Back to School Never Felt So Good

This is the kind of first week back to work I can handle, y’all, and I’ve only been off for a week, although it feels like a lot longer what with all the driving.

I’m sure my feelings stem largely from the fact that I know I’m on my way out. I don’t have to gear up for an entire semester; I’m just helping out for a few weeks. That mental preparation, or lack thereof, is what makes going back to work so hard. Not to mention getting together an entire forest’s worth of worksheets, hand-outs and song lyrics to send off to the copy shop. No, I’ll take this version of back-to-school any day. So far, my first day back has looked like this:

  • Wake up at 7:30 and take dog out (I’m dog-sitting, by the way, and living downtown for the week if anybody in the Bloodworth area wants to go for a walk or something.)
  • Go back to bed for two hours.
  • Wake up again and stare at the ceiling for several minutes.
  • Roll out of bed and move to couch.
  • Steal neighbor’s internet connection.
  • Chat with boss online.
  • Write an article and a half.
  • Shower.
  • Eat lunch with friends who also have bizarre work schedules.
  • Eat Rubix Cube birthday cake left over from Saturday’s ’80s party
  • Blog

“Where’s the back-to-school in that?” you may be asking. Well, this week, I’m only working nights, so I don’t have to be anywhere for a few more hours still, and even that is not going to be real work. It’s “Dinner With the Dean.” Now, as some of you know, the dean and the vice president of continuing education and I have had plenty of meetings in the past year or so for reasons we shan’t go into now. Suffice it to say that the dean and I go way back, and I’m going tonight for the free food and the $15 they’re going to pay me.

And maybe I’ll pop by Staples later and treat myself to some new pens!

Online Dating Lesson #1: Making the Introduction

Well, since the Italian Lesson posts don’t seem to be very interesting to anyone (myself included), and the online dating posts are quite popular, and since I want to meet the needs of my readership, I’m going to hold off on the Italian Lessons until I start learning to say more entertaining things. So when, by necessity, I learn to say, “Back off, Guido, or I’ll punch you in the nuts,” I assure you that you will be the first to know.

Until then, however, let’s talk about guys.

I wrote an article that appeared in last month’s A Time to Love magazine about ways to improve your online dating profile. In it, I said, “First impressions are everything and, in the online dating world, you have a priceless opportunity to make a good one without worrying that you have a big chunk of spinach stuck in your teeth.” The article goes on to discuss how your profile can make a good impression and things you might be doing that actually make you look like an idiot or a total douche bag. It’s good stuff, and you should read it.

But what if you contact someone before they see your profile? In that case, the first message you send is what makes the first impression. This seems a fairly simple thing to me. You’ve read the other person’s profile, and you’ve found something likable or intriguing about him/her, so you decide to send a message. You’d think people would take this opportunity to comment on whatever it was they liked about you, ask you some questions for more information, maybe tell you a little about themselves, and give you something to respond to if you’d like to continue the conversation. But all too often, this is what I get (Note: These are actual copied/pasted messages I’ve received, subject lines and all):

Subject: Hello
Message:
Hello.

Or…

Subject: hello
Message:
how are you? how’s your day going?

Those putting forth slightly more effort might give me this:

Subject: hello
Message:
hey…. great profile. very nice pics!
how are you?

Or this…

Subject: hello
Message:
good lord you are absolutely gorgeous and i wanted to say hi. i was wondering if i could interest you in a very sweet loving guy?

Flattery will get you nowhere, friends. Well, maybe a little ways, but only if it’s accompanied by capitalization and a genuine interest in something other than my obvious and undeniable beauty.

Ok, so let me just break it down for you. A good introductory email to an online prospect will include:

  1. An introduction – At least a name. A signature at the bottom. Anything. Come on now.
  2. A reason why you chose to email me. This can be combined/one in the same with…
  3. A conversation starter – We’ll call it a “ping,” for it is to be followed by my “pong.” Now, don’t go thinking that “How are you?” is acceptable. Try to think of something more open-ended and interesting than that. Something that indicates you actually read and comprehended my profile, and that you might be able to hold an intelligent conversation with me about something contained therein.
  4. A level of writing skill comparable to that of a high school graduate. I don’t care how you do it. Pay a ghost writer for all I care, but don’t expect a response from me without it.

