boondoggle: noun; a project or scheme that wastes time or money beandoggle: noun; a project that wastes Bean's time

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

I suspect that very few Americans can truthfully say they’ve never heard the story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Along with Goodnight Moon, The Berenstain Bears, and The Giving Tree, this book stirs within me warm memories of learning to read and snuggling with my parents before they tucked me in to sleep. Unlike a young woman I interviewed recently, my fondness for the book did not propel me to tattoo the image of the iconic insect across my neck.

Working in HR, I have become well versed in the ever-increasing list of criteria upon which you cannot legally base employment decisions without fear of a discrimination lawsuit. Luckily, I don’t anticipate them ever adding “made poor life decisions” to the list. I could expound upon the very legitimate reasons for needing to hire wholesome role models for kids whose general appearance won’t greatly influence the children in their charge, but I won’t hide behind that excuse. I don’t like tattoos, and I absolutely judge those who choose to get them.

The recent resurgence of tattoos among young people has been an unfortunate movement led by the characteristically impulsive millennial generation, of which I am a qualifying member. Self-expression has been taken to a new level, as people forego the more tasteful and hidden tattoos in favor of more extreme skin murals that are created to be noticed. Although they chronicle important life events and fleeting passions, these circumferential sleeves, neck tattoos, and wrist tattoos that seemed like such a great idea in college will likely become the most visible regret of youthful abandon. Even the most virtuous tattoos indicate an insatiable need to live in the moment.

Getting a tattoo, however cool it may seem at the time, is a poor life decision. Like vanity license plates, tattoos are only fully understood and appreciated by the bearer.

And so, for my unsuccessful, neck-tattooed, hungry caterpillar-loving, camp counselor applicant, I offer the following words of wisdom:

I hate to break it to you, darling, but that caterpillar won’t be turning into a beautiful butterfly. It won’t ever be beautiful. But it will be there, boldly emblazoned on the back of your neck, FOREVER. Next time you’re feeling whimsical, buy a sweater.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Peaks and Valleys...Literally.

It is often said that life is a series of peaks and valleys; our job is simply to trudge along and know that everything will even out in the end. If that’s the case, I’m due to ascend Mt. Everest pretty soon, or so I’d like to believe. I truly hate to complain, but our drawn-out move from Pikes PEAK to the Central VALLEY has not been without some serious struggle. Just when we thought we had reached the end of this saga, it seems only to have just begun.

First, I do not mean to imply that everything about living in Colorado was great or that everything about living in California is not; I am simply using a metaphor to represent the bigger picture. Colorado Springs was a place we loved where we had lots of great friends, job security x2, and a house we adored. It seemed as though we were ‘at the top.’ We sacrificed all of those things to move to California for a job I LOVE. We have great friends here, but we have yet to make any new connections. It will likely be a while before we feel ready to purchase another house. Andy’s uncertain employment future looms over us like a storm cloud. We have truly landed in a valley (after hitting every branch on the way down), and we will be climbing out of it for quite some time.

My job is amazing. I have learned more than I could have imagined in my first year, and I feel genuinely excited to face each day. I had anticipated missing teaching more than I have to date. Beyond a twinge of sadness each time I visited TCA, the challenges of my new job have been fulfilling and rewarding enough to keep me happy.

Our house has been a real sore spot throughout this move. We have (finally) sold it, and I should definitely be thankful for that. I find it particularly difficult to celebrate losing more money on the sale than I make in a year. If it were only about money, it would be simple. Our feelings about that house stem from my own incessant need to plan ahead. Although we certainly didn’t need 3,700 sq ft when we purchased the home, we had absolutely imagined ourselves living there long enough to need more than just the master bedroom. We invested our time, money, hopes, and dreams into that house. Walking away from it, we’re losing more than just money – it’s as if a part of our dream for the future is also gone. We will, undoubtedly, purchase another home at some point. We will probably even still carry out the dreams we had made for ourselves. Right now, though, I can’t help but mourn the loss of my first house and the memories and lost potential it holds within its walls. Oh, and I’ll be pretty pissed about losing all that money for a while, too.

This latest phase of the move, in which we emptied our Colorado house of everything we had collected in our nearly 5 years living there, did not go very well. We had grossly underestimated the amount of ‘stuff’ we had left at the house and had to change our moving plan mid-packing. As if we needed any more complications, I ended up with a fractured ankle from missing a few stairs while moving furniture. I could not have happened at a worse time. Coupled with the stress of the end-of-school insanity and the emotion of leaving a place and people we love, packing/moving was really too much for Andy. I had already been gone for a year, but it was more difficult for me to see Andy going through it, knowing that he was only having to leave because of me. It was particularly gut-wrenching to see him deliver his speech at graduation. His reception by the students, parents, and faculty demonstrated the impact he has had on the community. Rather than reassuring me that he would be able to pick up and make that same impact at a school in California, seeing those difficult goodbyes made me kick myself for putting him in a situation where he would have to start over. Again. For me.

