How art thou crazy? Let me count the ways…

Of a picnic, thou art short of sandwiches, thus.
And in thy belfry resideth many bats.
Thy engine runneth, but hath no one behind the wheel.
Thou art a man of many cases; of head, and basket, and nut.
And verily misplaced by thee hath been thy marbles.
How lost thou art in space.
How lost is thy plot.
Away with the faerie folk thou hast flown.
In a canoe, thou art, but sadly missing the essential oars.
Thy faithful rocking chair hath deposited thee thus on the floor.
A cage of many pads is the place for thee,
Since thou believeth thyself to be a tweeting bird:
The Great Orange Crested Trump Tit.

Back to School

I’ve never really left school. There have been very few years in my life in which I was not involved in some capacity with education. I finished high school in 1993, and after four years of working dead-end minimum wage jobs, I started community college in 1997. I had no plan, no idea about a major or a possible career. I just started taking classes. After the first year I had to pick a major, so I chose music. I chose it because I could play the piano and sing, and it seemed like a challenging but fun choice.

As a performing arts major I became heavily involved in the department. I acted in plays and worked in the costume shop, all while maintaining stellar grades. Music theory was difficult at first but after a while I was an expert at it. Unfortunately, what I didn’t excel in was performance. I was horrible at sight reading and could never manage to play a piece of music that was set before me with any degree of confidence and ease. In both Chamber Choir and piano I was expected to read or sing the notes off a page and I was just so bad at it. I had always previously learned through memorization and repetition.

You see, when I became a music major, I thought I was pretty good musician, but it turned out that I was actually mediocre. I wasn’t terrible. I wasn’t that good either. So I sold my piano, decided to drop music and work on getting a transfer degree to the local university.

I started university in 1999 as a junior English Literature major, but almost immediately changed my major to Humanities. English Lit was too confining. I wanted to read other subjects, like History, and Art History, and Classics, and Philosophy. There’s only so much you can do with a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities, so when I got my B.A. I decided to keep right on studying. Graduate studies are generally more specialized so I chose English Literature for my graduate major. This wasn’t as fun as Humanities. Graduate seminars are long and intense, but at least this program didn’t require a master’s thesis. It required twelve seminars and accompanying papers.

There was the option of skipping one seminar and doing a thesis instead, but I chose not to do this. Instead, I began to prepare myself for a teaching career and enrolled in the GTF training program. All of the undergraduate English classes at my university were taught by GTFs (Graduate Teaching Fellows). The training consisted of one term of theory, one term of internship, and a final term of teaching and theory combined. This was a paid position at the university, and they offered a tuition waiver as well. So while I was working on my graduate degree, I was also studying teaching, and eventually I was studying and teaching.

When I finished my graduate degree, I didn’t get a career-type job right away. I didn’t even start looking for about six months. I quit the office job I had while I was studying, and worked for a few months for an online clothing retailer. Then I decided it was time to get serious. I had a master’s degree. It was time to get a real job.

The only “real job” in which I had any experience was teaching, so I focused my search on that. About a year prior to finishing my studies, my ex-boyfriend and I had gone to Japan for a week. It occurred to me that there were lots of openings for English teachers in Japan. I applied to about a half a dozen schools and was eventually hired at one of them. On February 4, 2004, I boarded an airplane for Tokyo where I would truly start my teaching career.

It has been fifteen years since I taught my first undergrad English 101 class at my university. Since then I have moved countries twice. I have worked at secondary schools and upper-secondary schools. I’ve worked at international schools and after-school programs. I have worked as a Business English consultant for corporations.

And now, it’s time for a change. I’ve gone back to school, although, as I mentioned, I never really left. I am a young-looking 42 year-old professional enrolled in university classes 20 years after I first started college. And just like then, I have no plan. I’m just taking classes. And it’s so. Much. Fun! I’d forgotten how much I’d enjoyed being a student. I’m not stressing over getting a degree or a job. Those things will sort themselves out later. For now, I’m just enjoying every minute of it.

