Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I Will Wait For You

Sometimes I really wish I had more soul. I wish I could have a rumbling voice and raise it with such enthusiasm that the whole audience gets chills. I wish people would snap their fingers when I say something clever. Basically, I wish I were black.

I discovered the wonderful poet and artist who is MissTerious Janette...Ikz (Mysterious Genetics for those of us who aren't cool enough to have a performance name).

I've watched this video like twenty nine times in the past two days. It's called I Will wait For You.

 My favorite phrases?

I called 911 but I was cardiac arrested for aidin' and abettin'...

Ready to sell my aorta for a quarter, not knowing the value of its use to me
Arteries so clogged with my will, it blocked His Will from flowing through me
So I thank Christ that his blood pressure gave this heart an attack
That flatlined my obscured vision,
Put me flat on my back....

You know, he's sorta kinda right, but sorta kinda wrong. His first name's Luke, last   name's Warm...

All he could whisper were sweet, empty, nothings...

He won't even come close
Our finger's won't even interlock
We won't even exchange breaths
Cause I have thoughts
That I've "saved as" in a file that God only equipped you to open...

I will wait for you
And I will know you
because when you speak
I will be reminded of Solomon's wisdom
Your ability to lead will remind me of Moses
Your faith will remind me of Abraham
Your confidence in God's word will remind me of Daniel
Your inspiration will remind me of Paul
Your heart for God will remind me of David
Your attention to detail will remind me of Noah
Your integrity will remind me of Joseph
Your ability to abandon your own will
will remind me of the disciples
But your ability to love selflessly and unconditionally will remind me of Christ....

But I won't need to identify you with any special Matthews or any special Marks, cause His word will be tatt'ed all over your heart.

Check out Janette at

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I'll give you something to LOL about

[Title is spoken in a threatening tone]

So I thought I'd write a post about how a certain text/IM lingo is incredibly annoying and destroys all of your credibility in three letters. lol. I mean, I used to use this term when I was 13, lol, but it is so overused that you would express your jolly feelings better by typing "haha", or my favorite, "mwahaha." I feel like using lol either makes you sound like a jerk, or like you have not yet graduated from high school. LOL might as well be incorrectly used quotation marks, because they both have the same effect: making people believe you don't mean what you say.

Examples? But of course.

Incorrectly used quotation marks makes everything sound sketchy.
Come to a family BBQ and we will feed you "potato salad" and "beef" hot dogs.
I mean, heavens, what kind of slime is in "potato salad"? And I'm guessing it's not really beef.

Tagging lol onto everything makes it sound like I shouldn't believe anything that you say.
Come to a family BBQ lol and we will feed you potato salad and beef hot dogs lol
(I've noticed that people who use lol frequently forget terminal punctuation). Adding the two lols does not make the barbecue sound like more fun. It makes it sound like it's not really a family BBQ, or that you really won't be serving potato salad or hot dogs. More likely I'll show up and you'll give me a twig and some rocks and say "Here's your dinner, lol." Then I will slap you upside the face.

I realize that this post makes me sound like a grouchy, judgmental jerk, but I thought people need to be aware of how lol affects your credibility. If you know someone who would benefit from reading this post, but you don't want to offend them, you could e-mail them the link and say something like "Check out this anal-retentive chick who sounds like a total  %$#* lol."

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Night Time Activities

When I was a kid, my sister would hide behind the door of our bedroom in the dark and try to scare the crap out of me when I came into the room. She mostly did this when I got up to pee at ten-thirty or whenever. I mean, can you imagine this?

You are the oldest child. Responsible. Mature. You share a bedroom with your little sister. The two of you have been lying in your separate beds on separate sides of the room, completely silent, trying to fall asleep. You hear the floor boards creak and see a shadow move. You're all snuggled up in your bed, but when you hear the toilet flush, you think "Oh man! I gotta hide behind the door and scare the shit outta my baby sister when she comes back in!"

I mean, really. I would be padding back into the room, tip toeing and trying to be as quiet as possible so as to not wake her up, when I hear a "boo!" I'd give a blood curdling scream, hit my sister, and crawl back into bed angrily. This happened often, and one time my mother came storming across the house in the middle of the night to tell Jessamy never to do that ever again, because some people were trying to sleep.

Another thing that would happen frequently after bed time is that I would sleep walk. I would climb unconsciously out of my bed and walk around the house, ramming my head accidentally into tables or door frames. I don't know if you've ever tried to walk anywhere while sleeping, but it's hard work. Your eyes may be open, but everything is all wonky. It's worse than trying to not fall over when you are drunk, which I know absolutely nothing about.

I know you've probably heard that it's not good to wake up a sleep walker, but my mother always did. She probably hated me and wanted me to become even more messed up than I already was. What she would do is get a cold washcloth and press it onto my face until I snapped out of my trance. I would immediately forget anything I just did or said. I do, however, remember the time I hit my forehead on the dining room table (I was very short), because it hurt so stinkin' much. I also recollect the time I asked my dad if he could hang a tire swing from the filing cabinet in the office, which makes a lot of sense if you think about it for a long time. But which file would you tie the rope to? T for tree limb, R for rope, or B for brilliant idea?

Now that I think about it, I speculate that my sister was actually jealous of my sleep walking habits. It's not something just anybody can do. Maybe every time I got out of bed to go potty, she thought I had begun to sleep walk. And her kind way of bringing me to reality was jumping me like a gangster in the dark alley ways of Compton, only you, in a floral printed nightgown.

This one time, though, I swear Jessamy was sleep walking. Only she wasn't so much walking as she was sitting up in her bed in the during the night, howling at the moon, growling at me, and then laying back down. It really freaked me out. I thought she was turning into a werewolf, and this was before the days of Twilight and Jacob Black. I was so terrified that I ran into my mom and dad's room, told my mother Jess was turning into a monster, and refused to go back to bed alone. I was eleven years old.

Mom came back to my room, turned on the light, and had to practically shake Jessamy awake. Jess had no idea that she had sat up in bed and howled like a lone coyote in the desert. I knew she wasn't faking it either, because she honestly was so surprised. She only did it the one time (that I know of).

During the summer nights when it was hot and still somewhat light outside, we would tell our mom we were going to bed, then we'd shut the door and pop the screens out of one of the windows. We'd climb out of our makeshift exit and continue to play outside in our pajamas, climbing trees, chasing skunks, and catching bugs. 

