Sunday, March 30, 2014

Blissful Weekend

It has been an amazing weekend. It's the last relaxing weekend I'll have until May, but now I'll have the stamina to make it until then.

The weekend started on a perfect note Friday evening. The forensics team had their annual "Evening of Champions," which features some of our favorite performances. Watching the students perform was amazing. It reminded me of how hard they have worked and how far they have come. I was just so dang proud of them. On top of their amazing performances, Karen and I were completely surprised when one of our forensics kids who graduated about 10 years ago showed up just to watch the performances. A drove all the way from CHICAGO! It was so weird and so wonderful to have him here. There were also a lot of parents and faculty (including our amazingly supportive department chair) who came to watch the performances. It was a beautiful evening.

Saturday morning, I was up at the crack of dawn, as my friend's Cindy and Laura were coming over for coffee. We hadn't gotten together for girl gossip in FOREVER, and since we were all desperate to chat - and the only time we were all free was 7am, that's when we met!
I love these ladies, and I need to make it a priority to see them more often. They lift my spirits and are good for my soul.

Part of the reason I had to meet so early with Cindy & Laura was because Karen and I had 9:30 appointments to get fancy pedicures, using gift cards the forensics kids gave us at Christmas. Since we head to Phoenix later this week for nationals, Karen & I decided we needed to transform our ugly Wisconsin-winter feet into sandal-ready toes. It was lovely to be pampered while we had our feet prettified. We talked and listened and laughed and planned and left feeling ready for the marathon of competition that April brings. And I also have sparkly toes and sandal ready soles.
I spent the rest of the day cleaning house, doing laundry and getting some class planning done. All of this was made more enjoyable by my new addiction . . . Rev. on Hulu is my new favorite British comedy.

Today, I've spent the majority of the day grading. I mean, I have done a crap ton of grading. I multi-tasked with laundry duty - which means I am now caught up on both grading AND laundry. I even finished early enough that I've had time to write a couple of letters. The hours of grading didn't bother me because it was warm enough for me to turn the furnace off and open several windows. The slow drip of melting snow and the splashy whoosh of cars driving by sounded like spring.

I am well rested, both in body and soul, and look forward to the adventure that nationals travel will bring!

Thursday, March 27, 2014


My spine is wicked pissed off. It's the constantly changing weather, that makes joints all wonky. The last 3 days, my neck has been a constant source pain and stiffness. And my costochondritis won't stop causing pain . . . But I'm going off on a tangent . . .

The REAL purpose of this post is to publicly introduce my new friend, Ms. Stationary Bike!
I want to get back out on my bike this summer, but I'm so out-of-shape and Eau Claire is so hilly, I need to get my literal and figurative ass in shape before making a real biking attempt. I found a great deal on this very highly rated stationary bike, and it reminds me a lot of the bikes I used to ride in spin class.

I'm taking it very, very slow. Partly, because my heiny needs to get used to the bike seat and partly because I don't want to create an injury by pushing too fast. I started with 5 minutes, and will increase just a couple of minutes every few days. Like I said, nice and slow.

At some point, I'll get it out of my kitchen and situated in the living room so I can watch TV while I pedal. But who knows when that will happen, since I leave in JUST A WEEK for the AFA-NIET. So! Much! Grading! to do! And a few minutes of riding . . .

Sunday, March 23, 2014


I have been down since my mum & sister headed back to Ohio. It was so great to have them here, but I wasn't prepared for how much I would miss them when they were gone. On top of that, my costochondritis pain has returned (probably because of our warm/cold weather ups and downs) which just adds something else to be down about.

So . . . yesterday I was in the midst of a feeling-sad-and-bummed-out kind of day when I went to get my mail. Along with assorted bills were a couple of packages from Amazon. (I order stuff from Amazon all the time, because Amazon Prime = free 2 day shipping!) Once home, I realized one of the packages was a re-used Amazon box, but the return address was an Eau Claire address. And I didn't recognize it. Intrigued, I opened the box and found this . . .
Years ago, I had a student in one of my classes and "B" and I have stayed in contact and forged a friendship through Facebook. B made and sent me this beautiful afghan "just because" - and her unexpected kindness touched me in a way I cannot begin to describe. I shed some tears because I was so overwhelmed by her gesture.
It is a gift I will treasure, and it inspires me to make a more concerted effort to commit "random acts of kindness." Luna fell in love with the afghan right away,
and we both spent the evening wrapped up in it. It really is amazing how this surprise package lifted my spirits!

