Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Do You Have a Highlight Reel?

I did something stupid yesterday. Long story, but suffice it to say that it was a stingingly embarrassing social faux pas. When I realized what I'd done, I wrapped both arms around my abdomen and moaned and fell into a chair. The syrup of humiliation slowly ran down into the knobs and levers of my conscience and something short-circuited. It was my own personal China Syndrome.

Today, the situation has been righted. I worked at it, bared my throat to the injured parties, and life went on.

The thing is, any time I do something asinine or just not very well thought out and it leads to embarrassment, I have this deeply annoying movie theatre that opens in my head. I can hear the projector rising slowly on its platform, and the whirring of the old stale reels beginning to turn.

White background--3--2--1

MOVIE. Not just any movie. The highlight reel of All the Embarrassing Moments of Candy's Life. It's like my brain just waits and waits at the controls, longing for the opportunity to remind me.

Hang on there, Candy. You think THIS was moronic? Look at all THESE pitiful messes you cooked up! You jackass!

And here it comes. The collection of images flying by. There I am, at "kindergarten" graduation (We didn't have kindergarten back then...just a 3-day pretend-school to acquaint us with the process). I get my little blue construction paper mortar board and put it on my head and then I sit down. BUT EVERYONE ELSE IS STANDING. At the moment, I thought I'd ruined my whole life.

Oh, and there's the morning I walked through the snowy yard to the waiting school bus and our German shepherd, Casey, bounded out of nowhere and knocked me facedown in the snow. I pretended to be dead so that I did not have to see the laughing faces inside the bus. Also because I was sure Casey was humping me in his too-jolly Carmen Miranda dance and I wanted to be dead. My mother finally came outside and stood me up like a crooked tripod and walked me inside. She drove me to school.

And the piece de resistance: My ten year high school reunion. In my high school reunion nervousness, I had too much of the cheap Holiday Inn wine and misplaced some of my cognitive functions. A girl in our class decided we should have a moment of silence for this guy name Ted who had died in a car accident somewhere between the 5th and 10th reunion. (He wasn't even really in our class. He had flunked a couple years and landed in our graduating class.) ((Though that is beside the point because I'm trying to avoid telling you what happened.))

I did not hear the girl correctly. I thought she said something else. Something merry and happy. I clapped. Loudly. In the dead silence around me. I was clapping during a moment of silence for the dead guy.

Forget the syrup of humiliation dripping into the controls. This was like 500 lava lamps filled with the boiling snot of Beelzebub exploding and covering me all the way from my scalp to my high heels.

My fingers, while typing this sad tale, have curled and buckled like overcooked fish sticks. Because that was the single most embarrassing moment of my life. And I am really sick of the highlight reel. But it continues to play.

Please tell me I'm not alone. And give me details, if you dare.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

One Week In. Ready for Spring Break.

It's not that this teaching job is so very taxing. I've worked taxing, exhausting, soul-crushing jobs. Fast food, slow food, retail, and that unforgettable job at Columbia Records (back when they sold LPs, cassette tapes and 8-track tapes!). It was my job to read the numbers that mail-order customers had painstakingly scribbled into tiny squares on a flimsy postcard ripped out of a magazine ad. I would read them, and compare them to an unending computer print-out to make sure that Columbia Records was indeed going to package up an 8-track of Andy Williams' "Greatest Hits" and not Led Zeppelin's "Houses of the Holy." Because that would simply not do.

Let me also mention that during this punishing employment during the summer of 1978, there were no laws against smoking in the workplace. I hated smoke. Had the most sensitive eyes in the state of Indiana and could not stand to be around cigarettes. At least not in an enclosed area. So there I was, eye-strained out the wazoo already from reading the carefully chosen musical selections of one pencil-wielding Cletus from Frightened Sheep, Tennessee, and I had to also endure the unavoidable clouds of smoke settling on me from all directions. When I got home, my mom would say "You smell like you've been rolling in ash trays all day."