When I was 12 and my sister was 14, we would listen to Desperate and Dateless every night at ten o'clock. Our bed time was nine, but our room was clear across the house from our parents. So at 9:55 Jess would tune the radio to Z100, and we would listen to the desperate calls of Portland singles for half an hour. We would guess out of the three date options who the dateless caller would choose. It was typically whomever had the hottest voice. Jessy and I were very disappointed when Desperate and Dateless stopped airing, because where were we going to learn all of our pick up lines after that?

Sharing a bedroom with my sister definitely made for a fun childhood. Just so you know, the entire thing was painted a dusty pink--a color that we both abhorred by about age ten. But we were stuck with it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

If you just knew me, you'd fall in love with me

During times of my life (read high school through 2010) I used to think I was kind of a loser because nobody was in love with me. I've since come to the possible conclusion that maybe I wasn't being quite fair to myself, because boys didn't even really see me till 1998. If a girl is not around boys often, it makes sense that said boys would not fall in love with said girl.

Let me tell you about my life.

I went to a private, all-girls school for nine years. And okay, so maybe it was all girls because I was home schooled and I only had a sister, no brothers. That's my parent's fault, not mine. It's true that I saw boys in my Sunday school class, and when I went to visit my other home school friends, because they had brothers. But during all those times, I was mostly trying to avoid cooties, or escape from boys quickly by zipping down the slide, or I'd agree to play hide and go seek with them but purposely never seek them. I wasn't really into winning hearts back then.

I attended a co-ed public high school. My practiced avoidance of boys during my childhood served as a great asset for awkwardness. I actually have a three foot trophy in my garage that was awarded to me for "Most Awkward Personality," which is okay with me, because the "Best Dressed" trophy was only fourteen inches tall. Anyway, when I first entered high school, I discovered that these boys were totally different. Some of them smelled terrible. Others smelled delicious. Most did not wear button-downs or tuck their t-shirts into their corduroy pants, like many of the home schooled boys that I grew up with.

Stranger yet, I didn't know any of the boys' mothers. That's the good thing about knowing home schooled kids: you know their moms right off the bat. They wouldn't dare do anything terrible to you because they know that you would tell their mother, or you would tell your mother and your mother would tell their mother, and then an entire lesson on kindness would take place, possible through listening to an episode of Adventures in Odyssey.

Anyway, during high school I met boys who belted their jeans around their knee caps, had pierced ears, or played five different sports all at the same time. It really freaked me out. How do you even approach someone like that?

After graduating, I essentially went to an all-girls college, because the one I attended was 60% female. Plus I was an education major, which meant all the people in my class were either other girls who wanted to be teachers, or they were guys who liked kids so much they already had three of their own. It was not especially promising.

Let me tell you what I think.

If a guy were to spend at least 30 hours with me in under 3 weeks, I'm pretty sure he'd fall in love with me. This is provided he is not married or has a girlfriend. Ten hours a week with me probably sounds like a lot, especially if you've ever had an awkward conversation with me (which is likely). But the thing is, it'll probably take me a concentrated six hours to get over my awkwardness with you, and it'll probably take you at least two hours to get over your awkwardness with me. After that I'll feel free to start being my actual self. (Sidenote: one reason I am not often my actual self is because when I do so, people make comments about how they think I am drunk. To which I have to reply: No, I'm just this funny sober. But they don't know that because they've spent the last eight hours with me talking to their shoulder, nodding silently, or responding politely to questions).

So yeah, 30 hours with me and then this victimized single man will be in love with me. The main problem with my idea is that no one really gets locked into closets or trapped on deserted islands anymore. I blame this on technology's advance with cell phones and the GPS. Also, on cars. What I needed was to be alive in 1843, during the times of the Oregon Trail. I could've tagged along next to a hunky pioneer boy and we would have covered our 30 hours in no time, fording the river or collecting buffalo chips or whatever. Never mind the fact that I don't look very cute sweaty, or that I've never churned butter. That boy would get so bored walking on the prairie next to all his stinky family members that by the time we hit Fort Bridger, I'd be Mrs. Blacksmith or whoever, putting freshly churned butter into the butter dish I registered for.

You may wonder why I am so sure someone would fall in love with me after just 1,800 minutes of concentrated attention. It's because I've been practicing hypnotism and mind control.

Probably the reason no one is currently in love with me is because they read posts like these on my blog and realize that my sense of humor is nothing like theirs. Plus, they're freaked out because they're unsure if I'm joking or not about the whole hypnotism thing.

Silly boys.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Gym Fees

I had a conversation at church yesterday with my newly acquired friend, Emily. Rather than discuss all sorts of theological questions, the meaning of life, or whether Jesus currently has a beard or is clean cut, we discussed work out habits.

Emily sort of likes work out videos because she can do them when no one is watching. I told her that's exactly my problem. I have an over priced gym membership because I am not so much paying for the equipment as I am paying for the peer pressure of not quitting. See, if I did a work out DVD at home, I could push pause at any moment. I could go eat Reese's peanut butter cups in between cardio and stretching. After ten push ups, I might decide I'd rather be checking my e-mail. It is impossible for me to work out at home. What I need is the peer pressure of ten pairs of eyes watching me.

I realize that people probably aren't really watching me at the gym, because I rarely watch other people (unless they look like a version of Michael Vartan from Alias, which this one guy does. I'm pretty sure he was/is in the military, and his name is Jared or Jerald or something like that. The reason I don't talk to him is because like Agent Vaughn, he's probably about ten years older than me). Anyway, people don't really watch other people at the gym, because they are so self-conscious about themselves. I always believe someone is watching me, so I do my best not to quit after five push ups, and I won't stop on the treadmill after fifteen minutes because that makes me look really lame.

In fact, sometimes when I am on the elliptical, I will go for much longer than I had intended, just because the person who came to use the machine to my left got on ten minutes ago, and I don't want them to think I've only been doing this for fifteen minutes. So I'll stay on for like an extra twenty minutes, or until my water bottle is bone dry and I'm so delusional with thirst that I stumble off the machine and fall to the ground like a weakened soldier in the Afghan desert.

I also do group exercise classes at the gym, and these are a great source of peer pressure. I do a weight lifting class, and granted I don't lift half as much as most people, but I still do everything and don't quit. I don't want people thinking I am a wimp, even if I do have noodle arms and can only do overhead presses with a maximum of 18 pounds. My most favorite class is the kickboxing one, which is an hour of intense cardio.

When I started going to the gym after the first 22 years of a sedentary lifestyle, I would never have thought of doing cardio for 60 whole minutes. I certainly wouldn't do that in my living room with a work out video. Heck no, I probably would have lasted twenty minutes. But because there are fifteen other people in the room with me, I can't quit. Sometimes peer pressure is a very good thing.

