And the second place winner is…

If you’ve followed my blog for awhile, you’ll know that the Oregon State Fair always features prominently in my goals. I’ve submitted baked goods like homemade marshmallows and cookies, craft items like a dollhouse and dollhouse furniture, and last year I really went at it with the table decorating competition.

This year, I wanted to mix it up and instead of submitting, I would see things from a different point of view and volunteer for the fair. I pictured myself with a push broom in the barn, or maybe directing people to the jam table. But after teaching two full (and condensed) college classes, the last thing I wanted to do in August was doing anything that resembled work. I made a tough decision not to volunteer, and on a whim to instead submitted a gingerbread house for fun.

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Could I have done better? Definitely. Thor was out of town and after hitting the gym that morning, I said to myself, “I could watch Mad Men all day, or I could make a gingerbread house,” and chose the latter. It was a scramble to buy supplies, bake, and decorate a house in one afternoon. The next day I dropped it off in a rush with some friends, and then headed to the nearby casino (because why not?).

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Ironically, the one year I could care less about winning a ribbon, I won second place.

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I had completely forgotten about the whole thing until today when I checked the mail and had a package from the Oregon State Fair, complete with my ribbon, a detailed judging sheet, and a bunch of votes for my gingerbread house as “People’s Choice.” It also included a knife…? (Did I miss something? Is it a special gingerbread knife?)

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I’m pretty sure that’s my mom’s handwriting on the People’s Choice vote.

I learned several things about gingerbread decorating from the judging sheet: for instance, you should use tweezers to affix items so it’s less messy or the “pressure” of the piping should be the same all over the house. Personally, I wanted to piping to be visible, but I got graded down for that. More landscaping should have also happened, but at that point my hand was cramping up and all I wanted to do was get back to that Mad Men marathon I had been planning.

So even though I didn’t get to volunteer for the fair as I had initially hoped, I still participated, and now there’s something to show for it. For next year, I have several creative (and much more exciting) ideas for how the fair will factor into my bucket list. Stay tuned…

 

Top 5 Cubicle Rules That I’ve Been Breaking

It’s been twelve years since I’ve worked in a cubicle, and I’m having a terrible time readjusting. Back in college, I worked for General Motors Acceptance Corporation (otherwise known as The Devil) where I’ve never been so micromanaged in my entire life. Every minute of the day was catalogued by buttons on our phone. Spent a little too much time in the bathroom? You’d get a note about it. Too many personal items in your cubicle? You’d get a note about it. Some sad little person actually went around counting those on a periodic basis.

Now that I’m back and #allaboutthatcubiclelife, those GMAC memories are resurfacing. Like the guy next to me who took down a family-sized bag of Lay’s potato chips and a Big Gulp every Saturday afternoon; the lady who loved Barry Manilow so much that she erected a Manilow shrine (hence the personal items rule); that time that my friend and I were asked to clean the breakroom fridge and we shared an entire box of someone else’s Whitman Sampler. Good times.

Of course now, most of my job is actually spent out in schools and on the road. It’s a new, not-so-glamorous lifestyle (last week I ate a container of greek yogurt in the car without a spoon). But when I’m out and about, I’m in control. No one cares if I eat in the car or listen to Drake super loud. When I’m back in my cubicle, all bets are off. Every conversation, every rustle of a paper or typing of the keyboard is echoed across the room.

I’ve spent some time on the internet and asking friends, “What’s appropriate cubicle etiquette?” Apparently I’ve been way off.

Top Five Cubicle Rules That I’ve Been Breaking

  1. Even though cubicles don’t have doors, you’re supposed to knock. You’re not supposed to enter unless the person makes EYE CONTACT. (Whoops).
  2. When you hear someone else having a conversation, you’re not supposed to “prairie dog” and pop your head up out of nowhere. (Whoops).
  3. Your cellphone should be on vibrate or silent, so that people next to you don’t hear your text alert constantly. (Whoops).
  4. Keep your shoes on. (Whoops).
  5. Resist answering a question you hear someone ask in the cube next to you. (Whoops).
  6. Use “library voice.” (Whoops).

I guess after teaching middle school for ten years, I’ve become a sloppy, inconsiderate animal. I need a cage, not a cubicle.

But seriously – if I can answer someone’s question, why WOULDN’T they want an immediate answer?! How was I supposed to know that non-verbal eye contact was permission to enter an open space?! When I wear heels all day, I deserve to kick them off for a few minutes!

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#19 – Catch a fish with my bare hands. Shellfish, that is…

I knew this goal was on the verge of ridiculous when I put it on my list. I envisioned standing in river and somehow reaching into the water, pulling out a wild Chinook salmon and holding it up in triumph. If you don’t even set a goal, how will you ever achieve greatness?

