November 20, 2012

Of Pumpkin Pie and Driving...

Last night, my Bestie-J and I were going to join Amazing Co-worker A at a brew-pub to celebrate all of us being done with parent conferences. J was a LITTLE bit excited. Just a bit. A tiny, eensy-weensy bit. When J gets excited...scary things can happen.

She picked me up and we drove there - normal shenanigans ensued, but nothing too crazy or dramatic - other than us complaining about how stinking hungry we were (it was already 7:30, and I hadn't eaten anything since lunch).

We parked. Opened the doors. J asked me to hand over her purse.

Problem. No purse. No wallet. Only her cellphone and keys (this is an issue when we're going into a brew pub to get a beer...or two...normally, I would've just covered her cost, but since you kinda need your ID to purchase a beer, we realized we were in trouble).

Soooooo...I climbed into the driver's seat, rearranged EVERYTHING (we may be the same height, but we are polar opposites in terms of proportion), and I drove her back to her house (we may be rebels, but knowingly driving without a license is not an option in our world). En route, she texted A and told her we were on to "Plan Q": we'll be going to a different brew pub closer to J's house instead. I FINALLY (her words) pulled up to her driveway, she ran out, and I moved back over to the passenger seat.

Not more than 30-seconds later, she climbed back into the car, purse in hand. Also in her hands? A pumpkin pie and two forks.

I quickly deduced that both forks were not for me, although she put up the pretense of it being so. J has a thing for pumpkin pie - her love affair with it rivals that of Cleopatra and Marc Antony. It took us all of seven minutes to drive to the "Plan Q" (I counted), during which I rotated forkfuls of pumpkin pie to my chauffeur.

See below for a picture of the damage done in seven minutes. By J. I only got, at most, three small bites in.


October 2, 2012

Top 10s (10 - 8)

Side note: I came up with this idea a while ago, but due to...LIFE...I haven't been able to write all 10 yet. I figured I'd start with these three and continue to add, periodically, until I reach Number 1 (a doozy, I tell you).

A few of us teachers were hiding out in the break room the other lunch, and we started laughing about some of the (mis)adventures that we've had over the years as teachers. (mis)Adventures that we were never warned about in teacher school. 

Here are some of my Top 10 Teacher (mis)adventures, in no particular order...

10. The Run-In: students find you.
It was one of those days. The kind where it snuck up on me and head-smacked me over and over. Heading home, I stopped at Target to pick up a few necessities for my survival of the next 12-ish hours. You know, the recovery-kit: Totino’s Pizza Rolls (the max pack), the large bag of Halloween candy (bless Target for starting early on that marketing campaign), the 2-gallon jug-o-wine (I’m not ashamed), Ben and Jerry’s Phish Phood (it’s possible there were three of them), “Felicity” seasons 1 – 3, and um…how does one put this delicately? A box of “lady items.” Suddenly, out of nowhere (and, I mean NOWHERE) this voice pipes up, “Ms. Doe! How ARE you?!?” There, before me, stands one of the culprits of said horrid day (and creator of my need for at least half of that jug of wine), smiling as if he’s as pure as the driven snow (he’s not. I promise). Standing next to him? His father. The lead pastor of the most über-conservative church in town.

9. Back-to-School-Night:
As if the idea that I need to talk to the PARENTS of my students isn't bad enough, my very first B2S Night (as our school likes to abbreviate it), I looked like one of the students. I kid not, that year I was “escorted” to the office more times than I could count by our “helpful” parent volunteers, all of whom were convinced that I was out of class without permission. Needless to say, that night, I needed to look the grown up part. I had that down – and was tastefully dressed in a way that (I had hoped) conveyed a level of maturity and sophistication

All was good until dinner time. The school provided us with a meal, since so many of us couldn't go home and back in the time allotted, so I had moved to the quad to join my co-workers. It was then that it happened. The worst, worst possible issue to befall a tastefully dressed lady who so needed to impress her students’ parents.

I sat in it, unawares. A large, purple, sticky blob had formed on the back of my dress, and of course, we discovered it five minutes before the festivities were to start. There was no time to run home to change – I had no Plan B.
I spent the whole Back to School Night leaning against my whiteboard, hiding my purple-hued left butt-cheek, praying that no one would notice. I thought I had succeeded until I met the parents for Student Council (my last class of the night).
It was then that the Student Body President (who was in attendance, and whom I have forgiven…I think…), stage whispered, “Ms. Doe…! What happened to your dress?!?!”
Lesson learned: bring three clothing options for B2S Night. Never leave anything to chance.

