Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Haiku of an Exasperated Educator

For thirty-five weeks
Your slack, blank faces mocked me.
Anybody home?

"Hey! What's my grade, Miss?"
Inquiring minds want to know.
My blank face greets you.

In the near distance,
Summer school looms silently.
I stifle deep sighs.

Eyes bugging, mouth dry,
Punching that calculator.
Light bulbs flashing on.

"Why'd I wait so long?"
You mutter among yourselves.
The pressure is on.

You never listen.
When will you ever listen?
For the love of God.

But I sit with you,
Calculating your future,
Biting my sharp tongue.

Semester exams
Stand between you and freedom.
"Study!" I beg you.

Bell signals release.
There, on my graffitied desk,
Sits your review sheet.

Undone. Forgotten.
I sit at my desk sighing.
Is it Happy Hour?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Taking the Greeting Card Industry by Storm

I've been to two adoption showers in one week.


How cool is that?

Two different kids have walked/are going to walk into their forever homes this week.

Beyond cool. Amazing. Incredible. There are really no good words for it.

Guess what? There are really no good cards for it either.

I decided this in the middle of Target, whereupon I had an illogical fit of anger against the greeting card industry. Like a "mutter under your breath about the unfairness of it all" kind of tirade. An "I'm gonna write my congressman except that it's not a congressional issue" kind of seething. It was not pretty.

So, I made my own for my dear friend, Heather. I kinda liked it, so I made another one for her new son, Marcus. They made my "non-crier" friends well up as if they were... well, as if they were me -- the crybaby. I think that's a total "in yo' face, Hallmark". Anyway, here are some pics I took of the cards. They took a while to make, so I wanted to have some proof of my work.

I employ collage poetry in much of my crafting attempts. I think it's so interesting and quite a challenge. It took 5 old magazines and about 15 minutes of thumbing through and cutting out. But about 90 minutes of arranging and re-arranging. I love the revision process. It's like looking at a painting from far away. Or with one eye closed. Or while standing on your head. Every arrangement of words speaks a new language.

Anyway, I love making cards, but I'd have to charge hundreds of dollars for each one just to cover my magazine and glue stick supply.

This is the card for Marcus. I don't know if you can really see it clearly, but the whole idea of it was that I came across the word "spinach" in a magazine. As Heather is a vegetarian and loovvvesss spinach (and most 4 year-olds are not quite as big of fans), I thought I'd make him a card to warn him that although she loves the spinach and will try to feed it to him relentlessly, she's still going to be the greatest mom ever.

The smiling dog on the back of the card was just because. Well... and because it was about 2 AM at that point, and I was feeling a little punchy.

Here's the other highlight of the shower. Our friend, Toni the Baby Hog, met Baby Brooklyn for the first time. I don't know that they liked each other much. Can you tell?

And after the shower? Heather jumped in the car to go meet her son. Her. Son. She emailed us about an hour ago. There were pictures. And bubbles. And a plea to get in the car to go "home". Like to his forever home.

And there were smiles. Oh dear, were there ever smiles. Smiles bigger than any I've ever seen in 15 years of friendship. They simply stole my breath away.

Do your friends steal your breath away? On a weekly basis? Or is that just how lucky I am?


You should get new friends.

And make them a card. They really love homemade cards.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

When the Bubble Bursts...

Here's what I know for sure:

There will never be anyone on Earth who will be as hard on me as I am on myself. It's been a lifelong battle, and we're in about the 35th round.

I've come a long way over the years, but there are still days when the self-hating creeps out of the shadows and clocks me with a sucker punch. Today was one of those days. It wasn't an especially awful day; surely I've had worse. But I was sick, and when I'm sick, I'm especially weak-willed with a low emotional melting point. One thing fell apart and took me with it.


I came home. I pouted for a while. I thought about things. I let today go.

Because here's what I also know for sure: I am loved. I am respected. I am strong. These are the thoughts I pour into myself when I feel low. And if that doesn't work, I go through my phone. On my phone are some pictures and videos of the people I love most. Those people bring me my smile.

I got stuck on this:

I wish every (perceived) failure in my life went as easily as my friend, Ell, and his bubbles. Dip the wand. Blow into the wand. Don't see any bubbles? "Nope".

