August 25, 2010

Survival Gear

School started this week. After a long time in this profession, I have come to realize that I had, inadvertently, created my own cache of "First Week Survival Gear." (Truth be told, it really could be dubbed, "School Year Survival Gear," but I'm going with just the first week for now...)

1. Coffee
Seems like a no-brainer, but there is absolutely NO WAY that I would ever survive the crush of the first week without the "Bean Juice" (as a dear friend calls it). Smarter, more disciplined co-workers actually plan, and they begin revamping their sleep cycle a few weeks before school starts, so that when they have to go to bed early the night before...and then get up at the crack of dawn that first day, they can. With very little pain or agony. I'm not one of the smart ones. The Saturday night before school started? Yeah, my bedtime was 2:00AM (so, I guess Sunday morning)...the same it's been all summer. Hence, the extra-large cup of joe that has kept me company every day this week.

2. An amazing alarm clock
See above.

3. A high-quality concealer
The reason for this is three-fold: 1) To cover the dark circles under my eyes which are the effects of above. 2) I always seem to start my period right at the beginning of school (I'm cursed, I tell you, CURSED). Although I'm at an age where I'm beginning to see my mother's wrinkles on my face, I still seem to have my students' acne, too. Concealer, it is! AND, 3) To try to help hide the nose-piercing. Working for a very conservative institution does have its drawbacks (granted, this nose-piercing is new this year, but the concealer was needed for the other two reasons in the past, so it has a valid position on this list).

4. Something pretty on my desk
I found that if I have something that makes me smile, makes me breathe a bit deeper, and makes my heart happy, then I tend not to resent the hours I end up spending at my desk or in my classroom. These have been keeping me company this week:

There's something about the yellow roses, sitting in a mason jar, reflecting the sun through my classroom window that makes me take a deep breath every time I see them. (Same with the picture of the girl, Zione, which is on my desk; the girl in the purple crown. She lives in my heart and in Africa...I promise to explain that at another time...)

And, last but not least, THESE:

Years ago (we won't discuss just how many), on my 21st birthday, I was given these earrings. They were the first pair of "grown up" jewelry I had ever received. What made, and still makes, them so special, is that my best friend and her then-fiance (now amazing husband) were the ones to give them to me. I know they couldn't have afforded these earrings, but they bought the pair anyway. I treasure them. Cherish them. I have worn them during every major event in my life: college graduation, job interviews, loved-ones' weddings, birthdays, milestones...and always, ALWAYS on the first day of school. They're a silent reminder of my friends' love and support...and just how stinkin' blessed I am to have these people in my life. So yeah, the earrings aren't just earrings...they're kind of like hugs for my ears.

August 22, 2010

Luna Park & Hip Swaggers...

I'm the woman who has always battled with body-image. I know that the very fact that we're female means that we are instantly enlisted into this battle, but for me, it's always seemed to be a bit more of a fight.

Thanks to some not-so-nice members of my "family," from a very young age, I've been told how fat and ugly I am. There's only so many times you can stand against those words before they sink into your soul...and it takes a long time for those words to go away...or, at least fade to a quiet whisper.

It also doesn't help that every single one of my friends is GORGEOUS. Smokin', in their very own, unique beauty. Some are a size two, others 22, but each one stands out from a crowd. One's laugh will draw the eye of every person in a crowded room; another's fragility that masks an inner-core of strength has been known to stop a man mid-sentence. I've seen it.

It's only in the past 12 months that I've come to accept, and even begin to love, the curves on my size-16 frame. To be a bit more daring in how I dress, to play up my hourglass figure a bit more, and also accept that I will never, ever be as tiny as the models in magazines. I had known it all along; learning to be okay with that fact, when I'm deluged on a second-by-second basis by America's standard of "beauty" has been, and I think, will forever be a challenge.

