Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Losing the Best

There's something wrong with a system that is losing its best and brightest to burnout.  I'm talking about the education system.

In all my years of teaching (20), I have never, repeat never, seen teachers so discouraged, disheartened, and downtrodden.  This seems to have hit young teachers especially hard.  It is ironic, as these are the teachers that politicians speak of as the type of teachers necessary to save our (supposedly) terrible educational system in the United States.
Well, I have some news for those politicians.  Nobody wants to stay in teaching anymore.  And especially, talented, creative, driven young individuals.

Can you imagine a job where you were complained about, judged, and yelled at on a daily basis?  Where your clients were lazy, unmotivated, and enabled people who you were expected to get to pass the end of year test?  Where you were being economically stressed by budget cuts, insurance costs rising, necessary supplies being bought out of your own pocket, supplements for having an advanced degree taken away, bonus money for meeting yearly goals taken away?  Where you were told to be "professional and positive and be happy you have a job" but you weren't given the respect that a professional deserves?

This is what is happening to teachers.

All the power is being taken away from us.  We used to be allowed to have kids miss recess if they hadn't done homework.  After all, that seemed to be a logical consequence:  you don't do your work, you don't get to play.  But no!  No longer can we do that.  Kids have to have their 30 minutes of daily physical activity.  So we got creative, as teachers do.  We started assigning walking laps as a consequence.  The students still got their physical activity, but they were not allowed to play if they hadn't done their work.  Fair enough.  But no!  We can no longer even do that.  So what consequence do we have if children do not do their classwork or homework or are disruptive in our classrooms?  Not much.  But that's okay, according to the powers that be.  We want little Susie to be physically active and to not view exercise as a punishment.  Barf!

This country has gone overboard with pinning all the evils of society of our education system.  Teachers are accountable for everything, from bringing non-English speakers up to grade level in reading and math (and don't forget that the end of year test is in English!) to providing character education in the classroom to including globalization studies as part of the curriculum. 

It's just ridiculous.

And that, my friends, is my analysis on why we are rapidly losing our future generation of career teachers.  It's very, very sad and breaks my heart, but I have to say I can't blame them. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Happy Birthday Steve

(originally published on Friday, May 6, 2011)

 I lost a friend a year ago.
His name was Steve.  We were high school acquaintances.  Thanks to Facebook we became good buddies.  We chatted online or on the phone almost every day.  Have you ever had a new friend who you instantly connected with?  That was how it was with Steve.  I felt like I had gained another brother, and we joked about how we were twins separated at birth and we had just figured it out.  We liked so many of the same things and had a lot of the same beliefs and values.  We would think the same thing at the same time and began finishing each other's sentences.
About the beginning of May last year, I began to avoid Steve.  I am ashamed to admit it now, but I did.  I was busy with school and with my own life, and frankly, I was growing weary of Steve's daily dose of drama.  I kept urging him to cut the drama from his life, but it wasn't happening.  You know how it is when a friend makes the same mistake over and over, and you know he is headed for disaster, and you try to help, but it doesn't work?  That's what was going on.  And I was tired and needed a little time-out.
A few days before he died, I did get a chance to chat with him again.  He was giving me crap about how I hadn't been around, so I gave it right back to him.  I knew he had been having personal problems, so I made the comment "Oh, I'm just checking in with you to make sure no one has offed you yet."  He gave a half-hearted laugh.  This off-the-cuff comment would come back to haunt me.
Monday, May 10 was like any other day at school and home.  That evening, I turned on my laptop and went to Facebook.  Weird--I had several messages in my inbox.  I opened one up, and it gave me the news.  Steve Bryie had passed away over the weekend.  I went numb and cold, and kept repeating Oh my God, Oh my God.  I ran to Byron and told him the news.  I cried.  I called a couple of our mutual friends.  None of us could believe it.  It was just so strange.  He was here, he was fine, and now he was gone.  Gone.  I called his phone just hoping it was a mistake and got his voice mail.  I checked to see if he was online--not anymore.  I was absolutely in denial.
Fortunately, I was able to go home for his funeral.  It helped me get past the denial.  I met his mom, a very lovely woman, his sweet sister, and his beautiful daughters.  I found out he had died from a blow to the head when he fell down the stairs at his house.
A year later, I still think about him.  I think what bothers me the most are the questions I still have about his death.  Was he alone that night at home when he fell down the stairs?  Was it purely an accident?  Did he suffer before he died?  He had a confrontation with a family member of his married girlfriend about a week earlier.  Did that have anything to do with his death?
I know answers to my questions won't bring him back.  I know that.  And I know I'm not the only one who still misses him.  I can't imagine the agony his mom lives with and his poor daughters who are growing up without their dad.  It's so sad.  But I know what Steve would say to me.  He would say, "Hey Dumbass, stop whining.  You'll see me again one day, and we'll have those beers together then."  So until then, RIP my friend, RIP.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Best Friends for Life, Part 2 ("Hard to Say I'm Sorry")

My blog readers know that back in July I wrote an entry about my relationship with my best girlfriend.  At that time, I was confident we would be best friends forever.  Now, I am not so sure.  What happened?  I'm quite sure you are wondering.  Well, never fear, I will certainly tell you!