There's just this feeling that this one little word, this "Nope", is all you need. It's not a "Why can't things just work out?". Or a "I totally suck at this, so I'm just going to give up." It's more like a "Well, that fell apart, but there's always a chance that the next bubble will work" kinda attitude. It's a completely awesome, life-affirming little "Nope".

I love that. I need that.

For the record, after about 20 minutes, 200 attempts, and half a bottle of soap spilled on my legs, Elliott totally blew the most perfect 3 bubbles.

And if you think that "Nope" is life-affirming, you should hear the squeals that surround success. If only I'd kept that camera running...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Surround Yourself with Goodness

I used to have this boss, Kyle. In fact, he is the person that hired me at my first camp. In essence, all that I have today -- great friends, good job, sparkling personality -- all Kyle.

Well, not totally. But he did get the ball rolling.

The thing that I always enjoyed about working for Kyle was that he approached every situation with a sense of fun and adventure. It was not uncommon to walk into the office to see him modeling the latest in "Lost and Found" fashion. Or to pick up a guitar and spontaneously compose highly inappropriate songs in the counselor's cabin. Or to invite everyone to a Nacho Toga party. (Where if you're wearing someone else's toga, then that's Nacho Toga! -- bahahaha). Even in tense situations, Kyle could find an absurdity to laugh about because absurdity is basically his love language.

On Tuesday, I decided to proclaim Friday as "Hawaiian Shirt Day". This is not a new concept. It's been done a billion different places. It's even been done at my school. It just hasn't been done in a while. For some reason -- TAKS, discipline, paperwork, discipline, IEP's, ARD's, RTI's, discipline -- we've let go of the silly. And the silly was what made my workplace so special.

Today was Friday. And let me tell you. It. Was. Awesome.

For real. The whole thing. Awesomely fun. In fact, it was so fun, I'm making a Top Ten list.

The Top Ten Awesome-tastic Parts of Today:

10. Shopping for the prizes. If you are ever in need of prizes -- especially for funny, sort of tacky prizes -- Dollar Tree is your place. For $20, I got a bag full of wacky sunglasses, cups, signs, glow sticks, and ceramic Hula Girls who may or may not be "special". I spent at least 45 minutes giggling over each purchase.

9. Hawaiian Shirts. Jeez. They just make me so happy. I don't know what it is. Is it the bright color? The certain "toeing the line" between tacky and fabulous? Doesn't matter. They always make me smile.

8. How everyone who wasn't wearing luau wear felt the need to justify the fact that they weren't participating. Like I was going to cut them from my lives for somehow being un-fun. I'm now considering the idea of organizing a Thrift Town shopping spree for my faculty. For real, didn't these people go to college? Every other party required a Hawaiian shirt. Probably because with a tacky shirt, a couple of pink flamingos and an inflatable pool full of beer, you suddenly had a "party".

7. The student who asked me, "Why did you make all the teachers wear those crazy shirts?" As if I have the power to make anyone do anything. I don't even have the power to make decrees. I mean, I made one. That doesn't mean anyone had to follow it. It's nice that one kid still believes I'm in charge though.

6. I saw teachers and faculty members in my hallway (some coming to pick a prize... some just making sure to showcase their awesome shirts) that I hardly ever see. I miss you guys. Come see me again soon.

5. The Skills teachers. These are the teachers who have one of the hardest jobs around -- to work with severely physically or mentally challenged students. They not only do their job well, they do it with a smile, a boatload of patience, and an optimistic spirit unmatched by any other teacher in our building. They were a Hawaiian army this morning. And the best part? Some of them never even came to pick up a prize. They just participated to participate.

4. Having sent out a facebook invite to all my friends (Nichols and Non-Nichols) to throw on a Hawaiian shirt, one did.

And he made his dog wear one too.

Now, I'm normally anti-pet couture, but he sent me a picture. I showed the picture to a student who was having a meltdown kind of day. A dog in an orange Hawaiian print shirt totally wiped the sour face off her head. Steve Snow sent that photo just to make me smile. He had no idea it'd change a total stranger's day.

3. My classroom neighbor talked her whole class into surprising me with a flash mob style Hula dance to surprise me. When I walked in and saw 26 "too cool" 13 year-olds looking silly just for me, it made my heart melt. I'd have probably cried if I hadn't been doubled over in laughter.

