Sunday, January 30, 2011

Behavioral Studies

About two weeks ago I was over at my friend Casey's when some girls knocked on the door and asked for toilet paper. Now, this seems a bit strange, I know. But just think...if someone knocked on your door and asked for some TP, what would you do? I would definitely give them a roll and not ask any questions.

Casey's situation is more acceptable because she's the RD of some apartments for a local university. Apparently part of her job is making sure her residents have toilet paper, which really extends above and beyond expectations, if you ask me. I asked her about it, and a truck delivers toilet paper to her town house about every two weeks, then she stores it for all those in need. I was intrigued by this situation, but then I just came to conclude that it must be the university's way of making sure Casey's residents make face to face contact with her at least once a month. Though Casey is so much fun that if I were her resident, I'd want to see her at least once a week anyway (which, luckily for me, I do).

All of this toilet-paper-provided-in-college-business started to make me think of the year I lived in the on-campus apartments of my alma mater. The apartment had 4 bedrooms, a small living room, a kitchen, and two bathrooms. I shared the apartment with 3 utter strangers, but one of them ended up becoming a very good friend (love you Kaitlynn!). Kaitlynn and another girl shared one bathroom, and I shared the bathroom nearest to my room with a girl named Crazy*.

The good thing about living in the on-campus apartments was that someone came in to clean your bathrooms once a week. It's not even like we had to be responsible. And though our bathrooms were cleaned by the magic fairy every Friday at ten a.m., no toilet paper was provided. You had to buy that on your own. Which hey, I get, everybody has their preferences.

Kaitlynn and the person who shared her bathroom took turns buying toilet paper, and Crazy and I took turns buying toilet paper. Or so I thought. I finally realized about four months into it that I had been the only one who was purchasing the packages of Charmin.

Now, what I am about to tell you I am not exactly proud of, and I have grown up since then, but let me just tell you that Kaitlynn and I had a passive-aggressive relationship with Crazy that she reciprocated (or started, rather). Like, for example, somebody cleaned out my entire tub of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream but then put the empty container back in the freezer. I did not write a passive-aggressive note, but instead counted my losses. But as soon as Crazy suspected someone had eaten her cheese, she put a sticky note on it in the fridge that said something like "Eat your own cheese. This is mine and it's expensive." Don't go looking at me, because I am a straight up Tillamook only girl and I would have never even tried her Velveeta or Kraft or whatever molecularly designed plastic cheese she had.

All this to say the passive-aggressiveness extended into the bathroom. Now, I may have been too pathetic to say "Hey Crazy, your turn to buy toilet paper," or I may have just wanted to do some behavioral observations, because when the last roll of TP was gone, I didn't buy more. I figured after 24 hours she'd take the hint and realize she needed to go buy some. But she didn't. What I did was I bought toilet paper and I kept it in my room (which locked), except for the one roll that I kept in my drawer of the bathroom. It was kind of a pain to remember to get it out every time, but I was really curious as to what Crazy would do. This experiment went on for about a week, at the end of which I concluded that either Crazy never wiped her butt, or she never went to the bathroom even though she was definitely living in the apartment. No one ever caught her using Kaitlynn's bathroom, though she may have in the dead of night when we were all asleep.
This would have been helpful.
After a week of this nonsense, one has to think "what the hell is this girl thinking?" Obviously there is no toilet paper. Obviously you have never bought any. So maybe you should just buy some already. I didn't say anything though, about the situation, and she didn't say anything either. This continued for about two more weeks. One day I was in my room (which was straight across from the bathroom) when I heard a sound that revealed Crazy's resourcefulness. I heard a certain drawer squeak open and the toilet flush. She was a toilet paper thief now! So of course, what does one level-headed mature college student do but remove the toilet paper from the bathroom completely and store it safely in a locked room?

Using the bathroom after this took about five extra seconds of planning, because I would have to remember to take the toilet paper roll with me. Then I would return it safely to my room, away from the butt cheeks of a non-contributing passive-aggressive note writing thief.

I thought to myself, what would she do now? It was mostly a game by this point-- mostly a scientific experiment in human behavior. Toilet paper never did show up, which just makes us all think "what the hell?" I remember the time Crazy had a friend over though. I was in the living room watching TV or doing homework or something, and the friend asks Crazy if she can use the bathroom. So what Crazy does is say "yeah, you can use that one," and points to the bathroom that we share. "But we're out of toilet paper, so hang on." I watch out of the corner of my eye as Crazy goes down the hall to Kaitlynn's bathroom and spins off some toilet paper, which she then hands to her friend.

Really? Really? But you know what's even worse? We went on like that for the rest of the year. I kept my roll of toilet paper in my locked bedroom, and she did god knows what. Perhaps she collected leaves from the bushes outside the main entrance, or she wiped with the wrappers that her individually sliced plastic cheese came in. But I'll have you know, when I got my new roommate this fall, I fully told her "you need to buy your own toilet paper."

*not her real name.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Parent intervention

J'adore the Dollar Tree, especially because I'm a teacher. It's my go-to place for all things cheap. I am sad to say, though, that the last time I left the Dollar Tree, I was steaming mad. I've had some time too cool down, but as I continue to write, I might get riled up again.

