Friday, December 9, 2016

Supposedly Teaching, Part XI

Much Ado About Nothing is one of my favorite Shakespearean plays, and the 1993 Kenneth Branagh/Emma Thompson version is The Best Version. Sorry, Joss Whedon, even with Nathan Fillion playing Dogberry, it doesn't compare to Branagh and Thompson's verbal barbs, and Keanu Reeves as an absolutely so-bad-he's-good Don Jon. And Denzel as Don Pedro because Denzel. And I could go on and on.

I've shown the movie several times in class over the years, and, if you've seen the movie, you know that if you are showing it to school children, you have to skip two minutes near the beginning - the part where everyone is undressing and there's random naked people (well, naked butts). No really, it is kind of random. Yes, they're undressing, but it's just not a movie with naked people in other parts of it.

Because I wanted to make sure I skipped the naked parts, before class I carefully jotted down the exact minutes - 6:08 to 8:15 - to make sure I skipped ahead to the non-naked parts. I would like to add that normally, I am very bad at doing this, usually because I don't have time, so I tend to wing my attempts at PG-ing a movie in class, which is usually not a good idea.

Come class time, I introduced the movie, and we started watching it, through the Hey Nonny Nonny's and Beatrice's comic evisceration of that poor messenger. And then we were about to get to the naked butts. So, I froze the projector so that I could fast-forward. But, then I realized there were still a couple of moments that I wanted to show the class - most particularly Denzel and company coming riding over the hill triumphantly, horses' manes whipping in the wind as they raise a fist in the air. So I unfroze the projector.

We watched Denzel and company riding over the hill triumphantly, horses' manes whipping in the wind as they raise a fist in the air. And then I paused the movie, and said: "We are skipping the next two minutes.


"Because it contains gratuitous nudity."

"What does gratuitous mean, Miss Bowers?"

"In this context, it means unnecessary. Well, even if it was necessary, I still wouldn't show you."

As I spoke, I advanced the movie forward, not really paying attention to what was on the screen, just watching the minutes till I was past the naked butts parts.

"Um, Miss Bowers..."

I looked up, to see naked butts flashing very quickly across the scene. Because I had forgotten to freeze the projector before I fast-forwarded.

"It's okay, Miss Bowers, we have seen them before," one of the boys told me kindly.

This wasn't quite as bad as two weeks ago when I began liberally throwing around the phrase "Netflix and Chill" because I thought "Netflix and Chill" meant, well, watching Netflix and relaxing.

My 8th graders were doing an activity where they mapped out their identity, including hobbies and activities they like to do for fun.

"You know, what do you like to do? Do you like to "Netflix and Chill"?" I asked my 8th graders. One lone soul, a more recent transplant from America said: "Miss Bowers!"

That was my first clue.

I  may have also used it in my 11th grade class, in a different context, where someone else said a little skeptically: "Miss Bowers!?"

You know how sometimes you use the same phrase several times, in part because it's cool, and in part because it's sort of an ear-worm and you can't get it out of your current language? Yeah, it was like that.

Later that week, it was Thanksgiving, and we had a staff dinner. Because I was around adults for the first time in a while, I casually asked the group: "So, I have a question. Is the term "Netflix and Chill" a euphemism for having sex?" Why I decided to ask real people, and not Google, I'll never know.

"Yes, of course it is," Michelle said matter-of-factly. "Haven't you seen those memes making fun of people who try to be cool by using the expression "Netflix and Chill" without knowing what it means?"

No, no, I haven't seen those memes. I'm a little off my Pinterest game lately.

So, in the course of three weeks, I have suggested that one of the activities my 8th grade students like to do for fun is have sex, and I have shown nudity in my 10th grade class.

That's just how things go when you're supposedly teaching.

p.s. Why is it always Shakespeare that gets me into to trouble when I'm teaching??

[It's been more than three years since my last Supposedly Teaching post...!]

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Trip to IKEA Hangzhou: A Cautionary Tale

I first went to IKEA about a week or two after arriving in China. In my bleary, jet-lagged state, I didn't really remember much about it. I remember people - lots of people - and I remember it being nearly impossible to get home. But, I don't remember much else. I got a lot of stuff, but I knew I still wanted more stuff. (BUY ALL THE THINGS!)
By the way, the credit for the art for this meme goes to the blog Hyperbole and Half, which is a really great blog, and you should read it alot. You'll get that grammatical error if you read this post.
So, almost two months later, I decided to go with Michelle, who had not been to the IKEA yet. We knew it would be an all day trip, and we knew that there would be a lot of people. We also knew that we were planning on buying couches, and getting a few other bigger items that we could ship. Before you raise your eyebrows at our decadence, it costs a fraction of what it would cost us in the States. The main reason we chose this weekend is because we are off for a week for China's National Holiday, and so we could afford to spend an entire day shopping without feeling like we lost either a work day, or a rest day, on the weekend.

First, you have to get to IKEA. It's really far away - about 24 miles. I realize that's close, compared to most IKEAs in the States, but please remember, we don't have our own vehicles. The choices are to go by taxi, which is pretty expensive, or by public transportation, or a combination of the two. For some reason (I think we were feeling energized and gung-ho!) we chose public transportation all the way. Apple Maps is a great app, because it works in China without a VPN, and it has bus and metro routes.

First, we had to take about a 30 minute bus ride to the metro stop. There will be a metro stop near our school...soon. Sometime. Maybe December. Maybe April or something, since the motivation to put in the metro was the G20, and that's over with. After the bus, you take the metro for about 40-45 minutes. It's actually pretty easy - one bus, one metro ride (no switching). And, the IKEA is about half a kilometer away from the metro stop.

We arrived and made our way to the cafeteria (restaurant?), first, as it was already quarter of one, and we didn't want to shop hungry. This was the first obstacle. If you've ever eaten at IKEA, you know the food is decent - nothing to write home about (I'm sorry, but I just don't get excited about the meatballs...). You would have thought the food at IKEA was Michelin star quality at low, low prices, based on the crowds and the amounts of food people were getting. There was a long queue just to get into the restaurant , and then an even longer queue to wait for the food.
Again, if you've ever been to an IKEA in the States - I'm mostly familiar with the one in White Marsh - imagine a dining room triple the size of a "standard" IKEA...with every single table and almost every seat filled. After getting our food, Michelle and I wandered forlornly, awkwardly balancing our trays as people just bumped into us again and again. Of course, being a genius, I had gotten soup, which made it particularly difficult when people nudged and bumped me as we wandered around. Finally, after what felt like an hour, but was probably only five or ten minutes, someone offered to let us share a table, and we settled in for a bit.
This is actually from my first IKEA trip, but I got the same thing. The dish tasted like American Chinese food, which was weirdly comforting. 
After eating, it was of course, time to hit the showrooms.

Typically, I skip the showrooms, but our reasons for touring them were twofold: we were there to buy couches, so we actually wanted to sample them, and secondly, Michelle had not yet experienced the wonder that is the IKEA showroom in Hangzhou.

I don't know if it's like this in IKEAs across China, or simply in the more "provincial" cities. Hangzhou, for all it's modernity, is a city that has grown quickly in the past twenty years (like so many cities in China) and I think people are still catching up to that. I don't know how to say that tactfully, but my tact is about to completely go out the window.

When you get the showroom, there is a massive press of people. There are so many people it's difficult to move around in spots. And, there are people on all the furniture. Not sampling the furniture, but...using the furniture. They are sleeping in the beds, as in, under the covers. And they are actually asleep. They are napping on the couches, dozing peacefully as people wander around them. There are babies completely sacked out, with their mothers and fathers sleeping next to them. While literally hundreds of other people browse around them. It's nearly impossible to sample a couch because people are sleeping on them.
No one is sleeping in this bed...but obviously someone was, recently.
Just, you know, hanging out.

