It’s Not Easy Being a Flake

Sorry about last week kids, our internet was down (so basically it felt like losing an arm or something) so I couldn’t get online to ensure that my blog post went up. I know; I know it’s an excuse, but whatever–I got a job on Friday! So I’ll be joining the world of the truly employed with a full-time salaried gig. Go me!

Anyways, getting a job got me thinking about my first job…

Of course, I was 16 and had no idea what I was doing, yet on Sunday afternoons I would drive an hour up to Long Grove, IL. I would open a cute little boutique clothing shop (all by myself). I would sit there for 8 hours, while visited by maybe 1 or 2 customers all day, have a sack lunch, sit on the phone, and read a book. I don’t even remember the name of the store, but I remember working for several weeks during my junior year of high school.

One particularly rainy Sunday, I turned off all of the lights in the store, set the alarm, and locked the door. I was ready to get home and have some dinner. I ran quickly out to my car and unlocked the doors before jumping into Melba Toast, the Explorer. I put the key into the ignition and…nothing. My battery had died. Oh. Crap.

I think that I had my Nokia brick with a hot pink sparkly faceplate, which I used to call my mom. After she flipped out on me for my not-so-brilliance (assuming that I had left a light on or something–which I still claim to this day that I hadn’t), she made me call her pal Kay, who owned the shop.

Kay told me that she would send a Long Grove shop owner friend of hers to help me out. A half hour later, a strange man (strange is relative in this scenario, as he was merely a man I didn’t know) pulled up into the parking lot with connector cables. He jumped my battery and followed me half way home to make sure my car was running alright. I finally made it home, and got a decent amount of slack from my family.

For Christmas that year, I got a nice shiny new set of jumper cables for Melba Toast. I only wished they were pink.

Wants

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The 1996 Olympics and the Evil Vault

The Olympics have always been my thing. 4 months ago, I told my boyfriend and roommate that we would have two weeks of non-stop sports television when the Olympics came on…Maybe they didn’t believe me. Maybe they didn’t understand the scope. Maybe they really didn’t think I could watch THAT much Olympic coverage…but I can. And I am. Suffice it to say, they were actually shocked that by the 4th night I was still obsessing. Brian even offered to watch a Disney movie with me, and I told him, “After the 12th.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried during this year’s Olympics. But it’s been a lot. Beginning with opening ceremonies, all the way through to the current morning, I can’t seem to keep my Olympic sized emotions in check. When I watched the Magnificent Seven video on Sunday morning (yes, I DVRed everything so I can watch it at my leisure and fast forward through commercials and boring stuff), I was bawling my eyes out.

1996 Olympics

I remember watching the 1996 Olympic Games like it was yesterday. I was 13 and angst-y, but the Olympics gave me something to dream about. I remember watching the late night coverage as I fell asleep in my bedroom, listening to the Gloria Esteban song a thousand times, and obsessing over Dominique Moceanu’s adorable floor routine. She was my favorite, probably because she was the closest in age to me, though most of the Mag Seven were all relatively young.

The most impressing moment of those Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia was, of course, Kerri Strug’s epic vault. I wasn’t the biggest Strug fan, as my loyalties were to her younger arch-rival also under Karolyi’s teaching, Dominique Moceanu. But as Kerri was a part of team USA, of course, I cheered for her. When she fell on her first vault and kept going…I was shocked and excited. When she stuck her final landing, I was crying. Mom and I watched as they carried Strug off the floor, in awe, and at the same time, we were so excited for the US Gold.

My Vaulting Experience

Of course, I did promise my own contribution to this little tale…

About a year later, I was a freshman in high school. I was an athlete, a cheerleader, and I loved high school. In Freshman Gym, we had a gymnastics unit, in which we utilized all of the gymnastics equipment. This was, by far, my favorite unit in typical gym classes. The last day before Christmas break, I was performing a jump over the vault, and I landed too close to the apparatus where the mats were unevenly spaced, and my ankle rolled off the bottom of the vault. I fell, and could not get up. Two of my classmates walked me down to the nurse, where they iced & elevated the ankle and called my mom.

Mom took me to the doctor, my last visit to Doctor Carol (the pediatrician that was so old she was my mom’s pediatrician). The ankle was sprained pretty badly and I needed crutches. Dr. Carol put me on crutches and told me to stay off my ankle for two weeks.