Concerning the Care and Maintenance of the Trump

It’s ego needs constant inflation,
Adoration and validation.
And it requires a weekly vacation,
From the pressures of running the nation.
Send it off to a rally or golf course,
Let it scream at its base till it’s hoarse.
Reassure, re-emphasize, reinforce,
Of all greatness, it’s the only source.
Give it lots of diet coke, and fast food.
Make sure it’s always in a good mood.
Don’t make it read things; that’s just rude.
Deviate from these rules, and you’re screwed.

June Gloom

It’s June,
So one would assume,
The weather would be pleasant,
And warmer still than clement May.
But then Ms. Gloom comes to stay.
Always with her clouds and rain,
And you sigh and mutter, not again.
No point in moaning or in asking why.
Just wait inside the house till warm July.

Pray on, Everyone.

Pray on, everyone.
As they prey on everyone.
Ask God to make it all okay,
While they’re ripping their own flesh away.
Because God had told them what to do.
The very same God you’re praying to,
To ask for comfort and help from Him.
Should He listen to you or to them?

Are you not entertained: Donald Trump’s Greatest Hits

That everything Donald Trump said during his election campaign was lies, empty campaign promises and spin, certainly comes as no surprise to the two-thirds of Americans and about 99% of non-Americans who woke up on the ninth of November to the horrifying news that a grossly under-qualified, emotionally unstable, ridiculously quaffed man-baby had just been elected President of the United States. Whether or not the Russians had anything to do with it is currently being investigated, but that’s not what I’m concerned about at the moment.

Most people understand that about 95% of what politicians say on the stump is complete bullshit, and he sure shoveled a lot of it during his concert tour of a campaign. Donald Trump knew nothing then about being president, and he shows absolutely no inclination for learning the nuances of the job now. His last job was in the entertainment industry, and we the people so love to be entertained. We love to be deceived under the right circumstances. Election campaign theater is always popular because we know we are being shown what we want to see and being told what we want to hear in big beautiful grandiose lies, the more outrageous, the better.

And there were some doozies. “The system is totally rigged” was on the charts for several months, although it didn’t do as well as the break out single from the album of the same name, “Make America Great Again.” And of course we all remember the old crowd favorite, “LOCK HER UP!” chanted enthusiastically at rallies. After a series of scandals and gaffes, during which the song “Grab ‘Em By the Pussy” landed him in hot water with fans, he released the number one hit single, “Drain the Swamp” and his popularity soared once again.

And then when it was all over, and still flush from victory, Trump continued to hold rallies. Being president was harder than he thought, but he was good at stirring up the crowd, so why not just keep right on campaigning? When it was rightly pointed out to him that, in fact, he had won, he clarified that these rallies were for his reelection campaign.

In 2020.

If Donald Trump had his way his entire presidency would be one long endless campaign. He’d delegate the being president stuff to other people, while he would hold rally after rally, in city after city, feeling the heat from the lights on his fake bronzed skin, his ego swelling from the roar of the crowd. That’s how he would Make America Great Again. By gracing the country with himself. And his adoring fans would eat it up. They wouldn’t care, and they do not care, that every word coming out of his bleached anus mouth is a lie. He actually told them, to their collective faces, that his greatest hits were nothing more than campaign rhetoric. That he didn’t seriously mean that he would lock up Hillary Clinton. He didn’t even like the phrase, “Drain the Swamp” until the crowd went wild the first time he said it. He used to repeat often how unfair and rigged the system was. Now he doesn’t mind because he won.

Donald Trump once said that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and he wouldn’t lose any support. He meant it, and it’s true. He told a stadium full of people at a victory rally that he didn’t mean a word of what he said. He told it to them in a totally dismissive way, like he doesn’t give a shit what they think. And his adoring fans were not only okay with that, they seemed inexplicably to love him even more because of it.

After all, he’s the Donald. He’s their guy. They know he’s a scumbag, but they don’t care. He’s their scumbag.

Go Fuck Yourself Anytime: Paul Ryan and the House GOP

Well, they finally went and did it, didn’t they? After talking shit about Obamacare and making over sixty symbolic attempts to repeal it over the past seven years, the House of Representatives just barely managed to pass a huge kidney stone* called the American Health Care Act. Americans are either celebrating or shitting in their pants, literally and/or metaphorically depending on whether they have a pre-existing condition.