I still have my bad moments, though. The other night was one of them. I had gone out for the evening with two of my skinny, darling, amazing, beautiful (outside, but even more inside), stunning, hilarious friends. We had just finished a late dinner, and I had stepped into the bathroom. While in there, every single flaw stuck out in my mind. My hips were too large, my arms weren't toned enough, and Hello, Thunder Thighs! I remember shaking my head and whispering Debbie Reynolds's famous quote to myself (my mantra for those moments): "Chin up, boobs out; it's SHOWTIME!" as I walked out of the bathroom.

We left shortly thereafter, and directly outside the door of the restaurant, a car had stopped. We turned to walk down the street as the back window rolled down. I knew what was coming; it happens EVERY time I'm out with friends J & K.

"Hey Mama!"

And, so it begins. Which one will it be? Tall, willowy, dancer K? Or, shorter, toned, drop-dead-gorgeous J? Garner your strength, darling. You're not the Ugly Duckling. You really ARE NOT.

"You, in the red..."

Wait! K's in black; J's wearing green. I'M IN RED!!! Dude, now what? "How's it going, Land Yacht?" "Where do you park that thing with so much junk-in-the-trunk?" (Yes, cruel, but there's a reason I knew what might be coming; it wasn't MY imagination that came up with those...)

"I love your figure."

Those four words lodged deep in my psyche and soul. Not "You're beautiful," or "Heya, Gorgeous," but the four words that breathed life into this woman who's battled with her body shape for so long.


Yes, he probably was (pardon the crassness here) trying to get into my pants...but, this stranger said the words that I so desperately, at that moment, needed to hear.

He didn't say it to my skinny friends, the ones who usually get the shout-outs from guys in cars. He said it to the lady who was just in the midst of an inner-battle about the very thing he complimented...and boy, did that suddenly make me feel like a WOMAN. Not the fun, sweet friend of the hot chicks; but a woman who can hold her own. Someone who is, dare I even think

No, I didn't stop and hook up with the guy; one compliment like that isn't going to make me drop all my standards. I did shout, "Thank you!" to him, though. And, as we continued down Mission to our train, it's possible that I walked a little taller...and that there might've been some hip swagger thrown in.

To the man outside of Luna Park...I'm pretty damn sure you didn't get the response for which you were hoping...but, you definitely gave me more than just a compliment. Thank you.

August 17, 2010

Entertaining Angels #2

It was one of those Saturdays. The ones where you're exhausted and tired and weary-to-the-bone and you don't want to see anyone you know nor do anything nice for anyone. One of those days. But, I have a Saturday-morning tradition: a big cup of coffee, a jaunt at the Farmers' Market, and an organic butternut-squash tamale from one of the stands at the market for breakfast.

So, I pulled my cranky-butt out of the house and walked the two blocks to the parking lot which housed the market. I purchased my coffee and was walking through the throngs of people when I saw him.

He wasn't our normal "transient;" after living in this town for the last few years, I've gotten to know who they are. At least, be able to recognize them.

He was tall; long, greasy, scraggly hair hung down from under a grungy baseball cap, baggy t-shirt with the sleeves cut off, ripped jeans, and socks. No shoes.

I know it sounds strange to say he was gentle, but gentleness emanated from him. People moved out of his way and gave him a wide berth, and he would just smile at them as if to say, "I know. It's okay."

He never asked for anything. He just kind of stood off, away from the crowd, watching.

I stood in the line to get the tamale when it hit. That still, small voice that whispers to my soul, and I know that I'm going to be doing something crazy. It happens every time this voice speaks.

"Look back."

Really? At whom?

"I'll show you. Look back."

Alright. I looked back.

"See him?"

Yeah, I see him.

"He's hungry."

There are hundreds of people here. One of them can feed him.

"You're 'ONE.'"

(siiiiiiiiiiiiigh) Okay. I began scanning the menu. So, what do I feed this guy?

"That." My eyes were drawn to the most expensive menu item.

Why am I NOT surprised about this? I grin, knowing that I'm going to buy this man the meal; the voice wouldn't let me get out of it. If I balked or backed out, it would not shut-up. Have you ever tried to silence the still, small voice in your soul? Sounds simple, but the truth is, there is no cacophony loud enough to block it out. Trust me.

