Funny Money

It was one of those days.  Rainy day recess created the perfect storm of too much energy and not enough paying attention.  Lunch was a welcome break.  After some grown up conversation and deep breathing, I trudged back to my room, fingers crossed that the yard duty would give me a good report.  She approached.  I cringed.

“Your class is sweet.” she said.

“Yes, they are.”  I said, reminding myself.

“They adore you.”

“It’s mutual.”  I chirped.

Even on bumpy days I could still say that with one hundred percent sincerity.  I do have the best job in the world and my time with these little ones is coming to an end quickly.   All rainy day toys were put away and my students were in their seats ready for the read aloud.  As I walked to the front of the class, several students piped up

“We made something for you.”

“What did you make?”

“We made you money.”

“Oh, wow.  That’s a lot of money.  I’ll go put it in my purse.  I’m going to Costco today.  Do you think I can pay with this?”

“No, Mrs. McCauley, it’s funny money.”

“Why did you make me all this money?”

“It’s teacher week and you don’t get paid enough.”

Classroom books from the book fair: $73.

The pair of shoes I ruined yesterday on our field trip to the creek: $29.

Getting a raise from my students: priceless.

Shy Girl Magma

Growing up I was painfully shy.  I walked to class with my head down, fearful of making eye contact with anyone.

On my way to Mrs. Johannsen’s second grade, I ran smack into a pole because I refused to look up.

In third grade I cried and cried when my mom informed me that if I wanted people to come to my birthday party, I’d have to call them myself.  Actually talk to people and ask them to come over?  NO WAY.

I was even placed in a club for social spazzes.  It was called The Garfield Club, named after the famous lasagna lovin’ comic cat.  I know, so nerdy.

I survived junior high and my shyness lessened in high school.  My immediate circle of friends was a conglomeration of AP geeks and music nerds, but I was also able to come and go as I pleased amongst other groups.  This shy girl had somehow become friend to all and nobody was more surprised than me.

As an adult, my shyness lies dormant ninety-eight percent of the time, leaving two percent of the time for it to explode in spurts.  Last Saturday I zipped down to Chico for the Northern California Writing Project Summer Institute Orientation.  (Wow, that’s a mouthful.)  I absolutely loved the Summer Institute last year.  It changed who I am as a teacher in powerful and exciting ways.  I was thrilled to be accepted again this year.

And yet my stomach was boiling with nerves.  I would be in a roomful of people.  People I didn’t know.  People I’d have to talk to.  As I closed in on Chico, my nerves threatened to erupt and spew bits of shy girl magma all over my car.  Walking upstairs to the classroom, my upper lip dotted itself with sweat beads. Entering the room, I said hello to one of the directors and made a beeline for a desk without neighbors on either side.  I sat there for a moment, looking around at the other participants.  All of them had their noses buried in the folder of handouts.  The singular noise was the shuffling of papers.  This is ridiculous, I thought.

So, I made a bold move.  I gathered up my stuff and plopped down in a desk between two women.  Then I made an even bolder move.  I introduced myself and asked where they were from.  Somehow my lava flow of shyness had cooled and crystallized into a coherent mass of functioning social skills.  The sweat beads dried up as we chatted.  I found out that the woman two seats to my left is one of my mom’s colleagues.  And in a surprising turn of events, the woman two seats to my right is training for the Tahoe century ride.  By the end of the day, I’d managed to find myself a carpool buddy and a cycling companion.

In addition to being welcomed back to the Summer Institute, I was also selected to attend a writing retreat at a spa/resort in Arizona.  In July I’ll spend four days writing, learning about writing, thinking about writing, and reading about writing.  It sounds heavenly.

Except for the fact that I will be surrounded by people I don’t know.  People I’ll have to make eye contact with.  People I’ll have to actually talk to.  I can feel the deep rumblings of my shyness already.  The only thing that will save me is also the cause of the rumblings.  Upon arrival I will have to make eye contact, maybe even shake a hand or two and utter the most terrifying word in the English language.  That’s right, I’ll have to say hello.  Either that or I can die in an extravasation of sweat and molten timidity.

Right now it’s a toss up.

