Friday, October 29, 2010

It's Friday...

Put on your party hat!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Reminder of My Younger Self

I can’t believe it used to be my job.

Tonight, I was rifling through several boxes and Rubbermaid crates, searching for an old book, when I came across a thick blue binder. My teaching portfolio! I hadn’t seen that thing in years.

I was a teacher back in the mid-90’s, for almost two years. As I paged through the portfolio, I was stunned at all that I had done as a teacher. I came up with creative lesson plans, organized writing and reading workshops, made colorful bulletin boards, set up science experiments, sent letters home to parents, evaluated student progress, ran parent-teacher conferences, and managed disciplinary problems of many students. All that!—and I was only 22 years old! How on earth did I do that?

In my current job, I have many responsibilities—but my main responsibility is to manage a customer service help desk. That doesn’t seem nearly as daunting as managing a classroom of 20 kids, with all of their unique personalities and learning and disciplinary challenges, and ensuring that their parents are always kept informed of what’s been going on in the classroom.

I know I attended college so that I could learn how to do just that, but still—I am just surprised and impressed that I was able to handle it all at such a young age.

And a couple of other things struck me as I turned over page after page of the dusty old binder:

First, that I did all of this work without touching a single computer, ever. Back then, people were just starting to hear about the internet, and I had only really used it for e-mail. As I paged through my teaching portfolio, I was struck by how many letters and lesson plans that I had handwritten. Full-length letters to parents, talking about what new things their kids were learning, and asking for supplies for science experiments and the like…lesson plans and fact sheets, describing to my students how they would be graded on their “dress like the character” book reports or news radio “broadcasts”…all handwritten—mostly in cursive, although I started to use printing as my main mode of handwriting later on. And certainly there were some typed lesson plans—but that’s TYPED, on a standard typewriter—not on a computer.

For many of the lesson plans that I organized, I had to get the ideas from teacher’s magazines or curriculum aids that I ordered—often with my own money. I remember really loving one magazine where teachers wrote in to share their lesson plan ideas—I think it was called “Mailbox” or something like that. Nowadays, there are probably hundreds (or more) websites with lesson plan ideas for teachers. Man, what I could have done with the internet in those days! I’m sure it would have made some aspects of teaching much easier.

Secondly, I was struck by how young and naïve I was. This became really clear to me when I was reading one of the letters that I had written to parents, requesting materials for a science experiment. At the beginning of the letter, I stated that I really needed a few materials by the next day: 5 empty, clean 8-10 ounce glass bottles; 40 pea seeds; and 30 sunflower seeds.

Now I ask you: Are these materials normal items that people have in their homes? I certainly don’t! Maybe glass bottles were more widely used back then, but pea seeds? Really? Who keeps those in their home? And did I really expect the parents to go out that very night and purchase pea seeds and sunflower seeds so that I’d have them for our science experiment the next day?

That’s what made me think of myself as being young and naïve.

But at the same time, my very young and naïve self managed a classroom of 20 twelve-year-old kids for almost two years. I have to say, I’m pretty impressed by my younger self.

And this was a great realization for me…because so often, when I think back to my teaching experience, I think about all the things that I did wrong—all the discipline problems that I couldn’t fix, the one confrontation with an overbearing, over-involved parent where I should have stood up for myself instead of caving in to her “orders,” the one time I got so angry at my 6th grade class that I think I even swore in front of them (it was either “damn” or “shit”—I can’t remember now)…those problems always seem to jump right into my mind when I think about my teaching days.

But now I see in front of me evidence of my successes as a teacher—the many notes that I kept where students wrote “You’re the best!” and “I really love you as a teacher,” and the one parent evaluation where the parent wrote “Miss Fochs was the best teacher my son has had. She has consistently offered additional help when needed. Because of her help and patience, his grades have greatly improved this last quarter.”

And even more rewarding than that, the many examples of students’ creativity that I saved…the funny haiku that a student wrote about April Fool’s Day, the “Jurassic News” newspaper a student created, wherein she wrote an article about a huge volcano erupting and terrifying the dinosaurs and woolly mammoths, and pictures from the book party that a group of students organized—which included decorations, costumes, food, and a “Pin the Leg on the Octopus” game. So very creative!

