Saturday, December 31, 2011

How I survived the Y2K disaster

In 1999, was I the only kid who had a bathroom filled with 430 pounds of dried beans and powdered milk? Did any one else have a flour grinder in their laundry room? Or was it just me?

Unless you are 12 years old, you probably remember that little thing called the New Millennium, or Y2K. If you are a pre-teen reading my blog, I'll give you a history lesson. Y2K stood for the year 2000, and it basically freaked the jelly beans out of at least half the American population, because they thought that computers would stop running and our whole life would collapse.

You'd wake up on January 1st, 2000, ready to heat some Pop Tarts, except your toaster would be broken since it ran off of computer chips that did not recognize the year 2000. Or maybe you'd be shopping at Target, go to leave (after paying in cash only because the card readers would be non-functional), and find out the automatic doors had locked you in. Because they'd be thinking its 1900, not the year 2000, and in 1900 they did not have automatic doors, so they'd stay shut until you manually opened them. But you would probably be stuck in Target for at least five hours until help came. I can think of worse places to be trapped in.

My family didn't have to worry about food production plants going beserk and shutting down and us starving, because my mother fully prepared for the worst case scenario. In June of 1999, my mom started stock piling. This meant buying in bulk from a local co-op, which was founded on the belief that people would turn into savages as soon as 2000 hit and computer chips stopped working. My mom bought dried beans, wheat, a flour grinder, dried fruit, and more emergency supplies than the states in the tornado belt have combined. We stored a large portion of it in the second bathroom. What, your loo doesn't also double as a pantry?

I had just started going to public school that year, which basically means I started feeling embarrassed around mothers wearing denim jumpers. My new worldly friends were very intrigued with my family's stockpile. They'd come back from the bathroom asking about the tower of 25 white buckets that were taking up space in the corner opposite the sink.

"Oh, that's just our five year supply of food and supplies in case the world goes to shambles this coming January."

About half my friends had no idea that civilization would end at the beginning of the new year. Their families continued buying microwaveable dinners and frozen waffles instead of purchasing wheat and firewood for a non-electric stove. I could basically picture it. In January of 2000, I'd be sitting at home in a living room lit by kerosene lamps, while they'd be sitting at home in the dark. I'd be eating hot oatmeal which was cooked over the wood stove, while they'd be at home going hungry because their fridge and appliances stopped working. I was very concerned for their well being. I mean, at the very least their mom should go buy some canned peaches or something.

When December 31st, 1999 came, my family was prepared. We had the bathtub filled up with water. We had candles. We had firewood. We had learned how to grind flour. Despite the fact that I spent the evening with my parents in the living room watching the ball drop, it was very exciting. I was secretly hoping that there would be a disaster. Because then when I was forty or whatever, I could tell the kids "I lived through the Y2K disaster (shudder). Let me tell you about it..." Or maybe I could write a book about how my family survived the new millennium and helped save desperate people who were not well prepared.

You can imagine my disappointment at 12:01am on January 1st, 2000 when the toaster still worked. It only took about three days for me to realize the world was going to be fine. That, and I'd be eating beans and powdered milk for dinner every night through my high school years.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I blamed it on Santa

It may surprise you to know that as a child, I told a lie. One particular December, I claimed that an overweight man in a red coat broke into our house at night and left garbage in the living room. This was uncharacteristic of my angelic nature. While some kids can stretch the truth like a rubber band, I was the guilt-filled child who would blurt out exactly what I did wrong. So my sort of lying involved withholding information and asking questions that would deflect away from myself.

Here's what happened: I was probably eight or nine years old, and Christmas morning came at 5:23 am, shortly after the pattering of hooves and the jingling of bells woke me up. I knew I was absolutely not allowed to wake my parents up before 6am, so I laid lie lay, oh forget it stretched out on my bed and tried to contain the excitement that was bundled up in my legs that were covered with fleece footie pajamas.

Forget this, I thought and quietly snuck out of my bed. Jessamy lay layed laid lied bahhh  slept peacefully in the bed next to me. I padded out into the living room and surveyed the gifts under the Christmas tree. I wasn't going to commit a sin on Jesus' birthday and unwrap my presents when no one was around, because how in the world would I cover that one? Get some newspaper, tape the box back up, and act like nothing was unusual? No. So what I did was go for my stocking. I took it down off the mantle (this was when I actually lived at a place that had a brick mantle) and started pulling out all the goodies. Some of it was loose, but many items were wrapped in white tissue paper.

Like a mummy escaping from the grave, that white wrap got pulled off instantly. I enjoyed looking at all my loot for about five seconds before I started to get nervous that I would be discovered and I shoved all the stuff back into the sock. I didn't have time to wrap the items back up in tissue paper, so what I did was hang my stocking full of stuff back up on the mantle, and I placed the rumpled sheets of tissue paper on top of the side table, next to a messy stack of newspapers. Then I went back to bed to dream of Sugar Plums dancing in my head.

When I was finally allowed to get out of bed and wake the parentals, I did so cautiously. Within minutes I was sitting in a pile of wrapping paper, smiling with glee at all of the American Girl doll clothes the elves had sewn and Santa had delivered.

Then my mother's eyes turned to the pile of tissue paper on the table. "Where did that come from?" She asked. Oh shit, I thought. Actually, that is a lie. I did not think Oh shit. In truth, I did not ever think Oh shit until I was at least 19 years old and became a frantic college student with too many deadlines. I started to swear a lot in my mind the year I had to drive over the Marion Street Bridge every morning. Just another example of how the life of a teacher corrupted my good person. Glad that's over. But back to the story...

"Hmmm" I pondered. Then I came up with something very plausible. I obviously wasn't going to blame my sister because she would deny it all, but wasn't there an old man who came to my house that very night? Hadn't he come and left things for us? And don't you think he might have been in a mad hurry to get to all of those houses, so perhaps he left a few scattered bits of last minute wrapping around?

"Maybe Santa left it," I suggested. I did not confess to breaking into my stocking before 6 am. The horror of telling the truth. After I tried to pin the blame on the bearded guy, my mother said nothing. After all, how was she to know what Santa had been up to that night? Her silence convinced me that she believed the story.

Just so you know, I confessed all of this to my mother earlier this month. The truth will always come out, even if it is years later. She chuckled about it and told me she didn't remember the incident at all. Have you ever tried to blame something on Santa?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Decoy Pickle: A Secret Christmas Plan

On Christmas morning, my sister and I wake up and rush to the tree to look for a glass pickle. Weird, I know right? This is how it works: my mom hides a green pickle ornament on the tree on Christmas day, and then she releases Jess and I from our racehorse chutes to go find it. If you find the pickle ornament, then you get an extra present, referred to as "the pickle present."

Only this actually caused some tears and fighting in the past, so the pickle present is actually a family gift (like a movie or board game for everyone), but the winner gets to unwrap the present. Jess and I mostly like the satisfaction of winning. She has found that stupid pickle for at least two years in a row now, and it is quite a let down for me and my 20/20 vision. Jess has contacts/glasses, so how she manages to spot that hidden ornament is beyond me. But I've got a secret plan this year.

