Sunday, May 24, 2009

My Big Ol' Melon

When I was a baby, for some reason the doctors measured my head circumference, and concluded that I either had water on the brain or an enormous head. This prompted my entire extended family to wrap tape measures around their noggins, and conclude that my enormous head was completely within the range of normal for our family.

Of course, big-headedness has another meaning, and if you didn't know me very well you might assume that while it's undeniable that I literally have a big head, in the figurative sense, perhaps my head is not so very large. I'm shy, so you might think I'm modest. This is not true. Underneath my quiet exterior (and occasional bouts of crippling self-doubt), I have a pretty high opinion of myself.

Take Poland, for example. I was confident that I'd get that job, and all I had to do was apply for it and then decide whether I wanted it. Or take the blind date I went on this weekend. I just assumed he'd like me, because I'm wonderful, so I spent the whole date trying to decide whether I liked him, which is why it was such a surprise when he didn't try to arrange another meeting with me. Is is possible? Am I not as desirable a job candidate as I think I am? Could a nerdy man really meet me and not adore me? What is happening to this world?

I know. I'm as flabbergasted as you are. Whatever. I'll just go admire myself in the mirror until the world comes to its senses.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


So, anyway, I'm on this listserve for AP Calculus teachers, and someone on the listserve announced a job opening at an International school in Krakow, Poland. They are looking for a teacher who can teach all of high school math (from Algebra I to Geometry to Algebra II to Precalc to Calculus) to classes ranging in size from 2 to 9.

And of course it's crazy.

I mean, I live in a house I own and I'm committed to it. I have a dog and I love him. I have a job, and in this economy that's really saying something. I live within ten miles of all of my immediate family members (or I will in ten days when Amadeus leaves his mountain paradise for our land of 10,000 lakes). The spring and summer here make me so happy I feel like I'm on drugs. Or what I imagine it must be like to be on really good drugs with no side-effects (unless you count winter). In short, Minneapolis has always been the place for me.

Besides teaching all of high school math is a pretty big chunk to chew especially if you want to do it well.


Well, Minneapolis sucks for the elderly single women out here. Our friends are busy with their families. We can barely even find anyone to share a bottle of prosecco with us on a Saturday night. We've tried dating these shy, lonely Minneapolis men, and frankly it's bringing us down.

And so, I've been fantasizing. Thinking about my little class of two calculus students, my eight eighth graders in Algebra I. Dreaming about living in Krakow, walking the streets, ditching my car. I've been imagining the friends I'd make among the teachers at my small school. I've been wondering about the apartment I'd share with Buddy (he gets to move to Krakow in my fantasy), and dreaming about traveling Europe during my vacations.

Also, I could write a book about moving to Krakow to teach the math, and be famous and do book tours and sign autographs and answer nervous questions from young aspiring writers, while wearing a black dress and a flowered scarf and leather boots and maybe even glasses (which I don't need) and looking bookish and sexy at the same time.

I won't do it. Probably. But I'm giving myself a little more time to fantasize about it before I tell myself that.

Friday, May 15, 2009


To show you how busy my fingers have been, and, because if you're my mom, you'll want to see how your new shirt is coming along and if you're not my mom, you probably aren't even reading this thing on a Saturday, so you won't be too bored.

Hard to tell size in a photo, but it's about four inches tall. Not bad for two evenings of work.

Oh, and for the knitters out there: I was happily knitting away and I didn't have a marker handy. So I grabbed a plastic bag (dog owners always have plastic bags), and tore off a corner, tied it in a knot and looped it over my needle. More obvious than a bit of yarn, which is my usual go-to stitch marker. Less likely to become knitted into the project.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Knitting Binge (and Purge)

There has been a project on my knitting needles for several months. I had torn it out and restarted once before, because my stoopid pattern was translated from the Norwegian, and I kept missing vital pieces of information in it, and I kept not-noticing that I was missing vital pieces of information until I was several inches into the sweater. My New Rule For Knitting Patterns: Avoid patterns that say "AT THE SAME TIME". If it's not clear enough without the all-caps, then it's not clear enough.