That night, at the home basketball game, I was obviously benched, and sat in the bleachers with my coaches and my crutches. I was really bummed out. I had been crying all day. I had missed “candy cane delivery” for the last day before Christmas break (sure that one of my many crushes would send me a candy cane professing their love for me). So I sat there, depressed, but managed to keep it in check while I cheered for our basketball team with the energy and excitement that I was known for.

Later that night, as a celebratory “coaches meeting” took place at Flaherty’s (the bar that my family owned), the high school sports trainer walked up to my dad and asked him what had happened to me. Dad told him the story of gym class gone awry, and after some additional rants from Mr. G about high school athletes not needing gym class, Mr. G told my dad to bring me in to see him in the morning.

That Saturday morning, during a wrestling meet, I met with Mr. G. He looked at my ankle and told me this, “If you want to cheer when you get back from Christmas break, you’ll need to start walking on it today.” He cut out some foam pieces and fit them into my cheer shoes. “These will help you walk a little easier. They will angle your feet so that you aren’t putting as much pressure on your hurt ankle. Try them out.”

I got up and started walking. This was, as I now understand, the biggest mistake of my life. It hurt like hell, but I wanted to cheer. You don’t threaten a 14-year-old to go against a doctor’s orders if he or she would like to continue their sport. But he did. And I listened. Dad and I didn’t know any better.

As a result, my ankle never healed properly (as my body had not fully developed), and my other ankle was weakened by favoring the injured one. I have sprained both ankles countless times, and even an orthopedic surgeon could only tell me that my ankles were “loosey goosey” and I would just have to “deal with annual ankle sprains.”

I may not have competed in the Olympics, but hey, Kerri Strug and I have something in common now.

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An Inspirational Teacher

While I was in the early stages of my M.A. in Education, I was assigned an interview project. Meet with a teacher in your future specialty, and find out about their take on teaching. Ms. Tanner was one of the two teachers that inspired me to teach high school English. Here is what I wrote:

I had the privilege to learn from one of my personal heroes her views and beliefs on teaching. Having been one of her students eight years ago, I am able to understand how she has become such an amazing teacher.
Prior to becoming a teacher at the age of 37, Ms. Tanner had many career changes; from factories, restaurants, and retail, to running her own advertising agency, she truly tried them all. At that time, she was provided with the opportunity to travel with a fifth grade class to France. She and the fifth grade teacher toured France with the children, while keeping them up to date with their schooling.  Ms. Tanner learned that she greatly enjoyed being with the students, as well as being in the classroom environment, so she decided that she would become a teacher.
After considering teaching fifth grade, and remembering that she wasn’t a fan of math or science, Ms. Tanner decided that she would prefer more specified subject matter. A journalism degree and her strength in English classes led her to teaching high school English, where she would be able to help run a student newspaper.
As a teacher, Ms. Tanner has many roles. First and foremost, Ms. Tanner is a role model and a listener. I can attest that she has inspired many students, including myself, who still think extremely fondly of her. She makes a point to know something about each and every one of her students. She takes their writing to heart and keeps the information confidential. She provides a shoulder to cry on for students who need someone to talk out their problems with. She shares in the excitement of students who have succeeded and want to tell her first. She still visits with students who have graduated, and takes joy in learning about everything in their lives. As I was sitting in her classroom after school, an old student of Ms. Tanner’s came to visit. As he spoke, she listened with her entire being, happy for his accomplishments, and sorry for his losses.
Ms. Tanner believes that “the classroom is a mirror.” The way you treat the students reflects back on you. If you treat them with kindness, respect, and trust, you will get that back to you. She also believes that it’s important to divulge a piece of herself to her class. One of the first things you learn about Ms. Tanner, is that she’s married to Keanue Reeves. Or at least that’s what she tells you.  A little humor and embarrassment can go a long way. Her classroom is full of possibilities.
Another role that Ms. Tanner takes on a daily basis is that of a disciplinarian. She describes herself as a “foot soldier in the trenches to convey the administration’s rules,” and a “prison matron for the warden.”  She also considers herself a facilitator and a guider of learning. Her job is to “expose students to opportunities for learning.” Over the years she learned that her job is to bring the horses to the water, but she can’t always force them to drink.  She is not in charge of the learning. She provides the tools and the knowledge to learn. Only the students can make themselves learn.
Ms. Tanner is a professional colleague. She is a resource for young teachers. She feels a sense of camaraderie with her fellow teachers. Ms. Tanner also considers herself a bookkeeper. She tracks everything from assignments and grades to tardies and truancies. She is one of the few remaining of her colleagues to still use a paper grade book. She feels it’s important to have everything in one place, accessible immediately.
The challenges of teaching are always present. Some days Ms. Tanner wants to be too mean. She wants to yell and scream about the small things. She recounted a recent experience about a student who didn’t do his work all semester, but when grades came out, he asked what he could do. She told me that she was probably too harsh in her response, and days later she softened, giving him an opportunity to improve his grade. She sometimes wishes she didn’t react quite so immediately.
With challenges, come rewards. Ms. Tanner divulges all the perks of being a teacher. She loves working with students. All of the rewards are student based. “Students are fun. Adults not so fun,” she tells me. She appreciates seeing all of the students who come to visit her and the people she’s helped. She had inspirational teachers in high school and hopes that she is doing the same. I know from experience that she is.
In the 17 years that she has been teaching, Ms. Tanner has learned one very important thing. She never stops learning. “There’s never a dull, boring moment in teaching,” she reveals. She learns about human nature, her contribution to her job, and there’s always something new to learn about the subject. She regularly learns new things about the pedagogy. She recalls visiting several schools that run on a block schedule, which her school was considering. She is always learning new ways to deliver instruction. She smiles when she tells me, “You never know what the day will bring.”
Since becoming a teacher, Ms. Tanner has never looked back. Her only regret is that she didn’t start sooner. She wishes that she had known at 22 that she would love being a teacher. Of all the careers and jobs that she has had, teaching is, by far, the most rewarding and best job she has ever had.  She fondly discusses how enriching the job has been for her. She shares with me that she has been to many graduation parties, weddings, baby showers, and even funerals. Because she never had any children of her own, she always feels as though her students are her children. Ms. Tanner puts her whole world into teaching, and from what it appears, she gets a world back.
 