Another reason I go to the gym regularly is because I spend an exorbitant amount of money on it. I hate wasting money, so if I am paying for a membership, I am darn well going to use that membership, even if I hate going. I want to get my money's worth. I'm glad to say I don't really hate going to the gym anymore. Instead I have anticipation, because who knows who you'll meet at the gym? I mean, what if I saw Richard Simmons there one day, giving a special class presentation? Or Billy Banks came to kick boxing? Or Jillian Michaels was on the bicycle next to me, and she started yelling at me to move it?
 Yes, paying too much for a gym membership and believing that people are watching my every move is what keeps me in shape. What do you do to keep in shape? Do at-home-videos work for you?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Family Secrets and Funny Conversations

It may surprise you to know that my Aunt Brenda, who is about 48 years young and in top shape, had a heart attack last year because she ate too many Cheetos. These are the sorts of things I discover while on female family vacations.

This was the second year the girls on my mom's side of the family went to a beach house for a weekend full of laughter, games, and secrets. I am really amazed at the sorts of things I discover about my relatives during these summers.

Aunt Brenda's confession of The Cheeto Incident came out while we were playing cards one evening. She had brought a bag of the fluffy orange stuff and was sharing them with us. I absolutely adore Cheetos because my mother would never buy them for me as a child, since she considered unnaturally orange powdered balls of crisp unhealthy and not part of a nutritious diet. I could tell by the number of hand reaches that my Aunt Brenda and I were the ones who love Cheetos the most.

My mom and Gram were looking over family tree/geneology records when Brenda says, "Did I ever tell you about the time I thought I had a Cheeto heart attack?"

"No, you didn't," I say. Nobody else has heard the story either, including Gram, who is Aunt Brenda's own mother. I don't know about you, but if I survived a supposed Cheeto induced heart attack, I would call my mom the next day and tell her of my close encounter. Or maybe I wouldn't, on account of how my mother does not approve of me eating Cheetos.

Aunt Bren launches into the story, telling us of how this one time she was on vacation and ate an entire bag of Cheetos within an hour. Next thing she knows, she feels like she can't breathe, her heart hurts, and she panics. Her friend calls 911 and an ambulance picks her up and takes her to the hospital. After some preliminary tests, the doctor tells her she didn't have a heart attack. "Oh, thank goodness," she says. "But what is wrong with me?" The doc asks her what she has eaten in the past 48 hours. Brenda lists off some margaritas, chocolate cake, french fries, donuts, a few beers, pancakes with syrup, fried chicken, and an entire bag of Cheetos.
"I would lay off the fatty foods if I were you," the doctor advises.
"But it's not like I eat this stuff all the time!" Brenda wails. "I'm on vacation. The whole point of it is to eat a lot of crap and have a good time."
In the end, Aunt Brenda had to pay for her ambulance ride to the hospital for her fake Cheeto-Induced heart attack.
"Where were you on vacation at?" I ask at the end of the story.
"Las Vegas."
I've never really asked my grandma about how things were like when she was a child. I remember my mom telling me how grandma used to have to take cold baths in a tank in the living room of her homestead, and I felt like checking the facts with the actual source. We were preparing dinner one night when I said, "Grandma, when you were a kid, did you have electricity?"

She told me of how they didn't when she and her brother Dexter were small, but then they got lights when she was about eleven years old, which was not in 1892, like I had previously thought. Kidding about that. I've never thought of my grandma as old. She's in really good shape and is more active than I am. She'll probably live to be one-hundred and twenty.
"We had to go to the bathroom in the outhouse. We didn't have toilet paper then, we used catalogs. Were were in the tulies, you know. When we went to school or to restaurants they had toilet paper. It was just that if you lived in the sticks, you didn't have it on a daily basis." 

During the discussion of Gram's childhood, I learn that Grandpa Pitman never went to high school. His family couldn't afford it because they needed him to work. So he went to the mill and later became a logger. 

While on the topic of the generations before us, (and with the fat binder of records Gram has with her) I learn another family secret. Gram tells us that she is pretty sure the whole family has been lied to regarding the parents of my great-great grandpa. We've always been told/thought that he was an orphan and all his papers burned in an orphanage fire, thus leaving a gaping mystery in the ethnicity of that line. The beginnings of my grandma's side of the family came from French-Canada, and it was rumored that great-great-grandpa Pitman was part Native Alaskan (Inuit). Turns out this could all be lies, because the family used the whole orphan thing  as a cover up since my great-great-grandpa was the result of a scandal. He was actually raised by his grandma or aunt or something because his mother was unwed. Regardless of whether or not he was truly an orphan or if it was just a lie for cover up, the lineage there is a mystery and it has left me especially with a gaping hole of my heritage, because my eyes don't look anyone else's in the family except for my Great Grandpa Pitman's. And God knows where his father came from. Maybe I really am part Chinese like all those kids in elementary school thought. 

The serious nature of this family lie turns to the subject of socks and fashion.

Gram says, "When I was a teenager, we used to take large amounts of toilet paper and wad them up under our socks and roll them over. In those days, the bigger the roll the better!" Mostly I'm just glad to hear she was able to use toilet paper by her teenage years. 

She continues to tell us about her exciting days of youth.
"Back in those days the Grange Hall was a very popular thing. Every weekend we would go dancing, or sometimes they had roller skating."
"Did you skate, Gram?"
"I burned up the floor!" she replies.

At breakfast Sunday morning I recounted my dreams to everyone. I dreamed that I had to substitute as a high school math teacher, only the kids starting getting out of control. This was a stressful yet incredibly boring dream, compared to my aunt.
"Last night I dreamed I could breathe under water," says Aunt Brenda.
"Like a zombie?" asks Aunt Bink.
"Or a vampire?" I say.
"Or maybe like a mermaid?" my mom says.
Then Gram says, " Costner?"
"Huh?" We're all completely stumped. A lot of things that Gram says puzzles us, but this one tops them all.
"You know, from the movie Waterworld," she explains.
then we proceed to bust into rib shattering laughter
One our favorite games is our family created version of Things. Creating the list beforehand is just as fun as playing the actual game. How you play is everyone writes down an answer to go with the question, (for example, Things That Aunt Bink Would Never Wear), and then the reader reads the answers and we go in a circle taking turns guessing who wrote what.
We were on the category of "Things Gram Has Run Over in Her Car This Year," when this conversation ensued:
Gram was tapping her pen when she laughed and said "Oh, I have to think about this!" Because apparently Gram runs over a lot of things and has trouble remembering all of them. She only needed to pick one thing to write down, though.

