Monday, October 08, 2007

Turd Holes which I dodge from subject to subject like a chunk of ham in a pinball machine...

A couple of years ago, during my nausea-filled first trimester of pregnancy with Baby Fangs, I remember teaching a math lesson and making a mistake with a number. I wrote 65,980 on the overhead and then, several seconds later after realizing my error, I changed it to 65, 982. This was more than the uptight, super-organized girls in the class could take, and they moaned and howled for a while because I'd made their notes "messy."

As a super-non-uptight, super non-organized kind of person, I normally am able to deal with this sort of thing by laughing at kids like these, but nausea + hormonal changes + general feeling of "uugggghhhh, being dead would be better than being pregnant" had transformed me into a testy, bloodshot monster. I WASN'T IN THE MOOD, and I let these girls have it.

"Calm the hell down back there!" I snarled, "you'd think it was a freaking famine the way you people are carrying on!" Then, without stopping to think, I found myself plunging headfirst into a rambling and incoherent lecture about the siege of Leningrad. My speech included such inane sentences like: "They were completely surrounded, and it was cold out there!" "The Hermitage caretakers survived by eating art glue and roasted baby!" and (most importantly:) "How did uptight people like you survive such a chaotic time, anyway?? You can't handle ANYTHING without freaking out!" It's been a point of pride for me that, without even knowing I was pregnant, my students did not dismiss my little rant as that of a crazed lunatic but humbly took my point and never complained again when I made a mistake. Which of course, being with child and mentally incapacitated by dreams of meatball stew with whipped cream, I did again and again and again.

I have no clue why I just told you that story.

Oh yeah, uptight people. If there is anything more annoying than an uptight student, it's an uptight student's mom. Without giving too many details, (except that one scene involved the words "jerking off" and "banana cream pie" in the same sentence) my careless mouth, slave as it is to my incredibly stupid and unprofessional brain, has let out several verbal faux pas lately that might not sit too well with the moms of my school. I'm currently in a state of uneasy limbo, waiting for one to call. Actually, I'm waiting for several moms to call me right now. It's left me feeling tense and, uncharacteristically, I've found myself indulging in a little retail therapy to help me cope. I've bought a lot of crap that I'm too embarrassed to write about, but I will tell you about this priceless little mini-sculpture I picked up last week at an obscure little art shop in. OK, it was on sale for $12.99 at my local Pier 1 Imports.

Wow, what a fabulous piece of modern art, hey? We call it Swirly Turd with Hole, and I can't begin to tell you how classy it makes the place look. People say the West End is a working class, bordering on the slums kind of neighbourhood, but Swirly Turd with Hole proves that this just can't be true. Its presence brings such a sense of upper class refinement to my house. Honestly, it's more than just a stunning work of art. Whenever I've had a long day that's left me feeling frazzled and out of sorts, Swirly Turd with Hole's smooth and solid brown presence soothes and comforts me. It helps maintain my balance by reminding me of my place in this world and what it's all about. It's like a good friend filled with lots of friendly good sense, only, like, more swirly and of course, definitely way more turd-like.

Unfortunately, I am the only person in this house who likes it. When I die and everyone is fighting over my stuff, poor Swirly Turd with Hole will be totally ignored. It will probably end up in the hands of an autistic great-grandchild who will line the hole with raw liver and use it for self-abusive purposes. But that's OK. Art is for the people, and he can use it for whatever he wants to to help him cope.

OK, that's it, I'm obviously out of control. I've got to go prep a chemistry lesson.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Explanation, Briefly, And I'll See You Later This Week!

...woe eez me, wizout ze blog...

A few months ago I did a happiness quiz that they had in the Globe and Mail to see how, uh, happy I am. Out of a possible perfect score of "five", I got a "three point seven." According to the person who put the quiz together, this was very normal, and it indicated that, emotionally anyway, I was a pretty healthy person. In fact, a score higher than, say, "four point three" (I forget how high exactly) meant you were probably clinically insane and spent your days wandering around in some sort of Candide-like delusional candy floss fog. This didn't sound like a bad thing to me, but the paper assured me this wasn't true happiness, and therefore not something I should be striving for.

