Sunday, November 27, 2011

Is that even legal? What I'm doing now

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sanity check, I know right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

here by grace,

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Case of the Missing Mr. Binney

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

Here are shots of dinner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 20, 2011

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Almost Famous

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Max's work at and check out Lauren's writing at 

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

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Welcome to my party!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 11, 2011

11-11-11 Make a wish!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love to you,

Thursday, November 10, 2011

delayed development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lies from my mother revealed

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

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

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

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

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

"Huh?" I say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 7, 2011

You're Invited

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

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

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


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Meet Azarious

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God helps.

Friday, November 4, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

Sleep well.

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

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Attn Suitors

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Appetites are Sexy

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

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

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

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

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