It started on that July day when she called to ask my advice about a certain man.  At the time, I didn't think too much about it.  I just figured it was a temporary insanity type of thing.  You see, this man she had met while she was in vacation in another country.  And he wasn't a fellow tourist--he actually resided there.  So, I assumed my BF, who is full of wisdom, intelligence, and common sense, would realize that this was a no-win situation.  Unfortunately, she did not and persisted in her fantasy.

Being the good best friend that I am, I sent her an e-mail that expressed my concern about her getting involved in a relationship with a man that she barely knew that lived in another country.  Let me just say here that I had the BEST INTENTIONS in writing this e-mail.  I love my best friend.  I am very loyal to my friends and protective of people that I love.  The thought of her being used or getting hurt was not something I wanted to risk.  So, I expressed my concerns to her. 

She responded to me in a way that was very hurtful.  Basically, her message to me was that I do not have good judgment in relationships.  I mean, look at all the past experiences I have had where I have been stupid, naive, or just plain crazy.  It was a very hurtful e-mail to receive and brought up a lot of old wounds.  The e-mail felt mean-spirited.

I didn't respond right away.  My first reaction was to lash out in anger and hurt, but I resisted.  Then, I wanted to be sarcastic and mean, but I resisted that impulse as well.  Finally, I decided to be truthful and open about how I felt, so I sent a reply that did just that.

I soon got a reply e-mail.  I was nervous to open it, but then I thought, "Surely she will realize I was being a loving, caring friend when I wrote to her, and she was not that way in return, so she will apologize."  Wrong!  Here is what I got in return:  Dear Kim, I'm sorry if referencing your past experiences caused you distress.  My intent was only to understand why you would think it necessary to tell me how to manage my own relationships instead of being supportive and just encouraging me to consider the pros and cons.  I think if you are going to tell others what to do with their relationships, you should expect the conversation to sometimes go both ways.  


I didn't respond, and at this time I'm not planning on responding.  Obviously she doesn't get that I wrote to her out of love and concern.  She also doesn't get that her reply message to me was very hurtful, and she doesn't think she did anything wrong.

At this point, I'm wondering if continuing in this relationship is worth it.  I hate to drop a friend after 34 years.  But is it worth it to turn the other cheek and go on?  Would this be a case of forgiving someone, or would it be a case of allowing someone to trample my feelings?  I just don't know.  Readers (and most of you are my friends as well), what should I do?  What would you do?  And why is it so hard for people to say three simple words:  I am sorry.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Doing It For The Kids

Recently I've been doing a lot of thinking about my job.  Most of you know I'm a teacher.  I've been wondering when it will get to the point when it is no longer worth it to me to be stressed all the time except for two months in the summer.  It's funny when you talk to people about it.  They say things like "Well, people in the private sector aren't getting raises either" or "It's tough all over" or "Health benefits are being cut for everyone" or "Be lucky you have a job and a paycheck."  I do think about all of those things and realize I am lucky to be employed, but I wonder if everyone realizes the toll that is taken on teachers all the time--especially at a time of national budget crises.

This is what I mean by the toll:  what other job does not give you the freedom to go to the bathroom whenever you need to?  That may sound funny, but those of you who are in classrooms know what I mean.  You can't leave 20 third graders unsupervised so that you can go pee!  And try scheduling a doctor's appointment.  You can't leave your job for an hour or two just to do that--you would have to take at least a half day off and write sub plans just so you can take care of your health.  Go out to lunch?  Hahaha!!  We get 25 minutes to eat in the school cafeteria surrounded by noisy kids.

I haven't had a raise in years.  Not even a small cost of living increase.  And we all know that gas prices and food prices have dramatically increased.  A friend of mine who is a teacher actually qualified to participate in the free/reduced lunch program for her children.  Okay, I know a lot of people haven't had raises in a while either.  But what about those bonuses people receive?  We don't get that.  And business travel.  Several people I know travel for business and then get to use their frequent flier miles for personal trips. 