2. Happy Hour after school. Good food, good drinks, great people. Top that off with a chocolate bread pudding that also oozes cinnamon chocolate sauce, and you've got a little piece of Heaven.

1. My notoriously rowdy 9th period was visited by my dear friend, LeighAnne, and her son. When he is at school, she always makes sure to bring him by my classroom, if for nothing else than to hear me validate how precious he is. This time, however, he charmed all of my boys. They were lining up to give that kid high-fives and teach him to knuckle bump. It was the kindest, most gentle side of those kids that I've ever seen. Seriously, they seemed a little wistful when his short visit ended. One of them made sure to proclaim, "Miss, that baby goes hard!" (Translation: that baby is pretty effin' cool.)

All day today, I just kept thinking about how lucky I am. Sure, my school has its problems, and there are things that I (and many others) will continue to complain about and try to fix. But one thing I am sure of: I love the people I work with. On days like today, I always remember what one of my high school teachers told me when someone made me feel awful. She advised me that if I constantly surround myself with goodness -- good job, good laughs, good friends -- then life would have more joy. For the 1,876th time, she was right. Goodness is a choice, people.

And I choose well, if I do say so myself...

I mean--for real--look at 'em.

How to make a Hawaiian shirt a little more formal? Blazer.

Hawaiian shirts lend that peaceful, easy feeling to even a beginner band class.

Fierce face. Funny fellow.

Perhaps the most hilarious person at my school. She is stealth-mode funny. And she hulas.

This is the creator of the flash mob Hula. She also made lots of jokes at lunch about getting "lei'd" at work.

Winner of the Grand Prize. Of course, grand prize was a plastic hula girl from Dollar Tree. I'm not sure if the adjective, "grand", is all that appropriate.

Our theatre teacher who re-organized her whole "Friday outfit" to accomodate my crazy theme. And then sported flamingo shades all day. $1.00 flamingo shades.

Until Lock stole them to ham it up for the camera. It takes a real man to make flamingo shades look so effortlessly cool.

Aren't they all simply adorable?

Remember: good job + good laughs+ good friends = Happy Friday.

And for good measure, don't forget the chocolate bread pudding.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I'd Write Something Deep and Profound IF I Wasn't Completely Entranced by These Photos

What does Love look like?

Like this:

Actually, I think that's what "exhausted" looks like. It's a long, strange journey to enter the world.

But seriously... isn't that hand just too much?

This is what Love looks like.

And Love comes with a multitude of hairbows.

Congrats to Courtney and Chris. And welcome to the newest little member of our tribe. You are complete and total perfection.

Friday, May 6, 2011

I'm On the Case

Law and Order: Special Victims Unit is the favorite show of one of my best friends. She swears that it's the best of the L&O franchise. I denied watching for several years until one day, at her house, an episode used a nickname of my own invention on one of their perverts. It was like they crawled up into my brain. I was hooked.

SVU comes on approximately 38 times per day.

Hence, my DVR records it about 38 times per day.

In the 2 months that I've been obsessing, I have become pretty much outstanding at cracking a case before the third commercial break. Sometimes even before the second.

I'm fairly sure that the FWPD will begin dropping off cold case files on my front porch any day now.

I'm also fairly sure that I might have a weird crush on Ice-T.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Say What?!

What do you do when someone says something you find completely rude and offensive in front of you?

What if it's someone you like and typically respect?

What if they say it to a kid?

It happened to me tonight. I walked right into it, and I was so thoroughly stunned that it took me a few seconds to speak. I was all, "Say Wha?"

When I got my wits back about me, I did the only thing I knew to do. I shooed that person away like a bothersome pest and tried to keep the show rolling. But for that kid, the show was completely ruined.

I get that it was a somewhat stressful moment. Well, I guess it was stressful if you're into freaking out about minute details. But, come on.

Now I'm not sure what to do. Do I speak with them about it, or do I let my "shooing" speak for itself?

Disappointing, to say the very least.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Lately, I've been obsessed with this song:

It's got such a catchy beat. Whenever it comes on the radio, I immediately have to open the sunroof, crank up the volume, and start car-dancing. Complete with hair tossing and a giant smile.

I'm sure other drivers think I'm having some sort of epileptic fit. That is until the catch the happy clap beats blaring by them.

