Thursday, December 31, 2009

Life Goals

I was rifling through my purse the other day, and came across this list of goals:
  1. Live and Work in Barcelona

  2. Teach English in Asia

  3. Get a Master's Degree in Teaching---maybe through the PACE program?

  4. Finish two years of service with AmeriCorps (in New England or Alaska)

  5. Get a Trucker's License

  6. Travel in Europe (in Venice, Rome, Vatican City)

  7. Go on a Vegetarian Cruise
These are some pretty widely divergent goals! I sincerely hope to do each and every one of them.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reading Challenges: The Final Countdown

This year, I read 173 books. I participated in seven book challenges, with mixed success. Two I am going to carry over into the new year, and hopefully complete by March or so.

By reading 173 books, I met my 150 book challenge. Going into this challenge, I really had no idea how many books I read in an average year. This seems about right---around three books a week. I don't want to pressure myself to read more, just for the sake of meeting a new challenge. I'm comfortable with this number.

I read 39 young adult books, and met my Juvenile Literature Challenge of two books per month. I enjoyed these books tremendously, especially the Pippi Longstocking and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books. I read portions of these books to my struggling second and third grade readers, and they were soon begging to check them out from the tutoring room library.

I completed the Classical Book Challenge. I read twelve classic books this year. Some of them were a little unconventional (The Bottle Imp by Robert Louis Stevenson and Helen Keller's "The Story of My Life," for example). If I had the chance to do this challenge over, I would have read Dracula and a few longer works.

I didn't finish the Love Bites Reading Challenge, the Banned Books Challenge, or the Gay Literature Challenge. I get way too in to the Twilight books when I read them, to the exclusion of everything else. Having several college courses to finish up and a ton of hours to build up for my AmeriCorps position, I just couldn't go there this year. I'll probably finish the last two books in the series this year.

I wish I had read more books for the Gay Literature Challenge. I read Annie On My Mind, and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, my library has a very limited Gay Literature selection. I'll have to order some books off Paperback Swap this year.

Annie On My Mind also fell under the Banned Book Challenge, which was fun. I read a lot of hotly contested Juvenile Literature books, and shared some of them with my students. Somehow, knowing that a book is banned makes it all the more enticing, and spurred several reluctant readers to devour lengthy books.

I read a lot more young adult books than I expected to, and it's come in so useful for my reading tutor position. I can now recommend books with confidence. I have a huge collection of my very favorites lining the bottom of the whiteboard, ready for children to check them out. Some of my absolute favorites? Pippi Longstocking, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and The Rumplestiltskin Problem.

I didn't meet the Decades Challenge (I was two books short), but I plan to carry it over into the new year, along with the Gay Literature Challenge. This should be fun!

Happy New Year, and Merry Reading!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Time for Another Doctor's Visit

I can't stop drinking water. I am constantly parched, and easily down sixteen glasses a day. My ears are painfully full of fluid, and I have an unrelenting sinus headache. Much as I hate visiting the doctor, perhaps another doctor's visit is in order.

Doctors' offices never feel clean. It would be hard to, given that all of the visitors are sick, and spewing germs. During a fit of boredom a few weeks ago when I was home sick, I clocked just how far cough germs can spread (using a bit of cracker for a test). The results were scary!

I always feel like dousing myself in Lysol when I get back from the doctor's office. Who knows what germs are there!

Am I the only one to feel this way?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Diaperless Baby Movement

Internet research can be fun. Boredom is pretty much an unknown concept to me, for the very fact that just two clicks away you can research such intriguing things as the Diaperless Baby Movement or vegetarian cruises to Alaska.

YouTube is also a big hit---just google funny videos, and prepare yourself for hours of fun. YouTube also has clips of TV shows and movies, which are always entertaining to watch.

I love the sheer number of blogs online, focusing on anything from living a plastic free life, to stay-at-home dads.

Life is never dull online.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

19 Jobs

Children today will have an average of 19 jobs before they are 38. I've had nine, and I'm only twenty-two.

I've had good jobs---reading tutor with AmeriCorps, and English teacher to refugees and immigrants in Minnesota. I've also had some crazy jobs: English teacher with a European Academy in Guatemala, where my boss paid off the gangs to keep the teachers from being kidnapped, and selling plasma. Nothing too entirely special jobs were working in the college dining service, and acting as a custodial trainer.

Somehow ordinary jobs just can't be normal for me, though. Even working as a custodial trainer, I managed to discover that my coworker was a drug dealer and get hit on by a retired monk. Average? Hardly.

Nothing beats my job in a little, out of the way Spanish academy in Xela, Guatemala, where I fended off the advances of my three bosses while trying to get my full paycheck. It was always a negotiation. "Will you take half your wages? We're a non-profit!" Me: "No. I need to make rent this month." Them: "I don't have change." Me: "I do." Erg!

That job had a rather interesting ending: I was forced to quit after my student proposed to me, and my bosses refused to do anything about it.

At least life is never dull!

Monday, December 21, 2009

My First Greyhound Bus

Two long nights, thirty-five hours, and three bus transfers later, I am finally home. I was pickpocketed, but only lost $2. The occasional bathroom was unbearably filthy, but it was the exception, not the rule. I was not felt up or harassed, which makes this a good trip in my books.

On the plus side, I got to meet a mechanical engineering student from India who was finishing up his first semester at North Dakota State University, and see the best behaved little one-year-old in my life.

Although the bus hit some ice under an overpass and nearly toppled into the ditch, our driver's twenty years of experience kept us from harm. The vast majority of our drivers were witty and kind, and tried to make our bus trips as enjoyable as possible, despite their long hours.

Overall, this was a great trip.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Gifts That Give More

I recently discovered the joy of donating money to charitable causes. I love giving through The Hunger Site. I'm able to pick a specific cause, and know exactly how my money will be used. I recently chose to fund a fuel efficient stove for refugees in Darfur. For just twenty dollars, these stoves reduce the number of dangerous fuel-gathering missions women have to go on in this war torn region, and are markedly better for the environment.

For seventeen dollars, I was able to pay the school fees of a Guatemalan child so that she can attend school for one year. This amount is a pittance in American dollars, but far beyond the reach of many families in Guatemala.

How do you give back?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Never Google Greyhound

A small bit of advice for Greyhound travelers: Don't google Greyhound bus experiences before you go.

Out of the many search results, ninety percent of them were negative. They detailed drunk passengers, crazy people creating chaos on the bus (including a guy with a pistol in a paper bag), uncomfortable riding conditions, and overcrowded buses. Not exactly the type of stories to reassure you when you're contemplating a 35 hour bus ride.

I figure it will all be all right, though. After all, can it really beat traveling by bus in Central America? Probably not. The odds of getting proposed to or felt up are much, much smaller (much more so on the former than on the latter).
Wish me luck!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Greyhound Here I Come!

Well, after a long debate (Is saving $200 really worth 72 hours on a bus?), I finally booked a Greyhound ticket. Since all of my long distance bus trips have been confined to Central America so far, this should be interesting.

I'll be spending two nights and an entire day on the bus on my way home for Christmas, and then one night and two days on the way back. I can't tell which is worse. In the day I can see the (snowy) scenery, but that might just make the trip feel even longer. At night, I'll have to scrunch up into a reclining seat and try to sleep (for two nights straight!). At least the trip won't be dull.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Did I Stumble into a Meeting of the Watershed Protection League?

With the rousing and ever important question of, "What's your watershed?" I began to wonder if I somehow stumbled into the wrong meeting. Wasn't this the AmeriCorps training on creating environmental change in the workplace? Maybe I mysteriously stumbled into a group of radical environmentalists, or innocently wandered into a meeting of the Watershed Protection League. After all, what do watersheds have to do with the workplace?

I was soon reassured that I was, in fact, in the right place. Our presenter told us very matter-of-factly that she was "simply passionate!" about watersheds. And so the rousing discussion of "What's your watershed?" began.

Now, I use cloth bags and even cloth pads for crying out loud, but I do not for the life of me know what my watershed is. Even back in my home state, if you asked me at gunpoint to identify my watershed, I wouldn't be able to. I mean, I'm thrilled to realize that I even know what a watershed is!

That conference on understanding poverty is starting to look better and better all the time.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Time to Book a Flight!

It is time once again to book a flight (or train, or bus) online. Is it this hard for everyone?

I keep pulling up great fares, only to find out that the price just expired. The new rate is at least double the old one. I just went through this! Can this even be legal? Maybe I'm just thinking unethical. Whatever it is, it sure isn't too much fun.

I am seriously considering Greyhound. Since I've never had the (distinct?) pleasure of going on one, this might be the perfect time. Saving $200 doesn't sound half bad, either. Another student loan payment, here I come!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Still Sick

This has been a rough few weeks. After feeling absolutely exhausted for two weeks, I finally made it in to the doctor. An hour's wait later, I was diagnosed with bronchitis and an ear infection. While certainly not fun, it's great to finally have an explanation for my tiredness.

It's been two more weeks, and I'm still not feeling all that great. I still occasionally fall asleep at five in the afternoon, and only wake up when my alarm goes off in the morning. Maybe it's time for another doctors visit.

I'm lucky to have really good insurance. The cost of doctors visits are negligible. I hate to think what will happen when I reach twenty-five and am off my family's insurance policy---hopefully I'll have a good job by then (I guess living on a volunteer's living stipend won't be an option anymore). Monthly medication costs for depression meds are astronomical---nearly two hundred dollars without insurance. Going without them is not an option---it's just miserable, and not conducive to holding a steady job and living in any reasonably fulfilling way.

In the meantime, I will volunteer as much as possible, and try to discover my life's calling (that sounds so corny!) Hopefully I'll figure it all out soon.