Although it is unpopular, perhaps even embarrassing to admit these kinds of things publicly, I will confess to you that when I filled out that happiness questionnaire, I was mildly discomforted by the fact that I was positively answering a lot of the questions with silent reference to my blog. In fact, the only reason I probably got a "normal" score on that stupid "Happiness Quiz" was because of how much I've enjoyed cranking out these posts over this last year. In other words, my blog... makes... me... happy.

You know why I write this. September saw me plunging back into work after sixteen months at home. The shock and intensity of being back in the school and working with kids again took up all my mental energy. Teaching is weird that way. It takes over your life and it doesn't give you too many breaks, even when you are only working part time. After a couple of weeks back I realized I had no option but to abandon my blog because I had no time for it anymore. Maybe next summer, I thought. Maybe when I retire...

But, no surprise to me, this decision has left me feeling pretty miserable. I slump through my days growling a lot. Cruelly, my school has given me my very own personal, state of the art laptop to lug around with me everywhere I go. It stares at me all day, during my classes, even at home, and when I'm not thinking about Johnny Q Asshole in the back row, third from the right, I'm thinking, gee, I'd sure like to be blogging right now...

Guess I have no choice but to stay.

PS: The floors turned out swell! Now for those crown mouldings...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sad.. And The Bird Thing Really Did Happen, Too...

...forgive me, I was high on floor varnish fumes as I wrote this... when Mr. IQ said the floor would be done by Tuesday, damn it, he really meant what he said!!... Of course, silly old me, I thought he meant LAST Tuesday... wait a minute, today is WEDNESDAY!! That BASTARD!!....

Luciano Pavarotti died last week. Without trying to sound insensitive or selfish, I must say he picked a really crappy time to go. Could there BE a more stressful time of year than the beginning of September? On behalf of teachers everywhere who were going back to work last week and totally freaking out, THANKS A LOT, "PAV." Being blasted by your gut-wrenching, soul-searching, weep-inducing, "WhyAmIHereAnyway?"- Demanding, "DustInTheWind! AllIAmIsDustInTheWind!" Eye-Openers EVERY TIME I TURNED ON THE STUPID RADIO LAST WEEK was MORE THAN I COULD HANDLE. What on EARTH were you THINKING?? WERE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME TOO???

(Whoa, wait a minute! It's the touching works of KANSAS that make me feel all those deep things, not Luciano. Anyway.)

Without giving the impression that I'm more cultured than I really am, because, believe me, I'm not, it was terribly sad listening to him all last week. I'm sorry, but if you can listen to Nessun Dorma and not feel like sobbing your guts out, then you have no passion in your heart. Actually, I don't have a lot of passion in my heart, but I do have an amazing, near-genius ability to feel sorry for myself. Really, it's almost the same thing.

Anyway, I was going to tell you about the crickets.

Each year, when I return to work in the fall, our school is filled with the sound of crickets. They're not there in June, but over the summer they always manage to make their way into the building. Or maybe they are there in June, but haven't started chirping yet. My buddy Nitroglycol would know. My own personal knowledge of crickets comes exclusively from reading A Cricket in Times Square as a kid, and it seems to me that that cricket chirped his way through the whole book. (Yes, I do teach high school biology sometimes, thanks for asking! Shocked? Don't be. My only knowledge of chemistry comes from reading a scene in an Enid Blyton book where someone forgot to add baking powder to the scones. As a result, they didn't rise. They needed the baking powder for the acid/base bubbly thing to happen. If I remember correctly, Hilary [or was it Belinda?] was quite upset.)

Anyway. The crickets. Coming back to their chirps each fall would be quite charming, if you didn't know that they were all dying. There is one that sits and chirps all morning in my kitchenette-filled chemistry class, and try as I will, I can't find exactly where he (she?) is. It makes me sad hearing him chirp. Even the prospect of that big Mulberry Tree in the Sky that he may be going to if he's been good doesn't make me feel much better. He's giving his last performance and honestly, it's depressing as hell listening to him. Actually, it totally breaks my heart.

The first week of school is always very hard for me. I get scared and suffer stage fright, because teaching is very much like being on stage all day, and the possibility of bombing up there and being booed is very, very real. Maybe because of this, every fall when I hear these crickets I feel like crying and running away.