To be fair, some people were just sitting and they were awake and just spending time together. But they were still settled in, and not going anywhere. The number of people simply enjoying the couches provided by IKEA is much higher than the people who actually want to purchase a couch.

We wandered through the showroom as quickly as possible, which of course took more than an hour. After the showroom, we got to the "Market," which was even worse. Because now, those hundreds of people all had shopping carts.


The laws of traffic were not observed.

I think that's all I should say about that.

Imagine trying to push your shopping card through literally dozens of other shopping carts, all in a gridiron at certain points because no one can move, and no one seems to be able to figure out how to move out the way. At one point, I crossed the aisle to look at a mug, foolishly taking my cart with me when there was a gap in traffic, and I couldn't get back. I stood there, probably for several minutes, trying to make a break for it. I finally lunged out into the middle of the carts, devil may care, and had to cut off several grandmothers and mothers with infants to get to the other side.

We slowly wended our way through the store, not wanting to miss anything because we knew we were never coming back. This, of course, took approximately forever. IKEAs, in general, seem to be the sort of places where time forgot. I think they're like the furniture version of the Lotus Hotel in The Lightning Thief. Several days passed outside, and we were none the wiser.

This is an adult woman sitting in a shopping cart. This was the third or fourth adult woman I saw riding in a shopping cart.
So. Many. People.
We finally made it to the warehouse, and picked up several of the furniture items we wanted. Neither of us had ever bought big furniture from IKEA, so we didn't know the social protocol, unfortunately. We made the mistake - I say we, but I feel like it was my fault because I'm an annoying know-it-all - of checking out first. I thought that we would buy bigger furniture after the checkout, in the same area where you ship items.

We went to the wrapping area and wrapped up our fragile items, and realized that we couldn't order couches after the registers. So, I went back into the warehouse area, found someone to help me - he spoke English - and ordered my couch while Michelle waited with all the stuff. I had no way of telling Michelle why I was taking so long (initially I was just going to look at the bargain area), because her phone died. I got in a pretty fast line, paid for my couch, and got back to Michelle in less than twenty minutes. I gave her directions on how to order her couch, drew her a map (yes, really), and sent her off. She came back twenty minutes later to get my phone number (because her phone doesn't really work). and she explained that the person helping her spoke very little English. I hadn't had to give my number at all, and the process for me had been straightforward. She went back, and returned twenty minutes after that.

Then (yes, it's still not done), we had to figure out how to ship it all home. Fortunately, that was a easy process. We were able to most of our things shipped, though I wanted to take all my stuff (except for the furniture), which meant lugging it home.

We finally exited the IKEA almost 6 hours after entering. It was still the same day, much to our surprise. Fortunately, there was a Starbucks across the street, so we schlepped my bags to the Starbucks, and collapsed there for a bit before getting the metro home.

The metro was nearly empty, so we found seats, which was good, because it was almost a fifty minute ride due to delays. We then decided to still take the bus home - I'm not entirely sure why.
Michelle was really thrilled about the metro ride.

Of course, the bus was completely packed, and so we crammed onto the bus with my three large bags. There were many pictures taken of us. I'm pretty sure we're trending on Chinese social media. I literally saw one woman upload the video she had just taken up us to several - I'm not exaggerating - several different sites.
Actually, it could have been much worse.
We finally got home about 10:00 pm, almost 11 hours after we left.

Eleven. Hours.

There are two types of people in the world, I think. Those who love IKEA, and those who avoid it at all costs.

I'm never going to IKEA again.


Until I need something.

p.s. I know I haven't blogged all...Life is really busy, in a good way. I just haven't had time or energy or inspiration to write since moving here. Everything is going well, even though it's overwhelming at times. I'm sort of getting by one day at a time, and with five courses to plan for with no curriculum...I don't have much personal time!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Hello, Hangzhou, Part 2

After arriving, I was brought to my new apartment (housing is provided by the school, so we don't have to find an apartment on our own, or even pay for rent) a very spacious on campus flat. It was clean, and bright, with all new appliances. They've done renovations on the on-campus housing this summer, so I have a new fridge, a new washer/dryer machine, and a new stove. It's nicer than my house in the States, I think. The apartment has two rooms, a huge master bedroom with an attached bath, and a smaller spare room. There's also a bathroom off the living room. The kitchen is tiny, but that's okay. There are huge floor length windows in every room, providing lots of natural light, albeit, very hot natural light (there are floor length curtains to go with said windows). There's a foot high ledge around the windows, which provides the perfect spot for Lucy to sit and watch the world. It's a great view (for her) that looks out onto the school blue top, which means, I hope, she'll be able to keep any eye on all the happenings on campus during the school day.

The apartment is sparsely furnished, and we were provided with a few groceries to get us started, and a single plate, and set of silverware. We are given a generous settling in allowance, so that will help in buying the list of goods that I need.

Thanks to Target's Dollar Spot, I brought along a couple of colorful tablecloths and placemats. With one of my Malian baskets, and apples, I was able to dress up the sparseness a little. I'm don't have a decorator's eye, but I'm trying to be really intentional about decorating my flat (it's pretty stark at the moment).

The view outside my living room window.

My first day was spent getting up very early, unpacking a bit, getting a SIM card for my phone, finding a pet store with a few other new teachers, and eating lunch in a little restaurant near the school. Even though they had an English menu, I ordered dim-sum (not on the English menu) by pointing at the pictures (I speak fluent "smile and point"), and was successful in getting something that tasted delicious.
I desperately needed a caffeine fix at lunch, so I ordered "Milk Tea in Ice Bucket" which was, quite literally, milk tea brought in a bucket of ice. One cultural observation - cold drinks seem to cost more than hot drinks.

After lunch, I did a little more unpacking, took an unintended nap, walked Lucy around campus a bit, and then found some other new teachers going to supper. This time I had Italian food (I know), which was delicious.

The neighborhood the school is in is green, with wide boulevards and wide side walks. Trees line the streets, which is wonderful, especially in the heat. The school is about a half a kilometer from the river, which has a wide walking/biking path along the bank. There are no dogs allowed, but on the other side of the street, there is a tree-covered sidewalk that works fine. There are lots of shops and restaurants in the area, and many tall apartment buildings all around.

It's funny how quickly it is to forget what it's like to be a foreigner when you live in your own country for a few years, and how quickly it comes back to you, the natural patterns of being Other, of being the only Westerner around. At the airport, the children stared at me unabashed and wonderingly (and this was after I had checked-in Lucy, so it wasn't the dog thing). One little boy wouldn't stop staring despite his mother's attempts to get him to stop (it didn't bother me; I just thought it was funny). This is also the first country I will live in, other than my eight weeks in Taiwan, where I can't understand the language at all. It's definitely humbling, and a little terrifying.

One last random impression just for my West Africa friends - I keep wearing my indoor shoes outside. I think there's a song about that.

Today starts our official orientation events, which kicks off with mandatory medical tests to make sure we are healthy enough for our visa. Tomorrow our meetings will begin, which I am oddly looking forward to, probably because I know it will finally jump start my brain into focusing on school (and not packing, moving, saying goodbyes, my dog, and so on).

Hello, Hangzhou, Part 1

Well, we made it to Hangzhou. I've been in my new home for about a day now, and we are adjusting to the time zone and the heat and the culture slowly but surely.