I can write about all my secret plans concerning my sister on this blog, because she never reads it. So this is what I am going to do: I am going to go to the dollar tree and buy a decoy pickle ornament (I saw them there last week). Then what I will do is sneak over to the tree on Christmas Eve and place the decoy pickle in a more noticeable location. My hope is that in the morning Jess will spot the fake ornament first and get excited about winning, and this will buy me buy me some more time looking for the actual pickle. She'll be doing her victory dance until she realizes that I am still frantically searching the branches and that what she is holding in her hands is some cheap, plastic imitation of the real thing. Sucker.

 If you are wondering why in the world my mother decided to start this tradition, it's because she was in a shop in her German-themed hometown looking at ornaments and found the pickle hanging there with the explanation attached. Apparently this whole pickle thing is a German tradition. The pickle is supposed to bring good luck and was the last ornament placed on the Christmas tree. On Christmas morning the first child to find the pickle was rewarded with an extra little gift left by St. Nicholas. This German tradition encouraged the children to appreciate all the ornaments on the Christmas tree, rather than hurrying to see what St. Nick had left for them. This tradition encourages my sister and I to shuffle through all the branches in a mad hurry, not caring about any ornament unless it's green. We do plenty of ornament appreciation while we unpack them one by one and hang them on the tree.

Travis, my sister's husband, sits this tradition out. He is totally allowed to participate but chooses not to, probably because he doesn't want to get in the way of my and Jessy's elbows. I admit, the first year he spent Christmas with us, I was worried. I thought he and Jess would tag team me and find the pickle and both gloat over it. But Travis knows to stay outta my way when it comes to hunting for hidden objects. But this decoy pickle idea I have, I think it's going to work. I'll let you know what happens.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Agreeing on what lies to tell your children

The month of December poses an important question to all new parents: what lies should we tell our child? Husbands and wives debate over whether or not they should begin telling the tale of Santa Claus, explaining that an overweight old man in a red suit will be coming down the chimney at night time, but don't worry about it, he's not going to rob us or kidnap you, he's here to leave you presents. Unless of course, you've been a bad kid, in which case Santa WILL kidnap you, fly you to the North Pole, give you a pair of plastic elf ears to wear, and force you to assemble toys for the good little boys and girls. That'll teach you not to flip off your 4th grade teacher when she is trying to teach you earth science.

Don't get me wrong. I adore Santa. My mother fully had to sit me down at age 11 and a half and explain how everything really worked. We had this talk during the summer, because she wanted to give me six months to get over it. But like Britney from Glee, I still believe in Santa (a theory of mine which I have researched and written about). So yes, when I have kids, they will fully be told the story of Santa Claus. But the real story, the one about how other countries have gnomes who live under the floor boards and kind babushkas who bring them presents.

But then you think, how far will you take this? Are you going to push the Easter Bunny? Explain that a rabbit lays plastic eggs for you to find? That they are filled with jelly beans? Because I mean, a large portion of American teens already don't understand that milk comes from cows, not from a carton, and that cows have to have babies first in order to give milk, they don't just splurt it out because you're about to eat an Oreo. Why don't we go ahead and tell children that rabbits bring easter eggs, so that way when the kids hit 5th grade and are learning about the animal kingdom, they can keep thinking that a rabbit belongs to class aves or class reptilia because it lays eggs.

Or maybe your beef is with the tooth fairy. Nothing says whimsical magic like a little creature breaking into your house while you're asleep to collect your teeth for a necklace or some other tribal-like piece of jewelry. Why don't we just leave vials of blood as well, so the fairy can have complete DNA and identification records of us? Is that little pixie working for the Human Genome Project? Or maybe the FBI?

 The problem with choosing lies to tell your offspring is that you have to count on teachers, other parents, and teenagers to endorse your lie. Because you should fight tooth and nail for what you believe in, and if some kid with a grinchy dad tells your seven year old son that Santa doesn't exist, you need to be able to pull out the maps and star charts and cultural traditions to back up the probability that Santa can indeed hit all the houses in one night.

Personally, I am thinking of developing my own little fantasy character or yearly tradition. Like maybe I'll invent a birthday stork named Saint Ork (abbreviated of course to St. Ork), who brings you an extra present on your birthday. Each kid has their own birthday stork, and it's the same one that delivered the child to the mother in the hospital. So once a year the stork returns to see how the child is doing, and to see if the parents are still fit to have custody of the child. If the kid has really crappy parents, then Saint Ork will let you crawl into a fuzzy blanket and he will carry you off to a different mommy and daddy. All of the workers at DHS work for St. Ork. Every year your extra present will be wrapped in a blanket and be sitting outside on your doorstep. This bird is not here to sneak into your house or steal your molars. He understands the laws about breaking and entering and robbery. And if you want to special request a certain gift, what you do is write a letter and put it outside in the bird feeder for pick up. This makes total sense. I am going to write a children's book on this. Anyone want be my illustrator? Who's with me? What parents are going to agree on telling this lie?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

She will endure hot wax and a rash for the Lord, a church Christmas tradition

If you were ever a little girl growing up in church during Christmas time, there is a chance that you were chosen to wear an itchy red polyester dress and walk down the aisle with a fiery white torch to light the advent candle. Today in church I sat back and reminisced as one of the fourth grade girls brought forth that little flickering light to front of the sanctuary. It took her about five seconds for each step. One might think that three minutes is too long to take to travel from the back of the room to the front of the room, but if you've ever been a candle lighter, you know that it's not.

Here's how it works: an elementary age girl is chosen to light the wreath for the week. I don't know why it's a girl, but that's all I've ever seen. It's probably because they look better with curled hair and dresses than boys do. The joy of Christmas just walks right with them, as they tread forward in their black Mary Jane shoes that might have a centimeter of a heel.

All little girls want to get chosen to light the advent candle, even the shy ones. When you get picked, it's an honor. Getting selected for advent lighting is just a few years away from scoring the role of Mary in the nativity play. You spend the whole next week trying on your Christmas dress and standing in front of the mirror.

When the day finally arrives, your mother curls or braids your hair, you put on that lovely crimson dress that is actually a little bit itchy around the neck, but you endure it. You are willing to suffer a polyester-blend induced rash if it means you get to carry the candle down the aisle.

A little bit before your duty arises, an adult will light your candle. Your eyes take in the magnificent glow and something like bells jingle in your stomach. But then the pastor or whomever talking about the meaning of advent takes too long. He goes off on a long explanation, leaving you in the back with a candle that's already been burning for five minutes. Five minutes time means the wax is now hot and ready to drip down that flimsy paper base and onto your little fingers.

There are two great fears of candle lighters, one being getting burned by dripping hot wax, and the second being that your candle will go out before you complete your task. The reason little girls walk so slowly down the aisle is because their eyes are pinpointing that hot blob of wax that is threatening to slide off the candle and onto their hand. Girls have to walk slowly so that the speed of their travel does not cause their taffeta skirt to create a gush of wind and extinguish the flame they are carrying. Between these two fears, most girls would probably rather get burned with a drop of hot wax than suffer the embarrassment of having a prematurely extinguished candle at the time they get to the front. Because that basically means God has chosen to snuff out your light, since you are unfit to carry it.*

Yes, lighting the candles of the advent wreath is a really big deal to little girls, and the responsibilities are monumental. After your duty is done, you have to be sure to blow out your lighting candle in a very safe and non smokey way, so that the babies sitting in the fourth row won't suffer from smoke inhalation.


