Saturday, December 31, 2011

Out with the Old, In with the...Beach Body?

Let's hope.

My 2011 could be subtitled "The Year of Work", "The Year No Boys Paid Attention to Me, Which Is Not That Different Than Any Other Year" (too long, no?) or "The Year I Uprooted My Happy Life in Charlotte to Move to the Middle of Nowhere". 

I'll just call it...interesting. Last January I was a teaching assistant living in a fabulous apartment in Charlotte. I blogged religiously, worked out daily, and lived a fabulous life in general. 

Then I accepted a job as a special education teacher in the sticks of Eastern North Carolina. I moved into a big house in a town that would make Nicholas Sparks' mouth water. I work 80 hour weeks, can't remember what I used to blog about so much, and live a pretty boring life in general. 

And I'm happy. Most importantly? I feel like I'm good at it. 

In my first week of teaching, my administration walked in and informed me that two of my students would be self-contained in my classroom all day. (Emphasis on alllllll daaaaaay.) They were so disruptive in the regular classroom that they genuinely prevented others from learning. One of them had previously been suspended for bringing a homemade weapon to school. 

And they were going to be mine. All. Day. Long. 

They were on a kindergarten reading level, which made me think I'd be a pain in the ass too if I was 13 and felt like school had been a waste of my time for the past seven years

But I didn't have time to feel bad for them: these boys needed to learn to read. And fast. I scoured our school library and home library for every kindergarten level book I could find. They resisted. They whined and complained and wasted my time. Some days, I only got 5 or so minutes of reading out of them by the time they'd settled down. 

And we read. We read the Pokey Little Puppy, Arthur Goes to the Dentist, and Home for a Bunny.  They asked me why they had to read baby books, a question that I had no better answer for than "stop talking, keep reading". 

The stories I'd heard about their behavior were no joke. There were days I screamed and cried and conferenced with their parents and wrote referrals to the office. (Sometimes all in one day.) I slammed books on my desk and threw my clipboard against the wall in anger. (Just the one time.) I called every teacher I knew and asked what I needed to do to make it through the day with my mental health intact. There were a few times the boys walked out of my classroom. There were a few times I walked out as well. 

While this was going on, the baby books were slowly turning into Little Bill books. Then, very slowly, we progressed into Magic Treehouse books. Chapter books. 

So there were days I yelled too much and when my patience was too thin. But I did something right. We ended the semester on a second grade reading level. We're nowhere close to where they need to be, but we're better off than when we started.  

Beat that, 2012. (And if you could bring me a boyfriend and a beach body, that would be great too.)

Haughty Resolutions for 2012

I happen to love New Year's Resolutions, mostly because mine are basically the same every year (which to me means having a smaller margin for failure). I like keeping them vague and general, like saying I want to make more money or lose weight. That way, if I find $5 on the sidewalk or get a stomach flu, I'm TOTALLY accomplishing my goals.

This year, I'm upping the ante only slightly. Also, it's possible that I'm getting more and more superficial as the years go by. (What, I have the job I want. Now it's time to focus on looks and gettin' me a man. Oh, and a big, fat paycheck.)

In 2012, I'm going to:

1. Get a beach body. (That means wearing a bikini with confidence. And no fat rolls when I sit down.)

2. Write a book proposal (Haughty by Nature on the NYT bestseller list?)

3. Get published in Skirt! (I love this magazine and it's always been a goal of mine. However, in order to get published I'm pretty sure you have to buckle down and write something, which is going to be the tough part for me.)

4. Have better work/life balance. (Also known as: Managing my time more efficiently so as to not be reduced to stressful tears on a twice-weekly basis.)

5. Blog 5x per week (between this gem and The Preppy Vegan. Wish me luck.)

How do you feel about resolutions? What are yours for 2012?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Best. News. Ever.

Ok maybe it's not the best news, like an end to world hunger or something. But The Real Housewives of Orange County are back for a 7th season starting February 7th! While they're no RHO Beverly Hills, the bleached hair, umbrella drinks, and catty drama will certainly bring me warmth and joy in the dead of winter.

Check out the preview:

And the cast discussing the upcoming season (Alexis Bellino wows with her usual wit and intelligence. You'll be wowed by her constant use of third grade words!)

Will you be watching? Who are your favorite Housewives?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Things to Do on Solo Car Trips got me.

I did, however pick up the audio version of Mary Kay Andrews' Savannah Breeze for my solo ride to D.C. this past weekend.

I'd always passed over her books, (thinking they were trashy chick lit) until my cousin Royar told me I had, had, HAD (she's very demanding) to read some of her stuff. 

The verdict? I loved it. Yes, it was like a bubble bath for my brain, but for four solid hours I didn't think about school, my students, or the nasty hangover I was still nursing 6 hours into my car ride. 

Have you read any Mary Kay Andrews? What are your favorites? 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

You're SO Pretty...

There are very few times in my life that I've felt, well, old. The first was when another teacher asked me why I suddenly seemed to be going grey. (Um...maybe because there's not a salon within 100 miles of this trailer park that I'd allow to touch a hair on my head? RUDE.)

The second (and most recent) was when I learned the hard way that I can no longer handle open bars like I used to.

Or at all.

Let me back up. This past weekend, my beautiful sorority sister and former roommate Mal married in the love of her life in a gorgeous winter wedding.

And I? Barfed allllll over a hotel room thanks to my lack of self-control at the open bar.

The gorgeous church
Mind you, on the night before the wedding, my friend Caroline and I had a looooooong discussion about how our friends should totally feel comfortable having open bars now, since all of us were "adults" and could "handle ourselves appropriately".

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Katie and I at the reception
I, the bridal attendant, handed out programs like a fiend at the ceremony. Pomegranate martini in hand, I shmoozed the guests into signing the guest book at the reception. 

Eventually the guest book was full. I danced, drank another martini, and did a couple of laps around the reception. 

Then I drank another martini. And another. There might have been a glass or three of champagne mixed in there somewhere. But hey, it's free, right?

This is when the merriment begins to get a little blurry. I seem to remember someone getting me outside to light sparklers and wish Mal and her new husband off, but I'm not sure how. I distinctly remember hearing someone hiss "Look. At. Ensley", but my eyes were having trouble focusing enough to figure out who it was. 