As I was looking for calculators for my classroom, I spotted an obvious parental failure. She was blond and had on sweat pants with "Pink" written across the rear. Let me just say that if you go anywhere in public with anything stamped across your bottom, it's an automatic parental discredit. But I could have let that go, I really could have. It was the words that came out of this mother's mouth that made me want to intervene.

She has with her a little brunette girl with long hair. The kid couldn't have been over five years old, but I'm pretty certain she was probably four. She's touching everything in the store and saying "I like this, I want this, can I have this?" Her mother, the one who gave birth to her, sneers and says "Put that down, that's stupid. I'm not gonna buy that." Okay, could be worse. Here it comes...

I'm in the same aisle as this mother and child, and the kid says something to her mom. It really doesn't matter what she said, because she is four and her mother is an adult. Her mother says to her "You're such a bossy brat." This, good people, is why I struggle with the students in my class. This is why I have to listen to 37 accounts of name calling per day. It's because my students' own parents likely use this kind of language with them at home. I mean, get a clue, moms and dads. If you want your child to be nice at school, maybe you shouldn't call them names. That's who they learn it from. If you don't want me to call you in for a parent meeting because of something your child did, then start setting a better example at home.

It gets infinitely worse. I mean, after I heard the bossy brat comment, I was about to say something like "If you use more respectful language with your child, she will likely grow up to be respectful to others." But I kept my lips shut.

Then the mom tries to get her daughter to follow her to another aisle, but the kid doesn't want to go. I wouldn't want to go anywhere with this woman either. So the mother says, "Come on you little varmint." ! and ? For reals? You just called your child a varmint? And in public? Clearly, I am not impressed with your parenting skills. I don't care if she's not obeying you, you don't say things like that to a four-year-old. 

Again, I kept my mouth shut, but the steam started to come out of my ears. I finished getting what I needed and went to get in line. There they were again. Another chance to intervene. The child was trying to crawl up to the counter and reach a candy bar, and her mother kept telling her to stop. I really wanted to demonstrate good parenting skills. I wanted to show that terrible mother what you could say calmly, respectfully, and firmly to have the child stop. I didn't, but I am 99% sure the kid would have listened to me.

As I'm walking to my car, I'm thinking "this is why classroom behaviors are going to hell. Parents don't even demonstrate respect and kindness in their own homes."

I watch the mother force her child into the back and slam the door. I pull out behind her. I sort of think about writing down her license plate, but then I spot something even better: a phone number decal on the rear window. It's advertising some "Scentsy" business. I could call this woman, I think. I could call and tell her what she should be doing differently. But the problem is, it's kind of raining and I can't quite make out all of the numbers. And I don't want to become "that person," the complete stranger who gets all up in your business even though they don't even know you. I didn't want to do that.

But now I wish I had.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Veggie Diet

This post is dedicated to my cousin's girlfriend, Heidi, because she's really curious about what I eat since I'm a vegetarian. I actually do not eat a lot of vegetables, but I am trying. Please do not read this and think this is what most vegetarians eat. They probably are way different from me. And just so we can advertise everything to the entire world, I am five feet tall and I've weighed 101 pounds for the past four weeks, though usually I weigh about 108 pounds. I don't really know what happened.

I feel like this post could bring a lot of judgment, so I am going to tell you the following information: Based on the Harris-Benedict principle, my body needs 1,254 calories just to function. Adding in how much activity I do, I need 1,630 if I am being lazy about going to the gym, and I need 1,755 calories if I go to the gym about 4 times a week. I did not add up how many calories I actually ate every day because like I care or have that kind of dedication.

I posted everything I've eaten since last Sunday, but I would also like you to know that every day for lunch I packed more food than what is listed. Either I wasn't hungry enough to eat it, or I was hungry but ran out of time because teachers do not exactly get their full 30 minute lunch break. Like, ever. 

Let the judgment begin.

Sunday (This is basically the throw-away-day where I eat loads of unhealthy things)
breakfast: apple cinnamon flavored oatmeal
snack: chocolate chip granola bar
lunch: Protein shake (1 cup skim milk, 1 banana, chocolate flavored whey protein powder, 1 tbs peanut butter). This thing has like, 700 calories, I swear. Plus I ate a few handfuls of this popcorn I got in a tin from one of my students.
snack: 3 Ritz peanut butter chocolate covered cookies that my Grandma Jo makes. They are delicious. I have a giant bag of them in the freezer.
dinner: Top Ramen with egg. I know, impressive cooking skills, right? But this dinner cost me like 14 cents.
even more dinner: Like 8 or 9 mozzarella sticks from Applebees. But they were half off the regular price! Oh goodness. I just looked up the nutritional information on-line, and those cheese sticks were 940 calories. But also had 45 grams of protein. So I should be good for like, all of Monday. I could basically fast on Monday. But I won't.
vegetables consumed: none

Monday No School! Thanks MLK.
breakfast: a bowl of Cheerios
lunch: leftover Top Ramen and a vegetarian hot dog (without the bun). Weird meal I know, but I was trying to clean out the fridge.
snack: granola bar and pear fruit cup
dinner: steamed broccoli, hard boiled egg 

breakfast: apple cinnamon flavored oatmeal
snack: chocolate chip granola bar and a handful of goldfish crackers
lunch: soy chicken patty (not real meat, duh), cup of green beans and edamame, blackberry yogurt
snack: Like 3 handfuls of goldfish crackers, maybe more. I ate them during the course of an hour long meeting.
dinner: hard boiled egg, Portabella mushroom veggie patty with ketchup, banana, 2 of those delicious Ritz-PB-chocolate covered cookies

breakfast: apple cinnamon flavored oatmeal
snack: chocolate chip granola bar
lunch: peanut butter and jelly sandwich, apple, strawberry yogurt
snack: string cheese, goldfish crackers
dinner: protein shake (again, like 700 calories and 42 grams of protein), carrots. I didn't get home till after nine, so I had to pack this food with me.