Join us next week for “Online Dating Lesson #2: Writin’ a Sister Back.”

one more dawn…one more day…

ONE!! DAY!! MOOOOOOOOOOOORE!!! Sorry. That was just a little Les Miserables reference for all you musical geeks out there. Oh, and it’s Bethday tomorrow. Hug me.

I keep wanting to post some insightful, poignant musing about growing older and everything I’ve learned over the past year, but nothing’s coming out. Maybe tomorrow. For now, let’s just do a recap of fun things that have happened since I’ve been 27. It’s been quite a year, I tell ya. I have:

  • literally walked at least 100 miles
  • mapped out plans for at least three different stage musicals
  • given animals a break from my intestines
  • given my intestines a break from animals
  • gone out on dates (and/or informational meetings) with more guys than any of my previous years (maybe all my previous years combined…it’s sad, really)
  • had some INSANE dreams
  • learned to pole dance
  • gone on yet another extremely last minute trip to NYC
  • spent New Year’s there…again
  • taken on more than I thought I could handle, and survived
  • watched people have more than any person should have to handle thrust upon them, and survive
  • retired the letter jacket (mostly)
  • taken a lot of chances
  • written a lot…A LOT
  • attended a VERY eventful farm party in Holly Springs
  • hosted many a film/food event
  • planned out film/food events through this time next year
  • hosted a Rockin’ Roller Romp (which we need to do again SOON)
  • gone to…hang on, let me count…like a bazillion weddings
  • spent Independence Day in our nation’s capital
  • seen license plates from EVERY STATE here in the Triangle
  • discovered Flight of the Conchords, which changed my life
  • come up with TWO book ideas
  • raised over $2000 for breast cancer research, educational programs and aid (and still going…give here)
  • helped the dirtydish to go monthly!!
  • watched as the dirtydish died a slow, atrophying death
  • begun working in earnest to bring dirtydish back!!
  • got fake-engaged
  • got the most incredible blisters EVER
  • decided to do the thing that got me those blisters again, like the crazy person I am
  • coined the term “anyhoe”

Wow. Seriously, I’ve been busy. If you’d like to share any other memorable moments from the past year, feel free. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane, shall we? That would make me so happy…especially if you won’t be available to hug me tomorrow. Or even if you will. LOVE!

*Special thanks to Whitney for helping me remember all of these things. For your entertainment, the first six things she listed were:

  1. you became vegan
  2. and then you stopped eating all animal product foods

  3. and then you didn’t eat cheese anymore

  4. and then you went totally off chicken–like cold turkey… or cold tofurkey

  5. and you also stay away from milk now

  6. and you no longer eat the things you used to

Thanks, buddy.

WHEW!

Y’all. This has seriously been the longest semester of my life. BUT IT’S OVER NOW!!!! Well, almost. I have to go into the office tomorrow for roughly one hour to finish up some paperwork, but after that, IT’LL BE OVER!!!! And then I’ll be unemployed for about three weeks. Sigh. Three whole weeks of sweet, impoverishing vacation. I honestly can’t wait.

keeping the dream alive sans dairy

Oh friends, last night I dreamed that I had detention. Now, detention was held in what seemed to be a summer camp arts-and-crafts cabin, and there was no real reason for me to go, but I kept going anyway because Matt Hagaman also had detention. And now that I think about it, we are the same age, so there’s no reason for him to have had to go either. He must have wanted to see me too. Anyhoe, I was making vegan pizza in detention when some girl came in talking about how she was going to eat it, but when she found out it was vegan, she turned her nose up at it and walked away. I then walked past the table of GED students to the doorway where Matt Hagaman was eating rice and beans and smoking (eww), but the smoke didn’t smell at all, so I sat down and started eating his rice and beans too.

Then, suddenly, I was in a meeting of some sort, and I didn’t know most of the people there, but the meeting was being led by my old youth minister, Roy, and Whitney was sitting beside me dressed in a bear costume.  The conversation at the meeting turned to the Avon Walk, and as I was telling people about it, I found that I was actually at the Avon Walk. I had finished the first day, and I felt great! My feet didn’t hurt, my knee didn’t hurt, my legs were fine. I wasn’t even all that tired! I think it was prophetic.

for Whitney

I was telling Whitney this story earlier, and she requested that I post it for you all. So here it is in Reader’s Digest Condensed version.