Monday, November 30, 2009

My Little Puddle Jumper

The first day back at school after Thanksgiving Break is always rough. Teachers expect this. Yet we're never quite prepared for the fury that is the sugared up, it-can't-be-schooltime-yet child.

Let's just say that today was a little crazy. The kids hadn't had a full day of school for a week and a half. They are understandably antsy.

However, my little puddle jumper took this to new extremes. Waiting in the bus line, he decided that every puddle was a monster to be relentlessly stomped. Dozens of little children were soaked in his quest, and I still have muddy footprints on the legs of my jeans from when he bounded up in joy.

By the time that I cajoled him inside to read a book while waiting for the bus, he was wet and beginning to understand just why jumping in puddles isn't a good pre-bus past time ("I'm soaking wet! I don't want to wear my shoes!") Sigh.

The easiest thing to do would have been to pull him out of the puddles and away from the temptation of splashing others. But teachers aren't suppposed to physically restrain or pull on children. Even though he was kicking water onto other children, we couldn't just pull him away. Crazy, but true. We could only threaten to talk to his mother, get the principal, or offer alternatives to his behavior.

I hope the rest of the children never find out about this.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

There's No Place Like Home

After three buses, one offer for crack cocaine, and a plane ride, I am finally back home. I spent the last three days sleeping off bronchitis and an ear infection, and then visiting the school I interned at on an Indian reservation. All in all, a good few days.

I don't know if I'm just lucky, or what. Somehow, standing in an underground bus station amidst the crowds of the merry and not so merry travelers, I look like I need some drugs. As a twenty-five year old guy asks, "Do you want some cocaine?" all I can do is stare astounded at the transportation security officers less than a block away. After hurriedly reassuring him that I don't, in fact, do drugs, he shuffles off to the next person.

Maybe all trips on public transportation are like this. Maybe everyone is offered drugs while on the way to the airport, and accosted by a man begging for spare change and cussed out when the request is refused. Perhaps everyone ends up sitting next to a very cheerful lady who just happens to be off her meds and is laughing up a storm at nothing and no one.

Somehow, I don't think so.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I Need a Vacation

How pitiful is it that I'm already planning every possible long weekend and day off that I can scrounge up? I'm looking ahead to three day weekends and marking down travel days as "After school on Friday to before school on Tuesday." Teachers don't arrive home from their vacations an hour before school begins---it's just not right!

I think the upcoming Thanksgiving break is getting to me. I'm ready to check out and head back to Minnesota. I'm tired of the alphabet song and open and closed syllables. I'm stealing five minutes here and five minutes there to gaze longingly at discounted cruises. Even Alaska with its Arctic gales is sounding pretty appealing.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


I love Canada. Whenever I need a break from the ordinary, I take a little trip north and wander around Chinatown.

Everything is different up here, from te road signs to the metric system. It's exhilirating to be barreling down the road at top speed, trying to figure out just what exactly 120 km/hour translates to. Add to it miniscule road signs and highways that suddenly turn into city streets, and you have an adventure on your hands.

Plus, nothing adds a little excitement to your day like trying to make it through Customs unscathed. Since I have a horrible poker face, crazy things just happen to happen to me. Need I remind you of the time when my mom was taken away to be questioned because I looked nervous (and apparently like a kidnapping victim)?

Gentle, staid Canada never remains so for long when I join the mix, and that's why I love it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

It Can Be Really Hard to Be Gay

It can be really hard to be gay, and not always for the reasons that you might suspect. Sure, you have to deal with your mother's fear that you won't be with her in Heaven some day, and your dad's fear that you'll be the victim of discrimination or a hate crime. However, sometimes it's the day to day difficulties that wear on you the most.

It's all of the flirtation and suggestive comments aimed your way by unsuspecting strangers. It just goes completely against the grain for me. It grates on me, and is intensely uncomfortable. To help my family understand, I liken it to a gay person hitting on them, and the intense reaction they would feel. Suddenly they seem to get it.

I wonder what would happen if I told these unknowing strangers the truth---that I can't be interested in them because I'm gay. I would never be so naive to do so, but I hate having to bury who I am all the time. It's like a strangling of the soul.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Young Adult Literature Challenge

The Young Adult Literature Challenge is coming along nicely. During October, I read The Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama, the Scott Westfield Uglies, Pretties, Specials trilogy, and The Midwife's Apprentice. I highly recommend The Drowned Maiden's Hair; it's not nearly as gruesome as it sounds. It is the tale of an orphan who is adopted by an eccentric trio of elderly women, who wish her to play the part of a drowned child during a seance. It's a very intriguing read.

Scott Westfield's trilogy is quite good, with a suitable number of plot twists to keep it interesting. It is about a totalitarian society where everyone has surgery at the age of sixteen to make them "pretty." However, this surgery also causes brain lesions that make them easily controlled. Dissidents are taken care of by the "Specials."

The Midwife's Apprentice was also a good read. Brat, an street girl in early England, becomes the midwife's apprentice in exchange for food and shelter. She must overcome harsh treatment and low self esteem to make a name for herself.

I'm really enjoying this challenge. I finally have an excuse to read all of the young adult literature that I missed out on growing up. There are so many great books.

What have you read lately that you've enjoyed?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Strike of the Swine Flu!

It seems that wherever I go, sickness follows. First it was the measles in Guatemala, then the Whooping Cough in my Midwest school. Now it's the Swine Flu.

My little first grader came up to me yesterday with a solemn look on her face. She very politely informs me that her brother has the Swine Flu and then runs off to play. I just stare at her retreating back. The Swine Flu has come to Washington.

I had heard rumors that it was out and about. A high schooler was stricken last week. I just didn't expect it to spread quite this fast.

I'm not very doom and gloom about the situation. More than anything, it makes me laugh in an incredulous sort of way. The crazy illnesses that still exist in America.

Today the little girl came in with an awful cough. As she generously sprayed me with Swine flu exposed spit, I'm thinking, "Better go stock up on OJ and dust masks."

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Delta Site Hates Me

The Delta site hates me. That's the only conclusion I can draw. Not only did it try to make me rebook twice, but it wickedly raised the price each time! I could understand the rate hike from $295 to $330. I could only find $330 fares on the web, so it wasn't such a shocker. But then to raise it by $100 while I was booking it? That's just ridiculous. A flight doesn't go up $130 in ten minutes.

I guess I can't rule out a train trip home just yet, as much as I'd like to. I managed to wrangle a week off, and I want to spend as much of the time I have off with my family. Thirty-five hours on the train each way is not what I call fun.

I know I've got to get home soon---my grandpa's ill, and our whole family is gathering for a wedding. I can't miss this time with them, but I hate the feeling that I'm being taken advantage of.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Is it bad that I only do laundry every two weeks (and it's only one load)? I know, as a female I'm supposed to have tons of clothes and a very low tolerance for grime, but maybe those genes just skipped me.

I know that the shopping genes bypassed me. I hate to shop. I only believe in buying things that I'll feel good about wearing (and wearing often), so it takes forever. Add to this the fact that I'm pretty modest (no low-rise jeans or low cut tops for me, thanks), and it adds up to a whole lot of time in the stores.

So is it any wonder that I put shopping off for as long as possible?

This really made the theft of one of my suitcases off the bus in Costa Rica a debilitating blow. There went almost my entire supply of comfortable, worn-in jeans (that were actually tall enough!). I was devastated. I literally only had two shirts, a headband, and a set of underclothes to my name. It was a sad, sad day.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Okay, I Laughed

I love teaching kids. If they're not deliberating who to call in the case of a vampire uprising ("But the fire department can't do anything about vampires!"), they're making innocent slips of the tongue.

We were working on the -ank word ending. I was having them read words off of the board, and this took a nasty turn when we came to "sank." This child couldn't be satisfied with such a straight forward word. Oh, no. He had to add another letter, turning the nice, innocent "sank" into "skank."

Oh, yes.

As I desperately tried to stifle my giggles (these were second graders, after all, no need to discuss exactly why this word was so funny or what precisely it meant), I moved on. Wouldn't it just so happen that the next word was skin. Oh, joy.

I laughed, and I laughed, and then I changed the subject. Very smooth.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Entertainment on a Limited Budget

It's the end of the month, and all of my food stamps have run out. Every spare penny is being diverted to food and rent, as my paycheck still hasn't come through. Yet you have to have some form of entertainment, unless you are to go mad.

Luckily, a theater friend knew of a playhouse that needed an usher one night. In exchange for handing out programs at the door and policing the theater at intermission so that no food or beverages made their way in, I was able to see the play for free. Given that each ticket was $15, this was a good deal.

I also hit up the library for reading material (an unmentionable number of chick lit books and some classics) and DVDs. A few trips to a nearby state park founded out the mix.

How do you stay entertained on a limited budget?

Swine Flu Vaccine

I love staff meetings. Who wouldn't, when you can learn such intriguing things as "We can't require you to get vaccinated, but you cannot come to school for twenty days if there is a Swine Flu outbreak." It seems a little twisted to me. Add in the the little bite that you have to let payroll know, and we're looking at uproar.

So, I get to be a guinea pig for the Swine Flu vaccine when it comes out in October. I'm so excited!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Three days after starting the wonderful but long drive, I am finally in Washington. The drive wasn't too crazy, and I loved the mountain passes in western Montana (75 mile per hour roads with curves galore! So much fun!) There was some great scenery at the beginning and end of the trip. The middle was a bit tedious (I'm not a wide open spaces type of girl), but the other scenery made up for it in spades.

I love my town. They have a great public library, very nice people, grocery outlets just fifteen miles away, and awesome hiking trails. My landlady is really into natural foods and products, and composts all kitchen waste. She was having a dinner party with a bunch of friends the night I came in, and invited me to join them. All of the food was vegetarian, which was great! One of the ladies' sons lived in Nicaragua for five years, so we got to talking about Central America, which is always nice. I felt so at home.