Summer Top Ten

It’s late at night and Letterman is on, so, here we go Top Ten style.

The Top Ten Reasons I’m Giddy For Summer

10.  I’m hoping to re-vamp my backyard a little bit so it feels more like an oasis and less like a slab of cement surrounded by dead plants.

9.  I’m heading to the NCWP Summer Institute again.  That means new ideas, new people, and time to reflect on my practice as a teacher.  Not to mention regular doses of Jon & Bon’s frozen yogurt.  Mmmmmm…

8.  After two weeks at the Institute, Terry and I head to Alaska with four of our friends.  We will mountain bike to justify eating unholy quantities of delicious food.  Then we’ll take a zipline ride and throw it all up.

7.  Fourth of July will announce that it’s birthday week for Terry and I.  I heart fireworks.

6.  On my birthday I head to Southern California to hang out with a few hundred of my favorite high schoolers, not to mention some of my dearest friends at Western States.

5.  I fly from Southern California to San Jose where I will meet up with Terry and The Rocket to ride 100 miles and show cancer exactly what I think of it.

4.  A few days later I fly to Arizona to participate in The Writing Project’s National Retreat where I will soak up as much knowledge as I can in hopes that this bear of little brain can retain some of it.

3.  Five of my nieces and nephews will be spending a month in Redding.  I can’t wait to squeeze, kiss and snuggle them all, especially the boys who pretend to hate all that mushy love stuff.  Deep down they love it.  Deep, deep down.

2.  In August I’ll sit down for a second in my new and improved oasis, surrounded by dead plants, and laugh at the fact that I’ve once again failed to cure my brown thumb.

1.  Terry and I will celebrate another year together.  The best compliment I’ve ever received came in the form of two little words: I do.  The fact that he still does makes my heart full.

It’s not a mustache. It just looks like one.

My female plumbing has gone haywire.  And that is all I’m going to say about that because I don’t like talking about stuff that goes on down there.  Apparently my little daily pill, which prevents me from creating devil spawn to unleash upon the world, can also cause weird skin pigmentation.  Especially when exposed to the sun a lot.  Like say for several hours at a time while riding a bike.

I’ve had a couple of darker little spots on my cheeks, but really who cares about those.  I wear SPF daily and have a drawer full of face products to help my skin retain its youth.  I simultaneously recognize, and give a bit of thanks, that I’m no longer a fresh-faced twenty year old.  Scars and the occasional sun spot are proof of my adventures, proof of a life lived well.  I don’t mind them.

More accurately, I didn’t mind them until they started appearing on my upper lip.  First one small one.  A sweet, innocent beauty mark.  Then it invited all of its relatives to move in.  Siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, in-laws.  One by one these dark spots traversed my upper lip and set up camp indefinitely.

Off and on, in an attempt to be helpful, people say to me “You have something on your lip.”  While I appreciate this concern for my appearance, it’s hard to explain that it’s not something I can wash, wipe or shave off.  The other funny thing people have started doing is subconsciously wiping their top lip when they start a conversation with me.  Kinda like when you notice someone with a zipper down and automatically check your own.

On one particular day in the recent past, three separate people told me I had something on my lip.  One of them even tried to brush it off for me which was weird because unless you’re my husband, my dentist, or my orthodontist, you don’t get to touch my mouth.  Ever.

So when I talked with my doctor about my haywire female stuff, I also brought up my spot mustache.  He was leery of changing pills because my spectacular plumbing is impervious to month to month pills.  Instead I get to apply bleaching cream twice daily to encourage my spotstache to vacate.  I’m not entirely thrilled about the prospect of bleaching my face.  I mean, we’ve all seen how that worked out for Michael Jackson.  Yeesh!

Upon reading the box of the bleaching cream I discovered that this cream can cause redness, peeling, flaking, and burning.  Yes, burning.  As a general rule I try to avoid things that burn my face.  I’m not sure which is worse; people thinking I’m growing a ‘stache or bleaching my upper lip into oblivion.  It’s day 2 of Operation Spotstache Removal and so far no peeling, flaking, burning or other uncomfortable side effects.  I’m assuming they’re all lying in wait to appear this Saturday at my big family reunion.