Eventually, we'd all made it back to the hotel, where I was sitting upright on a bed, silently chanting to myself "You will NOT throw up. You will NOT throw up." (Sort of like a scene out of Eat, Pray, Love, but with vodka coursing through my veins instead of spiritual wisdom.)

Then my friend Caroline blurted out "Does anyone else smell B.O? I smell B.O." To which our other friend decided that I, of everyone in the room, was the one who should check her underarm area for B.O. 

With my nose. 

I think you know where this is going. 

Visions of sweaty, disgusting armpits filled my mind. Before I could stop myself, I was sprinting to the bathroom. The last thing I remember is someone is calling housekeeping and saying "we have a situation...." before I pressed my cheek to the cool, sweet tile and descended into sweet darkness. 

But hey, I'm an adult now, right? I can handle myself. 

*Please do not let the contents of this blog post discourage anyone from inviting me to their open bar reception. The hangover was punishment enough.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Blogger's Block

I apologize for my posts being rather lame boring scarce as of late.

But in my defense...I swear I'm not doing anything interesting. Or funny.

I used to go on terrible dates/get traumatized by online dating. I used to play kickball, have wild weekend that resulted in recovery Mondays, and spend a few nights a week out at my local pub.

And now? I work. I get up on Sunday and work. I come home during the week and work. I work, take a break, and work some more. When I actually do give myself a respite, I either zone out in front of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills or....well, that's pretty much it.

I could write about that time that I uh, went to to the grocery store, but nothing really happened there. Or about how I read a book before bed. Or talked on the phone to my mom. When you're a first year teacher, these things feel like great accomplishments, but in terms of anecdotes you tell at parties...I'll have to pass.

So basically I have a big, nasty case of blogger's block. That, and the wild and exciting life I used to live is a thing of the past.

What's a small-town girl to do?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Teaching aka Flying by the Seat of Your Pants)

T. has been in some kind of mood this week. (His mom and I call it "preparing me for parenting".) Every answer is no, every response is rude, and every question is ignored.

Luckily, I know how to play the sassy teenager game. I invented the sassy teenager game. (Just ask my parents. They literally spent 1999-2006 wondering if this impulsive, tempermental teenager was switched at birth with their sweet, levelheaded child.)

Since I'm determined not to punish him, but instead help him learn to deal with his anger and frustration, I started reading a book called Positive Discipline in the Classroom. The first thing it says about classroom management is to give the student limited choices. (Both choices have to be something you would be happy to have the student do.)

This morning I went in armed and ready. This was a good thing, because T. immediately came in and started wreaking havoc. After I redirected him, he pouted, put his hood over his head, and sat down at his desk. I walked over  and quietly asked him "Would you rather get started on the computer or read a book?" I was calm. I was cool. I was Positive Discipline all the way.

Then he popped his head up and said "Neither."

Um....crap. Was there a part in the book that mentioned what the heck to do or say when the student says neither?!?!?

This is why I tell T. he needs to be a lawyer. People would literally throw their money at him in order to not have to argue with him anymore. (Chapel Hill law admissions, are you reading this?)

I sat there, stumped. I was too tired to raise my voice, so I just quietly said "Those are your choices. You go ahead and sit there until you're ready to get started."

A half hour went by, and then he magically got up and began his computer work without a word.

So I learned two lessons today:
1.) Sometimes being too tired to get angry is beneficial, and
2.) Patience pays off

Oh, and as for what the book says to do about an answer of "neither"? Tell them they can sit and cool down until they're ready to make a choice.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Nice to Meet You, I'm from New Jersey

This past Veteran's Day was a wonderful time to remember those brave souls who have served their country so selflessly. The three day weekend also meant I got to return to civilization. (Tall buildings! Stores that stay open past 5pm! Bar patrons that have all of their teeth!)

The crew (Why are they all so beautiful? It blows my mind.)
Among other deliriously wonderful activities of the weekend (sushi restaurants, Forever 21 shopping) was a chance to spend a night out on the town with some of my favorites. Our first stop of the night was Dandelion Market, where I was determined to meet a law student or trust fund baby who could support my lifestyle a little better than teaching does.

My first shot? Was a man who rubbed my faux fur vest up and down (rude) and asked me if it was real. When he leaned in closer to me to hear my answer, he knocked his head in to mine. (It hurt.) Strike one. 

Next, a man who appeared to be all of 21 came up to me, squeezed me on the rear end, (usually I request that you buy me a drink beforehand, sir) and said "What's up? I'm from New Jersey."

Ummm...I'm pretty sure there's NOTHING you could say to a Southern girl that would make her run faster. Not even the butt squeeze. 

Distraught, Shannon (a flirting expert) told me to walk up to a guy watching basketball, touch his arm, and ask him something about the game. It went a little something like this:

Me: Hey there, (arm touch) do you know if Chapel Hill won their game? (Bats eyelashes seductively.
Him: No. (Looks back at television.)

Strike three. Not only am I out, but that was my one chance at real socialization for the next month or so. Better luck next time? One can only hope. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Real Housewives of Bertie County

(Note: this should have been posted about a week ago. My apologies.)

I mentioned in a previous post about how terrible I am at coming up with Halloween costumes. I'm just not a fan of spending money on a costume that makes me look like a streetwalker, or worse, that I'll never wear again. 

Hence my roomie and my's decision to dress as our favorite Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Since I'm obsessed with Lisa Vander-fabulous, so I went with a tight Mad Men style dress and borrowed a neighbor's stuffed dog to fill the role of Jiggy. (Sadly, the 15 million dollar house wasn't included in the costume.) 

Kyle Richards, Mrs. White from Clue, and Lisa Vanderpump (with Jiggy)
The real Kyle and Lisa
I found out as we were arriving that we were going to be playing a "real-life" version of Clue, aka a murder mystery game. What happened to good old fashioned parties where one person drinks too much and the rest sit around and watch as they make a fool of themselves? Way less work on my part. (Unless I am the person in question.)