The rest of us giggle at Gram for not remembering, when I say "What sound did it make?" This launches Aunt Brenda into her erupting laugh which you can hear from a mile away. Then Brenda says "I wouldn't worry about it as long as it didn't say 'help'!" This sends us into a whole other round of laughter. Finally the reader collected everyone's answer and began to read them off so we could guess.
"Answers are...curbs...the curb...the center line...the curb...the curb at Fred Meyer's...curbs."

The fact that everyone basically said the same thing makes us laugh so hard we can hardly breathe. I wouldn't know from personal experience, but it could be laughter more dangerous than a Cheeto heart-attack.

My other favorite category from the game of Things was another question about Gram. The category was "Things that Gram keeps in the trunk of her car." Answers included things like gloves, extra gloves, a porcupine carcass from the side of the road, wading pants, buckets, and gloves. We laughed a lot when the answers were read, but when the reader got to "wading pants" a special look came over my grandma's face, like "Wow, that's a good idea, I wish I had those in my trunk." I was the one who wrote down wading pants, because I was reflecting upon my spring break trip to Gram's where we went rock hounding at the river, and Grandma was trying to get me to wear Leon's wading pants that he uses for fishing.

Just to make you even more jealous of my wonderful family, I will list off all the glorious activities we enjoyed during our stay:
  • Beach Walking and Rock Collecting
  • Playing Clue
  • Ping Pong Tournament
  • Eating (esp. lunch at McMenamin's where we learned of TWO family secrets I cannot share with you, and when Aunt Brenda made Grandma's Noodles, which are fattingly delicious).
  • Necklace Beading
  • Geneology/History stories and pictures
  • Contests to win the privilege of wearing The Breakfast Beads (Mardi Gras beads that Brenda brought). Contests included estimating the time when my sister would actually arrive in the evening (9:45pm) and who could complete their 100 piece puzzle the fastest. 
  • The Game of Things
  • Yahtzee (I won!)
  • Sorry
  • Eating pizza
  • Making homemade ice cream in this really ancient wooden mixer
I can't wait for next year : )

Monday, August 8, 2011

I might be able to keep my mouth shut, but I can't keep my fingers off the keyboard

This didn't turn out the way that I expected. But then again, when did anything? I contemplated not writing this at all because of the outcome, then I wrote it and contemplated not posting it, but I thought about it some more and figured God deserved it. I want to show you how awesome he is, even if I haven't a clue where this is headed.

If you haven't read the post about how I resigned from my job as a teacher, maybe you should. It's right here. But here's the secret. Here's the thing I've been keeping my mouth shut about since April: there was another reason I had to quit my job. Instantly you think I'm going to birth a child. Not so. This isn't an article in Entertainment Weekly.

I am warning you right now that this is an extremely long entry, because my life from March to July was a lot more intensive than I let on. I hope you have enough stamina to read every paragraph and make it to the end. If you are really impatient then just read the orange paragraphs. There were parts of this story that I never told my mother, my sister, or my best friend. But everyone can know now.

The Further Explanation

Friends, I had to walk away from my job because the sacrifice had to be greater. I had to quit my job in order to do the job I wanted to do. My God asked me to. Let me explain the first part.

I knew that I couldn't do my job again next year. Was I meant to be a teacher? Probably. Was I meant to teach the way that the school district set it up? Absolutely not. While I have a heart for kids and for education, I couldn't do it the way that I had been doing for the past three years, because about 80% of it just seemed wrong to me. I won't get into that 80% here, but if you want to talk to me, I could probably blab to you for about five hours. So you know I wanted out.

Unless you live in the same city as me, you probably don't know the extent of the budget cuts the school district is facing for the upcoming school year. About 248 teachers got laid off. I knew the situation was serious, so I started praying for what most people never pray for: "Lord, let one of them be me. Please have me get laid off." My reasoning? I could walk away without being a quitter. I would collect unemployment.

I was three years into the teaching system, so the chances of losing my job were slim yet still possible. For the first three years that you are a teacher, you are on what's called a probationary contract. Basically that just means it's easier for you to get cut or let go. After year three you are pretty much golden, as you go to a permanent contract. I kept praying that I would get laid off. Then the day came when my principal thought he was bringing me good news. He told me that I had missed the cut mark by two days, meaning, I was hired on August 26th, 2008. People who were hired two days later on August 28th, 2008 lost their jobs. A second grade teacher in our building was one of them. Is this system of losing/keeping your job wrong? Basically. But that's not what we're talking about right now.

There I was, safe. After June ended, I would be considered a permanent employee. Job security. Health insurance. PERS. Paid sick days. Summers off. It sounds great to a lot of people. "Benefits" can be deceiving. None of it was worth it to me. Not for this job. What good is a summer off if you spend most of it trying to rehabilitate your brain, body, and soul from the damage it endured for the ten months prior?

The point is, I walked away from it. God made me choose. I wanted him to decide for me. I wanted him to say "you don't have to do this again, Joelle. You're laid off. You can't. Here's your unemployment check." But that's not what God did. He let me decide. He made me choose.

I had to either decide to keep my job and hope for lottery like odds that I'd enjoy round four, or I had to have the courage to tell my principal that I was finished. I hate to disappoint people. That conversation alone was going to make me bawl my eyes out. I would have to trust that God would take care of me, even if I received no unemployment check. I chose the latter, because the sacrifice had to be greater. I knew God was testing my trust in him.

But wait, there's something else I'm not telling you. Something else that I kept to myself during April, May, and June. I didn't tell my mother, my sister, my best friend, anybody. It was because I was having a battle in my heart and wanted to tell God NO to what he was asking of me.

What was he asking me to do? Give it all up. Surrender everything. I was sitting there on my bed with a notebook, writing out "Design a Dream Job," thinking of all the great things I could/should do. What's your biggest dream? my head asked. Be a successful published author and have enough money that I can afford to teach for free, my way. Immediately I hear, "Then why aren't you doing it now?"

Good point. If I wanted to truly write, I would be doing it. If I wanted to teach for free so that I can love on kids and give them a quality education like I envision, I could. Why aren't I doing it now? And okay, so I haven't exactly sold a novel quite yet. But I should be. Teaching was never my number one career aspiration. It was my second love, my second calling, and something that seemed safer and more stable than trying to make a living off of writing. Teaching was always plan B, and writing was plan A.

There I was, sitting at home with a notebook pad, knowing exactly what I had to do. It all came together in about ten seconds, and it was far from comforting. I needed to resign from my job at the elementary school, and then turn around and ask for it back in a different way. I could see it all. Me. Ten students who are two years or more below grade level. Teaching for free. Actually getting to teach and make a difference, because I had ten minds to mold, not thirty. I could actually build relationships with them and form a community, not a mob. Best of all, since I wasn't a contracted state employee, I could bring my God into it. I had very much learned that God was and is the only thing that can change the futures of the population I work with. Everything is so broken and so twisted and they are only nine years old. I wanted them to know the One who loved them unconditionally.