Washington has everything I wanted and more: a good public library, food co-ops, water, trees, and mountains. I am in bliss.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Frankenstein and Early Start Dates

I just finished Frankenstein! A great book, if I may say so myself. However, a very tedious beginning and a somewhat pedantically told tale at times. The intriguing plot makes it all worth it at the end, though.

My start date just got moved up another day. I guess I won't get to see my dad before I leave, after all. I understand that I really need to leave enough time to get there without rushing too much, or driving fifteen hour days without time to eat or rest. I was just really counting on that last day.

It's a really good thing that I'm taking a vehicle. I could never get this all on a bus or train. I counted three big boxes, one small one (filled with shoes, of all things), a suitcase, and two backpacks. I'm sure there'll be more. Who knew I had this much stuff?!? Granted, it is for almost a year, but still.

Happy trails!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

DVD Swap

I just received my first DVD from, a branch off from It was "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," and it arrived in perfect condition. My family and I watched it tonight, and had homemade pizza. All in all, a great night.

It was also a terrific break from the insane torture known as cashiering. Normally, being a cashier isn't so bad. Sure, you're on your feet all day, and you may develop strange blisters on the undersides of each toe, but doesn't $8.30 an hour (pre-tax) make up for that? So you may have to work sick. It isn't that hard of a job, right? Just lifting 24-packs of soda and forty pound bags of dog food. Anyone could do it, smiling all the while and dealing with kids who possess the strange desire to spin the bag carousel straight into their eyes. Easy as pie.

I think we seriously underestimate the skills of our Walmart cashiers. Not only are they keeping our children from getting impaled, but they are also dealing with the stress of bagging upwards of 700 items an hour consistently and correctly without any impatient outbursts. Not an easy feat.


At 10:45 last night, I was informed that I need to be in Washington on Monday. Not "the first week in September" as I was originally told, or "September 1st," which was the last mandate. August 31st. This Monday.

Since I can't even leave until late Friday night at the earliest, and it is a 26 hour drive, this will be very entertaining. It wouldn't be quite so bad if I had another driver going with me, but this is strictly a solo trip. My first ever. Yikes.

I have ridden a variety of buses all the way down through Central America, and taken an Amtrak train halfway across the US alone, but I have never driven that far by myself. Let's just hope a tire doesn't blow out, or the transmission dies. Both distinct possibilities in this car.

I'm just glad that I've spent the last few days transferring audiobooks and music onto CDs, and getting my bags packed. Hopefully the car will be back from the mechanic's soon so I can start loading it up, and seeing what fits.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Sometimes I feel like I'm destined for a crazy existence.

Take, for instance, the attempted kidnapping of two years ago, as I made my way back to the bank where I had parked my car from the Oriental food store just three blocks away. There's nothing like being followed in a car and having your car stormed to get your blood pumping. Especially considering that this happened in broad daylight, and I only just got my door shut and locked in time.

Or recall the unprovoked gunshot incident in Xela, Guatemala as I made my way home from class. I was just a few blocks from my house, in the middle of the day! I didn't know the guy, or even say anything to him! It's just one of those random things, I guess. My bad luck mixed with anti-American sentiment just creates trouble, I guess.

It seems like something crazy is always happening. Do I have the words "Pick me! Great target!" written somewhere on me?

I think I would be bored with an ordinary, uneventful life, but sometimes this just gets to be too much. I took a self-defense course, and learned Judo. I carry mace. I try to be as safe as I can be, never venturing out alone at night, taking all of the right precautions.

I just wish I could see the world as some of my friends do---as a welcoming, non-threatening place. The prospect of random violence is utterly foreign to them. It only happens to other people.

One good thing that came out of all of this---I vowed to always be doing something meaningful. I won't take a job that isn't personally fulfilling, because I know that life can change in an instant. I can only deal with this craziness if I know that I'm doing something meaningful. Bad things will happen, and my way of coping with them is to devote my life to doing what good I can, so that I don't feel regret when they do.

Maybe that's morbid, but for me, that's just life.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


In a little less than a week, I will be heading out for my new job in Washington. I am still debating between going by Amtrak or taking a vehicle. My work site is not within walking distance, which is annoying, and it's a half hour commute by bus each way. It would cost nearly $30 in bus fares each month, just to get to and from work. Then again, it would probably cost that much or more in gas and maintenance.

I am finishing up random last pieces of business---burning downloadable audiobooks to CDs, returning the last of my library books, and taking all of the recycling down to the drop off center. I'm clearing all of my food out of the freezer and pantry (I have a ton of tofu and falafel mix), and wrapping up presents for the birthdays that I'll miss. I'm getting refills of medications that I'll need until I can get set up with a doctor in Washington. I'm also putting all of my student loans in order.

It seems like my list doesn't really shrink---there's always one more thing that I forgot to do. Moving is a little harder than I remember it being. It should be interesting!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Time to Break Out My "Wedding Ring"

I felt like I was back in Guatemala again. "Are you married? Yes?" A short pause, then "Are you happily married?" As if it made a difference!

This might not have been quite so outrageous if the man asking this had not been wearing a cowboy hat. And sixty-five years old. And sporting a fake ID touting him as a product manager.

The customers just keep getting stranger and stranger.

I wonder who life has in store for me tomorrow?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

WIC is Way More Complicated Than You'd Think

WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) vouchers have become the bane of my existence.

Typically, I will process one WIC voucher each day at Walmart. During training, we were strictly instructed that so much as a missing date on the voucher will make it null and void. The state won't pay, and we'll get into trouble. Too many mistakes like this one will cost us our jobs as cashiers, and the Walmart store its WIC acceptance.

Today I had a customer who was definitely struggling with the system. WIC is incredibly particular about brands and sizes of products. She had a voucher for fourteen jars of baby food. She had fourteen jars, but only two of them met WIC's strict guidelines. Eight had DHA added, one was a mix of a fruit and a vegetable, and five had rice and sugar added.

I reviewed the WIC guidelines for baby food with her from the little illustrated pamphlet she had been given, and she returned to try again.

This time she brought back eleven different jars of forbidden baby food, ladened with rice cereal and additives. I asked a manager to come over and review the rules with her once again, because she was insistent that these should be allowed. After a short talk, she set off again, waving off my offers of lending her sample jars to compare to the ones on the shelf.

We repeated this process twice more. I desperately wanted to leave my register, if only to help her find mutually acceptable baby foods and allow her to carry on with her life. However, I couldn't do this in the middle of the transaction, and I couldn't suspend it. Finally, I convinced her to let me scan a few of the acceptable baby food jars multiple times, finish the transaction, and shut down the register to grab the desired products.

Five tries and half an hour from the debacle's beginning, we finally finished, weary and glad to have that behind us. WIC is way more complicated than you'd think.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Room (or House) of Her Own

For nearly a week I will have the house to myself. I have a copy of "The Stepford Wives" to watch before I post it on, a stack of library books, and a fridge full of vegan food. I even have two days off from work!

This will be heavenly. I'll have the complete freedom to watch what I want, eat when I'd like, and come and go as I please. It's a tiny thing, but so important.

I haven't had this level of independence and freedom since I got back from Guatemala. I know that it's just one of the tradeoffs of living back at home again, but it can be a little tough after awhile. I just never expected to be living with my parents while I worked at Walmart to pay off student loan interest. It sounds like an undergrad horror story---graduating in debt and without job prospects.

It's not that I don't love my parents. I do. They are incredible! My dad taught my sisters and I how to use power tools and change the brakes on the car, and then turned around and taught us how to cook and sew. He's a true Renaissance Man. My mom is a teacher up on a Native American Reservation, and is always helping out people in need, whether they be complete strangers or good friends. I remember her picking up hitchhikers a few times---once a family with two little boys whose car broke down on the side of a deserted highway, and once a twenty year old woman whose boyfriend pushed her out of the car at an intersection. If she knows of a family that's having a tough time financially, she'll find a discreet way to help them out.

Though I really love my family, it's been a difficult adjustment. I lived independently for so long, 1,500 miles and two countries away, that I grew used to having a little more space and freedom. Somehow, it's been a little difficult to accustom myself to answering where I'll be at any given time and when I'll get home at night. I love that they're concerned, but I need a little space, and their confidence that I won't do anything too crazy.

This is going to be a great week.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Decades Reading Challenge

I'm about half done with the Decades Reading Challenge. So far I've finished "Fall of the House of Usher" from the 1830s, "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Cask of Amontillado" from the 1840s, and "Uncle Tom's Cabin" from the 1850s. I also read "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" from the 1890s and "The Hound of the Baskervilles" from the 1900s. "Life in the Iron Mill" was my 1860s book.

I am currently reading Frankenstein for my 1810s book. I'm listening to it on my ride to and from work, which makes the long drive just a little more bearable. I love audio books from the library!

I still need to read Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas de Quincey. This book from the 1820s is an ebook, and can be read online for free at Project Gutenberg. I also need to read The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne for my 1870s book, and Treasure Island or The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde for my book from the 1880s.

I still have a bit more reading to do, but nothing insurmountable. What are you reading now?

Reading Tutor in Washington

I just got offered a job in Washington as a reading tutor with Americorps. I interviewed on Friday while I waited for the results of a second interview with Alaska, and was called less than two hours later with a job offer.


My mom did a happy dance when she heard, and promptly called up my whole extended family. She broke out the wine, and made me vegan muffins. Her joy was unabashed and complete.

I, on the other hand, was in shock. This is a great offer, and the program and school directors sound terrific. It was just such a huge surprise to get an answer that fast.

I know I would absolutely love my position in Washington. I would be tutoring elementary school children in reading in a beautiful location. There is a huge public library, and the city isn't too big or too small. It sounds like a perfect job.

I'm just feeling a little stressed right now. China sent over a contract and seven other forms for me to peruse, and decide whether I would like to sign with them. I've been holding off on an answer until I know all my options.

