Monthly Archives: May 2011

On Care For Books

As the former Language Arts teacher and librarian-to-be that I am, one can safely assume that the mistreatment of books leaves me feeling somewhere between mild annoyance and sheer rage depending upon a number of variables.  (This list includes, but is not limited to: the offending child’s previous track record in the care of books, my mood, the particular book and my degree of love for it, whether I personally purchased said book with my own money, whether or not the book is checked out in my name or the student’s name if it is a library book, how much sleep I got the night before, the weather, and if I’m functioning on a full or empty stomach.)

I admit, this is true; I become highly irritated when students or my friends muck up a book and clearly don’t treat it with the care it deserves.  One year I even went through the arduous task of covering novels with clear tack paper in order to protect my precious purchases.  Naturally, these proved to be the books which were simply lost, rather than damaged.  The following year I abandoned this effort and cringed after seeing how our $500 worth of new books were treated, despite my efforts to teach the scholars how to handle our new books and how special it was for us to get such resources.  There were dog eared pages, bent covers, spines creased and broken backwards, and some books were actually left forgotten at various locations throughout the school.  These events left me cycling through the emotions of indignation, fury, displeasure, exasperation, and dejection.

Books, especially books that are intended for the use of many (some of us refer to this as “sharing”, a concept that I realize not all are entirely familiar with in this country,) need to be taken care of.  Money, time, and resources were spent on these books and they should be shown respect.

That diatribe aside, I must admit that I do have a love for that perfectly worn-in book, (MY book, not belonging to someone else).  That book that has matured and shows evidence of its many page turns as my fingers have gone through them countless times.  That book whose margins are entirely filled with tracks of my thinking.  That book that is scared with remnants of that trip to the beach when I spent the summer visiting various state parks.  I adore the idea of a well broken in book.  

Once, while backpacking through New Zealand I was faced with quite the predicament.  I always wanted new reading material, but simply lacked the room in my pack to contain all the books I desired.  Then one day early into my travels, I discovered a book shelf at a particular hostel which functioned off of the “take a book, leave a book” policy.  How splendid!  I swapped out books throughout my journey, returning home with The Glass Castle in my possession.  It is tattered and its edges are dingy, but I love the thought of all the sites my book has seen.

My most treasure books are hardly pristine these days.  They’re the ones with specks of dirt in the pages from reading outside under a tree in a park, the ones just a little bent up from being toted around in my purse in case I catch a spare moment to read, the ones with the crease in the back cover from where it got bent the night I fell asleep reading in bed because I just couldn’t put it down.  They aren’t neglected, but in fact, well loved.

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My Two First Kisses

Preface:  The idea for this piece has been on my brain all week.  Last night I watched the video below and it inspired me to finally write this one.  See the clip “High Five for First Kiss” at the bottom of this post.

My first kiss was in May at the end of my freshman year of high school. This statement, is in fact, actually a fallacy.  However, when asked when my first kiss was, this is how I will always respond.

My true first kiss occurred the summer after eighth grade.  Corey McAlester’s birthday party was in June, about a week after school let out.  Over the last month or so of school I had developed quite an interest in Corey’s best friend, David Wickland.  He was tall, outgoing, comical, and a drummer.  As a trumpet player, I saw him everyday in either full band or the brass and percussion sectional.  Band was followed by lunch, thus providing ample time to mingle and make my feeble attempts at flirting.

Shannon Bailey and I went to Corey’s party together.  Shannon was about a year into her dating life and I felt slightly envious over this fact.  Most recently she had been seeing Randy O. and he was a high schooler.  I felt young and childish and was worried that Shannon would view me as such.  That year I felt as if many of my friends grew up while I stayed the same.  But no one had run off and abandoned my friendship yet, so there I was, going to Corey’s party with Shannon.

The night went on most uneventful.  As adult as many of us thought we were becoming, it’s clear how much we were still children in hindsight.  Corey’s fourteenth birthday party consisted mostly of us hanging out in his backyard, running around and playing on his swing set.  (It was proposed that we play spin the bottle, but this was declined by his parents.  I would like to take this opportunity to point out that my parents allowed the playing of said game at my birthday party.  We opted to hug instead of kiss.  Except for Amanda Riesling.)

After the birthday rituals of singing, cake, ice cream, and presents, the party began to split off into smaller groups.  David, Shannon, and I found ourselves taking a walk around the neighborhood at dusk.  I recall nothing of what we spoke of, only that I simultaneously hated and yet was relieved by Shannon’s presence.

There existed rumors that David liked me, but I remained nervous that it was too good to be true.  I had yet to recover from an incident in the fourth grade when the boy whom I felt sure I was in love with had prank called every girl in our class with his friend asking them to the dance.  David seemed excited though and appeared to be geniunely having a good time.

I’m unsure what brought about the subject, but the topic of kissing had arisen.  The specifics remain blurry, but my memory comes into focus as David posed the question: “Can I kiss you?”  To which Shannon responded with a simple yes.  Then he kissed her quickly before returning to our conversation, or rather what was now our lack of conversation.

