Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Late Night Thoughts: The Babysitters Club

My childhood's most memorable smell.
For some reason, after I took my dogs out around 2 a.m. my brain decided to alternate between coming up with ideas for work projects and reminiscing about products from my childhood. One part of my brain would have an epiphany about the Title I Handbook and then another part would say, Hey, remember the smell from the Creepy Crawlers machine? That sure was a specific smell.

Eventually I landed on The Babysitters Club. Like many millenial girls I devoured every BSC novel. All I wanted was to move to Stoneybrook and start attending meetings. Unfortunately for me, Stoneybrook was fictional and I actually wasn't that into babysitting. Real life babysitting shenanigans are far less glamorous and delightful than those dreamt up by Ann M. Martin.

I, too, pined for the
perfect boy.
Everybody had a favorite babysitter. And mine was Claudia. We were both artists with a Clarissa Explains It All fashion-sense. We both enjoyed Nancy Drew and junk food. Clearly, same person. I've even tried my hand at solving a mystery of my own and I feel as though my love of junk food and sugar goes without saying. Plus, Claudia was Japanese and that dove-tailed nicely with my childhood desire to be Asian.

Yes you read that correctly. Oh, has that particular goal never presented itself on this blog? Goal is a strong word. But when I was in early elementary school my best friend was Chinese-American and I thought that was the coolest thing ever. At some point, I realized this could never be.

Anyway, I'd like to thank 2 a.m. for this little stroll down memory lane and BuzzFeed for this delightful list of BSC Factoids.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Holy Shiplap

Am I the only one who lays awake at night wondering what percentage of living rooms in Waco, Texas are painted a cool gray with at least one wall covered in shiplap? How many farm sinks sit in gigantic kitchen islands with cool pendant lights hovering above? How many gallons of white paint have been drained in covering up traditional brick?

If you don't know what I'm talking about, your remote never finds its way over to HGTV. I'm talking about a little show called Fixer Upper. Fixer Upper is to HGTV what the Law & Order franchise is to USA and TNT; at any given time, you have a 37.4% chance of turning on HGTV and being greeted by Chip and Joanna Gaines. Full disclosure: I love this show. I'm watching it on Hulu right now. But as is the case with most things I love, I have no problem making fun of it.

I had every intention of writing a post about the Magnolia Mafia and their not-so-hostile takeover of central (is it central? I don't know. I don't do maps.) Texas. However, I'm not the only person with strong feelings and a strange relationship with this show. I stumbled across a great post from Jezebel, My Tortured Relationship with the HGTV Show Fixer Upper, that already stated some of what I had been thinking. And if you haven't watched Whoa Susannah's hilarious vlog, The Only Woman to Never Have Seen Fixer Upper, what have you been doing with your life?

What makes a quality Fixer Upper episode? There are a few things you are guaranteed to see every time. And if you're like me and Amy Jo, odds are you'll love them almost every time.
Here are my top five Fixer Upper components:
  1. Chip acting a fool. Chip is goofy, silly, and loves attention. Whether he's eating a bug or throwing himself through the drywall on demo day, Chip will do at least one ridiculous thing every episode. He will also make a big deal about Demo Day. He treats an aspect of his career like most of us treat our birthday or Christmas. At first glance it seems silly, but the more I think about it the more I admire that enthusiasm.
  2. A visit to a local thrift store and/or craftsman. Whether it's custom carpentry by Clint, some unique metalwork by Jimmy Don, or a trip to the Cedar Chest Antique Mall, Team Gaines believes in buying local and I'm all about that.
  3. Delicious treats that no one eats. These may or may not be on display in the home during the reveal, but you can bet Joanna will have some beverages (in mason jars) out and a plate of gigantic pastries when the homeowner(s) come over to see her design plans. These items are rarely touched. I can think of one episode where a man took a cookie, after Joanna told him to. Am I alone in thinking I wouldn't be able to focus on the design if that deliciousness was anywhere in my periphery? (Oh yea, removing a wall would open up that space...I'm sorry, are those cookies?)
  4. The largest kitchen island you've ever seen in your life. Joanna loves a big kitchen...who doesn't? And these freaking islands are something else. They may actually qualify as literal islands, I'm not sure what the square footage requirements are for islands but these ones are huge! You know how places like the Philippines appear on a globe or map? Well that's what the greater Waco area looks like from space. 
  5. You will hear the following terms: farmhouse, shiplap, open concept, recessed lighting, updated fireplace, corbels, french doors, demo day, baton, white-washed, reclaimed wood, antique [barn] doors, barn doors...
Speaking of shiplap. I'm fairly ambivalent on it myself, but I do love watching people get extremely excited about it. I still haven't figured out how it's different than plain ol' wood, but whatever. They lose their minds; look, it's shiplap! Joanna Gaines has single-handedly done for shiplap what De Beers did for diamonds. 

