not thinking the same will happen to me, but I do think I need to be doing SOMETHING every day so I feel I have a purpose, and this is free! Plus, I already had it set up, AND I can check job postings while I'm on-line. Sorry to disappoint, Jason, but I will not be working my way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking and discussing it on this site, although that was a great and highly original thought. So here we go, round two of trying to be blogtastic...