Teaching for free would give me more time to focus on my writing, because I wouldn't be camped out at school for twelve hours a day. Ten students seemed so much more manageable. A joy, even.

How would you survive? That's your biggest question. How would you live if you don't get a paycheck for at least ten more months? That's why this was a trust fall, people. I have some money I've diligently saved up for grad school, and I planned on exhausting that in order to live the dream. Plus, you know, God might send me a big check in the mail or something. Or rain down manna for me to eat.

My biggest fear was that question. If I told my family, they would say "How would you survive?" If I told my friends, they would say "How would you pay your bills?" So I kept it to myself and told God we'll just see where this all goes. No reason to freak people out unnecessarily.

Please keep in mind that I am not telling you this story because I want you to be impressed with my plan to sacrifice a year's worth of pay and teach for free. You're probably not impressed though, you think I'm insane. Which is fine. But please know, I am no martyr, no savior, no saint. That was the other reason I didn't want to tell people. I didn't want anyone thinking I was trying to be this amazing missionary in the ghetto of the city. I don't want you to look at me, I want you to look at my God. I am weak and I am selfish and I do anything to get out of pain. This story's not over yet.

Teach for free. That was the bottom line. Go back to the place where I had become broken and embrace it with love and joy and passion. No thanks, God. I think I'll pass. That was April.

May was a very exciting time for me because it meant that I could actually start applying to new jobs. I found a position to be a grant writer for a non-profit organization. I applied with hope.

On May 27th, 2011, this is what I wrote in my journal:

I know that God has just been toughening me up for the next battle, because he will ask me to give up more than I'm comfortable with...I say "God, why do you ask this of me?" Because I don't want to. But I want to do what is right, and it's like I don't even have a choice.

I might as well surrender now. Then everything that was meant to happen can just happen already, without any more delay.
A long wait later, I was invited to an interview for the grant writing job. My whole thinking was, if I get this job then I know God doesn't really want me to teach for free. So my conversation with the Creator of the Universe was still, "No God, please don't ask this of me."

I went into the interview, smoked it like a sausage, and left feeling like I had a good shot at being offered the position. But in the pit of my stomach it just didn't feel right. I a little bit found myself hoping I wouldn't get the job, because I was selfish for my hard-earned summer break.

When I learned that I did not get the position, my conversation with the Lord turned to "Fine, God, fine." If he really wanted me to teach for free, I would do it, because it was the right thing to do. I try really hard to do the right thing, even if it hurts.

School got out June 17th, and I secretly packed up all my personal classroom materials and hauled them to my house. It's not easy sneaking out four bookcases, seven boxes of books, and other teaching paraphernalia out of a classroom without anybody noticing. When I got it all into my spare room at home, I felt relieved for about a millisecond. Then I shut the door and didn't look at it again because I felt like work had literally followed me home for the summer.

During my first few days of vacation, I felt incredibly joyful, peaceful, and refreshed. It was over. I didn't have to go back. It was then that I started thinking about what it could be like to teach ten kids for free. We'd have our own little classroom, because two positions got cut from the school, resulting in empty space. We'd become a community, have team builders, and work hard to catch up to grade level. With only ten sets of parents, I'd be able to keep close communication with them. Their child would not be forgotten. They would know that they are incredibly wanted, because I picked them to be in my class. All my ideas got really exciting. "Fine, God, Fine" turned into "I hope I can convince my principal to let me do this." I actually wanted to start eating Top Ramen for dinner every night.

I prayed a lot. I needed bravery. I needed peace. Finally I arranged for a meeting with my principal. I'm pretty sure he thought it was because I was going to resign. I kept that news short. I handed in my official letter of resignation, then told him that was not what I was here to talk about.

I told him what I wanted to do, how I wanted below-grade-level students in a small, focused classroom. How I wanted to do it for free. I was ready for the question "How can you do this? How will you survive?" or "I appreciate your heart, Joelle, but I cannot let you do this to yourself." My prepared answer would have been "I trust my God more than I trust you." But it was never asked. Maybe my principal thought I had a sugar daddy to pay all my bills. I don't. Maybe he thought I was a trust fund baby. I'm not. I had not won the lottery, been given an inheritance, or any other thing that would leave me carefree about monthly bills. Yes, I had carefully saved my money, and I thought I could stretch it out. That was all. I was trusting God.

My principal was supportive of the idea, but said he needed to talk to HR because of the nature of the work. Teaching is very confidential, as we are privy to student files, medical records, family information, and all that jazz. I'm not going to go into all the details of what my principal and I discussed, but he was on my side and said he'd get back to me.

I left the building feeling relieved that I had finally done it. It was totally up to God now; I had done my part.

Three days later I was told that I could not teach ten kids in my own classroom for free. I could volunteer in the classroom with another teacher if I wanted, but students could not be assigned to me for an entire day, since I wouldn't actually be an employee. Technicalities. I was mad about it, but I accepted it.

In some ways this answer was both better and worse. It was better because I wouldn't have to teach for free and maybe could actually get paid to do something. That would be nice; thanks for understanding, God. It was worse because I was left with NO IDEA as to how to proceed. What now, God? I don't know the plan. It's one thing to not be earning a paycheck but be teaching children everyday, it's a completely other thing to not be earning a paycheck and be sitting on your couch all day watching Lost re-runs. I'd be lying if I told you I don't care what people think.

I never want people to think that I am a bum, that I don't work hard, that I am lazy or have given up. But I don't know where it goes from here. Not knowing is almost more unsettling than being told to give up a year's worth of pay.

You might think "God did not really want Joelle to teach for free, that's nuts." I am absolutely certain that God wanted me to decide. I HAD to ask to teach for free, and I HAD to mean it in my heart, because that is what God was asking me. Maybe it was a trust test. Maybe it's still gonna happen. I could get a phone call tomorrow from the superintendent telling me it's a yes and that I'd better start setting up my classroom.

The main reason I am posting this entry is because I want to boast in the Lord. I want you to remember this piece of my life, so that when God works his miracles, you will see how far it all came from. I have absolutely no idea where my life is going now, but I am certain that it is going to be good. God is going to bless me up the whazoo, I am going to trust in him even if I end up in a cardboard box, and I will be so filled with new-found joy. My God loves me and he's going to take care of me forever. 

Right now I've got  Isaiah 43:1-7  posted in my room. 