It was silent, but not an uncomfortable silence.  Interestingly enough I wasn’t angry, upset, or even confused.  I knew that it should be awkward, yet it wasn’t, not for any of us.  Several more silent, unawkward moments passed because no one really knew what to say.

The next words spoken were by David.  For the second time that night he posed the question, “Can I kiss you?”  To which this time I responded with a simple yes.

And he kissed me.  And that was that.

Except that I was filled with a small happiness that I hadn’t experienced previously.  Somehow I knew that he did like me, but we were too nervous and Shannon wasn’t and he had to practice with her first.  It’s like when a child goes to the ocean for the first time, and big sister or Dad has to put their feet in the water first just to show the child that the world won’t end, a shark won’t eat their foot, and they won’t die, or whatever it is they’re afraid of.

He and I didn’t speak for the rest of that summer, and that was okay.  I never thought on it too much.  I never even told anyone about the events that transpired that evening.  But it was my first kiss.

I guess it never felt real.  I would have to wait nearly a year for my next kiss, which is the one I claim as my first.  I suppose it just felt more real because Jordan Holling and I actually spoke after the incident; in fact, he was my boyfriend for several months.

This alleged first kiss wasn’t much better.  After an awards ceremony one evening at school, Jordan and I were walking in the corider that connected the band room to the gymnasium.  Photos of every graduating class since the ’70s lined the walls.

Before stepping out into the night, he leaned in and kissed me.  It was wet and drool-y and most unpleasant.  The prior three decades of Springfield High School alumni witnessed this awkward and somewhat pathetic scene.  Never in my life has something I enjoyed so little brought me such great euphoria.


High Five for First Kiss:


The Birds, The Bees & Body Image

I ninth grade I took a trip to Washington D.C. with the Junior Statesmen of America.  (Have I mentioned how super cool and popular I was?)  There were about seven of us who attended this trip; some of us were close friends and others merely acquaintances.  We had been traipsing around the city for two days at this point.  Mrs. Stewart had set us free to roam, and on our own we found ourselves at Union Station in search of food.

We rode the escalator down and began to engage in a most important discussion of who liked whom.  (We may have been mildly nerdy but we still had our teen priorities in order.)  We started with a review of the love triangles, or pentagons and hexagons as they so often were, of the dating world at Springfield High School.  I was somewhat interested, but I didn’t participate with such zeal as I usually would since I currently was into a boy who attended our rival high school a town over.

The group diverged in two as we selected our food providers of choice.  Myself and three others made our way to line up for pizza as the conversation continued.  My mind had entirely drifted elsewhere, until I heard my name.  What?  Shellie?  What about Shellie?

“So I think Scott Peterson definitely has a thing for Shellie,” I heard Steven continue.

Scott?  Scott Peterson?  But, he’s older than me.  And I’m friends with his little sister.  No, I have no interest in Scott Peterson.  None.

I glanced over to see if I can spot him at the taco joint where the other half of our group went off in search of nourishment, but they were out of sight.

“Yeah, I was talking to him about it last night.  He claimed he didn’t, but I know he’s lying,” Steven theorized.  “I told him, I said, ‘Scott, why won’t you admit it?  You like her, and I mean she does have a nice body!'”

Wait.  Huh?  Me?  We’re talking about my body?

I wasn’t so shocked that someone was describing my body as nice, so much as the fact that someone was describing my body at all.  Aside from a few overweight girls in middle school teasing me about my flat chest, I had never heard anyone give an opinion on my body one way or the other, so one can understand my utter shock.  Since when was the topic of my body up for discussion?  Weren’t there some sort of release of consent forms I had to sign before any male adolescents were able to comment on such subjects?

I entirely blocked out that conversation from that point on as my mind waded through all of these thoughts.

How many others had approached this topic without my knowledge?  What did they say about it?  Besides, what was there to say about it?  I was more or less a toothpick.  I wanted to know if other girls knew about these discussions, and what they thought of this.  Were they okay with it?

It was the first time in my life I came to be aware that these were things people discussed.  I knew they discussed female bodies in the general sense, but I was unaware that my own would actually be up for grabs.  I felt as if I were still a child; we were far too young for people to be talking about our bodies.  I was not pleased.

*Image from Diets In Review


Fourth Grade: The Missing Year

I have an outstanding memory.  In fact, my memory is so outstanding that it is often cause for embarrassment in social situations where I mistakenly reveal the precise details of past events my mind holds and therefore appear to possess subtle stalker-like tendencies.  (If you were wondering, my first boyfriend, Jordan Holling and I began dating on May 9th, 2002.  Drawing attention to the fact that I know this is not something one should point out.)

I vividly recall exact outfits I wore on specific days of school, verbatim quotations from inconsequential conversations past, and can replay movies in my head of many events from age four on.  Recently however, I have discovered that I have a big blank spot in my memory.  An entire school year of my life has lapsed into the recesses of my brain, and for the life of me, I cannot draw them out.  Fourth grade is the missing year in my childhood.