I didn't think my day could get better, but then I ordered a pizza and put "please draw a funny face on the box" in the delivery instructions. And I got this . . .
Well done Papa John's!! What started out as a sad-feeling day ended with eating pizza from a funny-faced pizza box and snuggling with Luna under my lovely afghan. Things are looking up.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Visit

After years (literally) of begging and guilt trips, I finally got some family to visit me in Wisconsin. A week ago, my mum and sister made the 9 hour drive north for a visit during my spring break. Leslie (my sister) decided to drive straight through Chicago. She handed her phone to mum and asked her to get a picture of the skyline. This was the result:
So then I decided to take a picture of the Chicago skyline (that's my friend H, who wasn't much help)
Then my brother Heath decided he  would try and take a picture of the Chicago skyline.
It goes without saying we will never let Mum live this down! Once they were in Wisconsin, they made a stop for frozen custard at Culvers.
The weather was great for the drive from Ohio, though both mum & Les were exhausted once they got here. So we had a "rest period."
It was so wonderful to be able to take Mum & Les to my church on Sunday.
And after church, we headed straight to a pub for lunch. They thought this was kind of weird, I told them it was normal for Wisconsin.
Of course, we had cheese curds. They were very cheesy!
Monday was St. Patty's Day, and Mum gifted Leslie and I with festive shirts.
She said she had no idea what mine meant, but it was green so she bought it. I told her my college students would appreciate it!
Tuesday it was finally sunny and a bit warmer, so we headed to the Phoenix park bridge for some photo ops. First up, we took a picture of the Chicago skyline. Just kidding, we took a selfie.
Then we took "duo" pictures, hoping someone would walk by and take a picture of the 3 of us.
Finally  a walker wandered by . . . this would have been a good pic if only she had kept her finger away from the lens!
During their 4 day visit, we watched 5 movies, ate cheese curds 3 times and I taught Les how to use Pinterest. Tonks and Luna also loved spending time cuddling with Grandma and Auntie Les.
Luna decided Grandma was the best human ever. Why? Because Grandma let her lick tapioca off her fingers.

Leslie and I also had our retinas burned when Mum insisted in wearing her hot pink "lounge pants."

There was some crummy weather Wednesday morning, but Les & Mum took off bright and early. After driving through some crappy weather, they made it to Ohio safe and sound.

Tonks and Luna are still wondering where they went.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

RIP Fred Phelps

I posted this on Facebook, but wanted to save it here for posterity . . .

Fred Phelps is dead. And from reading many FB posts, some are celebrating what they are sure is his entry to hell. But not me. I'm not celebrating. I'm mourning.

This was a man who spoke hate, preached hate, practiced hate. His comments and beliefs were vile, provocative, and viciously angry. He wanted so many people to see and feel his hate, he went all the way to the supreme court. So he was allowed to continue spreading his messages of fear, hate and intolerance - messages aimed at people I know as acquaintances, friends and family. Instinct makes me want to hate back, to defend these people I know. But as Martin Luther King said, "Darkness does not drive out darkness. Only light can do that."

So I'm trying very, very hard to love this man who had such hatred in his heart. I will not increase the darkness of his words by repeating them, or taunting his memory with them. I choose to focus on mercy. I choose to whisper words of love and acceptance into the hearts of those who were wounded by Phelps hate. I choose to pray that those who followed his ideas will know kindness and unconditional love so their hearts will find some lightness. I'm mourning that Phelps died without ever understanding the power that real, true love can have. I am sad that he did nothing to make the world a more loving and kind place. It breaks my heart that his poisonous words will live on longer than he did.

Phelps death reminds me to make a conscious effort to live my life with love and acceptance, which I hope can make a real difference in the lives of other people. Hating Phelps and celebrating his death is easy, but I choose the more difficult path, using light to drive out the darkness.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Visitors . . . A Prelude . . .

My mum & Sister have been here since Saturday, and I can't begin to express how deliciously wonderful it is to have family visiting. I will probably write a long re-cap of their visit after they leave, but as I sit here watching Hoosiers with my sister while my mum nap/snores in the Lazy-boy I needed to  record how full my heart is.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Problem Child

I need to go to the Walmart so I can get some grocery shopping done for my mum & sister's visit. But I feel like if I wait just a bit all the crazy "I'm going to run to the Walmart on my way home from work" people will be home eating dinner, and I'll have the store all to myself. So that gives me about 30 minutes to write an honest-to-goodness blog entry.