My mom is concerned that all 9,687 of us wear white or another light color for the family photos.  We can be all matchy-matchy.  After all these pictures will hang in our homes for eternity.  Fine. I’m wearing a white sundress with green flowers on it.  That is the least of my problems.  I’ve got one day to figure out how to make my face look less like Tom Sellack.  It doesn’t look good.

In order to survive family photos, I figure I’ve got three options.  I could feign a cough and cover my mouth with my hand just before each click of the camera.  I could apply unholy amounts of make up so that I have the nice, waxy sheen of a trollop.  Or finally I could sneak around at night and Sharpie mustaches on the faces of my relatives while they’re asleep.  I like the third option best, but somehow I don’t think this is what my mom meant when she said she wanted all of us to match.

If you have any other ideas, please drop me a comment.  In the meantime I’ll be warding this thing off before it looks like a full-blown beard.

If The Trailer’s A Rockin’, Don’t Go A Knockin’

I do not embarrass easily.  Spinach in my teeth doesn’t phase me.  Tripping and falling in front of a large group of people?  That’s just a regular Tuesday.  I am the girl who once accidentally called the HR director a nasty name before begging for a job.  I am the girl who walked around a cruise ship with a huge hole in the seat of my pants. I find myself in embarrassing situations all the time and have thus built up a sort of superhuman tolerance to mortification.  Having said that, the situation I found myself in last Sunday embarrassed me to a such a degree that I hesitated writing about it because it still makes my face turn a sweaty crimson.

Last Sunday was Daylight Savings Time.  (Incidentally, did you know that even though Arizona does not recognize DST, the Navajo nation living in Arizona switch their clocks with the rest of us?  Odd and confusing.)

Anyway, on the morning of Spring Forward, I thought to myself What better way to celebrate an hour less of insomnia than heading out on The Rocket for a beautiful bike ride? Three of my friends met at my house and we set out.

What I mean by ‘we set out’ is the three of them were way faster than I was and I watched their backsides pedal away from me as I grew increasingly bitter.  I was especially irritated since one of them hasn’t ridden his bike in months.

During the occasional seconds he was actually riding next to me, I told him I was going to push him over.  I think he thought I was kidding.  Or maybe he knew I was serious because he never came within arms length.

It really was a beautiful day.  Crisp, dry and not a hint of wind.  Just about as perfect as a day can get.  We rode out towards Shasta Dam and took the turn that makes the climb to the Dam harder, longer, and much more scenic.  Of course my three friends were much faster at climbing than I was.  I was slogging uphill at around five miles an hour.  I have ridden this hill several times this year.  I know this hill well.  Even when my heart threatens to pound straight out my throat and when my quads are on fire, I know I can beat it.  In fact, I’ve ridden this hill enough times to say that I actually like it.  I like the challenge.  I like pushing myself when my body wants to quit.  And I like how beautiful the views of Redding are from up there.

I had my lone earbud in and Bruce Springsteen’s Secret Garden was the perfect soundtrack for the morning.  Go ahead and make fun, I love that song.  Aside from two cars that passed me on the beginning of the hill and a descending hiker, I had the whole climb to myself.  As I turned a corner, I looked down on Redding, still half asleep and hushed.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to enjoy nature at her fullest.  So, I abandoned Bruce for the sounds of nature around me.  Birds chattered somewhere in the bushes.  There wasn’t even a whisper of wind.  It was serene.

As I continued around another corner I saw a truck with a camper in tow pulled over on the other side of the road.  From the camp chair outside the trailer it looked like they’d set up camp right there on the side of the road.  Who could blame them?  The view really is that pretty.  I pedaled closer.

Wait, is that trailer rocking?  No, it can’t be.  There isn’t even any wind.  Weird.  It must be on unstable ground or something.

Oh, I am so naive.  I pedaled further up the hill and unfortunately closer to the trailer.

Oh, man it’s definitely rocking.  Oh no, it’s rocking harder.

At this point I’d figured out what was most likely going on in the trailer, but I couldn’t turn around and go back downhill because my three fast friends were waiting for me at the Dam.  Curses for being so slow.