I'm waiting to discover the results of my second interview with a domestic violence shelter in Alaska. Though the work would be incredibly difficult, it would also be rewarding. I'm really anxious to find out whether I have the position or not.

I just don't know what to do. Adding to the stress is the knowledge that any way I go, I'll be there by the end of the month. Do I stock up on sweaters, umbrellas, or Chinese language tapes? Do I look into train, bus, or plane travel? Where do I research? How can I find housing if I don't have a location nailed down yet?

These next few weeks will be interesting!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How to Earn the Eternal Respect and Appreciation of Your Cashier

I just got off of six nine-hour days at Walmart, and am I ever happy to be done. All of that standing is just torture after a while, even with gel insoles and soft mats behind the register. Since I scan between four and five hundred items an hour, I have to do a lot of bending and lifting. Making things even harder is my height, which makes bagging items in very low baggage carousel difficult.

Just a few hints if you shop at Walmart, to earn the everlasting respect and admiration of your cashier:
  1. Don't take your heavy items out of your cart. We know you're just trying to be helpful (and guys, possibly impress us), but we can scan the items in your cart. Lifting one bag of forty pound dog food may not be that big of a deal for you, but try lifting that same bag day after day, hour after hour. It's just not necessary.
  2. Ditto for the 24 packs of water and pop. These really wear on you after a while. My muscles are sore enough after the end of the shift. No need to make them any sorer.
  3. Don't fill out your checks. The machine can fill them out for you, and 95% of the time, you get them back anyway.
  4. We will make exceptions if the line is short, or the individual is sweet. Just don't do it on the Fourth of July, or when there are three impatient customers behind you.
  5. We remember the good customers! The sweet ones, who always ask about our day and kindly put up with any crazy bureaucracy mandates will eagerly receive our absolute best service. We'll bug customer service to get your favorite items in stock, and happily help you load your cart.
  6. Never, ever yell at a cashier. We're working really long days with aching backs and the pressure to pay all of our bills. We are trying to do everything we can to make your experience a good one, but there are some factors that we just can't control (such as if your card is denied, or you forgot your ID for cigarettes and alcohol.) Yelling doesn't help, and it might just make your next trip through line a little less enjoyable. We remember the good customers, and the bad ones. Please be a good one!
  7. Don't give the cashier your phone number! It makes it incredibly awkward to be pursued while at work, and how can you refuse the number of a paying customer and not make them unhappy?
  8. Similarly, do not leer at your cashier or refuse to leave the area once you've checked out. It's slightly stalkerish, and we don't want to have to get security to escort you out. Cashiers don't just have the option to walk away. We have other customers in line, and a till to man. Show some respect.
  9. Never make suggestive comments to a cashier. They are inappropriate. See tip eight.
  10. Please understand that as annoying as it is, we have to get certain information to process your checks. We may be prompted to enter your ID number off of your license, and your phone number. Don't just make a phone number up (this has happened). We need this information to process your checks, and if we don't get the right information, the cashier is in trouble, and can lose her job. You may be in trouble too. Just politely offer the information. We are sorry about the hassle, but it is just something we can't control.
  11. We do price match with area grocery stores. If it's in the store circular, just tell us and we'll match the price. We want to make your life easier, and reducing the number of stores you have to shop at can do that.
  12. Most of all, enjoy your shopping experience! If you can't find a product, tell the cashier! We'll forward the request. We want you to walk away satisfied. Tell us what we can do to make that happen.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Amy's Rag Bag (Cloth Pads)

I just organized a barter with Amy's Rag Bag. I sent in my old, worn-out pajama pants, and received four pieces of a pad for each pair. I was able to specify the style of the pad, and the colors and themes. I'm now the proud owner of two Halloween pads, and several dark blue and green pads. These pads are just gorgeous.

These are possibly the most reasonably priced pads that I've seen on offer. Since she is willing to trade and barter (books, cookies, cloth, and more), they are affordable to just about anyone. There are tons of different colored fabrics available, and pads can be made out of organic cotton, flannel, terrycloth, or cotton. They can have a non-leak core piece, too.

You buy the pads piece by piece, to best fit your cycle. On light days, you may only need the topper, without a core. Heavier days, you may use an extra long protective piece, an absorbant middle layer, and a topper.

Amy is willing to make recommendations based on a short questionaire you can fill out, to find your best pad combinations. Everyone's period is a little different, so the products you use should be specialized to your specific needs. Her responses are very thorough, and prompt.

I wear my pads as a backup layer for my Diva Cup, and they work wonderfully. They are so beautiful and soft, and so unlike all of the commercial pads which can chafe and irritate. Best of all, they are washable, and don't contribute to landfill waste.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Reading Challenges

Today was the library's book sale, and I picked up a ton of books for Paperback Swap.

I'm currently listening to Frankenstein as a book on tape for the Classics Reading Challenge. It is perfect for my commute to work (about half an hour each way). It's a very gripping book.

I just finished Artemis Fowl: the Time Paradox for the Juvenile Literature Reading Challenge. I have now completed all of the Artemis Fowl books. I also read Diary of a Wimpy Kid. This is a very popular book up here with the elementary school aged kids. It's not a half bad book.

I read Ray Bradbury's Somewhere a Band is Playing for last month's Classics book. This was a strange, strange book---a little like Hotel California in it's theme (you can enter, but you can never leave). I have to admit, I liked Farenheit 941 a whole lot more.

I did Marley and Me as a fun read. The ending is so sad! The rest of the novel just had me laughing and laughing. I'm glad my lab isn't that crazy. Hyper and attention hungry, yes; crazily destructive, no.

What are you reading now?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Alaska Interview

I just finished my follow-up interview with a domestic violence shelter in Juneau, Alaska. It only lasted about fifteen minutes. I can't decide if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

They should let me know by the end of the week whether I have the position or not. They have one other applicant to interview. Since China is waiting for an answer, I hope to learn more soon.

I would be working with children, which should be fun. I'm sure it will be stressful, especially given the children's history of abuse. However, I enjoy challenging work, and I love knowing that I'm making a difference. That's one of the reasons I'm debating about China. Teaching really rich people just isn't very rewarding, particularly in a high poverty area.

This should be an interesting week, career-wise.

Monday, August 3, 2009

China Awaits!

I just got an e-mail from English First in China that my application has been processed, and I am to contact the local staff at the academy to arrange for my visa and flight. Wow. I didn't expect that it would go through so fast. The question is, should I go?

I've been applying to tons of Americorps programs in the States, and two look like sure shots. One is in Juneau, Alaska, wish would be awesome. Should I stay here and pay down my student loans, or go to China?

I really want to travel. I enjoy the thrill of terror of being in an absolutely foreign environment, and I love getting a first hand view of how different societies operate. I deeply enjoy learning the other side of the story about US interactions and local sentiment about Americans. It's really intriguing to me.

At the same time, this is just all happening so fast. I just want to slow it down a little, until I can look at all my options.

Besides, if I go to China, I want to make a difference, not just teach the outrageously rich. There are other opportunities through my old college that I can join next year. I can help teach in a university. However, this opportunity is now, and working with kids.

I just can't decide.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I don't know what to think. A fellow cashier came through my line the other day, and bought a hitch with a ball bearing. I accidently only rang up the hitch, since the other part was attached and I thought they came as a set. She tells me nearly a week later that I forgot to ring up the other part, which cost nearly $40.

She also "warned" me that if either of us speaks up, it is regarded as theft, and we are subject to disciplinary action, possible firing, and legal measures. She said that theft is a misdemeanor that can mean up to ninety days in jail and $3,000 in fines, plus a mark on our permanent records.) I, however, think this is an elaborate ruse to get out of paying the extra $40, and a way to make sure I stay quiet. She is pretty strapped for money.

Also, she stands to lose her job for using her discount card on this item. She told me later (while warning me about legal repercussions) that she actually bought this for a friend. Her tone and secrecy makes me think that her friend reimbursed her. This is just one of the ways you can get fired at Walmart.

Given that it was an honest mistake on my part, and perhaps a not so honest mistake on hers, do you think I should speak up? I doubt that nearly anything she said is true, and don't want to rob my employers of the $40. However, if she is subject to disciplinary action for this, but keeps her job, that would make work miserable for me. Oh, the lovely conundrums.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Frustrating Customers and Fake Phone Numbers

Today I had my first truly terrible customers. I was in the tobacco bullpen (the only register where you can buy tobacco in the store), and a woman comes up with milk she would like to ad match. When she finds out it's the wrong brand, she gets really angry. Though a little unusual, it was no big deal. However, she decides to pay for her second set of items with a check. Our system randomly prompts for more information to protect against fraud, and she absolutely refused to give it to me. She claimed that she didn't have her driver's license on her, and that she didn't know the number. I called a manager over to see if we could bypass the system, and only then does she produce her license. Then the computer prompts for a telephone number. She says she doesn't own a telephone. I call the manager over again. She gives him two fake numbers (saying: "They're telephone numbers, I just don't know for who"), and then finally gives us a (semi-)legitimate number.

To top matters off, the customer deliberately signs with an X instead of her name. She tells her husband to take the cart and leave when I surreptiously call the manager over a third time. The husband refuses his wife's order, and walks out. Since we return our customers' checks, our primary guarantee for payment is their electronic signature, so it needs to be right. Finally, after five more minutes have passed, she is clear to go.

All this over a $34 bill.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


I took an Amtrak train to Washington to see my sister. After a very long day of work, I hopped into my beat up truck to drive three hours to the nearest station. Then it was only a day and a night more on the train to arrive, at long last, only an hour and a half from her house.

Despite the long trip, it was all worth it. The train passed by Glacier National Park, which was incredible! I saw several cute, small towns where I'd love to live, and met a woman who taught English in Slovakia for three years after she turned 62. It was an awesome trip.