However, beggars can't be choosers when it comes to social events where I live. So I went. I played. I gave up halfway through participated reasonably well. (Though none of the players would accept my bribes, which would really have upped the excitement.) And guess what? I won.

The moral of the story? Bribery does get you somewhere. (Strong drinks help as well.)  Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Parents DO Just Understand (Sorry Fresh Prince)

Last week, I'd had about enough of T. I was over the backtalk, the teeth-sucking, and the whole ignoring me when I was talking thing. (Listen, dude. If I wanted to put up with this for barely any money I'd have my own kid. Now sit down. And STOP TALKKKIIIINNNNG. Please.)

So I called Dad. (His dad, not mine.) Dad's a truck driver and spends weeks at a time on the road. Luckily, he was home, so I explained what was going on (basically: your son won't quit actin' a fool) and asked him for his advice.

His answer? "I'll be down there tomorrow. Don't tell him I'm coming.)

I hung up the phone and wondered what I'd gotten myself into. Was he coming down with a belt to show T. a thing or two in front of the whole class? Was he going to fuss at me for not being able to keep his son in line? Were we all doomed? (Teaching middle school has done nothing to help ease my dramatic nature.)

And come down he did. I met him in the hallway, pleaded for my life shook his hand, and invited him into our classroom.

The look on T.'s face? P-R-I-C-E-L-E-S-S.

His dad didn't yell. He didn't fuss. He didn't scream. He simply sat down next to T. and listened quietly as we finished our reading lesson for the day. (T.'s hands were trembling every time he turned the page, which I thought was fair retribution for all the tooth-sucking that had occurred.)

He sat with us during lunch and gave T. and J. a heartfelt talk about the importance of education and the regrets he has about his own life. I was in awe. In 10 minutes, he beautifully summed up what I had been trying to get across to them for 10 weeks. 

Which made me realize something: every parent, no matter who they are or where they live, wants one simple thing: for their child to have a better, happier, and more burden-free life than they did. While none of them are perfect, they are simply doing the best that they can with the cards they've got, and praying that their children get dealt a better hand. I felt very lucky to spend my afternoon with this wise, slightly intimidating, caring man who brought one of my favorite people into the world.

Also, it didn't hurt that his mere presence in the classroom scared the crap out of T. I have a feeling things are about to get a whole lot easier in my classroom...

I'm Here for the (Barn) Party

After a long workday conference on Saturday, my new roomie dragged me off the couch, made me put my cowboy boots on, and took me to my first barn party. (Hers too. She's from Cincinnati.)

"If nothing else, it'll be a great blog post," she said.

She knows me too well. It's scary.

So we loaded the Bud Light in the backseat, drove 20 miles on back roads that wouldn't have been out of place in Deliverance, and knew we were in the right place when we saw the double wide with 20 jacked-up trucks parked out front.

This scene brought me back to a conversation I had in my classroom, in which one of my students asked "So, since you're white, does that mean you're a redneck?" to which another student shouted "I don't know many white people, but I KNOW she ain't no redneck." (Thanks, dude.)

After Roomie peeled my fingers from the door handle (I was a little, uh, reluctant), we walked around back to the "barn" party. I say "barn" because while I had imagined a large, red building piled with bales of hay, this was more like a detached garage with a disco ball and DJ. Every male was in head to toe camo, and I saw more than one lady mullet. (Let's just say I popped open a Bud Light pretty quickly.)

My first new friend was a guy named Worm. He couldn't tell me how he got that nickname, which was fine since I didn't really want to know anyways. Then I met Michelle, an older house painter who kept telling me over and over "But you're so PRETTY! My teachers were all old and blue-haired. You're just so young and PRETTY!" (I liked Michelle.)

Inside of the barn was a DJ spinning tunes by Vanilla Ice and Garth Brooks, two Confederate flags, and a sink full of....deer meat. Soaking. In front of everybody. At that point, I knew with 100% certainty that if I mentioned to anyone that I:
1) voted for Obama, or
2) was a vegan

we'd be running out of there to the tune of bullets whizzing by.

A farmer named Bob (not joking) told me that I have "two choices as to what to do on the weekends. Get drunk or leave." (I was kind of wishing for the second one.)

It's at these sort of gathering that I bring out my Southern drawl and make sure to mention that I went to an SEC school and that my mama's from West Virginia. (Somehow this gives me street cred with every redneck. Go figure.)

I actually ended up having a great time. By the time we left (well into the morning), I had all the marks of a great Saturday night:  smelled like bon fire, met a new friend named Worm, and had legs that hurt from dancing. Not bad, if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Little Things

When I signed on to teach special education in the sticks of North Carolina, I pictured myself as a 2011 version of Erin Gruwell. We'd play a game of "stand on the line", cry and bond, and spend the year discussing literature, world peace, and the human condition.

Strangely, things haven't really been that way.

At the beginning of the year, J. and T. came to me as thirteen year old boys barely reading on a kindergarten level. They'd mainly survived in school by actin' a fool, which distracted teachers by effectively shifting all of their energy onto the boys' behavior. These boys are in my classroom with me all day because our school district doesn't have an alternative school. I'm the alternative school.

Unfortunately for them, I'm the daughter of two Naval officers. And I quickly let them know that I wasn't having none of it. 

As of Friday? They're officially on a first grade reading level.

At first, that doesn't seem like much. They're still six grade levels behind where they need to be. But think of it this way:  J. and T. have grown more in the past eight weeks than they have in the past eight years of school.

So there you have it. Somewhere deep inside these angry, tough, pull-your-hair-out frustrating teenagers are incredibly intelligent, wildly funny, and caring boys that I'm blessed to spend my days with. No one makes me smile bigger or my blood boil faster. Our good days are very, very good and our bad days....well, use your imagination.

It's the tiny moments of our day that are the most special. Watching T. choose his own book from the shelf. J. and I laughing about a book together. The way they fist-pounded each other with pride after sharing the news that they'd both improved so quickly.

We may not be discussing fine literature, but soon we'll be reading second grade books. And that's just fine with me.

(Look for our movie in theaters May 2013.)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Proceed with Caution: TV Addict on the Loose

To break of the monotony of my life working from home most weekends, I subscribed to Netflix streaming. Little did I know that it would soon take over my life.