The Magnolia Mafia has taken over Waco. They have the renovation and design business, the Silos shop and bakery, a bed and breakfast, and most recently a restaurant. And it's turned into a vacation destination for hundreds of people. It's kind of unbelievable, but great news for a town formerly known for the Branch Davidians.

I do wonder how many people in Waco aren't fans of the show, the design style, the whole shebang? I like to think there are some rebel citizens who've decorated their homes with a defiantly modern style or something. Keep fighting the good fight, y'all. 

As previously implied, I tease because I love. I enjoy the show, the people, everything about it. If it's on, I'll watch...even if I do laugh a little.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Looking Back Before Looking Forward

For the past few months I've been itching to write again. But I haven't had the slightest clue what to write about. Everything about my life seems so different than when I started this blog 10 years ago (what?!). I feel compeled to move forward, but first I have to look back.

Back in Black began in July 2008. Recently fired from a mere 8 weeks at my one and only grown-up job I found myself back at Kroger, still living at home, and yet to go on my first date despite being 23 years old. I certainly felt like a failure, nothing was going like it was supposed to. However, by the end of the year I'd decided to go back to school for a Masters in Education and become a Spanish teacher.

2009 was a blur. Everything listed above was still true, but now I was a full-time student again. I completed a two-year Masters program in 11 months and landed my first interview to be a teacher. I was fortunate enough to be hired as a Spanish teacher at my alma mater, Lafayette High School, (inspite of rocking a decent cold sore at the interview) and my new career would begin when classes resumed after winter break.

When I began teaching in January 2010, I'd clearly found my calling. My purpose. I was in love. Sure there were hard days and frustrations, but I loved it. I loved the kids and I loved what I did. I spent almost every waking hour either teaching, grading, or working on lesson plans. And that was life. Throw in some thrills like a successful run with Nutrisystem (I like to mark my life by weight loss accomplishments, rare and fleeting as they are), exciting food allergy discoveries, and getting my sweet puppy Lola and it seemed as though everything was coming together. Life went on like this until late spring 2012.

Then I got pink slipped. My first (spoiler alert) pink slip. To quote Ron Burgendy, I was in a glass case of emotion. Anger. Sadness. Frustration. About a month later I self medicated at my best friend's wedding by getting drunker than I'd been since my college days. Always a solid idea. I spent the summer going on my first mission trip to Honduras, eating any feelings regarding unemployment, and applying to countless jobs. The end of the summer was fast approaching and I was soon #blessed to be hired at Squires Elementary School (despite my fly being down during the interview).

Teaching elementary school was hands-down my favorite teaching experience (no offense to my high school students, y'all were great too...but those little one, aww). I was thriving. And by December 2012 (after countless misadventures in online dating) I not only went on my first date (finally, at 27) but began a relationship that is going strong to this day.

A lot of things happened between 2012 and 2014. I fell in love. I spent 3 weeks teaching English in China. I started my Educational Specialist degree. I got engaged. There were so many great things happening, I suppose life had to balance things out. Enter pink slip number 2. That one hurt. I actually didn't even write about it. Looks like I was in for another summer of managing emotions and applying for jobs...oh, and planning a wedding.

But I survived. And why shouldn't I? People have been through much worse. Anyway, I was hired at East Jessamine High School and things were good. We got married. I moved to a teeny house in Frankfort. There was a lot of adjustment...but life was going good. So good that I didn't blog a damn thing.

2016 hit me like a ton of bricks. I was in my second year at EJHS but the new administration was changing everything I loved about the school. It wasn't the same. I had a feeling I wouldn't be returning for the next school year.