Unlike the abortive attempt to put forth a version of the AHCA bill back in March, this time they managed to persuade/bribe enough GOP members of Congress to vote for the bill by promising to put their pet issues in future bills. They set up the President with his favorite craft activity (calling people and pretending to make deals with them), before sending him out for a play-date at one of his rallies. Then after they put him down for his afternoon nap, they got down to the business of finally getting rid of President Obama’s signature health care law and thus his entire legacy once and for all.

And, oh yeah, replacing it.

Donald Trump once said in a TV interview that the repeal and replace plan would be a lot better than Obamacare, a lot less expensive, and that it would cover everyone. Afterward in Congress, crickets chirped for a few seconds. There was a collective gasp and repetition of, “oh my god, what the fuck did he just say” and then finally they they started pissing themselves with laughter over how precious little Donny was for saying something so unbelievably cute. Later on, he did learn that health care stuff was really, really hard, didn’t he?

Congress had been pretend-trying to repeal Obamacare ever since it was signed into law in 2010. Of course they weren’t serious about it. If they really wanted to they would have done it, but instead they kept making attempts in order to reassure their constituents that they were working, like, so hard on it. However, now the pressure was on. They had to actually do something. They weren’t really concerned with what was in the replacement plan. If they were they would have bothered to discuss it for longer than three hours. Or to have it scored. Or to read it.

One of the nicer things about Obamacare was that it made it illegal for insurance companies to charge exorbitant rates for people with pre-existing conditions. The AHCA is not concerned about providing actual health care for actual sick people, and thus it allows the insurance industry to go right back to charging the most money or even flat out denying coverage to the people who need it the most. They have also added a few interesting new pre-existing conditions to the list. There are very few people who have not suffered at least one of the many ailments listed, but nevertheless, according to the GOP we’re all scumbags. Those of us who have had or do have one of these conditions is sick because we’ve obviously made very poor lifestyle choices, and therefore we don’t deserve any treatment for being such bad people.

Those of us undeserving of health care can be denied coverage for any of the following pre-existing conditions:

AIDS/HIV, acid reflux, acne, ADD, addiction, Alzheimer’s/dementia, anemia, aneurysm, angioplasty, anorexia, anxiety, arrhythmia, arthritis, asthma, atrial fibrillation, autism, bariatric surgery, basal cell carcinoma, bipolar disorder, blood clot, breast cancer, bulimia, bypass surgery, celiac disease, cerebral aneurysm, cerebral embolism, cerebral palsy, cerebral thrombosis, cervical cancer, colon cancer, colon polyps, congestive heart failure, COPD, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, DMD, depression, diabetes, disabilities, Down syndrome, eating disorder, enlarged prostate, epilepsy, glaucoma, gout, heart disease, heart murmur, heartburn, hemophilia, hepatitis C, herpes, high cholesterol, hypertension, hysterectomy, kidney disease, kidney stones*, kidney transplant, leukemia, lung cancer, lupus, lymphoma, mental health issues, migraines, MS, muscular dystrophy, narcolepsy, nasal polyps, obesity, OCD, organ transplant, osteoporosis, pacemaker, panic disorder, paralysis, paraplegia, Parkinson’s disease, pregnancy, restless leg syndrome, schizophrenia, seasonal affective disorder, seizures, sickle cell disease, skin cancer, sleep apnea, sleep disorders, stent, stroke, thyroid issues, tooth disease, tuberculosis, ulcers.

Notice how breast cancer, cervical cancer, hysterectomy, and pregnancy are on the list and erectile dysfunction, testicular cancer, and prostate cancer aren’t? At this point, being born female is pretty much a pre-existing condition.

Okay guys, enlarged prostate is on the list, but all you have to do is wait for it to turn into cancer and then you can get it treated. How’s that for winning?

I’ll always be a teacher…

…just not professionally anymore.

“Miss Kitten,” one of my students said to me one day, “Can’t you just work here for the rest of your life?” Those words really sting in a bittersweet way. My god, it’s heartbreaking when I think about them. My students. My kids. I see their eager little faces, rapt with attention. Hanging on my every word. Enjoying the Miss Kitten show. Their eyes lighting up with laughter.

I was that teacher, you see. The one the kids all love. The one the kids all want as a substitute teacher.

