Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Have Pen, Will Travel

Tomorrow, I begin one of my two new careers.... so....

Here's a poem:

Please, mister, let me have
a moment of your precious
time.  I'm here to tell you
how wisely to spend your
dime.  Buy from me this
thingy with buttons, and
I will swear to you, you'll
not be disappointed. So
here is what you need to do...
Let me fill out this paper
with my little, ballpoint
pen, and you will sign
here and here, and sir,
we both shall win!
You will have these
buttony things and I
will cash this check.
Then shall we both
triumph!  For all the world
is right today - buyer and
seller unite!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Midnight poetry II

Your hand heavy on my hip
as I sleep, grazes my shoulder
with a fingertip, a feather-light
kiss just behind my ear, a touch
to let me know you’re there.
To let you know it, too.

Is love this needy, this wanting,
forever?  Or are we simply
two lonely souls who sought
each other out for comfort
and solemnly wait for

He finds the soft curve
between ribs and hip,
and here his hand rests,
heavy and comforting,
through this dark night
as peaceful Sleep finally
wraps me in her arms.

Do you remember
how to find the one
called Happiness?
Walk slowly, head bowed.
Take steady, deep breaths.

And sleep in the company
of strangers until
they are strange
no longer.

Midnight poetry I

upon waking,
it is your face –

teeth white as sticky rice;
millimeters of rusty stubble
surrounding lips that burn white
fires wherever they touch my
skin, my heart, my soul; faint
etchings of dimples; boyish cheeks;
eyelashes long, blonde, covering
the sea of blue-green in which
I drown from time to time; one
visible ear with a silver ring
because you think you are so
badass, a nose noble as Tonto,
crooked as the Red Fork; feathers
of fair hair that I promised
you was not receding, yet, and
are those grey? no, it’s just
way the light is, baby, I swear;
the scar on your chin from a
run-in with a stop sign reminds
you that there is such a thing as
too old for skateboarding;
and a line creasing your
forehead as you concentrate
on another world (am I in it?) –

upon waking,
you smile
and the reflection of me
in your sleepy eyes
reminds me….
upon waking,
it is your face
that anchors me.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

These Shoes Were Made For Teachin’

First Draft Written
January 22, 2008
These Shoes Were Made For Teachin’