And then the shit hit the fan like never before in my life. I lost my baby girl, Lola. After about a week of being sick, an x-ray showed us that she had ingested some sort of small metal object (perhaps a needle?) and required surgery. Around 11 pm January 8, 2016 we received a call from the surgeon. There was too much damage and she recommended that we put her down. We drove to Lexington, called my mom who met us at the animal hospital, and together we said goodbye to my little girl. I took off work and I sobbed. Honestly, I'm sobbing as I write this. I received so much love and support from my family, friends, and students, but nothing made me feel better. On a good day, I was numb. On a bad day, I was blaming myself for everything. She must've gotten ahold of a pin or needle I used for cross-stitching or sewing, meaning I'd killed her. Why didn't I follow through with my plan to go by the hospital and visit her before her surgery instead of telling myself that I shouldn't get her worked up because she'd be home soon? It's been over two years and I still struggle with those thoughts from time to time. On an in-between day I wondered what I could do to myself to be able to feel again.

Slowly I began to feel normal again. We decided to get a puppy. Another Morkie, from the same breeder that I bought Lola from. It didn't feel too soon. My heart was literally broken, and this seemed like something to help me heal.

And that's when I got my third (and final) pink slip. Sure, I'd already been looking for other jobs, but that was on my terms. This wasn't. But, if the beginning of 2016 had taught me anything it was the fact that shit happens. Well technically, Forrest Gump taught me that. I went on more interviews than ever before. Applied for more jobs than ever before...including at middle schools (EEK!).
Sidebar - I was interviewing at a middle school and someone on the panel asked where I lived. Since we were in Frankfort, I responded "here" and one of the interviewers asked, "Frankfort?" Ever the comedian, I automatically smiled and joked, "No, the school." What? Who does that? Who thinks that's a good idea during an interview? Answer: Me, aka the person who was not hired at that school.
I swear, not every interview was like that. I actually had some sense in most of them (I think). But there were no jobs to be had. The school year began, without me. For the first time in my teaching career, I wasn't teaching. I decided to serve as a long-term sub for a friend going on maternity leave. She taught AP Psychology and AP Government, but I know all the lyrics to Hamilton so I was basically an expert.
Did I mention that all of this coincided with our house selling? We'd literally just had a conversation about taking it off the market until I had a job and we got an offer that we couldn't pass up. Funny how life works, isn't it?

I interviewed for everything an anything under the sun. I accepted a state job with The Office of Vital Statistics and between my sub job ending and starting that job, I got a better offer from the Department of Education.

And that's where I've been since November 2016. While I enjoy my job, not teaching has been a huge adjustment. I find myself unsure of what to do with my free time. For the first time since 2010, my evenings and weekends are my own. I'm not constantly grading and planning. I'm not spending my own money on classroom supplies, decorations, and special treats for students. I miss teaching, specifically teaching elementary school. I struggle with feeling that I'm not making a difference. It's hard to match the heartwarming feeling you get from teaching. Now I have job security. No more struggling towards tenure only to have it yanked from my grasp. And when we decide to start a family, I'll spend my off the clock hours with them instead of on paperwork.

I started this post with not only a declaration of my desire to return to writing but also an admission of fear and uncertainty in doing so. For weeks (months?) I've asked myself tons of questions: Where do I start? Do I still have it in me? Is my gift for writing and story-telling still there? What do I even have to write about?

Although I can tell my writing skills are rusty, I can also tell that they're still there. I think I needed this cathartic word vomit of how my life has changed to get me going. Now I can return to my special brand of stream of consciousness riddled with extremely specific pop culture deep cuts.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Dental Misadventure (title credit to my husband)

Haven't posted in two and a half years, blah blah blah. 2015-2017 has been a whirlwind. 2016 was the worst year of my life, thus far and I feel like things are balancing out again and I'm honestly happy. More on that later, on to the story of how I walked out of the dentist's office.

Background: After my 2016 pink slip, it took awhile to find a job and I had to forego luxuries such as dental insurance. When I did get a real job I had to pick my own insurance from a list. I picked one with my dentist on it. Fastforward to my appointment in December, I drive to Lexington (oh, I live in Frankfort now) and discover that my dentist does not take that insurance so I have to leave sans cleaning. BTW, there were a minimal number of approved dentists in Frankfort on the list from my insurance. I finally got around to making an appointment with a dentist here in Frankfort and went for my first appointment yesterday at 4:30. And that's where our story begins...