We’ve made the difficult decision for Andy to move to California without having any leads on employment. We have told ourselves that we are prepared for the possibility (and probability) that he will be unemployed or under-employed beginning in September. I laugh when I think about how convincing I can be to myself. I’m not sure if anyone is able to truly prepare for something like that. We were not willing to repeat a year of separation, and this was our only option.

Andy and I have been ‘back together’ for nearly a month. I had no expectation that this process would be easy, as nothing involving the move has been that way. I am willing to admit, though, that I did not understand how much our relationship suffered in the year we spent apart. We haven’t lost anything that can’t be recovered in time, but we are currently operating on what seems like two different planets. We are both grasping for ‘normal’ and are hopelessly flailing as we try to keep ourselves from drowning in the challenges that lay before us.

On this, the 6th anniversary of our wedding, I find it ironic that I’m in a hotel in Los Angeles while Andy is on the mountain. It serves as a metaphor for our life right now – even though we’re ‘back together,’ we’re miles apart in so many ways. I do miss the simplicity of our life before all of this chaos began, but I have no regrets about anything we’ve done in the past 12 months. It’s difficult to fully appreciate what you have until you find yourself in a different position. Between tears and arguing every night, we find time to tell each other something we’re thankful for that day. It’s too easy to focus on the negatives. We have found that the simple act of voicing what we’re thankful for has fostered more optimism and the realization that all of our current challenges are temporary. We will persevere.

Years from now, we will probably be able to laugh at ourselves and everything that has happened recently. My relationship with Andy will likely be stronger at the end of this ordeal, and I would be willing to relive this year ten times over, if only for the benefit of growing as an individual and as a couple. For now, I’m thankful to have a job at a place that so positively influences kids’ lives and equips them to deal with life’s obstacles. I’m also grateful to have had such a fun training week with staff and am excited to watch this group of counselors pour their hearts into their campers.

What are you thankful for today?

Monday, January 17, 2011

All I need to know I learned on January 17, 2011...

I suppose there are some life lessons we must learn by experience. They’re often the most obvious concepts, but we’re too focused on being stubborn and being right that we fail to see the warning signs that hint of what’s to come.

I like to ride my bike to work. It’s just under 5 miles, and there are great bike paths for most of the way. I haven’t been riding recently because it is already very dark when I leave the office in the evening. Not wanting the Northern Hemisphere’s pesky tilt away from the sun (thanks, Earth…) to prevent me from doing what I want to do, I decided to try biking to work today.

The ride to the office this morning was, as usual, uneventful. The dulcet tones of my recently-purchased Sing-Off songs blasting in my ears made me happy and awake, and it was nice to get my blood flowing a little before promptly sitting still for the next 9 hours.

The ride home, however, was less enjoyable and provided ample opportunity for learning life lessons. I should have expected a less-than-stellar ride from the start. There was an attempted raining in the Fresno/Clovis region this evening. Precipitation like that is difficult to understand until you’ve actually lived here. It’s a kind of dense moisture that hangs in the air and allows the smog particles to be absorbed by your skin instead of JUST infiltrating your lungs. As an added bonus, it kind of “spits” water like rain, but it doesn’t get the ground wet.

Lesson #1 – Don’t wear glasses while riding your bike in the rain. It’s not pretty…I think….I actually couldn’t see anything.

Biking along the path is great…usually. Respite from riding on the streets with cars is certainly a treat, but it’s easy to forget how poorly lit the paths are at night until you’re enveloped in darkness. Luckily, I had my trusty headlamp to light the way.

Lesson #2 – At camp and elsewhere, headlamps and flashlights merely prevent you from falling or crashing. They, in fact, do not lessen the creep factor. It’s not what you SEE, it’s what you DON’T SEE.

Even the Sing-Off songs were no longer working their magic. The Whiffenpoofs were merely a distraction as I furiously pedaled to relative safety from my own imagination. Closer to home, I had to decide whether continuing to ride on a path that turned to dirt and was adjacent to a very open, very full canal was a wise move. Thinking that I would prefer a brief stint of riding along Shepherd as an alternative, I turned toward the potholed road that has no lights, no sidewalk, no bike lane, and no shoulder. What could go wrong? There were plenty of cars lighting my way, and I began making a Venn Diagram in my head comparing biking along a dark path with riding on a busy street at night. There was a clear loser in that comparison – ME. WHAT WAS I THINKING?!?

I found that both options, while terrifying for different reasons, had the same bodily-fluid summoning effect.

Lesson #3 – The nature pee is not always an option once you’ve reached the age of 5. People in Clovis wouldn’t have appreciated me popping a squat along the side of the road.

Well, I made it home safely. I think I’ll be waiting a while before riding my bike to work again. I guess it’s just one of those things I had to learn on my own.

The Real Lesson – Wanting desperately to do something does not make it any less foolish.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.” This prolific thinker was able to concisely convey the importance of aligning one’s actions with one’s verbal expressions. It’s a shame that his seemingly timeless wisdom has been buried by the ceaseless deluge of tweets, texts, and status updates.

Along with providing a platform to remain connected with old friends and distant relatives, the information age and accompanying social media movement has essentially obliterated society’s internal dialogue. No longer is it socially unacceptable to explain, in graphic detail, the bowel movements of a potty training toddler or pretend to be an ESPN commentator while giving birth. The false sense of security people gain by entering into these one-sided conversations with the world produces some of the ugliest statements.