When I told one of my students yesterday that the class had been canceled, she was very upset with me. Yes, me personally. She said (and this is a direct quote), “You couldn’t have called me? I gave you my number. What? You just don’t care? Is that it?” Now, it was unclear whether she wanted me to have called her to tell her the class was canceled so she wouldn’t have wasted her hour coming to class that day (which, incidentally, is a 3-hour class), or if she thought that if I truly cared, I would have been calling her every time she missed class to invite her to come back. In either of those situations, if not calling equals not caring, then yeah…I guess I just don’t care. That must be it.

Don’t come a-knockin’ if the minivan’s a-rockin’.

As I was on my way to class this evening, I got behind a minivan with some pretty amazing hydraulic action going on. It was quite amusing. I mean, this just doesn’t seem to fit, does it? A bumpin’ minivan? Seriously? It’s just not the kind of ride that one would normally think to pimp in such a manner. But there it was, nonetheless, bumpin’ its way down New Bern Avenue. And there I was on my way to my last GED class. Ever.

I feel like I’ve been in some weirdo alternate universe for the last three months. I’m not a GED teacher. Why have I been teaching GED? Who was that person who was doing that? That was me?? No. It couldn’t have been. Surely it was just a long, stressful dream, and I’m about to wake up from it to find that I’m just an ESL teacher. Grammar, pronunciation, spelling, conversation – that’s it. That’s all I do. No fractions, no decimals, no percents, for heaven’s sake no ALGEBRA, no Social Studies, no Science, no drama, no students looking at me like I’ve just sprouted another leg out of the side of my neck when I suggest to them that they might switch papers with their classmate and edit (gasp!! “Cooperative learning, did you say?”). No more feeling completely like a fish out of water, floundering around, trying to flop myself back into the river. Back into normality, where I can breathe again and be myself.

When I wake up tomorrow morning, that is exactly what I’ll be waking up to. Normalcy. I’m so excited about waking up that I’m going to hurry up and go to bed now. Sweet dreams, y’all!

craptacular

Well, this has pretty much been the worst week ever. I can’t go into too many details because they aren’t mine to share, but work has just been insane, and much to my relief, we’ve decided to close my GED classes early. They were supposed to go through December 12, but we’re going to shut them down the week before Thanksgiving instead. We just didn’t have the numbers to sustain them, and they were starting to drive me completely insane. I had maybe 6 students yesterday, who were literally all working on different things. It’s just impossible to teach a class where one person’s doing long division, one’s doing algebra, one’s on percents, one’s working on multiplication, one is on fractions, and one is taking a writing test.

And some of them will sit there and work and work and work on something until they’ve frustrated themselves to death without ever asking for help, and others will do a row of problems and then just sit there until I come over and check them (even though the answers are in the back of the book) and tell them to do the next row. And many of them just give me this blank stare that seems to say, “Well? Teach me something…if you think you can.”

I’m just done with it. It was really good in the beginning when I was actually teaching. All my students were learning the same thing at the same pace, and then they either stopped coming or needed more practice on one thing, and they started falling behind. And then we had a 2nd and a 3rd registration, and the class just became this insane 8-ring circus, and it wasn’t working for anyone. So we’re going to take a step back and reevaluate the program, which has next to nothing to do with my teaching, so I don’t feel bad about what I’ve been doing all semester. I’m just relieved that it’s ending. And never starting again.

Next semester, I’m sticking with what I am called and trained and passionate about doing. I’m going to continue teaching the ESL classes I’ve been teaching, and I’m going to work on developing curriculum for that program. I’m also going to teach a few classes for Wake Tech’s new ESL certificate program (for people who want to teach ESL), but I don’t know if that’s starting in the spring or the summer as that decision has not been made yet as far as I know.