The only downside was being seated next to a creepy old man. I tried to change my seat early on in the trip, but I could only offer a gut feeling for proof, so my case wasn't exactly strong. Given that a huge group of people was about to board, I had to retake my seat.

Luckily, a look of death kept him in line the first night (and a very watchful eye---I maybe slept three hours total, and usually when others around me were awake). I spent as much time as I could away from that car, usually reading in the lounge car while watching the great scenery. They had live music and a National Park volunteer to tell us about the sights.

The second night, my seatmate moved across the aisle. All was well and good until he started touching himself. I quickly moved all of my stuff as far away in the car as I could, and pushed the call button. When no one came, I went into the dining room to find an Amtrak employee. They got the conductor, and I explained the situation and asked for a seat in a different car. He moved me (unfortunately we had to pass the guy again to get to the other car), but all was good, as the conductor got a full view of his behavior as we passed.

Despite this one unfortunate incident, the trip was great. The conductor responded quickly to my concerns, and willingly moved me. The food was excellent, the other passengers very interesting and nice, and the scenery spectacular. I would take Amtrak again in the future, but I would speak up immediately about unsuitable seating arrangements, whether I had concrete evidence or not. I enjoyed my trip.

Do you have any good, bad, or just plain strange travel stories?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Teaching English in South Korea

I have a telephone interview to teach English in South Korea this week. This is moving fast. I'm a little nervous, to be totally truthful. It doesn't help that the mere mention of South Korea throws several of my relatives into a tailspin. I've had several ultimatums issued over the last few weeks, warning me not to go under any circumstances. Even my therapist thinks I'm crazy.

I don't know why I'm drawn to troubled places. Rather than seeking a nice, calm internship in the local public school, I tutored children on a Native American reservation, where a fourth grader stabbed a security guard and we had numerous lockdowns. I guess I just figure that wherever I go, trouble seems to follow, so I might as well go somewhere challenging, somewhere I can actually make a difference. I can't even ride the Amtrak without being sexually harassed by my seatmate; it seems inevitable that my life won't be calm and serene. Why not just embrace that fact?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fourth of July

Today was a very slow day at Walmart. However, I still managed to get hit on by a twenty-four year old guy from Guatemala, who persistently requested by number, and finally was content with just giving me his. However, he did say that he would be sure to see my at Walmart if I didn't call him. I don't know how to take that comment.

I also had to turn down an attempted third party sale of fireworks (a twenty-one year old tried to buy fireworks for her seventeen year old friend when she was denied). They took it well, which is always a relief.

One man attempted to buy a few bags of items with a check, when he had five bounced checks totaling $631. It was his only form of payment, so I had to have a manager abort the sale.

By and large, the customers at Walmart are very sweet and understanding. They don't usually get angry when a sale is denied, or the cash register acts up. When they find out it is only my fourth day on the register, they are even more gracious.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Walmart on the Third of July

Today was my second day as a cashier at Walmart, and we had all of the crazy pre-Fourth of July crowds. I began the day with a huge papercut on my thumb from a cardboard box. Since I didn't have any paper towels or bandaids, I just wrapped my hand in a plastic bag and kept ringing up items. My customer wasn't as blase about it, though. She found the first Walmart associate walking by and demanded that she fix my finger.

I then had a denied check (due to insufficient funds), which is always fun to explain to the customer. Luckily, we can suspend a sale and leave the items in Customer Service until the customer can return with a different form of payment.

I also got to learn how to process WIC vouchers and Electronic Benefits Transfer cards. The WIC program is very strict! You make the tiniest mistake on the form (forgetting the date, or your initials) and they won't pay.

There was one attempt at shoplifting (a guy tried to walk out with a cap on his head that he didn't pay for), and a fifty year old man declared his undying love for me. Since I had never met the guy before, this was a little interesting.

A very vocal nondenominational Christian began a vivid religious conversation at the twenty items or less checkout. He began by asking me if I could answer a question of his. Thinking he was just going to ask where the charcoal bruquettes are, I told him to ask away. However, the next words out of his mouth were: "If Jesus were to come back today, would you be ready? Are your sins forgiven? Are you living a new life through the Holy Spirit? Have you experienced a baptism by total immersion?" I told him that I was a Christian, but he was undeterred. Since associates aren't supposed to bring up religion with their customers, I was flummoxed.

Do you have any good work stories?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I just bought my Amtrak ticket to Washington. It ended up being just over $200. This is a little more than I would have liked, but I really need to see my family. A plane ticket would have cost nearly twice that, and a bus ticket was only $40 less.

Given that I will leave in the middle of the night, I feel more comfortable going by Amtrak than by bus. The bus station in my departure city is in a pretty bad part of town. I once got followed there by three twenty year olds in a car while I was walking from a Vietnamese market to the bank. I got into my car just seconds before they were at my door. I definitely do not want to repeat that experience.

I can't leave my car there, so I'm going to have my uncle drop me off. I don't want my grandma driving me over there that late at night. I'll be carrying mace, just to be doubly safe.

I've never ridden on Amtrak before. This should be fun!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Teaching Opportunities in China and Mongolia

I just got a reply from an English as a Second Language employment agency. They found a few opening in China and inner Mongolia that I can interview for. I have to say, I am a little nervous.

I haven't really participated in a formal interview before. My job interview at the academy in Guatemala was very easy. I just had a short meeting with the manager, and discussed my prior ESL experience. I then got to participate in a staff meeting, and I began formal training the next day. Since the academy had a very specific method of instruction, I didn't need any experience putting lessons together. Some academies have you demonstrate a sample lesson. Here, obedience to the system was better.

I'm not sure what to expect from the interview process with this agency. I already sent in my resume, so they know about my prior experience teaching English.

I'm really excited about possibly teaching in China, but I'm also terrified. I know only ten works in Chinese (hello, how are you, thank you, bathroom, an insult, and goodbye.) I think I have a little studying to do.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Volunteering pays!

I have just picked my first volunteer organization under the Walmart volunteer service benefit! I was perusing the Project Gutenberg's Distributed Proofreaders website, and found out that they are a non-profit organization! This $250 will really make a difference for them, in making sure more ebooks become available for free on the internet.

I'm still trying to figure out whether the library, or any part of it, is considered a non-profit. If so, it's an ideal place to work. It's just five blocks from my house, with really variable hours. This money would allow them to add to their book collection, and replace some of the worn out DVDs and books.

I'm so excited!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Walmart Orientation

I had my first day of orientation today. It lasted eight hours. I now know how to clean up hazardous waste, where each and every fire escape is, and what to do when I see someone shoplifting. I was also advised that "associates must wear underwear, but it may not show." All in all, a very informative day.

So I have two fifteen minute paid breaks, and one hour of unpaid lunch. Not bad at all. I almost got a really cool box cutter, too, but in the end the trainer decided that cashiers didn't need them. Sad!

One of the great things about Walmart is their VAP program. In exchange for 25 hours of community service at a nonprofit, that organization receives a $250 check in my name. You can volunteer with up to two nonprofits per six month term. I wonder if libraries count?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Teaching English in an Inner-city School

I want a job that makes a difference. One of the hardest things I experienced in Guatemala was walking by children begging for food on my way to my academy. Little boys, hardly more than eight years old, daily approached me pleading for some bread or water. To see this, and then enter into the ridiculous affluence of the academy was such a jolt. I saw horrifying levels of poverty each day, and then entered into this little land apart, where everyone had plenty of food, cars, fancy houses, and security. I saw small children with torn, dirty clothes begging for a ten cent piece of bread, and then taught an hour long class to an affluent businessman who could pay the school $20 an hour (the equivalent of $100 an hour here). I couldn't reconcile it.

I came from an inner-city public school, where I had to scrounge crayons up off the dirty floor and break them in half, so that every kindergartener had something to write with. I saw children with distended stomachs from the parasites in the impure water they were drinking. I held a little boy whose legs were bowed with rickets. To see that, and struggle to teach just a little English through the violence and the hunger, I couldn't feel right just teaching the rich.

Anyone reliable enough to keep to the system and show up to class on time could teach the students at my academy. When you have a comfortable classroom and a set method of instruction, it's not so hard. You earn a comfortable wage. You don't worry about your students stabbing each other or hitting others with chains. You don't get kicked by angry, abused children. It's just a whole lot easier emotionally.

It may be selfish, but I wanted to be somewhere where I was needed. I crave job satisfaction, and fulfillment. The public school was tough, but I was making a difference. It was worth struggling to make rent every month and working crazy hours. I felt fulfilled.

I also discovered that I can put up with a whole lot of craziness as long as I was content with my work. I can cope with students who never seem to do their work when I know that there is a real reason behind this behavior. Many of my students didn't have school supplies at home. Rather than students who just came to English classes as a way to ward off boredom, these students were struggling just to stay in school when economically it made more sense for them to be working.

I couldn't justify staying in Guatemala after I was shot at when all I was doing was teaching the affluent. They had many ways of learning English. Maybe it's a horrible thing to say, but since they didn't need me, it wasn't worth the risk. I may have stayed if I felt my work was making a difference. Whether that is foolhardy or not, I don't pretend to understand.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

TMI Warning: The Diva Cup

Every woman has experienced it: the dreaded feeling that your menstrual products has let you down. Maybe you're out on the town, or in a meeting, and suddenly you realize that your pad has leaked. You casually delay standing up for as long as possible, waiting for everyone else to file out of the room before you do. Now is when idle chit-chat becomes very annoying! You desperately search for anything to cover up, and even contemplate using your shirt, even though it means stripping down to your undershirt. That wouldn't be at all obvious though, would it?

I am happy to tell you that yes, there is another option. It is the Diva Cup. This reusable silicone menstrual cup can be left in for up to twelve hours without leaking. It can be worn during yoga, sports, or at night. It can even be worn before your period, for maximum protection. There is nothing worse than not expecting your period for another day, and then getting it during class or an important meeting.