So what about all the perks of being a teacher?  Oh yeah, those summers off.  That is a very nice benefit.  Contrary to popular belief, though, we don't get paid during the summer.  We can choose to have our annual salary divided into 12 installments, but we have already worked for that money.  Cushy hours?  I don't think so.  My required hours are 7:15 - 2:45.  I know that is only 7.5 hours, but in reality most teachers I know come in early, stay late, or both.  And remember, we have no breaks during the day and no leisurely lunch hour either.  I make it a habit of checking my week's hours when I clock out on Fridays (yes, we have to punch a time clock), and it is always more than 40 hours.  Plus considering the time I work at home during the evenings and on the weekends--well, you get the picture.

It's really getting old.  And I don't see signs that it is going to get better any time soon.  But as everyone says, "You do it for the kids."  That is true . . . but I wonder how long that "doing it for the kids" is going to outweigh the cost of being a teacher.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

We're Not Gonna Take It

So it's another school year again.  My 21st in the classroom.  Anyone out there in my shoes?  Let me ask you a question:  Do you think it gets harder every year?

I am so frustrated right now.  I'm frustrated by the administration.  I don't understand why I am given a daily schedule that tells me when to do everything.  I am a professional, correct?  Can I not schedule my day in a way that is effective and efficient for the students without the dictates of the office?  Apparently not.

For example, why do we have to schedule a block in our day called "Intervention/Enrichment?"  Isn't that what we are supposed to do in every subject area at all times of the day?  What is the purpose of guided reading groups if we aren't intervening and bringing children up to grade level with their reading?  What is the purpose of individual writing conferences?  Isn't that when we are supposed to be enriching the skills of the gifted writers in our care? 
I just don't get it.  I work my ass off day in and day out year after year, and every year more is demanded.  When I student taught, my cooperating teachers told me "The first year is the hardest.  It gets easier after that."   But that isn't what has happened.  More freedom is taken away from the professional teacher every year.  And what is the result? 

Here is the result:  angry teachers.  However, we are professionals.  So like the professionals we are, we will do our jobs, love the children, and put on smiling faces.  And maybe that is why it gets harder every year.  Because we never stand up and say "We're not gonna take it."  We love teaching children, and because of that one little fact, we put up with a hell of a lot of crap.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Teachers in August

Can you hear it?  Listen closely . . . all around the United States parents are cheering.  It is August and back to school time!  Simultaneously, teachers are sighing and children are crying.  It's enough noise to sink a battleship, I tell you. 

Here is what is like to be a teacher in August:  you savor the last remaining days of your vacation, but at the same time mentally begin preparing yourself for the upcoming year.  You go in to school before you are required to because you know the school system has not allotted you enough time to set up a classroom and get ready for a new year and a new class of kids.  You start the year off with lots of energy and excitement.  Then, it happens--the energy and excitement begin to leak out of you like the slow drip of the faucet. 

The drip starts at the beginning of the year faculty meeting when you are confronted with the uncertainty of the budget and you are told how you are going to have to teach more kids with less resources.  It continues when you are told that the state legislature decided to add more days to your school calendar without increasing your pay.  It drips even more when you try to get the instructional supplies you need from the supply closet, but there aren't enough and there won't be enough so you are going to have to buy them yourself.  And it quickens a little bit and drips a little faster when you see that again this year, you are going to make less money than last year because your supplement has been cut again.  Drip, drip, drip.

But somehow, despite this drip, teachers keep going.  Teachers are like the little engine that could.  We have a purpose.  We have the ability to shut out the bad and focus on the good.  We cherish the small victories.  We are hopeful.  This year, when the drip in my faucet starts running too quickly and filling my sink with negative thoughts, I am going to reread the letter I just got from one of my former students.  Among other things, he wrote "Thank you for being my best teacher ever.  You taught me how to be a good sport.  You helped me to understand the things in math that I didn't get."

It's the things like this that help us keep going year after year, leaky faucets and all.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"We Saved This City"

March 1982.  Fort Wayne, Indiana.  The city was facing a flood the likes of which had been seen only way back in 1913.

You may be wondering why I would bring this up 29 years later.  Well, the other day my mom handed me a booklet that had many photos and text put out by the Fort Wayne News Sentinel that reminisced about the Flood of 82.  Ad the memories came flooding back . . . This is what happened way back when.

I was a junior in high school.  We had had a hard winter with lots of snow, a very quick thaw, and rain.  Living in a city with three rivers, we knew that meant one thing--flooding.

Now usually when the city flooded, it wasn't so bad, but this time was different.  A flood emergency was declared, and Fort Wayne Community Schools closed schools.  A crisis was coming our way.  Mayor Win Moses urged people to volunteer to sandbag, especially high school students since they were out of school anyway.