Love you and thanks for reading,

Congratulations! You have finished reading this extremely long post, which contained 2,852 words. Research shows that children need to practice reading for at least two hours a day in order to make a grade level's worth of progress. Have you met your quota? 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

How I'm kind of like Kate from Lost, only without Jack

This week I discovered my new favorite getaway. It all started out normally; I was in a plane, headed to LAX, when all of a sudden we hit a lot of turbulence and the next thing I know I'm waking up in the woods. And okay, so it was more like I was riding in a Toyota east on highway 22, and instead of ending up at Opal Creek like I thought, I ended up on the side of a road, finding myself treading down a poorly maintained path that lead to the most perfect swimming hole in my fair state. Behold: Salmon Falls.
 The stranger in the seat next to me was Heidi, my cousin's girlfriend, who has nearly no survival skills, but good instincts. The small falls boasted water so clear you could see the bottom, even though it was 30 feet deep. I felt both like I was the first person to ever visit this place, and also like I was intruding upon someone's sacred swimming hole, if that makes sense. Immediately I ran back to the beach, er, town, to get the amazing and beautiful Casey.

The three of us enjoyed a day of unemployment/semi-employment/denial of the pending future at this lovely spot. I scanned the cliff and scenery for evidence of an old, crashed plane, but found none. No polar bears either. While paddling across the glorious water in either inner tubes or a mini raft, I stared at the bottom of the pool in search of a body, treasure chest, or other items of interest. I found none, but that doesn't mean there isn't still something waiting.

We saw a lot of people jumping off the rocks, but falling great depths is not really my thing, so I was most excited about exploring this cavern where water rushed out. If the water tunnel through the side of the cliff wasn't created naturally, I'm pretty sure it wass made or at least improved upon by the Dharma Initiative. Paddling against the current was difficult and took much time, but finally we got to the cement walls and had something to hang on to.
You can't really see the cavern from this angle, but do you see that cement brick wall thing with the pipe? Horace Goodspeed made that.
 My deepest desire was to go up the mouth of the tunnel, against the churning water, despite my fear of drowning and of all places dark and creepy. Through advanced team work and collaboration, Casey, Heidi, and I slowly made our way up the different levels of the tunnel. I really wish I could show you pictures, but this was not a place that allowed for tourist-like snapshots or fanny packs. We clung close to the walls, where the current wasn't as strong and didn't threaten to suck us under.

If I were to have all the equipment my heart desired, I would go back armed with rope, a headlight, and my grappling gear. As it was, all we had were two inner tubes, a child raft, and later, a helpfully long stick. Plus, you know, we had three brilliant minds and the desire to reach the unknown.

After as much exploration as we could manage, we shot out of the cavern with the current clinging to our floatation devices. It's not as easy as it sounds, because the first time I tried to go out in my raft, the mini falls of the third level tried to suck me down, not spit me out. We emerged from the cavern alive, happy, and full of accomplishment.

Casey had enough guts to jump from one of the cliff levels, and it looked quite exciting in real life, though I know if I were to try it I would end up swallowing water, having an anxiety attack, and drowning in front of like, thirty strangers. And that's embarrassing.

We took a few snack breaks, and I was really hoping a doctor or a man named Jack would appear and ask me to stitch up his back, but it never happened. Probably a good thing too, because I left my sewing kit at home.

I later saw a fellow in a yellow hazmat suit emerging from a door, and I thought maybe it was Desmond on break from button pushing, because he said "Hey brotha" to me, but it ended up just being a guy using the pit-toilet bathroom, which might as well have been a bio-hazard. I was a little jealous of non-Desmond's mask when I had to use the facilities later.

Casey, Heidi, and I left at about five o'clock. On our drive back down to civilization we passed a blue VW van with a large, long-haired, joyful looking man in the front. No big deal.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

How Wuthering Heights was 1847's Twilight

Last weekend I got sucked into watching a Masterpiece Classic movie on PBS. I never watch these, probably because they induce me to slumber. The movie may be a piece of classic literature, and I fully support reading, but I just cannot get over the weirdly styled hair of the women, or the mutton chops of the men that star in these roles. They are distracting and make me forget the words being said.

I mean, I liked Pride and Prejudice well enough, but it had to grow on me. I was forced to watch it about four times by others, and on the last time, I realized it was actually a pretty hot love story. I even own the Keira Knightly version, which I know you will argue is not half as good as the one with Colin Firth.

After watching Wuthering Heights on PBS, I became aware of how similar Stephanie Meyers' Twilight is to Emily Bronte's twisted love story. Here are the parallels:
How Heathcliff and Edward are similar
*dark, creepy personalities
*pasty skin
*terrifying eyes
*poorly styled hair
*obsessive about the women they love to the point of death
Do you really want either of these men loving you?
 And now, How Heathcliff and Edward are NOT similar
*Heathcliff actually has some clever dialogue, whereas Edward just tries to smolder everyone with his golden eyes. The Heathcliff line that cracks me up is when he returns from being gone for three years. After finding an unfavorable old man still alive, Heathcliff says "You're still here?" The old fart replies "Yes, God has seen to keep me alive on this earth." Then Heathcliff zings him with "Maybe the Lord has kept you on earth because he'd find your company so irksome in heaven." Well played, Heath, well played.

Regardless of writing, character development, and dialogue, both Wuthering Heights and Twilight romanticize obsessive relationships and influence readers/movie viewers to desire such relationships. People, please understand, these are not sweet "I'll die without him" love stories. They are creepy. Restraining orders and medications were created for just these exact stories.

Stay with me here, because I'm about to shift gears and go into my "beliefs" mode. Sorry if you skip out on those posts, because you miss the very core of my heart and soul when you do. You may not read my "God posts" because they don't make you laugh, but believe me, God has a sense of humor. He did, after all, create the Saiga antelope and the Macaroni penguin.

Back on track. That whole obsessive-love thing. In high school or even college, I may have thought that was what true love was like--thinking about someone so much that you feel the urge to creep by their window at night to watch them sleep. But not now. You may think I am a liar, but this is what I want: a man obsessed not with me, but with God.
This is what I envision
You know how "Losties" used to get together to obsess over the TV show and discuss time travel or smoke monster theories? How Steelers fans would give up an appendage if it helped their team win another Super Bowl? How Star Trek fans speak a whole 'nother language unto themselves? I want that. I want to be so geeked out on God that the reason my love relationship with a man works is because we are both obsessed with the same thing: The King of Kings.

Am I obsessed now? No, not by a fanatic's standards. Do I want to be? Yes. If there is anything worth obsessing over, it's God. Heathcliff and Edward really need to straighten out their priorities. Cathy and Bella need to get a clue and realize men will always disappoint, no matter how much they love you.