My complaints were pooh-poohed by the supervisor, a hateful square-faced woman named Pat. I was, after all, only a summer hire, and the smokers were permanent fixtures at Columbia Records. They hated me. Because I complained about them and because I couldn't help staring at them. You know what a woman's face looks like when she's been smoking for many many decades, right? Yeah. Forget that image. Because this one badly-dyed redhead made those women look like fragile china dolls. Her face had begun to cave in. She was sucking those cigarettes so deeply into the chasm of her mouth that they would all but disappear, all 100 millimeters of them, making her wrinkly face look like a rectum grasping fiercely onto a piece of chalk, perhaps to write desperate messages about the dark goings-on in AssWorld.

During our 15-minute morning coffee break I would bolt from the building and run like a banshee through the fresh, clear air to my own addiction: the Dunkin' Donuts next door. Bavarian cream filled chocolate long john, here I came. Same thing during the afternoon break. I gained ten pounds that summer, which was a good thing, since I was skinny enough that my mother would make banana shakes for me at bedtime, to help me put on some pounds. That problem, by the way, is no longer with me.

I was newly motivated to return to college and face whatever overwhelming assignments my professors could dream up. Nothing would stop me from getting a degree and outrunning that spreading Columbia Records quicksand. I did not wish to live an isolated life deciphering postcards from Cletus and his ilk. I wanted contact with real people, in person, interacting, not all of us shut into our suffocating computer printout tedium.

The story has a happy ending. I teach college now and have all the interaction I can stomach. And I'm deciphering student papers that seem as though they may have been written by the rectum-chalk.

And just because I came in the door after 2 days of class screaming "I hate people. ALL PEOPLE!" doesn't mean I don't love my job. Because I do. It just takes a bit of adjustment the first week. Like when I pass out a student questionnaire that, among other things, asks them to list their favorite books. This time I got a kid who wrote "I hate to read and write. And I always will." I will break him. Watch me.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Oh how I hate the beginning of a semester. Hate it hate it hate it.

I know exactly how lucky I am to have a job, and benefits. Really, I do. And I 100% appreciate it.

But there is still the jello mold problem. When semester break comes, it is an emotional tempest. I always swear that I'm going to do great things, mark every item off my Semester Break List. I'm going to get all that stuff done and then have 2 or 3 days before classes start to just relax. This has been my plan every single semester break since I started teaching in 1998.

The plan has never once come to fruition.

Instead, what happens is that I tell myself "Ahhhhh! Final grades are turned in. I'm going to give myself one really lazy day or two. I'll stay up until the wee hours, sleep in shamefully late, be in my pajamas until dinner time. Rejuvenate."

And then I never fully come back. As a result, I do not accomplish my many goals. Nor do I ever get back into the habit of going to bed at a semi-decent hour. The late night is just too delicious. This crappy sleep pattern, of course, turns me into a slug. I don't want to do anything, go anywhere, see anyone, or move from my couch. I discover that I have fully transformed into a puddle. Like a sweet little lime green jello mold with carrot bits adorning its insides. Lift the shiny mold off it, let it sit out at room temperature for a whole day. And there it is, a green oil slick dripping off your kitchen table, with carrot-sliver death-stare fishies plopping onto the linoleum to their open-mouthed final resting place.

Then a new semester approaches. Fast. As in, tomorrow. And here I am, trying to mop myself up and coax and cajole my brain into re-entering a teaching state of mind. Which is a lot like pushing a wagon filled with granite up a hill with a toothpick.

But I do not take my job for granite.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


My husband is trying to kill us. He's been making bread.

When I crawled out of bed today, hours after he did, he said "What do you want to do today? I mean, besides eating bread."

For more details, go to


send help.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Winter, Good and Bad

I'm in a single digit part of the Midwest, and have not left my house in three days. Nor do I care to. Here are some of my loves and hates about winter.

1. LOVE the coziness of being inside, having a dozen candles lit, covering with a blanket, and watching movies. I even love when it gets dark at 3:45 p.m. I like the night.

2. HATE getting in and out of the car wearing my ungodly amount of layers, awkwardly crawling past the steering wheel, while my hair gets so much electricity in it that it sucks onto the ceiling of the car and snaps like a room full of beatniks.