It was one of the most stressful 30 hours or so of my life. Travelling with a pet is definitely not for the faint of heart. Susanna spent my last three weeks or so with me in Baltimore, which was convenient because that meant I drafted her to take me to the airport - all the way in New York City. She's using my car, so it was only fair. Of course, this made my parents more nervous than my flying to China. I drove to the airport, which was terrifying. I'm a cautious driver, and it was pouring rain most of the way. We actually saw one accident happen (a car slipped off the road right behind us and slid into the median strip in the middle of the highway, thankfully missing all incoming traffic), and had to call 911. There were a couple of other near misses that made me stressed for Susanna driving back.

We made it to the airport in one piece, lugged two carts with my four suitcases, 2 carry-ons, and one dog into the airport. We waited forever for an elevator because our two carts took up so much room, but finally manage to get up to the check-in level. China Southern Airlines was right by the elevator, we waited in line for about twenty minutes and then, the best thing happened: we were collected from the line and taken to the VIP line. I think the VIP line is one step up from the first class line, mostly because there was a red carpet. The reason for this VIP treatment was the dog, of course. Processing the dog took just a few minutes, I checked in all my bags, and then was told to go walk the dog and bring her back at midnight. So, Susanna and I took turns walking the dog up and down the outside of the arrivals terminal until it was time to bring her back. We brought her back to be inspected by TSA, which isn't as official as it sounds; I closed the door and sealed it with a zip-tie, and the guy cheerfully took my dog off to be loaded on the plane, unseen by me for the next 18 hours or so.

After that, I went through security, waited in line to board the plane, and was in my seat within the hour. I spent most of the fifteen hours somewhat sick to my stomach about Lucy, but I was able to sleep a bit, and sleep through a few movies (watching movies is the best way for me to get any sleep on a plane). I was lucky enough to get an exit row, which I usually don't like, but it was nice to have lots of leg room and be able to stand up easily.

In Guangzhou, we disembarked, and entered the airport, which was extremely hot and sticky inside, and so I proceeded to sweat, as if a sprinkler had just been turned on over me, following me down the long corridors to passport control. I followed the crowd through passport control, where I met another person going to China to teach at an international school (but not mine), and a college student who assumed I was just out of college due to my Jansport backpack because, and I quote "only college students would wear a Jansport backpack." This simultaneously amused and irritated me. I mean, I just needed a new backpack, and they had this really cute one at JC Penney so shut up and I'm old enough to have been your teacher since you were in elementary school so shut up again. After passport control, which was less invasive than entering the United States as a United States citizen, I went to pick up my bags and my dog at the baggage claim. I had a bit of a panic attack when I couldn't find her, and couldn't get anyone to understand me (which was just the beginning), but finally a sweet China Southern attendant disappeared for five minutes, and returned with Lucy's carrier (with Lucy inside...) on a cart. I was at the wrong baggage carrel.
I know. Mad luggage stacking skills.

I somehow loaded up all four of my suitcases and the carrier on one cart (they were bigger than stupid JFK's overpriced "smart" carts) and stumbled through customs (they barely looked at me), found the animal and plant inspection area, registered Lucy, and then, just like that, we were out of there. It took me a little while to figure out where to go. I went up and down the elevator three times, much to the amusement of one of the airport workers who kept trying to help me, but whom I was reticent to let help me because I had no idea if I needed to tip him, or if he was just being helpful. In Africa, everyone expects a tip. Well, not everyone, but attendants at the airport definitely do.

I finally located the departure hall of the airport, found where I would need to check in about five hours, and settled in for a long, bathroom-less wait. I got a lot of weird looks. Like, a lot. Like, "Look at that crazy toubab and her dog" looks. I don't know the Mandarin equivalent for toubab, but I was definitely getting the "crazy toubab" vibe. And, let's be real - in this moment, I was a crazy toubab.
Five hours of waiting with no bathroom breaks (too much luggage). At least Lucy's carrier made for a good foot rest. 

When you have five hours to kill, can't sleep, and can't go to the bathroom, you watch The Middle and Parks and Rec until it's time to go. 

I waited till 12:00 pm to check in my bags and figure out what to do next with Lucy. The check-in attendant was overwhelmed by my bags, and seemed almost unable to process (mentally) the dog. I think it was just striking because now I was flying domestic, and people normally don't have four bags, much less an animal carrier. I finally understood what I needed to do with Lucy - check her in at the "oversize baggage" office. After paying for my excess luggage, I waited another hour to check-in Lucy. At this point I realized that the professional handling of Lucy by the airline at JFK was probably just because it was an international flight, and I started to get incredibly anxious, again.

I took her to the "oversize baggage" office, where the attendant and I had a very confusing conversation which involved taking my only piece of proof that Lucy entered the country legally (yep, took it away and I didn't even get a picture of the document, not that a photo would be legal tender), lots of "Okay" symbols, and a few major sighs on the part of the attendant (everyone I talked to that couldn't get me to understand had these huge sighs - it was kind of funny because several people did it; I know it was just polite frustration, but still interesting). I finally understood that I had to go pay for the dog back at the airline counter (I was quite confused because they took my boarding pass!). I paid, and came back to try and get my paperwork, but they wouldn't give it too me. I had hoped it was just being held as collateral, but no. It wasn't. So, I don't really have any evidence that Lucy entered the country correctly. So, that's a bit worrisome!

Lucy had been taken off by this point, so I reluctantly passed through security (in which my roll-on suitcase was completely unpacked because I had electronics, like a travel transformer and digital camera that I didn't take out the first time through the x-ray machine). I made it to my gate in good time, and anxiously waited and prayed that my dog wouldn't die on this flight.

We finally boarded the plane - a classic take-a-mile-long-bus-ride-to-the-plane situation a la Lisbon airport, where I was one of the first to board, thanks to being perched precariously on the doorstep of the bus on the ride over, with other passengers pressed awkwardly against me for that hot, stuffy mile to the plane. As I was waiting in line, I saw Lucy's carrier being tossed - yes, basically tossed - up into the hold, so at least I knew she was on board. And yes, I wanted to throw up.

Once on the plane, I made sure the flight attendant knew the dog was in the hold, having had the foresight to look up in my English-Chinese dictionary app the words "dog" "baggage hold" and "verify/confirm" and shoved the phone in her face, and said "Please tell the captain." She went to tell the captain about the dog, and my temperature request (26 Celsius) for the hold. I went back to my seat feeling sick and hoping that the hold was pressurized and temperature controlled, despite the cheerful thumbs up I got.

It was a quick flight to Hangzhou, wherein we made the hardest landing I've ever experienced (and I've traveled a lot), and were bustled off the plane. I saw the carrier from the distant window of the airport. After a bit of a wait, Lucy was actually one of the first pieces of luggage off the plane, wherein, again, I got many strange looks as my dog carrier came around the conveyor belt. I loaded her up, and was met outside the baggage area by my new principal and a driver from the school. I had to borrow a strong pair of scissors to cut the zip-tie on the door of her carrier, but finally released poor Lucy after 30 hours in her carrier.
Happy dog.
Fortunately, Lucy seems her normal self. A bit more clingy than usual, but that's understandable. She's camped out on my bed  most of the day, but we've taken a few walks around campus, despite the heat, and she's eating and drinking, which is the most important thing.

Like I said, animal travel and transport is not for the faint of heart. I don't want to think about the process of getting her out of China. We're going to worry about that in two, three, or more years!

More to come...first day in Hangzhou, first impressions, etcetera, ectetera, etcetera.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Goodbye, Baltimore - Hello, Hangzhou

I'm leaving today.