God is crazy in love with you and He thinks about you all the time. Jesus loves you so much he died for you. He wrote you a fatty stack of love letters and tries to impress you every morning by making the sun rise. He is so obsessed with you that he wants you to spend forever with Him.

Are you getting this? At this very moment, someone wants to love you forever. Regardless of what you do, no matter who you cheat on him with, God will and does love you forever and always. It's his deepest desire that you love him back.

And well, if you still crave that creep factor in you love relationship, don't even worry about it, because God already watches you when you're sleeping.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

For your ears

If you were hoping for a blog to keep you up to date with fresh, newly released music, this isn't it. Here are three songs that you probably have already heard. I currently have them stuck on re-play in my head.

Slumber by Need to Breathe. Released June 2011. I fell in love with this song the very first time I heard it on the radio. It sounded a lot like this one worship musician who used to sing at the church I went to during college. I was wondering if he finally made it big, but checked on-line and discovered it was actually sung by Need to Breathe. I did not attend church with Need to Breathe during college, but still.
Listen to the song here.

If I Die Young by The Band Perry. Released October 2010. So I'm super late on picking up this one, I know. I normally do not listen to country, and this is a rather country song, so of course I didn't hear it 'till it hit mainstream radio.
Listen to the song here.

Tired of Being Sorry by Enrique Iglesias. Released September 2007. Of course I have heard of Enrique Iglesias, and yes I was listening to music in the year 2007. However, this song got stuck in my head because it's what Heidi played in her car on the way up to Opal Creek on Tuesday. I heard it about six times.
Me: Do you listen to Enrique to help you fall asleep at night?
Heidi: No, never.
Me: Then when do you listen to him?
Heidi: When I'm feelin' sexy and wiiild!
Me: Oh, well then.
Listen to the song here.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Interviews with Strangers, part 2

When I left you yesterday, you had just learned of how Heidi and I met two teen girls at the Riverfront, and of how they thought we were both sixteen years old. Departing from the unintentional insult, we walked a bit further until we happened across two guys.

"You talk to them," Heidi whispers.
"No, you." Contrary to what you may believe about me, I actually very rarely talk to strangers. In fact, sometimes I rarely talk to people who I do know when I spot them in public places or wherever. For example, I have avoided at least three high school acquaintances while shopping in Target, not because I dislike them, but because I am so incredibly awkward that my instant reaction is to hide behind a display of Snuggle soft laundry detergent.

Heidi initiates the conversation with "Hi, this girl has a blog and we want to interview you." Heidi thinks that if you tell anybody you have a blog, they will instantly want to be featured on it, as they think it will make them famous or something. I've been featuring myself on this blog for over three years and I have yet to appear on Ellen or The View.

The interview with the two fellows consisted of us guessing their ages and of them guessing ours. I overestimated and thought the 21 year old was 24, and that the 19 year old was 21. This was a lot more accurate than their estimations, because they also thought I was SIXTEEN. After being insulted twice, I didn't really feel like interviewing them anymore, so the questions ended.

Heidi and I moved on to the Jerky Hut. We approached the employee and I was determined to give him a hard time, since I was in a ruffled mood. "Do you have any vegetarian jerky?" I ask. He says no. I act offended. I ask him how many kinds of jerky they have. He says one: beef. I say, okay, but how many different flavors? Because I see a zillion boxes all over the place, and they can't just be for one flavor of beef jerky. He counts the boxes like a child, touching the tops of each one to keep track. "Twelve," he says. I'm impressed by his ability to count past single digits. Sorry, that sounded mean. I really didn't think he was an idiot. Like I said, I was in a ruffled mood.

"How old do you think we are?" Heidi prods. I give the jerky guy a look that is as dry as rawhide. He wisely decides not to answer. We settle on the question "who do you think is older?" He answers that he thinks I am, which makes me happy...for a second.
"Do you see wrinkles?" I ask. "What makes you think I am older?" He says that he just thinks I am. Whatever. We move on.

 The best is saved for last. We enter Brad's Reptile World, which is a big white tent with snakes and lizards and other scaly creatures inside. I look at some snakes in cages and  instantly feel like I can really understand them. This prompts me to wonder if I'm like Harry Potter at the zoo and can understand Parseltongue.

Out of no where I hear "¡Hola!" and wonder when snakes converted from Parseltongue to Spanish. Then I realize it was the parrot sitting on the tree.   "Hola," I reply. "¿Como te llamas?"
Only the parrot is not into introducing herself, and instead says "Hello."
"We're past that already, hun. ¿Prefieres inglés o español?"
She doesn't say anything after that, but stares at me with her big parrot eyes. I think to myself it's a good thing I didn't rely on a bird to be my interpreter the last time I was in Mexico, because they really freeze up under pressure.

Next, Heidi and I spot two male employees. One of them is holding a snake and I muster the courage to get my picture taken with him (the courage to pose with the employee, not the snake, that is).
Me, Alfred the snake, Aaron's hand, Andrew in the background.
I asked what the snake's name was and he didn't have one. Aaron, the employee, asked me if I wanted to name him. I love naming things. The brown spots on the snake kind of reminded me of a knit sweater my great-grandpa used to wear, so I decided on naming the reptile Alfred. My great-grandpa was not named Alfred, but this seems like an old fashioned name appropriate for a brown-sweater-wearing snake.

That guy whose face you see in the photo is named Andrew, and I quizzed him on his job. He does not work at Brad's Reptile World because he loves snakes; he works there because Brad is his uncle and he couldn't find any better jobs. Fair enough. I worked for my uncle once.

Andrew told me about this one time when he was nine years old and he was playing at his Uncle Brad's house. A boa constrictor got loose and nearly squeezed Andrew to death during a game of hide and go seek...okay, so maybe that last paragraph is a lie. But I bet if I had talked to Andrew longer, he would have some stories like that.