Food in hand, I looked back to bring him his meal, but he wasn't there. I felt idiotic; here I was, listening to a voice that had told me to buy a stranger food - like some benevolent schizophrenia.

Nice. Impressive, voice. Thanks so much...

"Acts of kindness aren't always easy, Child. Look better."

I found him behind some booths, in an open area. Determined to make sure he didn't disappear again (and, to make sure he got the food whether he wanted it or not...I was getting stubborn), I made a beeline for him.

"Hi," I nervously called out as I got close, "it's not much, but I thought you might be hungry." I held the plate out to him.

His tired, weary eyes lit up, and his wrinkled, dirty face broke into a wide grin.

"Thank you, Sweetheart," his voice was rusty and slow - like molasses poured over a creaky gear. He reached out to hug me, and I braced myself for the smell. His appearance did not convey an opportunity for regular showers.

To my utter amazement, he smelled like fresh, clean air after a storm.

After his hug, I handed him the food and walked off. Not three steps later, I turned to wish him a good day.

He had completely disappeared.


For some people, their encounters with angels give THEM help...a broken down car in the middle of the night, someone giving them money when they need it.

I feed angels tamales.

August 16, 2010

What Do I Keep You Around For, Then??

Dear Four-Legged, Furry Bug Catchers,

I thought we had an agreement. I will provide you with a warm place to live, enough kibble (and that stinky, gross, slimy, wet stuff that makes your poop stink), always give you fresh water, not to mention a fluffy pillow on the window seat, and will pet you whenever the whim hits you (especially at 4:00AM), and you will make sure the house is bug free.

You have not lived up to your end of the agreement. I know you THINK you have, but the fuzzy, ginormous, eight-legged THING on top of the refrigerator proves you wrong. Oh, you can start in on the whole, "I can't jump up on the counter" argument, but we all know you can. You can also begin the, "I'm not ALLOWED to jump up on the counter" argument, but if you refer back to the conversation we had when we moved into this apartment in June of 2005, you will be reminded of the fact that all rules in regards to felines-on-counters are null and void when it comes to spiders.

It's big, and it's fuzzy, and I can see its eyes. ALL OF THEM.

We really, really must review who is in charge around here...

(Exerting my dominance is a bit tough when they're so, they have claws...)

August 13, 2010

One Last Hurrah...

I woke up in one of my favorite places this morning. Right now, I'm camped out back, and all I can hear are the sprinklers and the birds chirping. Here's my view:

Yesterday morning, at exactly this time, my view was this:

I was heading up to my dear friend's parents' house for one last "hurrah" before summer came to a close. It was early, and since she was driving, what else am I going to do? (Please note that I'm not wearing aversion to them is still quite strong, as mentioned in an earlier post.)

Here's my driver:

Here's me:

(the sunglasses are rather large for a reason; they're hiding the results of not being able to sleep the night before and getting up early to be on the road...)

We were giddy with excitement, and maybe a lot of coffee. See, not only were we coming up here for rest, relaxation, laughter with loved ones, and peace and quiet...but the County Fair was going on. The Fair means Fair Food (heretofore to be known as "FF")!!! While I am a Glutard, there are times in this life that you realize life is short, it is meant to be lived...and the fullest. That means that I might...MIGHT...have had a deep-fried corn dog, "tempura" (not really) mushrooms and zucchini, an Orange Julius (though, they call them "Juliettes" here), and maybe my own holy-cow-is-it-allowed-to-be-this-good cinnamon roll last night (and, a chaser of Alka Seltzer). We joked, on our way home, that my taste buds and my GI track were having very strong words with one be honest, I'm not quite sure who won. One thing is for sure, FF is mighty tasty vittles...

Today, we have no plans, other than to soak up as much love and laughter that this house has to offer. To BE with each other, sharing this life that we have been given, to love deeply, to laugh fully, to store up in our souls these memories for when we're far away.

(and, to maybe find a way to doggie-nap Doodlebug here...she is SO going to live with me...)