                  “How many more?” Jim asks from his open doorway down the hall.
                  “Only two,” I reply with a sympathetic smile.  It’s Friday.  In two hours, we’ll be walking our students to the bus ramp and sending them home for a much needed three-day weekend. 
                  He sighs and slumps his shoulders, heading back into his classroom.  Jim Brandon is a first-year teacher, and most days he is obviously overwhelmed.  Slightly balding and in his mid-forties, this is his second career.  He loves to tell kids about fighting in Desert Storm under “the First Bush.”  I often feel sorry for him, even though he is twenty years my senior.  His students – the lower quartile math students who need remediation – tend to run all over him.  They are a rough bunch.  He hasn’t quite figured out the whole concept of classroom management yet.  As I watch him go back into his classroom, I say a silent prayer that he makes it through the rest of the year with what little hair he has left. 
                  I, on the other hand, am in my first career.  Some days it feels as if it’s going to be the first of many.  This is my third year teaching in my district, and I finally feel like I know what I’m doing.  However, that certainly does not mean that I have all the answers.  But what I lack in knowledge of my profession, I make up for in enthusiasm.  My students respond to my youth in ways that surprise me sometimes. 
Teachers, it seems, are perpetual parents.  I have no children (unless we were to count furry things), yet I am in the process of helping to raise one hundred forty young people.  Every year, I fall in love with a brand new set of students.  Many teachers would never admit to loving their students.  Some actually don’t. 
Walking back into my own classroom, I actually feel lucky to be doing this job.  Most of my students are working on their warm-up exercise and getting ready for class to begin.  Sure, there are a few who are mingling or goofing off, but that’s easily corrected with a questioning look first at their bare desk, then at the board from which they are to be copying a sentence to correct.  I walk around the room silently for the first five minutes of class, simply observing them as they work.  The corrections to this sentence are fairly easy today – a pronoun/antecedent error, a few capitalization mistakes, some missing punctuation, and a misspelled word. 
It’s January, and there are still a few people who ignore the signs posted on my wall that “a lot” is not one word and that “I” must always be capitalized.  It’s simply laziness, but they continue to think that they can get away with it. 
“Not in my classroom,” I tell them. 
My students are seventh and eighth graders and range in age from twelve to nearly sixteen.  I have three students who are repeating the grade their in for the third time.  The neighborhood my school is in doesn’t technically qualify as the “ghetto,” but we certainly cater to the lower socioeconomic end of the spectrum.  I have students wearing $100 sneakers who tell me that their parents cannot afford to buy them a new binder or a pack of paper.
“Okay, guys, let’s correct this thing.”  Three of the twenty-six raise their hands – the same three that always offer.  My one saving grace here is that they actually believe that I remember who participates and that they will lose credit if I don’t at least see their hands in the air.  I also have a Smart Board, which they are still fascinated by.  I call Sarah up, one of the few who never offers a response, and she quickly adds the missing period at the end of the sentence. 
Sarah is one of those sad cases whose parents genuinely don’t care.  She is tall for her age and has a quick temper.  She and I butted heads early in the year, but a few of the famous “I’m very disappointed in you” speeches and she is now one of my biggest allies.  I would take Sarah home with me if I could.
“Nice job, kiddo.  Who’s next?”
Marcus has his head buried in the newest Harry Potter novel, so I walk over and tap him on the shoulder, asking him quietly to put it down for now and to go up to the board next.  He tries to refuse, but knows that his battle is futile.  I’m sure he’s thinking, Ms. Steele’s made up her mind.  I’m stuck, now.  Reluctantly, he stands, pulling up his overly baggy pants as he walks toward the board.  This brave soul has chosen to fix the pronoun problem, just as I knew he would. 
However, his handwriting is sloppy and several of the other kids complain that they can’t read it, so he clarifies snappily, “It says ‘his or her,’ moron. You can’t use ‘their’ there because the subject is ‘everyone.’”  I resist a smile and send him one of those “knock it off” glares.
When I meet kids like Marcus, I realize why it is that I do this job.  Kids like him make me feel like all of the bullshit I deal with on a daily basis is worth it.  Maybe he reminds me a little bit of myself at that age.  Maybe he reminds me of what I wished I had been.  A talented athlete, wonderful student, and pure smartass, he is – even though I shouldn’t say this – one of my favorites.  There are several students that I know I will hear from after they have left my school, and this year, he’s one of them.
Our warm-up is quickly finished, and we move on into our activity for the day.  Today, I’m having them brainstorm arguments for both sides of the question “Should students at this school have to wear uniforms?”  As soon as they see the question on the screen, they’re in an uproar.
“No way, man!  You ain’t gettin’ me in a uniform!  I’ll quit school!”
It takes me a few seconds to get them to settle down.  I knew this was going to be a hot button issue for them because the district has been threatening this alternative for years, but has never come to that conclusion.  It’s bound to be an interesting class period.
“Okay, guys.  Settle down.  Take out a sheet of paper and fold it in half—”
“Hamburger or hotdog?” 
I sigh.  What she means to ask is do I want their paper folded vertically (like a hotdog bun) or horizontally (like… well, you get the idea).  “Hotdog,” I reply, “next time raise your hand, please.  Moving on:  Label the right half of your paper ‘For’ and the other half ‘Against.’  Make sure you write the question at the top of the paper.” I give them a few seconds to complete this task.  “Okay, everyone ready?”
“Do we need to draw a line down the middle where the crease is?”  That’s Kate.  She’s got a bit of an OCD problem, and she happens to be one of the brightest students I’ve ever taught.
“If you’d like.” 
“Oh, good.  That was bugging me.”  She looks relieved, like drawing that line was the cure to some fatal disease that she didn’t even know she had. 
By now, a group of boys in the back have begun turning their “hotdogs” into paper airplanes.  I ignore it.  A teacher learns to pick her battles carefully.  “Okay, here’s your assignment.  I’m going to give you about ten minutes to write down answers to this question – but here’s the catch.  You have to give me answer for BOTH sides of the argument, not just the one you agree with.” 
“Man, why we always gotta argue on both sides?” asks the official class whiner, Larry. “Why can’t we just pick one?” 
“Because that would be too easy.  You should be able to anticipate the opposition.”
“The oppo-what?”
“Opposition.”  I write it on the dry-erase board.  “Look it up.  Two extra credit points if you bring me the definition tomorrow.” 
Marcus, who sits behind Larry, chimes in, “It means the other side of the argument, dipshit.”  Of course, that last part is mumbled under his breath so I can’t hear it, but I read lips pretty well.  I ignore this, too.
They like this topic, so they work fairly quietly, scribbling down notes about why uniforms would turn them into zombies and about how it wouldn’t matter if they had to wear them anyway because they just wouldn’t come to school.  It still surprises me that in the same class I can have students who are on both ends of the maturity spectrum.  Some are still very innocent, while others are extremely mature.  In both cases, I’m afraid for them. 
Their ten minutes pass quickly.  I let them come up to the board to write down some answers that they’d like to share with the class. 