Not having the patience to sit an watch movie after movie, I started perusing the TV shows they had available. Since I like to remain about 2 years behind any trend, I chose to start watching Mad Men. (Which actually started winning Emmys four years ago, which shows you how culturally aware I am.)

And now? I'm addicted.

I write lesson plans and watch Mad Men. I laminate things for my classroom and watch Mad Men. I watch it as I put my makeup on in the morning and before I go to bed at night.

I. Can't. Help. Myself. I'm pretty sure I would get the shivers and cold sweats if I went more than a day without an episode. I'm pretty sure I'll be willing to trade in my first born child for a new episode once I reach the end of Season 4. (Too much? Thought so.)

It also makes me nostalgic for a New York that I never lived in: a New York that was glamorous and sexy, and full of rich men. (Seriously where WERE they while I was living there?) Sigh.

Eventually, I'll reach the last episode and have to wait until new ones air next year. Until know where to find me.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Jessica Simpson: All Knocked Up

While perusing fine literature online gossip rags, I notice that each has various articles about Jessica Simpson's "alleged" pregnancy.

Now, I'm not doctor, but I usually know a pregnant woman when I see one. And if this isn't pregnant, I don't know what is. 

The real question is: Does SHE know she's pregnant? (This is the same girl who thought buffalo wings were made of...buffalo.) We have to warn her!

Also, remember when Jess was just a sweet, virgin-until-marriage from Texas? Me either.


I have a lot of great qualities, but coming up with creative, funny, and classy Halloween costumes on my own isn't one of them. (No sexy nurse costumes for me, thankyouverymuch.)

In the past, I've been surrounded by a large group of girls who want to go out together on Halloween, and I usually end up being assigned a costume by default. This works for me.

Sophomore year of college, my BFF Ashley came up with the genius idea to cut holes in a tank top and go as Regina George:

Junior year, my dude BFF Jeremy and I graced everyone with our presence as Britney Spears and K. Fed:

(Because when you resemble someone who always looks like a hot mess, you just have to own it)

Once I moved to Charlotte, we always attended Gravedigger's Ball/Halloween Bar Crawl, so I needed something that I could get around in comfortably. (I.e.: I could be lazy and get away with it.)

In 2009, I chose to go as myself  Mrs. Tim Tebow:
Which wasn't that difficult and boys totally came up and talked to me to either tell me:
1) Mine was the greatest costume they've ever seen, or
2) Tim Tebow was the "gayest" man in the world. (Really?)


Along those lines, last year my faves and I decided to dress as "Fantasy Football", and wore jerseys, black jeggings, and cowboy boots. Anything that involves stretchy pants + not looking like a skank = Best costume EVER.

(Please take a moment of silence to commemorate how long my hair has gotten and
how much weight I've lost since this time last year.)
Aaaannnd once again, boys totally came up to talk to me to tell me:

1) Mine was the greatest costume they've ever seen, or
2) Tim Tebow was the "gayest" man in the world. (Really?)

I even met this cute law student from Florida, who had one of the best costumes I've ever seen:
(Did you hear me say LAW STUDENT? That's right.) We didn't fall in love, but I got a free drink out of the deal. Win-win. 

And now it's...2011. Instead of dancing to Ke$ha at Gravedigger's Ball, I'll be at a party in Windsor, NC. (I use the term "party" loosely here, there will probably be about 10 people there. That's a "get-together".) Did I mention I have no costume? Here are the front runners (the only catch is that any costume items must be available at the Wal-Mart in Elizabeth City):

1. Patti Stanger from Millionare Matchmaker

All I'd have to do is curl my hair, hitch up my skirt, and yell at people. Halloween by Bravo.

2. Nicki Minaj

Colorful wig, colorful leggings, and butt padding and I'd be ready to go. 

3. Lisa Vanderpump from RHOBH

Tight dress, little dog, and having to talk in a British accent all night? Sign me up. 

4. Kate Middleton

Um, besides the fact that I would need to lose 20 lbs in the next 12 hours, I think I could by myself a big fake sapphire and roll with it. 

Which one would you pick?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Life Checklist: The Year All of Your Friends Get Engaged

In every woman's life, there are certain milestones that mark your progress along the way: your first kiss, graduation, first "big girl" job, and The Year All of Your Friends Get Engaged.

2011? Is the year I cross the last one off the list.

In the four short months since I left the Queen City, three (yes three) of my besties have gotten engaged.

(Sidenote: I would like to go on the record saying that each of these beautiful women has found a great man with whom they want to spend the rest of their lives with, and for that I'm incredibly happy. Plus, they all got great pieces of jewelry, which excites me even more.)

So now I'm stuck with the same problem that any 20 something living in the middle of nowhere can relate to: I have all these weddings to attend, and wouldn't be able to find a date if I tried. (Ok, that's an exaggeration. I'm sure if I went muddin' this Saturday I could find someone to ask, but that's about as likely to happen as me shooting the prize buck of the season with a homemade bow and arrow.)

Don't get me wrong: I love weddings. (Well, actually I just love parties in which the booze is on someone else's tab.) But how can all of these people be getting married when I can't even manage to find someone to go on a second date with?

I have to remind myself what a gift it is that I wake up each morning with only myself to please. Deep down, there's a part of me that has to prove to myself that I can make it on my own before I depend on someone else.

But still-if you know any great single guys, let me know. I've got three Plus Ones to fill.

Alternate titles for this post:
All Dressed Up with No Date to Go
My Cats Are My Friends
I'm Really Into My Career Right Now
Why Doesn't Anyone Love Me

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

We've Become Those People

I used to pride myself on my penchant for work life balance. Work was work, and I had plenty at home to keep me occupied, refreshed, and entertained.

That was before I started teaching.

Now work is work and home is work. I work at night and I work on the weekends. When I get together with my friends, we talk about work.


I never wanted to be one of "those people", the ones who had no lives outside of what they did for a living, but these days I don't have much of a choice. It's all I can do to keep my head above water. (Also, no one else here watches Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. So our common interests are limited.)

