Friday, April 30, 2010

There Is No "G" At The End Of "Orangutan"

Fifth grade today at the elementary school where I attended kindergarten and first grade. The old hallway still smells the same, and the same art teacher and guidance counselor still work there. It was such a great way to end the week. The first hour the kids were all in Art class, so I had time to read and journal for a little while and get ready for the day at a relaxed pace. After that my class left for English and Social Studies, while the other two fifth grade classes came into my room to watch the school nurse gave them each a talk about tobacco. (Summary: You're not supposed to use it.) Then my class came back and we all went immediately to lunch. I had recess duty.

A words about recess.... What a wonderful concept. Secondary students should get them too. Come to think of it, so should adults. I know working adults get a lunch hour, but work buildings should all be in park-like settings with a little black top so we can play four square, jump rope, or soccer before going back to work. I'm just saying. Today was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and warm, and the kids kept coming up to me and showing me the gypsy moth caterpillars they were catching. It was all I could do to keep from dropping my bag and running around on the grass myself!

Then it was back to the classroom, and once again my kids left and another class came in to work on a vocabulary test and the state books they're making. They each picked a state and have to make a little book about it. It was fun seeing the different pictures they drew. Which reminds me! Earlier this week I saw a cool piece of artwork done by a fourth grader at a different school. He was decorating letters for a sign honoring the school volunteers. He made his letters into a village with creatures and interesting looking houses, it was awesome! I asked him if I could take a picture of it and he said yes, so here it is!

Anyway, finally my original class came back to the room. They had to write a letter persuading someone to either quit smoking or to not start at all. Then, AT LAST, it was time for the science video! I've loved Bill Nye The Science Guy since I was a kid, and the kids love him too, so we were all excited to watch it, we even sang the theme song together.

After learning about Chemical Reactions, which included a lot of awesome explosions, we had about fifteen minutes left until the end of the day, and so decided to play a spelling game called Sparkle/Sprinkle. (You can either call it "Sparkle" or "Sprinkle", and I decided today we would call it "Sprinkle.") Here's how it works (I just learned how to play it today): All the kids line up, I give them a spelling word, and they each have to say a letter of the word, in the correct order, then after the last letter is said, the next kid repeats the entire word, the kid after that one says, "Sprinkle," and whoever is next to them is out. It sounds complicated, but it was actually really fun. We were all cracking up, their reactions when they realize they're out for getting a letter wrong were hilarious. One kid named Ben said I "made him sad" when he was called out and was acting all hurt while trying not to smile. I apologized, and we decided we could still "be friends". For some reason that cracked him up, and then he continued bursting out laughing and shouting "Friends!" throughout the game. He was doing it on purpose to be funny, but his comedic timing and delivery were really good, so I let him continue. Far be it from me to stifle a burgeoning comic. A girl named Lauren, however, was obnoxious and kept jumping up out of her seat (she was one of the first ones out of the game) and shouting things. I told her, in so many words, to stop trying to be the center of attention just because she's jealous that she's still not in the game, and the entire class did an almost simultaneous "OHHHHH! SHE JUST CALLED YOU OUT!" Anyway, the game was fun, and ended on a super exciting one-woman round, when one little girl had to spell the word "orangutan" all by herself. The mood was tense, and after visualizing the word in her mind (I turned off the lights momentarily to quiet everyone down so she could focus), she took a deep breath and went through each letter:

Girl: O-R-A-N-G, we got that far, right?
Me: Yes.
Girl: U?
Me: Yes!
Girl: *pauses for deep breathing and probably a little dramatic effect* T?
Me: Yes...
Girl: A-N-G?
Me: (gasp!) No. There is no "g" at the end of orangutan.

The entire class erupted and immediately divided themselves into factions supporting either my version of the word or the slightly more popular version, "orangutang."  Several of the kids smartly decided to side with the only person in the room who had a college degree. (I decided not to tell any of them about my illustrious spelling bee career in middle school to make it more exciting.) One boy in particular was very vocal and boisterous in his disagreement with me. (Ben is still intermittently crying out "Friends!" and laughing at this point.) I demanded that the dissenter get a dictionary, which he refused to do (because he knew he was wrong). A few of the Ms. K. Loyalists raced to get dictionaries, and looked up the word. A girl whose name I forget (sorry!) triumphantly called out the correct spelling of the word, which is, of course "orangutan". My challenger refused to believe it or even look at the page in the dictionary, which only fanned the flames of the Loyalists' fury. Finally he caved, saw that he was wrong, and since it was the very end of the day, I took the liberty of crowing victoriously. I may or may not have said something along the lines of, "In your FACE!" (He'll get over it.)