My friends and I decided we would be part of the sandbagging effort.  It would be fun, we thought.  We could do some good and have some fun together.  After all, what were we going to do?  We were out of school and much of the city was closed down due to the threat of flooding.  We decided to band together and go do some sandbagging.  We were young and had no idea what we were up against.

We carpooled together to the Coliseum which was Sandbag Central.  Once inside, the people in charge of the flood control told us we could fill sandbags inside the Coliseum, or we could go down to the flood zone and sandbag.  We decided we wanted to sandbag.

School buses got loaded, and we were off.  Down into the heart of the city we went.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  This was my former neighborhood, the area of the city I had grown up in, the junior high I was supposed to attend before my family moved.  Now, the area behind Lakeside Junior High looked like one of the Great Lakes.  All that was holding back all of that water was God and sandbags.

Once we got off the buses, my friends and I were assigned spots to work.  We were put to work on different sandbag assembly lines behind people's houses.  Grab, pass, grab, pass, grab, pass . . . this process went on and on and on.

I don't know how long we were down there.  All I remember is that people came out of their houses to thank us for saving their homes.  Volunteers came around to feed us.  They gave us pudding cups, but they had no spoons.  We didn't care.  We were so hungry that we gobbled that pudding down in whatever way we could.

Back to the front lines again.  Grab, pass, grab, pass . . . I didn't know I had so much strength.  Damn, those sandbags were heavy.  But we knew people's houses, and lives, were on the line, so we kept at it.  At one point, the officials told us that the Pemberton Dike, where we were sandbagging, was going to go, but we kept sandbagging.  We could keep that water at bay, we were sure of it.  We were teenagers, so we weren't afraid.  Nothing bad was going to happen to us.  We kept at it even with the threat of the dike giving way.

I don't know how long we were there, but finally it was determined that we were done.  It was time for another shift to take over.  We loaded our exhausted, filthy bodies back onto the school buses and rode back to the Coliseum.

Once home, all I had the energy to do was to get a shower and then fall into bed.  My body hurt and I was exhausted.  I fell into a deep sleep.  Some of my friends were courageous enough to go back and sandbag more that night.

In the end, the kids of Fort Wayne saved the city.

I wonder if that kind of flooding were to occur now what would happen.  Would the kids of this day and age step up to the plate and work their asses off to save their city?  Or would they stay home and read about it on their IPads and text their friends about what was going on. Would their parents be too scared to let them take the risks that we took?  Maybe the city wouldn't even let them help out because of the threat of lawsuits if someone would happen to get hurt.  The school system might not even cancel classes because of the need to get in their quota of instructional days.  I don't know what would happen now.  I would hope that teenagers would have the opportunity to be heroes like we were back in 1982.

If you are a Fort Wayne native and have memories of the Flood of 82, post your memories.  I would love to hear them!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Eating the Deadliest Catch

Well, it's almost that time of the year when I take a week to visit the beach.  Every year my significant other and I spend a fun week in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  I don't know why we always go to Myrtle Beach, because there are tons of great beaches in North and South Carolina.  I think we go because there is so much to do besides just sit on the beach.  You can go to Ripley's Believe it or Not, shop at the Gay Dolphin, see Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede, or go to tons of other tacky places to spend your hard-earned money.  Oh, and did you know that Myrtle Beach is the miniature golf capital of the world?  Who wouldn't want to spend a week there?

Anyway,  during our summer beach trip, we will take a journey to one of the fine All You Can Eat buffets.  If you've ever been to the Myrtle Beach area, you know that these establishments are a dime a dozen.  My favorite of all of these classy places is Crabby Mike's.  If you are in the Myrtle Beach area, be sure to stop by.  You are guaranteed some excellent crab legs and also you will surely bear witness to the gluttony of the American people.  (I'm not judging--for a vertically challenged person I can put away my fair share of crab legs.)

I have had many interesting experiences at Crabby Mike's and also at the Seafare.  I tell you, it is worth going not only for the crab legs but also for the atmosphere at these joints.  Here is some of the entertainment I have encountered:

  • While waiting in line for crab legs at the buffet, a very crabby man yelled "Would you bring out some damn crab legs!!!!" to the kitchen staff.
  • Uncoordinated people (my brother) attempting to break through the crab leg shell and in the process, flinging shell everywhere including into water glasses, on the floor, and right into the middle of the neighboring table of diners.
  • Pirates!  Mermaids!  Ladies on a trapeze!  Seriously, the Seafare (I think they are out of business now) had all of this going on while you were eating.
Crabby Mike's also has a fine selection of tee-shirts.  "Have a Crabby Day", "Don't worry, Be crabby," and "Get crabs at Crabby Mike's" are among my favorites.  These are excellent souvenirs and are guaranteed to bring you plenty of attention when you return to the regular world (anywhere in America outside of Myrtle Beach).