What's a (working) girl to do?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Meet the Parents

Never mind that all most of my friends are getting engaged. Last week, I got the chance to introduce my parents to the most important (middle school) men in my life: J. and T. 

My parents had come into town to visit me, and seeing as how they're retired and have diddly-squat to do all day, agreed to come in and help me out in my classroom. (How kind of them. Really.)

But this wasn't just any old visit. Since they've chosen to spend their retirement traveling on a sailboat, I figured we could incorporate some social studies and geography in there somewhere. That, and using the fact they both used to be in the military to scare the living daylights out of the boys.  

So we prepped. I had the boys practice shaking my hand, looking me in the eye, and introducing themselves. I instructed them that the only correct reply to questions contained ma'am or sir. I also had them prepare questions, which I had relatively low expectations for. I mean, these kids wouldn't really be able to grasp the concept of living on a boat, right? 

Wrong. Their questions were awesome, and included the following:

How do you get fresh water?
How do you decide where you're going to travel?
What made you want to live on a boat in the first place?
When you were my age, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I would like to take full credit for their intelligent journalism, but I can't. It's all them. 

An amazing transformation happened as soon as my parents walked in the door: the two boys who had just gotten in trouble for "hiding" their worksheets in the trash can transformed into shy, tongue-tied thirteen year olds who looked genuinely intimidated by my parents. 

Minus the fact that my parents showed them embarrassing pictures of me (not unlike how they act when they meet a boyfriend for the first time), everything was perfect. I was proud of my boys, proud of my parents, and satisfied with myself for getting their behavior under control enough so that we could learn something new together. 

And yes, maybe T. got a referral later for stealing some kid's pencil in Spanish class. But Rome wasn't built a day, right? 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Rest In Peace

A colleague of mine passed away a few hours ago. While more of an acquaintance than a friend,  we spent a lot of time together during training this summer, where she impressed me with her intelligence, wit, and, and tenacity in the fact of the cancer she was fighting.

And now she's gone.

Having people pass away is often the wake-up call that we need in order to rise above the petty annoyances of everyday life and focus on the big picture. I found that particularly difficult today, at the end of a long work week. All I could think of was: how can I live life to the fullest when I work 70+ hours a week and barely have time to eat or sleep? How can I live joyfully when I can barely get my students to speak to me (and each other) respectfully?

But maybe living life to the fullest isn't about how much free time we have or how many vacations we take. Instead, maybe it's a decision we have to make each day to be our best self, to find the value and worth in every person we meet, and to ease each other's burdens along the way.

Cynthia, I was glad to know you. The time you spent with us was short, but your infectious optimism and inherent belief in the worth of your students will live on.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ms. G: 7th Grade Relationship Guru?

One thing they don't tell you about teaching is that emotionally charged, hormonal lives of preteens can and will set the tone for your day. When things are good, they are very, very good, and when they're bad? Eh, it's middle school.

I knew something was wrong when T. moped into the classroom this morning and refused to speak to me. I'll tolerate a lot of behaviors, but failing to greet me with a "Good morning Ms. G" is not one of them.  (When it's 8 am and I've already been up for three hours, I'm really just not in the mood for rude.)

I let him know that I would be ready to speak to him once he'd had a minute to gather his thoughts. He sat down, and I piddled around the classroom and pretended he wasn't there. I straightened papers. I sent emails. And the entire time I secretly wondered: What if he just never speaks again? 

Who was I kidding? His Marcel Marceau impression barely lasted before I heard:

"Ms. G, did you know Tiara broke up with me?"

Hmmm....let's see. I spent most of yesterday trying to teach you how to add negative numbers, identify vowel blends, stop using double negatives, and improve your character in general. Then I went home, ate a disgusting microwaved dinner, wrote lessons plans, and fell into bed around midnight.

Amazingly enough during that time? I hadn't heard that Tiara broke up with you!

I told him I was sorry, that he could write about it in his journal if he needed, but I still expected him to get to work. (He spent the rest of the day with a tissue pressed against his face saying "My eyes hurt, my eyes hurt".)

So while adulthood has some drawbacks, it has its benefits as well. Because while the dating world may be tough, at least I'm not dating in middle school. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Country as Cornbread

Back in Charlotte, my weekends were usually a whirlwind of shopping, lunches out, babysitting, walks through Myers Park, and nights out on the town. I rolled into school every Monday tired, happy, and full of (what I thought were) hilarious stories.

Then I moved to Small Town, USA.

Creepy van behind me? Check.

Here is what my Saturdays now consist of:

6:00 am: Wake up sans alarm. Roll over and attempt to go back to sleep.

6:05 am: Check the clock.

6:08 am: Check the clock.

6:11 am: Resign yourself to the fact that, due to your 5:00 am wake up calls Monday-Friday, sleeping in until 6:00 is doing alright.

6:15 - 8:00 am: Make vegan pancakes, clean up kitchen, straighten couch cushions, sweep floor, make grocery list for the week.

8:02 am: Realize that it's only 8:02 am and you have already accomplished a Saturday's worth of chores. Bang head against wall.

9:58 am: Have new friend pick you up to take you to the town auction, which, based on the excitement it seems to generate, will be quite the attraction.

11:00 am: Realize you are in a room full of feathered bangs, flannel shirts, and trucks being auctioned off for $600.

11:01 am: Question life choices.

1:17 pm: Take a stroll with your roommates through the town's Annual Peanut Festival, which doesn't seem to actually contain any peanuts (perhaps because of allergies?) but rather consists of a bouncy house and a lemonade stand.

1:21 pm: Question life choices. Weep silently to self.

5:01 pm: Cocktail hour. (Maybe life here isn't so bad?)

8:09 pm: Roommate says something about "wasting our youth" and talks you into walking downtown to the one and only restaurant/bar that's still open so that at least you can get out of the house.

8:21 pm: Man with a puppy in his arms walks by the restaurant window and shows you a sign that says "DO YOU WANT THIS PUPPY?" Decide you need more wine, but not a puppy.

8:44 pm: Get called hot by an attractive young local who then tells you he's "country as cornbread".

8:44 part 2: Sigh.

9:01 pm: Call it a night.