The end of the day is fun for me, because I like using the time I spend holding the door open for them to dish out little tidbits of life advice as they file past me out into the world. "Bye guys... Make it a great one... Have a good weekend... Have a nice life... Don't do drugs... Don't smoke... Stay in school... Don't drink and drive... Remember the Alamo... Bats have bones that you can see... The chihuahua is the smallest dog... Honesty is always the best policy..." Things like that.

All right, it's almost dinner time and I have to go through the rest of my worldly belongings in preparation for tomorrow, when my family will be participating in one of the noblest of American traditions: the neighborhood garage sale. For any and all foreigners reading this, garage sales (or "yard sales," depending on the parlance of the region) are events where you wake up at four o'clock in the morning and put all the crap you no longer want on a blanket or folding table in front of your house and sell them for a fraction of a fraction of what you originally paid for it. By 7:30 a.m. the first wave of shoppers (none of them under the age of 85) have ravaged the tables, and you have a quick moment to inject more coffee into your bloodstreams and clear away the dead and wounded before the next wave continues. They often last well into the afternoon, which is when the scavengers come and end up taking the things you're so desperate to get rid of that you end up selling them your childhood bike, your entire used book collection, thirteen pairs of ballet slippers, three bicycle seats, a shoebox full of old refrigerator magnets, and your dad's favorite pair of green sweatpants that your mom sneaked onto the lawn when he wasn't looking for a dollar and whatever change they have left in their wallet. It's really great. That's it for me, Ms. K, out!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Substitute Teaching 3rd Grade

Deadpan delivery seems to amuse third graders the most. The less animated I am when I talk to them, the harder they laugh. It's kind of fun when they're not being annoying. Even though appreciation of deadpan humor makes them more advanced in the comedic world than kindergarteners, they're still kids, they haven't grown up with the same pop cultural references that I have. Which is why I can sneak little one-liners into my teaching rhetoric, as a little treat just for me, like this morning when I adapted a Christopher Walken quote from the movie The Prophecy and said, "Study your math, kids. It's the key to the universe." Chuckle for me, confusing moment for them, and we go on with the lesson.

Whenever I have spare time, usually when waiting for them to finish their work and trying to make sure they're not cheating, punching each other, or playing with junk in their desks, I amuse myself by trying to picture each kid as an adult, wondering what their jobs will be, etc. In the short time I'm with them, most of them just seem like your basic kids, but a few have already developed distinct personality traits that are readily apparent to the casual observer. In this class I noticed one girl is already something of an anal-retentive over-achiever. Okay, you're right, she's just a kid. To be fair, I'll say she is organized and motivated. While other kids bounce excitedly in line, waiting to be dismissed for recess, she tenses her lips and stares ahead, eyes ablaze, fists clenched straight out in front of her, and does a series of perfect high jumps, kicking herself in the bottom with both feet, and I could swear she's maintaining a steady 4/4 rhythm the whole time. She sees me watching her, perplexed, stops immediately and says, "I don't know what I'm doing, I'm just..." I nod knowingly and nothing more is said.

I've always been intrigued by the naturally organized, as I am chronically disorganized, and staying on top of my tasks and appointments, even remembering the date on any given day, takes effort. So when Little Miss Organized asked me what title she was to give her completed warm-up worksheet in her Science binder's table of contents, I of course had no idea what she was talking about. Our exchange went something like this:

L.M.O. - "Miss K, should I title this paper, 'Math Decoder' in my table of contents?
Me - What?
L.M.O. - What title should I give this paper in my table of contents?
Me - Oh. Um... I don't know, why don't you just stick it in your binder somewhere until Monday and ask your teacher then?
(She pauses for a full beat and looks at me like I have just handed her a packet of matches and a can of lighter fluid and asked her to burn down the school.)
L.M.O. - So, can I call it 'Math Decoder'?
Me - Sure. Call it 'Math Decoder'.