If you are lucky enough to go the Myrtle Beach area, spend time at the beach, play some miniature golf, and be sure to have dinner one evening at Crabby Mike's.  It is worth it just to witness the spectacle for yourself.  I promise that you won't be disappointed!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Family Affair

Like a lot of American families, my extended family gets together every July for a family reunion.  This year was no different.  Every year, we follow pretty much the same schedule, eat basically the same types of food, and listen to the same stories.  Here is an example of a typical schedule:

1 ~ Meet and Greet (with many exclamations on how much the children have grown during the year)
2 ~ Eat (typical American picnic fare usually consisting of hamburgers, fried chicken, baked beans, potato salad, pasta salad, chips, watermelon, veggie tray)
3 ~ Break out the Booze (tee-totalers watch the drinkers in amusement)
4 ~ Story-telling (some new stories and then the oldies but goodies are retold)
5 ~ Make plans for the next year
6 ~ Say goodbyes

This year was no different until we got to the part of making plans for next year.  In my family, we have three generations.  There is the oldest generation of Myers, who are referred to jokingly as "The Council of Elders."  We also have a second generation of middle-aged Myers of which I am a member, and then the children of the second generation (The Youngsters) make up the third generation.  It is the Council of Elders' responsibility to come up with a plan for the following year. 

So this year, the second generation decided to prod the Council of Elders with some ideas for next year.  We had decided that we would like to have a weekend of family reunion fun instead of just a day.  So we wrote a note that said the following:  Elders ~ We humble request a campground for next year's reunion.  We sent the note with a Youngster out to the circle of Elders.

After our note was received and passed around to 3 of the Elders (apparently because the first or the second Elder could not read the note without their glasses) and they were engaged in animated discussion, we of the second generation became impatient so another note was sent to the Elders:  Clarification ~ We would like to go to Potato Creek.  We hereby request white smoke when you have reached a decision.  Also, maybe next year we could offer free thyroid testing.  (The thyroid testing was an enticement to the oldest Elder to accept our idea, who believes all of us in the Myer clan suffer from undiagnosed thyroid disease.)    This note was delivered to the Elders via a Youngster, and we could view laughter and discussion occurring. 

However, being the impatient Second Generation, we sent yet again another note:  O Elders of the Fixed Income:  Has thouest reached a decision yet?  We eagerly anticipate a response.

Sadly, no decision was reached for next year--which made me wonder. 
Why do we get together every year when we have the same routine? 

Upon reflection, I believe it comes down to unconditional love and acceptance.  When we are all together, we aren't judging each other.  We don't care what each other looks like, we don't care about each other's weight, we don't care about each other's clothes or cars, we don't care who makes the most money.  This is family, and we know we can rely on each other.  I know anyone in the Myer clan would be there for me at any time in any place (although this year I was told I would be put on an Alaskan ice floe when I was old--but I digress).  Nonetheless, I think that is why we get together.  It is hard to find connections and unconditional love in modern day America.  People seem so selfish, so fixated on having it all and not sharing it, and just generally not caring for their fellow man.  The family reunion is a place where we can escape the shallowness, the competitiveness, and the drama that permeates so much of our everyday lives.  And that makes the yearly family gathering priceless.  Don't you agree?

Monday, July 4, 2011

To Confront or Not To Confront

To confront or not to confront:  that is the question.  I'm quite sure all of you have been in this position  You aren't sure whether to confront inappropriate behavior or to ignore it.

Usually, I take the high road and ignore it.  Now, I know a lot of you may have trouble believing this, since some people describe me as spunky, a spitfire, or someone who doesn't take crap from others.  All of these are true, but I am also a person who detests confrontation.  I would rather smooth things over than make waves.  But in some situations, is that the correct thing to do?

Take this situation.  I want to stress that this is a totally fictional situation that never actually happened while I was at the movies watching Cars 2.  This is just a hypothetical situation . . . wink, wink.

Pretend you are at a rated G movie.  You know there will be tons of kids there.  That's okay--you like kids.  You expect there will be some little kids that might talk or kick the back of your chair or get up and down to go to the restroom . . . but you realize you are going to a G-rated movie, so you are prepared to accept all of this normal kid behavior.

Unfortunately, there is a little kid sitting RIGHT NEXT TO YOU who gets very upset at the various plot twists during the movie--the explosions, the parts where he thinks Tow Mater might not make it, etc.  He screams and yells and such.  The parent comforts the little boy as best he can.