Anyway, last night I made a grand gesture and tore the whole thing out again. Streamers of used, crinkled yarn fell into my lap. I left the offensive pattern at my parents' house, and stomped off to find a new one.

"You're crabby tonight," said my mom.

Hours of toil had been reduced to nothing more than string in ten minutes. Perhaps it affected my mood.

We found a pattern written in English for a short-sleeved lacy top. And tonight, after one false start (too small for any life-sized human), I finally filled my needles up again with tidy rows of loops. I hunched over my yarn, and allowed the television to drone on in the background while I counted "purl two, knit one through the back loop, purl two", and created new fabric out of what had just been string the night before.

I barely noticed, as I passed slipped stitches over, that in the year since I've seen it "Bones" has become a piece of total crap. I almost didn't get misty when Jim and Pam found out what they found out tonight on the "Office". I didn't spend nearly as much energy as I usually do wanting to like "30 Rock". And while my needles slipped through silken skeins of yarn, I found British television on channel 2, which seems to make the same amount of sense whether you knit while you watch it or not. And so time passed. The dog whined for his walk. The doorbell rang, and a strung-out canvasser tried to convince me to trust her with my money. Someone called for Fabian Floyd (who doesn't live here) for the thousandth time. Bedtime came and went. And two rows became four rows, and my hands filled up with lace, and over an inch of fabric hung from my needles.

Look out. After months of dormancy, I'm on a full-fledged knitting binge.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Time I Shaved My Head That Time

I moved to Portland with my first true love, and we proceeded to move into a grim apartment. It was the kind of place with a kitchen with all interior walls. It was the kind of place where we smelled it for days whenever our neighbor cooked bacon (and we called him Bacon Man, so it happened a lot). It had unattractive light blue carpeting throughout, which was newish, and which our landlady wanted to make sure would be compatible with our "lifestyle". I think she wanted to make sure we wouldn't throw any keggers on her unattractive light blue carpeting. Not surprisingly, given our surroundings, instead of throwing keggers, we immediately embarked on six months of communal misery.

First, my cat got sick. She ran back and forth between our bathroom and study, crapping in her box and vomiting all over our "lifestyle". I had a love-hate relationship with that cat, so it shocked me how devastated I was at the thought of losing her right after I moved to a new city. She had been with me since I was thirteen, so I couldn't imagine my adult life without her. Anyway, eventually (after some expensive vet bills) she recovered. I think she may have eaten roach poison in our new cheerless apartment. You could say her recovery was the second bad thing that happened to us. After all, she was an evil cat.

(Speaking of that cat, we moved a lot when I was kid, but one of my porn star names (name of your pet plus the name of the street you grew up on) could have been Stevie Stevens, which beats the pants off of Stevie First Avenue or Stevie Rural Route 6.)

Anyway, the next bad thing involved a job search. By today's standards, it was a short and painless search. By my standards, it was endless and resulted in one of the most painful things I have ever had to do - I couldn't pay my credit card bill in full at the end of the month. Josh came home and saw me weeping. Being a man of some debt, he failed to properly sympathize. Rocky times were ahead for us.

Meanwhile, there were nights when our sleep was interrupted by fire alarms. It seems that Bacon Man's wife sometimes fell asleep with the stove on. Evacuating your hideous new apartment at 3:00 in the morning because your neighbor might accidentally kill you in the pursuit of bacon can cause you reevaluate your life decisions.

There were more bad things. Josh got jealous of my relationship with a friend of mine. I didn't properly sympathize. Josh left me in the ugly apartment while he went home alone to Seattle for Thanksgiving. We both hated the jobs we got as a result of the long and painful search. We both questioned our life decisions.