You develop habits to keep yourself sane and somewhat in control when you're in charge of a group of unruly children for a whole day. One of mine is to identify the ones who think you can't tell they're hell-bent on mischief, and treat almost every request they have as an attempt on their part to get out of doing work. Kids know when they're doing something wrong. If they're playing with silly putty in their desks, all you have to do is hold out your hand without saying a word and they'll turn it over. Only the boldest hellions will carry on their charade past the point of verbal confrontation. In other words, they rarely call your bluff. However, I've also learned that it's good to find a reliable goody two-shoes to substantiate the mischief maker's claim if it happens to be valid. For example, one kid a teacher referred to as "troubled" told me he needed to take a behavior report around to all of his teachers to have them sign it, and if he got a good report he got to go play with a guidance counselor. This sounded like complete b.s. to me, and I assumed he just wanted to wander around in the halls until dismissal. So I said something to the effect of, "So you're trying to get out of doing language arts," then immediately glanced at a nearby goody two-shoes, who said, "No actually, that one's true." Then I was able to send him merrily on his way and maintain some semblance of order. Is it the most compassionate tactic? I don't really care. I've had to learn it the hard way.

Then there are the tattlers. The only thing that makes them less annoying than the future criminals is the fact that their malice is directed at someone other than myself. I had them lined up for recess, having just witnessed the aforementioned jumping routine, when suddenly I'm surrounded by about five kids of mixed genders, pointing wildly at the two primary class trouble makers and screeching about how their teacher said they had to miss recess today because of some transgression or another. Now, from the looks on the faces of the accused, this was true. However, I wanted those kids in particular to have recess so they could run around as much as possible and get their energy out so they wouldn't be a couple of pains in my ass for the rest of the afternoon. I looked at the gathering throng of students and realized I'd need to find the one who can't stop themselves from mentally keeping track of the other kids' disciplinary issues, so I said, "All right, which one of you knows everybody else's business?" Without even a nanosecond's hesitation, the girl standing directly in front of me shot her hand in the air and declared with complete certainty, "I do." Pure comedy gold, people. You can't script this stuff.

Another thing about kids in school, which I remember being true of myself back in the elementary school years, is that they all think that a teacher (or substitute) cannot hear a word spoken about them, no matter how close in proximity they may be to the speaker. As a result, they talk about you when you're standing right there and are shocked when you give a sign that you've heard them. As we were waiting for the morning announcements to come over the loudspeakers, I heard a boy to my left say to his neighbor, "I think she's five feet tall. Yeah, that's what I'd say. Or maybe five two." I turned to look at him and saw that he had been eyeing me in an attempt to guess my height. He continued discussing his estimate, so I slowly walked up behind him, then leaned over til my face was right beside his and said, "Actually I'm five feet eight. And a half." His neighbors laughed, he was clearly embarassed and then he said, "Oh. Well I was close!" I told him six inches off is nowhere near close, and then left him to the mockery of his classmates as I proceeded to take attendance.

One thing I've noticed kids today is that they talk back so much more than I remember any of the members of my generation doing. Only the worst behaved kids who were rumored to have already been to "juvy" or actual prison talked back to the level these kids do, and most of them have actually been to jail or gone missing by this stage of life. But since I started subbing a couple of years ago, I've found the level of back-talk to be appalling. How will any of them hold down jobs when they grow up? To me, it's one thing if they're being falsley accused and talk back briefly in self-defense, although when I was growing up even that wasn't allowed. But  after I've told them that I saw them do XYZ, and to sit down and continue with whatever it is they're supposed to be doing, they continue muttering, whining, even outright shouting back at me. Even one "Don't talk back" doesn't do it. By 8:55 a.m. I had written one boy a pass to the principal for what the layperson would call "being a shit," and he refused to go! They slam their books around, knock over chairs, shout. It's appalling. On the few occasions a teacher actually raised their voice to me when I was their age the only thing I was fighting back was the urge to cry. And I wasn't a crier, not at school, anyway. So needless to say, most of the time when I leave a subbing assignment it is with a growing sense of dread at the future of America. I've seen it, I've heard it, I've taught it past participles. Trust me folks, it isn't pretty. Discipline your kids. Or they'll be refusing to change our bedding and tipping over our IV drips in retaliation when we're old and in nursing homes.