breakfast: granola bar. I wanted to eat more, but I had a staff meeting I forgot about, and it started right at 8:00 am.
snack: honey roasted cashews and peanuts
lunch: Fettuccine Alfredo and broccoli Smart Ones meal, raspberry yogurt
snack: string cheese, goldfish crackers
dinner: quesadilla and Southwest Mexi mix on the side (corn, black beans, salsa, red peppers).
even later: I went to Casey's house and ate a nice big chunk of chocolate. She had one of those giant Hershey's kisses and she sliced it up. Then I ate part of it. Yum!

breakfast: apple cinnamon flavored oatmeal
snack: chocolate chip granola bar
lunch: Southwest Mexi mix leftovers with tortilla chips
snack: 3 of Grandma's scrumptious cookies (and I've still got more in the freezer)
dinner: cherry-vanilla yogurt, cheese ravioli, pear fruit cup, Dove chocolate
even later: Some of that popcorn out of the tin my student Julio gave me.

morning: I went to a brunch at my church, so it was kind of hard to remember everything I ate, but I think it was some grapes, a few pieces of pineapple, some orange, a muffin that had craisins in it, and a slice of this really delicious bread that sort of had like peanut butter baked into it or something, with crumbly sugar on the top. Plus black chai tea.
Chocolate Fest: A lot of chocolate samples. Like a truffle, a bit of red velvet cake, toffee, caramel, licorice, and a chocolate martini
dinner: fake chicken burger (with bun and lettuce). Fake meat is called a meat analog, in case you didn't know. My favorites are made by Morning Star.
Casey's house: her really delicious salsa and chips, carrots and hummus, some apple slices and that marshmallow/cream cheese/heath bar dip.

Now you know some of the most intimate details of my life, like how often I eat chocolate. If you are wondering why I am a vegetarian, that is another post for another time. But I've been one for nine years.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Blogger-Reader Date

Oh, hey, thanks for meeting me. You look stunning. Yesterday I told you that if you were lucky, you'd get a Friday night blogger-reader date with me at nine o'clock. Or by nine o'clock. Though I have a feeling this conversation is going to be a bit one-sided. But we'd better get started, because I have some things to tell you and I haven't seen the waiter come by.

On Friday nights I like to catch up on my on-line television viewing. At the beginning of the school year, I felt overwhelmed because I had so many shows to watch (Covert Affairs, Under Covers, Nikita, and Glee when I felt like it). I should have been more thankful that those spy shows were on then. Covert Affairs wasn't really that good, but its season is done until this coming summer. I've been checking back on Hulu for new episodes of Under Covers (kind of my favorite) and Nikita. There hasn't been anything new in ages. So what do I do? Google news them both, of course. Do you know what I discovered? NBC has canceled Under Covers. This is a tragedy, and it always happens to me. After Alias ended, it took me forever to discover Lost. And then when Lost was over, I found Flash Forward, which was very brief, though riveting (in my opinion). And now they've gone and canceled the best spy show there's been in a while.

My problem is that I am too loyal. I have one show that I love, and one show only. So when it leaves me, I enter heartbreak. I ache to find something I can look forward to every week. I'm afraid I might rebound and start watching The Bachelor again, even though I finally quit like, two seasons ago. Good news is, Nikita is supposed to be back on next week. I will cling to her like a baby. You know, if babies clung to trained assassins who are dressed in black leather and own extensive weapon collections.

Oh hey look, our food has arrived. I know right? And you didn't even order anything. But it's your favorite, rest assured. Dig in.

Sometimes when you don't really know someone very well, you talk about really lame subjects such as the weather. Unless you've recently experienced a tornado or flood or something, it's usually not that interesting. I, however, had a wonderful weather-related conversation yesterday after school. I was standing at the back side of the school by the gym (which is where I am supposed to stand from 3:15 to 3:30 while students are leaving the premises), and I saw my old student from last year. Tyler (now a 5th grader) came up to me and started a conversation, as usual. He asked me what I'd been doing. I told him about the things I've been teaching my class recently. I asked him what he had been learning about. He said weather and climate. So then we started talking about collecting data. Apparently everyday the students in his class have to check the temperature and record if it is sunny, cloudy, rainy, snowing, etc. Plus, he was able to tell me about the type of clouds currently in the sky. I later complimented him on his use of "precipitation" in a sentence. It was really a nice, intellectual conversation, and after he left, I realized that is what I like best about being a teacher: I like talking to my old students. Because they are not currently in my class, our relationship is nothing but positive. I don't have to discipline them. They are excited to see me. The problem is, in order to get old students, you have to have current ones. And they give me headaches.

Did you order this dessert? Because it looks delicious. Mind if I try a bite?