If this were a Nicholas Sparks novel, a young but sensitive fireman would be about to move into town and sweep me off my feet. I'll keep my fingers crossed...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Straight From the Mouths of Babes

Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater.  
~Gail Godwin

A teaching degree should really require some theater classes. (Or perhaps I should start my own class entitled Teaching as Theater.) Luckily for my students, I love drama as much as Lindsay Lohan loves being on house arrest. Take this script (an excerpt from my actual classroom this week) as proof. 

Scene: Tuesday afternoon, Ms. G's classroom. Just by the very act of existing (much less trying to teach him something), Ms. G is annoying her student T. Every (simple) request is met with an "Oh my GAWD!" or "Ms. G, you 'bout to work me to DEATH!", followed by a dramatic sigh,  throwing down of a pencil, etc. Since it is just Ms. G and two students in her classroom, she decides to give them a taste of their own medicine. 

Ms. G: Let's play a little game. It's called Who Am I? I'll act something out and you guess who I am. 

Ms. G proceeds to take T.'s baseball cap off his desk and buckle it around her belt buckle like all the 7th grade guys do. She then pushes in her chair while sighing dramatically and rolling her eyes. 

Ms. G (as T.) :  DAAAAAAAAANG Ms. G! You's about to work me to DEATH! I'm 'bout to get on up outta here. (Sucks teeth.) DAAAAAAAANG. Why I gotta do all this work anyways? Can I go home? I wanna go home. DAAAAAAAANG. (Walks across the room, using the trash can like a basketball hoop to throw away the worksheet that was in her hand.) Yo, J.! Did you see that? DAAAAANG Ms. G! You be gettin' on my nerves real bad. DAAAANG.

At this point, Ms. G pauses, and turns around. 

The two boys stare at her silently, eyes wide. They slowly raise their hands from where they are frozen on their desks, and begin to applaud. 

Ms. G: (taking a bow) Thank you, thank you very much. 

(Yes, I really did this, and yes, they applauded. Since then, the teeth-sucking and DAAAAAANG-shouting have been drastically reduced. Wouldn't YOU take me Teaching as Theater class? )

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Rapper's Muse

My two boys and I eat lunch together in my classroom every day. It's a lightning-fast 20 minutes that I usually spend telling J. he cannot, in fact, have all of T.'s chicken nuggets, even T. is willing to trade for them. 

(FYI: I still am unable to stop J. from continuously shouting "Hey T.! can I get some of those? Some of them nuggets? Hey T.! Can I get some of those? Some of them nuggets?" over and over  until my eardrums are about to bleed.)

They usually spend about half of the twenty minute time period making gagging noises and pretending to vomit over whatever I've brought for lunch, since it:

1. Usually contains vegetables of some sort, and
2. Isn't fried. 

I ignore them (it's become an art form, let me tell you), but yesterday they decided they needed a new medium to get their point across: a rap song. 

It went a  little something like this:

Ms. G is a nice teacher
She eats nasty stuff for lunch
Spinach, cabbage, spinach, cabbage...

Which, while lacking in general beat and lyrical quality, was too funny not to laugh at. I look forward to starring in the music video. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pleasure

There's a quote in Eat, Pray, Love (my favorite book of. all. time.) in which an Italian man tells Liz Gilbert that Americans don't know anything about the pursuit of pleasure. According to this wise sage of a European, we get burnt out working all week and then spend the weekend in our pajamas staring at the television.

Which, sadly to say, is not too far from my truth these days.

I always turned my nose up at teachers that worked all night when they went home and spent all weekend doing nothing but classroom preparation.

Now I? Am that teacher.

I leave my house at 6:30, get to school by 7, and have an hour before students strut their way into my room. And while an hour seems like a good amount of prep time, it goes by pretty quickly when you spend the majority of it sobbing next to your printer and shouting "Why? WHY WON'T YOU PRINT?"

Then there are 7 to 8 hours in which I'm responsible for the education of teenagers. I blab on incessantly, they fill out some worksheets, and it's basically all a huge blur. By this time, it's three o'clock and I haven't eaten or gone to the bathroom since before I walked out of my front door. I putz around my room, attempt to plan for the next day, and by the time I think to look at the clock, it's 5pm.

This is where the problem lies. In my post-work hours, I used to go for walks, meet up with friends, and cook beautiful dinners that I documented on The Preppy Vegan. Now it's all I can do to heat a can of soup on the stove before I glaze over and stare open-mouthed at the TV for an hour. Tonight I was so out of it that I actually resorted to watching the Rachel Zoe Project, which, if you haven't been watching, is just as boring this season as it was 3 or 4 seasons ago when it started.

Next week, I've made a promise to myself to leave by 4:30 everyday so that I can do things for myself, like exercise. Other than that, any ideas to prevent burnout other than ceasing all viewing of Rachel Zoe? How can I make time for myself and still get my work done?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Oh You Fancy, Huh?

I'll admit teaching isn't the most fashion forward career. While we're reminded at every staff meeting to "look as professional as possible" it seems that for some it just may not be possible. (Do the words "Christmas sweaters" and "cropped pants" bring up horrible memories for others as well?)

Also, teaching in a school with uniforms is makes one falsely overconfident, since no matter what you wear you'll definitely be in something cuter that uniforms. *shudder*

So I'm determined not to let the low fashion expectations of others bring me down. I'm planning on bringing a little Jackie O. into this little ol' place. My first stop?, where I'm determined to use the paycheck that I have no time to spend. The best find:

Caroline dress, $69.99 (sale)
Now that I'm teaching middle school instead of kindergarten, I've decided that it may be appropriate for heels to find their way into my wardrobe rotation. Plus, the clickity-clack of heels on linoleum saves me from having to say "Please stop talking, because I am right behind you."

Natch, Target has come through for me with some awesome 2.5", non-leather finds, like the Euna heel....

in leopard....

...and brown.
You may ask why I need a pair in every color, to which I would have to treat you like one of my students and demand that you put your hand down and stop asking so many questions.

I think my ploy to become Best Dressed Teacher of the Year is working, since my other extremely tall and intimidating student T. came up to me the other day, twirled my ponytail in a circle, and said "Ms. G, I seen you walking down the hall in that dress lookin' all faaaancy."