What am I doing writing about it? Aren't I busy, busy, busy? Well, yeah, kind of. I leave from JFK at 2:00 AM, so there's a lot of time and space in-between there. And even though I went to bed around 1:30 AM, up late with the final packing details, I was wide awake at 7:00 with a thousand things battering my brain.

Baltimore, it's been a...hard but good three and half years. It hasn't been perfect, but God has been good. And that's life, friends. Not perfect - often rather hard - but God is good. I moved to Baltimore at the beginning of 2013 with the hope that I would be able to find a good church (I did), a good place to live (I did), a good car (I did), a good job (I did), and a pet (I did). It was a short list, but an important one. Looking back on God's goodness to me over these past few years, I know, once again, that God was walking with me. My work in particular wasn't always easy, and I definitely went through a lot of emotional turmoil at both schools that I worked at, but God was good. I made good friends in both places, I think I impacted students' lives in both places, and I grew more than I thought possible as a teacher and an individual. God was with me, especially in the hardest times, especially when I did not know what to do. How do I know God was with me? Because I made it. He is faithful. I don't mean this as some kind of glib platitude. I mean it: God is faithful, even when - especially when - I am not.

As I look forward to moving to China (today), I am hesitant and a bit anxious. I know that I have just put myself in the path of still more transition. I know that this move means at least a year before I feel comfortable and that I have a place. I'm not being pessimistic, just realistic - it takes me a while to warm up to a place and to form deep friendships. I'm scared of my own propensity to hibernate when it's proving harder to maker friends than I think it should. I'm scared of the challenges of starting over again, as much as I look forward to reentering the world of international education, and the expatriate life.

I'm also really excited. I'm excited to explore a new city and a new country; to get to know a new culture. I'm excited for the inevitable mistakes I'm going to make. Not excited in that I hope I'll make them, but simply that they'll be a good story to tell. I'm looking forward to trying new things, to travelling around the world. I'm looking forward to having a little more freedom in my finances. I'm looking forward to making connections with people because we share a love for international students and international education. I'm looking forward to the higher academic challenge of my new school, and yes, I'm looking forward to teaching generally well-behaved children again. I'm looking forward to hopefully spending time with my good literary friends again, and introducing them to my students. I'm hopeful for good friends, and laughter, and adventures.

Well, friends, I still have about eight hundred things battering around in my head - and they are tasks that must be done, and not written about.

This blog will continue while I'm in China (I assume...). Stay tuned and thanks for your thoughts and prayers as I fly away (with my little dog, Lucy) to China.

[Oh, and if you read this today, please pray mostly for the travel with the dog. I'm not too worried about myself, but I am anxious for Lucy, our two flights, for getting her through customs smoothly in Guangzhou, and then a quick recovery from the trauma I'm putting her through over the next few days.]

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Ten Things You Should Never Say to a Single Person

Even though the most concentrated numbers of single men in the world are in the very country that I am moving to in about six weeks, I suspect I am entering even more of a Man-Desert than I currently live in. And, even though I do not typically solicit advice on being single, it seems like, if you are past your mid-twenties, you get advice and a running commentary on your singleness from...just about everyone that is in a happy, healthy relationship.

Here are just a few of the comments and/or advice I (and other single friends) have garnered in my almost 31 years of being single:

1) Have you tried online dating?

It's amazing to me how online dating has now become the Golden Ticket to finding a husband. And that people who have never been on a dating site now seem to think it's the cat's pajamas.

(Also, people who use the phrase "cat's pajama's" probably have no hope on a dating site.)

Last year one of my students asked me if I had ever tried Craigslist.

For a date.

2) Right now, God has you in a bubble. He's protecting you from all the men out there who aren't right for you. When the right one comes along, He'll pop the bubble.

Believe it or not, this was the thesis of a very real chapel message at Houghton College delivered by a couple who worked for Focus on the Family, bless their bones. It's probably not a good idea to tell a chapel full of mostly women (because we all attend a college with a 3:1 ratio of women to men) that they are currently surrounded in a Godly bubble that will be popped when they meet the right man.

There may have been some good old fashioned bra burning after that message (not that I participated in it - on my meager college student's budget there was no way I was burning a perfectly good bra!).

P.S. There wasn't actually any bra burning. I just said that for effect. Also known as exaggeration. Also know as hyperbole. Also sometimes known as lying, but I prefer not to call it that.

3) If you just lowered your standards... 

If you were just willing to date someone who is breathing. What else do you need in a man?

4) My niece met her boyfriend online. And she was single for yeeeaarrrsss.

Yes, thank you for telling me yet another online dating success story. Let me run out and find the man of my dreams amidst all the scuzzballs and creeps leering at my pictures on Matc

5) You're so cute - you're a d o r a b l e. I don't understand why someone hasn't just snatched you up.

Thank you. But this is 2016 and I am not simply going to be "snatched up" by a man. If I wanted to be "snatched up" by someone, I would have gone out with the guys who asked me on dates when I waited tables at Denny's:

"Can I have your number?"
"No, you can't have my number. Would you like cheese on your scrambled eggs?"
"Does it cost extra?"
"Then, no. Why can't I have your number?"

6) Oh, it's too bad. My (brother/cousin/friend) would be perfect you. But he lives in (San Diego/Seattle/Montana).

Grrrreeeaaatttt. That really helps me out a lot.
I don't actually feel this way about long distance dating. But this is my face when someone tells me that they know someone perfect for Sydney, Australia or something.

7) You're such a nice girl. I can't understand why you aren't married.

So, you're saying I have a nice personality...?
For those of you not familiar with internet memes this is not a picture of me. The way you can tell is that I was not allowed to read Goosebumps as a child.

8) I've set up so many people. Let's see if I can't find someone for you.

*Proceeds to set you up with someone really awkward and you wonder if this is the kind of person your acquaintance thinks you are.*

9) You'll find someone once you stop looking. I found my husband after I gave up dating and looking for a man in my life.

Someone just told me this the other day. They were a really nice, sweet, Christian woman, and I wanted to punch them.

10) Have you tried online dating?

Yes. Stop. Asking.

A few more that I thought of after publishing this post:

11) But don't you want to get married?
12) So, when are you gonna get married, young lady?

First of all, of course I want to get married. Second of all, what makes you think I have any control over the situation?

In my defense, she is basically the cutest dog in the world.

So, here's the lesson in all of this: the next time you have a conversation with a single person, don't talk about the fact they're single. Have a conversation about politics or religion or something. Because those might actually be less touchy or personal subjects than the reason they aren't married yet.

What's the most outrageous thing a person has ever said to you about being single?

Disclaimers: (Because I can never write a snarky post without worrying that I've offended someone)

If you every tried to set me up with someone...please don't take it personally. I know you meant well. And if you've ever thought about setting me up with someone, but aren't going to risk it now, hey, why not? I live in the United States for another 6 weeks. Anything could happen.

And you know this is all in good fun, right? Right? I'm just trying to make light of something that people take oh so very seriously.

And you know that I wouldn't be writing this post if I was, like, wallowing in singleness or something, right? This post IS NOT A CRY FOR HELP.

Of course now you're going to think that because I said it in capital letters. Whatever - I can't win. Whatever. I'll just continue to express my feelings in memes. (Hey, at least it's not emojis.)