Did you ever watch Even Stevens? With Shia LeBeouf? You know, when he was still a kid in middle school and not starring in Transformers with Megan Fox? I loved that show because it was hilarious. Well, I've got this student, "Drew," and I sort of wish he could have his own TV show. Drew created bread people. He's also the one who came in a few months ago with his cello case and was all "Hey look teacher, I'm a rock and roller! All I need is an ugly jacket and a beard." Well, this morning when he came in, he sat at a seat that was not his (he usually sits in at least three people's seats before the bell rings) and says to a group of kids, "Last night I learned beauty tips from Megan Fox." He says all of these things in his chubby-cheeked Spanish accent.

Oh look, the bill came. Don't worry though, your pretend meal is on me. We'll have to do this again sometime.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

You are a lovely reader

I apologize for my lack of posting this week if, you know, The Real Pretend is what keeps you going everyday. Which I know it is. I've been crazy busy. I fully had this whole week planned out with posting ideas and stories I wanted to tell you, but they have been pushed to the side. Saturday I swear, Friday night if you are lucky. We could like, have a blogger-reader date. So meet me here Friday night at nine. Hopefully I won't stand you up.

Right now I need to leave though, because my students have been begging for a new seating chart and I told them I'd have it on Wednesday. Which was a lie. So I'm going to go work on it and strategize student placement now.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Prepared to teach in Africa

I am pretty sure I'm well prepared to teach in Africa or whatever, based on how I am used to my teaching environment being sub-par. Not that I am currently planning to go teach in Africa, but you know, it's always an option. I am envisioning that in Africa they have no electricity, a dirt floor, and a chalkboard, and maybe each of the students have a little slate and a slate pencil to use. I could work with this, I really could. Let me tell you all the ways I have adapted.

The walls of my classroom are falling over. I have two temporary folding walls that separate my classroom from the rest of the world, and recently they have started to slant. This is because we used to have carpet in the school, but last summer the carpet got ripped out and replaced with tile. So now that extra half inch or whatever of cushion is gone, and it was needed to keep the wall secure. I've had to do things like go next door and push our wall in to make it straight. I'm sort of waiting for the day it opens and slants so much that the kids can use it as a doggy door and escape to the next room. I mean, if we were in Africa, the school walls would probably be made of mud or thatch, and at least the kids could work on fixing it during recess.

Ants have infested our room. I am sort of hoping this won't happen again this spring like it has in the past, due to the new floors we have. But for the last two years, armies of ants have invaded our classroom. Part of the problem is that we have no cafeteria and have to eat in our classrooms, and the kids leave crumbs. The ants jump on these immediately and carry them off. I'm sort of waiting for the day a kid has hot Cheeto powder permanently stuck to his fingers and the ants just come and carry the entire kid off. The main problem with the ants is that they distract the students when we are sitting on the rug or whatever and the scream about it. If we were in Africa, bugs would not be a distraction to the students, because they would be used to seeing them in their houses all the time.

I was twice expected to teach in the dark with nothing but a flashlight. The first time I only had to do it for forty minutes, the second time I taught in the dark for four hours. Maybe this wouldn't be such a big deal if your classroom had at least one window. Mine doesn't. We have absolutely no natural light. The administrators were well aware of our cave like conditions, but I was asked to carry on as usual. I am very good at improvising and thinking fast, so we managed pretty well. But if I taught in Africa, at least I could count on the sun shining through the holes in our roof to give us light. We wouldn't have this problem.

This kid wanted to look like Spider Man, but the teacher in charge of the face painting booth thought a geography lesson would be more educational.
Clocks are wrong on the days you need them the most. For the first two weeks of school in September, our clock was totally wrong. Both the hour and the minutes were incorrect, so you couldn't do things like think it was just three hours ahead. The clocks are all controlled by some panel (I have yet to know where it is located; it seems like this control panel must be stationed at the district office or something, since no one at our actual school is ever able to fix the problem). Let me tell you, it's very difficult to make sure you are on time to PE or lunch or whatever when you haven't a clue of the time. Also, when the power goes out, the clocks go wrong. I came back from Christmas break and our clock was wrong. It was our first day back and we were all out of routine, so a clock would have been really helpful. I mean, if I were in Africa, at least I could use a sun dial consistently.

Copier goes berserk at least once a day. I basically can't count on the copy machine working on the day I need it, so I try to make my copies the day before, after school. You know, at six o'clock at night when no one is there except the custodian. The copier in high usage from 7:55 to 8:30 am (right before the kids come), so you can count on a line of teachers, a bit of cussing, and a paper jam. Only these paper jams aren't just one paper. Oh no. You have to hunt through like, eight compartments and pull out all the misfed sheets. The problem with teaching in America is that all the kids expect worksheets to do and all the problems to be written out for them. If I taught in Africa, I'm fairly certain I could just write on the blackboard and the kids wouldn't complain about copying it down. As it is, I have kids who take about ten minutes writing one sentence down or copying five multiplication problems. They groan the entire time. If I taught in Africa, I doubt my kids would request paper. We'd probably just write in the dirt with a stick. Heck, a chalkboard would probably be considered high technology.

In conclusion, I am just sort of wondering if the past 2.5 years of my teaching career has just been God's way of preparing me for even worse conditions. Though you may have realized, as I have, that teaching in Africa might actually be easier.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

An Easier Life

I have exactly 49 blogs that I read, and I finally made things easier for myself and subscribed to them via Google Reader. Now I know how many posts behind I am. But there are 7 days in a week, so if I read 7 different blogs a day, I hit them all by the end of the week.