After getting the three minute down-low on Andrew's life, he brings out this fatty lizard who looks like he's been licking too many blue raspberry Otter pops. Herpetologists may refer to this creature as the blue-tongued skink, but I refer to him as Roberto, after one of my favorite students. It takes me a while to convince Andrew to let me name the reptile.
Otter Pops are a delicious low-calorie summer treat. Skinks love them.
"Is it a boy or a girl?" I ask.
"I don't know," Andrew replies.
"So we need something ambiguous that would work for male or female."
"Yeah, like those names from the Twilight characters." It suprises me that Andrew mentions Twilight, though I appreciate people who can make pop-culture references, since it makes conversations funnier.
"You mean like Edward?" I ask.
"No, like Taylor," Heidi interjects. "Taylor Lautner," the werewolf actor who has misplaced all of his shirts.
"Or Peyton/Payton."
Being a teen werewolf is hard work. Your t-shirts rip apart every time there is a full moon.
Despite our offerings, Andrew turns them down because they just are not exciting enough.
"Roberto," I say, rolling all the rs and sounding really foreign. "Or Roberta." We stick with Roberto, even though this skink may be female. Sorry if it has a gender-identity crisis in a few years. In reflection, Roberto was not a very culturally appropriate name, seeing in how Blue-tongued Skinks are native to Australia.
I tried to give my new scaly friend my blog URL card so he/she could read the Brad's Reptile World post I intended on writing, but I am pretty sure Andrew-Brad's-Nephew pocketed it.

Roberto's cousin, Manuel.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Interviews with Strangers

The reason I enjoy hanging out with my cousin's girlfriend is because she is accidentally hilarious, she says whatever she thinks, and she helps shape blog-worthy days. However, there are downsides to this pseudo-cousin relationship. Whenever I'm around Heidi, I'm influenced to do and say things I normally would never do or say. She's like a drug or a shot of vodka, clouding my judgement.

Examples of how Heidi alters my behaviors? Yes, sure. We went to The Bite at Riverfront Park on Saturday evening, and we talked to so many strangers you'd think we were politicians trying to win votes.

To be fair, the first person we talked to thought he knew me. He is the one who stopped me. We were walking by the food booths and spotted the Willamette Burger Company, which is a top Friday Night Dinner location and was featured in the Burger Shack Shock. This lanky guy with dark hair and sunglasses starts making a beeline for us as we walk along the grass, and I start to think maybe the Italian mob is really changing their look these days, what without the snarls and everything.

"Hey, I think I know you," he says, and not in a you-owe-me-money sort of way. When someone says they know me, I usually believe them. I'm kind of a rare commodity. How many girls do you know who are exactly five feet tall, have a lion mane, and this face? Granted, I was wearing my famous celebrity sunglasses over my eyes, but still. The guy also looked a bit familiar.
Is this a person you think you know but don't?
"Maybe," I say. "What's your name?" He tells me it's Nate. I look at him some more and think that maybe he is one of my sister's friends that I've also hung out with, and maybe he thinks I am my sister. In retrospect, I probably should have asked him what he thought my name was. I never did say "hi, I'm Joelle." Instead, what I did was say, "This is Heidi. We go to the Willamette Burger Company sometimes. I usually get the grilled portobello mushroom though, because I'm a vegetarian."

Nate tells us how they actually have a vegan burger. "But is it your own recipe and handmade?" I ask. "Or is it some boxed Morning Star thing I can buy at Winco for three bucks?" Nate informs me that it is a Willamette Burger Company original, and that I should try it because they make it especially for people like me. I'm not sure if he means "people who you think you know but really don't" or "people who don't eat beef." Heidi and I then learn that Nate is a co-owner of WBC. I ask him how long he's been doing that. We chat a bit longer. I say that Heidi and I will stop in sometime soon for Friday Night Dinner. After departing, it becomes 80% clear to me that I don't think I actually knew that guy, even if he does know me. Sorry fool. I text my sister to see if his name rings a bell, but she does not respond since she is camping and probably has no reception.

Heidi and I sit on the grass and listen to the band for a while. During this time, Heidi decides to take pictures of unsightly circumstances, such as the brown/red tan guy without a shirt who is wearing his pants so low that you see his butt crack. I don't know why anyone would need to capture this image digitally, as it is a picture I have burned in my mind and would rather forget.
Here is a photo of Heidi and me with a giant Jamaican banana.
 Later we walk down to look at the river. We decide that we are going to acquire a little raft (or maybe do it Huck Finn style and bind some trees together) and go in the Willamette sometime. You never want to go swimming in the Willamette on account of how you might come back on land with a third eyeball or eleventh toe or something, but rafting would probably be safe.

On our way back up the stairs, we see a security guy sitting in chair with his arms crossed. We talk to him because he looks so utterly bored. I ask him if his job is to keep drunken people away from the water, and how many people has he had to restrain today? The conversation lasts about three minutes and ends with him receiving a notification on his walkie talkie. I am 75% sure I could become a security guard if I grew some facial hair and got up to at least 150 pounds. I say this because I have the whole arms-crossed-thing down, I know how to use a walkie talkie, and I look good in sunglasses acting like a bad ass.

Heidi and I continue our walk down the park, searching for shade in the 85 degree weather. We talk about how we need to find some other people to interview, but how they should probably be men, on account of how women don't generally receive strangers with prying questions very well. For example, if you go up to a random woman, say hello, and ask where she works, she might think that you want to know so that you can follow her home sometime and murder her. If you were to have the exact same conversation with a random man, he would probably just think you were flirting with him. This is also because a lot of men are affected by their testosterone and it inflates their ego. In agreement that the male gender is what we are looking for (and not for any sort of romantic purpose), Heidi and I tread on.

About two point five seconds later, my sidekick veers off in the direction of two girls who are sitting on a bench. I think to myself "What the heck? We just said no females," but I am also secretly fearful that they may know me, since I know 20% of the city's children through all my previous youth work. One of the girls has really awesome hair, so I ask her if I can take a picture of it, which is a total creeper thing to do. She reveals that she has extensions that she bought at Sally's Beauty Supply. I would post the picture of her gorgeous hair on here, except that I don't believe in posting photos of minors on-line. I've been a teacher in this town, and I know that this girl may have a creeper uncle or ex step-father who is on the look out for her. That's why you can't just go around snapping pictures of teens and telling the whole world where you saw them. Never mind the fact that this girl also told us which high school she goes to, and that she is 15 years old.

After learning of her baby age, I was curious how old she thought we were, so we inquired. She looked us up and down, took into account our mannerisms, then decided on 16. SIXTEEN. Through this, I am given confirmation that I could indeed be an undercover reporter and fake going to high school all over again like Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed. For the record, I'm 25 years young.

Instantly I feel more like a creeper, because this girl or her friend seriously could be one of my old students. I don't want to get arrested or lose my teaching license for starting friendships out of the classroom, so I try to high-tail it outta there. Heidi and I give the two teens advice to "stay away from creepy old men" and don't let anyone get in your pants.

This story is getting so long that I think I'll stop and post the other half of it tomorrow. So check back some time in the evening Tuesday to read about how I harassed the Jerky Hut guy for not having vegetarian jerky, how Heidi and I polled more people to guess our ages, and of how I got to name some reptiles and conversed in Spanish with a parrot.
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