Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Um, How Sincere Would That BE, Exactly?

I don't think I can blame this one on my students. It was from another class.

I found a 3 x 5 card on the floor of the classroom today, with notes on it for a paper outline.

Under "Characteristics":

"She is worm sincere and friendly."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I Smell an "A"

I'm finishing up grading a huge pile of papers.

They are autobiographical. This little gem of a passage just caught my attention:

"Shooting guns brings everyone in are family together and if you had a bad week at work or some problems at home shooting is the best medicine. Without bullets for our guns I don't know what are family would do."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Here We Go Again

After taking a semester off from teaching, last spring, I eased back into it with a summer creative writing class. I only got thrown that welcome bone because the two "real" creative writing professors don't want to teach in the summer. Yeah. No kidding. I remember that life. Getting paid during the leisurely summer, back at that real job I had.

But, whining aside, I was very grateful for that class. First of all, there were only nine students enrolled, and they were all women. We started out with 10 students, including 1 guy who was too much of a wussie to read his writing out loud. (Duh. It's a writing workshop.) So he bolted. I'd had him in class before, and I can truly say I have never met a student with less ambition. I was glad to see him go. THEN we had eight weeks of incredibly good writing workshops. I gave them somewhat personal topics to write about and they eagerly sunk their teeth in. For instance, "Please write 800 words on this: If you could get inside any one person's head, what would you try to find out, and what do you think THEY would want you to find out." Their chosen subjects ranged from "my biological mother who gave me up" to "my dog" to "my lazy boyfriend" to "my father who hasn't spoken to me in twenty years" to "my yogi." The lazy boyfriend, by the way, was the guy who dropped the class.

Two of my students were 40 years old, and every person in the class was motivated and creative and someone I was thankful to have crossed paths with. I'd had to miss the first week of the summer session, staying in Indiana after my sister's husband was killed. I was very glad to be with my sister that extra week, but by the time I got back to Phoenix (hey...that could be a song) I was desperately in need of some combination of work and rejuvenation. Meeting with those 9 women twice a week was the perfect mix. It also helped that it was an evening class, allowing me to hole up at home during the days and sneak out to see other humans at night. The whole thing was the answer to a prayer. Actually it was the answer "no." Because I'd prayed that the class, very under-enrolled, would be cancelled. I didn't think I'd be able to walk into a classroom in June, for many reasons. Many versions of loss.

God said "You're teaching it. Buck up."

Enter: fall semester. Back to my regular assignment, Freshman Composition. I won't go into my love/detest relationship with it. You've heard it all before. I'll just give you a little classroom exchange.

There's a painfully good looking boy in the class. 18 years old, sparkly blond hair, beautiful blue eyes with a startling glassy look about them. Matthew. The girls stare at him like he's a puppy who will at any moment lick him widdle paw and make them all eek with pleasure. Or at least that's how they were looking at him before he spoke.

I gave the class their first assignment, asking them to write a paper representing themselves through six objects. At some point I said "Literarily speaking, this will be a short autobiography. So please, exert some effort. Breathe some life into it. Don't make me think you're just another cog."

Matthew spoke: just made up like two words that aren't even words.

Me: Really? And what were they?

Matthew (struggling): That "litterree" word, for one.

Me: I see. And what was the other one?

Matthew (giggling almost to the point of releasing a snort): Ha ha, "cog." Who ever heard the word "cog!"

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tiny Packets of Joy

Some days don't go all that well. (Like today for instance. I've been pinpointedly focused on trying not to vomit. Ate something bad at an Italian restaurant last night and have been hanging on for dear life all day. I feel as though I devoured a brick, and washed it down with nine quarts of Pennzoil.)

And then I find something that is very small, but that I like very very much, and it's like a little packet of sugar poured into the bitter cauldron of boiling hemlock that is my mood. Today I found it in last week's TV Guide.

The description for America's Funniest Home Videos was this simple sentence:

"A man in a bear costume wakes someone up."

This is my packet. Please, tell me what bolsters you when you're riding that unicycle into the darkness. I'd like to know.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

What Can We Name the Baby?

Don't freak. I have not conceived.

But baby names are the topic at our house. I saw on someone's blog the other day that a friend of hers had named her baby girl "Story." Which I thought was cool. As in, write your own, kid. Reject whatever sad narrative the world wishes to glom onto you. This is your movie.

Then I saw in the celebrity news that Minnie Driver gave birth to a baby boy and his middle name is Story.

What is the deal?