I also finally got an account on  so I can listen to some selected sweet tunes for free, but I admit I still need to mess around with it a bit to see how to use all the features. I added like 93 songs to my library, but for some reason I keep listening to the same 7. My playlist needs some help.

I know Google calendar has been around for a while, but I finally started using it regularly in December. I have one calendar for all my work stuff and one calendar for all my personal stuff. I've been better at doing things on time because of it.

And I've mentioned this before, but I still love It automatically carries your procrastination over to the next day, so you can't get out of doing all the things on your list.

Are there any on-line techniques that you love that make things easier for you?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

3 People to Read

There are three blogs that I read that have caused me to change my perspective on some things. These writers echo truth and hope and scream love. These people are incredibly talented and craft beautiful sentences. I know none of them in real life, but I feel like I know their hearts because they are so transparent with their truths.

Check it out.

As Simple As That by Hannah Katy
Some of my favorite posts:
*Dear Mr. Kringle, there is a young woman out there who needs a 34th Street
*Not Every Story is a Love Story
*Killing Marsha Brady
*Will it be enough if we sign it with love?
*Dear Priscilla, you can have your story back.

Lauren Nicole Love
Some of my favorite posts: 
*Thoughts on Love

Make it MAD by Max Andrew Dubinsky. I have to give major props to this guy, because I only read like three blogs written by males, and he's one of them.
Some of my favorite posts: 
*Christians are Partying Harder and Having Better Sex Than You
*A Gentleman's Guide to the 21st Century
*Defenseless In The Very Ocean Your God Created

Monday, January 10, 2011

Rottstiff or Mastweiler?

I present to you a Saturday evening phone conversation with my sister, Jessamy. We talk about a lot of important things.

Me: Hey. What are you doing right now?
Jess: Watching Animal Hoarders. This woman has 97 dogs.
Me: 97 dogs?!
Jess: Yeah. And she keeps them all inside her trailer. But they're small dogs.
Me: Because that makes it okay. But 97? Are they all sick and starving?
Jess: No. But the woman is basically broke.
Me: Is this show sponsored by the same people who air Hoarders? Like it's Hoarders: Animal Edition?
Jess: I don't think so, because it's on Animal Planet.

Blah blah blah we talk about some other stuff.

Jess: Sarah was at a drive through coffee place and on the window they were advertising Mastiffs for sale. Only she didn't get the number, so she told me where it was and I drove there to get the number.
(Please keep in mind that my sister already owns 3 giant Rottweilers. The biggest one weighs more than me. By a good fifteen pounds.)
Me: So did you call?
Jess: Yeah.
Me: What does Travis think of all this?
(Travis is forever having to tell his wife no to her desires for more pets. If she had it her way, she'd already have a fainting goat, an alpaca, a pot bellied pig, a miniature donkey, and like six dogs).
Jess: Well, he said in like two years. After we get our second house. The plan is to get a female Mastiff and then breed it with Squishy.
(Squishy is the 120 pound Rottweiler that was the offspring of their other two Rottweilers. He was named Squishy as a puppy because he was so fat.)
Me: Is there a large market for Mastiffs bred with Rottweilers?
Jess: Oh yeah. There's a breeder on the west coast who only breeds the two together. If we did this, then we'd have a Mastweiler.
Me: A Mastweiler? Why not a Rottstiff?
Jess: That's what Travis said.
Me: Well Rottstiff sounds a lot better. (I repeat it again with a British accent). I would actually name one of the puppies Rottstiff. It sounds like he would attend an all-boys prep school and wear a tailored jacket with the school emblem stitched on.
Jess: But then of course we'd have to keep one of the Mastiff-Rottweiler puppies. To keep the legacy going.
Me: So then you'd have three Rottweilers, a Mastiff, and one Rottstiff?
Jess: Yep.
Me: Well, whatever. As long as you don't appear on an episode of Animal Hoarders.
Jess' first Rottweiler was a girl named Cinderly.

Then Cinderly grew up and met her husband, Thor.
Cinderly got knocked up and had a lot of puppies, including the chubby Squishy.

Jess would hold Squishy, even though he was a fatty.
Pretty soon Squishy outgrew both his parents. It gave his father a complex.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Money Talks

Basically this is a continuation of Wednesday's post. I said I would reveal to you some tips and tell you more about my budget tracking system. Also, somewhere embedded in this post is my credit card number.

I was browsing through last January's post, and it seems like I had the same frame of mind a year ago. I talked about how the envelope money system would never work for me, because I don't want to keep track of receipts and I can't be bothered to write anything down when I'm at the store.

So I'm gonna start by telling you about the trends I noticed after running my year-end-report. As a teacher, I'm basically a pro at data analysis. I've more or less gone bug eyed staring at reports and test results printed in size ten font.

This is what I noticed:

The eating out category shows the patterns of my social life. For example, in October I only spent $9.95, because I was too busy putting in extra hours at work and was immediately going to bed when I got home. In May either I was too lazy to go grocery shopping, or I had a lot of ventures out with friends, because I overspent by 50%. Oops.

I noticed that my gas heating bill peaked in January, but then slowly declined until it got to its lowest point in October. It started to rise again once November hit.

The cost of garbage service increased by seventy cents.

There were only two months where I spent $0 on clothes: April and October.