Of course, inspiration from a truly great teacher does not a great teacher make, and teaching just wasn’t for me. As much as I loved working with the students, teaching was not what I hoped it would be. Ms. Tanner is still an encouragement, and I know that she’ll be proud, no matter which direction I take.  She has one of the rosiest, shiniest, happiest personalities in the whole world, and I’m proud to say that I know her.

To this day, when I chat with her, she’ll still call me Sunny or Sunshine, and I’m glad that she considers me a bright spot in her world of amazing students.

 

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Pride and Prejudice – Love, Heart, Love

I’ve always been an avid reader. I read my first classic novel (Little Women) in the fourth grade and haven’t stopped since. Having just finished the worst book that I have ever read in my entire life (hello there, Fifty Shades of Grey), I felt the need to write about a book that wasn’t started as Twilight fan fiction… my favorite novel of all time – Pride and Prejudice.

The Movie Before the Book?!

My sophomore year in high school I took choir. By far one of my favorite classes, with one of the best teachers, choir proved to be more beneficial than just musical knowledge. Mrs. Kartwright was a sassy ginger who danced around the choir room cracking jokes and inspiring us to learn, love, and live.

During midterm testing, we would be stuck for several days without a proper teacher (as she was in a small room for the voice testing). Mrs. Kartwright gave us the time to watch a movie. Oftentimes, the movie would be musically related–Second semester we watched Oklahoma, because one of our performance songs came from the musical.  The first semester midterms, Mrs. K introduced us to Pride and Prejudice… you could say she was a little obsessed with the movie. I couldn’t help it; I agreed. I fell in love with Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy as fast as Jane fell in love with Bingley.

The famous white shirt scene. Mrs. K bragged about it. Bridget Jones swooned over it. I love it.

But the Book was Good too!

After more than a week of watching the greatest love story of all time unfold (the 1995 BBC version), this wonderfully long movie-six 55 minute episodes-led me to want to read the book. Best. Book. Ever. I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time that spring, and it was everything I wanted it to be. Quickly, it became my all time favorite book. I read it again the summer before junior year during the week I was at cheer-leading camp, and once again the summer before college. I’ve read it at least 2 other times, and will likely read it again one day.

Elizabeth Bennet Reincarnated

During the spring of junior year, my best friend, Kat and I went to go see this random movie that she was talking about. I didn’t really know what it would be about or whether I would like it, but I thought I would go see it anyway. While watching it, I started to see striking similarities to Pride and Prejudice. The name of the publishing house was Pemberley Press. Mark Darcy was played by Mr. Darcy, himself, Colin Firth. The plot modeled that of P & P, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. Bridget Jones’ Diary turned out to become one of my favorite movies.