When that little girl from today made it to my children's church room ten minutes later, I made sure to complement her on her dress and the excellence in which she executed the lighting of the candles. She needed to know I recognized its difficulty and admired her duty.

Readers, have any of you been little girls (or boys!) who have had the privilege of lighting the advent wreath at church? How was your experience? Do you have burn marks on your hands?

*I hope you don't think I am serious. If the candle goes out, it does not mean God thinks you are unfit to light the wreath. I may have thought this as a child, but it is absolutely not true, and I have yet to ever see a candle go out prior to advent lighting. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

how I lapnabbed my sister's computer

Oh my word. So it has been one week since my computer busted and living without my music and writing files is like living without thumbs. Right now I am sitting at my house on one of the bar stools, typing on my sister's broken laptop, which I convinced her to let me nab since she won't be waking up until one pm tomorrow. You may wonder how I can use a broken laptop. Well, it's just the screen that's cracked, which means there is this giant black splotch that looks like a bug hit your windshield and the line leads all the way down the screen, kind of like trickling blood. So if I make any spelling errors, it's because there is a portion of the screen that I can't actually see.

I asked my sister how she broke her lap top screen. "Did you use it as a booster seat when you went to Burger King?" I asked. Jessamy explained that "Travis and I were wrestling and Travis kneed it." To which you probably think "They were wrestling?" One might not ask any more questions regarding this alleged activity, but I actually believe that when she says they were wrestling, they were actually punching each other. This isn't a domestic assault case, but I know for a fact that my sister likes to put Travis in a head lock and Travis likes to pin her arms behind her back. I'm just thankful Jess has Travis to assault now, instead of me, because I had to endure a lot of head bashing as a child.

Today I convinced Travis to help me acquire a Christmas tree during his lunch break. If I didn't have a brother, I'd probably be hot glue gunning a tree together out of the pine branches that fell into my backyard. Right now it is all set up with skittle colored twinkling lights and ornaments dating back to 1985. I am very pleased at my decision to select a Christmas tree during the daylight, instead of at 9:30 at night in the back of a Muchas Gracias parking lot like I did last year. My tree from 2010 was so crooked that I had to prop it up with a stick on one side, and it fell over about every two days. This year's tree is as straight as a bean pole. It doesn't have any gaping holes either, unlike the mouth of an eleven year old waking up from a tooth extraction in the dentist's chair. 

Okay peace out. I'm gonna go to a coffee house to see my friends and listen to the talent of some lovely musicians.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

still using the library computer

This is my fourth day at the library this week. I do not yet know the status of my computer, and whether or not the data on my hard drive is retrievable or not. I am too afraid to call my cousin and check because I don't want him to tell me it's a lost cause.

This whole not having a computer thing has lowered my dependency on Facebook and Pinterest. I also have 331 items in Google reader, but can't read them all in the short amount of time my library card gives me access to. So instead I've been reading actual books and magazines in the evenings.

I went to Best Buy yesterday to check out computers but no overzealouse salesmen rushed over to me, probably because 1) It's Christmas time and they are super busy selling gadgets, and 2) I was wearing my fingerless gloves that apparently make me look like a hobo.

In other news, Before School Bible Club has been going really well. I just finished teaching the second week of it. I think we gained 8 kids since the first day. I've got two really adorable kids (a first grader and a kindergartner) who I let in since they have older siblings in the club. The kids have been rocking out the memory verses and the games that we play to memorize them, and they are totally on point with the story re-tell and questions. My only problem is this whole getting to school by 7:45 thing. I haven't had to wake up this early since June. Last night I decided my new bedtime is 10:15.

Azarious has been making progress with learning to read and now he is fluently reading kindergarten level books. He finally got the "igh" and "ar" sounds down. I'm hoping to move up to the first grade books very soon. He's got all his phonics sounds down, and has learned 300 of the first 600 sight words. Plus his handwriting is improving quite a bit.

My rabbit Roo moved into the bathroom the other day because it is literally freezing outside. His water bottle had turned to ice, and I felt like a neglectful parent so I brought him inside to sleep on the rug. I had to lock him in the bathroom because that is the one place that has a minimal amount of surfaces to chew on. I've since moved him into an indoor cage in the spare room. The spare room might just become his room, though it is has also served as a crime lab.

I am taking a huge risk writing this but the guy next to me is really struggling with his e-mails. I've heard "You piece of junk," and "Oh come on," and "Piece of crap" muttered under his breath about six times now. In case you're wonder, he's using Yahoo. I had to surreptitiously peek over to see what it was he struggled so much with. But enough about him.

I have to go back home and then head over to my new place of employment to fill out paperwork. Yeah, a JOB. With an actual paycheck involved. But don't get too excited. The ins and outs of it are longer than I care to type right now, but basically it is part time work (which is great, so I can keep teaching Bible Club and Azarious in the mornings) and on flexible set amount of weeks terms. That was my decision. I was offered the job but had to say no due to about four different reasons. They wanted me so badly they called a few hours later with a different offer. So I said yes. I'll explain the whole situation later and tell you what the job entails. Point is, I will be receiving a paycheck for some dollars.

Kay. Bye.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cute smiley old men

I completely adore seeing cute old men at the grocery store. I was behind one in line last Friday, while waiting to purchase my yogurt, tortillas, hummus and bananas. The man had white, woolly hair tucked under his baseball cap. We're talking the hair was woolly and felted in the way that your favorite doll's hair becomes loved and worn over the years. He had on a plaid flannel shirt and old man blue jeans. What I loved most about this man was the wrinkles and lines on his face. His wrinkles were smile wrinkles. The lines seemed to lift up his face, and I could tell the wrinkles around his eyes were caused from the crinkling when he laughed.

That's the thing about getting old and wrinkly. They show evidence of what your face does most often. Frowny faces are rather unpleasant and make your face droop. But you already know that. I stood patiently behind this man (I named him Jim) as he counted out his cash and coins to purchase his groceries. I watched his face waiting for what I knew would come. The cashier gave him his change and receipt, and said have a good day. Then what  I was expecting happened. The old man smiled a smile that said "I have lived a good life and I am happy." It was the type of smile that makes you feel warm like you just ate a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. It was the kind of grin I'd like framed and put on the mantle (if I had a mantle), so that I can remember to live a life full of smiles.

Because I want to become that old lady with silver hair that has lines under her cheeks showing proof of her joy, even if I am buying prune juice and mashed bananas with a social security check.

your time is almost up

Oh my gosh I have to type fast because I am at the library and only have 7 minutes remaining. I spent most of my allotted 15 minutes checking my e-mail and replying to people. My computer is currently at the hospital because its hard drive is quite ill. This is absolutely terrible and I hope I didn't lose a large chunk of my writing work. Because you know, I am a genius and didn't save a hard copy recently. It's mostly terrible because I have a zillion things to blog about and only five minutes left to do so. So crap. Just wanted to let you know that I have things to tell you and want to talk to your face as you stare into your computer screen reading these words, but unfortunately I cannot. Oooh, it looks like maybe one of the other computers opened up where I can get longer than 15 minutes. Snap. A balding man in a flannel shirt just snagged one. Gotta run.