So anyhoe…sigh of relief. A weight has been lifted. In two weeks, I’ll no longer be a GED teacher. Halle-freakin-luiah (did you like that infix? I love infixes).

body bits

The building where I have my afternoon classes is also the building where they teach the nursing assistant classes, so a couple of the classrooms on my hall are equipped with hospital beds and such for the students to practice helping each other get up and down, use bedpans, sit up, eat, roll over, etc. They don’t practice the sponge bathing on each other, though, so for that, they have dummies. So in one of the classrooms and also out in the hallway, there are these big metal racks with plastic body parts strewn all about. There are torso bits and butt/leg bits, and I just noticed the other day that there are also private bits.

I had noted previously that the dummies had no private bits. There’s just a large hole there. Like big enough to put a cabbage in. Maybe that’s how they practice birthing dummy babies. I don’t know, but anyway, I saw the other day that they have these other plastic privates that fit into the holes, so you can make each dummy male or female. Unfortunately for the dummies, all the torso bits are middle-aged men. There aren’t any booby bits, and all of the heads have receding gray hair. But I guess as long as it has a vagina, you can’t go squabbling about the hairline. Clearly it’s a woman.

ANYhoe, it reminds me of that part in Flight of the Conchords’ “Something for the Ladies” when he starts talking about hermaphrodites with their sexy lady bits and their sexy man bits too (sexy lady man lady). Crack me up.

new soulmate

I’m not sure how many soulmates one person is allowed to have, but I have many. And I know most people think of a soulmate in a romantical sense, but mine are all platonic friend-types. I’ve got cross-generational ones, man ones, woman ones, probably even a few animal ones. I think the connection I feel with these people is mostly one of personality or thought, which might not be exactly the soul, but if that Descartes fellow was correct, and I really am because I think, then it would logically follow that if my thoughts agree with those of another, then some part of our very beings are also in agreement. Voila! Soulmates!

There are just a couple of things that lead me to consider someone a soulmate:

  1. When I make a joke, you get it and play along. I do the same with you. Whitney is a prime example of this. Our conversations go on and on, tripping delightedly down some colorful, cartoon path of ridiculousness, until we either just dissolve into laughter or we notice that the people around us have grown uncomfortable. We often get accused of having inside jokes and talking about them in front of others. This is rude. We don’t do it. If we have an inside joke, we tell it to you so you can be in on it too. However, there have been many times when we’ve gone down the road to ridiculous, just “on the fly” if you will (she won’t), in front of people, and they thought that we were sharing an inside joke, but really, there hadn’t been a joke before that. It just happened. And that is why we are naming the musical we’re working on Just Now, so when people quote or sing something from it, and other people ask, “What’s that from?” they can reply as we always do, “Just Now,” as in, that just happened. Just now.
  2. We harbor the same secret desires, plans and/or preferences. And I mean like in an eerie way. Like we are not sure how it is that we were raised in different household. With different experiences and brains.

And that second point there leads me to my newest soulmate discovery. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Lauren. Lauren, say hi. Lauren and I have recently discovered many things that we have in common, including, but not limited to:

  • a secret desire to join a step team
  • a special affinity for gospel music, especially when paired with other music genres
  • a Plenty of Fish boredom membership
  • a crush on Jermaine (of Flight of the Conchords fame)
  • a subsequent crushing blow at the discovery that Jermaine’s name is not, in fact, Jermaine, but Jemaine
  • a consequent identity crisis at finding out that we are in love with a man named Jemaine when we thought we were in love with a man named Jermaine
  • a love of string cheese
  • a (possibly disproportionate) loathing of purposefully misspelled words in company names for the sake of what…cuteness? It’s a marketing ploy – I get it. I just hate it. I could go on and on, but she’s already done so. My blood pressure rose just now just thinking about it.

I knew this was the real deal when she sent me an mp3 file of U2 doing a live version of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” I started playing it, and I was thinking that it would be good. And then the gospel choir came in, and I IMed her first to say “shut your face,” and then to ask why she felt that I would enjoy this particular recording. She replied, “I don’t know. I just love that version. I love the gospel choir.” Bingo.

On an unrelated (maybe related, depending on how Lauren feels about this) note, I played a modified, educational version of Balderdash with my GED students tonight, and they loved it! Slowly, friends. Slowly, I am winning them over to the nerdy linguistic side.