The Diva Cup has a little bit of a learning curve, but after you get the hang of it, it is incredibly easy to use, and very convenient. I loved having it when I went down to Guatemala. I lived with a host family, and at times there were six male boarders in the house. A wasteboard basket at the side of the toilet held all used toilet paper, and if you were unfortunate, poorly disguised used menstrual products. My Diva Cup saved me from this awkward situation, because I could simply empty the contents into the toilet and rinse the cup in the sink. Much less embarrassing!

It was also very handy. I can empty it at night in the shower, and then just once more when I get up in the morning. On heavy days, I might empty it once more during the day, but this is nowhere near the number of times I would have to change a tampon. There were days when I would have to change my tampon every two hours, and wear a pad as well! Not with the Diva Cup!

Some people are put off by the $30 price tag, but this is a one time cost. Before, I could easily go through thirty pads a period, and seven tampons during my heaviest times. At best, I was getting these for $10 a month. In just three months, I had recovered the money spent.

The Diva Cup is also a lot more environmentally friendly than disposable menstrual products. It is produced without the use of pesticides. The environmental costs of producing, shipping, and disposing of disposable menstrual products is astronomical. The average woman will use 15,000 pads or tampons during her lifetime. That's a lot of waste! In comparison, even if you were to replace your Diva Cup every year (instead of every ten) as they have begun recommending after gaining FDA approval for Diva Cup use during the menstrual cycle, the waste is still far less.

The Diva Cup has a lower risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, as it does not absorb the blood, but merely contains it. It is made of medical grade silicone, and is latex-free. It has FDA and Health Canada approval.

If you are still worried about leaking, the Diva Cup can be paired with washable menstrual pads from etsy, online retailers, or natural food stores. These pads are very soft, and extremely comfortable. I'll be publishing a post later on washable menstrual pads.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience with the Diva Cup. It has been a lifesaver while I was traveling in Central America---I never had to worry about running out of supplies or where I was going to throw my menstrual products away. I could put it in the day before my period was supposed to start, and not worry about my period's sudden arrival. I really enjoy not having to change tampons constantly during heavy flow days. It has also been a huge money saver. So check it out! You just might like it!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Saving on College Textbooks

Textbooks from the college bookstore can be expensive. Even the used ones can easily cost $50. One great source I found online to comparison shop is ISBNDB. When you enter your textbook's ISBN number into the search engine, this site pulls up the lowest prices from dozens of online bookstores (such as Biblio and Amazon). It also collects the best price from eBay and

I recently bought a collection of essays for my college writing class for $2.49 from eBay. It cost $34 used from the bookstore. I asked my professor if an earlier edition of the book would work, and was able to cut costs considerably when she said yes. Earlier textbooks usually aren't fundamentally different from later versions, and it pays to ask your professor if an earlier version will suffice. It can cut the cost down on used books by half or more.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Humane Society

Today I went to the Humane Society to walk the dogs. They just got in a batch of ten labrador puppies, and they are just precious! They are keeping them in a tall, round roofless pen inside, and there is one chocolate lab puppy that keeps trying to climb out. He's precocious, that one!

There are so many tiny dogs there now. It's too bad that the adoption fee for these tiny (rarer) dogs is so high; they know that they'll go fast, and the adoption fee helps keep the Humane Society running. Usually the adoption fee is well under a hundred dollars, and this includes all of their shots and neutering or spaying. This fee is less than the neutering or spaying would be alone, so it's a really good deal. They also discount the adoption fees on harder to adopt animals (such as black cats that have been there for more than two months), and occasionally on older animals, too.

The Humane Society lets potential owners take the dogs out into the fenced backyard to play, or for a walk before they decide. They have really nice trails, and lots of toys to play with. It's se up really well.

So check out your local humane society the next time you are looking to adopt a dog or cat. They have all ages of animals, and all sizes. They are also often open to volunteers who would be willing to socialize with the animals, and take the dogs for walks or brush the cats.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

American Literature Final Exam

Tomorrow I write my final exam! It lasts three hours, which is a little long, but not horrible. There will probably be questions on it about Thoreau and Uncle Tom's Cabin, so it should be a fairly good exam.

I hope to head over to the Humane Society again tomorrow. Hopefully it won't be raining, because some of the dogs are very enthusiastic, and like to jump on new people. I got soaked today!

I'm also dropping off a few unused pantry supplies at the local food shelf. The vanilla pears had to go, as did two bags of pinto beans. We have so many beans in the pantry, and I just cannot stand the smell of boiling pinto beans. I smelled it too often in the school cafeteria growing up in New Mexico.

I also need to find some khaki or brown pants for working at Walmart. I have to admit, khaki is not my favorite color. I think I'll have to find some darker brown cords, instead. I don't want to end up with clothing that I can only wear while working at Walmart. I like multifunctional clothes. At least the dark blue shirts can be reworn elsewhere. They shouldn't be too hard to find, either. I just need to make sure that they are plain and have absolutely no logos.

The Walmart Interview

I interviewed yesterday for a position at Walmart. I needed a summer job with fairly consistent hours, and I didn't want join a smaller company only to hurt their productivity when I left a few months later.

So I went in for an interview yesterday. One hour of question after question about my teamwork and job experience. I was asked to give examples proving that it is important to be polite even to rude customers, and obey policies even when I don't agree with them. This was on top of an insanely detailed online application (seven pages), two references, and a sixty-five question online "values" quiz. Sample questions: "Have you ever stolen work supplies? Do you get alone well with your boss?" Most of it was multiple choice.

I was then offered a job for $8.30 an hour, pending a background check and a drug test. I had twenty-four hours to head over to the hospital and give a urine sample.

When I went into their little bathroom, they turned off all of the water. Though they checked my ID, I'm surprised they never checked my purse. For all they knew, I could be packing a "clean" urine sample. I guess I just look trustworthy.

Do you have any crazy work-related stories? Please tell me I'm not the only one to be urine-tested.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Pantry Foray

Today I did a massive overhaul of our pantry and fridge. It's amazing the crazy things you can find hidden away! Some especially strange finds were a can of crab soup (not mine) and vanilla pears. Who came up with the concept of vanilla flavored pears? So, this was my list of (happily!) completed tasks:

1) Cleaned out the produce drawer in the fridge. I cut up and froze three huge bags of celery from the graduation party.

2) Cut up the remnants of two heads of garlic that were about to turn.

3) Made an extra large batch of black beans and froze half.

Tomorrow, I'll go through the cupboards. I know that I have vegetable boullion around here somewhere....

The Dangers of Summertime Boredom

I am trying to turn myself orange. (How else can I explain the three pound bag of baby carrots I just ate?) Ah, the summer doldrums are upon us.

I think I'm trying to procrastinate on sending all of my Teaching English in Asia applications in. I am way too nervous about this process than I should be.

At least I'm getting some good reading done. I have finished most of my Juvenile Literature Reading Challenge, except for some books (such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid) that are ridiculously hard to find. It's a good sign, really. It means that kids are reading!

What are you doing to keep summer boredom at bay?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Goodbye Midterms!

Today I finished the last midterm of my undergraduate career! Just three lovely hours of writing essays on Benjamin Franklin, American mythology, and Emerson. I was so tired by the end of it, that I had to pull over on the way home and take a nap. I love church parking lots!

I finished up the last of my split pea soup, seasoned with a little green chile for a hint of spiciness. I have the strangest taste buds---I added soy sauce (somehow so good to taste, but so gross visually when mixed together).

My mile hike in the woods turned into a veritable powerwalk when the mosquitoes started swarming. There were literally fifty all around me! Luckily, they didn't seem too hungry.

I just got wind of a new blog. Check out Here Be Hippogriffs. It will make you smile!

Sleepless in the States

Guatemala gave me so many wonderful things---a beautiful Mayan host sister to play with, increased fluency in Spanish, and self-confidence. I hate to always seem as though I'm meditating on the bad side.

That said, I think I've finally figured out my reluctance to sleep at night. It was always at night that the club next door would get crazy, and when I would hear gunshots from the park or in the street. Night was a dangerous time in Guatemala. Not having any males to escort me home late at night, I tended to stay inside after dark.

Night was also when I would feel tremors. It never failed: about six a.m. every month or so I would be suddenly awoken by the shaking of my room. I soon "earthquake-proofed" it by moving all of the heavy shelves to the other side of the room, away from my bed.

So I guess my inability to sleep at night may just be a residual effect of living in Guatemala. Daylight just feels so much safer.

So I'm sleeping with my kitten tonight. Everything seems so much better with a warm, cuddly little bundle of fur curled up next to me.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Late Nights

After two nights of staying up until 4 a.m., I am beat. I love hanging out with my cousins, but I just can't hack these late nights. My cousin has insomnia, so he just keeps going and going. It's like living with the Energizer Bunny!

It's been a great few nights, though. Even though we only see each other once a year, if that, it's like no time has passed at all. We're soon talking about work and life and love, and everything in between. Best of all, we laugh. My cousins can make me laugh like no one else can. Even hard subjects become funny. It is a rare person who can make a panic attack or getting shot at funny. When you meet one of those people, hold on and never let go. They are a rare breed.

Life is more manageable after a weekend with my cousins. Even though I haven't had a good eight hours of sleep in days, I'm ready to hit the job search running again, and finish off the rest of my American Lit course.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

MP3 Players and Bike Rides

Today I took a two mile bike ride out on a seldom used road. Everything is in bloom, so it was a gorgeous ride.

I'm still searching for my iTunes gift card (for $30!). I think it's a funny thing to have, considering that I don't even own an iPod. I am researching MP3 players online, trying to find an inexpensive, durable one. Once I get one, I'm downloading audio books from the library and lots of Spanish music by Reik and Juanes.