So even though it was a very tough job, very challenging and stressful, I am glad that I got the chance to be a teacher in my lifetime. I certainly learned a lot—and many of the skills I learned as a classroom teacher—such as organizational and interpersonal skills—have helped me in the jobs I’ve had since then—even in my current job. Sometimes in my current job, I am called upon to train someone on a particular computer program or process—and I always embrace that opportunity wholeheartedly. I am very comfortable with my teaching skills.

All that being said, I am also very grateful that I’m no longer a teacher. It’s one of the toughest jobs there is, and I very much admire teachers who can maintain their sense of enthusiasm and creativity, for year after year after year.

And I’m also grateful that we now have the internet. It has brought my family and friends closer together, and has put so much information and creativity right at our fingertips.

And best of all, it has brought you all, my bloggy friends, to me. And I’m very grateful for each and every one of you.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Miss Varietypants

Every Tuesday night, I get a happy surprise.

On that night every week, my good friend Jonathan cooks a delectable Julia Child meal for us to enjoy together.

But last night, he cheated on Julia Child and made a Spanish dish…


Isn’t it pretty? Not only was it pretty, but it was damn good, too! I had never had paella before, and the combination of shrimp, chicken, sausage, red peppers, and rice cooked in onions, garlic, chicken broth, and spices was truly delightful.

And of course, the company was delightful, too. Jonathan and I have been friends for a long time and always have lots to talk about. We lingered for more than an hour over the paella, drinking a bit of "Two Buck Chuck" and chatting away happily.

We had barely finished eating the paella, though, when we started pondering on what we might have for next Tuesday’s dinner.

“How about we try to make some kind of shrimp dish together, so you can finally teach me how to devein those suckers?” I asked. I have been asking Jonathan for a while now if he’ll show me how to quickly peel and devein shrimp. (I have never deveined a shrimp before, but Jonathan grew up on the Texas Gulf Coast. He could probably devein a shrimp with his eyes closed.)

“Sure…we could have paella again,” he suggested.

“Nooo,” I whined, “We have to have something different! I don’t want to have paella two weeks in a row.”

Well, for some reason, this made Jonathan start cracking up.

“What?” I asked. “What did I say?”

He grinned at me, “Um…I have to tell you something.”

“What? Tell me!” I begged.

“Well, you’ve become a part of an ongoing joke with my friend Toni and me,” he replied.

“O-kay…why?” I asked, half-laughing, half-scared of what he might tell me.

He laughed again. “Because you HATE eating the same thing more than once a week or so.”

“Oh!” I laughed, relieved. “I didn’t know what you were going to say! Well, I’m not that bad,” I giggled.

But he was right. For some reason, I really do dislike eating the same thing more than once a week (or so). And I really hate having to eat the same exact thing two days in a row. I at least have to vary it up a little! This is especially true, I’ve noticed, of Chinese or Thai food—or really, any type of Asian cuisine. I love most Asian food, but to eat it for two days in a row is unthinkable to me. My taste buds just seem to scream “Viva Variety!”

I wonder if it’s just the Gemini in me—we Geminis like variety! Although—I do eat a salad every single day…but of course, I usually change up the salad dressing I use on a day-to-day basis.

Who knows why I’m like this? But apparently Jonathan thinks it’s pretty weird…and funny!

“Remember when you called me a couple of Monday nights ago, and said you were making an omelet?” Jonathan asked, “Remember, you asked me if we were going to have mushrooms in our Tuesday night meal, because you wanted to use mushrooms in your omelet—but not if we were going to have mushrooms the next night?”

“Oh, yeah!” I laughed.

“Well, right after I hung up with you,” he said, “I immediately called Toni and said, ‘You’ll never guess what Carla just asked me!’”

OK, I have to admit that it was pretty funny.