Update: I got a computer to use for 45 minutes. I wonder if the people around me are reading my old man post that I just finished. Also, I find that people in libraries talk to themselves while they are using the computer, and this is somewhat distracting. But some people need to talk to themselves in order to process,  so whatever. I'll just bring headphones next time.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Stop, Drop, and Hide Under a Blanket

If someone is coming up your driveway, the obvious action that you need to take is to hide from them. My sister and I did this all the time growing up. I was reminded of these antics last Saturday night when I was at Jessy's house watching Robots on TV. Jess was working at her desk making dog collars and every time a commercial came on, Travis would change the channel back to football. We heard a car door shut outside.

"Somebody's here." Jess said. "Quick, hide!"

I laughed and we continued to joke about when we were children left home alone in our country house. Sometimes I think Travis has no idea who he married. He sure learns a lot about his wife's quirks when I'm around.

Jessamy and I grew up in the boondocks. Our private road was a half mile long and made of gravel, which made for bumpy bicycle rides. Our house sat tucked safely on the other side of the hill, nestled among mighty oak and fir trees.

People didn't drive to our house often. If an unfamiliar person made his way to our house, it was either someone who was A) lost or B) there to rob or murder us. My mother would leave us for an hour or so when she had to go to town and buy groceries or whatever and Jess and I would be in the living room playing Legos or building model horse barns out of cardboard boxes when we would spot a car driving down to the house. "Quick, someone's coming!" One of us would yell.

We would then make sure the door was locked, flip off all the lights, and go hide. Most of the time we would hide in my parents' bedroom and spy out their window, because there was a giant bush in the way and it prevented us from being spotted from the kidnappers.

[You better believe when my sister and I finally attended public school, we were experts at the armed intruder drills. We dropped to the floor out of the line of sight of the window and spoke not a word.]

We sat breathlessly listening for the knock at the door. It would come, and we would wait, wondering if the person was going to start picking the lock in order to get in and steal my mother's Cherished Teddies collection. When we heard the car start up again and leave, we breathed a sigh of relief but waited an extra minute before emerging. You know, in case it was a fake-out.

It may be interesting for you to know that I still do this at my house, even though I am a grown woman. I will be sitting at my desk (which is near the front window) typing an e-mail to an associate, when I will see someone coming down the lane. I might immediately drop to the floor and army crawl behind the couch since I don't want to be spotted. Or maybe I won't have enough time to get out of sight from the window, so what I'll do is lay on the floor and throw a blanket over me real quick. Because a long green lump isn't suspicious at all.

I don't really know why I still do this. Habit, I guess. Or maybe I just want the element of surprise. When the FedEx guy drops off my package, I want to be able to pop out from under the window and yell "Ha! I can sign for that!" Or maybe when someone is breaking into my window, I want to throw the blanket back, reveal my face, and terrify the intruder.

Basically, I blame my repeated viewings of Home Alone. I've never heated up my door knob, put pokey things under the window, or tar and nailed the steps coming up from the basement, but I fully have a protocol, should the need ever arise. I am not going to post it here, because for all I know there is a stalker who reads my blog everyday in hopes that I will reveal the location of my home and the hours in which I am alone.

I'm telling you right now, it's probably not worth your time to kidnap or rob me. My computer is a desktop from 2004, I own a very limited DVD collection, and the nicest thing I have are my couches which weigh as much as a baby elephant, so getting away with them wouldn't be easy. If you were to want them, you'd have to at least bring a U-haul because there's no way they're fitting in a pick up truck. And good luck trying to back that U-haul out of the driveway--you'll be sandwiched. But I wouldn't put it past a thief to ram through my wooden fence, mow over the neighbor's garden, and make a break for it in the opposite direction.

You don't want to kidnap me because I'd ask you for an interview on your life of crime, so that I could blog about it. Plus, I'd want to get my phone and Tweet about it as it was happening. My update would probably be something like "In the trunk of a car blindfolded, but don't worry, even though I can't see I can still text via voice commands on my smart phone." Only wait, I don't actually have a smart phone (another reason it's not worth it to rob me).

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Is that even legal? What I'm doing now

On Monday morning I am going back to the exact school where I used to teach. I am going back to the very place that tore me, chewed me, and peeled me to a thin thread like a piece of string cheese. It's the place where I stopped believing in myself.

This time it is different. I'm going on my terms. Or rather, I think I'm going on God's terms. Because this really wasn't my idea.

I have started a before school Bible club that will take place in a public school classroom. My favorite question that people ask me about this is "Is that legal?" Apparently I am just doing all I can to get sued or hated on these days. The vengeful scratches on the hood of my car prove it.

I am meeting with students from 8am to 9am Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday before school starts and I will basically be running a children's church complete with worship music, Bible stories, memory verses, and prayer. This is beyond exciting for me, because part of the reason I walked away from my job was because I couldn't handle being inconspicuous about God. That place needs divine intervention. It doesn't matter if the teachers work 12 hours a day, reach out to parents, or bring test scores up to 85% passing. If God is not in the hearts of those children, they are no better off than before all of those efforts. This was never so evident until I became that teacher.

It took me a college degree, a $40k per year job with good health insurance, and a home mortgage to realize that what you have is worth shit if God is not present in your daily life. Or rather, I should say, if you are not present in his life. He hasn't gone anywhere at all; it was me who decided not to show up.

After realizing that I couldn't live that way any longer, I walked away from my job, surrendering any notion of a happy life to God. Let him figure it out. In case you didn't know, the day I resigned from my job, I asked my principal if he would let me teach a small class of 10 students for free. I wanted to create the dream class--the small group of kids who would make a difference. Legalities and HR said no. I was relieved, because who wants to work a 40 hour a week job for free? Not me, but I felt that was what God was asking me to do.

Sanity check, I know right?

The summer transpired and with it came a new vision: the one of boldly and intentionally speaking of Christ in public schools. Thus, the plans for the Before School Bible Club was formed, or as I refer to it, the BBC (sometimes I like to think up ideas while using a British accent). At first the BBC was just an idea, and I figured I would begin the work for it late September, after students and teachers had a chance to settle in. Then October came and I did nothing.

The idea was tugging at my heart, but I wasn't sure if it was something I really wanted to commit to, as I was still actively searching for a full time job that involved a paycheck. Many full time jobs take place during school hours, and this fact makes it hard to be two places at once.

The second weekend in October I went with a group of twenty-somethings from my church on a prayer retreat. It was then that I really got the kick in my butt that there was absolutely nothing preventing me from making this vision happen. I am sure that confessing my vision to the group is what catapulted me into action. I need accountability. No one has asked me about it since that weekend, but voicing the plan out loud made me want to get started. It wasn't a secret hiding in my brain anymore. People knew.

The following week seemed so purposeful, because my earlier feeling that God meant for me to teach for free came true. I met Azarious. Suddenly, there was a student who needed someone willing to educate him sans compensation. I also contacted my old school to explain my idea for Bible club.