However, the parent also engages in "teaching points" throughout the whole movie.  "Looook, there's the EIFFEL TOWER!"   "Oh, now they are in ITALY!"  "Do you know where they are now?  Yes, that's Big Ben!"  And it went on, and on, and on, ad nauseam, throughout the whole movie. 

My problem with this behavior is that 1:  the parent isn't teaching the child the acceptable social mores of being quiet during a movie;  2:  the parent is not whispering to the child but speaking in a LOUDER THAN NORMAL voice;  3:  the parent MADE A CHOICE to sit right next to me instead of sitting in an unoccupied area of the theater;  4:  this isn't the appropriate time and place for teaching your child but is supposed to be an enjoyable and relaxing experience.

So I fumed about this man's behavior during the whole movie.  Several scenarios occurred to me.  We could move (but why should WE move--we were there first!); I could say "Would you shut your piehole?" to the man (but that might cause an unfortunate confrontation); I could glare at him and give him my mean teacher look (which might not work since he is not a child); I could walk past him and "accidentally" spill my large Diet Coke on him so that he would have to leave (too aggressive for my taste but a good fantasy nonetheless).

All of this brings me to the point of this entry.  What is wrong with people nowadays?  Are they so self-centered that they just don't care about the people around them?  Are they oblivious to how their actions affect the people around them?  Or maybe they just don't know what appropriate behavior is and need to be taught it?  I'm not sure.  What do you think?

Now, I know what I did, and it's not any of the above solutions that my mind gave me.  I am not going to tell you what I did--I will leave that to your imaginations . . . but I do want to know what you would have done.  Please leave a comment and let me know, will you?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Best Friends for Life

My best friend called me this morning. 
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Not much, getting ready to go shopping," I replied.
"Good!  You need to Facebook someone for me."
Now, half of the world's population is on Facebook, but not my best friend.  She refuses.  I have tried to urge her to become one with the world, explaining how fun it is to reconnect with old friends, but she just won't do it.
Anyhow, I settled in front of my computer to do a search for her.  And yes, you guessed right, she wanted me to check out a man she had met.  So after I gave her all the info I could find on this guy, we discussed the situation, and I gave her my advice, which forever after now will be known as Kim's Tips on Men
  1. Once you've expressed your interest, DO NOT CONTACT HIM AGAIN.  Wait until he initiates contact.
  2. Men are HUNTERS.  They like the chase and the pursuit.  DO NOT make it easy for them.
  3. Don't ask questions like "Did you get my e-mail?"  That can sound too needy, demanding, or insecure.  Instead, rephrase questions as statements.  "I sent you an e-mail" (include a smiley face).
  4. Avoid, avoid, avoid the BUT statements.   Do not say things like "I want to see you again but I want to get to know you better first before I travel all the way there."  Instead, say "I do want to see you again.  In the meantime, I would really like to get to know you better.  Maybe we could Skype or something."
After we covered all of my rules, I started wondering why anyone would even want my advice on men.  After all, I've never been married and have had plenty of disastrous relationships.  Then I realized that it wasn't so much about hearing my advice that my best friend wanted.  It was about the connection that we have.  You see, we have known each other since junior high school.  I remember sitting in band class with her, giggling about the guy we thought was cute.  I remember cruising the mall with her in high school, looking for young hotties.  I remember going to see her when she was in college and going to a bar to check out the band member that she had a crush on.  I remember long phone conversations and long letters where we discussed our latest relationships.  Sitting cross-legged on my childhood bed, sipping wine in her living room, talking on our cell phones--one thing that never changes is that we discuss men. 
Will we continue to gab like this until we are old ladies?  I hope so.  Will we continue to talk about men?  Probably.  Will we giggle and carry on like school girls?  Most likely.  We have a connection, and that connection will last as long as we live.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

For Ladies Only

Ladies, I don't know about you, but the LAST thing I want to do during my annual OB=GYN visit is to have a conversation.  Unfortunately, that's just what happened to me today.  Now, I love my doctor.  I really do.  She is very sweet, personable, friendly, etc.  She's an enthusiastic, vibrant lady and I'd love to be friends with her.  She talks with a big smile on her face and raises her eyebrows for emphasis.  So keep that picture of her in your mind while you read the following transcript of my doctor visit:

Dr. Brown (comes in and sits on little rolling chair):  Hey, Kimberly, how was your year?
Me (sitting uncomfortably BUTT NAKED under a paper vest and paper sheet):  Um, it was fine.
Dr. B:  So, have you done anything fun?  Gone on vacation or anything like that? 
Me:  Um, no.
Dr. B:  Oh, really?  (sighs)  We can't go on vacation because our kids are going to several camps this year.
Me:  Uh-huh . . .
Dr. B:  Yeah, and they have to be tutored because of the high expectations of the school system.
Me:  Mm-hmmm . . .