August 10, 2010

It's know what that means...

School's starting soon; I just spent too many hours shoving furniture around my classroom and planning, plotting, dusting, disinfecting (those desks were used by 11-year-old carrier monkeys), and talking my inner-five-year-old out of crying her heart out. I LOVE teaching; I also LOVEEEE summer. I'll get to what I'm looking forward to for this school year in a bit; today it's all about what I'm going to miss...

Waking up to this, begging for her breakfast:

instead of my alarm clock (which goes off at o-dark-thirty, by the way).

Climbing back into bed with my coffee and this curling up with me as I "woke" up:

Lazy summer mornings snuggling a kitty are GLORIOUS.

Unexpected drives north to get me a cuppa this:

(best cup of joe EVER)

Reading things like this:

instead of essays written by sixth graders. It's nice to read an author who understands the correct usage of "it's" and "its," not to mention "your" and "you're," oh...and "there," "they're," and "their." (The book is really good, though, in case you're wondering. A bit graphic, but a great story.)

Most of all though, I'm going to miss this:

Please note:

1. Bare feet. Shoes are required as a teacher, but I firmly have an aversion to them. I'm much happier bare foot...but, rules are, bye-bye bare toes...

2. Blue jeans. Those are not-permitted; something about them being too "casual" for a classroom. Whatever. I'm gonna wear these until the very...last...second...

3. Also, please note that this picture was taken in my classroom (note the industrial-strength, stinkin' ugly carpet). There might, just might be a tiny piece of me that feels like thumbing her nose at the "man" until school starts...

(If you happen to be one of my superiors and reading this, I promise to wear the requisite footwear and adhere to the dress code...really...please let me keep my job!)

I think I'm going to go find my inner-five-year-old some ice cream to make her feel better now.

Entertaining Angels #1

There have been a few times in my life where I was certain that the person to whom I was speaking wasn't really a person. Well, he was a person, but not human. No, I'm not talking about vampires, werewolves, or any of those mythological creatures that are so en vogue right now. I'm a spiritual person; I adhere to the Judeo-Christian outlook on life, and, due to four-years' worth of corruption at a conservative Bible college, I tend to be a bit suspicious about these "paranormal" situations. But, there have been times in my life when even I can't deny this...mystical experience. I have met, entertained angels, and didn't know it until after the fact.

There's a passage in the Bible that says, "Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby, some have entertained angels unawares (Hebrews 13:2)." Whether or not these men were actually angels remains to be seen...probably on the day I stand before God when all of eternity will be laid out. For now, though, since I have no other explanation for it, I will believe them to be angels.

Did they have wings? Nope. A halo? Not even close. That white robe and glow that every depiction of them tends to have? Not a chance. They were as far from that image as possible, yet I truly believe that was part of the design; to be so cleverly disguised that they blend in with the world around them, yet being part of God's ultimate game plan.

My first experience, that I can distinctly remember, I was twenty-two. I had just come home from leading a mission's trip to Mexico, was beyond shattered emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and was trying to figure out how to process what I had seen and experienced in some of the most destitute areas of that country. How, also, do I help my students (whom I had taken with me) process those images and feelings when I was still trying to figure it out?

I had traveled to the beach for the day. I hadn't told anyone where I was going, just climbed in the car and started driving. I don't think even I knew where I was going until I got there. There's a promenade at this one stretch of coastline; it runs the length of the waterfront and has benches so you can sit and watch the waves. I had purchased a cup of coffee and was sitting, watching the water. People walked past me, laughing and sharing their lives, oblivious to the internal struggle going on inside the blonde woman sitting on the bench, feet propped up on the retaining wall.

That's when the rose appeared. Over my right shoulder, a perfect, red bloom was being handed to me. Looking up, I saw the biggest black man I had ever encountered. He was almost seven feet tall, had a scar across his left cheekbone, and to describe him as muscular would be an understatement. He smiled, which was both sweet and kind AND quite frightful at the same time, since it stretched the scar across his face in an almost grotesque way.