I'm thinking I'll use my MyPoints to either get an $25 gift certificate, or an gift card. With that, I can get a pretty decent MP3 player.

Anyone own an MP3 player and have any words of wisdom for me?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Human Guinea Pig

Apparently, I am a guinea pig. Or so my therapist tells me, when prescribing a new drug, that hasn't officially been approved for ADD (it has been FDA approved for the treatment of narcolepsy, however). Somehow, these are just not the words you want to hear out of your psychiatrist's mouth.

It's only the sixth day of summer, and already I am at a loss of what to do with myself. I am applying for a job at Walmart, if only to get out of the house for awhile. I'm not used to being back at home. For almost eight whole months, I was two countries away. There was no one observing my sleeping and eating habits. It was liberating. I'm just trying to enjoy the family time while I save up for my international plane ticket to get to an English as a Foreign Language job in Asia.

I'm getting a ton of reading done. I've read about a book a day so far this month. I'm also proofreading at Project Gutenberg. How are you staying busy this summer?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Where Are Career Services When You Need Them?

Is it horrible that I have no idea what I truly want to do with my life? I have the respectable list of goals to pull out for my relatives (get a Master's degree in education, teach English in Asia, do two years of Americorps service in public schools), but so far I haven't found that one thing that makes me just love getting up in the morning. Maybe because I'm not a morning person?

It's not that I don't enjoy what I'm doing (teaching English as a Foreign Language and tutoring in public schools), it's just that it's not my passion. I want more from a job than this.

If I could, I would work with children one on one, completely on my own (no list of what has to be done, no goals to meet, just some nice, child-led learning). Getting my Master's degree sounds great and all, but I don't really gel that well with public schools. I've seen too many kids who just can't fit into the classroom mold.

Take Ashton, for example. I started taking him out of the classroom for forty-five minutes three times a week, and was just amazed at his academic level. As long as I wasn't doing anything that screamed "schoolwork" with him, he would actually ask to write short stories (and illustrate them) and do math problems with cubes. The minute I pulled a worksheet out, though, you could see the enthusiasm visibly drain out of him.

I do want to travel. If the only way I can finance it is teaching English, I'll do it. I just need some flexibility. Conversation classes with adults are great, as is working with children. As long as there isn't too much structure, I'm great.

I think what got me in trouble in Guatemala was just working for the absolute upper class, and working in an extremely structured environment. I can't stand walking by hungry, begging street children on my way to teach absurdly demanding rich students, who can afford to pay the equivalent of $100 an hour and not show up to class on time. I didn't feel like I was making a difference. I'm all for paying the bills and all, but I also need some sort of job satisfaction.

Things to Do Before I Die

Things I want to do before I die.

  1. Go paragliding
  2. Live in Asia
  3. Do foster care
  4. Adopt a child
  5. Work in Barcelona
  6. Run a marathon
  7. Travel to the Palestinian Territories.
  8. Backpack across Europe
  9. Learn to knit
  10. Travel to New York City
  11. Work at Wild Oats or Whole Foods
  12. Eat at a vegan restaurant
  13. Visit Washington, D.C.
  14. Learn to juggle
  15. Get a deep-tissue and a hot stone massage
  16. Finish my novel
  17. Travel to Alaska
  18. Go to Hawaii
  19. Visit Ireland
  20. Go hang-gliding
  21. Bike to Canada
  22. Read one classic a month for a year

I have a lot of travel related goals, don't I? I should really get a start on my list!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Now What Do I Put On My Resume?

Wow. So it turns out the language school I worked for in Guatemala was just shut down for a month pending investigation. Apparently it had never been properly registered, and as such, it wasn't operating legally. Given that most of the teachers didn't have work permits, and were paid out through a third party, this shouldn't surprise me. Yet somehow it does.

This only came out when my supervisor had to sue the school for a lack of payment. He worked as director for six months, but he was never paid for his work. Needless to say, the owner of the branch was a little concerned about what else this lawsuit might turn up.

Let's just say that a lot of lies were uncovered. Our illustrious founder didn't actually have branches is half of the places he claimed, and he didn't even originate in the country he claimed he did.

Yet somehow this place was still a better option than my previous place of employment, where I had to convince my bosses (all three of them) each and every week to pay me. On top of it, I had to deal with their constant flirtation and invasive questioning.

The crazy, twisted situations you find yourself in while working abroad.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Night the Earth Stood Still

We really need a cheerful post right about now. There have been way too many grim posts recently, and that really wasn't how I pictured my blog when I started.

So please head over to The Playpen and read The Night the Earth Stood Still. It's simply hilarious.

"Let's Talk"

I can't handle it anymore. Whenever I think I'm finally okay again, suddenly I'm ambushed with a "Alex, let's talk," and the whole abuse issue is brought up all over again. I understand that my mom feels like she needs to take action. I'm glad she is not taking the police's reluctance to prosecute this man lying down. I just need to move on. I can't keep wondering when suddenly all the effort I've put into moving on will be undone by my mom's need for justice. I just can't see it happening. I reported "Sam's" behavior years ago. The police did nothing. They didn't even put the fact that someone accused him of abuse on his record. I tried. Now I want to move on.

I'm not saying that what he did was right, or that it should go unpunished. It's just that it feels more like self-punishment to keep bringing the issue up. Maybe it's a sign that old wounds haven't healed. Who knows. I just want to get on with my life.

Summer Goals

These are my goals for this summer.

  1. Finish my American Literature course.

  2. Read three classics.

  3. Apply to Americorps.

  4. Move my sister down to Missouri.

  5. Travel independently to Washington, D.C.

  6. Secure a laptop.

  7. Apply to teach English in Asia.

  8. Get my ADD under control.

  9. Retrieve my suitcase from Guatemala (somehow!)

  10. Go canoeing and rowing once a month.

  11. Organize my room---clear out all the boxes and find my iTunes card!

  12. Learn French and Italian with Live Mocha.

  13. Continue proofreading for Project Gutenberg.

  14. Find an international bank for future jobs abroad.

  15. Get an inexpensive iPod online.
  16. Find a summer job!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Proofreading at Project Gutenberg

I have recently begun proofreading for Distributed Proofreaders, an affiliate of Project Gutenberg. By comparing the original text to the computer's adaptation, I eliminate errors. I also put the text into a standardized format to create a clean, polished look.

Project Gutenberg endeavors to make uncopyrighted works of literature available online for free. So far, they have posted 150,000 unique titles online, with works as varied as "The Tempest" and "The Iliad."

Proofreaders can proof as many or as few pages as they like. If you're only able to proof one page a day or even one page a week, you are still making a difference.

So log on to Distributed Proofreaders today, and start making a difference!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Paperback Swap

I recently joined Paperback Swap. By posting books on a virtual bookshelf for other members to request, I am granted credits that I can use to request books. The first person in your household to post ten books is given two extra credits that can be used immediately to request books. Otherwise, credits are granted when you send a requested book to another member and they receive it. One credit equals one book, with audio books costing two credits. You pay postage when you send books, but none to receive books.

The selection is diverse. I have personally requested Driven to Distraction (a very useful book on ADD), Educating Esme: Diary of a Teacher's First Year, and The Nanny Diaries. All books came to me in perfect condition.

You can establish a wish list for books that aren't presently listed on the site, and receive e-mail notification when the book becomes available. You can also share your current To Be Read list, and join in book discussions.

If you don't have books to list, you can also buy credits for $3.65 apiece. Either way, it is a great deal, especially when used in conjunction with library visits and book sales.

May I call you uncle?

I have never handled transitions graciously.

I'm hitting that strange age when I'm no longer a child, but not quite a full-fledged adult, either. Dealing with aunts and uncles, I still struggle with what to call them. Is it Uncle Rich, or just Richard? Aunt Sue, or Susie? At twenty-two, it feels more natural to just use my aunts and uncles' first names, but there is that sticky transition.

Grandparents, of course, will always be Grandpa and Grandma. Great aunts and uncles are the same---Aunt Becky and Uncle Alan. It just shows respect.

How do you address your relatives?

Frugal, Environmentally Friendly Day

Today I have:
  1. Hung my clothes out to dry on the line.
  2. Walked to the bank and the post office instead of driving.
  3. Recycled one huge load of cans and paper products.
  4. Shut down the computer we weren't using.

What frugal, environmentally friendly things have you done today?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Classics Reading Challenge

Well, I'm still on track for the Classics Reading Challenge, having read The Hound of the Baskervilles (a Sherlock Holmes mystery) this month. However, I am making virtually no progress on the Love Bites Reading Challenge. I just know that as soon as I begin reading Stephanie Meyer's books, I won't be able to stop. I should probably wait until I finish my American Literature course and my job search before I finish this challenge.

I have a nice stack of TBR books. I have Frankenstein for the Classics Challenge, and Reading Lolita in Tehran for a modern day classics book. I also want to read A Study in Scarlet before I need to return this Sherlock Holmes' volume to the library. I need to finish Life of a Slave by Frederick Douglass for both my American Literature course and the Classics Challenge.

I read nineteen books this month, which is about average for the end of May. I have a sudden wealth of free time, and what better way to use it than to read?

I tend to read to excess this time of year anyway due to stress. Whenever I start to get anxious, I read. Between my college graduation and the beginnings of a job search, things have been a little stressful. This is my refuge.

Attention Deficit Disorder

ADD can be a great thing sometimes. It made me daring enough to travel to the other side of the world alone at the age of nineteen, and later to spend eight months in Guatemala. My quickly flitting attention span has led me to read widely and often.

It can also be horrible. I have missed countless deadlines and job opportunities due to procrastination. For the longest time I beat myself up over my inability to just pull it together and focus! There was always a barrier there, though. I threw myself up against it, and fought until my fingers were bloody, but I just couldn't seem to surpass it. This disturbed me. I always thought that if I just worked hard, I could do anything.