Of course, as fate would have it, as I was making my panic-stricken way to my very first class of the year last week, I ran into one of them. Oh, he looked so frightened, scurrying along this way and that, not sure where to go. His jerky little movements were awfully endearing, and he reminded me a lot of Baby Fangs when she was in her crawling stage: so very sweet and innocent and, damn it all, so terribly vulnerable.

"Hey, little buddy, come on, we'll flee this place together!" I tried to surreptitiously vibe him, hoping he'd jump onto my outstretched hand and be my friend as together we disappeared into my car and made a run for the border. But he wisely ignored me, so I had no choice but to head to my classroom where, left distracted (and distraught!) by the Baby Fangs crawling cricket, I found myself greeted by the unwelcoming presence of 31 unfamiliar kids, all staring up at me with unsmiling faces.

Really, there was nothing I could do but plunge nervously into my first lesson. So that's what I did.

"Okay, so I'm, uh, Ms Whippersnapper and today we're, uh, going to learn about sig figs. Sort of. Well, we're going to add them. Not add sig figs, but, uh, use them. When adding. And subtracting! So, uh, let's say we've got 7000 plus 673 plus 120, well, you've got to include sig figs in your answer so, ha ha, let's look at all the numbers, the leftmost non sig fig number in 7000 is 7 and in the other two numbers it's 3 and 0, non-sig figs that is, so you look at the leftmost sig figs and, whoa, I guess if you're looking at the overhead that would be rightmost number, anyway, you've got to add them, that should be easy, you've been adding like this since grade three at least and besides, ha ha, you can always use a calculator, anyway line them up when you're adding them, thousands, hundreds, whatever, do that and look at your leftmost sig figs in the three numbers, I mean, rightmost, well, if you've written it down now on your own paper it would be leftmost and anyway, you need to check out this leftmostest number of the three and that will be your answer. Well, not your answer, but, you know, how you're going to answer your answer. I mean, question. Yes. Well, so you look at it, and it's thousands, right? Right? Right, so you take the thousandsplaceandputitinyour answersoeventhoughtheanswerisreally7793you're doingtheleftmostthingsoit'sgoingtobe8000. See? HAHAHAHAHA! Pretty easy, huh?"

I then spent the rest of the period going to each student individually and re-teaching what I had just "taught" to the whole class on the overhead.

But that was last week. This week has gone better. I think.

Except that I googled "Crickets" and discovered that to make chocolate-covered crickets you have to rinse them in water first and then stick them in the freezer until they're "dead but not yet frozen."

Then while reading Salmon Rushdie's book Fury in the tub, I emerged dripping and headed straight to the office (the office! Oh god, the office! Don't get me started on the office) to google the word "strappado." Finding out what it meant didn't exactly lift my spirits.

And then a bird flew into our house. Oh, poor bird. It settled on the dining room window sill, and I thought that I would be able to save him, because that window pushes open so easily. But when I moved forward to set him free he flew off frightened in the opposite direction, bashed into our living room window and went crashing dead onto our floor. It happened so fast it took me several seconds to even register what had happened.

If I were a clever girl, I would be able to make some clever connections here about all these dead and/or dying pretty tune makers. But I'm not, so I can't. All I know is that the cricket's little chirp was very faint today. He sounds so sad, and I still can't find him. I can hardly bear it that he's spending his last days cooped up in a dully painted, ugly-floored home-ec room.

But I know. He's only a cricket.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Awfully Short Post

...give me a week or two of this "working for a living" business to get myself properly sorted out OK? It's been quite the shock to this lazy girl's system...

Because I'm part-time these days, I'm usually on the highway over the noon hour, and I've taken to listening to the UMFM's broadcast of Democracy Now with Amy Goodman during my disgustingly long, carbon-spewing ride home from the small town in which I teach. I'm not ashamed to say that I think I have developed a little bit of a girl-crush on her. Her growly voice just kills me, and she's sort of everything I'm not but wish I could be: Politically articulate, objective and emotionally IN CONTROL when it comes to the pressing issues of the day. Because this has been a weepy week (Baby Fangs has sobbed uncontrollably each morning as I've left for work) her show and that voice have had an incredible impact on me. Words and phrases like "melting polar ice caps", "Abu Ghraib" and "Jimmy Carter" get me bawling in ways that can be confusing (JIMMY CARTER???) and probably not emotionally healthy. I would be reluctant to write about it here, were I not so positive that it is only a temporary affliction brought on by the terrible upheavals of the week.

