Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Title and Tagline

Kimchi on Toast: Accidental Adventures in Asia

(The prompt for Remembered this week is to write a title and tagline from a moment in one's life.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Confederacy

I once had a job that felt like a shrunken wool sweater.

I was a teacher-mentor, meaning that I was supposed to teach teachers how to teach.

I was twenty-nine. New to Maryland. And the kicker? I was assigned a school where the average teacher had been at the school for at least fifteen years.

People ducked under their desks when they saw me coming.

When I met with my director, she asked me to come up with some professional goals. I slid a piece of paper across the table, on which I had typed, "Grow thicker skin."

We both laughed. She took her reading glasses off, and tapped them on the table. "It's a good goal, though. You need to learn that being liked isn't important. Nobody likes me." Then, she winked. "Welcome to the Confederacy."

It was technically The South, so people said things like that.

Her words followed me, as I made my power-points about differentiated instruction, and set up spreadsheets for staff meetings.  I watched the students, engaged in learning, gossiping in the hallways, and lingering by classroom doors, and felt a separateness I had never experienced in a school setting.

I cried in my office, and ate my dried turkey sandwich at my desk.

I watched a co-worker teach a lesson, and her energy pulsed through the room. The students forgot to be bored, dropped the swagger, and smiled.

I cried in my office again, and imagined that in another life, I would be friends with that teacher.

One afternoon, as I was graphing data from the most recent assessment, I cried.  I felt the failure, coating me from head to toe.  My skin was still thin, and now I could hardly see it anymore.

I told my principal, "I cannot do this job anymore. Can you get me a job in the classroom?"

The following year, I was teaching sixth grade. With thin skin, and at last, a smile. I had rejected The Confederacy.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

An Epitaph

"When I die," she says, "I want it to be a big party. Lots of drinking, dancing, and happy memories." She smiles, perhaps picturing the bubbles in the champagne flutes. "What about you?"

"I don't care," I lift my finger to signal the bartender. "I'll be dead."

A frown. "Well, that's awfully generous of you."

My Newcastle arrives, icy and brown. "What do you mean?"

She raises her voice, as the bass player begins tuning. "I mean, aren't you worried that your funeral will be all, you know....tacky?"

I take a draw of my beer. "Once again. I won't care. I'll be dead."

She raises her eyebrows. "I see. So, anything goes?"

"Pretty much."

"Sometimes, I don't get you at all." She studies the bar menu, tapping her fingers against the stained plastic cover.

I turn to the Penguins game, flickering above her head. At least this game makes sense.

"Are you going to say anything?" She drops the menu, flicks her hair behind her shoulder.

I exhale. "About what?"

"Nothing."She twists her earring, "It's just..." I watch her lip tremble. "It's just that I would be the one planning it." 

I touch her hand, and our eyes link, "And I'm sure you would do a good job. Look. Here's what I want. A powder blue coffin. Chik-Fil-A trays at the reception..."

I watch her jaw relax as the joke unravels. She leans into me, and grins. "I'll line up the forties. For everybody to pour some out for you."


She laughs, and her throaty music fills my empty space. "As you're lowered into the ground, I will blast 'Don't Fear the Reaper' on my ghetto blaster."

"And my epitaph?" 

She arches an eyebrow. "He had to have more cowbell."

I have never loved her more.

In my vlog for Write on Edge, I said I would base this prompt on a song from The Smiths. Inspiration is a funny thing; it came from here, instead.

Be sure to check out the amazing epitaph-inspired prompts at Write on Edge.

Exercise Dependent

I think I'm going to write about fitness and my evolution regarding fitness here on Wednesdays. 

I used to know a PE teacher. She was a cheerleader for a major, Pac-10 University,  and made many appearances on ESPN making the #1 sign for the cameras.

She was also an athlete, with the abs and sculpted arms to prove it.

Lazy English majors like myself rarely encountered such folk, being too busy devouring plates of cheese fries and discussing the merits of The Naturalists. So, she was a delightful little foreign creature, like spending time with a Hobbit.

One day, over smoothies (of course!) she said, "Nancy. Don't freak out." Her eyes widened. "But I'm afraid I'm becoming Exercise Dependent."

I snorted. "What? Like, that's a disorder or something?"

She nodded her head, "Yes! Like my friend, Becki. She worked out three hours a day, and if she didn't, she started crying. She walked around the Gamma house, up and down the stairs, for hours."

I frowned. "That sounds like she was anorexic. Or depressed?"

"She wasn't anorexic. She ate like you do."

I took another sip of my Jamba Juice, shifted my legs. "But depressed for sure."

"Yes," she said, "She's dependent on exercise. Get it?"

"Yes," I said. Not even a bit, I thought. "So, are you depressed?"

"No," she said, "I just decided to do Pilates yesterday! And I loved it! So, now, I'm totally exercise dependent."

I bit my tongue, and thought about buying a cookie.

She watched me, a grown woman wearing overalls, and said, "So, what do you think?"

I walked back to the table, steaming cookie in hand. I broke off a piece. "Marcy? I think we'll get through this."

(This does not negate the reality of exercise dependence, which I've learned, is a real thing.)