Wait, This is was a Book Too?!

Yep, as it turns out, Helen Fielding, with her respect for Pride and Prejudice, wrote a fun novel using a similar story arc. This is what I call high quality fan fiction. Loving the movie, I knew that I had to read the book, where I found even more similarities between Bridget Jones’ Diary and Pride and Prejudice and quickly realized that it literally was a remake of my favorite novel.

Bridget was a character that I heavily identified with–no pun intended. She was not-quite-thin, clumsy, and always spoke before she thought. My hero. And she still got the guy. My best friend Penny and I would spend hungover Saturday afternoons watching Bridge and Mark fall in love. We even named our schefflera plants after Bridget and Shazzer.

Back to Pride & Prejudice

I purchased the BBC movie on DVD for myself so that I could watch the love affair of Elizabeth Bennet and Mister Darcy as often as I wanted to with shorter versions of my own making. My personal favorite version was the Darcy version in which I skipped past any scenes that did not include my beloved Colin Firth.

If you have not read Pride and Prejudice, I highly recommend that you do so. Of course, you can always start easy by reading Bridget Jones’ Diary, but it won’t be nearly as awesome if you haven’t started the journey with the original.

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In Love with Jon Bon Jovi

When I was a kid, I lived across the street from Bon Jovi. Okay, maybe it wasn’t THE Jon Bon Jovi, but he sure looked like him! Our teenage neighbor had the same beautiful long hair and similar facial features to the 80’s rock icon. We adored him. When I say we, I mean my older sister, Deven and I. She was 10 years my senior and introduced me to the finer things in my young life. Hair metal music being a huge part of those “finer” things.

Dev used to tell Brian and I stories about Princess Chrissy and Prince Brian, who would always marry Jon Bon Jovi and Cindy Crawford, respectively before bringing them back to the kingdom of Flaherty’s to meet King Daddy and Queen Mommy.  Childhood obsession? Maybe. Totally awesome? Definitely.

We had a hamster named Jon Bon Jovi (after Axel Rose, the gerbil, died), and would watch MTV–back when MTV really was MUSIC television–to catch glimpses of my love. I looked up to my big sister as a role model, and what she liked…I liked.

So when we (she) discovered that the neighbor boy looked like JBJ, we planned a stake out.

Owning a motor home had its perks, one of which meant an easy driveway camp-out for a couple of teenage girls and a five year old tag-along. We brought our sleeping bags, pillows, and snacks out to the camper, and set up shop.

With a radio to listen to some of Jon’s newest hits, we sat in the camper waiting…and waiting…and waiting. Dev and her friend Melissa were content just to stare out the back window for “Jon,” but I wanted to play. Of course, I had dragged out quite a few toys and games to play with, but as per the usual, no one really wanted to play with me.

I remember that as soon as “Jon” entered or left the house, the girls would giggle and squeal, totally excited to get just the smallest glimpse of him. I would race to the back of the camper, jump up on the bed, and beg to see out the window with them. They’d barely let me squeeze in, but I made it through to see the hottie across the street.

I always wondered why they never wanted to talk to him, but I was five, so their logic was beyond me. I guess it made sense.

I can remember when my mom and aunt took Dev to see Bon Jovi on the Slippery When Wet tour. I was super jealous that I couldn’t go.

Bon Jovi Loves Chicago.

A decade later, Bon Jovi returned. And I was finally old enough to see him. I made my way to the Chicago stop on the It’s My Life Tour at Allstate Arena with one of my best buds. I had purchased tickets the morning they went on sale, and we were on the floor in the 18th row. It was the best show I had ever been to. The One Wild Night Tour, a year later, was a reboot of the same show, and it too was stellar.

Another decade went by, and Bon Jovi went country. This saddened me a little, but when the opportunity to see him in March of 2011 for the Bon Jovi Live Tour, I couldn’t pass it up. Especially when it included a backstage tour before the show. Rock. The. F. On. Thanks to some friends who had an “in,” we got to check out all of the cool Bon Jovi behind the scenes action.

 

The view from down low. This is where Jon enters the stage!

 

20 some odd years later, and I still heart Jon.