8. Driving “Adventures”:
Every teacher has to drive his/her students somewhere over the course of his/her teaching career, but I think the teachers at my school have pulled the lion’s share of this duty. Between field trips, service days, sports games, and missions trips, we always seem to be piling kiddos into vehicles and departing to destinations unknown.
One year, I was tasked with driving a white 15-passenger van (!! We called it “Moby Dick”) filled with 16-year-old boys all over (I mean ALL OVER) San Francisco. The thing about 16-year-old guys is: they just learned to drive, think they’re 10-feet-tall and bullet proof, and honestly think they can drive better than you – even though you earned your license BEFORE THEY WERE BORN.
Needless to say, the whole way to SF, all I heard was how I should merge over, go faster, get around that car up ahead, and “Geez; could you turn OFF Boston/Train/The Who/Journey/Eric Clapton and turn on Chris Brown??” Every bit of my performance was under critique from teenage driving professionals, and I came up lacking.
Until the field trip headed to Ghirardelli Square. Until I pulled the coup d’état that knocked all the wind out of their very-full-of-s#@% attitudes and sails.
I parallel parked that Moby Dick of a van directly in front of the Ghirardelli sign like a pro.

Take that, boys.

Radio Silent

I've been silent for a long time; I know that. I was so busy being, teaching, hanging out with loved ones, laughing, SLEEPING...that I didn't have time to blog.

Oh, I had blog ideas. Lots of them. They swam around in my head, circling like the bright colors on a Calliope. Thing was, I just didn't have time to put them on paper, so to speak.

So, my brilliant, hilarious, witty, life-changing (hah!) blog posts stayed locked up in my brain all summer long. I apologize about that, but...selfishly, I was having too good a time with my adventures to stop.

I think that's what life is supposed to be.

Now that I have settled into a (albeit, erratic) rhythm back in the teaching world, I hope to jump back into blogging. Telling stories.

Reminding myself...maybe others...that life is worth living. Fully. Completely.

July 19, 2012

My Summer

When I first started thinking of my summer vacation, waaaay back in April (okay, February), I dreamed of lazy, hazy days when I slept in until noon, wandered down to the coffee shop, and spent the day talking and laughing with loved ones.

I had those days. Just...not as often as I had hoped.

Other things happened - things that took priority over lazy days with friends.

Major things. Things that bring emotions of stress and worry into my summer.

* Things like my amazing momma needing major surgery to repair a carotid artery (ack! She's fine now...she scared me, but she really is going to be better-than-good at this point.).

 *Things like one of my first students committing suicide in the face of his out-of-control PTSD after two tours in Iraq, and traveling to be at his memorial to give support to his surviving family.

* Days spent praying for my childhood mentor's it's pretty certain she won't make it until the fall.

Don't get me wrong...I also had amazing days - days I want to do over because they were so fantastic.

* The day I took my momma (fully recovered - remember that) to Les Miserables for her first time. AND, my favorite Kiwi family was with us. Seeing my favorite play with my favorite people made that day perfect.

* Traveling to Portland with loved ones for a long-weekend. Spending those days reconnecting on a soul-level - sometimes without even words - filled my soul.

* Unexpected teenager-like slumber party of some girlfriends at my house - late night laughter, glasses of wine, hilariously cheesy movies...loved it.

This summer has just reminded me of what life really is - it's gut-wrenching ugliness mixed completely with incredible joy - and every thing in between. It's about walking in love with the people in your life through whatever valley or mountaintop you may be on...but it's about putting one foot in front of the other.

And doing so with hope.

(Wine and chocolate...and, let's be honest - some really good nachos - help, too...)

June 8, 2012

Who I Am

I've been bouncing this idea for a tattoo around in my head for a while. Today, I walked the three blocks to the tattoo shop and got it done.

It's a reminder of who I am. Of what I am. Of what I want to be towards others.

It's still kinda stingy right now, and it's still so new that I keep being shocked when I look at my arm.

I like it.

May 21, 2012

My Newest Favorite Pictures

These are my newest favorite pictures...and I think they will be for a very, very long time.

The other day, I was taking care of my nieces, E and D. Their momma was in the hospital, giving birth to their little sister (more on that saga in another post - maybe. If she'll let me...), and I had to run into school to write up sub plans for the next day's classes - just in case. I'm that hyper-organized teacher who leaves highly detailed sub plans with check lists, seating charts...even back-up plans for my back-up plans.

Anyway, we three girlies went on an adventure to school (E and D are 3-years and 2-years, respectively, so I can fool them into thinking school's an adventure), but when we went to leave, the traffic in the parking lot was HORRENDOUS.