3. HATE the dry skin. Hate putting on lotion and more lotion and still hearing the sound of someone biting into a potato chip when I touch my own face.

4. LOVE the way snow looks when it's new. Hate when it's old: the dirty piles of it that have dirty little kids climbing on it in parking lots.

5. HATE when the car fishtails and my stomach flies up into my mouth like a crazed bird in a cage.

6. LOVE having a month off for semester break, when I plan all kinds of great feats and accomplishments.

7. HATE when the break is coming to an end and I have once again dropped the ball.

What do you love/hate about winter?

Friday, January 01, 2010

Leaving the "Aughts" Behind

It is actually 2010. Twenty-ten, as the hipsters say.

All I remember about New Year's Day 2000 (which I insisted on adding a comma to, because 2,000 looked so much groovier to me) is great relief that the end of the world had not taken place when all the computers rolled over in their sleep and burped into a new millennium. The bottled water I'd purchased was still safely tucked into the still-working refrigerator, and the fire hydrant-sized flashlight I'd bought at Kmart (very last one) had been clicked on only for testing. I had survived Y2K with merely the minor abrasion on my checking account. And boredom. Disappointed boredom that comes when the world NOT ending piles on top of the post-holiday letdown you already have, and there you are, with your new Isotoner slippers and your bland mood and a tired question mark floating over your head.

I believed, on that New Year's Day, that I had exhausted all possibilities for happiness. I'd been divorced for not quite a year, was still bleeding from that jagged wound, and was sure that if I ever did find someone to be with again, it would be that forced smile kind of being-with. The settling for someone who was bearable, but who didn't have a sense of humor that would fit with mine, and who would never be able to make me feel over-the-moon, and I wouldn't do it for him either. I couldn't open the door of my mind to even fathom that things could be good someday. When I forced it open with a crowbar, it slammed shut and shook the whole apartment complex.

Things do change. I was in my second year of teaching at the Big Giant University (a job I'd never have ventured into had it not been for the husband dumping me) and I was, how could it be, pretty good at it. I spent every minute of my walks across the campus thinking "How can they possibly be allowing me to teach here?" mixed with "They're letting me teach here! This is so cool!"

But there were many things to learn. Like how not to completely blow all my money on things that would make me feel momentarily better, for instance. There were so many trips to TJ Maxx that my closet actually smelled like their store. The money from the divorce settlement went from a slow leak to a raging whitewater blast. Trying to fill the void.

I watched movies, more than anyone I knew. When Blockbuster had their "30 Rentals in 30 Days for 30 Dollars" special that summer, I watched at least one movie a day. The guy at the counter not only came to know me, but told me I was the only customer they had who had gotten all 30 movies, and had been in all 30 days. I was too unhappy to care about how that looked.

Hankie, my beloved cat, and I sat on the couch for hours and hours in front of those movies. He slept, and I watched. And I petted him and watched him blink his eyes in that "I'm here" way that cats do.

I was 40. Now I'm 50. Tragedies have happened. Pain has javelined through my family and run us through several times. Loss has become our fluent language, as it eventually does with everyone.

But I have to also admit to joy. I still laugh, I still love and get loved back, and I'm still learning how to do both. And somewhere, mid-decade of the "aughts" I met a guy whose sense of humor fits mine so well that my mother says "You've finally met your match." Over the moon is a regular destination. And I'm so out of practice at forcing smiles that I can't remember how. Which is good. One thing the aughts taught me was not to fake emotions, of any kind, with any person, ever. Not that easy to learn when you've been un-true to yourself forever.

Charlie, my dad's old army buddy, emailed last week and reported on the others from the old group: "I talk to everyone I can contact. Most are considering all things, and doing well." This "well" he describes includes blindness, paralysis, cancer, congestive heart failure, and loneliness. "Well" becomes relative. We take the days we can get. Charlie also wrote: "I know it won't be a Merry Christmas of old, but God has everything set to His liking. Let's accept and give thanks for all He provides. Tell your dad Merry Christmas, even if he doesn't remember me."

Happy New Year to you, 2010. I wish you a year of "considering all things," especially those parts of who you are that you've ignored for too long.