 

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

The Bad Dog

After losing all of our animals in a freak winter of animal deaths, we knew that it was time to get a new dog. Our plan was to get a new German Shepherd (a German Shepherd/Husky mutt to be exact) on our return from Spring Break at Disney.

While we vacationed in Florida, we spent many of our afternoons trying to come up with a good name for our future dog. After testing out several potential names, I suggested Buck (as my father lovingly referred to my mother, brother, and I as Peg, Bud, and Kelly respectively). Everyone liked it. Buck Bundy sounded like the perfect full name for our new dog.

A week later we went to pick up our new pup.

Buck was unbelievably adorable, a sassy little puppy with pointy ears and enough energy to power a car. We loved him instantly.

During the first storm, we realized that Buck was going to have issues, when he freaked out. Cowering under things, curling up behind furniture, and making huge messes wherever he was hiding were just the start.

Later that summer, we found out that Buck, like Bismark, was definitely a running dog. He would jet out of the house and race for this hills. Or at least race away. Unlike Bismark, he didn’t know where home was or that he should make his way home. Terrified he would get hit by a car, we chased after him time and time again. For hours, we would run after him through our small neighborhood–sometimes making it to Route 53 (a busier road). He did eventually get hit by a car, though it was not a fast moving car, and he made it out of there without a scratch.

In the spring of my sophomore year of high school, two of my girlfriends and I were working on a huge class project. We were going to be shooting a video at Flaherty’s for our English class, and my whole family was at the bar getting the back room set up.

While the plan was to meet at Flaherty’s, miscommunication led Ellie and Elizabeth to make their way over to my house. As was the standard for the open house that was my home, they walked right in. And Buck ran right out. Of course, these were the days before cell phones populated the world, and it wasn’t super easy to get in touch me. The girls didn’t know the phone number to Flaherty’s, and I didn’t know they were at my house.

They chased Buck around for at least a half hour, maybe forty-five minutes. My mom ran home to check on something, and discovered the girls panicking thanks to our idiot dog. Luckily, Mom was able to get Buck back into the house, and the girls were able to get to the bar in time to shoot our video.

Buck Bundy the Dog

The first of many Buck stories, this was far from the worst. Our little devil dog, however much we loved him, would spend the next 14 years wreaking havoc in our world.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Student Teacher Super Fans

I’ve been cleaning out my bedroom at my parents’ house recently, and occasionally, I’ll take a few moments to look through my box. Every sentimental kid has a box. You know, the one full of your childhood, high school, and college memories? Mine’s huge. It’s one of those under-the-bed storage containers, and it’s full to the brim with pictures, invitations, cards, letters, scrapbooks, and other memory paraphernalia.

I make a point to toss out a few things every now and then for good measure (so there’s room to add more, of course), and I almost threw a high-quality piece away. I opted not to. What is it? You may be asking yourself…

A tee-shirt

But it’s not just any tee-shirt. It’s one of those handmade with markers and paint white tee-shirts that high schoolers make for school spirit. Except that no where on it does the shirt say, “Go Rams!”

The shirt, made with two other matching tees (worn by my two actually-musically-talented pals, Sophie Bee and Kathrine Anne), had big bright letters that said, “Dillinger’s Biggest Fans.”

Who is Dillinger?

Well, Dillinger was our Music Theory AP student teacher. (Yes, I took MT AP. And barely made it out by the skin of my teeth.) 1st period of second semester. Every day. We walked in to see this handsome college guy, who would soon be a real high school music teacher. Oh-how-we-adored-him. So, like any love-sick teenage girl, we decided that we would make tee-shirts.

Using our crafty knowledge (as cheerleaders and poms) we followed standard tee-shirt protocol, using markers and paint in school colors to showcase our spirit. We gave ourselves numbers, and added Dilly (as we lovingly referred to him) quotes, like “Easy Peasy” and “I’m not trying to ignore, I’m just trying to share the wealth.” That last one, I’m sure, is because we demanded his constant attention…and he wasn’t always around us.

We wore these tee-shirts to a Friday night football game, to share our adoration with the world. Walking in front of the marching band and Mr. Dillinger was a pretty scary feat, but we really thought that it was a great idea. We pranced around showing off our “cool” tee-shirts and walked right up to him and showed him our awesome shirts. I’m pretty sure that Dillinger was incredibly embarrassed, and having now been a student teacher, I can say with perfect confidence that he likely had no idea what to do other than smile and laugh and tell us that we were a little crazy.

Indeed we were. Indeed. We. Were.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!