Spending 30 minutes, in the car, waiting out traffic, in a PARKING LOT, with toddlers was not my idea of "fun." Sooooo, Auntie Jane tricked them into believing that a walk around campus is an amazingly awesome part of our "adventure."

That's when we realized that C was still on campus. C is easily one of my favorite people - she's loyal, loving, HILARIOUS, grounded, understanding...AND she's a bundle of nuclear-fusion type energy packed into a tiny frame. She's also the dance teacher.

The woman pulled out tutus, used binder clips to cinch in the waists, turned on songs from Disney movies, and gave the girls the BEST impromptu dance party anyone could ask for.

Between my own (rather rocking) dance moves, I was able to catch some pictures.

Love this one of D. Kills me. I wish we could all have that kind of innocence.

E slays me, here. When did she get so grown up?

And this one. This one just makes my heart smile. D's face cracks me up, and I love that C is playing along...

My friends are the best. I am truly a blessed woman.

May 8, 2012

...of Band Concerts...

School band concerts are always an adventure. Always.

Friday's was no different. Our band teacher is amazing, and I love how hard he works, and I love the huge amount of professionalism he gets out of our kids.

I didn't go to the concert for him. I also don't go because of the music (some good, some...well...). I go because there's a bunch of kiddos, MY kiddos, who are in the beginning level of band, and who are so, so, sooooooo excited to show off their musical chops (ahem, so to speak).

My sixth graders were first. As they came out, my buddy, K, who teaches our older students, leaned over to whisper to me, "They're so SMALL!"

I, on the other hand, was flashing back to the beginning of the year, and I was thinking the exact opposite: "They're so BIG!!!"

Big or small, they're still only 11. And, 11-year-olds do what 11-year-olds are prone to doing when they file out to begin a band concert - they wave at their families. It's adorably cute.

My favorite moment, of the whole night, was right after everyone finished waving. The band teacher, Mr. B., stepped up to call this band to attention. Right at that moment, right after everyone was set to go, J (stubborn, drive-me-nuts, can't-get-with-the-program, I-sometimes-pray-he's-absent-just-for-my-sanity) pops out of formation to wave at one last person.


May 4, 2012

Been Reading...and Thinking...

Note: I wrote this back in January, and somehow I never pressed the "Publish" button. I was digging through my archives and found it. Somehow, today felt right to let it be known.

Lately, I've been reading through the posts on TWLOHA's website. No, I haven't sunk back into that soul-deep battle for light in the midst of my darkness; I just have had a lot of time to think about pain lately.



Reading the words from the people at TWLOHA - people I admire so much for their undying, unending compassion for other people - ones they may never gives perspective. Hope.

This past fall sucked. Seriously sucked. Watching someone I love slip away into eternity sounds as though it should be beautiful, but it's not. It hurts. He's not here, and my mortal, infinite mind screams that he should be. It's not fair.

Watching his loved ones try to deal with that pain and loss hurts, too. Because I can't fix it. I can't take it away from them. That's really, REALLY hard for a girl who's been nicknamed MacGyver. I can fix a toilet with dental floss, chewing gum, and a paper clip...I should be able to fix this, right? Right?


So, I sit. I hold hands. I cry...sometimes with them. Sometimes alone. I listen. I make junk food and watch movies I would NEVER admit to watching, because it makes them smile - even for a second.

And, I remember what a man posted in a blog post three years ago. His direct quote is, "We give a shit."

Crazily enough, I believe him. Just that much helps.

April 26, 2012

My Favorite Windows...

Bet you thought this was going to be about architecture, huh?


I was walking through our school's parking lot today, and I noticed a lot of cars with back windows that look like this:

See the remnants of duct-tape? The sticky substance that won't - no matter how you try - WON'T come off (save use of Goo-Gone and a razor blade)? That's the sign.

This car went on one of our many service trips. Every year, our school packs up our senior high students and heads out to all the different corners of the globe. During that week-long trip, some build wheelchair ramps for the poorest of our nation's poor in Appalachia, some run a day-camp for refugee children in San Diego, some work in inner-city LA with anti-gang ministries; some head off of this continent to Japan, to Ecuador, to Malawi...and some, like this vehicle's driver, some build homes and classrooms and facilities in an orphanage in Tecate, Mexico.

The tape is a reminder- the driver was part of a caravan that chased other members of our school up and down California's main artery, the I-5. Each caravan is numbered, and each vehicle in the caravan wears its number on its back window (so, as we're driving, we know who belongs to whom. There are sometimes 90+ vehicles that make this trek...organization is KEY).