From January 2010 to December 2010, my bank account profited 79%. I think this is fairly awesome. Nearly doubling my money in one year seems kind of a feat. I doubt it will happen in 2011. Unless of course, I strike it rich and discover I am actually living on top of an oil well.

Now let's chat about some finance tips.

1) I'm going to start out very harsh. If you can't pay off the entire balance of your credit card at the end of every month, you should get the scissors out right now and cut it up. I'm all about using a credit card (they're safer for on-line purchases and some get good bonus point rewards), but it's incredibly important to pay the thing off. Maybe this is bad, but I don't actually know the interest rate on my credit card. It doesn't ever matter to me, because I've never paid a dime of interest on it in my life. The short of it is, don't spend money you don't actually have. This is called debt.

2) Pack your lunch everyday. And vending machines totally are a rip off, so keep a drawer full of snacks at work. I do. My staples are Goldfish crackers and small amounts of chocolate, like Hershey kisses or mini sized candy bars.

3) Pay all your bills on time. If you're really bad about doing things on time, sign up for automatic payments. If you are constantly late paying various bills, there's this thing called a credit score and it gets affected. Plus, who wants to pay interest or late fees? Not me.

4) Buy-one-get-one-half-off still means you are paying 150%. Sure, if it's something I actually need or will use (toilet paper, toothpaste, shampoo), I will buy it. But if I buy a shirt for fifteen bucks, I am not going to get another one for $7.50 unless I really really love it and need it. Marketers are always trying to get you to spend more money than you actually would on things. They claim that you are saving, but you are not saving if you spent more than you set out to spend. Don't cave in. Think, "Do I really need two?"

5) Don't pay to waste something. Case in point: I used to buy a bag of spinach every week or two but I usually let half of it go bad. It was only $1.78 or whatever, but I was being wasteful. I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but I have not packed salad for lunch since the beginning of November. Instead I have a lot of frozen vegetables that I cook instead, because they won't go bad.

I think the biggest thing that helps me is that I check my on-line banking account like every three days and I write down what I spent my money on. When you are aware of your spending, it helps keeps things in check. For me, guilt acts as a good deterrent to irresponsible spending.

Happy $pending and $aving this year.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

If you like to talk about money

I like money. Most people do. I really like to keep track of how I spend it, and I like to save it even more. This from the person who does not write down her expenses in a checkbook registry.

I'm really excited because since 2010 is over, I get to run my first year end budget report. I know, right? I started tracking everything on an Excel spreadsheet in spring of 2009, but this is the first year that I can make a complete and accurate year end report. I was really good about keeping track of everything in 2010.

What I'm most interested in is finding out my 12 month average for all my spending categories, and how much I spent during the whole year on one category. Also, I get to see how much money I spent during all of 2010, which is a big slap of reality across the cheek. I also discovered how much money I saved throughout the year.

Abe is thuggin' in an origami hat.
 I don't use any sort of fancy program to keep track of everything. Like I said, I made a spreadsheet on Excel that is tailored to my personal budget. I have a spreadsheet for each month of the year (made into tabs) and about once every two weeks I go through my online banking registry and write everything down. I rarely use cash, because having cash is like free money to me, since I can't see it show up later on my online banking. All I know is I took forty bucks out of the ATM on whatever date. Who knows what I spent it on. So I usually pay for everything on my debit card, because it leaves an electronic paper trail.

In case you are interested in learning about my budget categories, I'll tell you. If you're not interested in reading about other people's budgets, you should probably just X off of this post right now and go watch a YouTube video. I'm kind of nosy, so if you posted about this, I'd be interested in reading it. But I understand not everyone is interested in the same things.

Anyway, so my budget categories:
Mortgage. Yes! The joys of pretending to be an adult.
Garbage. I get billed ever other month. This also covers recycling, which I take full advantage of, thank you very much. Plus they pick up my yard debris, which I don't have a lot of, on account of how my yard is about as wide as a bowling lane.
Gas. This isn't gas for my car. It's natural gas that heats my water tank and house. Higher in the winter months, or course.
Electric. Thanks, PGE. Lights. Computer. Hair dryer. TV. Blender. All those things suck up energy.
Water/Sewer. Because even though I live in Oregon where the rain hitting my driveway exceeds my daily water usage, I still have to pay.
Internet. Could we live without it?
Phone. I have a cell phone that I never access internet on. And I'm on the family plan. My mother bills me about every two months.
Insurance. Home owners and car. My health insurance comes straight out of my paycheck, so I ignore that.
Household. This covers things like toilet paper, soap, light bulbs, or more popularly, home decor. Like pillows and bookshelves and beautiful things.
Gym. Got to work on my fitness.
Auto/Gas. Flat tires, dead batteries, hit and runs, fuel, headlights, doorhandles-- everything that can go wrong usually does. Actually, my car is pretty faithful. I like it.
Groceries. Winco, baby. Can't afford to shop at Roth's or Safeway or FredMeyer. Take my own bags to help Mother Earth.
Eating out. I rarely do this because I feel like it's a giant waste of money. I mean, four bucks for a baked potato when they're worth like, twelve cents? I mostly have to keep in mind that I am paying for the atmosphere and company. Otherwise it's totally not worth it.
Personal. This is kind of a broad category, and it covers not only things like haircuts, massages, toothpaste, doctor and dentist visits, oral surgery, cough syrup, and prescriptions, but also apparently Blockbuster movie rentals, according to March 2010.
Clothes. Because nakedness is only attractive on some people.
Retail. Basically this should be renamed the Target category, because that's where most of the money goes. I could divide the receipt up into all the other categories, but I usually don't and it gets lumped into this. Like, if I go to Target and buy toilet paper, a toothbrush, a t-shirt, and something for my classroom, I don't separate it all out. I probably should. Maybe that will be a 2011 goal.
School. This isn't college tuition anymore, it's the money I spend on my classroom. I mostly buy books for my students to read, or other various teaching equipment, like cast iron rulers.
Tithe. God has blessed me immensely. And my church is awesome.
Other. Sometimes things just don't fit anywhere else you know?