And so it goes for at least 15 minutes.  She covered the following topics:  different learning styles of children, Catholic versus public schools, homeschooling, everyone finding their own niche, her experiences as a student, her children's experiences as learners, reading fluency, reading comprehension, artistic oriented people--
Okay, so you get the idea.  I kid you not!  Meanwhile, it was all I could do to concentrate on the conversation and not worry that one of my boobs was falling out of the front opening of the vest.

Finally, it was time for the exam.  Whew!  I was so relieved that I could finally just sit and be quiet.  But alas, the conversation was not over yet.  This is the conversation that actually happened DURING MY EXAMINATION!

Dr. Brown:  Did you ever notice how Europeans just LOVE a terrible ending in their books?
Me:  Oh, yeah . . .
Dr. B:  It's so interesting that Europeans and Americans enjoy different types of endings to stories.
Me:  Mm-hmmm . . .
Dr. B:  Yeah, they write books that are kind of like Oprah books.  Too heavy, deep and depressing.
Me:  Uh-huh . . .
Dr. B:  I never liked those Oprah books.  Give me something uplifting!
Me:  Nods
Dr. B:  You can find all of that depressing stuff on the news and in everyday life!
Yada Yada Yada until finally the exam was over.

Dr. Brown:  Okay, we're done!  You look great!  Good to see you!  Bye!  See you in a year!  (gives me a hug)
Me:  Yeah, bye.

And they wonder why my blood pressure was high both before and after the exam.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Being a Buckeye

Today, I finally read the Sports Illustrated cover story on their investigation into Ohio State football NCAA violations.  It took me this long to do it, because I simply did not want to believe what I heard.  But after reading the story, I know this is not a smear job.  SI had too many facts, and I believe their allegations.
It was very disheartening.
Although I am not a born and bred Buckeye, Ohio State was my college of choice.  I was very proud to go to Ohio State.  I saved my money for 5 long years after high school so that I could go.  And it was worth it!  I got a great education, made some good friends, and had a blast!  I have memories that will last my lifetime.
But I have to say after reading the SI article that I feel cheated. 
Jim Tressel cheated all of us poor kids who paid our own way through college, worked part time jobs, applied for every grant and scholarship available, and went deeply in debt with student loans.  That's right, he cheated us.  He turned a blind eye to his players and their shenanigans.  Here they were, getting a free college education (and mostly because of God-given talent), and that wasn't enough.  No, they had to have fancy cars, cash to spend, and tattoos out the ying-yang.  They showed no respect for the traditions of the Buckeye Nation, no respect for their fellow students, and no respect for the alumni whose sacrifices and support allowed them all of the things they were given for free.
So I would like to thank Jim Tressel, Terrell Pryor, and the other Buckeye football players who contributed to this whole mess for cheapening my diploma.  I can no longer say "I went to Ohio State" with pride.  My degree from OSU will forever be tainted by the actions of some selfish people.  And that is something I cannot forgive.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