Baby names have always fascinated me. So much so that I actually once purchased a book called 15,000 Baby Names just so I could look at them all, never intending to be a parent.

In my college dorm, my girlfriends and I would get into all manner of philosophical discussions late at night. Topics ranged from our future careers to space travel to the meaning of grades, to our periods. One night we started talking about which words would be beautiful names for girls if not for the meaning of the word. My friend Mary said "Diarrhea." And indeed. Listen to the beautiful music of "Diarrhea" as you fence yourself off from its meaning. Ahhh. Dia-rrhea. Look at you in that gorgeous prom dress, Diarrhea. Your beau can't wait to load you in the car. Don't run!

On my favorite soap opera, "The Bold and the Beautiful" (home of deliciously bad acting) there are brothers named Thorn and Ridge. They have a brother-in-law (who recently killed himself to give his heart to his sister Donna) named Storm.

Scott and I now keep trying to think of other nouns that could be used to name a baby. Some are more hip than others. See if you can add to our list:
















and my personal favorite, Cochlea.

But we're afraid she might want implants.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

It's Not You. It's Me.

A Letter to My Teaching Career

We have to talk.

No, sit down. We really have to.

We both know things aren't right between us.

We've been together, what, 12 years? We have a lot of history, don't we? Like all new couples, in the beginning we had to struggle to deal with the rough edges. I had to get to know you and all your quirks. Like how being with you would force me to look at life not as days and weeks and months, but as an endless series of semesters.

You had so many quirks. Sometimes you forced me to stay in the house, grading papers, for days. You kept me from seeing my friends. You isolated me from family.

You totally made me take on the vocal patterns of 19-year-olds, like, too many times.

You got me to make a profile on Facebook.

I hated the way you'd make me form attachments, sometimes strong ones, with our underlings, the students, and then whisk away all those people to replace them with new people. Often, you'd bring a few of the old students back, in other classes, and I'd get even more attached before they left.

Just like any other couple, we've had to navigate through one another's twisty emotional patterns. You want every ounce of my energy and attention for four months at a time. Then you retreat into silence. You never share the holidays with me. I put the Christmas tree up and know that I won't see you again until mid-January. It's cool. I'm used to that. I even like that. I need my holiday space.

Then here you come again, busting in at the beginning of the semester and being all ME ME ME, sucking every speck of my energy away, and it all starts over. But it was OK. I got used to it. It was your pattern.

Which brings us to today. I didn't want to have to be the one to bring it up. But you know we're not like we used to be. Sometimes a couple can't weather big changes so well. You and I got along so much better back before we left the Big Giant University. Remember? The beautiful campus you laid out before me? The rockin' basketball team? And remember what a good provider you were then? You let me do lavish things (for very small co-pays) like go to the dentist and the eye doctor and the boob squisher. Now you tell me you're not paying for any of it.

Don't tell me you don't remember. You do remember.

Look, I'll be the first to say that you made me a better person. You dragged me out of the worst time of my life and threw me into an intellectual and emotional challenge that forced me to focus. Forced me to form something out of my decaying Play-Doh existence. For that, I love you. I'm not ungrateful.

But admit it: since the move West, you've limited me. Severely. Do you really expect me to find fulfillment in Freshman Composition? No poetry classes? No memoir classes? Come on. You know me. It's like offering me a steady diet of saltines. And elsewhere on the menu? More saltines.

I didn't say I was leaving. I'm not tossing all those years out. But I have to be blunt: I've become attracted to another career. And I think it might have its eye on me, too.

Stop smirking. What. Just because I'm 49 means I'm not attractive to anyone else? You think you're the only game in town?

OK, I'm sorry. That was harsh.

We've already taken time apart. A whole semester this past spring. I thought it would clear my head, but it didn't. I'm still confused. It boils down to this: I want you back the way you used to be. Before you got to be such a tightwad. Before you yanked away the variety. Before you became unrecognizable.

And you want the old me. The one who felt deep satisfaction just to be with you. The one who didn't constantly shine a light on your faults.

I never thought I could suggest this, not in a katrillion years. But I need an open relationship. I have to spend time with this other career. I'm not getting any younger.

What? Of course you and I will still see one another. I need you! I just need this other thing, too. You notice I said need, not want. I have no choice. But if you need to leave me behind, I understand. I don't expect you to be a doormat, hoping for a full commitment from me and not getting one. Remember, I do love you. Very much.

Counseling? Fuck no, I'm not going to counseling.