Full disclosure on the memes: I got them from Google image searches. They don't belong to me. If this blog becomes really famous and I start making money I'll go back and find the links. That'll probably hold up in the copy-write lawsuit, right?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Packing Sundries

I was packing up my "parents" room, which is really just my spare room (no, it doesn't lead to Narnia, unfortunately. I've tried). I found this weird groundhog/bear thing in one of the drawers and sent a picture of it to my mom. This is the conversation that ensued (sorry for the typos - I was laughing too hard to text right).

I don't know why this made me laugh so hard (seriously, I couldn't stop for a long time). I think it was mainly because when I was packing up their house in Kayes, it was a 1000 conversations that went like this:

Mom/Dad: "Ooooh, I haven't seen this in [5, 10, 15, 20, 25 years]."

Voice of Reason (Me): So, can we give it away, since you haven't used it in 25 years?

Mom/Dad: "Oh, no, I think that we can use it when we move to Bamako. It's really useful. I wish I had known where it was."

To be fair, it was usually my dad and not my mom, but STILL.

Anyone want a weird baseball groundhog/bear?


Anyone? Bueller?

Stray Thoughts on a Tuesday, 6.21.2016

On my mind this week:

1) Have you noticed that lately, when you are looking at a product online, everything has a video to go with it? Shoes, dresses, even luggage.


As in, suitcases. Have product videos for them.

See the problem is, I'm really old fashioned, and I don't want to watch a video. When I click on, say, a news link, and it's for a video, I don't bother watching. I just want to read it, and move on. I can read an article faster than watching a 4 minute video about something. I don't know...I'm an old soul in an increasingly newfangled world.

2) I find it extremely awkward when married couples refer to their spouses publicly as their lover.

Is it just me?

(It's probably just me.)

When I eventually take my vows and become Sister Mary Danielle, I'm pretty sure no one will be surprised.

Even though I'm not Catholic.

3) School's out. I'm hoping to write something reflective about this, eventually. It hasn't really hit me, but I've been saying that for five months. I'm really moving to China, and I'm really finished with DMS. Friday just felt anti-climatic. I got home about 4:00 and sat on my couch and did nothing for 2 hours. Literally nothing. I didn't read, I didn't watch TV, I didn't scroll through Facebook. I just...did nothing. I wasn't really thinking about being done or the new stuff around the corner. But it was like I was in this weird dead zone where I did not know what to do with myself.

4) Is anyone else having trouble with the new "reaction" buttons on Facebook? I keep hitting "Love" which is right next to Like. Mostly I just want to keep "liking" things, but then it's awkward because if you "unLove" it and change it to Like, then it seems kind of strange. Oh, you don't love that picture of my baby? You only like it?

Social media only complicates things, people.

5) It's the 4th day of my summer break. I would like to point out that I woke up at 6:30 and I went for a run. I would also like to point out that the trucks from the road construction company in the lot behind my house sounded like they were inside my bedroom, and that there was no getting back to sleep. Nevertheless, I was pretty pleased with myself.

The great thing, in a round about way, about the track where I like to run is that it's sort of in the "ghetto" (not really) and so I took Lucy with me, tied her up to a goal post, and nobody gave me the stink eye for bringing my dog to a public track. I'm sure if I was running at a more hoity-toity high school track - like Delaney, or even Perry Hall -there would have been signs prohibiting dogs and people telling me what I'm not allowed to do, but this is Landsdown, yo.

*Yes, I did just say yo. My two years in an "urban" school have changed me.**

**After you've been called "brah" not-ironically by your students you know that you're fighting a losing battle in the vocabulary department so you might as well join them, brah.***

***Brah or sometimes "bruh" is a bastardization of "bro" which is of course, derived from the more traditional "brother," as in "He is my brother from another mother."

6) I started packing yesterday, trying to keep my purging momentum from my classroom clean-out going. I hate packing so, so, so much. It's mostly all the weird little things that I don't know what to do with, and never have. When you clean out a drawer and you have all these random things...paper clips and tiny Bath and Body Works Candles, binder clips, bobby pins, a single earring, sample sized bottles of lotion, AAA batteries, a bottle of nail polish, earbuds, etc...what do you do with them? You don't really want to throw them out (you might need them some day!) but they're also awkward. I don't think I'm going to take them with me, nor do I really want them for when I move back to the States, nor do I think the Goodwill would appreciate a bag full of odds and ends...but do you throw them out?

Every time I move, I 1) throw all the weird odds and ends into a bag 2) swear I won't allow myself to start another drawer...or two or three...full of odds and ends 3) end up having three drawers full of odds and ends 4) repeat the whole process over again.

I need an intervention.

I also sorted out my shoes, of which I have too many. One overflowing basket in the kitchen, a dozen more pairs in several closets around the house, a few on the porch.
Lucy said to me, and I quote: "I can't be seen with you right now."

My problem with buying too many shoes is that I really like the idea of, say, high heels - they're really hot, let's be honest. But my body hates wearing high heels. I guess I'll never be a supermodel.

For other reasons than not being able to wear high heels, but I'm going to pretend it's because of that.

So, I have all these really cute heels that I've worn once. After about 5 minutes, my feet begin to screech in pain and anger, and I'm reminded that high heels are of Satan. Not because they're sexy; if the people who sermonize against heels (are there people who sermonize against high heels? Or are they same people who think blue jeans are rebellious? I'm looking at you, Delaware County Christian School...) knew how painful they actually they were, they would make the harlots wear them as punishment.

I am only taking one modest (2") pair of nude heels to China (along with a lot of other very sensible, and cute options). And, fortunately, my moderately-small-feet in America will be monster-sized in China, so hopefully I won't be too tempted to buy more high heels due to the glances askance at my gargantuan feet.****

****Let's be realistic for a moment: I'm going to buy more high heels, monster-feet and all, in China.

Until another batch of stray thoughts and musings - au'revoir.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Books I'm Taking With Me

You have two suitcases - maybe three - to take with you as you move overseas. As I start the packing-to-move-overseas (again), I have been musing over the books I want to bring along. In this brave new world of the "eReader," it might seem silly to use up precious luggage weight for "real" (as in, touchable, tangible) books. But, there's something about having those "real" books to read when you're feeling homesick or lonely or just need a good friend.

Here are the ten books (other than the Bible, of course) that will travel with me to China (and beyond):

1, 2, 3 and 4) The Thursday Next Series, books 1-4: The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, and Something Rotten

These books just get me. If a person's spirit animal could be a book, it would probably be the Thursday Next books. I discovered Jasper Fforde and this series in college, while looking for another another in the "F" section of the library (Helen Fielding, I think). I am always reticent to recommend books, because it is a weirdly personal thing to me if you don't like a book I recommended, but these are the books I've recommended the most - to the right kind of person. If you don't have the right sense of humor (on the British side) or really "get" literature or silly science fiction, these aren't for you. But, they'll be on my book shelf wherever I live in this wide world.

5) Pride and Prejudice - Commentary on society, witty repartee, humor, and romance all rolled into one. I read P&P when I was in 8th grade, and have probably read it nearly every year since. It's special and different every time I read it.

6) The Hobbit: I love all of Tolkien's books, but The Hobbit is not only the most portable of Tolkien's tomes, but it is the most self-contained. I've read it half a dozen times, at least. It took me until the 11th grade to finally get through The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but I had read The Hobbit at least three times before that. I think a part of me always longs for the Shire, despite my Took-like propensity for wanderlust.

7, 8, and 9) Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and Anne of the Island: I am Anne of Green Gables, minus the (real) red hair. I love to read, I have a ridiculous (overly active) imagination, I'm an English teacher, and once, I accidentally dyed my hair blue-black with old hair dye (not quite green though). Anne was a really important part of my formative years. She was one of my best friends as a child, and she belongs on my bookshelf wherever I go.