I walked into the office and immediately things seemed shady. It was sort of like going to TJ Maxx or Marshall's; those stores are perfectly fine, you can get some great deals, there's never anything outright disturbing, but you know you're not at the most high-scale establishment in the biz.

I'm called back for the standard "new patient" X-rays. I then received more dental X-rays in one sitting than in all my 32 years on this earth combined. First of all, I thought I saw the girl put on gloves, then removed the mouth thing from the previous patient and then put my mouth thing on (with the same gloves). I was probably wrong about that...let's hope. Anyway, they do the standard X-ray and then maybe 20 more. I would've counted if I'd known it would be that intense.

Now I'm back out front, waiting for a room to become ready. I'm called back a few moments later. The chairs have those TVs on them; this will shock you, but despite my close relationship with television this isn't really my thing. The hygenist then asked if I'd had a "gum rating" at my previous dentist. Ummmm, not to my knowledge. She then pokes the gum area around every tooth and relays numbers to another hygenist. 2's and 3's are good, 4's and 5's are signs of gingivitis (in case you were not familiar with the gum rating process). She also announced every time my gums bled, post-poke. I will now mention that I've always had pretty good teeth; but it had been a year since my last appointment so I didn't expect things to be as good as usual.

Bad news, y'all: I had some 4's. And now we have to discuss the situation. Now I'm hearing words like "treatment plan," "home regimen" and how I'll need to return in 10-14 days until I'm all better. I get a folder with my plan...oh, and I'll need to get prescription toothpaste. And prescription mouthwash, because those are things. So I'm being polite, shaking my head and saying, "mmhmm," while thinking, "Nope. Not doing that. Or that. Prescription toothpaste? Nope. Coming back in 2 weeks? That's cute."

By this point it's about 5:15 and now it's just me, chilling in the room. Back to those little TVs. It was tuned to FXX and they just began Seth MacFarlane's 2014 cinematic tragedy: A Million Ways to Die in the West. Like most humans with at least partial brain function, I firmly believe that Seth MacFarlane should just stop. Stop everything. Cartoons, movies, hosting events, writing, speaking--stop. This "film" was never on my list of things to see. Looking at cast on IMDB makes me question the respect I had for a number of well-known celebrities. I try to change the channel, everything else is static. Turn it off? Nope. I cannot be trusted with that power. Well, how bad could it be? It's on basic cable at 5:00 p.m., after all. Allow me to now share a few of the lines I unfortunately heard (and read thanks to Closed Captioning):

  • Shoot that cowboy c*m in my face.
  • Sorry, I had to give a b*** job.
  • I think he wants an**

I am not now nor have I ever been what you might call "easily offended". But, come on! That's just pure trash. Actually I'd rather look at trash. If given the choice to watch that movie or sit in a dumpster for the day, I'd pick the dumpster. I turned the volume down but I could still hear it on all the other TV's in the office. What I did not hear was anyone saying, "We should turn this off." For what it's worth, I turned my little TV to static.

Now it's 5:30. No cleaning. No sight of a dentist. No hope. If this is how these people conduct business, do I really want them [literally] all up in my grill? No. No I do not. I got up, took off my little bib, and left the folder with my gingivitis home regimen instructions in the chair (darn). As I left, I stopped at the desk and said, "I have to go." The girl wanted to get the office manager so we could reschedule my appointment. I told her, I can just call for that. (Except I won't)

The search for dental care in our capitol continues.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Is this a Good Thing or a Bad Thing?

My last post was in July. What have I been doing since then? Working. If it's not stuff for my actual job, it's stuff for my EdS degree (aka my Masters in Hoop Jumping). I've managed to work a few tiny wedding plans in here and there...it's a good thing we set the date for next fall because I couldn't have done all of this and planned an entire wedding at the same time!

I thought that I'd have time to post some stuff on my blogs during fall break, and honestly this is the first chance I've had. Really the only reason I'm not working on stuff is that I'm getting my hair done. There's not much you can do with a head full of foil.