Actually, a lot of things are making me bawl these days. (Ball whom? Hahahahahahaha blehhhhhh.)

Like the crickets.

I'll try to write about the crickets tomorrow.

Friday, September 07, 2007


...that doesn't stand for what you think it stands for...

Today's schedule, in brief:

5:30 am: Wake. Make up chemistry worksheet. Get ready for work.

7:00 am: Leave for work.

12:47 pm: Return from work.

4:10 pm: Leave for work again to supervise "Gym Night."

8:39 pm: Return from work.

Total hours spent on work (including, admittedly, the commute): 10+ hours

How swell it is that I'm going PART-TIME this year! I can't tell you how RELAXED and UNDERWORKED I FEEL.

PS: Piss off, spellcheck. Underworked is too a word.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Final Update Until Everything's Done

...and it WILL get done...the floor is half sanded, and will be finished's looking swell, but I'm tired of writing about it, so I'll spare you any more details until the last coat of whatever that stuff is you put on wood to make it shine has dried... then, really, honestly, truly, there will be pictures...

Do you know how people say things like, "Well, my house can sure get messy, but at least it's never DIRTY"?

Well, right now, this house is dirty.

Or, even better, people who go on and on and on about a disaster zone in their house and then when you finally get to see it you find it's not even slightly disastrous? (Heather sprang one of these on me last month when I was allowed a peek at her infamous laundry room. It was sparkling neat and the disappointment I felt and the feelings of betrayal I experienced when I saw it were frankly soul-crushing.)

Listen: My house really is a total and complete disaster zone.

I feel like the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz when describing what the Winged Monkeys did to him. ("They took my arms and threw them over there! Then they took my legs and threw them over there!") The contents of my house have been thrown everywhere, and while I know it has not been done irrationally, we're working towards a greater good here and it's all part of a well-thought-out master plan, having a pile of books sitting in my bathtub of all places is enough to send any good woman over the edge. Especially when that someone is about to return to work after 16 months!!

I cannot even begin to describe how fabulous it is to start off the school year feeling so wonderfully organized!

Actually, I'm very much looking forward to going back to work. (Having said that, if I wasn't part-time this year, I must confess I would not be blogging right now: I would be upstairs staring at my sleeping children and sobbing my guts out.) But getting out every morning is going to be great, and, despite what people might tell you, teaching is actually an absolutely fantastic job. It's a well-kept secret that teenagers are the funniest people on the planet, and I am NOT lying OR exaggerating when I say that every day at work I get at least three honest-to-goodness belly laughs because students have said things that are hilarious.

So yeah, teaching is great.

If it weren't for the insane workload (do you KNOW how many hours teachers put in at home?) the overflowing classrooms (a blog post of its own) the stupid education "specialists" (you would not BELIEVE some of the crap they've tried to make me do in my classroom) the crazy parents ("how dare you look at my [spoiled, lazy, stupid, rude, total asshole] child sideways!") the finger-pointing media (who blame us teachers for EVERY societal woe from increasing crime rates to childhood obesity) the resentful taxpayers ("how dare you get all those holidays! And what's up with your five hour work day anyway?") ("five hours": ooooh, don't even get me started) and the patronizing academics ("well, we know she's not smart! If she was smart she would have become a doctor!") why, honestly:

It would be practically the most perfect job there is.

PS: Apparently I will be teaching my chemistry classes in the home-ec room this year. Yes, you've read that correctly: Chem labs in the morning; cooking classes in the afternoon.

Someone is going to die.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Update #6


The last two posts have been a little negative, and I'm thinking I'd better end the day a little more positively. Besides, things have actually turned out to be OK.

We never found the driver's license, which doesn't surprise me. This place is crazy. (I personally have been unable to locate my own license since last October. Really. I'm telling you, we're not normal people around here.) When Mr. IQ finally seemed resolved to this fact, I gently brought up the issue of floor sander rental.