But anyway, they were a rowdy bunch, it was Friday and a beautifully sunny Spring day. I was fighting a losing battle from the beginning but I made it through somehow, and so did the kids. In fact, one of the other third grade teachers and I actually slapped each other on the shoulders and shouted, "We survived!" as we passed each other in the hall at the end of the day. There were fun moments, but I'm increasingly glad I decided not to become a teacher after all. At least as a nurse I'll get to stick rude people with needles.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"Clang, Clang, Clang Went the Trolley...."

That song popped into my head for no reason at all this afternoon, so now I pass it on to you.

I Can't Believe I Just Said That
I just got to say the most wonderful words imaginable to my rep at the temp agency: "This will be my last week at [The Hatchery] until June, as I'm going to be traveling for the next couple of months." Okay, so I had to type them in an email instead of getting to say them to her aloud because I ran out of daytime minutes on my cell phone, but the experience was just as sweet nonetheless.

Once again: "I'm going to be traveling for the next couple of months." Never mind that half of that time will be spent working as a substitute teacher while staying at my parents' house in the swampy estuary where they live in Maryland. It shouldn't be too hot while I'm there, the lilacs will be in bloom, if it does get too hot that just means more swimming in the river to cool off while traipsing about the fields of Neverland (our affectionate name for my friend Jesse's family farm) and building bonfires. Plus, subbing can be fun in small doses, especially if I get a lot of elementary school classes. Kids ages 5-11 think I'm hilarious. I'm ignoring all of the implications of that last statement regarding the intellectual level of my sense of humor. It's not that at ALL, it's just that they're purer, more in touch with the cosmic forces and therefore not worried about appearing "too cool" to laugh and enjoy life. If I gesture to an imaginary horse over my shoulder that I hadn't referenced before, they're right there with me and don't miss a beat, and begin laughing at all the silly things the imaginary horse is doing over my shoulder. Actually, that really did happen during a legendary presentation I gave on Why You Shouldn't Smoke to a class of third graders last year. I was much more informative than the pamphlet sent around by the Board of Education, and I had them in side-splitting laughter the whole time. I actually had to pause at one point so one little girl dressed up as a Baltimore Ravens football cheerleader could take a moment and catch her breath. So yes, it will be like a vacation.

Mustn't Write A Blog Entry Without Mentioning The Girls
So I'm down to my last week in Chicago for a time. Planning a Girls' Night "in the traditional style," where I fully intend to drink too much, swing around lamp posts if we step out to a local spot during the evening like we keep threatening to, do cartwheels in the lobby of Abbie's building, and generally act like an idiot while catching as much of the action on tape as I can, to be parlayed into a Music Video of Epic Proportions. Actually, my sister and I have made a few music videos of our own in the past, and it really does take a lot of footage to fill two minutes, you'd be surprised. I've revealed the song I've chosen only to a few select people. But no, it isn't "Clang, Clang, Clang Went the Trolley," in case you were wondering.

More Ideas to Make Life Easier

I've been meaning to discuss these ideas for a while. I need computer programmers to come up with the following keyboard functions:
  • The ability to highlight text and change it from lower case letters to ALL CAPS.
  • The ability to hit an alternate CAPS lock which only capitalizes the First Letters Of Words.
  • The ability to highlight text and change it from ALL CAPS to lower case.
Am I right? How great would that be? Data entry drones the world over are mentally hoisting me onto their shoulders and carrying me to the nearest bar to buy me a drink. Let's make this happen, Microsoft. Show those over-privileged Mac users a thing or two. Just because you have more money to spend on a box of lights that I use as a glorified word processor that also has internet, a dvd player, and the occasional free tv show doesn't mean you're the only innovators out there! I just came up with three new CAPS functions, how do you like that?!?!

But I digress.