“You’re my favorite teacher.”
“You’re the best teacher I’ve ever had.”
“You’re the coolest teacher I’ve ever had.”
“You don’t talk to us like you’re our teacher; you’re more like a friend.”

When you’re a teacher, the kids are everything. They are why you do what you do. And they are amazing, inspiring, and truly remarkable young people. Particularly the latest group of kids I had the great pleasure and privilege to teach. There are no behavioral cases among them. Even the ones who try to get away with being naughty are no match for Miss Kitten. My greatest weapon is my sense of humor and it’s been sharpened and perfected over the years.

“Shut up.” I tell a student who keeps whisper-yelling during a test and hasn’t responded to anything less direct and more polite.

“Hey, you can’t say that to me!” He responds with feigned dismay, which I know is entirely for the benefit of his classmates. Every class has its clown.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Please shut up.” I say, and the entire class erupts in laughter. You can’t out clown the master.

*sigh*

But I am tired. Sick have I become. Old and weak. Well, maybe not that old. However the sick and weak part is true. Sort of.

In January of last year I experienced a breakdown that led to me having to stop work. I was diagnosed with acute stress reaction, which was caused by a number of factors, all of them work-related. It’s very common for teachers to experience this due to the nature of teaching as a very demanding high-stress job, but usually you can transform the stress into productivity. In my 15 year career I never experienced anything like that before, what I can only describe as a kind of paralysis. I simply could not do it anymore. I had to stop working and went on sick leave. The doctor prescribed me some anti-anxiety medication and told me to get as much rest and relaxation as possible. It was incredibly hard, because I was also dealing with depression and guilt for having abandoned my students. Every day I questioned whether I was really sick. I was convinced I was faking, that this was all in my head. That I just needed to pull myself together, forget about my stupid problems and get back to work. My students needed me. I realized much later that this reaction is completely normal for highly productive people (aka: workaholics).

The medication and instructions to relax were the only treatment I received. I only found out later that usually some kind of therapy is recommended in such cases. In Sweden they have a system in place whereby if an employee is injured on the job, they are referred to a company health care service. The company is responsible for rehabilitating the injured or sick employee and for fixing the problems that caused the injury or sickness in the first place. No such assistance was forthcoming from my previous employer. They had this service available, but they elected not to refer me to them, saying I should get treatment through the local health care service. I was told that this is their prerogative. In the end I was put on paid leave because they either could not or simply would not fix the conditions that led to my breakdown. I couldn’t go back to work, so they decided to pay me for the remainder of my contract.

This arrangement seemed reasonable and fair. Eventually I started feeling like myself, ready to start teaching again, but determined to be very selective in the type of school at which I wanted to work. I wanted to work at an international school, so I applied at all three of the international schools in the area. I got interviews at two of them, and was eventually hired. It was only a part-time position, which was perfect because I was in no way ready to jump back into a full-time position after my breakdown.

The school was wonderful. The students were, as a previously described, amazing young people, and my colleagues were fantastic. It was an international staff, reflecting the profile of the school. Yet, even though the work was satisfying and rewarding, after a few weeks the symptoms started creeping back. My employers were well aware of my previous breakdown. I informed them during my interview, and they were not at all surprised, knowing full well how common it is for teachers to suffer such breakdowns. They were very reassuring and supportive.

During my initial interview, they gave me a tour of the school. It was a small building but there was an atmosphere of positivity and happy looking students working on projects everywhere. However, there was something very unusual about this school and that was the location of the Home Economics classroom. This was the position I was interviewing for. There was, in fact, no Home Ec classroom at all. There were four kitchen units set up, oddly enough, in a busy hallway. I’d never seen anything like this before. The practical Home Ec lessons were taught in an area that was completely exposed. I would find out later how just how impractical it was to teach in that space.