Getting from point A (being my idea for the BBC) to point B (being having an actual space for the club, for it to be approved, for it to be supported, and for it to have actual students enrolled) was not an easy task. I will spare you details of my phone calls, e-mails, legal research, and fired up passion that I didn't know my heart contained.

The day is near. On Monday at 8am I will be meeting children, and I will be sharing with them the hope of Jesus Christ. I won't have to talk in code or hide what I believe. The Truth is here, and it won't shut up.

I know that not all readers of The Real Pretend believe in God or think what I'm doing is worthwhile. Some of you might be real sick of my "God posts" and wish that I would go back to writing funny stories about my sister making me ride a barrel down a gravel hill as a child. Hang with me. If you are a person who believes in prayer, I would very much appreciate it if you could send up some words for me and the group of children who will be meeting this week. I am ready to see transformation in that rough-and-tumble school, and I believe it will happen.

here by grace,
Joelle

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Case of the Missing Mr. Binney

On Friday 11-11-11, I had a bunch of associates over for a secret detective society dinner. I told my neighbors that it was just my birthday party, so that they wouldn't suspect anything out of the ordinary. About ten of us convened for supper and sleuthing. I basically had the time of my life and thoroughly enjoyed watching everyone try to solve the case I had set up for them.

Here are shots of dinner


Each place setting featured a notepad, pen, and magnifying glass or mustache.
A file folder acted as a place mat.
Vanessa, my dear Natalie's little sister.
Kaitlynn doesn't even try to hide her look of surprise.







Maybe Kaitlynn was surprised that I invited Count Olaf to my party.
 After enjoying a delicious dinner of lasagna, salad, garlic bread, and wine, I prepared my team with a little training. Our first stop was the
I took my spare bedroom and transformed it into a drug education center and fingerprinting lab. Drug education is very important, and I did my best to create a realistic atmosphere.
The person who does this drug is probably distraught that Borders closed and he/she can no longer use a Border's rewards card. 


Ice.
You're gonna go trippin' on them dots.
Shrooms.
Beans, Hug Drug, Lovers Speed
Black Tar, Hell Dust, Smack
To gain all sorts of knowledge on drugs, you should visit the DEA's website like I did. Here is a link. You can look up a drug, see its effects, learn its street names, and more. The detectives took really good notes.
After the drug education portion, people took their own prints using a stamp pad so that they could use them as a reference during the fingerprinting slide show presentation. You can easily dust for prints using powdered chalk, clear tape, and a paintbrush.

The other room that I set up for use was the
This is where people could study codes and practice writing them.
I've had these code books since I was a kid.
There was also an invisible ink station. Use a q-tip and dip it into lemon juice. Write your message and allow it to dry. It should be invisible. To show the message, put the paper under a light bulb. The writing will turn brown. This is because lemon juice is an organic compound and contains enzymes, which burn faster than the paper. It is also supposed to work with milk and apple juice. 
And okay, never mind that the Cryptology Center was actually my laundry room. It worked.

Agents study and write codes while looking fantastic.
After initial training, we all sat in the conference room so that I could do the debriefing.

This is what my team was told:
Last Monday night a man went missing. His name is Franklin Binney. I’ve been working with the police for the past few days trying to locate Frank, but he has not yet been found. We are suspecting foul play, a revenge of sorts, as no ransom note has been received. We’re not sure if it is a kidnapping or a getaway. 


At any rate, Frank’s family is worried about him, and they need us to find him. Mrs. Binney came home on Friday evening after a round of Bingo with her grandmother. She expected Frank to be at home watching TV, but he was not. Instead, the garage door was left open, but his car was still parked inside. Frank was no where to be found, and did not answer his cell phone. Police gathered clues from inside the house and garage, and it is up to our team of detectives to decipher their meanings and find Frank. He may be dead or alive. We need to find him stat.

The detectives discussed for a while to come up with a list of questions and to decide where to go from there. Then I gave out the first clue envelope. It contained what looked like loose pieces of Smarties. Agent Schuyler reflected upon his drug training and immediately suggested we take it to the lab for testing, as he suspected it might actually be Ecstasy pills.
Schuyler may or may not work for the FBI. I can't really say.
The next clue envelope looked like this. It was a grocery list with a Reeses peanut butter cup wrapper inside. This evidence was found in the garage on the floor near Mr. Binney's car.
I had the absolute most fun watching my detectives try to analyze this piece of evidence. They a had a hay day over it. First they thought it was in code and wanted to take it to the Cryptology Center to be studied. Then they noticed all the grease from the candy wrapper and wanted to lift prints from the thing. Everyone got really riled up when someone suggested it was actually a drug shopping list using drug street names. This is because the word "beans" was written on the list.

I know a lot of people who make shopping lists for all the drugs they need, don't you? : )

Oh, the team also thought that there might be invisible ink on the paper, so they stuck it under a light bulb but nothing showed up.

The photo below depicts Agent Brown in hysterics because she can't believe certain people want to discuss pre-nuptial agreements WHEN A MAN IS MISSING! I really appreciated her concern for a fictional stranger. Be assured that if anyone she knows in actual life goes missing, she will be all over it.

After a while this envelope was given. That's right, people. It was a bag of cocaine.

 The detectives thought it was a red herring and had nothing to do with Frank Binney's case, as the baggie was found down the street from Frank's house. The team decided to make a phone call to Mrs. Binney and one of the Binney's neighbors to interview them. Unfortunately, I was not in the room during the phone conversations due to my responsibilities managing the crime lab.
Travis holds the phone up on speaker so everyone can hear while Natalie uses her lap top to do some investigating of her own.
Another clue was given and the team knew exactly what to do with the information. They looked up the owner of the phone number online and went from there. They begged police to be sent to Tualatin without even seeing the final clue.
Don't call this number. I don't know the guy.
The final clue.
The agents were anxious to hear from the police if they found anything in the Tualatin home belonging to Michael Jones. I then read the full case to them.

Frank got in his car to go to the grocery store. He’s on a sugar-less diet, by his wife’s commands. He was looking for a fix. He found what looked like  loose Smarties in his child’s Halloween bucket, which they kept on the top of the fridge. They were actually Ecstasy pills. He went to the grocery store and bought twinkies and Reeses peanut butter cups. When he got home, he was so enthralled and energized from the drugs that he went for a run down the street, leaving the garage door open. 


He ran down the street and was crossing unsafely when a car struck him. It was mostly Frank’s fault, as he was wearing no reflective clothing. The driver was a crack cocaine user named Tony Tantino. Because of Frank’s mental state, he wasn’t all that damaged, but the crack user could tell he was on something. Tony Tantino didn’t want to call the police or ambulance for help, because he was afraid they would notice Frank’s drug use and get suspicious about Tony Tantino. So he figured he’d help a brother out, take him back to his place, and let the drugs wear off. 


