Thursday, December 31, 2015

The 2015 Book Review

Drum Roll, please.

Why? Because it's time...for...the...2015 Book Review! I know, I know - you've all been waiting eagerly for this post to appear in your social media feeds, and waiting, eagerly for me to tell you what to read in 2016.

Oh, you haven't? You forgot I even had a blog?


So did I. And no, "blogging more" is not one of my 2016 resolutions. Mostly because I think resolutions are dumb. Mostly because I don't keep my resolutions. Ergo, they are dumb. Also, I'm totes good at logic and stuff.

But on to the real reason you are here - not my I-think-I'm-funny-witty repartee (with myself) - but the books!

True Confessions:
In my 2014 book review, I said that I wanted to read the following 4 books: The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, and Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.

Guess how many of them I read in 2015?


If you guessed "None of them" you would be right. I'm the worst.

I started Anna Karenina. I think I got as far as the horse race (spoilers?). I meant to finish In Cold Blood because I started that in 2013, but never got around to it. I talked about Cloud Atlas with Tanner - but I'm not sure that counts (even though he did give me a very comprehensive breakdown of the plot...), and I went to see The Great Divorce as play. So, all in all, I am the worst.

The Worst (Book):
Speaking of The Worst, surprisingly I did not have a Worst Book for 2015. By "Worst Book" I mean a book that was either terribly written, or a book that prompted a visceral reaction, like the one I had to Gone Girl (reaction: vomit). So, I'll just keep going with Gone Girl as the worst book for the rest of my life. *Shudder*

Resounding Meh(s) or Not All They're Cracked Up to Be
The False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy, #1)
The False Prince and The Runaway King, books 1 and 2 in the Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A. Neilsen. These books are basically a poor man's Queen's Thief by Megan Turner Walen. If you liked Gen's voice and character, you'll find a similar one in these books. But just read The Queen's Thief books instead. They're so much better.

The Messenger and Son by Lois Lowry, books 3 and 4 of The Giver Quartet. I read The Giver with my GT Language Arts class this semester, and so decided to tackle the last two books in the series. I read Gathering Blue (book 2) several years ago and really did not like it. The Messenger and Son were just okay. After the rich complexity and depth of The Giver, they just didn't measure up. If you're a fan of The Giver and you like the ambiguity of the ending, I would recommend not reading these books. The answers to the questions are not nearly as satisfying as the ambiguity.

Recommendable Rereads:
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls - I re-read this for book club, and I may have mentioned this in a book review a few years ago, but it's fantastic. Read it.

The Giver by Lois Lowry - Also re-read for book club, and then again for school. I re-read this book twice in 2015. And I can't wait to have an excuse to read it again.

Most Thought Provoking:
Citizen: An American Lyric
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankin and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehsi Coates. I had to read these two books for my Multicultural American Literature course. Truthfully, I would probably never have read these books if it wasn't for a class, but I'm glad I did. They challenged my worldview and some of my preconceptions about the world around me, and that's what books should do, right? As much as I'd really rather just read books about dragon slippers and children fighting space battles, it's important to read books that offer a different perspective on the world as we know it. Do I agree with everything presented by Rankin and Coates? No, I don't - but I appreciate being able to see things from their point of view.

Favorite Books:
In part because I read a lot of not-incredible book, and in part because I read a lot of incredible books, I don't have an Absolute Favorite for the year. The following books are the ones that stood out, that I enjoyed, talked about, and thought about long after I finished the last page.

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey
The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard. Friends, I don't read a lot of nonfiction,  mostly because I like books about dragon slippers and children fighting space battles, and those are not real, apparently. But I read The River of Doubt for my book club, and it was definitely one of my favorites for the year. It's an intriguing story, as well as historically interesting. It is not about Teddy Roosevelt as president, but rather after his presidency.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio. A fifth grade boy with a rare disease that causes his features to be disfigured goes to regular school for the first time. You should read this book if you're a fifth grader, if you're a fifth grade teacher, or if you are a human being.

The Martian by Andy Weir. I don't think anyone is applauding Weir's work for being particularly literary or anything - but it does have a special "something" about it. I love survival stories - I always have. I read the unabridged version of Robinson Crusoe by the fifth grade. I poured over the missionary medical book Where There is No Doctor many,  many times in my childhood, and consequently by the age of eight or so could tell you how to get venom out of a snake bite (duh: slit two holes around the snake bite and suck it out and spit - quickly!) and how to build the most healthy latrines (duh: make sure they are down stream from where the drinking water is taken!). So, The Martian is totally my kind of book. It's funny (let's be honest: it's funnier than Robinson Crusoe, but so is watching paint dry, so that's not a great example), it's endearing, and all that good stuff. Read it before you see the movie.

In the Woods and The Likeness, books 1 and 2 of The Dublin Murder Squad by Tana French. I happened upon these books because I saw the title "In the Woods" and immediately sang to myself "Into the Woods!" and picked up the book. It's nothing to do with fractured fairy tale musicals, but it's a psychological murder mystery. Each book in the series is told from the perspective of a different, peripheral character from the previous book. It's important to know that so that you don't get too attached. It's a series in that they all take place in Dublin, and they are all loosely affiliated with the homicide unit. There's five in the series now.

Ender's Shadow (Ender's Shadow, #1)
Ender's Shadow by Orsen Scot Card. I don't know why it's taken me 30 years to read this book, but it did. I've read Ender's Game several times (read: four or five...), and I've read the rest of the series, which gets progressively stranger and stranger. Because the rest of the books in the series were so strange, I didn't want to read Ender's Shadow. I'm glad I finally did - it's remarkable. It's not Ender's Game, but it's not porcine-tree-aliens, either. It's Bean's story, told parallel to the events of Ender's Game. I would recommend reading Ender's Game, first - so consider this a two-fer.

Goals for 2016:
I would really like to finish Anna Karenina and In Cold Blood and The Other Wes Moore and 1Q84 and several others that I started but failed to finish. I would like to start (and finish) Cloud Atlas and The Great Divorce and One Hundred Years of Solitude and several of the other books I have on my to-read list.

But mostly - mostly - I just want to read a lot. I do so hate setting resolutions, because I'm rather dreadful at keeping them. My goals for 2016 are simply this: that I devote more hours to reading than I do watching television (harder than it sounds) or playing candy crush (harder than it sounds), and that I balance my avid taste for fiction with a sensible dose of nonfiction (harder than it sounds).

What have you read and loved (or hated) in 2015? What are you looking forward to reading in 2016?

Happy Reading, friends!

Book Reviews from Years Past (In case this post wasn't long enough for you...)
2011 - Part II & Part III (Yes, apparently it was a THREE PARTER that year. I have no life - have I ever mentioned that?)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Situational Pet Peeves II

Current Pet Peeves:
*cough* *cough* *pulls out soapbox*

10. The KFC commercials. That Colonel Sanders. I can't even.
Nothing makes me not want to eat greasy, fast food fried chicken like that horrible, horrible man on those commercials. Boy, did the marking firm for KFC read this particular millennial wrong.

9. The expression "I can't even." I know I just used it, but it still bugs me. I think it bugs me because I keep using it, even though I don't like it.

8. Calling someone your "bestie."*

7. Calling someone your "bae."

6. Stores that open at 3:00 pm on Thanksgiving Day. Or earlier. Or on Thanksgiving Day at all.

5. Verizon's latest promo: "Thanksgetting." I'm so glad I don't have Verizon as a phone carrier, and if I did, I would seriously consider changing my service.

4. #hashtags. #hashtags in general, but especially when people make up hashtags that will never, ever, ever be a part of a search (which is the original purpose of hashtags). You think you're being clever, but you're not. You're just contributing to the general destruction of the English language as we know it, but that's okay. Keep hashtaging away. #ihatepeoplewhomakeupridiculouslylonghashtagsandthinktheyrebeingfunnybuttheyrenottheyrejustlongandimpossibletoread

3. People who assume that if 1 person in a million people fleeing a war torn region is a terrorist than many of that same ethnic and religious group are probably terrorists, or at least likely to be one. I know I'm oversimplying the issue, but the xenophobia in our nation scares me. Like, the same way that Hitler scares me.

2. Leggings as pants.*
This still irks me. It always will. So it's probably not a situation pet peeve anymore, but it's Fall, and so leggings-as-pants always rears (pun intended) its ugly head right about now. *shudder*

1. Donald Trump.

*drops mic*

*Repeat pet peeves.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Untitled (No, really, I don't have a pithy name for this post)



Yeah, it's been a while.

Almost 3 months.

I know. I know. Stop looking at me like that!