However, at first, it was kind of exhilarating. Home Ec lessons are usually very lively, smelly, and noisy. I was used to teaching Home Ec so all the chaos didn’t really bother me. We were reminded on several occasions to try and keep the noise level down, since there were other classrooms nearby. We were also located right in front of the principal’s office, and just around the corner from the assistant principal’s office, as well as student toilets, staff toilets, and the staff lounge. This meant that colleagues were walking through the area constantly. Students weren’t supposed to go in there during practical lessons and were instructed to use different toilets when lessons were taking place. Our solution to prevent students from walking through there was to place traffic cones at the entrances to the hallway. The older students knew to keep out, but the younger ones frequently walked right past the traffic cones and right through a lesson. It was also normal for a colleague to walk through the hallway during a lesson, pushing a large cart of iPads or laptops, and forcing me and students to move out of the way. In addition, when lessons were happening, we were very entertaining. Students and colleagues alike tended to stand just outside of the hallway and watch the show.

It sounds completely crazy, and it was. However that was simply how Home Ec lessons were taught at this school. I actually enjoyed it. The exposed situation made it really exciting. At least at first. After a while, however, it made it increasingly difficult. I had no control whatsoever over that area, even though I was responsible for it. On the days when there was no Home Ec, the hallway was used by other teachers. The kitchen counters were used to place computers and books, pretty much anything. Each kitchen was equipped with a set of utensils, dishes, and cookware, and these were constantly being removed when I wasn’t there. At least once every lesson, I would have to hunt round the staff kitchen for a missing whisk or a skillet or something that was definitely there before, but which had since disappeared. No one seemed to understand or respect that that hallway was, in fact, my workspace. To them, it was just another public area.

Eventually it became unbearable. My anxiety level increased and I started having panic attacks. I couldn’t stop thinking about work. I obsessed about those kitchens, and the state they would be in the next time I had a lesson. Before each lesson I would have to spend time putting them back in order, checking that each kitchen was fully equipped, tracking down items that were missing, removing books or other items that had been left on the kitchen counters, make sure we had enough clean dishtowels and start a load of laundry if we didn’t, empty the dishwashers from the previous lesson, check to make sure we received all of our grocery delivery, and whether it had been put away, anticipate a trip to the grocery store in case anything hadn’t been delivered (a regular occurrence). It was a lot of responsibility for one person, and too much for me.

During lessons, I had to supervise up to four groups of students working in the kitchens, while attempting to minimize disruption from other students and colleagues walking through the area, as well as trying to keep the noise level down so as not to disturb other ongoing lessons. In other words, we (the students and I) had to accommodate everyone, but no one would accommodate us. I still enjoyed the practical lessons very much, but after a while, the conditions made it almost impossible to maintain a proper classroom environment. I’m usually a very effective teacher who has no problem with classroom management, but under these conditions, I had no control and ownership over the environment and this made it extremely difficult to have control and ownership over the class.

I know I’m making it sound like it was complete chaos, but it wasn’t actually that bad. The worst thing about it was the psychological toll it took on me. After this experience, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to get out of teaching, for my own sanity. It’s time for another career. What that will be, I have no idea, but after fifteen years I’m pretty sure my time as a professional teacher is over. I don’t make this decision lightly. I always promised myself that I would keep working until it was no longer “fun,” that I would quit before I turned into one of those totally burnt out and bitter teachers, who obviously hates their job but keeps on working out of spite or lack of ambition.

The kids deserve better than that and I won’t let that happen. Who knows what the future holds…

I’m All Out of Eggs

To be sung to the tune of, “I’m All Out of Love” by Air Supply. 

I’m all out of eggs,
I’m so lost without you.
There’s nothing to make.
Oh, what will I do?
I’m all out of eggs
And the bread is all moldy.
The bacon is gone,
And the corn flakes are soggy.
I’m all out of eggs,
Won’t somebody save me?
Oh, what would I do,
For some biscuits and gravy?
The oatmeal has bugs.
Can’t have any porridge.
I’m even eat that.
Though, I think it’s horrid. 
I’m all out of eggs,
And I’m so very hungry.
Oh, fuck it, let’s go,
Get an Egg McMuffin, again. 

The Statue of Bigotry

Picture it now, the colossal statue that Trump is going to erect of himself, with an arm outstretched and a palm facing east, his other arm clutching an executive order that reads:

Get back, wretched refuse,
To your teeming shore.
You are not wanted anymore.
Go back, wretched refuse,
To your lives of fear.
You are no longer welcome here.
You wanted refuge, I suppose.
But now the Golden Door is closed.
I lift no lamp to guide you to my land.
I lift only my tiny little hand.