Frank was very friendly and happy. They played games on the xbox and ate cake. Then Tony’s girlfriend came home. Tony did a line of coke. Frank got cozy with the gf. By morning, (which was actually 1pm the next day), Frank found himself in bed with the girlfriend. Tony was strung out on the kitchen floor. Frank thought “Oh crap, what’s happened?” but he was still riding the thrills of ecstasy. He saw some cocaine on the table and snorted some of it out of curiosity.
 

Tony wanted to drop Frank off at his house, but Frank was paranoid to go home (effect of ecstacy), and because he had cheated on his wife while under the influence. But he didn’t know he had been under the influence of ecstacy. Confused and paranoid, Frank didn’t think he could go home. He called his buddy Mike from college, asking if he could stay at his house for a few days while he sorted some things out. Mike said “yeah, you can stay at my place, but I am leaving for business in Germany today, I’ll leave you a key.” Frank had his wallet still and bought a bus ticket to his friend’s house, being fearful of going home for the car. 

Mr. Binney was found in Tualatin eating Cheetos, drinking beer, and being paranoid. His friend has no idea about anything and is in Germany, so he didn’t know to notify police of Franks' whereabouts.

moral of the story is: check your kids’ Halloween candy. 

 The detectives did a great job with the case. I was really impressed with their reasoning and thought processes. I think I am going to host a case party at least every three months, because they are so much fun for me. Only the next case I create is going to be really, really good. I might hire some actors. Stage a murder. Get the police involved. It will be very realistic. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

my computer is on its death bed...or at least should be put in a retirement home

I've been working on the recap of my detective birthday party and I wanted to post it today, but seriously for the past three days my computer has been nothing but trouble. I loaded all my pictures and tried to open them but it said they were corrupted. And everyday a little blurb in the corner says that my virtual memory is too low. Oh, and my ROM drive no longer reads CDs. My computer has been freezing up and being slow and it takes 5 hours to get something down that should have taken 2. So sorry, the pictures are still being problematic.

Last night my sister was over and I was using her laptop to look online for new computers. You know, so I can buy one with all of the money I've made recently. I have been rocking the same Dell desktop I've had since fall of 2004. It's had to be wiped clean twice due to virus junk, and I am so ready to have something current.


What recommendations do you have for a laptop? And please don't say a Macbook because that is too expensive for me. Plus I'm not a hipster.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Almost Famous

If you are a regular at The Real Pretend, then you know how often I link up blog posts to writers Max Dubinsky and his new wife, Lauren Dubinsky. These two are awesome people who write such incredible raw truth. Lauren used to live in Ohio and Max used to live in LA. Then they got married in Colorado and decided to move to Portland, Oregon. Naturally, I was thrilled. What are the odds of them living in my state? 1 in 50, you might say.

On Monday I had the pleasure of meeting these lovely people, thanks to the cleverness of my dear friend, Natalie. She arranged a top secret lunch and wouldn't tell me the details. When I spotted Lauren in the restaurant, I immediately recognized her and gave her a hug.

Meeting Max and Lauren was almost as exciting as when I was 14 years old and got to meet the band members from Plus One. Actually, that's not true. Meeting Lauren and Max was better because I didn't have to wait in line, I got to see them for more than thirty seconds, and nobody was behind me screaming in my ears. Plus, neither Lauren nor Max had frosted hair or was wearing a muscle tee.

Natalie snapped some pictures of the special occasion, so I have actual proof that I met the couple.
Me and Lauren at lunch.

Lauren, me, and Max.
As if things couldn't be more awesome, Max actually mentioned me in the opening sentence of his most recent blog post. I never expected this. And okay, he got the part about waking up at 5am wrong, because I never ever do that. But I appreciate that he thinks I'm the kind of person who could/would wake up at 5am. You should go read the post.

Basically, this week has just been lovely and I give mad props to Natalie for making it happen.

Read Max's work at www.makeitmad.com and check out Lauren's writing at www.laurennicolelove.blogspot.com 

And if you live in Oregon you might be lucky enough to meet them!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Welcome to my party!

Thank you for attending my virtual birthday party! You can spend as much time at the party as you want, I won't kick you out. Here are some games for you:

1) You can go play a pointless game involving my favorite ice cream. The goal is to help the fudge fish jump into the ice cream and not into the water. Plus there are fudge cows. So great, I know. Play at least one round. My score was 50. Here is the game.

 
2)  Here is an on-line pin the tail on the donkey. The donkey is so adorable! And no cheating, you better shut your eyes like the instructions say.

 3) And here you can be a super monkey and pop balloons with a dart while you are flying over the trees.

4) Here is a picture of my face. You can sing happy birthday to it.

5) Now you better go eat some cake or ice cream.

6) And then we need to have a dance party. Play this video and dance around the room. If you are getting wi-fi in a Starbucks, then you must dance in Starbucks. No exceptions. Not even if you are in a wheel chair.


7) Post a comment explaining what your most memorable birthday gift of all time was. It doesn't have to be your favorite. For example, if you received a monkey for your 10th birthday, but you hated that monkey because he stole all of your hats and then pooped in them, it can still be your most memorable birthday gift.

My most memorable birthday gift was a plastic baby doll I received on my 6th birthday. I had been coveting her via the child-targeted commercials on TV forever, and begged and begged my parents for one. They kept saying no. The toy was call Rub A Dub Dolly, and she had hair you could brush, clothes you could change, and you could take her into the bath. I had my birthday party with all my relatives and no one gave me Rub a Dub Dolly. But then after the last car left, my parents brought out a giant box and let me open it. Inside was the doll, and I was ecstatic. I played with her all evening and probably gave her seven baths. I still have her, though the eyelashes have fallen off of one of her eyes, her hair's all matted, and I've lost half her clothes so she is mostly naked.
I found this image on-line, but it is a spittin' image of her. Apparently eyelashes falling out was a problem for these dolls. This doll's hair looks better than mine.

Thank you so much for participating in my on-line birthday party! I'm gonna go eat some cinnamon rolls now. Or apple pie. Or maybe both. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

11-11-11 Make a wish!

I remember thinking of this day last year on 10-10-10. I thought to myself "eleven eleven eleven, it's going to be a day of mystery." And indeed it is. I've got my detective party tonight. I am super excited for it, hope it goes well, and can't wait to share photos and the case we solve afterwards.

Right now I want to reflect on today. Yes, it is Veteran's day, but for me, every 11-11 is also the date I ponder the last year of my life. I've journaled on this day every year since I was 15. Many years I approach my birthday with disappointment, thinking "Wow, nothing happened this year that I thought would happen." I think to myself "this is the last day I will ever be ____years old." Today is the last day I will ever be 25 years old, unless of course someone invents a time machine that reverts my age.

Last year was a tough one, probably the worst ever. But thankfully, it only lasted for half of my 25th year. June marked a new beginning with a new life, and I began to wake up every morning just excited to get out of bed and start the day. No more hiding under the covers, anxious feelings, nightmarish dreams, or exhaustion from work.

Everything is new and so many great things are beginning. I helped a 17 year old boy start school for the first time. I've put into action my vision of having a Bible class in a public elementary school (whole post on that topic next week). I've taken a risk and started an actual legit business (not talking about Joelle Jean, Inc., though my services are still available. This business has yet to be unveiled to the on-line world, though many of my friends know about my plans already).