10) Beauty: Robin McKinley's retelling of Beauty and the Beast is just one of those books I like to reread. I love fairy tales and I've always been in search of the perfect fairy tale retelling. Beauty is one of the best (and one of the first), I think. She doesn't overdo it with her retelling, keeping to the basics of the story, but she explores the characters in a way that makes them real and more than just static stock fairy tale characters.

The "If I still have weight in my suitcase" books (not in Sophie's Choice order, though):
The Princess Bride by William Goldman (not Golding!)
The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkein
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Ender's Game by Orsen Scott Card
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy (I know, I'm weird)

What are the 10 books you would always make sure you have with you?

Friday, May 27, 2016

Schrodinger's Dog

I wasn't going to write a post about Lucy until I had a resolution to the Lucy Situation. Because, you know. You can only talk about your dog so much until people start rolling their eyes and calling you the Crazy Dog Lady.
But I'm in limbo, and I couldn't resist this post title when I thought of it.
No, seriously. This post exists because I am cracking up at my own joke. I guess it's good that I can laugh. Right now I'm making the arrangements (or rather, asking my dad to make the arrangements) to send Lucy to Bamako. It's a lot less complicated to send her to West Africa than China.
My reservation on China Southern Airlines (and therefore, my "application" to take Lucy) was cancelled. Ironically, it was cancelled because I did not book/pay in time. But I did not pay because I was waiting for confirmation about the dog - something they told me to wait to do until I'd gotten confirmation about the dog. Oh, and I was told after 4 days to "have patience," but I was not told what the time limit on my reservation was. 
It's a bit ridiculous. I also know it's my first brush with the customs and culture I'll be living in for the next two or more years, and so I'm really praying for patience, and also praying that I meet a Mandarin speaker in the next five minutes who can call and talk to them for me.
So right now, Lucy is going to China and Mali. Both. She is currently being booked to travel to two different continents and countries, on two different airlines, going in two totally different directions. She is going to travel farther than most human beings travel in a lifetime.
And meanwhile she sits clueless on the front porch, licking her butt.
This good mood and somewhat peppy post is sponsored by the fact that I had car trouble that was easily resolved (a replaced bolt on my my tailpipe rather than a replaced tailpipe). It's the most expensive bolt that I've ever purchased, but, much less expensive than a tailpipe.
So, in a kind of roundabout way, I think it was God's way of reminding me that He's taking care of me. I could have been in a far worse situation, but I was able to get immediately to the shoulder of the highway, so the tailpipe/muffler only dragged about 10 seconds. My insurance covered the tow truck. I had a lovely conversation about living in West Africa and the importance of visiting overseas with the tow truck man. My dragging tailpipe was fixed in less than five minutes. And, I got the much overdue oil change and tire rotation that I needed.
How does this connect to taking my dog to China? I don't know. I guess it's just a reminder that whatever happens, it's in God's hands. I'm not being flippant or naive about it. I'll be really...upset and disappointed if Lucy has to go to Mali, but at the same time, I know she'll have a truly terrific time - she'll gain a sister and a kitten, and she'll have a million more people to love on her than she does now. Part of me just think I should send her because of that. And, if she goes to China, I think she'll have a terrific time, as well, because I suspect there will be more community around me to love on her, as well. Either way, I think Lucy will be happy. Either way, she won't end up back in the animal shelter, which was my promise to her when I adopted her.
Until then, we'll just call her Schrodinger's Dog, and I'll let her lick her butt and watch the birds on the front step in blissful peace until she has to be packed up to fly, fly away to Africa or Asia.

Update 6/1 - Rather than writing a whole new post, I figured I'd just add on to this one as the crazy continues...

Yesterday, I finally got through to the New York office of the airline, after being on hold for 24 minutes and being hung up on, and then on hold another 24 minutes. I started to explain my situation to the woman, and that I really needed the New York office to approve my request, only to discover that...she was in Guangzhou, in China. I don't know if the New York office was so inundated with calls that they forwarded mine to Guangzhou?

She then proceeded to give me two numbers for the New York office...wait for of the numbers she gave me was the number I had used to call her, and the other number turned out to be the office in Los Angeles.

So I called the other number (and my phone told me it was in LA), and finally, after another 30 minutes or so on hold, go through to LA, only to be told that I really needed to speak to someone in the New York office. And, yes, the woman gave me the number for the New York office that had actually called China.

If you're following this, you're doing a better job than I am.

Oh, and my reservation was cancelled again last night at 9:00 PM, because it had been a week since I called.

This trust thing is a lot harder than it sounds on paper.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Oh, By The Way

By the way, I'm moving to China in about two and half months.

Yeah, China. That really, really populous country over in Asia thataways overthere somewhere.

I looked over my posts since I got my new job at an international school in China three months ago, and I realized that I don't think I've even mentioned it. I'm pretty sure everyone that I know knows, and everyone who reads this blog are people that I know, so I probably don't need to make this announcement. But just in case...

I'm moving to China in less than three months to teach at an international school in a smallish city in China.

Before reading on, here are some Frequently Asked Questions:


  1. Do you know anyone at the school? No. But I'm getting to know people "virtually" before I go, so I already feel like I know a couple of people, at least on an acquaintance level.
  2. How did you hear about it? Through MK acquaintances and lots and lots of research. I was hired at an international schools job fair.
  3. Why China? Why not? No, seriously, why not? I had job offers in the Philippines, Bulgaria, China, and Korea. It came down to the better financial package and what would seem to offer the most long-term opportunities.
  4. So, is it a Chinese school? No, it's an international school. Many of my students (probably 2/3s) will be from Asia - Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and mainland Chinese students with dual citizenship. The rest will be from everywhere else. It's an IB school, and the curriculum is in English (other than the Mandarin classes, of course). 
  5. What will you be teaching? High school and Middle School. I'll probably have 4 or 5 preps again.
  6. Is it a Christian school? Nope. I really need to make a living salary. There aren't a lot of international, Christian schools that offer that option. A few, but not a lot. And, I think secular international schools need Christian teachers, just like public schools need Christian teachers.
  7. Do you speak any Mandarin? Of course not.
  8. Have you ever been to China? I've been to Taiwan. I know, it's not the same. 
  9. How are your chop stick skills? Mediocre. I got pretty good in Taiwan, but that was...almost 10 years ago!
  10. What about Lucy? Working on bring her with me. It's been complicated. If my plans fall through, she goes to Mali with my dad in a month. But I think I have a plan...getting my puppy to China has been the most emotionally draining part of this whole process.
  11. How can you just pack up and leave? Won't you miss it here? Um, I'll miss things about living in the States (like Chic Fila and Target - two organizations that probably aren't often placed in the same sentence together these days) and the friends I've made. But I'm hardwired to live overseas. These past three and half years have really shown me how much I am better suited to living overseas.
  12. What about grad school? Didn't you just start? I was hoping you wouldn't ask. So...yeah. I'm probably not going to be able to complete that particular program. But there are online options (unfortunately, not great ones for English) and summer intensives. I'm looking at a TESOL certificate from UMBC with the option of the Masters, and I'm also looking at a really cool summer Masters program with the Breadloaf School of English. 
  13. What about your parents' house??? I don't know. It's not my house. They can figure it out.
*I am not actually being this flippant about it. The house thing is almost as stressful to me as the dog thing.'s not my house. So, I can't live my life around the fact that my parents own a house. 