Chalet Islande
It's been very nice staying at my Temporary Quarters. I'm with my Icelandic friends, which forces me to face the fact that my Icelandic vocabulary and grammar are atrocious, and that I must study up before my trip. Time to get out the Icelandic-English dictionary and start reading Morgunblaðið online, preferably without tearing my hair out. On the other hand, it was fun being called upstairs for dinner by my full first and middle names the other day. Much nicer than when my mom does it, because when she calls me by my full name it usually just means I'm in trouble. Or that it's time to wake up, which always includes the loud snapping of fingers and a more snarling tone of voice. ;) Anyway, they have cable TV and showed me how to work it last night, so I now have television for the first time in six months, and cable for the first time in seven. I stayed up way too late last night watching it, time to get caught up on trashy reality shows (they boost my self-esteem!) and Frasier reruns (it's educational!).

Podcast Addiction Continues
I just realized as I breathlessly typed crazed praise for my favorite radio program, Woman's Hour, to a friend of mine who expressed interest when I mentioned it in my facebook status today, that I am more informed about the U.K. Parliamentary elections than I was about the U.S. Presidential elections in 2008. I'm also more informed about British news and current events, all of which I glean from my various podcasts that I listen to in order to maintain the last shreds of my already tenuous grip on my own sanity during the work day. Even though, except for "Woman's Hour" and "The Best of Today," all I listen to are comedy programs and morning shows geared toward commuters. How sad is that? I love listening to them but sometimes it's torture because I get to hear about all of these cool plays that are showing over there that sound awesome, but that I can't see because I'm here. Or they'll interview actors from movies that sound amazing, and I get so excited to watch them and start looking for a pen to write down the names... And then it turns out they're only showing on the BBC and I can't watch them, not even on the internet because I don't have a "television licence number"? What's that about? Stupid international copyright laws, what a bunch of b.s. I'm also still not sure which British political party I like, I've been trying to figure out the difference for a while now. I think I'll just stick to my traditional political credo: "All politicians are crooks, and Barack Obama is not the second coming of the Messiah, no matter how nice his teeth are." -gasp!- My friend has agreed to try Woman's Hour and discuss it tomorrow! I'm so excited! (And in no way is that depressing.)

"I Do What I Want!"
I think rules at work are stupid. Not the rules about equal pay, or that your boss can't demand sexual favors from you in order to let you keep your job, I mean rules about when you should come to the office or when you should leave, how long your breaks need to be, etc. We're all adults by now, aren't we? Are there any children around? No. As long as we get our work done and don't act like a-holes, isn't that good enough? I see the question in your eyes, and the answer is yes. I finally got told that I need to start coming to work on time. *sigh* Well, I had a good run. Four months of coming in late without anyone batting an eyelash is pretty good, if you ask me. And, apparently, the only reason I need to start coming in on time is that they're hiring a bunch of new people for the next busy season and there aren't enough seats for us to stray from the schedule. So, no more 9 to 4 for me. The night people come in at 2:30 and they need a place to sit. *siiiiigh* What time does a person even need to wake up in order to be at work at 7:30 a.m.? Have you ever heard of such barbarism? 7:30! In the morning! I asked Alisha to give me a wake-up call, and she has agreed, she says it helps her get up too. Even though she'll be calling at what American military forces and all-around bad-asses might call "oh-dark-thirty," it's a comfort to hear a friend's voice, half-muffled by one side of her face still lying smushed on the pillow, letting another friend know it's time to get up. While others dream on or stand, zombie-like, beneath steaming hot showers, willing their eyes to open, we trudge into the dreary morning, a full hour (at least) before the rest of the Western Hemisphere, to enter data, for crying out loud. Oy.

Oh well, it's money. Money soon to be spent on chocolate-covered snúður, Egils Apelsín, Tuborg and Viking beer, green Opal, Nói Siríus chocolates, Hraun bitar, flatkökur, hangikjöt, kleinur, SS pylsur ("Eina með öllu"), Coke in a glass bottle which I will drink through a licorice straw (Icelandic lakkrís is the best licorice on Earth, so don't make a face), and various other delectable goodies.

Let's Wrap It Up With A Revenge Tale

A funny thing happened at the Hatchery yesterday. They're bringing in more and more new people every day, presumably in anticipation of a busy few months. I've made friends with one of the new people, a nice girl who is a few years younger than me. I arrived at work yesterday and sat in Alisha's usual desk because she wasn't there and the seat I normally sit in was taken. I went through my usual morning routine: cup of coffee, cup of instant oatmeal I bring from home (maple and brown sugar flavored), get my first promotion to work on for the day, check iTunes for fresh podcasts to download (I got one of my supervisors to give me the password for the office wireless internet), got up and went to the kitchen to try to get a stronger signal for said podcast downloading, and had to talk to one of the "team leaders" (god I hate office jargon) a couple of times about something work-related.