Remember the student I wrote about last month, who made the incredibly racist comment in my public speaking class? Well, "F" has become a problem child. A thorn in my foot. A pain in the ass. The bane of my existence.

Let me explain . . . a couple of weeks after his awkward declaration in class, students gave personal narrative speeches. F chose to self-disclose that he had previously flunked out of college, been in trouble with the law and was only a month out of rehab. I felt bad for the kid. If I had only known . . .

Around the time of the speeches, I pulled F aside after class and reminded him that he needed to be on-time for our 8am class. See, I have a policy that students get 3 absences before their grade is affected. I also keep track of when they are late - 3 late appearances = 1 absence. F had already racked up 8 late appearances. When I reminded him of this policy (which I explain on the first day of class AND is spelled out in the syllabus) he freaked out. He said he was unaware of such a policy. I reminded him that he should have known. He was freaking out so bad, telling me he would never, ever be late again, that I took a deep breath and gave him a break. I told him I would ignore his previous late appearances, but any future late arrivals would be counted. He promised he would never be late again. And he kept that promise . . . for exactly 0 classes.

This past Tuesday, I again pulled him aside after class and informed him that he had 4 late appearances that would be counted against him and he needed to get to class on time. He blamed the bus for being late. I told him to catch an earlier bus. Blah Blah Blah . . . he promised to never be late again. Whatever.

Later in the morning, I received a panicked email from him, requesting a meeting with me ASAP. I had a clear hour at 1pm and told him to stop by then. He came into my office and said (I'm quoting him word-for word) "We have a test on Thursday so you have to send me all your notes and Power Point slides. I have ADD so I get special help. It's required by the university."

What. The. Fuck.

I asked him why I was just hearing about this now and why on earth would I send him information he should already have. He just stood there, looking at me with the most shocked expression on his face. "But, you have to!" he told me. Then he started in on a diatribe that lasted about 10 minutes. Here are the high points:
  • "I just never imagined you would be so unfair."
  • "I didn't know about the test until today." (Uhm, it's been on the syllabus since day 1 and I've also talked about it every class period for the last 2 weeks.)
  • "No, I don't have any documentation, but you can talk to my advisor about it."
  • "Why are you being so defensive? You are acting like you don't want to help me."
In conversations I've had with both his advisor and the SSD (Services for Students with Disabilities) office, I've learned that this kid has an excuse for everything. He's not currently registered with the SSD office, and he apparently called their office in a panic and was then so belligerent that the woman trying to help him nearly hung up on him. He is required to get reassessed every semester (his excuse? He didn't know he had to do that) and he told the SSD office he didn't have time to meet with them, and said he felt discriminated against. His advisor highly doubts he spent time in rehab (based on work history and classes he took at a community college after he was kicked out of our institution) and was not surprised that he was always late for class.

This is a kid who has learned to lie, cheat and steal his way through life and it really sucks that I'm going to be the butt of his anger when he realizes just how little he gets to manipulate me. It sucks that I'm having to document every interaction because I know, at some point, he is going to claim I had it in for him. It sucks that his parents (or whoever raised him) had a hand in making him feel that he is entitled to every exception.

Today, we had our test. He actually showed up on time. He spent the entire 75 minutes vocally yawning (I asked him to quiet down twice) and sighing loudly when he came to a question he didn't know - which was often. He asked me the definition of the following words: monologue, instantaneous and relevant. With several students still left in the room taking the exam, he loudly asked why I had made the test so hard, would there be a chance for extra credit and made it known he didn't think the test was "fair."

AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! It's already a stressful semester, but this kind of pain-in-the-ass student added on top of it is seriously stressing me out. It's hard to wear the hat of a "neutral" teacher when I personally dislike him.

So. That's my fun story of the day. Now I'm off to fight the crowds at the Walmart.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Dear Blog,

I have been neglecting you. Partly on purpose, partly on accident. Why? I'll give you 3 reasons.

1. I'm lazy.

2. I've been spending every spare moment cleaning my house fro top to bottom because MY MUM AND SISTER ARE COMING TO VISIT!!!

3. Every other spare moment I've been grading my fool head off, just trying to keep up.

I am 1 test, 1 lecture, 7 coaching appointments, and 8 hours of forensics nationals prep away from Spring Break. Not that I'm counting.