"For you." The voice was rough, hard, but his smile remained gentle, so I took the flower.

I sniffed it, then looked up to say, "Thank you," but he was gone. Completely vanished. I stood up on the bench to find him, but he was nowhere to be found. How a man THAT big, THAT noticeable could disappear in two seconds was completely unfathomable.

I actually asked the lady who was on the bench next to me if she had seen where he went. "Which man?" was her answer. When I explained that he was the one who gave me the rose, she responded with, "There was no man; I thought you had the flower when you sat down!"

It could've creeped me out...and, I'm sure that under any other circumstances, I would've been. Instead, I just let the smell of the rose seep into my battered, exhausted soul, and I pressed the flower when I got home. I still have it today...

"Angel" story #2 to come later...

August 9, 2010

"I Could've Been a Contender!!!"

A few large cups of coffee, pleas for help from others, and lots of laughter later, my friend and I finally came up with a name for this blog. I thought I'd share some of the others, though. Some are still quite creative, some are...well... not the best, and some just got us giggling. In no specific order:

Insights from an English Teacher
You know those pleas for help? One of them went out via facebook, and this was one of the responses. Although I am an English teacher, and I like to think I'm good enough to create a blog filled with meaningful tips and encouraging stories, there are some issues with this:
1. I am a good teacher, I'm just not that great of a teacher.
2. While my life, from August - June does revolve around the classroom, there is more to me than just teaching English, and I have a bit of a rebellious streak in me that refuses to allow myself to be pigeonholed.

Bridesmaidzilla Rides Again
This one gave me the giggles. Big time. While it's true that I have been a bridesmaid more times than I want to admit, I hope and pray that I never was bridesmaidzilla (think Godzilla dressed in taffeta and 3-inch heels, destroying Tokyo). My heart skipped a beat when I first read the idea, seeing as it was suggested by a friend for whom I was a bridesmaid, but luckily she assured me that it was supposed to be I was the best bridesmaid ever (suuuuure, I was...).

A Helping of Spaghetti
This one was truly a contender, and I still really like it. There's a book out there called Men Are Like Waffles--Women Are Like Spaghetti, written by Bill and Pam Ferrel, and it's actually quite interesting. Ever have one of those conversations with a group of women and wondered about the road-map of said conversation? How you could be discussing car maintenance one minute and then Great Aunt Ruth's beard the next? I know I have...well, the book maintains that in the female brain, all our thoughts and ideas are interconnected, kind of like a plate of spaghetti. Considering that this is to be MY blog, and I plan to write about...well, whatever I'm thinking of at the moment, spaghetti seemed quite fitting.

Follow the Rabbit Trail
Kinda the same thought as "A Helping of Spaghetti," only not as non-sequiter. Still, it didn't quite have that... Je ne sais quoi.

Blogging on the Inside
A few years ago, I fell in love with Steve Carlson's music (he speaks to me). He has a song, "Wasted Jamie," in which the first line is, "I'm groovin' on the inside... ." I've always had a running commentary in my head, kinda like my own silent blog, so I thought I was being...cheeky...with this one. Turns out, Steve's mom, the amazing, illustrious Sandra Carlson, has her own blog (and twitter, by the way), and her byline? "Blogging on the Inside." Well, she IS his mom, so I can't hold that big of a grudge, can I?

There you have it...the good, the bad, and the...well...the ones that probably should never be spoken of, ever again...

Who Is Jane Doe?

I constantly joke that I was given the two most generic names on the planet. I wish I could say I was kidding about that, but I'm not. In one high school English class, there were four of us who had the same first name; and my last name is arguably the longest listing in the telephone book. Jane Doe? Sometimes that sounds more creative than what I've got.

Maybe because I've been given such a boring moniker that I have such a crazy, hilarious, adventure-filled life...maybe it's just happenstance. What I do know is this: every morning I wake up and wonder what crazy shenanigans will ensue that day. Now, I have a place to share them.

In short, though, I am a:
singer (sometimes on key)
lover of coffee
globetrotting gypsy