Mission. Accomplished. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I Got Your Back, Yo

One of my favorite students is a big, linebacker sized boy named J. He's big, he's intimidating, and he's mean. Last year, he was suspended for bringing a weapon to school that he'd made out of scissor blades.

So, when I say "favorite" I don't want you to think that it's because he shows up for class, homework in hand, ready and eager to learn.

Instead, he makes me earn my measly paycheck. I have to constantly remind him that he should be quiet, sitting down, and focused instead of whatever else he tends to be doing. (Usually wasting time or getting his friends riled up.) I'd heard a lot of stories about him and his behavior before he ever stepped foot in my classroom, but I chose to turn a deaf ear. I wanted to give him a fresh start, and made a deal that I wouldn't yell at him if he wouldn't make me ask enough times to have to yell.

But still. After years of being behind, he's made wasting time at school a fine art. His behavior is making progress, but it's slow. Or so I thought.

Yesterday, after I reminded someone that, actually we weren't writing notes in class and were actually trying to learn something, I got an eye roll and dramatic sigh. (First of all, I perfected the eye roll and dramatic sigh, honey. Do not git loud wit me.) I chose to ignore her reaction, but as soon as I'd turned my back, I heard J. lean across his desk and whisper threateningly: Do NOT disrespect my teacher. 

I tried to hide my smile, but I couldn't. The toughest kid in school has my back. I think I'm going to be alright.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

You Ain't Got No Boyfriend?

Today was my first real day of teaching. Since the first week of school mostly involved assessments, going over the rules, etc., today was the first day in which I took center stage.

I've quickly that teaching itself is more of a performance art than anything else. (I now feel great camaraderie with Broadway actors who drag themselves off the stage after doing two shows a day on the weekends.)

So I create vivid Powerpoints. I make jokes. I'm working the audience, they're engaged, they're excited. (Well, excited as 7th graders can be about most things.) We're learning, everyone's quiet, and I keep having to pinch myself because hey, this is fun!

And then, like magic, a hand raises! All eyes dart to my student who is obviously paying SUCH good attention that he needs more information for his insatiable thirst for learning.

So I call on him. Big mistake. Huge.

"So, Ms. G. You gotta husband?"

Nope. No husband.

"You ain't got no boyfriend?"

Nope. Ain't got no boyfriend. 

"You gotta lotta girly-friends?"

This gives me pause. Are they inquiring about my sexual orientation or my social status? So I ask:
"Are you asking me if I have a lot of girlfriends?"

"Yea, yea. Those. You got some?"

To which I have to say Do I seem like someone who doesn't have any friends? Huh? HUH?

"Naw, naw Ms. G. Calm down. We was just wondering."

And just like that, they turned back to their lesson their rapid-fire questioning about my personal life was no longer interesting.

I neglected to mention to them that I almost bought a cat last week. Too soon? I think yes.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Please Excuse My Minor Meltdown

Picture this: You work a reasonably lengthy day at your middle school teaching job, drive home on 20 miles of country roads, stop at the Black Rock Cafe for gas, get honked at by a trucker, and then get home. You and your roommates then proceed to sit and stare at each other without the slightest clue of how to spend your evening.

Because there is nothing to do. You live in the middle of nowhere.

Oh, and I should mention that, in this scenario, you're not you, you're me. (In the middle of nowhere.)

In my defense, I'm not difficult to entertain. I go for long walks, I read everything I can get my hands on (including the Sunday New York Times...brush your shoulders off), enjoy a few Housewives episodes now and then, and partake in an occasional wine night out on the back porch.

But, in small town America (or at least the one I live in), there still seem to be an inordinate number of hours in a day. Back in Charlotte, I would have killed for more time to fit in all of the fun and fabulous things on my to-do list. These days? I try to force myself to fall asleep at 8pm because, hey, at least I'll be bright eyed and bushy tailed for the next day that consists of...exactly the same thing.

And don't get me started on the fact that, in a town of 5,000 people, none seem to be unmarried males in the 25-35 age bracket, bringing up the distinct possibility that I will die old and alone in a nursing home, scented with urine and surrounded by pictures of my cats.

I used to live in New York. I used to meet friends in Charlotte to shop, lunch, and pop over to the Chanel exhibit like it was nothing. Now I drive 30 minutes to get to a Wal-Mart and go to bed at 8pm.

Sigh. At least there's a liquor store.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Plight of the Hummingbirds

One of the many new wonderful things about my new small town life is our sprawling Southern porch complete with ceiling fans, rocking chairs, and a view of our (future) garden. It also came with large, Southern mosquitos, which really put a damper on our near-constant happy hours we were planning on having. My roommate kindly bought us a brand-spanking new hummingbird feeder in the hopes that the birds would eat annoying insects while also beautifying our porch.  She filled it with the nectar that smelled suspiciously like cherry Kool-Aid, I did a death-defying reach on a stool to hang it from the roof, and then we sat back and waited for our quick-winged friends to arrive by the droves. 

We waited. And waited. And waited. No hummingbirds.

As we drank our coffee in the mornings, we would go over all of the possibilities. Did we not mix the right proportions of nectar and water? Was the feeder too high? Too close to the door? Was our feeder just not good enough? Who did these hummingbirds think they were, anyways?

Then, it dawned on me: I’m now talking about hummingbirds the same way I used to talk about guys.

Welcome to small town life.

Finally, I found the problem: ants. Everywhere. Ants on the porch, on our rocking chairs, and especially, ants in the hummingbird feeder. In their greed, they had marched down the chain that the feeder was hanging on, down the metal sides, and plunged into the depths of the syrupy sweet nectar. (There are probably worse ways to go, right?) Now, however, I not only had ants practically crawling all over me, but their dead carcasses were now floating in the nectar. To this, I had two thoughts:

1)  1. No wonder we don’t have any hummingbirds, and
2  2.What kind of idiot ant drinks nectar which clearly has the dead bodies of his friends floating in it?

Being a teacher on summer vacation and all, I had plenty of time to ponder these questions. My solution? Sweep the porch, clean out the feeder, and walk myself down to the hardware store to buy ant motels. After all of that, we no longer have ants.