It's a two year commitment, and I hope it will be longer. I'm sort of long-term-planning that international school teaching is going to be the rest of my teaching career. I have no idea if that will be the case, but as of right now, I'm moving rather permanently out of the United States, at least until my brother and sister-in-law have children too adorable to stay away from (no pressure or anything, Ben and Denee), or my parents move back to the US and need me around (also, no pressure, parentals - I'm not ready for you to be so infirm that you need my care). Kind of weird, way-in-the-future reasons to move back to the States, but at the moment, I don't see myself moving back, permanently, for a long time.

I'm not sure why I haven't officially made a big deal about it on the ol' blog. Probably because a lot of my reasons for moving are really personal and I'm not really ready to broadcast them on the world wide web quite so publicly as a public blog. And partly because everyone I know knows that I'm moving.

I got the job back at the beginning of February after a fairly long and involved process of joining two job search agencies, sending out over thirty different inquiries to schools all over the world, attending a job fair, receiving 4 very serious job offers, and finally settling on my new school (the name of which I prefer to keep mum simply for privacy sake). It was a remarkably stressful experience, and I'm glad it's done, for now. I guess I'll have a somewhat similar process the next time, but hopefully I'll know more people and have a wider network.

So, long story short, I'll be moving to China. I don't know the future of this blog. I have started a private, post-password protected blog over on Wordpress. Because internet freedoms are so limited in China, I don't even know if I'll be able to really access blogger or Wordpress when I get to China (though I will be subscribing to a VPN, and my school has a government-approved VPN, as well). If you know me, and don't already get my news update emails, email or message me with a request for the password (and to get my emails!). I'd love to get more followers!

Anyway, thought I'd just mention that I'm moving overseas again. It's kind of a big deal. I just haven't really made it a big deal.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

What's Hair Got to Do With it? Part II

I hadn't taken a "real" picture of myself in a long time. "Real" as in, not a selfie. I needed a "professional head shot quality photo" for my new school's "New Faculty" webpage, and so of course I just took my real camera (as in, not my iPhone) to school and asked one of my coworkers to take the picture of me.

It wasn't a long photo session and a few minutes later I was slipping the SD card into my laptop and taking a look at the three pictures.

My heart fell as I looked at them. They weren't bad pictures - I wasn't cross-eyed or anything - but they just weren't me - or me as I must see myself in my head. It was that jarring moment when you catch of glimpse of some stranger in a mirror or a photo and realize it's you. There was nothing wrong with the picture - a pleasant, pump, round-faced woman stared back at me, but it didn't look like me. I know I've put on a few extra pounds - I haven't been running because of a foot injury I got while training for a half marathon...and haven't replaced that exercise with something else...and I haven't been eating as well this past school year, substituting healthy food for convenience. I've been really tired, and yes, a little depressed, and frustrated with school, and it's just easy to find excuses not to eat well, or exercise well when you don't feel all that great - even when you know, on an academic level, that eating well and exercising well are the best kind of natural anti-depressants. Excuses have been far easier than a daily five-mile run and a salad for dinner...I have too much reading to do for my graduate dog has been alone all day - it's not fair to her to go the gym or the track for an hour...and repeat.

I went to the bathroom to splash a little water on my face and wipe away the mascara smears from the irrational tears that forced themselves out. It just felt like the last straw in that moment. I looked at the strange woman in the  mirror, and thought: "I should cut my hair." I'd been thinking about it recently, because I'm a bit bored with my hair at the moment, but in that instant, I wanted to chop it all off and start over again.

It's always the first thought I have when I'm frustrated with either something about my appearance or something else in my life: Cut my hair. Never mind that I've been planning on donating it once it's long enough. Cut it! In that instant of seeing the "real" me, something snapped inside. I was ready to just chop it off in my fruitless quest for beauty, whatever that is, as if cutting six inches off my hair could somehow make those extra pounds disappear, too. I need a change! Even though a big change is around the corner, maybe it would make my current frustrations and feelings of inadequacy as a teacher disappear, too? I know I'm leaving my current school at the end of the year, but I want to finish well. The problem with finishing well at the end of the school year is that you have already had ten months of togetherness and irritating each other and knowing far too much about one another. Lately I've been feeling wholly inadequate and uncreative, and taking the hurtful remarks of students far too much to heart. Perhaps I'll be a more interesting teacher if I cut my hair! It's not that I thought these exact thoughts, but they simmered there beneath the surface...I'm really discontent with myself right now. Something has to change. Hair. I could change my hair.

I stood looking at myself, and turned the ends up to see what my hair would look like just past chin length (I wasn't quite ready to go pixie again). It looked fine. But not really any different. It wouldn't make the extra roundness of my face or the slight tightness of the sleeves of my favorite polka-dot blouse go away. Or make me a less strict and more kind teacher - the type of teacher who can just let things go, and not feel a moral obligation to ask Table 7 to stop talking for the thousandth time that week.

The bell rang and I went through the motions of my day, The Haircut in the back of my head.

A few years ago I wrote about this same phenomenon - after I actually did chop my locks off into a pixie cut that helped subside the feelings of inadequacy and dissatisfaction with my looks - and my life - for about five minutes. It didn't really help change the things I was frustrated with - the small hurts that become big hurts in a small community, the dissatisfaction with my appearance. What did help those things was a lot of prayer and long runs - preferably at the same time. Change in appearance doesn't happen overnight, and change in satisfaction with one's circumstances also doesn't happen overnight. Both take hard work and discipline and will-power - three things I seem to be struggling to find the energy for recently. It's so much easier to come home and escape into a book or a show on the couch and hide from the world and its little slights and injuries.

I didn't cut off those six or seven inches - I did go to get a trim yesterday afternoon, and asked the hairdresser how many more inches I would need to make a good donation. I still need at least three or four inches, and so I resigned myself to at least another year with longer hair. Which gives me time to get my act together - both physically and mentally - so that when I do cut my hair, it's not because I'm dissatisfied with my appearance or dissatisfied with myself as a teacher or just discontented in general.

I know I would have regretted chopping my hair - and that is what I told myself all the way to the hair salon. I'm slowly learning not to make impulsive decisions, and slowly learning that my best decisions have come after months and months of thinking and praying and thinking and praying. I guess I'm growing up? It amazes me how often we have to go through the same lesson, again and again, and again. I'm feeling some of the same frustrations and deep-seated restlessness and dissatisfaction as four and half years ago, in a totally different environment, that led me to the impulsive decision to chop my hair. How often will we pass through the same valley? How often will we repeat the same pattern, and not learn the same lesson? As a teacher, if a student has not learned a concept or skill correctly the first time, it's necessary to go back and reteach it. I guess God probably knows the best pedagogical practices, and so here I am, re-doing my "exit ticket" from four years ago - except this time I didn't take the impulsive path. Maybe  next time (I suspect there will probably be a next time...) I can finally climb out of the valley for good - and start learning the next hard life lesson.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

You Won't Believe What This Post Is About...

Current Pet Peeves - in no particular order:

1) People who think it's cool to make their left turn as you are still driving through the intersection.

2) Actresses whose hair grows ridiculously fast in TV shows. From Pixie to shoulder length in one season. Really, Veep? (Also, is it bad to admit I watch Veep?) It took me, ordinary human being, three-and-half-years to go from pixie to shoulder length.

3) TV shows with laugh tracks. *pause for canned laughter* Isn't that, like, so 1990? (I'm looking at you, Fuller House)

4) My feet that keep getting hurt in some weird way when I try to start running (regularly) again, and set me back another week or two because I'm too scared to run. No, my shoes aren't worn out. Yes, I'm stretching. No, I'm not pushing myself too hard. I got this. Except, I don't, obviously.