So tonight I thought I'd share my new favorite song. And then I found out that it's like 3 years old.

And worse? This is a quote about the original music video:

Welch told the NME January 10, 2010 that the song's music video is her favorite one to date. She explained this was not only "because it was our first, but also because of the people involved. I just made it on a whim. We went down to the woods and we only had one camera. I got my dad to put a clown costume on and my friend's nephew to dress up as the baby clown while we decorated the woods. Dog walkers gave us the weirdest looks. It was really fun."

Oh, Florence. And I thought we were going to be friends. Creeptastrophe.

Here's the link to the old video. Click the link if you dare. I tried to embed it into this post but was denied. Gotta admit... kind of glad about that. (If the music doesn't play, change the setting from "360p" to "240p" at the bottom of the video screen.)

You'll need the music to distract you from your own terror.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

New Kid on the Block

It's official. I'm on the fast track to being a cautionary tale.

My name is Deana.

I am single.

I now have 3 cats.

Four if you count the cat that lives on my roof and suckers me into feeding him 1-2 times per day. I don't count him though. He's just a part-time pet.

As if my hatred of putting away laundry and laziness about clearing the multitude of Diet Coke cans off the coffee table more than once every three weeks wasn't enough? Now I've brought in additional felines.

It's like the Hoarder Triumverate. Piles, trash, and cat hair.

The new kid on the block is named Pootie. Pootie Pootwell. Dr. Pootie Pootwell. Also commonly known as "Poots" or "Poots McGhee" to her friends. Or "Dixie", if you're the veterinarian. (Because, really, do you want to be the person checking in "Pootie Pootwell"?) She's a cat of many aliases. It keeps the Feds off her back.

Truthfully, the newest addition to the future A&E special is a cat whose mom, an owner of three dogs, married a man, also the owner of three dogs. Seriously, their house is the canine version of the Brady Bunch.

Pootie Cat -- she didn't really fit. And there stood a possibility of Jan Brady catching her by the tail and, you know, taking out all of her middle child rage.


So, we're on Day 10 of the Great Feline Integration Act of 2011. Land areas have been staked and claimed. Boundaries crossed. But no one has been seriously maimed. Yet.

Unless you count waking up with a 20 pound cat lounging across your forehead, chewing on your ponytail as maiming.

Then, yes, there's been some. Like I said, "Boundaries crossed".

Oh, and by the way, I did totally use the word "Triumverate". I'm a complete literary badass.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Late last night, it was revealed that Osama bin Laden had been killed. Watching it on the television, I couldn't really wrap my head around the news.

What do you do when the boogeyman takes a bullet to the brain?

Do you breathe a sigh of relief? Do you give thanks to God? To the troops? Or do you quote Toby Keith lyrics on Facebook and dance in the streets?

It's been interesting to see the reactions around me. I've tried hard to keep my judgments to myself because, truthfully, I don't know how I feel about it myself.

Don't get me wrong. I will not shed a tear for this man's death. Nor do I wish that he'd been taken alive to rot in a cell. When I think of him, I feel a similar twinge that I get when I read about Hitler or watch an interview with an inmate on death row. I don't feel relieved. I don't feel happy. My fears do not vanish.

I feel sad.

Not for them. Not for their families. Not for their followers. Not even for their victims.

I feel sad for all of humanity. That these are the atrocities that one man brings to the dreams of other men, twisting them into nightmares. That extremist views, both religious and political, still find a home in the minds and hearts of citizens of all nations. That hate and vengeance are swallowed as willingly as a daily vitamin. And I don't know how I feel about this sadness. I wonder why it is that I cannot join in the chants -- I don't feel sympathy or kindness to this man. Maybe I should just try. But there's something about cheering the snuffing out of a life, no matter how vile, in the same fashion that I cheer for our Olympic athletes.

When I think back to 9/11, to all of that coverage, my first thought is of the images in New York City. But the second? A video of the children of Afghanistan cheering and dancing through the streets, celebrating their victory over what they'd been told is an "Evil Empire".

So I sat, alone, on my couch last night, watching the news and the reactions of the people in Times Square, dancing, chanting, celebrating.

If I turned off the sound and squinted my eyes just a bit, I would swear I'd seen it all before. And when I went to bed, all my dreams still turned to nightmares even though the boogeyman was dead.