Life has just been...overwhelming. It's hard to put my finger on one particular thing that has changed from this year to last year that makes me feel a bit more overwhelmed and a bit less blog-y. Mostly, I am not a "I'm-in-a-dreary-mood-I-feel-like-writing" kind of writer, at least in public. In fact, when I feel dreary I don't even really keep a journal or a diary because I get more depressed (yes, I'm weird). I'm a "I'm-happy-and-chipper-right-now-I-feel-like-writing" kind of writer. It's not that I've been all dreary for two and half months, I've just not been...quite inspired enough to write. I like writing. A lot. But I'm not very good at writing when I don't feel like it. Which is why I'll never be a real writer.

(Another reason I'll probably never be a real writer is my over-use of stylistic sentence fragments, but whatever Dr. Bressler, I'm not in your Advanced Composition class anymore, and I can use all the stylistic fragments I want because it's my blog. Sheesh.)

So what's been going on the past two and half  months? Well, wouldn't you like to know. Oh. You would. That's probably why you're reading this.

School has been going on. This year has been smoother for me, personally. For the most part, my classes are manageable. In general, my classes are all pretty good (if I were superstitious, I would have to knock on wood right now). I have all Language Arts this year, including 2 GT sections. I am NOT teaching Tech Ed which is wonderful (did I ever mention how Tech Ed. was the absolute bane of my existence?). I really only have one difficult section , which is pretty amazing, actually (ironically, it's one of my GT sections...?).

Tensions are running a bit high as I write this, here on the day before our short Thanksgiving break. When you teach in a high poverty school, behaviors often increase before holidays because our students are subconsciously (or consciously) reacting to the fact that they won't have all the things that make a holiday. Also, they're kids at their core, so they're tired of school and the teachers are tired of school, and so we're all a little cranky together.

But it's almost Thanksgiving, for which I am thankful not so much for the delicious dinner in the offing, but the delicious 2-school-days-off.

Grad school has also been going on. It's actually been a stimulating experience so far, and while I don't really feel like I have my grad-school-legs yet (it's a thing. I just made up), I am glad I took on this enterprise. It's not super-duper hard, but it's also not super-duper easy. I'm taking Multi-Cultural American Literature, and it's been good to challenge a lot of my...underlying assumptions. We read a lot of difficult texts - difficult in the sense of the context - and it's been good to stretch my academic brain, not just my educator brain. I love, love, love, love, love, love - did I mention that I love - taking a class that does not require me to write lesson plans? Oh man. I hate taking classes where I have to write lesson plans. I also enjoy the fact that it's a face-to-face class and not an online course. Our class is large (22 students) which is really large for a discussion based class, and I can't really get a word in edgewise (which will probably effect my grade, but whatever). One irony is that our class is Multicultural American Literature, and it is literally 23 white people sitting around in a circle discussing these texts written by people of color. It's been a good space to have some challenging conversations, but it's also sort of hilarious to watch because really, we know not of what we speak. I am probably the most multicultural person in the room, but I keep that under wraps because it's just too complicated.

I wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving. Take some time before the tryptophan kicks in to give thanks for the good things in your lives. And give thanks for the challenges. I know they're there for a reason. I keep wondering when God will have decided that my character is shaped enough and I can just have an easy school year...but I am learning, here in my wise old age of 30 that my character is never going to be shaped enough...that I'm always going to need a lot of sanding down of those rough edges of impatience and irritation and pettiness and anger and other ugly things in my character that keep rearing their ugly heads.

I do wish I could mix a few more metaphors for you, but I've got to get to school.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Classroom Tour 2015

*This is mostly for Susanna who requested it.It's not that exciting. If you're not a teacher, I would probably just move on with your life to a more exciting blog.*

School started about two weeks ago, and thus's been a smooth start. It helps to know the school and culture a little better. I still have miles to go in terms of learning how to teach the way I am expected to teach, I think, and miles to go before I've got the classroom management down, and many other things - but less miles than last year. There's not much to report - life is getting very busy very fast, and so this might be the last post for a while (not that I'm the most prolific writer under normal circumstances). I'm starting grad school (finally) this semester, officially, which should mean I'll be busy writing papers, and not have much time for blog posts; in addition to grad school, I'm a lot more involved in things at school this year.

I snapped some of these pictures before school started so things look a little more finished now (and by finished, I mean messy...), but here are a few little peeks into my home-away-from home:
"Panoramic" view of Room 304.

Before you enter the room, this is the display in my little alcove. It didn't turn out exactly as I envisioned, but it gets the idea across. I won't leave it up there all year (especially because kids love to budge themselves in this alcove while they wait for me to let them in the room - so annoying!) but I think it's welcoming and fun to start the year.

As you enter the classroom, this is the bulletin board you'll see immediately to the right with all sorts of useful info and items, like, what to do if you're absent, the sixth grade schedule with those pesky mods broken down, coach class, and a calendar (it's not up there yet in this picture). Also featured: the ever important sign-out binder (which has my emergency folder tucked in the cover so I can grab it on the way out the door and know who is out of my class).

(It's probably a good idea to take the envelope full of student ID cards off the desk before snapping the picture.)

The crate is for picking up and dropping off absent work. I'm trying a new procedure this year. I didn't really have one last year, was idiotic and extremely time consuming and stressful. I've tried so many systems over the years - basically it comes down to needing to be extremely organized in both your record keeping and in your paper handling - I am nothing, if not extremely not well organized...

I'm terrible at keeping track of absent students and their work. I'm going to try this system. My plan is to have a hanging folder for each day of the month. I have a cover sheet explaining what the student missed. The cover sheet will be stapled to their worksheets. I will also photocopy the cover sheet so I have a record that I gave students the work. Will it work? Probably not, but a girl's got to try.

Last year, I had students using the hand-sanitizer as their perfume, so I felt the need to make this little sign...

Different angle. I just love this corner - think it's my favorite of my classroom. It's bright and colorful and just happy and also very useful. All the bulletin board backgrounds except one are sturdy vinyl tablecloths from Walmart or something. They've held up one year, and haven't faded. I tried to find similiar ones this year and didn't have any luck.

One last thing - I stuck this quote up there, as a good reminder for students and for myself (I am the first to admit that my tone can get quite sharp, especially at the end of a long day or a long week). Here's hoping they pause to read it while they're sharpening their pencils or checking for their make-up work.

My little desk "alcove." I just procured a nice filing cabinet and that helped to expand the space a bit. I had the desk oriented around the other way last year, but I'm liking this a lot more. The paper lanterns will hopefully hang from the ceiling above my desk, but I just have to get a tall person to come and hang them for me.

Objectives at the front of the room this year rather than the back. And the Bard...staring out at my students from the front of the room. It's always good to have Shakespeare keep a watchful eye on your class if your back is ever turned.

My bulletin board with "Writing Must Haves" posted - students must have these elements in anything they write.

View of the classroom looking towards the back. Please notice the numbers hanging from the classroom - I'm particularly proud of these and I love them. I made them with large stencils, black acrylic craft paint, and two squares of scrapbook paper. They're double sided and laminated. Here's hoping they last. How could they not last? You ask...well, imagine boisterous sixth grade boys who think jumping up and hitting things hanging from the ceiling is the coolest game ever, and there's your answer.

Two weeks in, numbering my table groups is basically the best thing I've ever done. I can call out "Table 6" instead of individual student names if there is noise coming from that group. All my groups' desks are lettered A through D, and so I can say "If you are a D, collect the papers for your group and turn them into the turn-in bin." These are not ideas I came up with, by the way, but gathered from other teachers, or Pinterest.

My wordless word wall. There will be words up there eventually. Relax.

Also, my classwork folder crates. I'm keeping all classwork handouts in class, in an effort to help students not lose, well, everything. I'm worried that this is too much hand-holding, but I guess I'd rather have hand-holding and my students actually have their work, rather than the alternative (disaster, etc.).

Each crate is devoted to a mod; in each crate is a hanging folder for each table group. The first person of the group to arrive gets the folders, the A-seat person always returns them. We're still working out the kinks...laziness has reared its ugly head, and I'm finding folders stuffed wherever, even in other crates.

Don't worry. This will stop. Soon. Or else.

Student work bulletin board. It might be a little too busy, but hopefully it will get filled up with exemplar student work! The background is just 12" pieces of scrapbook paper stapled in a hodge podge. I've learned over the years that if something is supposed to be straight and it isn't, it drives me crazy, so I just do everything at a tilt or an angle and I keep my sanity. I wanted to do a sort of quilt-work pattern but that lasted about twenty-seconds.

And some student work - mini-posters from the 1st day of school about our school pledge.

This rolling chalk board is sort of inconvenient, but I don't want to get rid of it, so I am actually using it as my homework board - but I took the picture before the first day of school, and I didn't assign homework the first day of school for once in my life. There's a bulletin board on the back, but I haven't used it. I also sometimes use it to put a student desk behind it when a student needs peace and quiet to work - it creates a nice little partition.