Another thing we don’t have? Hummingbirds.


Yes, I am aware that I’m living the life of a 68 year old retired woman. I can recall a time (I think it was only a few weeks ago) where I barely had a free minute in my day between my workout classes at the Y, meeting friends for lunch (and maybe a glass of wine) and bopping around the Chanel exhibit with Keefer. My bustling days in New York City seem long behind me when I think of my life now. 

But I don’t have time to think about that. I’ve got hummingbirds to find.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The House on the Corner of Middle and Nowhere

The new digs
Before you start fussing at how long it's been since I blogged (waaaaay too long), look at my cute new house in Eastern North Carolina! Doesn't look straight out of Southern Living? (Just say yes.)

It turns out that moving as an adult (aka with furniture) takes a lot more energy (and money) than moving as the nomadic collegiate that I once was. Gone are the days of packing up college T-shirts and bedding into the trunk of my car; instead I'm now renting 16 ft budget trucks and finagling couches into them. (Seriously. I don't know how we got that thing downstairs.)

The old closet...wonk wonk.

And, for the first time in my adult life, I'm living in a house. No more cramped apartments for me. Though it is a bit disconcerting when the furniture that filled up your apartment barely begins to make a dent in your cavernous new home. I'm telling myself that this justifies going to antique stores. (Right?!?)

And our house isn't actually in the middle of nowhere, it's in a cute little coastal town where I can walk everywhere: the hardware store, the movie theater, the library, and the bar. What more does one need?

And just like any small-town novel, the assortment of quirky characters is becomes better by the day. There's Erienne, our thirteen year old neighbor-turned-tour guide, who marched us around town on our second day to show us the sights. Turns out? She knows everyone. Not only does she volunteer at the gift shop, she also holds bake sales, raises money for the local Humane Society, and makes beaded jewelry that everyone woman in town seems to own. If I'd been that cool at thirteen I'm pretty sure I'd be on my way to being President right now. Or at least famous.

Then there's Stella, the sassy 50 year old divorcee who, like me, moved here from Charlotte. She works at the local office supply store and within five minutes had informed us that all the single men in town were either seventeen or seventy, so not to get our hopes up.

Which seems to be the second thing that residents tell us, right after "Welcome to Edenton!". Our realtor told us "If you're looking for a husband, you moved to the wrong town." A nice old woman walking down the street asked if we were the new teachers in town, and then matter of factly told us there weren't any men for us.

I'm not quite sure how they expect us to respond. Should we throw ourselves on the ground like a three year old in a temper tantrum? Jump up and down while shouting "Hooray! Love isn't real anyway!"?

Perhaps this means I'll have to dive back into online dating.

Dear. Lord.

So, I'll hope you'll forgive my month long sabbatical, but rest assured: I'm back. (Cue the theme song from Green Acres.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Facebook Envy: Totally Legit

I need to stay away from Facebook. And magazines. Earlier this spring, CBS news had a story about Facebook envy: a condition in which users feel dejected after seeing happy updates from friends.

Though I laughed at the time, I'm here to tell you shocking news.

It's real, ya'll

As a 25 year old sitting in her dorm room and writing this, it's downright depressing to stalk my 1,405 "friends" and see how much fun everyone is having this summer. Let me put it this way:

Your summer? Pools, lakes, barbeques, beer, vacations, adventures, bikinis

My summer? Summer school, dining hall food, lesson planning, dorm living, beer, 110 degree heat indexes, occasional (vegetarian!) barbeques.

I guess I shouldn't complain as long as there's beer. But still.

After I took my Facebook hiatus, I somehow decided it was a good choice to buy the July issue of Glamour. Sure, it was full of informative articles, if you're doing any of the aforementioned "fun" summer activities. I don't really need articles about getting safe sun, since I'm never really outdoors, but it serves as a painful reminder that there are people doing things that involve prolonged sun exposure. I need articles like "How to Apply Makeup in Florescent Light" and "Easy Hairdos When You Haven't Had Hot Water Since Thursday", but I have a feeling that most people reading Glamour aren't in the same boat.

Six more days until I'm back in North Carolina and my own bed. Let the countdown begin...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Delta Dawn

For real ya'll: Sorry about my radio silence for the past week or so. Our days at Institute go a little something like this:

Sorry about the lens flare-I took this through the window of the bus

5:00 am: Alarm goes off

5:01: Weep quietly into pillow and mentally calculate how many more hours until you can get back into bed

5:30 am: Wait in line with 800 of your closest friends to get into the dining hall

5:31 am: Wonder if it's actually possible to be eaten alive by mosquitos/do they have West Nile virus down here?

5:31-5:39: Swat, swat, swat. 

5:40 am: Walk into mosquito-free haven of the dining hall

5:41 am: See the sign on the coffee machine that says "Out of Order". 

5:41 part 2: Weep silently. 

5:45: Elbow some skinny b out of the way so that you can get the last bowl of Raisin Bran. 

5:50 am: Hoover through a bowl of fruit and toast with peanut butter, taking your last bite as you put your dish in the dishwashing bin. 

5:55 am: Go through the lunch line, where the lunch ladies are watching you to make sure you only take one salad, bag of carrot sticks, and apple. (Do people actually want more than one bag of carrot sticks? I'd be happy to give them mine. Then I wouldn't have to feel bad for taking a bag of tricks. Good karma has no calories. Right? RIGHT?)

6:05 am: Board the bus headed for the elementary school you're teaching at for the summer. Get mocked about "finding the time" to read books for pleasure. Bat one back about how attractive it is to take a nap and drool on the bus seat. (Not. Attractive.)

And that's just the first HOUR. Woof. Ending the achievement gap ain't no easy task, ya'll!

Monday, June 20, 2011

MIA All the Way

Sorry about being all MIA, ya'll. Our days here at training literally begin at 5am and end somewhere are 9pm, which leaves little time for blogging (or unabashedly mocking others, which is hard enough). 

I'll post about my great adventures tomorrow, but for now go check out The Preppy Vegan for a great guest post by Jana at Seashells and Southern Belles

Catch up with you soon!

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