"If we bring it home today, we'll get an extra day free because the store is closed tomorrow," I said.

"OK, let's do it," he said.

So we did and when we got home he got to work right away. The machine made a lot of noise, and seemed, in my humble opinion, a little out of control. He looked like a cowboy holding a bucking bronco by the horns, only, you know, without the cowboy hat and cheesy cowboy moustache. The whole place was vibrating in an (I'll be honest here) not altogether unpleasant manner. But the expression on his face told me that Mr. IQ was not going to be getting his rocks off on THAT 150 pounder: Not today; not anytime.

"What's the matter?" I asked.

"I'm not sure," he said. He checked the Internet and then phoned the store. They had him run it while they yelled directions to him. "YOU MEAN IT SHOULDN'T BE BOUNCING LIKE THIS?" he shouted, trying to keep the phone to his ear and maintain control of the machine at the same time. Apparently the answer was no. Slamming the phone down, he yanked the sander out of the room and dragged it down the front steps of our house angrily like it was a recalcitrant child.

"THE @%&!! THING IS BROKEN!!" he shouted, "I'M GOING TO GET MY MONEY BACK!!!!" Shoving the 150 pound vibrator into the passenger seat, he climbed in behind the wheel and tore off around the corner towards Rona, wheels screeching.

I walked slowly back into the house with a heavy heart. There had been only one machine available to rent today. The floor was not going to be fixed any time soon. I started to make supper, vegetarian chicken noodle soup. The vegetarian chicken chunks, which transform into rubber when placed in boiling hot, chicken-flavoured water (I didn't know they did this) symbolized my inability to navigate normally through the murky waters of this basically ridiculous world. And the noodles symbolized nooses, nooses which invitingly beckoned me towards a happier, less stressful place, a place where physical limitations would prevent me from getting into projects that are way over my head (attractive coffin makeovers for example.)

I hope you don't think I'm serious.

(Total side note: The soup, as you can imagine, ended up being thoroughly disgusting, and High Intensity howled all through dinner about how gross it was. It reminded me of the book Trainspotting where the main character says something like, "Everyone grows up thinking their mother is the best cook in the world. I did too, until I grew up and realized she can't cook for shit." Poor old H.I. She knows my culinary skills suck and she's only four years old.)

Anyway! Mr. IQ returned. And he had another sander!!!

"I was very polite," he said, "but I think they could see the quiet rage." To make a long story short, to make up for the inconvenience of sending us home with a faulty machine, they've refunded our rental money, and the first $90.00 of sanding supplies we need are ON THE HOUSE!!!!"


Update #5


Oh, and the open-faced sandwiches? The ones without slices of bread on top? The ones that, here in North America, seem naked and incomplete and definitely missing something? They symbolized EVERY STUPID PROJECT THAT WE HAVE STARTED AROUND THIS STUPID HOUSE AND NEVER GOT AROUND TO FINISHING.

Not that I'm calling us pathetic, unorganized and scatterbrained or anything like that.

Update #4

...I knew yesterday had been too good to be true...

The day has started slowly, and we just wasted a good hour preparing a large tray of Scandinavian-style open-face sandwiches and consuming them. It was a highly symbolic meal, although no-one at the table other than me was aware of this. The canned wild salmon symbolized my fragile mental health, which, like the wild salmon, is highly endangered right now. The Havarti sandwiches with red pepper rings symbolized the sour, I-Am-Smelling- Something-Bad expression my face is quickly assuming as it dawns on me that we'll probably never get that damn floor finished. (If you've ever gotten a sniff of someone with Havarti breath you know what I'm talking about.) The yogurt symbolized the bacterial cultures that will help decompose Mr. IQ's corpse after I snap and kill him. And the Chinese green tea symbolized Asia, the continent to which I will flee to avoid my inevitable arrest and conviction for my role in his death. (Although were I to be tried by a jury of my peers, assuming these peers were married women, they'd find a way around the law and set me free I think. They'd know. They'd know.)

Why is the project stalled today? Because Mr. IQ has lost his ID and we are spending the day searching for it. He needs it to register for school on Tuesday.

My hair has turned white.

I can't stand this.