Bathroom hand signals. This is to help reduce the interruptions in the classroom, and it works! I'm very committed to using these; if students fail to use the signals, the answer is no. I'm hoping that putting them under the clock will help solidify them in students' minds. If this seems a little elementary to you, it is...but these are sixth graders and they don't know that it's elementary. Also, until they can hold it like older kids, I don't feel bad about having elementary-style bathroom procedures.

Noise level signs. I sort of halfheartedly had these posted in my room last year, but I didn't use them. I'm using them this year. I streamed lined them from 5 different levels to just 3, to be used during work time. I think it should be implied (as in, I don't need to make a sign - not that I don't need to state this and teach this) that there's no talking during direct instruction unless directed to talk, ask a question, etc.

Boys and Girls restroom passes and drink passes - a coworker has them on the door frame, so I'm going to try it out. Notice how much time is spent thinking about the procedures for going to the bathroom when you're a teacher, especially a sixth grade teacher? Ridiculous. Procedures and routines are essential in middle school. A beautiful lesson plan can quickly go sour with poor procedures.

My classroom is always a work in progress - there will be home-made posters and student work and giant post-it note posters and other things put up and taken down as the year progresses. My classroom really does become my homebase, more so than my own home. I used to keep a half-dozen pairs of shoes in my classroom, as well as half the dishes I owned in the world...I'm a little better about that now (I keep it to one mug and one set of silverware, generally...), but it's still my space and I spend a lot of time making it look welcoming and also thinking about the flow of traffic and procedures.

Hope you enjoyed this little tour. Come visit sometime!

Friday, August 14, 2015

A Few Random Musings on a Friday (Because I am Getting Tired of Talking to Myself)

My introvert coffers are basically full, and so I'm a little more loquacious than usual this week because I think I need to talk to people.


Well, I mean, I need to talk to you, people!

I don't know where I'm going with this.

I don't know how I ended up with this ability to chatter and be an introvert. Yes, I know it's called an "ambivert." That's dumb. I like my way better - it's far more interesting than ambivert. Ambivert sounds like someone who has an affinity for frogs. Somehow I'm an introvert who processes best externally. I don't have anything particular to process tonight. But it's my blog and I get to process however I like on it. Sheesh.

So, I'm planning on running another half marathon in October, and slowly getting myself into gear. Running always gives me enormous clarity. Nothing clears my head like a run. I don't know why I don't do it more often. It's kind of like a physical form of prayer...after a run (which usually involves prayer) I just have perspective. One of my favorite teachers in middle and high school used to prescribe running as the antidote for everything.

Stressed out? Run!
Tired? Run!
Vomiting? Run!
Malaria? Run!

I strangely agree with him more and more. Thanks, Mr. Penney, for your life wisdom.

True confessions: after my run tonight I went to Walmart* and I bought Kraft Macaroni and Cheese  (that's "Kraft Dinner" for my Canadian friends) and that's what I ate for supper. Yes, I know that this basically negates all exercise I may have done for the week.

Lately I've been realizing just what a terrible grownup I am, at least in the food department (and in several other departments - thank God for automatic bill pay - but today, let's just focus on food).

Here's what I ate today:
Breakfast: Two cups of coffee. Forgot to eat actual food until 2:00 pm until I was suddenly so violently hungry I thought I was going to throw-up. (Hungry? Run! So Hungry You're Going to Puke? Run!)
Lunch: Leftover white rice with salt and pepper. An apple.
Snack: Apple Pie Lara Bar and pretzel sticks to try and get my blood sugar up so that I could actually run.
Dinner: Boxed Mac & Cheese.
Dessert: Strawberry Popsicle.

(Where's the protein, Bowers?!?)

I could try and excuse it by saying that it's summer. I keep odd hours in the summer and eat strangely. But it's not summer's fault. I eat haphazardly most of the time. My dog eats better than I do (well, relatively speaking - it's still dog food). I got really concerned about cheap dog foods, and I buy (embarrassingly expensive) grain-free dog food for her, but I'm eating boxed macaroni and cheese for supper. However, my desire to make sure my dog eats well gives me hope that if I ever have children, I won't be feeding them macaroni and cheese. Nope. They'll be getting the best grain-free dog food  money can buy.

It's really hard to do the normal, every day life things, like eating, once school is in session. I am excited for this year because I'll have Mod 5/6 off, which means I can eat lunch around noon instead of at 11:00 (as long as I don't have coverage. And I'll have coverage every day. It shall be my punishment for getting rid of Tech Ed.). I am entering into this school year with Big Hopes and Plans when it comes to eating. I'll do my grocery shopping once a week and plan my meals! I'll use my new crock pot more often (especially because it was a gift from a lovely friend)! I'll eat more vegetables and fruits intentionally! I'll do make-ahead salads like they have on Pinterest! I'll eat lunch every day! I will not be hangry by Mod 9 because I've eaten a good lunch! Consequently I'll be the Perfect Teacher and everyone will love me.

I give it a week, and it'll be back to Lean Cuisines if I remember to buy some that week, or a Luna Bar if I remember to stock my desk drawers or Popcorn if the janitors didn't throw out my stash left behind in the staff room over the summer, or a leftover from our "universal breakfast," or a handful of almonds.

I need a Jeeves to make sure the day to day things in my life happen so that I can focus on my job. Perhaps I'll advertise on Craigslist.

Did I ever tell the story of the time when, my students were discussing my marital status or lack of marital status? First, they asked me if I had ever been on a date. Fortunately, I did not have to lie about this. Then, I was asked by the same student who would bring powered sugar to breakfast:

"Miss Bowers! Have you ever tried Craigslist?"


"You know. Craigslist."

"For...a date?"


There are no words.

I was almost as speechless as the time I was told by a student: "Miss Bowers, you're my DUFF**."

There are no words.

(Maybe I need to eat less macaroni and cheese.)

I am actually really looking forward to getting back to school and work next week. Also I need to get paid.

I realized (as I was running - perspective!) that this is the first time in three years I haven't had a new job at the beginning of the school year. I'm so happy to be going back to a familiar place and familiar faces. I'm really looking forward to catching with to the now seventh graders and seeing their sweet faces (please note how summer helps me forget how much I did not find their faces sweet two short months ago...summer is NECESSARY for teachers to become human beings again), and getting to know this new batch of sixth graders who will surely be the cause of a few more wrinkles by Christmas time, but are now a complete unknown (and they are pretty scared stiff the first month or so and that's how we like them).

I haven't talked about my neighbors in a while because I've been able to ignore them much of the summer because my parents were here to get the brunt of the complaints, criticisms, and "helpful" suggestions. They tend to get on these one-tracked obsessions that they will not let up with until it comes to a confrontation or I just do what they want. One of their obsessions is that people will come and snatch the dog out of my front yard and use her for dog baiting in dog fights. I can't make this stuff up.

Every. Single. Time. I. Leave. The. Dog. Outside. Without.Watching. Her. They. Inform. Me. Of. This. Possibility.

I'm fairly certain that if I ever go out there, and Lucy is gone that they probably took her to teach me a lesson. It's good thing their dog hates other dogs (and all other human beings) because that's the one thing keeping them from teaching me this lesson.

Lately it's the rats. It started with one rat comment about two weeks ago: "You better watch that little dog of yours because I saw a rat go under your bushes."

And then I got another rat comment a week later: "You better watch that little dog of yours. I keep seeing that rat."

And then two or more rat comments a day.

And then the angry (not sure if they were angry at me, or the rats?) phone call yesterday: "We have a rat problem. You need to do something about the rats in your yard. They're nesting in there. And they keep coming into my yard. I see them all the time. And watch that little dog of yours. Those rats will attack a dog."

First of all, let me elucidate. When they say "We have a rat problem," they mean me. Because somehow it's my fault that a rat or multiple rats have nested in my bushes when they are the one who feed birds bread on a daily basis several times a day.

The rat problem is actually their fault (well, as much as a vermin problem in a major metropolitan area can be). And, I actually dealt with it, but because they didn't see me do something about the rat problem it's still a problem (in other words, I put poison out but they didn't see me do it, and I, oh so foolishly did not inform them of it the minute I did it)

The thing about my neighbors is that I don't have to exaggerate. I am not exaggerating. You are getting the whole, unadulterated truth.

We are going to probably end up on Judge Judy some day. I'm already going to be on an episode House Hunters (don't ask - I can't even - I'm not ready to talk about it yet, okay?! It was very traumatic), so I'll just add this to my reality TV repertoire.

I'm starting to get anxious about going back to school not because I'm nervous about school starting (okay, I'm nervous about school starting, of course), but because I am not sure what I am going to do about The Dog Situation. I had a kid come and walk the dog for the two months that Lucy-ownership and school overlapped. But I am not sure if I want to continue that...frankly, I think she can hold it and it gets a little expensive (I guess I could go back to feeding her terrible dog food...).

