Thursday, September 25, 2008

I hate snakes

I was walking out of work tonight, and nearly stepped on this guy.

And I was reminded of a story.

Many years ago, Heather and I went to Wilmington, NC for a short weekend. While we were there, we were staying with friends of a friend. By which I mean, we were staying with complete strangers. We went over to the house early in the afternoon to meet the people and get the run-down on where they wanted us and what they wanted us to do, and then we left and didn't return until probably 1 or 2 am.

We walked up the driveway to get into the door on the side of the garage, like they asked us to. As Heather reached out to turn the handle, I noticed a pretty sculpture of a tree frog, delicately wrapped around the door jam. The light (that they had kindly left on for us) lit the frog very subtly and showed its nice green color. And then the frog jumped.

It was alive! Totally a real frog. I think I screamed, and I know Heather almost died, and all was chaos as we tried to get inside and escape the sudden alive-ness of the outdoors.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

For Sale: Baby Shoes (Never Worn)

I get super excited about new writing prompts that come to me in little bursts of inspiration, and it is always entertaining to try them out on my students (at these moments I almost pity them, they seem so much less excited than I am, and then I just chuckle inside).

My latest:
I found this competition in Wired magazine, based on Ernest Hemingway's six word short story. Hemingway says it is the story he is most proud of, so Wired challenged a group of (pretty big) writers to attempt the six word short story.

I made my students do the same.

Mean, right? Yeah, I thought so too, and I am always quite concerned about how these things are going to turn out.

They were fabulous. I was truly amazed. In six little words, my students were able to create images and ideas, to get their audience thinking. It was great. Unfortunately I can't share them with you, I let them keep them. So write your own.

What I can share with you is part 2. I asked them to take one of the six word short stories from Wired and write the full story behind the suggestion. So here is mine, using Orson Scott Card's six word story: "The baby's blood type? Human, mostly."

"The baby's blood type? Human, mostly," the doctor, in his immaculate white lab coat responded off-handedly.

Part of my mind wondered, how is he so clean after what he just did? I didn't have much experience with these kinds of births, but the births I had seen were very messy affairs. But the rest of my brain forced itself to the front, "What do you mean, 'mostly human'?" I demanded, rather more loudly than perhaps necessary, because the aloof doctor was already turning away.

"We have been working with Verbena for at least 20 months of her 24 month gestation term. With some experimental treatments--" My attention was caught by the gleam in his eye. What did that mean? Was it the passion of the researcher, or was it an acknowledgment of the danger? My mind kept pace with the doctor's words, while I continued to ponder his attitude, "we have been able to modify the DNA so that the father's genes are dominant in the child. At this stage, it appears we have been remarkably successful," the doctor finished, and an unmistakably proud smile surfaced on a suddenly weary face.

Remarkably successful? I thought as the doctor made his exit. I needed to see for myself. Would the child be in the nursery?

That's the end. At least it's as far as I got in class, while I was trying to watch them.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

You chose me... so you recognized the skills, so I don't want nobody calling me son or kid or sport or nothing like that, cool?

As I mentioned, I had my first business trip last week. It was horrible. Ok, it was actually really good once we got there, but getting there was really really difficult. And the whole time we were messing with the canceled planes and messed up tickets, I was just volunteering to go back to work. Maybe it's a teacher thing, but I was worried about my classes.

But I went, and eventually arrived at our destination. We were learning about a new reading program, which actually seems really cool to me, but I teach writing. I was with 4 other women who work at various campuses in our community college district, and the whole thing felt like the scene from Men in Black where J (Will Smith) claims his skills, and the others call him Sport, and Kid, and Tiger.

The other women (who were extremely kind) were all about 60, and kind of seemed bothered by the fact that I am their children's age (I wanted to point out that my own mother is significantly younger than they are - but I didn't). Anyway, they spent the whole trip talking about how young I am, and my generation, and how old people talk, and stuff like that. It was really strange for me to be at the other end of the spectrum, because before this trip I had been hanging out with people from church, who are all quite a bit younger than I am, which makes me feel kind of old. Young people can make me feel old, but older people didn't really make me feel young.

Friday, September 19, 2008

That just popped right out there, sir

I probably should blog about my adventurous trip this week (my very first business trip, how exciting). But something far more dramatic is currently unfolding at my apartment.

The man who lives downstairs was found dead in his apartment this afternoon. We even had the detectives come up and ask us if we noticed anything. I have been out of town all week, but I did notice that his dog wasn't around when I went running the past two days, so I told them that - not very helpful.

Of course, I probably want this to be more dramatic than it is (he was an elderly man), because I watch too many crime TV shows. TV is causing the downfall of society. At least until the Office comes back on.

Fallin', yes I am fallin'

All I can get is those two lines of the Beatles' song, anyone know which it is? And votes on whether it's 'fallen' or 'falling'?

I fell.

One of the scariest moments of my life. I was doing my regular morning run, and was running down the last hill to my apartment. Because it was the last hill I sped up to the finish, and also because I was finally going downhill (it's uphill the whole run until that bit, I swear). And then the sidewalk jumped up and grabbed me. I just laid there for a minute, with my heart pounding so hard that I couldn't even hear my iPod anymore. "Am I ok? I can't be ok, because I really hurt bad!" But I couldn't see blood, so I decided I must be ok and tried to stand up.

I was having a hard time standing upright, my heart was really not quieting down at all, and I was a little shaky. A woman stopped her car in the middle of the road to ask if I was ok, and I was just like yeah, I think so, but I really need a minute. She was really concerned and actually stayed there for a little while.