As this class files out and the next group comes in, I stand at my door and glance down the hallway.  Jim, disheveled and tired, calls, “How many more?”
I smile, shrug, and think to myself, Who knows? Maybe a thousand.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


flying high on clouds of sighs
living in moments of warm
thoughts that linger like sucker stickiness
on the corners of my mouth

(topic thanks to www.oneword.com)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I've been sitting at the computer all day (very unusual for me, as it gives me a raging headache), and I've been reading blogs (thus the influx of blogs on this site today).  What have I figured out today...?

Lemme tell ya...

All my life - no, really, ALL of my life - I've wanted to be a writer.  Not just a "I write cute little blogs" kind of writer, but a real, honest-to-god Writer. With a capital 'W'.  Like, the kind of writer whose books are studied in English Lit classes from now until eternity.  But the bitch of it is... nobody PUBLISHES that kind of writing anymore.  Everybody wants fem-lit, researched historical fiction, historical FEM fiction, or young adult novels (ahem, thank you J.K. and Stephanie).

Sooooo..... What the hell.  I give.  I'm in.  Where do I sign?

Oh, yeah, I guess I need to WRITE the thing first...  So... HERE GOES.

What had happened was...

Recently, and not entirely of my own free will, I gave up teaching.  In essence, this is not a long-term goal.  Not yet, anyway.  I was offered a few positions as a teacher's aide, after having taught in a classroom of my own for the past five years.  Needless to say, I wasn't terribly thrilled to take a giant pay cut and be bossed around by someone who would have been my peer.  As it turns out, the need for classroom English teachers is not very high in this area these days.  
So, for lack of a more flattering term, I gave up.  I figured that with a degree in English - a degree that allows for an entry level position in almost any industry - I'd have no problem finding a job.  Wrong.  After almost two months of searching, I'm still coming up dry.  I could take a position for slightly more than minimum wage, or a job that I hate.  But somehow, that's not enough for me.  What I decided to do, instead, is to apply for graduate school.  
It's amazing how much money the government will loan someone like me: single, low-income (or no income, at this point), with a high undergraduate GPA.  It's also astonishing that I can earn a graduate degree entirely online.  Without having to pay for gas and spend the time getting to and from a campus, and with the flexibility to do classwork on my own schedule, I can spend my free time (and there's plenty!) searching for other forms of income: selling hand-made jewelry on Etsy, selling books I've already read on Amazon, and finding short-term writing gigs on oDesk.  All of this from the comfort of my own home (which, luckily, I don't have to pay for).  I'm not saying that I'm living the high life.  I don't bring in thousands of dollars every month.  But I get by with what I've got. 
And what I've got is a strong desire to pay my bills by any means necessary.

When a Book Can Change Your Life

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth GilbertLong before Julia Roberts hit the big screen as Liz, Eat, Pray, Love changed my life.The novel, a memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert chronicling her travels in pursuit of happiness, appeared on shelves at about the same time that I was going through a divorce.  Married at 20 and divorced at 24, I closely related to Gilbert's tale, though she was ten years my senior when she wrote it.
If only I'd had the money, I would have taken the same spiritual journey that Gilbert relates in her novel.  Looking back on it now, however, I wish I had found a way - teaching English abroad, or working for the DoD schools.  My own spiritual journey was far less exciting, though not at all less meaningful.  And the only thing I had to do was write.  I wrote poetry, short stories, one-act plays - anything that would allow me to bring myself back to the surface of my life.  Somewhere along the way, between high school and the divorce, I'd lost myself.  Writing became my reinvention.  And then, one day, there I was again.  I wasn't the divorcee.  I wasn't the failure or the lonely teacher anymore.  I was simply myself - lacking all the weighted titles and labels. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Here is what I believe:
1. I am a teacher.
2. I have run out of luck.

I am a teacher.  Without a job.

Other options:
1.  Rob banks - Risky, but I think I've seen enough gangster movies to have a decent run.
2.  Work for a bank/steal internally - Again, risky, but if Queen Latifah can do it, damnit, so can I...
3.  Take a low-paying, menial aide position and hope that something in the district becomes available sometime in the near future.  BORING.
4.  .... Something else....?

I wonder...

Why is it that my personal life can be fabulous while my professional life is pushing daisies?  What rule in the book of Karma says it has to be one or the other?  Why can't it be both?  Where's the REAL "easy" button?