But I'm not sure the neighbors can hold it.

I was told that I was cruel and mistreating her because I was crating her, even with the kid walking the dog during the day. When I told them it was none of their business, they told me it was their business because they love all animals. This is the readers' digest version of this confrontation - and even though I have a pathological fear of any and all conflict and confrontation and it makes me want to vomit (Pathological Fear of Confrontation? Run!) I stood up for myself and my choices and eventually gave in to what they wanted me to do (not crate the dog) because it's just easier that way.

I really don't need to crate her anymore (she gets gated into the kitchen), but it would be about 10 hours without a bathroom break.

Which is a long time.

But she's a dog.

And she can (probably) hold it. I need to see if she can, but I'm pretty sure I will not be given the opportunity to come to the conclusions on my own, because as soon as they pick up on the fact that the dog walking kid isn't coming around anymore (I don't even know if he can still do it, actually), I'm going to hear about it.

And please, don't suggest that I give The Neighbors a key and just let them let her out if they are so concerned. Oh, no. Those people are not getting inside my house. I get enough commentary from them about the outside of my house. Can you imagine? I'd have to keep my house spotless. I couldn't leave a crumb on the counter by accident because I'd be told about the dangers of cockroaches (which, um, after African drain cockroaches very little phases me now in the cockroach department) and mice and ants. Once, I left an empty yogurt container by accident on our shared porch and was informed about three different times about ants and how they were now infesting their side of the porch because of my yogurt cup. That had been licked clean by the dog so there was no residue.

Mostly...I try to laugh about it. Mostly I do laugh about it. But it does get my goat when I'm told that I have a rat problem when they're the ones feeding the rats.

Final thought for the night: I think I have an overabundance of parentheses. It's like I picked them up at a bulk punctuation store and I'm just using them devil-may-care because they're cheap.

Oh, parentheses. I love you. I don't want to give you up. (Even though I may need to use fewer of you.)

I love you almost as much as I love the m-dash.

Whatever would I do with out you?

*Incidentally, I'm pretty sure that Hell is going to be that Walmart. No need for fire and brimstone. Just build Hell exactly like the Landsdown Walmart and people will come to Jesus in droves. This is the part where I get struck by lightning...wait for it...)

**DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Musings on a Summer Tuesday, 8.11.2015

On my mind this week:

1) This is my last week of summer - one week from now, as I write this, I will be sitting in Extremely Positive and Upbeat Sounding Meetings That Inform Us of All the New and Wonderful Changes That Will Turn Our Good School Into A Great School and How To Teach Globally Competitive Citizens.

I'm actually quite looking forward to getting back to school (if not the battery of meetings and professional development I have to endure the week before school starts) - I adore summer (I am really good at being a couch potato and I'm not afraid to admit it), but I also really like getting back to school and activity and work and routine. I'm teaching all Language Arts (which is what I would have called "English" before teaching in this district - so novels and poetry and writing, including two GT sections which means Better Behaved Children (in theory), and my homeroom is one of the GT sections. Also, NO TECH ED. I would teach Math over Tech Ed (Computers) any day. Tech Ed. was literally (and I'm using this with the actual meaning of the word) the bane of my existence. I shudder to think of it. I won't even put it on my resume because I never, ever want another school to say: "Oh, this person taught a computer class. Let's give her Computers." There is nothing worse than trying to teach Microsoft Word to a thirty sixth graders after lunch with six of the worst kids in the grade in your class.

Okay, there might be a few things that are worse than that (like teaching gym - or sitting through an entire sporting event without a book - or being tarred and feathered) - but not many.

3) I have spent more time on Pinterest this summer than is probably recommended. I get these little craft obsessions and I can't stop figuring out how to do them until I overdose on whatever the project was - hoop art or diy abstract paintings or repainting furniture or how to do a gallery wall or yarn wreaths or whatever. I've actually managed to make some really cool items (if I do say so myself) that I've used for gifts or my own decorations, so the obsessions paid off, I suppose.

Pinterest is a pretty funny place, as useful as it can be. I like using it to predict when someone is either about to get engaged or about to have a baby. The truth is in the PINS, although, admittedly, it is a bit harder to predict the engagements because every unmarried woman or girl occasionally pins wedding things (you can make the prediction based on the frequency). No one, however, pins something about "pumping" or diaper rash or cutesy pregnancy announcements unless they're pregnant or planning on getting pregnant soon. How can I be so certain? Please. I don't need to know nor want to know tips on pumping until I actually have to face that reality in my life. And thank you very much Pinterest friends for shoving that in my face (shouldn't one of the perks of being single be not having to even think about breast-feeding or diaper rash?).

One of the types of pins that pops up a lot is something like "Five Cute Hair Styles for the Gym: So we work hard at the gym, it doesn't mean we can't look cute while doing it."


Cute hair styles for the gym? I don't know about you, but when I go to the gym (or for a run)...I. Don't. Look. Cute. Even if I did my hair "cute," I wouldn't look cute after about five minutes. Also, who has time to do their hair for The Gym? I can barely make the time to exercise some days (err, uh, most days...especially when school's in session), much less style my hair for The Gym.

Girls (well, and boys, I suppose), if you are going to the gym to look cute, you're not doing it right.

3) I just decided to pick up the Harry Potter books again. Why? It's been on my mind because, according to my Time Hop app, I posted a lot about the seventh Harry Potter book when it was published eight years ago (thank you, Time Hop, for reminding me about all the dumb status updates that I'm sure I thought were witty at the time...). I started with The Prisoner of Azkaban because I've read the first and second too many times.

I need to talk about a few things that have long been bugging me about the Harry Potter universe. I'm about to go into full Harry-Potter-Geek-Mode, so feel free to stop reading and skip to the end. Or keep reading and then feel free to mock me afterwards. Or stop reading and mock me anyway. Whatever. I can take it.*

So, first of all, I've been doing some math. I only do math if it pertains to something I like, like books or baking. Here's the problem: Harry Potter never, ever seems to know other students at his school. Which might make sense if his school was big. but it's not. It's small. It has to be small.

According to my sister, J,K. Rowling said in an interview somewhere that Hogwarts is about 1000 students.

J.K. Rowling, the numbers do not support this.

If Harry's year is typical, and students are sorted more or less equally into the four houses, let's assume there are about twelve students/year in each house, so, about forty-eight students per year. There are seven grades at Hogwarts, so, rounding up just a bit, this means it's a school of 350 students.

I went to small schools my entire life, and if there is one thing I know to be true about small schools, it's this: everyone knows everyone. You may not know them personally, you may not even have had a conversation with them, but you know everything about them, and they know everything about you. I don't know how, exactly, but somehow, you know the main bits about everyone else. You at least know their names, and can recognize them. Especially when that small school is a boarding school. I still remember, twenty years later, who the cool (at least I thought they were cool) older kids were when I was in 5th grade. I can give you names, grades, nationalities, what their parents did, how long they had gone to my school, and the part they had in the spring musical that year. My friends and I adored watching and knowing about the older kids. Now, we weren't fighting off mythical beasts and trying to take down Voldemort  He Who Must Not Be Named, so maybe we had a lot more time on our hands, but still...Why doesn't Harry, by Year 3, at least know who Cedric Diggory? Why does Oliver Stone have to point him out in the hallway? What 8th grader doesn't know who the cool, Quidditch-playing 10th graders are?

Harry never seems to know of anyone, other than his own little circle of friends. Harry is actually my least favorite character of the series (other than the obvious ones you're supposed to dislike, like Umbridge) - I think he's one of those main characters that are basically there to anchor the story but aren't terribly interesting in and of themselves. Oh, Harry has an intriguing back-story of course, but that doesn't make him all that wonderful himself. He's actually a jerk, most of the time. If I were doing a serious character analysis of Harry Potter, I would probably say this lack of awareness of other students at his school points to Harry's narcissistic personality and that he has an inner core of selfishness that manifests itself in only having and using the friends he needs, not seeking out new friends in years above or below him or in other houses, or even admiring older students. As a teacher, Harry's the worst - can you imagine teaching him? Half the time I side with Snape - not Snape's tactics, but I'd like to wipe that nasty little smirk off Harry's face with loads of lunch detentions myself.

If I was not doing a serious character analysis of Harry, I would just assume that J.K. Rowling probably never went to a small school and so doesn't know the ins and outs of how small schools work.

Speaking of Snape, the other thing that really irks me is the teaching load. (I know...only a teacher would think about the teaching load at Hogwarts). Presumably, there is only one teacher of each subject. Some of the classes are combined with students from other houses, but a lot of the classes are just Gryfinndor on its own. Take Transfiguration, for example. Professor McGonnagal must teach Transfiguration to each year, with four sections of each grade. That's seven different preps, with four sections each: that's 28 classes.