Jonathan continued, “Oh, and the other night, when I told Toni that I was cooking Boeuf Bourguignon for you, Iwanski, and Diane, Toni said, ‘So I guess that means that Carla hasn’t had any Boeuf Bourguignon for the past MONTH!’”

I laughed my ass off. Honestly, I felt a little bit honored that I had become the subject of their private (now public) joke. And I guess it is a little weird that I don’t like to repeat my meals very often.

But then I had a new thought. “You know, I think Iwanski is like that, too,” I said. “He doesn’t usually like to go out to dinner for the same type of food two days in a row.”

But then I remembered Iwanski’s penchant for hot dogs and bologna sandwiches, and I quickly retracted my statement.

“Never mind—Iwanski could probably eat hot dogs every single day,” I said, giggling. “And in fact, he’s eaten a bologna sandwich for lunch every day this week.”

And then there’s our cats. They eat two scoops of dry food and one can of meat by-products every day. And you don’t see them complaining. They love that crap.

I guess I’m just the weird one.

Friday, October 15, 2010

My Four Husbands

A while back, I promised that I would write about my four husbands.

Yes, I have four husbands. At least that’s what I have decided.

First and foremost is my main man, Iwanski (my real husband). Ever since we met back in 1992 (can you believe it?), he has been my favorite person in the whole world. He’s the one that I always want to be with, the one with whom I like to take long walks, watch sitcoms, cheer (or boo) for the Bears, and drink beer and watch Hee Haw. He’s the kindest person I know and also the funniest. He makes me laugh every single day. Here’s one of my favorite pictures of us.

Then there’s my gay husband, Jonathan—whom I call Dooder (and he calls me Poodle). Jonathan is one of the sweetest, most generous people in the world, and someone whom I’m proud to call my friend. He and I met way back in May of 2001, when he was a temp at my job, and I was his boss. Soon after he came onboard as a temp in my department, he landed a full-time job in another department, and I remember saying to him, “Yay! Now I’m not your boss any more, and we can really be friends.” And almost ten years later, we are really good friends—and neighbors. He lives in Marina City, which is about a block from my apartment—and every Tuesday night, he cooks me/us a yummy dinner at his place. (See what I mean about being generous?) Every time we get together, we laugh a lot, too. Here is one of my favorite pictures of my gay husband and me.

Then there’s my work husband, Kevin. Kevin and I have worked together for several years, and we share a common love for sitcoms (especially ones starring Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David) and for birding. (Every time Iwanski gets a good picture of a unique migratory bird, I have to share the picture with Kevin. And he actually gets as excited as I do about it.) Nearly every day, Kevin and I quote Seinfeld to each other, and I am not kidding when I tell you that his way of speaking and his sense of humor are both extremely similar to Jerry Seinfeld’s character in the sitcom. Seriously, it’s uncanny. And hilarious. I started calling him my “work husband” a few years ago when we both saw an episode of “King of Queens” when the main characters, Doug and Carrie, both decide that they have work spouses. (Doug’s “work wife” just happens to be his best friend, Deacon. It was really funny.) Anyway, Kevin is also a good “husband” in that he keeps me sane on those rare days when someone at work makes me mad enough to punch him/her.

Oh, here’s one more thing about Kevin: For some reason, he won’t let me put his picture on my blog. He’s a little quirky like that. I guess there’s something weird about all “husbands.” We wives just have to forgive them their little idiosyncrasies.

Last, but not least, is my out-of-town husband, Tom. Tom and I have known each other for almost 15 years, and he and I used to work together until he moved to Philadelphia. (So I guess he’s sort-of like my “work ex-husband.”) My favorite thing about Tom is that he LOVES to party. And I don’t mean that he just likes to party once in a while; he LOVES to party whenever he gets the chance. He is extremely sociable and has a lot of friends, but he’s also very down to earth and not the least bit snobbish. He’s also dedicated to his friends and family in Chicago, and even though he now lives and works in Philadelphia, he flies home a couple of times a month just to hang out with them. Our favorite place to meet up (typically with several other people from work) is Jimmy Figg’s, a bar that has karaoke on Friday nights. We always have so much fun when we get together there (and of course, we always end up singing karaoke.) Here’s a picture of Tom and me on a recent “outing” at Jimmy Figg’s.