But of course, when the reality of how one actually catches a fish with their bare hands set in, I realized it was probably still a pipe dream. I watched a lot of Youtube videos and searched Reddit for threads on fishing with your hands. My buddy, David, suggested that there was a place on Sauvie’s Island where I could pick up a sad, slow, dying salmon in shallow, murky water. Not exactly my vision from above.

So it’s on the back burner – he can still take me ice fishing in the winter.

In the meantime, we drove out to the beach last weekend to go crab hunting (is that the term? crab fishing? just crabbing?). I grew up using crab pots, either from the dock on a boat, but David’s version was very hands-on.

Lucky for us, it was a 75 degree day on the Oregon coast (a rarity) and he walked us out to some shallow channels, crab rakes and canvas bags in hand. He explained that once I saw a crab, just pick it up with the rake, check it’s gender and measure it, and then throw it into the bag. He then proceeded to throw on a pair of goggles, dive into the water and literally came up with a crab in each hand.

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Admittedly, it was a little nerve wracking to be walking along and feel a crab under my feet, but it wasn’t too hard to measure them and throw them in the bag. They skittered around a lot under water, but nothing we couldn’t handle.

Later that night, I experienced a greater pain than being snapped in the foot, the horror of putting my live crabs in a boiling pot and then ripping them apart to clean them. In the past, someone else has always done the dirty work.

 

Eventually though, I got through it and found that I was quite efficient at cleaning my fruit of the sea, and we had a real feast for dinner: corn on the cob, green beans, and fat slices of french bread for Thor. The crab itself was really good. In fact, I’ve had it two more nights in a row.

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I’m not officially crossing “catch a fish with my bare hands” off the list because who knows what the next four months might bring, but unless a salmon decides to spring into my arms, I don’t think it’s going to happen.

But that being said, I have a personal belief that until I can catch a fish with my hands, I won’t be able to wrestle and alligator…so just because it doesn’t happen RIGHT NOW doesn’t mean I’m giving up forever. (Bucket List 2022: Wrestle an alligator).

About those teacher anxiety dreams…

Every teacher has new school year anxiety dreams. Even when I’ve taught in a happy place and I was consciously worried about anything, they still cropped up at this time of year. Mine usually centered around finding out that my classroom was suddenly outdoors, usually on a sea cliff, and kids’ papers were flying away in the wind and I would like, “I don’t even have a phone – this isn’t going to work!” Or there’s the one where my class was suddenly 78 kids, ranging in ages of five to 17, and every time I would try to give directions, no one was listening. Ok, and sometimes I had one where I would hurl a string of profanities against my principal (each one, my dreams didn’t discriminate).

Last year was the worst because these dreams did not taper off by mid-September, but got progressively worse into October. I was waking in the middle of the night, stressed and helpless. I even went to the doctor (hence the “learning to mediate” goal) – school anxiety dreams are normal, to a point, and I had far crossed normal.

Tomorrow is my first “real” day back (even though I’ve been working my new job here and there), and I haven’t had one anxiety dream all summer. NOT ONE. I’m starting a new job; I’m still full of unknowns; I feel a lot of pressure to perform – but not one bad dream.

HOWEVER, I have been plagued with a recurring dream all summer long. Essentially every night since summer started, my dreams have been vividly recurring around the same thing: wandering around a European city. Sometimes it’s Barcelona, sometimes it’s Greece, sometimes it’s a city I’ve never been to (like Berlin or Rome). Mostly, I’m exploring at my own pace and having a good time – sometimes the sun goes down and I start to get lost (but not scary lost). Sure, you could say that it’s just residual dreaming from actually going to Greece in June – but I looked it up:

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Hey! that seems pretty on point! Here I am about to start a new job that is totally different from what I’ve done before, and it’s a positive sign. I told my new boss about this, and he loved it.

Yesterday I was was talking with a friend about going back for the new year, and she said, “I’m actually excited to go back – is that bad?” and I replied, “No, that means you’re in the right place. Everyone will grumble a little bit about summer ending, but if you’re dreading going back, that’s a really bad sign.” I’ve felt that dread, and it cannot be ignored.

Maybe in a month I will come back and write a miserable post about my miserable new life, but at this point I’m ready to get rolling. Sadly, summer is over and way too fast but based on the empirical evidence of Google dream searching, it’s time for a new start.

Movie of August: Breaking a Monster

I’ve been waiting all year for Breaking a Monster. Actually, three years.

What’s it about? Three Brooklyn kids (and I mean kids) who have a pretty legit metal band, called Unlocking the Truth, and their story of getting signed by Sony and thus recording their first single.

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At the theater, we overheard a guy brag, “I’ve listened to their music online,” like he had some extra layer of special. Thor smirked, “Should I tell him we’ve seen them live?” LOL, totally.