And, so at the end of six months, despite being totally crazy about Josh, I dumped him. Sure, I should have dumped the god-awful apartment, or the bad job, or maybe the evil cat, but I was in my early twenties, and somehow he was the most obvious thing to eliminate and so I did.

Now the thing about Josh is that the whole time we were dating (and even now most likely) he had that shaved head look. I thought his shaved head was attractive, and he was also always attracted to bald women. And so, while my relationship with him was falling apart all around me, I asked him if I could borrow his clippers, and we wrapped my shoulders in a towel in the bathroom (where we didn't have to worry about protecting the lifestyle), and he helped me shave my head to the one inch setting. He said it looked sexy. He said it was too bad I had waited until our relationship was over to do it.

No one else particularly liked it, but then again I wasn't really trying to be sexy for anyone else.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Your Turn

OK, in an effort to convince myself that I'm not crazy, here's a question for you, gentle reader:

If you're in a committed relationship, how did you know he/she was right for you? How long did it take? How can you tell that it will work? More importantly, since I like things that are all about me: Would I be able to tell or would I be too crazy to decide?

That is all. Now write your essays. See you in the comments.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Wise and Otherwise

"Is it true," asked a student in sixth hour, "that you once shaved your head because you broke up with some guy?" I don't remember telling this story. For a moment I don't even remember that it happened. But it is true, and so I cannot lie, and must admit as much. "Oh," he says, "I gotta admire you for your nerve."

This is the post-AP nostalgia. They say things to me that are kind and sweet, and personal. We're playing games this week. In first hour, the small class, they got bored with Apples to Apples and asked for stories. "You tell the best stories," they say, buttering me up. And so I sit at my computer, pull up google, and read to them from "Mathematical Aphrodisiac," and they say "Aww..." when I tell them that it's a true story.

Then I show them photos of the famous potholder, and they ask for more photos, and pretty soon we're looking at all of my travel pictures from Kyrgyzstan. It's a love fest. I don't have to make them listen. They don't have to take notes. We just relax and breathe, and enjoy each other.

In sixth hour, we play Wise and Otherwise, a game in which you write a plausible ending to the first half of a not-so-famous saying. I sit down with a group of students, and laugh when one of them writes the wonderful ending "Endless chatter...never breaks the bed." And then the endings get raunchier, and I briefly wonder if I will have to excuse myself, when someone writes "A hoe in the shed is better than ... a stick in the bush." But despite its near triple entendre it turns out to be the actual Nigerian saying written on the card, and so I relax and laugh with the students.

We are post-AP, we can laugh, now, and play games and enjoy popcorn and Fig Newton's and Leibniz cookies. We have earned our rest and relaxation.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Sometimes I Disgust Myself

I'm sitting in my bed in a pile of sand that fell off of Buddy's fur during the day while he slept in my bed. I was running late this morning so I didn't make the bed, which meant that he got to do his favorite thing which is sleep directly on the bottom sheet on my side of the bed. The really disgusting part of this story is the thought that ran through my head as soon as I sat down this afternoon and noticed that my not-too-clean sheets were also infiltrated with dog sand. Unbidden my own voice entered my head, "God. I hope I remember to shake these sheets out before I climb into bed tonight." Apparently, it's not enough that my sheets are not-so-very-clean. It's not even enough that they are filled with sand transported by dog butt from bottom of the Mississippi river. Nope, until I caught myself thinking dirty thoughts about shaking them out and letting them go another night, I was STILL not going to wash them. Nasty.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

No one really gets a 5

My students have a test tomorrow. It's kind of a big deal. They're taking the AP test to determine whether they get college credit for the work they did in my class.

Today I heard one of them say, "I'm just shooting for a 3. I know I won't get a 4, and no one really gets a 5." She caught me staring at her. "Well, except for geniuses and really big nerds."

She knows that millions of years ago (or at least before she was born), I got a 5. I'm pretty sure the latter description was meant for me. In the nicest possible way, of course.