I love all of my husbands (‘though of course, none as much as my real husband)…but they all share some of the same qualities: They are all kind, generous, and funny.

Most girls would consider themselves lucky to have one wonderful husband. I guess I’m really lucky then, because I have four!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Hattie the Birder

Lately, Iwanski and I have spent a lot of time in city parks and along the lakeshore, looking for unique migratory birds. I guess you can say that we're really into birding.

Apparently so is Hattie the cat. I woke up in the morning and found her lying here, next to this book. She had apparently been studying the "menu" during the night.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Holy Heat!

This morning, when I got up and walked into the living room, I saw this:

Apparently my cat likes yoga as much as I do! Well, at least she likes lying on yoga mats. Of course, she likes lying on pretty much anything.

Anyway, speaking of yoga, last night, my coworker and I decided to check out a new (free) class at a studio called “Core Power Yoga.”

Well, apparently we did not read the Core Power Yoga website clearly enough.

We were both wearing our usual yoga outfits--t-shirts and exercise pants—and as we filled out the check-in paperwork, the receptionist remarked, “You’ll be in the heated studio—studio 1.”

Um, excuse me? Heated? What does that mean?

We were about to find out.

As we walked into the classroom, we immediately started sweating. (Later, I found out on their website that the room was heated to NINETY-FIVE degrees, plus humidity.) I’m kind-of glad I didn’t know how hot it was ahead of time. I think it would have freaked me out to know that it was ninety-five degrees in there. As it was, I was a little worried that I might not be able to handle a whole hour of the heat, plus movement.

My friend and I exchanged slightly nervous, slightly amused looks.

“Oh my God, I’m sweating so much already!” I said, rolling up my pants legs and praying that I would make it through the class without a problem.

But you know what? As the class wore on, as uncomfortable as the heat was, I realized that it was really helping me stretch better. I guess it makes sense—warm muscles are easier to stretch—duh!

I’m not going to lie. It was a tough workout. But it also felt really good—especially when it was over.

Oh, yes, I was really glad when it was over. As I walked out of the studio, my clothes were sticking to me, and I needed a shower more than I think I’ve ever needed a shower before.

And guess what? I’m doing it all again tomorrow night. Yes, that’s right. I am subjecting myself to another hour of exercise in 95-degree heat and humidity.

Just call me a glutton for punishment.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Miss Healthypants Reveals

1. I think Beavis and Butthead are hilarious. Once I even ordered a collection of Beavis and Butthead DVD’s from an infomercial. The poor accented fellow on the other end of the phone line tried to sell me about fifteen other items before finally finishing the sale. That was the first time I’ve ordered something over the phone—and it will definitely be the last time.

2. I eat salad every single day, unless I’m sick or it’s a holiday (and even then sometimes).

3. I now call my husband “Iwanski” to his face. Seriously--he’ll say something that really makes me laugh, and I’ll put my arms around him and say, “I love you, Iwanski.”

4. I watch “Seinfeld” re-runs nearly every day and can make a Seinfeld reference for anything. Seriously. Try to challenge me. You can talk about whales, belly buttons, or socks—and I can think of Seinfeld scenes involving each of those. (Off the top of my head, I can think of two scenes involving socks.)

5. I have to take a warm bubble bath at least once a week. It’s a Miss Healthypants requirement.

6. I don’t like expensive jewelry or purses. I’d rather spend my money on things like a trip to the Ozarks or a humongous pile of cheese.

7. I watch both “Hee Haw” and “The Marty Stuart Show” every single week. And I really enjoy both of them. (Marty Stuart kicks ass. So do Buck Owens and Roy Clark.)

8. I love reading parenting books, even though I’m not a parent. I think it’s because they are always chock-full of happy, touching success stories.

9. I swear like a trucker when I’m not at work. I probably should work on this if some day I would like to be a parent.

10. I just got distracted by the t.v. and accidentally wrote that I love reading trucking magazines. Now I can’t stop laughing.