No really, we did see these kids play live in Austin almost three years ago at FunFunFunFest. It was a set I didn’t want to miss because what a bunch of twelve year olds really have to offer? Maybe it was the middle school teacher in me, or the aging skater girl, but they were one of my favorites from the whole fest.

On one hand Breaking A Monster was like a bizarro version of One Direction’s This Is Us. You’ve got teenage boys (albeit a little younger) just being boys – skateboarding, tackling each other, playing shows on the road, dealing with their manager, and recording music. On the other hand, we’ve got some Straight Outta Compton, with an old white guy’s hidden agenda of exploiting working with young, talented African American boys.

I also couldn’t handle the vapid team of people in LA, bragging about the women and parties they would suddenly be privy to – they had no concept of what this genre of music is even about. The boys kept reiterating the serious image they wanted to portray, but cartoon characters of their logo kept being shoved at them. The adults weren’t listening.

Did the movie talk about race? Of course. How could it not? Metal music and it’s fans aren’t exactly a diverse group of people. What gave me the creepy crawly feeling was how absolutely different these boys were perceived and treated during their shenanigans. In This Is Us, the boys are decidedly silly – riding skateboards and go carts and just generally jumping on top of each other nonstop. It showed us that they are just a bunch of fun-loving guys, right?

The boys of Unlocking the Truth were also skateboarding, playing GTA, and being generally silly – but the band manager frequently engaged in shaming power struggles, and eventually demanded that lead singer/guitarist, Malcolm, stop skateboarding or the deal was off. When they spilled Tic-Tacs on his floor, he lit into them. It made me uncomfortable. Would Harry, Zayn, Liam, Louie, or Nial be treated the same? Errrrmmm…

You won’t be able to catch Breaking A Monster in Portland, but if you can rent it online, it’s definitely worth the watch. I hope to see them play live again, and someday when they are big and famous, Thor and I can brag about how we saw them play before they inked a deal.

 

**SIDENOTE: Once the credits started rolling, I saw a familiar name in the producers: Thad Luckinbill, also known as JT Helmstrom from The Young & the Restless. I’m pleased to know he’s working on other projects that I can enjoy😀 Keep ’em coming, JT!

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A moment to brag about myself

When I look back on what I was doing a year ago, it’s a little crazy to think how many things have happened. I had just accepted an adjunct teaching position at Concordia while simultaneously moving into my new office at a new school. There were a lot of unknowns; a lot of new stressors; a lot of new expectations.

By December, I was officially hating life at my full-time job, but teaching at Concordia was seriously amazing. At one point, I left our night class, ravenous and exhausted, but still thinking, “This is the best three hours of every week.” Sure, it was hard to get up the next morning and go back to my “real” job, but Concordia gave me real autonomy and the opportunity to stay fresh in my field. I felt respected and valued by not only my students, but the institution itself.

In the spring, I took a break and returned for the summer term, where I taught two classes back-to-back. Again, I was starving. Again, I was exhausted. I complained to my friends that that I wasn’t lying on the beach getting my summer tan, and was instead grading papers. Bleh! But every time I left class, I thought, Today was actually fun, or Today I really learned something. 

When the term ended last week, I was honestly sad to see them go, but was ready for the break. After grading a bazillion portfolios and submitting grades, I allowed my brain to move into vacation mode. Puzzles, beach, gym. DONE! Tonight my course assessments popped up in my email, and they were beyond flattering. I’m always expecting criticism and negative feedback which then helps me refine what I will do the next time around – but this time there was none. NONE!

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Dude! Someone had a legit life-changing experience! I facilitated that! Holy shit!

Why am I bragging right now? Number one: because I worked my ass off, and I can be proud of my accomplishments. But more importantly, number two: if I had such a good experience teaching this class over the last year (and clearly others agree it went well), then maybe I need to look at the SIGNS. Perhaps this is really what I should be doing full time? Or is it only fun and rewarding because it’s polarized against working full-time for a totally dysfunctional organization? What does it all meeeeeannnnn????

I’m not sure, but it’s got me thinking.

Next week, I start my next new job, and I’m going to take a reluctant break from Concordia for the semester. Again, I have a lot of new unknowns and expectations. Here we go again. But what I do know is that one of those days (you know, those days), I’m going to pull up my Concordia assessments and remember that there are greener pastures.

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And if all this self-important bragging is rubbing you the wrong way, I’ll share with you that this morning I was so mesmerized by the boot camp class working out in the beach volleyball sand pit, that I tripped over their giant hose and went face first right into that sand. There was a lot of gasping and people shouting, “Are you ok?!” as I failed to be able to shake the sand off my sweaty, post-workout chest. Nobody’s perfect.