28 classes. That's not even accounting for how often these classes meet. I teach 25 actual class periods a week (five class periods a day), and do not have enough time in the two planning periods I have to get all the planning, marking, and phone calls in - I have to spend at least two hours extra a day, if not more (and not counting weekends), doing school work outside the regular school hours and the hours I'm technically contracted to work. At Hogwarts, it doesn't appear that these classes meet every day, but they must meet at least two times a week - 56 classes (and this is a conservative estimate).

56 class periods a week? A week? Plus planning and grading? This is not physically possible.

No wonder McGonnagal's irritable. And anytime Dumbledore gets himself fired, what does McGonnagal have to do? Take over as headmistress, as well. Now, it's possible in the upper years that some of these classes are combined, and it sounds like students don't have to take all the core classes after their O.W.Ls (oh, man, I am way, way too knowledgeable of the wizarding educational system), but that's still a remarkable amount of classes to teach.

If, say, there were 1000 students at Hogwarts as Rowling said, imagine: as a teacher, you would have to each all 1000 students. No wonder they can't keep a Defense Against the Arts teacher. Who wants to have 56 classes and 1000 students? And no, I don't think every teacher is provided with a time-turner because that's just not feasible. It would definitely mess with the space-time-continuum.

It's a very good thing school is starting soon, because I clearly have way, way too much time on my hands and if I mention the space-time-continuum I might have to start talking about Star Trek or Doctor Who and both of those are a spiraling time-suck you don't want me to get started on.

(Have I ever mentioned how angry the newest Star Trek franchise makes me? AAARGGG! It makes me so mad!)

4) Finally, to end on a Back to School note, one of my favorites on my old blog, Becoming Miss Bowers were the Supposedly Teaching posts. The kid who started it all for me got married yesterday (I think I've had about a gazillion - no exaggeration - former students get married this summer), and honestly, I feel like I was there from the beginning. I still (weirdly and, yes, kind of creepily) remember seeing these two kids walking around the petit poteaux (how do you spell that??) court during handball and thinking: "Really? Huh. That's not a combo I would have predicted." And, despite my skepticism, the Math Geek and the Artsy-Hippy have become one. Anything is possible. Opposites do apparently attract So, I thought I would re-post the conversation that, if I was at that wedding, I would have insisted on sharing:

6th Period. American Literature. 8 Students. Could be potentially awkward, because of the small class size. It is awkward. But, not for the reasons you might think.

On a day I was trying to get the students to liven up a bit when they seemed especially dead after lunch:

Me: So, did everyone had a good day yesterday?
Student: (raises his hand) I kissed my girlfriend for the first time yesterday.
Me: (jaw opens...closes. opens. closes.)
Student: What? You asked me how my day went--I told you! (grins)
Me: (eventually, after all the jaw closing and opening and the laughing) That's not exactly what I was looking for...

On another day, same class, me and my big mouth, again:

Me: So, how was the weekend?
Students: Muttered responses...mutter mutter mutter..someone mentions church.
Student: I went to church at ISD yesterday, and there was this pregnant lady there.
Me: Okay...
Student: Pregnant ladies make me nervous!
Students (and Me): What?? Why?
Student: Because, when I went last week, she said her due date was in like, 2 weeks. So, yesterday, she was still (makes hand motions of a pregnant lady...)
Me: (strange face directed at student)
Student: So, then I sat really far on the other side of the room from her...
Other students: But, what did you think was...mutter mutter laughter laughter...
Student: I didn't wanna get her baby juice all over me! What if she had...(makes hand motions again indicating stomach)
Lots and lots of laughter.
Gosh, I miss these kids.

Until another day's musings...

*cries herself to sleep that night.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Back-to-School Dreams

Yesterday morning, I awoke in a cold sweat, my heart was racing, and I was uncharacteristically wide awake at the chiming of my alarm. I lay in this state of alertness for several minutes before willing  myself out of bed.

I had just had my first-back-to-school dream.

There is nothing quite like a back-to-school dream from your subconscious reminding you that school is about to start and that school may just have you terrified. If you're a teacher, you've experienced this (and if you haven't, are you really a teacher? I don't think so). I've had some crazy ones - often featuring some of my kindest, sweetest students doing wild and crazy things, like throwing chairs and refusing to discuss Macbeth.

But this dream was of an entirely different sort. It was in a category of its own. I tremble to think of it.

It was about photocopying.

I'm not even kidding.

I would never kid about the photocopier. It might hear me and revolt.

I had a nightmare about the photocopier not working on my first week back to school. There were no students, only an endless journey of running to my computer upstairs and printing and then running back down and hoping that no one was on the photocopier at the time, and then having the print job not go through, only to have to run up and try again. And when it did work, and I tried to run copies, it jammed up, again and again until I was nearly crying.

There was even a sequence in my dream in which someone was walking up to the copier with me and I pretended to greet them warmly after a long summer, but I was really just trying to get to the copier before them, deliberately making my steps a little longer and brisker as we both approached the machine.

This is what fills my subconscious, friends. Photocopying nightmares. Oh, the chair-throwing dreams are sure to come, but for now, for now, my dreams are of the horrifyingly boring and technological kind.

The scary thing is, that this is reality: I have had multiple days like this - running up and down the stairs in hopes of a successful print job, of unjamming other people's print jobs from the previous day for fifteen  minutes to just get the copier to do my copies (only to have it jam) (by the way, the teachers who, at the end of the school day, "run their copies for the next day" but don't stick around to see if the copies actually printed have their very own circle of hell).

There's an old missionary joke that the kerosene fridge (they used to have those) are the true 'gods' of missionaries, because they require the missionary to get down on his knees to light the pilot light underneath the fridge, and this goes out frequently. If the kerosene fridge is the god of the missionary, then the photocopier is the god of the teacher, for I have sacrificed hours of my time kneeling in front of that damn photocopier looking for the teeny-tiny piece of paper that is caught in the mechanism, praying I can find it in time, praying for it to work.

What's your most vivid back-to-school dream? And how early do you start having them? I start, like clockwork, almost exactly one month before school starts.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Musings on a Sunday 7.19.2015

Random musings on my mind this week:
*If they're particularly strange, I'm going to blame it on the polyurethane fumes that have filled my house for the past 48 hours.*

1) I've come to understand something about myself.

The more people that I realize read my blog, the more shy I am about writing on my blog. This is not to say that thousands of people are reading this, or even hundreds. Probably more like dozens. But when people tell me that they read and enjoy my blog, I feel all this PRESSURE to say and do something cool and important when I don't really have anything cool and important to say because the point of this is not to say cool and important things but just to sort of externally process all the little nothings in my life that become somethings to me. And if these readers don't know how silly or goofy I can be in real life because they don't know me well in real life, I get strangely shy about being silly on my blog. And this blog is not supposed to be too serious. I am not trying to take myself too seriously here because I tend to take myself too seriously out there and this is one of the places where I make fun of myself.

If you can follow this train of thought, you have a truly dizzying intellect.

So, as much as I want people to read and enjoy my musings, and want more people to read and enjoy my musings, the more people I become aware of reading and supposedly enjoying my musings, the more shy I am about writing.

I'm weird.

Also, please, please don't stop reading my blog, or stop telling me that you've read it and enjoyed it. I LOVE that. But it just makes me feel like I should be saying something important, but that's me, not you - I do genuinely love that people read this silly thing, and I check my blog stats an embarrassing amount to see how much traffic my blog gets.

2) On a related "uninspired writing" note, I really, really, really want to write some fiction. I don't have a lot of background in creative writing (I know - I'm an English teacher, but when you're an English Education major you don't get a lot of time to take actual fun creative writing classes). I just don't seem to have any good ideas. The other problem is that I find one of my biggest blocks to trying to dabble in fiction is knowing that I'm going to be terrible at it, because all early writing is terrible. And I know that to actually improve I have to be willing to be terrible. But I can't stand the thought of writing terrible prose, even though I have to.

I have the same problem with learning languages - I hate the initial process of speaking poorly when learning a language so I don't improve.

My other problem is that I sometimes get my best ideas for short stories or even novels from dreams, in which I wake up, think "that would be so cool!" and then don't remember it in the morning.

And no, I will not consider getting a dream journal.

3) Have you ever thought about how sad and odd it is that an author works for years writing a book, and then it gets consumed by its readers in a a matter of days? I've read a few books this summer in a big gulp of reading - staying up late to finish, reading it as soon as I wake up in the  morning - and then I feel sad and bereft and empty when I'm finished because it's done and I'll never read it the first time again, and the author spent so much time on it only to have it finished by me in twenty-four hours.