Today, it just made me smile. It makes my heart smile. It reminds me that, even though I'm in the crunch of the "end-of-the-year" race, and I'm fighting burnout, and the students have morphed into little terrors...that what I'm feeling isn't truth. These emotions are based in exhaustion, both physical and emotional; and they're steeped in stress (how on EARTH am I going to fit eight-weeks' worth of curriculum into four weeks???). The truth is, I work with compassionate, loving, world-changing young adults.

They love deeply. They give sacrificially. They are constant examples of who I want to be.

So yes, it's a dirty, taped-on car window. And I love it.

March 28, 2012

Judge Not...

...oh, there are so many things in my life that the phrase, "Judge not," could be applied to...

...the fact that I squeeze my toothpaste from the middle.
...I eat peanut butter straight from the container (using a spoon, of course...maybe).
...I never seem to be able to put my laundry away (get it clean? Yes. Folded? Sometimes. Put away? NO.)
...I will drive MILES out of my way for a good cup of coffee.
...I have a crazy, stupid love of fake mustaches.
...I still have a childhood crush on Tom Selleck (might explain the one above).
...I pretend I'm cleaning someone else's house when I'm doing chores.
...I carry on conversations with myself all the time.
...I still think I'm 16 until I look in a mirror.
...if there are tater tots on the menu, I HAVE to have them. Even if they don't go with my meal of choice.
...I've been known to drive 45 minutes for Sonic's tater tots.
...I still want to be a flight attendant.
...I still want to be a rock 'n roll star.
...I still want to join the circus.
...I DO believe that a cowboy will ride into town on his horse, tip his hat, call me "Darlin'," and that will be that. We'll live happily ever after on his ranch (when I'm not traveling with the airlines, the band, and the circus).

But today; today's actions are in desperate need of the phrase, "Judge not." See, today. Today, I got my eyelashes permed. (I see the face you're making, J... Judge. Not.)

I had a Groupon, you see. I had to try it, I just had to! It's not nearly as painful as one might guess; it was actually kinda relaxing, to be honest.

You end up lying on the spa table with your eyes closed for about an hour. Yes, you do smell like the perming solution, and that's a little gross, I will give you that. (But, in my defense, I grew up with that smell. My momma used to give my Nonny home perms every month. Nonny lived two blocks away, and her house was our playground - I think we were in her house more than we were in our own. So, when momma would perm Nonny's hair, we'd always be there, pretend gagging at the smell, and generally causing a ruckus. Nonny's been gone over two decades now; I miss her something fierce. The smell brought back great memories of her.)

So, for an hour, I lay on that table, eyes closed, smelling of childhood ick, remembering my Nonny, and smiling.

Oh, and my eyelashes are perfectly curled, thankyouverymuch.

I can now bat them at my hunky cowboy.

February 16, 2012


It's been a long, hard fall and winter. Normally, I'm the one jumping on the "finding joy in all circumstances" bandwagon, but these last couple feels as if everyone I know and love has been blindsided. I remember writing these words almost a year ago, and I knew that it was coming, I just...

...I'm tired.

The other day, I was digging through an old notebook. I'm not sure what I was looking for, to be honest, but I turned the page and found this written, in my handwriting, so I know I wrote it:

Been trying to remember to do that...

February 1, 2012

During Staff Meetings

I have a confession. I HATE meetings. Any kind. Every kind. I get antsy, my butt-cheeks go numb, and after a while, all I hear in my head is, "He/she is STILL talking? Why? Why is he/she still talking? Makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop."

I've found coping mechanisms for such meetings. I knit (they've gotten used to it), I grade (again, no surprise there), I text surreptitiously to other meeting members - usually the mantra I just wrote above. Sometimes, if the person drones on a bit too long, I can find a creative bent.

This was one of them. Funny thing is, this is exactly, EXACTLY how I felt, years ago, when I "found" myself again. I remember talking with a friend, and she said, "You're BACK." I thought at that moment, "Not quite. I'm better."

“Hey,” he whispered, drawing her attention away from the swirls and shapes she was contemplating at the bottom of her coffee cup, “I remember you.”

“No,” she answered. “No, you don’t.”

He hunched down to look her fully in the face, and stared, trying to get past the barrier of friendly-polite-yet-aloofness. His eyes were still the bright blue; the twinkle not diminished by time. The crinkles along the sides of those eyes and the gray just starting to show at his temples? Those were new.

She did know him. From before…just before.

“Yes, I do,” he smiled. “You’ve been gone a long time, but you’re back now.”

“I guess I am,” she acquiesced. Smiling slightly.

“Same old gal, huh?”

“No,” she spoke the words slowly and carefully to make her point. “Not at all. I’m stronger. Better.”