And okay, so I still haven't found another roommate to fill up my house, and I have only made $64.37 in the past two months. I still have to trust God everyday that he will take care of me, but I do, and it is good. I am trying my best to listen to the Big Man and actually DO what he tells me, and I am so excited about all of these new things that are happening, even if they have nothing to do with health insurance benefits and a regular monthly check.

I am alive, I am blessed, and I am protected. It's a good year for a birthday.

Much love to you,
Joelle

Thursday, November 10, 2011

delayed development

Last week I learned that my father purchased an iphone. This from the man who still owns the very first computer he purchased, circa 1996. We're talking you had to type in MS-DOS commands to get to Windows 95.

My mom and dad live out in the farmlands, not too far from civilization, but far enough away that high speed internet is still something of science fiction. They were still using dial-up when I was in college. And that was just a few years ago.

I guess what happened was my parents were over at the neighbor's house and happened to ask them what they used for internet. Mr. Smykowski said something about "tethering my laptop to my iphone." Of course my dad was all over this. He went out and bought an iphone, and the internet speed is apparently a lot better. His old internet connection was like a 90 year old grandpa out for a walk with his cane, but his new internet is like a 30 something father out for a run.

I guess the first few days with this new internet connection were inconsistent, due to the pushing of the wrong button and not knowing how to go back to fix it. But thanks to my cousin Scott, I think my parents have been trained. At any rate, they've never called me concerning their technical woes.

Instead I got my very first e-mail from my mother earlier this week. Mark it on your calendars, it happened in 2011. She actually e-mailed me information she could have told me over the phone. You know this is progress, when it is easier for her to e-mail than to call. And never mind that I fully tutored her for like, four weeks, on how to turn on her laptop, navigate Firefox, check and reply to gmail, and visit websites by typing their addresses in the correct spot.

Mom sending e-mails and Dad having an iphone is just so out of the norm for me. They are definitely making technological gains. I remember the very first cell phone my mom had. It was the size of a brick, had a nonretractable antennae, and it was turned off at all times except when a call needed to be made to someone's landline from the car.

I didn't get my first cell phone until I was a senior in high school, so whenever I went to football games or basketball games or whatever my freshman, sophomore, and junior years, I had to take the brick cell phone with me so I could call home when it was pick up time. You have no idea. I actually carried a purse with me not because I needed it to stash an ID card and cash, but because I needed it to conceal the gargantuan phone. Quite a few high schoolers had phones, but it was not the norm quite yet. However, it definitely was not the norm to carry around a 1990 relic. Most people borrowed their parents' cell phones on Friday nights--phones which were not yet a decade old.
This is exactly like the phone I am talking about.*
My freshman year, I actually used the pay phone located outside of the high school doors. But since both my parents and I are cheap, I would call collect. When it gave you that four second space to tell who was calling, I would say "Gym door" in reference to my location. We had a plan so that when my mom received these calls, she would deny the collect call and know it was time to come pick me up. My dad actually answered one time, because he thought someone named Jim Door was calling. This little mistake cost 50 cents and my dignity, because after that it was suggested that I just take the cell phone with me. Why don't you just dress me in overalls and turtlenecks while your at it, Mom?**

There was no need to carry a can of mace for protection against muggers, because that phone was so heavy that I could just conk someone on the head with it. The rechargeable battery itself weighed two pounds.

Yes, my family has always been a bit slow keeping up with the cutting edge technology of the 21st century. In fact, I think my mom may still buy VHS tapes when she sees them for sale at Goodwill. And neither I nor my mother have CD players in our cars. We still rock the cassette tape players. However, we fully have ipod adapters that we can use when we want to listen to music that was released after 1998.

*If you are interested in looking at pictures of cell phones from 1990 to 2011, you might like this.

**Okay, so my freshman year I fully wore overalls at least once a week to school, out of my own choosing. But hey, they were Calvin Klein.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lies from my mother revealed

It's tough when you find out the real truth eleven months later from your own mother. To think, this whole time I have been believing falsehoods. And I'm not talking about the existence of Santa Claus--he is to real. I am talking about that dumb book, How to Date Men.

 I told you before that my mom got it for me as a Christmas gift, and that I was offended. That post is here. And then I told you about how you should eat a lot of food on your first date, because appetites are sexy. That was here. This is the third post on the topic of How to Date Men, and I'm about to blow your mind.

Last Saturday, I was sitting with my mom for 4 hours while I helped her at her booth selling jewelry at an indoor Saturday market. We had a lot of time to chat. During our conversation, I interviewed her and learned some shocking things. I will share that information with you later this week.

So I am sitting there, writing doughnut chants on a piece of notebook paper, when my mom asks me what I want for my birthday, because she says I'm not getting a GPS. This means she really did read that post, though it did not work out the way I had hoped. I will just continue getting lost and having to ask creepy men for directions when I end up out in the middle of no-where, that's all mom. Don't even worry about it. When I go missing for two days and you haven't heard from me, it'll be because my phone died and I had no GPS, so I got lost and ended up in Nevada even though I was trying to get to Washington, that's all. But don't worry mom, some of the men I've asked for directions have even offered to drive me there. In their white van--which doesn't have any windows.

As I am sitting there thinking of what else I might desire as a birthday gift, my mom says "and there's a book I want to buy back from you."

"Huh?" I say.

And then she explains. She read my blog post on How to Date Men, and she didn't realize that I thought she was serious. She meant the book as a joke. She meant for me to take it back to Border's and exchange it, which I vaguely remember her saying, since she gave me the gift receipt for all four of the books she had purchased for me. But she doesn't understand...me returning a book is like a mother sending her baby back to the hospital because she doesn't want it. And okay, so it was a dumb book, but mothers have dumb babies and they still keep them. (I hope you're not offended that I insulted the intelligence of infants. I love babies, even if they are not geniuses).

I say to my mom "WHAT?" Because here, all this time, for the past eleven months, I have been thinking that she thought I needed serious advice on how to date men, as if that would fix the problem. As if reading chapter 9, He Likes Scented Candles (He Just Won't Admit it), would make me into a more date-able person.

"Yeah," my mother says, "I just picked it up because I thought it was so ridiculous that someone could make money off of being a matchmaker."

Well, geez, mom. Thanks for making that so clear last Christmas. And okay, so Janis Spindel is America's top matchmaker (or so she boasts on her book cover). People probably do need her advice. I am sure there are plenty of women who need to know that men like scented candles but just won't admit it. I bet chapter nine changed their lives.

You just don't give dating books to single people as a joke. They won't think it's funny. And when they read chapter 13 Can You Love Him as Much as Your Poodle?: Moving in Together, all they are going to think is "what the hell?" Because mom, you know I don't have a dog, and I am shocked that you would give me a book encouraging co-habitation before marriage. You made Travis sleep in the other room on the floor that Christmas Eve before he married Jess.

So there we are, sitting at the table at Saturday market, and my mother is explaining to me that I misunderstood her intentions. She is sorry and wants to buy the book back from me. At this point its worth is about seventy dollars.

"No," I say. "I want to keep it now that I've started a blog feature on it. It provides me with good material."