I got back to my seat and only then noticed yet another, newer girl sitting at the work station next to me. It was already sweltering in the data entry room, and all of the fans were on except for the one at the end of our row. I was seated in the next-to-last seat, and she was in the seat closest to the fan. I got her attention and asked her if she minded if I turned on the fan, since it was getting hot in there. She said she didn't mind. I asked her if she was sure, because if she was cold I didn't have to turn the fan on, and that particular fan was pretty strong, even on its lowest setting. She insisted that I could turn on the fan, which I did, telling her that if at any point she got too cold she should feel free to turn it off. I don't know who could possibly have a chill in 85° heat, but you never know, some people have low body fat. I caught New Friend casting me a wry smile, since we both can't stand the heat in the office and always turn on the fans first thing in the morning. She instant messaged me on the intra-office instant messenger, called ichat, telling me that the girl next to me had just started the day before.

My day went on as usual, I was working away, happily listening to one radio host or another rip a British politician a new intimate orifice in an interview (I think UK broadcasting schools must teach their students to never, under any circumstances, allow politicians to complete a sentence on the air), when suddenly, Super New Girl next to me leans over and says, "My friend is giving me a hard time on ichat." I had no idea what she was talking about, so I smiled and said, "What?" "My friend, he's teasing me on ichat." I still didn't understand what that had to do with me, but didn't want to be rude. "Um, okay?" She gestured toward my screen, "Oh, you didn't see that? I, um-- I accidentally sent those messages to everyone instead of my friend. He was giving me a hard time because I'm always cold. Just wanted to let you know."

Here's the thing. Everyone in that office has had to learn the hard way that when you're talking to someone on ichat, you have to remember to click on their name before typing anything, otherwise the message you write will be sent to every single person in the office, supervisors and all. We've all done it. One guy famously complained to his friend about how sick he felt, and how he was going to leave soon to "Go home, put on my pajamas, and lay around all night shooting vitamin C up my butt." That one was hilarious. I saw that she had made the same mistake, so I took a closer look to see what the hell she was talking about.

Apparently she had been complaining about me to her friend! She had written, "She spends more time out of her chair walking around than in it working. When she is sitting down she's sitting around texting, looking at her ipod, and cracking every bone in her body. And of course the moment she walks in she immediately turns on the fan." I turned to her and said, "You could have turned the fan off if you wanted to." She laughed nervously and back-pedaled, repeating her lame story about her friend teasing her about being cold all the time. I smiled and turned back to my screen.

Now, most of what she said is completely true. I was out of my chair for a while, making my breakfast and trying to get a signal for my ipod to download things. I also haven't been doing yoga lately, and that combined with sitting at a desk all day typing things has me very achy, and I'm constantly cracking my back, my neck, my knuckles and my wrists to alleviate the discomfort and because I don't want to take ibuprofen every single day. And I stood up from my desk twice more because I was summoned by a team leader via instant message on ichat, which Super New Girl had no way of knowing. And yes, I wanted the fan turned on. What kind of a human being is cold in a room that is at least 85° Fahrenheit??? One who needs to get her blood sugar checked, I'll tell you that much! However, I repeatedly asked her permission to do so, and made sure she knew she could turn it off at any time if it got too cold for her. Plus, what does she know about what my job is or what it is I do during the day? It's her second day! We have more people than just the data entry drones in there. In short: What a bitch!

I pointed out the messages to New Friend, who cracked up and agreed that there is certainly something wrong with her if she thinks it's cold in there, and way to make a good first impression. Yes, Alisha and I regularly instant message each other about how annoying people are in there, but that's only when they're loudly talking about inane things, forcing their opinions on innocent standers-by (or sitters-by, in this case), and doing untold damage to our hearing because we have to turn up the volume on our headphones to drown out their grating voices. But I was just sitting there, and only occasionally cracking a knuckle or other joint.