I love nothing more than consuming a book that I've been waiting for. But then when I finish, I first of all, realize I'm going to have to wait years to get my next fix, and also wonder how the author must feel to have their hard work - their labour of love and sweat and blood and tears - swallowed so quickly by their fans. I almost wish, in some ways, that we could go back to the ways of Dickens and get our favorite novels in installments, simply to better savor the goodness. I would also hate this so, so don't listen to me, publishers. But I feel guilty when I read a book quickly, sometimes.

I have a tendency to feel guilty about a lot of things, so don't worry. Have I mentioned I'm weird?

On the reverse side of this phenomenon, as long as there is Russian literature, there will still be Great Authors Whose Books Take Forever To Read. I started Anna Karenina in January, and as much as I actually really, really do like it, I cannot seem to finish it.

4) Online dating update: I quit.

Sort of.

I mean, I don't know...maybe I'll try it again in a little while. I'm just done, for now. I even stopped using it about a month before my subscription was up. It's just not my thing.

Here's what I strongly dislike (I nearly said hate, but hate is too strong) about the whole online dating thing:

In "real life" (as in, not online), when you meet someone for the first time you are not under a ticking-time-bomb of pressure to try and size them up as a potential life partner. Let me clarify - I don't mean meeting someone on a date. I mean, just meeting someone in the ordinary circumstances of life - at church, at work, in line at the grocery store, through friends. Meeting someone in a non-romantic context.

Hear me out for a moment - I am perfectly aware that when a single woman meets a single man, or visa versa, they always size each other up in terms of attraction. Of course they do. This is not just something that happens on Friends or Seinfeld or Gilmore Girls. And if you don't do this, you're abnormal. Or maybe I'm abnormal, but even at 30, as a single woman, when I meet a straight, age-appropriate, Christian, clean, decent-looking, single man, I'm going to wonder a little bit about them. I can't help it. I hate that I do it - I wish I could just meet a straight, age-appropriate, Christian, clean, decent-looking, single man and not wonder if I could marry them and have their babies, but I do because of hormones and cultural and personal expectations and stuff.

But this typically lasts about five minutes because I'm a relatively well adjusted person who realizes how ridiculous it is to meet a single, straight member of the opposite sex and envision a possible future with them. Because I'm not thirteen years old, I can get usually get over this moment of insanity ("Maybe-this-is-the-man-I'm-going-to-marry-I-wonder-if-I'll-be-telling-my-grandchildren-about-this-oh-never-mind-he-hasn't-stopped-talking-about-sports-and-doesn't-appear-to-read-chapter-books.") and carry on a relatively decent, normal, adult conversation other than my underlying general shyness (YES, I'M SHY!) (unless the person is particularly hot, and then, let's be very clear here, I'm thirteen years old and can't bare to even meet their eyes, much less carry on an adult conversation).

Which brings us back to online dating. It seems like in the world of online dating, what you have to do is the opposite of what you should do in real life. There's so much pressure. You have to sort of determine, in only a few dates, whether or not this person could possibly be the person you could have a (romantic) relationship with.

Good grief.

That's ridiculous! In real life, you might meet someone, not really sense any chemistry or attraction, but still become friends if you are in the same social circles, and that could eventually lead to romance, marriage, blah blah blah.

But have to decide if a person has that potential when you barely know them, but to get to know them to make a more informed decision gets everyone's hopes up, even if you are both, eyes-wide-open going forward with the knowledge that you are just getting to know each other. Because you could get to know them and decide you don't foresee a romantic future, but you stay friends? No, you don't, unless you're really super duper cool and amazing and nicer than me. Which is certainly possible because I'm not very nice.

All of this rambling is to say that I have a very difficult time with the premise of online dating; with the way it seems to has to work, at least as I have experienced it, so far. And I also struggle with it, personally, to know if it's God's will for me at the moment. I wonder...if the doors for romance aren't open in the non-online aspects of my life, maybe that's God's way of showing me that it's not the time for romance in my life, if ever...and so by pursuing it online, am I sort of circumnavigating those closed doors? And the doors seemed kind of closed online, too, so right now: the doors seem closed in every realm. Not sure why, but they are. The end. This is the end of the True Confessions of Danielle and Online Dating. Until I decide to try it again (read: they send me a great coupon code) and I encounter more...wonderfully odd people and odd profiles that I simply must write about.

5) So, I sort of casually mentioned that I'm 30.

By the way, I'm 30 now.

It's strange. It's such a big deal, but of course, it isn't. It's just another birthday, just another year older. But there's something about entering a "new decade" that makes a person all thoughtful and irritatingly introspective. Aren't you glad I didn't subject you to that? Because I almost did. I'm sort of glad to be thirty because it feels like I'm finally a "real grown-up" - not that being a grown-up is all that great, but I feel like 30 gives a person some street-cred in the grown-up world. I'm sure that this is entirely in my head and entirely not true, and I'm sure I'll be saying the same thing when I'm 40, because let's be honest, the only thing that actually gives you street-cred as a woman in the grown-up world, even in 2015, is being married, and also eventually having children, but we've already covered that in #3 and I'm done talking about it.

But thirty isn't too bad. Especially when you still look 22.

*Sarcasm Sign.*

6) Lastly, I have the cutest dog in the world. The End.*

Until another day's musings, I suppose.

*Please note: my couch is not ordinarily covered with leopard-print (I'm not good at interior decorating but I'm not that tacky...! We just have everything covered in the living room because we've been redoing the floor.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Way With Words

Dad: Can you pick up some Caladryl lotion at Walgreens while you're out?

Danielle: Okay, but you really should go to Patient First if your poison oak isn't clearing up. They'll be able to subscribe you something stronger.

Dad: Prescribe.

Danielle: That's what I meant!

*Waits a beat*

Danielle: Geez, that's pretty ironic that you're correcting my misspeaking, coming from you, Mr. Malatrope.

Dad: What?

Danielle: Because you flip your words around all the time.

Dad: What's a malatrope?

Danielle: It's when you say the wrong word, or say the word only slightly wrong.

*Lightbulb goes off in her head.*

Danielle: AHHHH! I MEANT MALAPROP. Mr. Malaprop.

Dad: So you were saying the wrong word all along?

Danielle: I meant to do that. I was being ironic.

Dad: Right....

Friday, June 5, 2015

Online Dating Pet Peeves II, #26-38

Last month I posted twenty-five online dating pet peeves. I've been slogging through terrible (just terrible!) profiles and even a couple of awkward dates (I met a guy who suddenly, in the  middle of the date reminded me of Buster from Arrested Development and so I was done) just for you people. I hope you're happy.

(No, seriously...the fodder for the blog is what propels me forward in this process at the moment. Not the possibility of meeting the perfect guy*.)

#26: Ridiculous User Names**

Need I say more? Okay. One more:


#27: Setting your radius for your matches at silly distances, like 5 miles. If you haven't found someone in your five mile radius in real life, what makes you think you're going to come across them in online life? Also, physical proximity does not equal a match made in heaven.

#28: Starting your profile off with something like "I'm a pretty average guy..."
1) What does that even mean? 2) Why would that make you attractive to me or any woman? Who wants "average"? 3) Didn't your English teacher teach you about writing a hook at the beginning of an essay?

#29: Writing what is clearly a "form" email/message. I get that maybe you've written a lot of women (which, when you stop and think about it doesn't speak well in your favor, does it?)...but try to at least make it sound like this isn't the 100th time you've messaged someone the same exact thing - say something that lets me know you've actually read my profile. I've was messaged by the same exact guy with the same exact form month later and a profile picture change on my part. I'm not even going to be polite and send the little "No Thanks" message, because that's ridiculous.

#30: Starting off your message with "Hey there, beautiful" or "I just have to say, you are gorgeous." Um...okay? I don't know how to respond to that. Mostly it just weirds me out. Tell me I'm beautiful in person, after a few dates. Maybe that's just me, but I think it's silly to start a conversation with the physical. I'm more interested in your character, and I would hope you are more interested in mine. Beauty, even dazzling beauty such as mine, fades, fellas. I'm not saying I don't judge people based on their profile pictures (see #33)...but it's not as important as what you have actually said in your profile (to me - I realize there are women out there who want to know your bicep's circumference and see your chiseled abs).

#31: Claiming to be "active." Every guy is "active" and wants an "active" girl. Of course, no one is going to admit to being a couch potato, or wanting a couch potato in a mate. But the "I'm interested in clean eating and I'm active" drives me nuts. All these people claim to be soooooooo active, but are they r e a l l y? Aren't they r e a l l y just at home watching Netflix on a weeknight, instead the eight-mile run they claim to be doing?

#32: Selfies in the mirror with your cellphone. I personally find something pathetic about this. We live in a day and age of selfies - I take selfies - we all take selfies! - and my profile picture is a selfie (which ruled me out for the guy who "hates selfies" on his laundry list of traits a woman - a gal - should have). But you couldn't find a better picture than standing in your bathroom mirror and taking a picture? This perplexes and saddens me.