Essentially, that was the end of it. But as soon as my mom told me, I knew I had to tell you, because it changes everything, including my self-esteem. What I'm wondering is, are there any other people who were given a gift they didn't know was meant as a joke? How did you respond and what did you think? Did the person who pulled this on you birth you from her own womb?




P.S. Mom, I love, love, love you. And no hard feelings. I'm just glad you finally shared the truth with me. I think it made for a good post. But next time, just get me a Barnes and Noble gift card.

Monday, November 7, 2011

You're Invited


Things you must do on Saturday to participate in my virtual birthday party:

1) Eat cake or ice cream or both. If you really want to feel like you're with me, then eat some Ben and Jerry's Phish Food ice cream. And have a cupcake.
2) Sing Happy Birthday to your computer screen. On Saturday I will be posting a picture of my face so that you can sing to it.
3) Leave a comment saying what your most memorable birthday gift ever was. I'll share mine with you then.

No RSVP is required. Hope you can attend! Don't you just love parties?

Joelle

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Meet Azarious

I sat here for ten minutes thinking of a good opening sentence. But I don't know how to start other than to just say it. I am teaching a 17 year old boy who had never gone to school how to read. He's a white kid, born in America, living maybe 25 miles from you, and he's real.

You hear stories about people who get to 10th grade and can still barely read. You hear those stories of immigrants who have never gone to school, and now they live down the street from you. But to hear of a boy who was born in America, near my hometown, and who has never gone to school and can't read? Insane.

When I first heard about him over the phone, my jaw dropped and tears swelled up in my eyes. Because how could this happen? How could no one do anything? I knew the moment I hung up the phone that it had to be me. I knew the answer to "If not me, then who?" The answer was no one. It had been no one for seventeen years. I had never even seen the kid, but I decided in my heart that I would see this through.

It is not over. It has just barely begun. I pray that I am able to see the progress and transformation, and that I can stay committed, despite what else might come up in my life.

I received the call on a Monday, and I met the boy on Thursday of that week. At first I was first going to call him Huck Finn on my blog, to respect his privacy. The Huck Finn name is a reflection upon his lack of schooling and alone-ness in the world. I couldn't write about him like that though, because Huck Finn is not who he is going to be. Instead of referring to what he has been, I want to give a nod to what he will be. So for blogging purposes, I have renamed this teen boy Azarious. It means God Helps. At least that is what the internet told me.

I re-named him God Helps because I know that God will indeed help him learn, and has already helped him survive thus far. It is also a double meaning, because God is helping me through Azarious. Last spring I thought God meant for me to teach for free. When my plan didn't work out, God sent another way. One that I would never have dreamed up.

Let me tell you about Azarious. He is 17 years old, and skinny like an ironing board. After our first tutoring session, he spilled his story out to me. He was born in a motel room, and his mom left him after the paramedics came. He spent a year in DHS care, and then was adopted out to a family member. His dad is in prison. Azarious has never met his birth mother, though he talked to her on the phone one time a year ago. It didn't go well, mostly because he asked his mom "How could you just leave me?" And she didn't think he had any place to ask that question. He has met his dad several times, but the in and out jail sequences make it impossible to form a stable relationship.

Azarious' legal parent intended to home school him, but gave up quickly after the boy struggled to learn. This is probably because she herself had only completed a 7th grade education, and would yell at him every time he said a word wrong. The parent did not want him enrolled in public school, and so he was not. I am sure there is more to the story explaining why. I don't know why yet. There is much to his story that is missing in my knowledge. I will wait for the details to unravel, ever listening with a ready ear.

Azarious has done hard drugs and abused alcohol, all in effort to forget the life he was in. I don't blame him. I don't know how he is not a complete wreck right now, considering everything. God helps.

His life is changing now. He is no longer hidden or forgotten. He has someone that will fight for him, who sees his potential. Azarious is starting his second week of high school tomorrow, and I am meeting with him four days a week to teach him how to read. We read the Cat in the Hat last Friday.

I have already been changed so much by this experience, and I am seeing God's goodness through it all. You may think that's illogical, considering Azarious' upbringing, which was nothing good, but I can see the Lord's goodness. 

God helps.

Friday, November 4, 2011

When I don't know what to title something, I just put the date. So 11/4/11.

I hope your week has been just smashing! I've unexpectedly spent all day in front of my computer either writing or responding to e-mails, or talking to important people on the phone. More on that later, because boy is it turning into a story.

I feel like the past seven days have been insane, and that's from the person who quit her full-time job to pursue another life.

I was reading through September and October 2010 posts, and man, was it depressing. Kudos to you if you read all that junk. I can't believe that was only a year ago. Because so much is different.

On Saturday I am going to tell you about something (or rather, someone) substantial and unexpected that has impacted my life. I'm so glad to be a part of it.
***UPDATE*** As usual, I am a liar. I did not post anything on Saturday. But you already knew that. 

Sleep well.

Cuddles and good night kisses (but not in a weird way, like the way I cuddle and smooch Roo, who is a rabbit),
Joelle

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Attn Suitors

I've had the most brilliant idea of my life. You know how in the ancient times kings would hold balls when their daughter was eligible for marriage? And suitors would come from far and wide to meet her and see if they had a chance with her? Remember how Aladdin posed as Prince Ali Ababwa to court Jasmine, and they fell in love and went on a magical carpet ride? I'm going to plan a ball like that. Or rather, I'm going to convince my parents to.


I got to thinking about this because I've started planning my birthday party (which is going to be on the oh-so-magical 11-11-11, even though my birthday is the 12th), and a certain someone with no filter asked me how I'd feel if X person showed up at my party randomly. This lead my brain to the hilarious possibility of a ball.

All of the single, non-smoking men from the area would be invited, and they would fight for a chance to gain my attention and dance with me. Instead of Cinderella, the story would be Ash Boy. And he'd come riding in a prize winning gourd, wearing glass Toms or whatever.

What do you think? Should I convince my parents to send out invites? Where should I hold my ball? 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Appetites are Sexy

If you didn't read the first post on this topic, maybe you should. Basically, my mother gave me a pink covered book titled How To Date Men, and I tell you what I think about Janis Spindel's advice.

Chapter 4
I'll Pick You Up At Seven: The first date
page 65
"Be satisfied. In truth, what men care about more than anything else is that you enjoy the meal. He picked the restaurant and he's hoping you'll like it. He'd rather see you eating something you love than picking at something you hate. If he has to watch you push food around your plate, he'll feel like he selected a bad spot. So order something you really want to eat and then enjoy it. Frankly, ladies, having a healthy appetite is SEXY!"


My thoughts
Janis' advice must be true. Do you know what my sister and Travis did on their first date? They went to the Olive Garden for the bottomless bowl lasagna special. And she ate. My sister devoured those breadsticks, salad, and linguini like the restaurant would be closing tomorrow. Travis sat across from her, gazing lovingly with puppy dog brown eyes, thinking "This girl's appetite is sexy!"

And then they went on a second date, which resulted in marriage two years later.

Meanwhile, I eat 12 butterflake rolls at Thanksgiving and the men folk just worry that they'll have to drive me to the hospital when I have a carb-iac arrest.
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