So I waited. I worked on for a couple more hours, knowing she was probably mortified, letting her marinate in that feeling for a while. Then, when it was time for me to go to lunch, I sent her a private instant message on ichat, which said, "I'm going on break now, which will involve getting up out of my chair, so don't be alarmed. Feel free to turn off the fan while I'm gone." She leaned forward to read the message, realized who it was, and then typed back, "hehehe" just as I was getting up to go.

Zing! It may not seem like much, but it felt good to sting her back a little. I'm not a woman to sit back and be spat upon, even if I wasn't supposed to know it was happening. Revenge is a dish best served cold. Cold as a new girl at work shivering in the Arctic blast of the fan from one side and my dislike on the other.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Day of Rest

This week I moved out of my old apartment in Lincoln Square and into transitional quarters in the home of friends here in Chicago. I will be here until just over one week from today, whereupon I shall go to Maryland for two weeks to work as a substitute teacher once again (stay tuned for "kids say the darnedest thing" posts), and visit family and friends before hopping a plane to Iceland to visit more family and friends. I'm quite tired after this busy week, but it wrapped up nicely yesterday after working, watching the beginning of a thunderstorm from sixteen stories up, stopping in at an Easter mass to take advantage of some meditation and renewal time, and a delicious dinner with two of the girls and a dude, before going home and sleeping, sleeping, sleeping and dreaming wild, strange dreams all night.

Speaking of dreams... I once met a Native American spiritual leader named Running Elk in Redwood City, California, who talked to me about the difference between regular dreams and visions. According to him (and I happen to agree), visions differ from dreams in that they are messages which entwine with and are inseparable from our waking reality. There were, indeed, visions last night that stood out from the chaos of the ordinary dreams and brought some wisdom to this transitional time. In fact, it was an unusually full house in the Unconscious Theater of Inga last night. (Now there's a story waiting to be written. I call dibs!) There were gods who appeared in the form of animals (a falcon, a baby, and a black goat, respectively), a visit from The All-Father, dark blue robe and all, giving me advice about which way on the path was the right one for me, followed by a quick conversation with the Man Himself, sandals and all (which provided a nice balance). I can't remember the exact words those two told me, but I do recall that both conversations were encouraging and stabilizing. A woman who was with child and stood at a kitchen counter chopping vegetables said that I had the three symptoms that she experienced before finding out she was pregnant (one of which was startling a large snail whose shell was a pair of bright blue flip-flops). She found it difficult to believe me when I told her in no uncertain terms that my being pregnant was just not possible at this time. Three tiny, blue-eyed frogs gave me a drink of their own water and I took a ride on a dark horse. There were many more animals than usual.  I enjoy thinking about interesting dreams and wondering about potential meanings. But I also remember to wake up and keep at least one-and-a-half of my feet here in the present moment. I definitely do not want to get lost in there.

I'm making sure to do as little as possible today, because I have lots of work ahead of me and need to get rest whenever I can. After a strange couple of months where I couldn't seem to snap out of one reverie or another, I am now back in my body, feeling motivated, and reminding myself to shine my light. Committing myself to writing, not only my forthcoming Big Project (which I refuse to call by the name "book" so as not to intimidate myself), but also potential comedy sketch-writing classes at Second City, experiments in non-fiction, and I may even attempt a play, in addition to taking my science pre-requisites to qualify for nursing school. In doing so, I force myself to embrace my own personal brand of "charming eccentricity" (which is a nice way to say "babbling insanity") and to cut loose creatively. I'm going to write the things I've wanted to write for ages but haven't for fear of how they would be received, stride toward goals where I've previously dragged my feet for fear of failure (and its much scarier cousin, success), and, in short, do what I want to do because I suddenly find it very difficult to do anything else. Maybe it's the gradually returning sunlight, or maybe pollen has burst into the Midwestern spring air, dusted my brain and sent me into a mild manic episode of some sort, but the sensation of increasing energy is refreshing and clarifying, and I fully intend to ride this wave as far as it will take me. I was ready to stop hibernating.

All right, well, not a very amusing post this time and more like a diary entry than something for the internet (because I never talk about personal things like my hair, the size of my thighs, or what certain liquors make me do), but I just thought I'd post it to say, "Hello, I am here. I may be busy, but I haven't forgotten and wanted to check in."