I’m not asking for everyone to be profound in each tweet or status update; I’m simply calling for discretion and the re-emergence of an internal dialogue. Below is my feeble attempt to modernize ol’ Ralphie’s thoughts for the millennial in all of us…

“Your stream-of-consciousness tweeting clogs my inbox and makes me question why I friended you in the first place.”

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I know what's wrong with this country...

This blog was never intended to be anything serious or informative. It began as a way to chronicle the funny things that happen to me, and it will soon return to the original purpose. As for this particular post, I feel compelled to express my feelings about a news story I heard this morning while I was getting dressed for the day.

The link above will take you to the Huffington Post's basic version of the story I heard on Headline News. It's the same story that inspired me to write this little [uncensored] ditty...

There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch
by: Married-White-Fiscally Conservative-Middle Class-College Educated-Woman

'Twas the season of giving, and across our great nation,
people geared up for shopping and taking vacation.

Their purses were hung by the coupons with care,
in hopes that their subsidies soon would be there.

On food stamps! On health care, unemployment, and WIC!
Your penchant for makes me so sick!

Work for your money! Have some pride, use your head!
Get rid of your iPhone, your account's in the red.

Your plasma TV - is that something you need?
Take care of your family, but, PLEASE, ditch the greed.

Give back to the world your treasure and time,
and stop having kids on Uncle Sam's dime.

We've made it too easy, we're partly to blame,
but don't boast of your windfall, have you no shame?

Let's tighten the guidelines, take back the reins.
Our deficit's growing; put an end to these games.

No one should starve for being down on their luck,
but government assistance for all? Holy S***! What the F***?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Lesson They'll Never Forget

As I taught one of my Math classes about right triangles and the Pythagorean Theorem, I had a surprising number of students ask me about how to determine which side of the triangle was the hypotenuse. Thinking it a rather easy concept, I chose to draw a simple diagram to illustrate and reiterate that the hypotenuse of a triangle is the largest side of a right triangle and is located opposite the right angle.

I must have been having an off day because I looked out into the crowd and still saw some confused looks. In my heart I know that it probably isn’t the greatest teaching technique to simply repeat concepts louder and slower, but it is definitely tempting at times like these…

Instead, I chose to “think on my feet” about a way to say it differently. I turned the triangle so that it was resting on the hypotenuse and labeled the legs. I gave the triangle a stick figure body coming up from the legs and explained that the hypotenuse is the distance between the guy’s feet.

Just as I thought we could finally move on to bigger and better concepts, one student in the back of the room raises his hand.

“What does the right angle symbol represent?”

Without missing a beat, another student answers.

“His loincloth.”

Aaaaaaand, we’re done.

I can say with absolute certainty that these students will not soon forget how to identify a hypotenuse.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men...

My students are required to memorize and recite one poem each month and have been doing it since third grade. We have struggled lately with students complaining that giving them the poem only 2 weeks in advance does not leave enough time for them to learn the poems. Over lunch one day, my colleagues and I were sharing our frustration about this issue. We decided that a very teachable moment had just appeared for us. We all agreed to go back into our classrooms after lunch and give each student a notecard. The students would be instructed to write their assigned poem, author, and any lines they had memorized. Despite having the poem for nearly a week, we expected that few students would even know the title and author. Of course, this would give us the opportunity to prove that giving them more time for the poems would not be beneficial because they don't use the time we give them.

Here’s the poem they were to memorize:

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)


I KNOW what the caged bird feels, alas! 

When the sun is bright on the upland slopes; 

When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass, 

And the river flows like a stream of glass; 

When the first bird sings and the first bud opes, 

And the faint perfume from its chalice steals — 

I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats his wing 

Till its blood is red on the cruel bars; 

For he must fly back to his perch and cling 

When he fain would be on the bough a-swing; 

And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars 

And they pulse again with a keener sting — 

I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me, 

When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,— 

When he beats his bars and he would be free; 

It is not a carol of joy or glee, 

But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core, 

But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings — 

I know why the caged bird sings!

It would be untruthful to say that I didn’t get at least some pleasure from seeing the panicked faces of my students as they tried to complete this assignment. I knew that my subsequent lesson about time management would hold new significance to them. As I collected the finished notecards, I had a sense of satisfaction in seeing that the majority of my students knew at least the title of the poem. I stood at the front of the room, flipping through the notecards and congratulating students on knowing various parts of the poem. I was surprised to see one notecard with more writing on it than the others. Turning to the student who had written it, I asked if he had just put a random poem on his card.

“Uhhh. Sort of. I didn’t know the poem so I just made one up. I figured something was better than nothing.”

I read the card aloud to the class.

Midnight Dreams

by: Langston Hughes

I like to dream happily,
about a horse and a rabbit.
Who once met,
and made a bet,
that if you lose,
you’ll pay a toll.

With tears streaming down my face and a class overcome with laughter, I decided that today was not the best day for a lesson on time management.