5) Facebook statuses that try to guilt you into commenting on them. After reading this blog post, please put a 1-word answer in the comments to remind me of where we first met. We'll see how many people actually read my blog posts carefully, or who just scroll through. Hah-hah! Gotcha! (No offense intended towards my FB friends who post these things...I just find them a bit silly - like the "Forwarded Emails" of the days of yore that encouraged people to forward their email or else Jesus might not save them or something. Because that how Jesus works, as we all know. It's in 3 Hezekiah 12:52.)

6) Sentences that don't end in punctuation

7) sentences that don't have capital letters

8) Being told by an 11-year old girl to hurry up through my directions so that she can use the bathroom.

9) The fact that I let myself get bothered by an 11-year old girl.

10) Headlines on articles that don't tell you what the article is about: "You'll never believe what this person found when they opened their front door..." It's just really bad journalism.

That's all for now, folks.

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Few Musings on a (Not Quite Snowy Yet) Friday, 1.22.2016

Oh, hi. Did you know that there's going to be a blizzard in the Eastern Seaboard in a couple of hours?

IT'S ALL ANYONE CAN TALK ABOUT RIGHT NOW. My homepage is BBC World News. Guess what the most important news story is? THE BLIZZARD!

I know that it's going to be a big deal. My unused muscles are already tensing up in anticipation of all the shoveling I have to do in a few hours. I went to the store and bought the essentials yesterday.

Coffee. I bought coffee.

(Actually, true confessions about needing essentials...I've been doing a lot of crocheting lately, and before I thought about grocery essentials, I suddenly thought to myself: "Do I need to go to AC Moore to make sure I have enough yarn for my project??" I quickly realized just how ridiculous that thought was - I always have enough yarn, of course.)

But I'm having a lovely morning with that coffee, with a french toast casserole that was supposed to be for a faculty breakfast today baking in the oven and filling my house with good smells, and just enjoying...being. I am really, really good at relaxing.

The snow hasn't started yet, and won't start till later today, but they cancelled school yesterday afternoon by 3:18, even though projections showed snow wouldn't start until the evening today.

I am not complaining at all. This has been a weird week, work wise. It was a 3-day weekend because of the holiday, and then a professional development day, and then Lucy (my dog) had an infection and so I had to take her to the vet on Wednesday and called out. Yesterday was a 2-hour delay because of a clipper snowstorm, and today, no school.

I have only taught 1 day this week.
I could totally get on board with this lifestyle.

Poor Lucy - she came from the shelter with a bad habit of licking her back paw compulsively - the vet says it's a bad habit out of boredom, and not anxiety. When she's alone all day, she licks her paw. I don't know if there was originally a sore there, and so she just got into a habit of licking, but she's had that hot spot on her foot since before I got her. She doesn't really like toys or things, unless there's a human being to play with them, and so even though I leave her chewy things, she's not terribly interested - her paw is more interesting. The last time I took her to the vet, he suggested an e-collar (not sure what the e stands for...emergency?), and said I should get a pillow type (kind of like an airplane pillow). I think the pillow-collar I got only made her want to lick  more because she still managed to lick, so much so that her leg got infected. When I came home on Tuesday, she was favoring the whole side of her body, and lethargic and sad.

Therefore, I am never having children, because I was so weepy with my dog being sick, there's no way I can handle a child - a baby! - being sick. Good thing that's not really a possibility at the moment, but I'm just letting everyone know.

Cone of Shame, producing an Eeyore effect for a few days...
She is doing much better - sadly, she has to wear a big lampshade-cone-of-shame for a while till the sore clears up. I'm not sure what to do in the long run about the compulsion. I don't want her to have to wear a cone collar when alone for the rest of her life, but at the same time, I have tried other stuff to keep her from licking. I tried a bitter spray, which she hates - hates so much she licks it off.
Making it work

Silly Lucy!

So, it's January, and basically the presidential election is all anyone can talk about (well, hit pause for a blizzard - resume in three or five days). I've been fortunate enough to have missed the last 2 presidential elections, and it's been marvelous. I feel like I'm paying for it now because Donald Trump.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I really don't enjoy politics at all (well, maybe they don't know that - I keep my mouth shut around political conversations). I vote, because I believe it's my civic duty, but never with very much enthusiasm for whatever candidate I vote for. I know I'm not a republican, but I know I'm not a democrat, either. And I know that in this election I don't feel comfortable voting for either parties' current front-runners.

And I'm just so tired of the dog-and-pony (elephant-and-donkey) show already. I know I am not saying anything new or adding anything particularly thoughtful into the void that is the conversation about American politics. I wish that everyone could, at the end of the day, just be kind to one another. I'm not trying to sound naive - perhaps I do sound naive - perhaps there is no other way for educated adults to conduct themselves other than shaming and maligning one another publicly to convince other adults to vote for them. I feel deeply uncomfortable with the way that people in politics try to destroy one another just to get ahead. So, though I obviously don't know who will be the candidates for either party, I really don't know who I'll vote for (even though it's only January - but we are not allowed to think about anything else...).

A week ago there was a terrorist attack in the capital of Burkina Faso, a little-known country in West Africa. I've lived in West Africa most of my life - indeed, I was even born there, and I've never been to Burkina, nor had any particular need or desire to go there. This attack came about two months after a similiar attack on an expatriate-frequented hotel in Bamako, Mali, the city and country where my parents work. Burkina was different - among the more than two dozen dead, a missionary was killed. In addition to this American missionary, six Canadians were killed who were in Burkina on short-term mission trips. Their deaths were no more tragic than anyone else who was killed in either attack, but it felt a lot more close to home than even the one in Bamako. How easily could it have been someone I know personally (they weren't)? How easily could it have been one of my parents, out for a coffee with a friend as a treat in a more western-style cafe on a slow Friday afternoon?

That same day, two Australian missionaries were kidnapped from their home in northern Burkina. And in Mali, a Swiss missionary woman was kidnapped in Timbuktu (for the 2nd time).

I'm not afraid for my parents - I never have been, really. I am a worrier, and I though know my parents are okay, somehow the loss of this American missionary keeps clanging around inside of my head. My parents, like the missionary who was killed, work overseas with the understanding that they will face dangers and may possibly give up their lives for the gospel. It's relatively easy to say that, harder when the reality of those dangers becomes more and more feasible.

I'm not laying awake nights worrying for them - I'm simply slowly shifting my perception of Mali - and indeed, West Africa - from safe to not-quite-safe, that is all. God has protected my parents for 31 years overseas - and they've had some dangerous situations - and will continue to protect them. I think in particular of all the near-misses my dad has had because of his peanut allergy - perhaps God called him to a country where a main staple is peanuts to show that God is sovereign, even over something as seemingly mundane (and deadly, in my dad's case) food allergies. But it's hard, still, to be here, safe-and-relatively-sound in America (despite the impending snowpocalypse in the offing...), and know that my parents are risking their lives. We're all risking our lives every time we walk out of our house - every time we take a shower, for goodness sake's - so perhaps it's no more risk than any of us have around us. But it feels a lot more tangible and real, much  more real than the possibility of slipping in the shower, or choking on a grape with on one around to perform the Heimlich.

Say a prayer for the families who lost loved ones in the attack in Ouagadougou (pronounced Wah-Gah-Doo-Goo).

Sorry to close on such a somber note. My french toast casserole is done, and so it's time for my 2nd cup off coffee, a generous serving of deliciousness, and snuggling up under the blankets with my book and my dog. For those of you in the path of the storm - stay safe, and warm, friends! See you when we dig ourselves out....