Okay, so I was fully planning on telling you some money tips and more about how I track things on my budget, because I really do consider myself fiscally responsible, but this post is getting kind of long and your attention span is getting kind of short. So we'll finish tomorrow. Finance nerds tune in, or you know, if you're an identity thief and you want to get a hold of my credit card number.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Backwards Christmas

I know, okay? You're all "Why is Joelle writing about Christmas? It's January. Fourth." I get that. I'm sorry. Though I'm pretty sure the Russians haven't celebrated yet, due to that whole Julian Calendar thing. See, today was the day I finally took my dried up Christmas tree down. It was a huge ordeal.

I left work early (meaning only an hour late) and didn't go to the gym. I came home and made myself a meal reminiscent of Christmas Day (and okay, Thanksgiving too). I cooked up stuffing and some mashed potatoes. And whatever if they were instant and the stuffing was Stove Top. I dirtied two pots making the food. That shows effort. While it was cooling down enough for me to eat it, I took all the ornaments off of my Christmas tree. Typically I wrap them up as I take them off, but tonight I decided to lay all my ornaments out on the floor to see just how many there were. I didn't count them, though. Sorry. I forgot because I was so hungry. After all the ornaments go the floor, I ate dinner. It was very scrumptious and I have leftovers for tomorrow's lunch.

After carefully wrapping up the ornaments in tissue paper, taking down stockings, putting away the nativity, and taking down the Beary Christmas calendar, I shoved everything into a clear plastic storage bin. I even managed to fit the Christmas lights in there. Then came the difficult part: the taking down of the tree.

See, my Christmas tree was a bit crooked so it was propped up with a stick all last month. I knew that as soon as I loosened the screws at the base, the whole thing would come toppling on my head. I very carefully loosened the tree and only managed to get about two handfuls of pine needles in my hair. Then I lifted the entire tree out of it's base and dragged it out the door. I'm pretty buff so I was able to do it all by myself, no sweat.

I was mostly expecting the catastrophic amount of pine needles the tree left in its wake. The entire front step to my house was covered in a carpet of brownish-green. To which I'm like "Cool. As long as it's outside." Then I examined the path that I took through the living room. I busted out my vacuum and started sucking those one inch pests up. Only have you ever seen a baby try to suck through a straw? They're not really good at it. That's what my vacuum is like. It doesn't suck. It spits.

Basically I have to go over the carpet about 80 million times before all the needles are gone. And okay, I lie. They're not really gone yet. There are still tons left. Where the base of the tree was there is literally three pounds of needles. Guess I should have watered more. I tried scooping some needles up with my hands, but I've still got to vacuum the area. As I'm vacuuming, I'm just thinking about how my vacuum is going to smell like Pine Sol for the rest of its life, even after I clean it. I'll be vacuuming in June and it will smell like Christmas. Also, I'm thinking that if I vacuum twice a week for about fourteen weeks, all the pine needles will be gone by about mid-February.

It's probably a good thing I'm not a wife, due to my lack of effort in vacuuming. But let me just say that if I were a wife, I would have fully registered for a really nice vacuum, so I wouldn't have this problem.

Now my living room is really bare and sad looking, so I'll have to spend time decorating it with something. But you know what I just remembered I have to do? I need to put up my new Hot Men of Hawaii calendar. My last calendar was of cupcakes, but my sister got me a 2011 calendar when she was in Hawaii. She asked me what I wanted and I said a hot guy. So she brought me back twelve of them. I hang my calendar up right next to my desk, which is in the living room. I'm hoping it doesn't make my roommate feel uncomfortable. The guys are fully wearing shorts. Just you know, no shirt. And there's a bit of glistening water on their chests. But happy January, right?

Monday, January 3, 2011

I changed my mind

During the fall I wrote On Proposals, where I shared with you a story about myself in college, and how I thought it was silly to have a dream proposal, because like it would actually happen.

Then I had an epiphany.

If I am ever able to convince someone to fall in love with me, then I have an idea for a proposal that would make my head spin.

Maybe the lucky guy and I are poking our noses around in vintage shops or something, and he's like "Hey, Joelle, what's that over there?" And we walk over to an old wooden desk, and sitting on top of the old wooden desk is this typewriter:

And there is a page stuck in the typewriter, and written out on the paper is a single line which reads:
And sitting on top of one of the vintage keys is an Edwardian style diamond ring, similar to this:

 And the lucky guy falls to one knee and tells me,

"You are the only one I've ever loved. Will you marry me?"

Of course I say yes. And then I ask:
"Do I get to keep the typewriter, too?"