Finally, there was a breakthrough. My therapist, who I had been seeing for years for depression, diagnosed me with ADD. I went on Vyvanse, and the changes were just phenomenal. I could focus again. I could sit down and read just one book at a time, instead of two or three. I was no longer carrying around a backpack full of different books and homework assignments in case my attention slipped from one subject to another. I actually finished three lesson assignments for my American Literature class that I had been putting off for weeks.

Though I eventually had to switch medications due to mood issues with Vyvanse, it enabled me to see that there was an alternative to way I was living my life. It made the wall of procrastination surmountable. Life still isn't easy, but it is a lot better than it was before.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Gilmore Girls and The Office

I recently received the third season of The Office for my birthday. This is definitely a crazy series. It's a little like Dilbert for the TV. There is the same unqualified, tactless boss, identically zany coworkers, and individuals just trying to stay sane in a crazy work environment. It's a fun series.

Gilmore Girls is the story of Lorelei and Rory Gilmore, a mother and her daughter who live in the very odd small town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut. Lorelei had Rory when she was 16. Her conservative, wealthy parents were shocked, and insisted that she get married to Christopher, the father. Lorelei refused, and moved out. She supported Rory and herself by working in an inn, which she eventually grew to manage. This is a very funny, witty series with a lot of pop culture references.

I usually prefer reading and working on the computer to watching television. The constant commercials annoy me. This makes entire seasons on DVDs a great option. I rent them from the local public library, or ask for copies from eBay for my birthday or Christmas. I can watch as much or as little as I want, without the annoyance of commercial interruption. I can put them on while I'm working in the living room, or watch them during study breaks. The option to pause the show when my interest shifts is great. With my ADD, the ability to shift between bursts of studying and periods of DVD watching is nice.

What do you watch?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The semi experience

I found this draft of a post a few days ago. I wrote it while I was still in Nicaragua, debating whether or not I should take a flight home from the capital.

It´s about time to come home. Two weeks ago I hitched a ride in a semi truck after being stranded on the border to Nicaragua. The semi had to stop for the night due to a very bad stretch of road. Highway robbers were known to leave bodies on the road to force drivers to stop, and they would then be robbed and killed. I slept on part of the bed with the guy in back, and woke up to him brushing the hair off of my forehead. He asked me later, very nervously, if he could kiss me, and I said no. He was so worried that I´d be mad that he had even asked. Needless to say, I took a bus at the next town with bus services. In my defense, the guy was 25 years old, with a three year old son. I had three people (plus countless border guards) who could vouch for him. One was an old lady with a seven year old son who also hitched for about an hour with us from the border (she knew his dad), and the other was a money changer who sees him regularly passing through from Honduras to Costa Rica. I felt completely comfortable with him. On the other hand, I´m not doing that again.

My feelings have been pretty accurate so far this trip, but sometimes surprising. I had a bad feeling about two police officers who started to take the report after my bag was stolen. It was confirmed when they later said that in order to file the report, I would need to go with them down to the police station, in the dark, in their car, and I couldn´t bring any of the family from the States that I had met with me. Needless to say, I didn´t file that report. I just got a bad feeling about it all.

Which makes my feeling that going back to Guatemala would be a mistake a scary one. I just don´t have a good feeling about going back. It doesn´t feel safe, somehow. Do you think I´m being paranoid?

Ultimately, I decided I had to come back. I couldn't risk going back to Guatemala. Things were getting a little too scary for me. All the harassment, close calls, and violence that I tried to push out of my mind were suddenly at the forefront. I had to get out while I still could.

I knew I had been lucky. I was shot at, but they missed. I broke a few minor bones, but they healed (sans X-rays or any "high tech" equipment). I got horribly sick from food poisoning on an island in Nicaragua, but they happened to have the necessary medicine to get me better. I was sexually harassed by cab drivers, passengers on the bus, and people walking down the road, but I was still whole and healthy. I just couldn't risk it anymore.

I bused to the capital two days later, getting one of the last taxis to the airport before the roads were shut down with protestors. National elections had been held the week before, and both sides claimed they had won. Protestors took to the streets. There were police out in riot gear everywhere.

I got out. I just wish I had been able to say a proper goodbye to my host family, who was so great to me. I wish I could have been there for my uncle's wedding, and Sophie's first steps. I miss them every day.

I know I made the right choice.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Things to Do

1) Pile firewood (all the stacks mysteriously tipped over---again)
2) Bake some good vegan food (especially desserts) to have during my sister's graduation party
3) Clean out my room (I still have two huge boxes of papers to sort through from school)
4) Finish up my American Literature online course---I have two exams and three lessons yet to go.
5) Send out two transcript requests so I can graduate on time
6) Complete my Americorps application essays
7) Transfer all my old e-mail to my new address

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Reading Challenges Update

I am currently working on the Love Bites Reading Challenge. So far, I have read Twilight and New Moon. I still need to read Eclipse and Breaking Dawn.

I finished Nothing but the Truth by Avi for the Juvenile Literature Reading Challenge. I have read the Artemis Fowl series, and most of the Princess Diary books, but I still need to read the rest of The Cricket in Times Square. I also need to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and at least one Captain Underpants book. I work with middle school and elementary school age children, so it helps to read the books they read. It's hard to give a good recommendation for a book to read when I don't know the genre. I can give better recommendations once I know the style of books the kids like.

I'm trying to read 150 books this year. I'm sure that there is an official 150 book reading challenge on the Internet somewhere, but I haven't found it yet. I'm about halfway there.

As far as the Classics Challenge---my choices so far haven't been so traditional (Like Water for Chocolate, anybody?), but they've worked. This month I'm reading Frederick Douglass' "Life of a Slave."

What are you reading?

25 Things You Didn't Know About Me

1) I have a miniature cat who sincerely believes that she is a dog. She sleeps with the dog, eats with the dog, and I will be truly surprised if she doesn't try to bark one day.
2) I once hitch-hiked in a semi in Nicaragua when I got stranded on the border alone late at night (Story to follow).
3) I like mashed potatoes with pickles and steak sauce.
4) I used to sell my plasma during college.
5) I can't whistle or do a cartwheel.
6) I once had a military escort through the streets of Panama City (a military officer took a liking to my friend, and he arranged for a soldier to escort us back to our hostel).
7) I love Juanes and Reik.
8) I desperately want to travel to Asia.
9) I only know ten words in Chinese.
10) I have an English Literature degree.
11) I eat powdered brownie mix plain, because it doesn't cook up right without eggs.
12) I can never shave my legs without getting at least three cuts. In the interest of self-preservation, I only shave my legs for special events and wear pants the rest of the time.
13) My playground of my school when I was in third grade in New Mexico was behind a jail.
14) I can play the handbells.
15) I love "Gilmore Girls" and "The Office."
16) I feel most at home while driving down the road.
17) I spent a month busing down from Guatemala to Panama.
18) I have slept under a mosquito net after finding a tarantula in my backpack at a hostel in Nicaragua.
19) I have lived in two countries, four states, and countless houses. It feels strange not to move every three or four years.
20) I was finally able to leave a crazily conservative Lutheran church that believed that raffles and yoga were sinful. The pastor asked me regularly if I converted any of the Catholics at the school I attended, and his wife wondered if I was becoming a radical feminist (I had a Gender Studies minor).
21) I lived with a Mayan priest and his family in Guatemala.
22) I find Gender and Women's Studies to be a fascinating subject.
23) I use the Diva Cup.
24) I'm trying to find a way to come out to my grandparents. My grandpa is a conservative Lutheran pastor.
25) I am addicted to books, and usually have 25 books checked out from the library.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


I feel heartbroken. What can you do when a little girl in obvious need of some love and attention asks you to take her home with you, but you can't? Her mother often has wild parties, and is too hungover to get her child up for school in the morning. The little girl hasn't had a bath in who knows how many days, and her clothes aren't washed. She's just eight years old.

My heart breaks for her, and there is nothing I would like more than to get her somewhere safe where she would have the chance to be a child. I can't give that to her. The most I can do is bring the issue up with her teacher, or file a mandated report. It doesn't stop me from worrying about her, and it hasn't made her any safer.

I worry about what happens when her mother can't watch her during her parties. When you gather a crowd of inebriated adults together, things that normally wouldn't occur can happen. The potential for abuse scares me. She's just a little kid, and I've heard more than enough stories at the school of children her age and younger being abused.

She is the sweetest little girl, only eight years old. There has to be something more I can do, but what?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Central American Medicine: The Case of the Broken Toe

Central American medicine is interesting, to say the least. I have had a broken finger mended at the Red Cross in Xela for $0.75, and gotten prescription painkillers for a mere $3 more. Eyedrops for pinkeye were a mere $4.

Why I decided to go to a private doctor, I'll never know. Maybe it was the confusing directions to the Red Cross in Granada, Nicaragua. Perhaps the signs that optimistically pointed to nowhere that turned my attention elsewhere.

The fact that the receptionist had to translate my Spanish into his and back again should have been a sign. The clear absence of an X-ray machine should have been another. However, I was firm that my hour's wait would yield results.

He asked to see the fractured toe, and then proceeded to yank it left and right, incessantly asking "Does this hurt? And what about this?" He pushed it every conceivable direction. After this painful interrogation, he looked at my crooked, formerly unswollen toe and pronounced it unbroken. Despite the fact that my toe was pointing in the wrong direction, the very fact that I was not screaming in pain was evidence that a break couldn't possibly have occurred.

For this painful, fruitless exam, I was charged $15. A small sum in the United States, but a veritable fortune in Nicaragua. You could buy a hammock for that price, or stay in a nice hostel for two nights (or a not so nice one for four).

At least I got some good blog fodder out of it.