President Clinton, the Secret Service, and Me

One of my very favorite people of the famous variety is Bill Clinton.  I know, I know, I can just hear my feminist friends screaming "But what about the Monica scandal?"  Well, the way I look at it, he's not the first man who couldn't keep it in his pants, and he certainly won't be the last, but I digress from my story--which is about the time when I actually got to meet the former President.
Let me say from the start that this is a true story.  I have told some of you parts of this story, but I have never actually told the complete story to anyone, so here it is for the first time for you, my lucky reader.
It began one day when I heard that the former President was on the campaign trail for his wife Hillary when she was trying to obtain the Democratic nomination for President.  I realized that Bill was going to be in my very own county that very day.  Quickly I began plotting how I could make my escape from work and go see him.  I realized it was probably a once in a lifetime chance for me to meet one of the people I most admired.
I managed to finagle my way out of work for a half day, debated about wearing my "Bill Clinton for First Lady" tee-shirt, and went straight to the Ag Center.  I knew I would be early, but I was hoping that I could get a good viewing location.  As it happened, I was one of the first people there and I got to stand in the FRONT ROW! 
Eventually President Clinton came on to the stage and spoke.  I was mesmerized.  I was within spitting distance of one of my idols!  I was certain that he was staring directly at me at times as he spoke.  And then, he was done.  He walked off the stage and started going around the front row shaking hands.  He was getting closer, closer, and finally, he was right in front of me.  I gave him my biggest smile and shook his hand.  I was so star-struck that I couldn't think of anything to say.
When he finished greeting people, the Secret Service came around to gather items for Mr. C. to autograph.  They explained that they would take the items backstage, he would sign it all, and then they would bring everything back to us.  Since I was in the front row, a couple of people asked me to hand stuff to the Secret Service guys for them.  "Sure," I said, being my usual courteous and kind self.  So I had in my hands my Hillary for President campaign button, a book, and a tee-shirt.  Before I knew what was happening, other people from the back of the crowd began piling stuff up into my arms . . . more books, a magazine,  and even a motorcycle helmet ended up in my arms. 
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a voice barked, "Is all of that your stuff?"  I jumped, peeked around the pile of items, and there he was again, one of the most powerful men in the country, President Clinton.  I was going to say "No sir", but when I opened my mouth, somehow the word "Yes" came out.  Oh shit, I just lied to the President!  a voice inside my head screamed.  "I'm not signing all of that stuff for an autograph hound!"  he barked.  The people behind me meekly stepped up and took all of their stuff back.  In the meantime, 3 Secret Service guys (who were extremely hot, by the way) were standing around giving me the hairy eyeball.  "Um, could you sign my campaign button please?" I managed to squeak out.  He graciously agreed, I guess realizing that I wasn't an autograph hound after all.
After it was all over, I went back to my car and couldn't stop grinning.  I had actually shook Bill Clinton's hand!  And I had taken tons of pictures and even got his autograph!  And he talked to me!  Well, actually he yelled at me, and maybe I'm on some Secret Service watch list now, but it was sure worth it, and I would definitely do it again if I ever had the chance.
Oh, and President Clinton, if you're reading this, I forgive you for yelling at me.  I still love you and think you would have been an awesome First Lady!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Man

So most of you know I have a man in my life.  Byron and I have been together now for (pause . . . I have to count back . . .) 8 years?  Is that right?  I'm not really sure--I'll have to ask him and he'll probably know.  Which, by the way, is one reason why I love him.  He remembers stuff like that.  I've actually known him almost all my life--which might be the topic of a blog entry one of these days.
Here is my dilemma:  when you are in your mid-40's and are with a guy, what do you call him?  We are not engaged, so he's not my fiance, and we're definitely not married (unless that happened in one of my fugue states--just kidding!).  Do I call him my boyfriend?  That seems so juvenile.  My significant other?  There's something about that phrase that is annoying to me.  My lover?  No--too personal.  Domestic partner?  I don't know about that either.  So what do I call him?  Anyone have any suggestions?  I'd love to hear them. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Buying a Bra

I, like most women, love to shop.  However, there is one item that I HATE shopping for:  the dreaded bra.  Does anyone else feel this way?  Seriously, I would rather go to the dentist than go bra shopping.  But it has to be done.  I had put it off as long as I could, but today I just had to go get it done. 
First, I  had a dilemma about the correct size.  Did you know approximately 70 - 80 percent of women wear the wrong bra size?  No wonder!  You have to be practically a genius to figure out the appropriate size.  Not wanting to be in that 70 - 80 percent, I thought I'd be smart and use a bra calculator on the Internet to help me.  Trust me--there is such a thing.  I got out the handy dandy measuring tape, put my measurements into the bra calculator, and voila!  There was my supposed size.  Okay!  I was good to go, or so I thought.
I got to the store, went to the lingerie department, and started looking.  Rack after rack of bras beckoned me in.  Padded bra?  No.  Wonderbra?  Hell no.  Push up bra?  No thanks.  Strapless?  Sports?  No wire?  You get the idea.  Finally, I reached the racks for ladies with, shall we say, ample bosom. 
5 bras in hand of the appropriate size as recommended by the internet bra calculator, I headed to the dressing room.  Wait--what??  These weren't right.  Something is definitely wrong with that bra calculator.  Back to the racks.
5 more bras in another size and back to the dressing room.  Uh-oh.  Those weren't right either.
 Back to the big girl racks.  5 more . . . by then I was just tired and sick of the damn 3 way mirror.  Finally, this time, I think I've found a few that I like.  Well, maybe like is too harsh of a word.  I guess "tolerate" would be a better word.  These will do, I convinced myself.
With the size tags flashing like neon (I swear I thought everyone in the store was thinking "Really?  She really wears THAT size?"), I went to the cash register.  Thank GOD my check-out clerk was a woman.  $75 and 2 hours later, I was on my way home.  I sincerely hope I like these new bras and they last a while, because I really don't want to go on another bra shopping trip any time soon.