Sunday, January 2, 2011

11 for 2011

I'm sure that everyone who has a blog is posting their new year's resolutions. I think we do this to guilt trip ourselves into following through, because now that I know you know what my resolutions are, I feel like I have to actually keep up with them. Because what if I see you in real life, and you're all "hey, did you comb your hair today?"

11 for 11: My New Year's Resolutions
1) Leave the tragedies and losses of 2010 in the past.

2) Comb my hair everyday, even on the days I wear it curly, because otherwise I really regret it on like, day 3.

3) Pack a vegetable for lunch everyday and actually eat it. Seriously. I've been a vegetarian for nine years and I'm terrible at it. I should be called a carbotarian.

4) Spend more time listening to God. Shut my overactive imagination and thought processes off and just try to hear Him.

5) Pray more effectively. Like, not right before going to sleep, and not with my eyes closed, because then I just fall asleep. During the day time with my eyes open would be the ideal time for longer, concentrated prayers.

6) Fight harder for my kids. Every day I go to work is a day I go to war. And so far this school year, I've just been fighting for myself trying to survive. I need to start fighting for my students.

7) Write more. And I'm not talking about blogging. I need to actually open up the word documents I have my novels saved on and write. Okay, so mostly I have a lot of revising and editing to do.

8) Start going to the gym on Fridays again. Because I can count on one finger the number of times I've made it on Fridays since September.

9) Take vitamins regularly. Specifically, calcium and iron. Plus fish oil if I want to be an over-achiever and could stomach it.

10) Keep the inbox of my work e-mail account to less than 25 pieces of mail. This is going to take a lot of effort, I can tell you that already. But I fully spent 45 minutes of my winter break whittling it from 133 down to 8.

11) Do one thing a month that makes me want to throw up. I'm talking daring things-- those things I cringe thinking about but ache to do.

If you've made resolutions as well, I wish you the best. If you want to be guilt-tripped into following them, leave a comment or e-mail me or something, and I can harass you about them later. One thing I used to do for a self-guilt trip is I would send myself scheduled e-mails that would have my list of goals or resolutions on it, with a message like "are you actually doing these things?!"  I'd have them sent to me like every Tuesday at 4pm or whatever. I used to do the advanced scheduling.

Happy 2011.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010: A Year End Review

To be honest, I’m really glad to be rid of 2010. It was mostly a load of crap. But instead of writing about everything that was wrong with 2010 (and believe me, there was plenty), I've decided to focus on the positive. I'm trying to not be so cynical this year. So here are all of the good things that happened, in no particular order:

1) I met Casey and Leslie. These are two amazing, beautiful, brilliant girls who love God and are fun beyond belief. Getting to know them this year has been a blessing. Kudos to Kaitlynn and Natalie for inviting those girls to Bible study at my house.

2) I finally got a gorgeous six foot wooden bookcase in my living room and unpacked my books from the garage. I sort of feel like it's my best piece of furniture. And okay, my couch is super comfortable, but the bookshelf holds the words dear to my heart.

3) Girls' Bible Study trip to Duck Bay over the summer. It was a blast spending time with the girls out in the middle of no where. They really impressed me with their ability to keep calm when my dad acted like our water tour guide and basically terrified us on his jet boat. But you know, at least we had the musical warning. Whenever he played "American Woman," we knew to hang on tight.

4) Basically all of my childhood/high school friends got married this year. I attended five lovely weddings. Seeing friends that I've known for so long marry the person they love was incredible, and I am happy I was there to witness it. Plus, the cake was pretty good, too.

5) The end of the 09-10 school year in June was heart warming. I was really proud of my kids and how we formed such a tight community in our classroom. Even if the students I have this year think I'm a mean teacher, I know that there are at least 28 other kids who viewed me as a rock star and knew that I cared about them deeply. They are fifth graders this year and I love it when they pop into my classroom in the morning to say hello and how much they miss being in my fourth grade class.

6) Through the sudden death of a loved one, I learned how strong and filled with love my family is. I also discovered that I was more capable at leading prayer than I thought. It was the worst moment, but it was the moment that I could feel God was still with us. I can see the whole thing play in my mind like a movie. All the relatives were at the funeral home and about half of us chose to view the body. I had to. I knew if I didn't, I would keep on thinking my grandpa was just playing a joke on us. When I saw him, it became tragically real. Tears streamed from every face. Just as we were about to leave, my sister cried "Shouldn't we pray?" But she couldn't because she was hysterical. And nobody else wanted to take it on either. What are you supposed to pray about when someone dies? But I knew what my sister meant. We were here with his body for the last time, and it felt like we should pray. So even though I don't like to pray out loud in front of people a whole lot, I scooped up the hands next to me that were holding Kleenexes, and I said the first words I could think of. "Thank you Jesus, thank you Lord." We all knew then that it was the right thing to say. It was the only thing to say to God at the time. I kept praying and I thanked God for giving us Papa, and for blessing us with a grandpa who was so loving. Thank you God, for allowing Papa's time on earth.

7) My sister and fake brother celebrated their two year anniversary, and they still like each other. That makes me happy.

8) Girls' Trip to the Beach with Gram. This adventure was totally epic. I loved hanging out with my aunts, mom, sister, and grandma. We laughed till we cried, ate lots of chocolate, revealed secrets, learned family history, crafted, and laughed even more. I am already looking forward to our 2011 vacation.

9) I found a local church that I totally dig.

Happy 1-1-11 everybody!
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