I walked home, fortunately it wasn't too much farther, and found that I had taken all the skin off one knee, and most of the skin off the palms of my hands. And today all kinds of places hurt.

Old people should not fall. We're just not equipped for it.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

When you used to tell me that you chase tornadoes, deep down I thought it was just a metaphor

Now that I live in the Midwest, I'm excited to report I had my first tornado experience yesterday. I was driving after finishing up an intermitably long meeting, and the DJ kept saying that there are tornado warnings. I wasn't too worried. But then he said that a tornado was spotted on the ground, and he started to sound a little nervous. So I got a little nervous. He kept saying which areas need to take cover - and of course I had no idea where they were! But I got to my friend's house, and hung out in the basement for a while, and everything was fine.

In other news, a shout out to Amelia Jane Cowart, who made her grand appearance in the world yesterday. Check her out here.

And I'm very excited to relate that I found a natural foods store that is fabulous! Absolute favorite shopping destination.

I want you to look deep into her eyes

It is raining. It has been raining for 3 days (and 3 nights). This is not to complain, it is merely a statement to explain. Because it is raining, I have been exercising inside.

My roommate has this bizarre machine, called a Gazelle, which functions somewhat like an Elliptical, except not. I was attempting to exercise on said machine yesterday morning and was bored out of my mind, so I turned on While You Were Sleeping, and it happened to be at the scene where Saul (the godfather) confronts Peter (the coma guy) for being a putz.

Saul tells Peter, "Lucy is going to come here today, and I want you to do yourself a favor. I want you to look deep into her eyes with the heart of a man who has just been give a second chance at life."

In the next scene, Lucy comes in and Peter (because he is a putz) stares at her, and Lucy looks away because she is clearly uncomfortable. This got me thinking again about staring. So I was in class the other day, and one of my students was staring at me the entire time! For 50 minutes! Now, I am a teacher, I do expect to be looked at every once in a while. But there is a big difference between looking and staring. And ever since I have been wondering what it is. So why is staring so creepy?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Food, glorious food!

I'm trying hard not to craft any kind of list about the things that suck about moving. You know - think positive and all that. But one thing keeps coming to mind (or stomach) over and over. Grocery stores.

Ok, so I lived in one (small) town for two years. Fortunately this small town was in the same state that I had been living in for 10 years, so the grocery store chains were the same. I got very comfortable with my neighborhood grocery stores. Grocery stores are good when you can walk in and know exactly where to find the items you need. It's never anything so conscious as "Rice is in aisle 2," but as you walk through, you know just where the items you always buy are.

Now, I have moved 1,000 miles away, and none of my grocery stores exist here. How did this happen? Day 1, I went to Wal-mart. It's a super Wal-mart, so there's a good selection of food. But it was a Saturday night at about 7:00, so I can never go back there. It was an upsetting experience.

Week 1, I got the recommendation of going to Aldi. For those who are unfamiliar, this is a German store, and forcefully reminded me of the tiny stores that I would shop in when I lived in Europe. Let me expand that short definition: 1. You can't trust the produce. There is very little of it and it quickly rots. 2. There is no selection. Conducting my first major grocery shopping venture, I was simply interested in staples. Like rice. They only had one option - white minute rice. That's not ok! I need a grocery story with at least half an aisle of rice!

Week 2, I found a Shop'n'Save very close to my apartment. Deja vu of the Aldi experience. But I can't remember if I found any rice at all.

Week 2 continued. Later that same week, in a desperate attempt to find some kind of real food (because now I am only eating peanut butter and yogurt), I tried the Price Chopper. For the full effect - imagine pulling into the parking lot of a very large strip mall, where fully 1/2 of the strip mall is dedicated to one store, the heavens open, a shining light falls on the roof and illuminated red sign, angels sing praises. For surely, a store of this size will have real food, real variety, and even (I dared to hope) gluten-free options. Foolish youth. For no such paradise exists at the Price Chopper. Real food, real selection, I even purchased some brown rice, and for a fun treat - polenta and pesto. But my hopes were dashed as I wandered up and down every single aisle searching for some gluten-free bread, cereal, anything!

Week 3. My students continue to ask me if I have settled in. I shared with them the short version of my grocery store woes. They looked puzzled and perplexed. Then said there are two grocery stores nearby that I have not yet attempted: Hy-vee and Thriftway. I equated the sound of "Thriftway" with Aldi and Shop'n'Save, and decided that (since I was running out of yogurt) I would attempt the Hy-vee.

Clearly I don't learn very quickly, because I walked in a saw an entire section of the store devoted to Organic/Health Food, and was immediately hopeful. Surely with 5 aisles of organic food, they have included gluten-free options. No. I wandered up and down the shelves, no gluten-free cereal, no gluten-free pasta. But then, I turned the last corner, and a small shelf dedicated entirely to gluten-free food.

But I still can't find the salad dressing.

Monday, September 8, 2008

In the beginning, there was the Word

In The Sound of Music, Maria/Julie Andrews sings "Start at the very beginning, a very good place to start," so I think I'll begin with some musings on blogging.

A few years ago, a friend told me that her husband kept trying to get her to start a blog. She suspected it was because he didn't want to hear her complain, while he kept claiming it was simply a good outlet.

I don't feel like I have a lot to complain about, but I'm at the start of something new, and since I am a writing teacher, I think writing about it is the best way to begin to comprehend it. I'm also trying to feel some sympathy for my students. I make them write journals, and this seems to parallel their experience.

"Let's go exploring" (Calvin to Hobbes in the first strip)