I tucked my head down and tried to pedal faster, but I was already going as fast as I could.  It’s a three mile hill, for goodness sake.  I couldn’t sprint up this thing.  With the trailer just ahead of me, I began to hear what was going on inside it.  This may come as a surprise, but camper walls aren’t very thick.  I am so not into other people’s intimate moments.  Movie sex scenes make me squeamish, no matter how “tasteful and artistic” they are.  I just don’t want to see or hear that.

When Terry and I were newlyweds, we moved into an apartment across a courtyard from The Screamer.  She often combined alcohol and marital bliss.  The Screamer would scream so loudly that the entirety of the complex would come out in droves to yell back at her.  Some people would even bang on pots and pans to drown out her enthusiasm.  Terry and I would close the windows and tuck our heads under our pillows.  Needless to say, we didn’t live there long.

So, there I was chugging uphill.  No window to close.  No pillow to muffle out the sounds.  I shoved my single earbud back in, but even Christina Aguilera’s pipes couldn’t compete with the Rock of Love Trailer.  I pushed harder and The Rocket responded by increasing to a whopping 5.7 miles an hour.  I began to sing along with Christina.  The noises grew louder.  My stomach began to churn.  My already sweaty face filled with a deeper flush.  I sang louder, pedaled harder, and fought back the heat threatening to erupt from my stomach.

Just as I became parallel to the trailer, the occupants inside reached their crescendo.  I was way too close.  I needed a brain scrubber stat.

Think about puppies.  Think about your grocery list.  Think about your favorite movie.  Think about any movie.  Think of something.  Think of anything else other than the fact that you are trapped in someone else’s private time.  Then it came to me:  The Forrest Gump prayer. Dear God, make me a bird so I can fly far, far away.  Dear God, make me a bird so I can fly far, far away.

Over and over it was my mantra until I passed the trailer.  The noises ceased and I didn’t look back.

Earlier in the morning I’d pondered What better way to celebrate an hour less of insomnia than heading out on The Rocket for a beautiful bike ride? Well, I guess I got my answer.

That Laura is That Cool

Ok, I’ve mentioned my friend, That Laura, before.  Well, That Laura leaves for a bike tour of Vietnam in six days.  She and her father are going together.  On a tour of Vietnam on bicycles.  I know I already said that, but it’s so cool it bears repeating.  A bike tour of Vietnam.  Ok, I’m done saying it.  I’ve really need to get a grip on my jealousy.

Because I will miss her while she’s gone and also because if you think someone is awesome, you should tell them about their awesomeness publicly, I’m blogging about That Laura today.  Here are the top ten reasons Vietnam is lucky to host Laura for a few days:

10. Laura rode the STP without a team last year.  That’s 200 miles in 2 days on her own, folks.

9. She recently adopted a cat.  The cat came with a name: Little Baby Jesus.  You just can’t make stuff like that up.

8. She kayaks on the lake and isn’t even afraid of sturgeon.

7. She takes me kayaking and doesn’t make fun of me for being afraid of sturgeon.  Have you seen those things?  Those are some freaky looking dinosaur fish monsters!

6. She has an awesome movie theater bag.  It can hold a full Big Gulp and has ample candy space.

5. She seems to attract animals in need and always finds homes for them.

4. Laura is authentically nice.  This quality typically drives me nuts, but Laura’s genuine nature is like a superpower.

3. Laura is one of those people who is up for anything.  Kayaking?  Yes.  Cycling?  You bet.  Movies?  Sure.  Games.  Yup.  Throwing bouncy balls from your bike?  Absolutely.  Whatever you’ve got on tap, Laura is game and happy to play.

2. She watches Scrubs and Flight of the Conchords.   I think sometimes TV compatibility is underrated in friendship.

1. Laura signed up for the LiveStrong ride so I won’t have to ride alone.  Mathematically you would think that a team of two would be only be twice as great as a team of one.  As it turns out, it’s an exponential math problem.  A team of two is like a hundred times better than a team of one.