On to today's subject. I woke up around 4:30 or 5 this morning and naturally started thinking. I'd been in a deep sleep; you know when you wake up and you can tell you've been in exactly the same position all night? Yea, it was one of those. Whenever I wake up like that I'm always excited because I think, "Yea, way to go! REM sleep and whatnot." The downside is that I can't continue sleeping in that spot because now it's all sweaty and gross and unacceptable.

So I rolled over to the other side of the bed, the completely cool side of the bed--score. Who doesn't love the cool side of the pillow? Probably terrorists. I checked the time, 4:30 or 5. It didn't matter today because I was on break but typically this would be exciting because that means there's more time to sleep. Jim Gaffigan says waking up and realizing you still have time to sleep is like finding $1,000.

At this point, most people would just fall back asleep. But lucky bucket of crazy that I am, I had to go back and forth weighing whether or not my current situation was a good thing or a bad thing.

  • Deep sleep: good thing
  • Sweaty sheets that must now be avoided: bad thing
  • Relocation to untouched, cool sheets: delightfully good thing
  • Time to sleep: good thing
  • Brain keeping you awake with stupid list: bad thing

Ultimately, I came to the following conclusion. What's wrong with me? Everything.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Higher Education in the Wizarding World

My last post dealt with a super serious topic, so I thought I should post something lighthearted to balance it out. A few weeks ago or maybe it was months, I don't know because it all runs together, I was behind a car with a Harry Potter bumper sticker. You'd better believe I was all over that.

Obviously I found this amusing, but then I decided to spend a significant amount of time thinking about it (that's what I do). My over-thinking led to a number of questions:

  • Does Hogwarts have tuition? They don't mention it in the book, but I'm sure it does. I mean, they provide room and board to all the students for crying out loud. It's a far cry from your traditional public school. 
  • Are there scholarships? There must be, otherwise how could the Weasleys afford to send all of their children there? 
  • Are there other school options in the wizarding world? You have to be accepted to Hogwarts based on your potential for magical ability but not all children born to wizard parents have that ability. Take Filch, for example, he's a Squib (non-magical person born to wizard parents). What would be the point of a Squib going to Hogwarts? 
  • Where do wizard children go to school prior to the age of eleven? And what do they learn? Regular math and stuff?
  • Did Muggle parents ever question their children being accepted? "Hey honey, an owl just dropped off this letter saying our kid is a witch/wizard and that we should send her/him to this school that we've never heard of. Well, that seems legit." Did any of them ever say no?
Technically FAFSA applies to post-secondary education and that's not what Hogwarts is. Hogwarts is a secondary school. If you want to get bogged down in semantics, this bumper sticker is inaccurate. But it brings me to my main quesstion: Why is there no higher education for wizards? I can't imagine that sat well with Hermione Granger.

Seven years of schooling and you're done. That's all the education you need as a wizard. You're 18 years old and nobody thinks you should maybe go to some more classes? Not even to do something really specialized, like be an Auror or a Professor? That means that by the end of their time at Hogwarts, Seamus Finnegan and Neville Longbottom had the same level of education as Albus Dumbledore. Sure he had decades of life experience, but they had taken all the same classes.

I'm required to have a Masters and all I teach is Spanish, I don't even get into levitation, transfiguration, Dark Arts, charms, etc. If I were going to send my kid off to learn all of that stuff I'd feel more at ease knowing that the teacher had more than the wizard equivalent of a high school diploma under his hat.

For the record: I would go to Hogwarts today if an owl showed up at my house. Same goes for my future children, I'm so down with them attending Hogwarts and learning magic.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

My Letter to Hobby Lobby

I know I'm not the only person who's doing this, and some of you might be sick and tired of hearing about the Supreme Court ruling by now, but I can't not give my opinion on this matter. I'm not going to apologize. And I'm not going to tell you not to read it. You should read it. This is a big deal.

Dear Hobby Lobby,

So, you're a person now. You have religious beliefs. And you don't have to pay for your employees' contraception because doing so violates those religious beliefs. How many sleepless nights has this whole ordeal caused you, Hobby Lobby? I'm surprised you've been able to maintain normal business hours during such a trying time. You brave little soldier, you.