#33: Terrible profile pictures in general. Okay, I know I'm treading on treacherous, potentially mean-spirited ground, but if you are not super attractive you can still have a decent picture. Or, if you are attractive you can take a bad picture. There are some terrible - just terrible - profile pictures out there. I mean, pictures that make you wonder whether or not the other person is...mentally all there. If you have friends - and lets hope you have friends - ask them to either pick out a good picture of you or take a picture of you. Have a photo shoot or something - but do not post the weird candid shot of you eating a piece of cake or looking cross-eyed at something. I try really, really, really hard not to judge people based on appearance, as mentioned above, but I think your actual profile picture choice says a lot about you. The choice that you made does influence, for better or for worse, the people who are looking at it. So, even though it's not right to judge a book by its cover...we all do it. So, work the system and at least post a relatively good picture. I'm not saying this to be mean...I'm saying this to be helpful.

(So many of these men's profiles...honestly I want to write them and give them little tips or something - not because I'm interested in them, but that I just can't understand how anyone could be interested in the little or the pompous or the dreadful or the ungrammatical tripe they write on their profiles. Can I become an online dating profile coach/consultant??)

#34: Backhanded compliments.
One guy told me that my profile was "refreshingly blunt and assertive."


*cries herself to sleep that night*

*Sarcasm Sign*

#35: Stating: "I'm pretty much an open book. Feel free to ask me anything." So. Many. Guys. Say. This.

The annoying thing is that the guys who are saying this typically have very little on their profiles. I have nothing to ask other than: "Why were you so lazy that you couldn't even string together 100 well-spoken words to try and attract a date?"

#36: Impossibly brief "messages." Here's a sampling of the few that I've received:

"hi how are you"

(no punctuation)


(no punctuation)

And the best so far:

"Hello hello there???"

#37: Admitting that you don't read. Some guy's profile read: "I haven't really read any books ever, but I recently read the Bible."

Okay, great - you've read the Bible. Am I supposed to be impressed? I mean, of course I love the Bible. It's a great read and I would hope that as a Christian, especially, that you've read it.

But if that's the only book you've read...? (Does the Bible count as 66 books?)

Read a few more books, and then get back to me. Sheesh.

And last, but oh, certainly not least:

#38: Loves Jesus. Also loves Pot.
The way he phrased it was something like "I believe I can follow the Lord and also have a love for THAT PLANT. You'll have to ask me my reasoning for how I can be a Christian and use THAT PLANT."

(This one I got from a friend and I'm pretty sure it was the best thing I heard all year.)

*Yes, duh, I know there is no such thing as The Perfect Guy.
**Don't worry - I modified these user names slightly to protect their privacy.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Online Dating Pet Peeves I, #1-25

I recently put myself back into the online dating world (ugh), this time trying, which is quite different than Mostly because eharmony chooses your matches, whereas on (and most of the other sites), everyone can see you, and you can see everyone. It's a bit overwhelming. I really prefer the communication process on eharmony - on other than winking or liking or chatting (ugh), the communication process is to jump right in with an email to the person. As a woman, this is extremely challenging for me, because I just feel too assertive...but on the other side, I paid for this, whether I like it or not, so I'm forcing myself to initiate communication (romantic, I know...). It's really hard - It takes me about twenty minutes to write a five sentence email. I've only sent out a few.

Mostly, though, I haven't been impressed. Below are 25 reasons why (it was supposed to be a list of 10 but things got a little out of control...).

To all the men on all the dating sites, here are a *few* of my Online Dating Pet Peeves. Consider this a public service announcement to help you find your perfect date (and I don't just mean me).

1) Winking. I just don't get it. I don't wink at people in real life (except for my students, when I'm teasing them), so why would I wink in cyber-life?

And what are you supposed to do with a I supposed to wink back? Am I supposed to message you? I mean, does winking count as the first move, and so now the proverbial ball is in my court? If so, no thank you. You've left me with the much more challenging task of having to actually compose a message to you. If you could wink, couldn't you drop me a note? I'm confused. (Could someone please send me a guide to winking-etiquette?)

2) "Liking" my photos. Once again...I just don't get it. What am I supposed to do with the fact that you liked my photo? Do you want me to like one of your photos back?

3) Saying that you are looking for a "lady." As in, "I'm looking for a [adjective] lady who....", not as in dignified and proper. Something about that word choice gets under my skin, and it's used by a remarkable amount of people. It just seems like it's something out of a personal ad. Or the 1970s. (No offense to the seventies.)

4) Saying that you're looking for a "gal." What is this, 1950? Are you going to take me to the sock-hop for our first date and out for a milkshake at the Woolworth's later? (Okay, actually, both those things sound fun...)

5) Saying that you are looking for a "fun lady" or a "fun gal." Fun? Fun? What does that even mean? How do you know if you are fun? Am I fun? Do I just think I'm fun? Will you think I'm fun? What if I'm delusional and I think I'm fun, but I'm not actually fun?

6) Saying next to nothing in your profile. How am I supposed to decide if I'm interested if all you have in your profile is something like "I'm a fun-loving guy looking for a fun gal to spend my life with. I like my family and my friends. And sports."

7) Saying way, way, way, way too much in your profile (I know - there's no pleasing me!). Some people write not just a novel, but a Tolkien-esque epic about their life and their ideas of the perfect match.

8) Using poor grammar (shudder). I know that's probably just me and the handful of other English teachers on online dating sites, but nothing makes me cringe more than consistently poor English on your profile.

9) Messaging in "text" speak - like "how R U doing? i red UR profile and i am interested lol." In this day and age of smart phones and autocorrect - or even predictive text for dumb-phones, there is no reason for anyone to be writing like that. Also, if you really read my profile, you must have read that I'm an English teacher, and surely - surely! - you could put two and two together and assume that a teacher would not be impressed by someone who writes like they're twelve.

10) Using the "expression" "lol" in your profile. Mostly I just hate the expression "lol" with the passion of a thousand burning suns. I'm sure I've mentioned that before.

11) Getting too intense too fast. When I first signed up for, this guy messaged me, and we emailed back and forth a few times over the course of about five days. After a few emails, I knew I wasn't interested, so I told him. He emailed me back the most melodramatic response in which he told me that 1. he was distracted when he replied to my email the night before and wondered if that was the reason why I wasn't interested 2. I was the girl of his dreams and 3. I was too good for him and that he was damaged goods.

Honestly (mostly because I'm cold and heartless) I laughed literally out loud. After five emails, you do not know if the person on the other side of the email is the girl of your dreams. You don't even know if they are the person that you think. For all he knows, I could have been a 600 pound man in Denmark.

12) Pictures with your (admittedly muscular) bare chest. And I don't mean the guys who are clearly, um, looking for a hook-up. I mean the guys who said "I love Jesus and I'm looking for a fun lady who also loves Jesus."

13) Mentioning the circumference of your biceps.

14) Posting pictures with beautiful women hanging on your arm and no explanatory caption. Is she a sister? A cousin? An ex-girlfriend? A wife? Please don't make me feel jealous before we even meet!

15) Posting 20 pictures.

16) Posting no pictures at all.

17) Giving a laundry list of things you want and don't want in a woman (lady/gal). I recognize that it's good to know what you want, but it's intimidating to see this list of things that you somehow have to measure up to. If you're to the point where you're trying online dating, why are you being so picky? I don't mean that you should lower your standards, but if you haven't found a girl in real life who can play fantasy football, knows all the stats for all the baseball, goes to the gym sixteen times a week, loves children, teaches Sunday school, helps out in nursing homes in her spare time, speaks eight languages fluently, has the entire New Testament memorized, served as a missionary nurse in the jungles of Africa for seven years, runs twelve marathons a year, teaches orphaned one-armed children the piano, has a Ph. D. from Harvard in international law and medicine, and is a graduate of Le Cordon aren't going to find her online.

18) Saying: "I'm basically looking for a female version of myself." (Do I need to explain this one?)

19) Being unashamedly arrogant. I recently read a profile in which the guy said something like: "I am an extremely successful person, and some women find that intimidating, but that's who I am."

I don't find that intimidating. I find that annoying.

20) Saying you like to cuddle. This may just be me, because I'm not a touchy-feely person, and while I'll probably enjoy cuddling with my significant other, eventually - I don't really want to hear about your cuddling skills on your profile.

21) Giving out your contact information too soon in your profile or in a message - one guy gave me his phone number after the 2nd message. (A different guy than the "you're the woman of my dreams" guy.) Hello! How does he know I'm not a 600-pound Danish man????? I could be! How does he know I'm not a hacker phishing for his information? Sheesh. How can you be so foolish and naive?