So, Vietnam, take good care of That Laura while she’s visiting.  On a bike tour.  With her dad.  Darn, there goes jealousy rearing her ugly head again.  Maybe I will have tamed my envy while she’s on a bike tour.  With her dad.  In Vietnam.  Oh, I give up.

Stuff White People Like #61

A friend recently routed me to  Go ahead and fire off those angry e-mails about stereotyping.  Some stereotypes are true.  And some stereotypes are funny because they are true.  Naturally when I discovered that #61 on the stuff white people like list was about cycling, I was intrigued.  The stereotypes mentioned in #61 are hilarious because they are true about me.  So here’s #61 in all it’s hilarity with a few observations of my own thrown in.

A good place to find white people on a Saturday is at a Bike Shop. Bike shops are almost entirely staffed and patronized by white people!  There also seems to be a tattoo minimum requirement in order to work at my favorite bike shop.

But not all white people love bicycles in the same way, there is much diversity. First up, we have the younger urban white folks who absolutely love their fixed gear bicycles. These are seen all over college towns, Silverlake in LA, Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Queen West in Toronto, and Victoria, British Columbia. Fixed gear bicycles meet a lot of requirements for white person acceptance. They can be made from older (i.e. vintage) bicycles, thus allowing the rider to have a unique bike that is unlikely to be ridden by anyone else in town. They are also easily customizable with expensive things Aerospoke rims, Phil Wood Hubs, and Nitto Parts. The combination of rare bicycles and expensive parts makes it easy for white people to judge other white people on the quality and originality of their bicycles. This is important in determining if someone is or isn’t cooler than you. I don’t need to ride a fixie to establish this.  Everyone is cooler than I am.  Except unicyclists.

White people also like Mountain Bikes because it lets them be in nature. It’s really not more complicated than that. I also find that Frank hands out regular lessons in humility.  Man, imagine how big my head would be without Frank chucking me to the ground every now and then.

And finally, they love expensive Road Bikes and the accompanying spandex uniforms. This enables them to ride long distances and wear really tight clothes without any social stigmas.  I love me some Spandex.  Especially if I can top it with a jersey so bright that even the shortest of glances in my direction causes retinal bleeding.

These types of riders will spend upwards of $5,000 on a bicycle and up to $400 on accessories, but will not ride to work. Perhaps because they cannot wear the spandex. You’d be surprised how comfortable Spandex are under work clothes.  It’s actually the helmet hair and the necessary change of shoes that keep me from riding to work.

It is important that you never question why someone needs a $5000 bicycle since the answer is always “performance.”  The Rocket cost far, far less than five grand.  She may not be fancy, but I’d give her performance an A+.

For the most part, these rules have been unisex. But there is a special category of bicycles that appeal far more to white women, the European city bike (pictured). White women have a lot of fantasies about idealized lives, and one of them is living in Europe and riding around an old city on one of these bikes. They dream about waking up and riding to a little cafe, then visiting bakeries and cheese shops and finally riding home to prepare a fancy meal for their friends who will all eat under a canopy with white Christmas lights. This information can be used to help gain the trust/admiration of a white woman, especially if you can pull off a lie about how your mother told you about how she used to do all of these things when she was younger. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished I had a basket on the front of my bike with a giant loaf of bakery fresh bread in it.  Around mile 65 I will eat anything that’s not nailed down.  A loaf of hot bread would definitely do the trick and might even tide me over for another 1.7 miles.  Then I’d be back to scavenging through my seatpack for year old Clif bars.

And of course, it goes without saying that white people who ride bikes like to talk about how they are saving the earth. If you know a person who rides to work, you should take them aside and say “Hey, thanks. Sincerely, The Earth.” Then give a thumbs up. That white person will ride home on a cloud. Ok, this is especially funny to me.  Sure, I recycle.   I prefer a blanket to turning on the heater.  I wash my clothes in cold water, but I don’t consider myself to be an environmental activist.  People assume I am an environmentalist ALL THE TIME.  I drive a hybrid.  I enjoy walking to work.  I like riding my bike.  It just so happens that the things I like are environmentally friendly.  So, sure give me a thumbs up.  As for riding a cloud home, it sounds awesome, but I prefer to walk, thanks.