I'd like to take this time to tell you about why I use contraception. Now, it might get a little awkward...to be honest, you're the first craft store I've discussed my lady times with. I don't make a habit of working these types of things into regular conversation, but since you've made the reproductive rights of your female employees your business and participated in setting back women's rights, I figured I'd make an exception.

I started taking birth control when I was 18 years old. I am now 29 years old. Now I know what you're thinking, Hobby Lobby: What a whore! Believe it or not, preventing pregnancy is not why I'm on birth control. As a matter of fact, I am a Christian who goes to church on a regular basis--are you shocked that we don't share the same "closely held religious beliefs"? Prepare to be shocked yet again! I am currently engaged and planning a wedding for next fall. Most people assume that my fiancé and I are sleeping together or that we're going to move in together before we get married. Nope. Wrong on both counts. I don't typically volunteer that information or correct people who make the assumption, not because I'm embarrassed but because I don't care what people think and it's no one's business but mine and my fiancé's. The only reason I'm sharing it now is to prove a point: Not everyone using some sort of contraception fits into the small-minded, preconceived notion that you created. 

I don't know how much you actually know about periods, birth control, or women in general, Hobby Lobby; but based on the fact that you took this case to the Supreme Court, I'm going to assume you know very little. Periods are supposed to come once a month and last for 3-5 days. Prior to taking birth control, mine were never like that. Sometimes a period would last for a really long time (my "record" was 3 weeks). Sometimes it would be so brief, it's like it hadn't even happened. And then I would go months with nothing. 

Initially I didn't complain much, I was never the Are You There God, It's Me Margaret type of girl who longed for her period. But the fact that I never knew when the freaking thing was going to show up, was starting to piss me off. I'm glad I did finally tell my doctor about these issues because I found out that it could be the sign of and/or lead to bigger and more serious problems. 

Irregular periods can be caused by something as basic as stress to uterine polyps, Endometriosis, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and premature ovary failure. Additionally, if you aren't having a period every month, it means that your uterine lining is not being shed every month (like it should be) and can increase your risk of uterine cancer. So my doctor put me on birth control and it's been smooth sailing ever since. So it's not all about preventing pregnancy. 

One of the specific contraceptive devices you won't be paying for is the IUD. Some people consider an IUD to be more abortion-like than traditional birth control. I'm just going to throw this out there: some women are not able to use traditional birth control (pills) and thus an IUD might be their only option. Since you think IUD's are so evil, I should probably alert you to something: Your employee retirement plan is invested in mutual funds of companies who actually make emergency contraceptives and IUDs. Roughly 75% of the retirement plan as of December 2013, if you want to get technical. I thought I should tell you about this because since your "closely held religious beliefs" are so important to you, I know there's no way you would've knowingly allowed this to happen. Knowingly investing in these companies while filing a lawsuit refusing to pay for the products they make would negate your entire argument. It would imply that all this comes down to is money. Saving money wherever possible, at the cost of women's rights. But I know that's not what happened here, so now you can go and correct that grievous error!  

My main purpose of this letter was to introduce you to the variety of functions of birth control. But I'd also like to take this time to tell you that I will no longer be shopping in your store. I don't know that I'd take the time to tell a corporation that, but since you're now a person, you deserve to know. It won't hurt me one bit to become exclusively loyal to Michael's. Michael's is open every day of the week, and they give teachers a 15% discount. That's right Hobby Lobby, I'm a teacher. Teachers buy a lot of craft stuff. The average teacher spends $1,000 of their own money on their class/classroom each year...and you don't even give them a discount? Well, no matter! Really, the main reason I found myself at your store was convenience. It's closer to my house than Michael's. 

I hope you are being flooded with similar letters, Hobby Lobby. I hope other people are pledging to never return to your store. Women's rights took a step backwards when you received your ruling and that hurts me. Any time someone else thinks that they know what is best for my body or the body of any woman, hurts me. Whenever someone thinks that they deserve to have a say in my medical decisions without my consent, it hurts me.

This is not about me being a liberal, a Democrat, pro-choice, pro-Obama, etc. This is simply about me being a woman. Ultimately, the ones who will be hurt by your actions are women, from all walks of life.