(It's my big blue eyes...I just look trustworthy)

22) 25-year-olds and younger being on a dating site. Good grief! You're 25. Or 24. Or 23. Do you really need to be on a dating site yet? Surely all the great women your age haven't been taken yet.

23) Men who are way, way, way older than 50...winking, liking, or messaging me.

24) Declaring that you are "funny" or have a "sense of humor" and then proceeding to have absolutely nothing funny in your profile at all.

And lastly...

25) Being absolutely perfect for me...but not being a Christian.

And that's *all* folks.

- - -

Have an online dating pet peeve of your own? Share it with me...I'm suspecting this is going to become a series of blog posts, because I already have at least another five items on my list...!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Musings on a Sunday, 2.8.2015

On my mind this week:

1. You know how it's hard to remember the correct year when you write the date after the new year, for about a month or so?

One of my students told me extremely enthusiastically the other day: "Miss Bowers - you know how it's hard to remember to write the new year's date? Well, I haven't had any trouble remembering - I always write 2015!" So cute...I'm so glad that at least some of my little ones are still little enough to be super excited about not having a hard time writing the date.

But, I have been having a hard time writing the date - but I haven't been writing 2014. Oh, no - I've been writing 2016. I don't know why, but I seemed to have advanced an entire year in my brain. I also don't know why I'm sharing this, but I guess this is the nature of these posts - whatever random thoughts flit into my head. It's your fault for reading about it. If you don't like it, you can lump it, as my esteemed mother always says.

2. I read a story today on Buzzfeed (that esteemed news service...) about a woman who decided to marry herself. 

I don't get it. I really don't get it. I'm not really even trying to make any kind of moral or political statement here (though it will surely be construed as such, and I guess that's okay because my morals and religious beliefs certainly shape my view of marriage)...but really? Marrying yourself? I mean, no matter what most people believe about marriage, marriage is between two people. Or several people, if you go for polygamy. To "marry" yourself seems like...the ultimate selfish act, to be honest. The story was written from the point of view of female empowerment or something (if you read the URL for the link it says "this-badass-woman-married-herself"), but mostly, I just found it pathetic and sad. If you want to celebrate being single - celebrate it! And if you want to tell the world that you don't need a man to be content with who you are - tell the world! Have a party, even! But don't take away from the sanctity of an institution that is already so watered-down by society that the term "marriage" has come to mean something rather different than what it meant even just a short twenty-five or thirty years ago.

Also, what are the tax benefits to being married to yourself? What do you claim on your 1040-EZ...? These are things I want to know.

The world we live in is a truly mystifying place.

3. Speaking of being single, I can finally write about something that was going on in my life for the past couple of months. About four months ago, I got a coupon code in my inbox from eharmony for $5.99/month for three months. I had tried eharmony for one month about a year before that, just to see what it was like, but at the time, it wasn't for me. But, for six bucks a month (normally it's $60!) I thought: why not? So, I signed up for online dating and began a somewhat emotionally tumultuous adventure for the next three months that I couldn't blog about which drove me crazy because when funny/awkward/uncomfortable things happen to me I want to blog about them!

Online dating is basically the worst - by this, I mean the whole process of the online dating. Eharmony has it set up so that they send you the matches (as in, you don't have access to the gajillions of people on the site) - which is good. And, they have a pretty good system of taking you through steps of "communication: (multiple choice questions, short answer questions) before you get to actual "email" with the person. At first, you get about a dozen matches a day, which you can hardly keep up with (this trickles down to 1 or 2 a day after about a month and half). Also, you don't really know who is a paying customer of eharmony and who isn't. In someways, online dating is a microcosm of real life...I think that the girls who in real life don't get noticed by the boys are the ones online who don't get noticed by the boys....except for the boys that you don't want to notice you (read; the creepers...). It's hard not to take it pick out your purdiest pore over your profile to make it sound just right...and you sort of have to wait. My policy was to send the "communication" (the first step is a set of multiple choice questions) to any guy that I was remotely interested in - my main goal was to meet the person, because I think you can tell a lot more about a person in real life than you can from an online profile, even after you've been emailing back and forth for a little while. I would send the communication...and get nothing back. Of course, then you start to I too forward? Do they think I'm too assertive for initiating contact...but isn't that the point of this? To initiate contact? The guys wouldn't block me...but they wouldn't respond, either. Or, they would look at my profile (you can tell who's looked at your profile), but do nothing in response. At least block/close the match if you aren't interested! So, then you are in the throes of angst this guy not a paying member? Is this guy just a jerk? Should I just block him if he doesn't reply after a certain period of time?

Despite this angst, I did get to a point where I met someone, and dated him (and by dated, I mean, went on dates with him, not that he became my boyfriend). There were lots of mishaps and misadventures along the way - and ultimately, I ended it about two weeks ago mainly because, well, I wasn't feeling any attraction to him, even after two months (though there were other more pressing concerns that probably contributed to the whole "not feeling attracted to him."). I don't really want to talk too much about it on here, mostly because I want to be nice to this guy, who was a nice guy and doesn't deserved to be roasted on my blog, you know?

Online dating been a really good, albeit challenging experience. I mean, the actual dating part now, not the website part. I think the biggest lesson that I walked away with is that someone can have a lot of the boxes checked off that you might be looking for in a future spouse but still not be the right person for you. I think that was a really good thing for me to experience first hand, because I kept seeing this guy because he had a lot of the same values and interests that I have...but really was not the right person for all.

Phew - I'm glad I got that off my chest. The past few months, as I have been going through this...interesting experience...I kept telling my friends: I JUST WANT TO BE ABLE TO WRITE ABOUT IT ON MY BLOG. (There were some really...funny dating mishaps that are begging to be chronicled, but unfortunately I don't feel that it would be right to do so, at this point in time - I'll save it for my book).

(I should also add that I'm not on eharmony for the time being, because my 3-month deal ended, but if they send me another good deal, I'll try it again - so I'm not totally done with online dating. And, I wouldn't mind trying "regular" in, where people think: "Hey, so-and-so might be a good fit for Danielle..I should introduce them." Just a hint.)

4. And so, now I'm back to being "single"(not that I wasn't single, but you know what I mean...back to no men, no prospects in all). which is quite nice in its way. I really hope God brings someone into my life sooner than later, but I really am content in my singleness, most of the time, which continues to surprise me, and freak me out a little bit. ("Lord - do not take my contentedness in being single as a sign that I don't want to get married!") I like being independent and living on my own, while I do long for companionship and intimacy.

Okay, enough mushy personal stuff. Moving on!

5. It's kind of funny, but the whole eharmony/online dating thing sort of took up a lot of mental and emotional energy in my mind and heart for the last two months or so. Since I ended...whatever my relationship could be brain has swung around to being totally filled with school, like it usually is. It's not to say that I didn't think about school the last couple of months, but I wasn't as...consumed by thoughts of school as it usually is. I'm back to constantly thinking about school, dreaming about school, waking up in the middle of the night unable-to-fall asleep-as-I-obsess about school. Does this happen to other teachers? Do you find it hard to turn "school" off in your brain. It came back with such a tsunami of force that surprised me. It was kind of nice to hit "pause" for a little while there. I have some really challenging things going on at school at the moment (severe discipline issues with a particular student), and I wish I could just get a break from obsessing about them. The good thing is that usually the obsessive over-thinking-thoughts do turn to prayer (read: a lot of cries of desperation!), which I think is what is supposed to happen: Jesus tells us to cast all of our cares on him.

I would appreciate your prayers as I struggle with some classroom management challenges. Right now, I don't have the tools in the toolbox for some the challenges I am having, simply because I haven't taught in this type of situation before. I have a lot of tools in the toolbox, but I still need a special set for this type of school, and I don't quite have them, yet. I'm reading books on discipline and classroom management, and talking to lots and lots of people to get insight and help, and planning to take a course this summer in difficult behavior management - but when push comes to shove, at the end of the day, I feel very inadequate right now to handle some of these issues. Pray that I will show grace and kindness and love even as I handle some really tough kids.

I should add that despite the current challenges, I still like my school, love my kiddos, and know that God has brought me to my school to stay, for a time. I don't know how long that time will be. I do know that my heart is still longing to minister to TCKs overseas again, eventually, but right now, God has put me in this community, with these families, and these kids, and this school - to, hopefully, be a light shining in the darkness, and to show, even though I cannot usually share, His love to these little ones - and my colleagues.

6. I've written about how much I like my church, and how grateful I am that God led me to DaySpring. Well, last week I officially became a member - hooray! It's the first church I've joined (I know, I know - crazy. I'm a terrible Christian, I suppose) - mostly because my life has been pretty transient for the last, oh, twenty-nine and half years or so. I'm so...blessed that God brought me to this church, and I am really excited to get more plugged into the ministries and community.

Well, folks - until another random musings.