I’ve developed several theories as to the cause of this, and I’m sure you could too.  For those old-school psychology types, you may think that I am repressing some unspeakable, ghastly event.  Others may argue that my memory just isn’t that great.  Others may claim that if I simply think hard enough, it will come flooding back to me.  I must insist you are all incorrect.  Over the past months, I’ve reached only one logical conclusion.  Fourth grade was painstakingly boring.

Mrs. Carter was my fourth grade teacher.  It’s not to say that Mrs. Carter was a poor instructor; she merely loathed children.  Perhaps loathe is too strong a word, but she certainly didn’t like them.

Of the 180 days spent in this woman’s classroom, I recall the following events in this all-inclusive list:

  1. Spelling Tests
    Each week we had to learn twenty words.  Mondays were pretest days, where we were to spell each word without any advance notice or study to serve as a frame of reference of our prior knowledge.  We worked on the words throughout the week and had our post-test on Friday.  We kept data on our results in our Spelling Folders.  I earned a perfect score on every single post-test for the entire year.  I experienced great anxiety that I would receive a 19/20, and one day this almost happened.  The offending word: lemon.  Fortunately, at the last moment I abandoned the second ‘m’ I had placed in the middle of the word before submitting my assessment for grading.

  2. Proficiency Test Prep
    I abhorred any day that I spotted those yellow spiral-bound packets sitting on Mrs. Carter’s desk when I walked into the classroom.  It was at this point I knew any remaining hope of having an engaging, interesting day was now killed when I laid eyes on them.  Reviewing for the Science Proficiency Test was the bane of my existence.
Thank you, Mrs. Carter, for providing me with such wonderful memories of learning and discovering in the fourth grade.  This served as my first lesson in, “sometimes one is required to do incredibly vapid and wearisome tasks in order to get where one wants to go in life.”

I Was a Board Race Champion

First grade was the year of board races.  Math review?  Board race.  Spelling words?  Board race.  Grammar correction? Board race.  You name it, we board-raced it.

I was the (nearly) undefeated board race champion.  I won all challenges, except for my first (and perhaps a lone race here or there which I have since blocked from memory.)

I vividly recall my first board race.  It was for our spelling words, and I was about mid-way through the line up.  I carefully watched as my peers took their places at the board for the face off in both speed and accuracy.  It was a simple process.  The two students were given a word from the spelling list, and whomever wrote it correctly first (timed by when you placed your chalk back down on the board’s tray) won.  The loser sat down and the next kid came up to challenge the champion.  This process repeated until all had been defeated with one student remaining.

As my turn approached I began to consider my potential for victory.  I knew all of my spelling words by heart and had practiced all week long.  Things were decidedly looking up.

With mixed confidence and apprehension, I approached the blackboard when my turn arrived.  Steven was at the board and he had been doing rather well.  I stood poised attentively, chalk in hand, awaiting the word.

However, I should take a moment to mention that in addition being a school-focused six-year-old with superb study habits, I was also quite the perfectionist.  Throughout my life this would plague me with oddities such as: recopying all of my notes in sixth grade math because I had to scribble out notes quickly thus it became ‘too sloppy’, insisting that all objects on my desk had a proper place and never getting up without checking said placement, copying the alphabet repeatedly to perfect my handwriting.  Call it perfectionism or borderline obsessive-compulsive tendencies, it’s a fine line.

Mrs. Larkin called out the word: vacation.  I without a doubt knew this one.  I carefully placed the tip of my chalk to the board and wrote the outline of the ‘v’.  Two straight, white lines, meeting at a vertex centered precisely in the middle forming symmetrical angles against the black.  The ‘a’ was also an excellent specimen of penmanship.  The perfect circle was connected seamlessly to the stem to the right.  I was just beginning my ‘c’ when Steven slammed his chalk onto the tray.

I had been defeated.  My beautiful lettering had lost to the sloppy chicken scratch next to it on the board.  I was shocked.  I had lost.  Mrs. Larkin gently reminded me that it was about speed, not how neat the final result appeared.  This was an entirely foreign concept to me.

I let this knowledge sink in as I slept on it that night.  I abhorred the thought of recklessly scribbling away words without attention or care being poured into each letter.  I couldn’t make up my mind about this predicament.

The next day this was still on my mind as I rode the school bus, and I hadn’t come to any conclusion.  The day followed its usual routine.  First I had morning packets, then reading groups, followed by AM recess.  We ran back into our class lines and were still panting as we filed back into the room.  While taking our seats Mrs. Larkin announced that it was time for board races.

Ohmygosh I had forgot!  My mind had wandered from my conundrum as it focused on the morning’s activities.  I was caught entirely off guard, and I was first.  I walked to the board with my mind racing too quickly to reach any sort of a logical verdict.

The next thing I knew, Mrs. Larkin had said the word and my hand was vigorously scribbling messy connections of lines and loops and dots.  In a flash of a second I had decided to go for it, without even realizing it.  I slammed my writing utensil to the chalk tray and realized I had won.  I was caught between triumph and disgust as I saw my correctly spelled word on the board.  But I had won.

Although it pained me, winning outweighed perfection of penmanship.  From that day on, I was unstoppable.  I was a board race champion.

Image from Web Design


On Becoming a Grown-Up

As time passes on, I start to feel very adult and grown-up about my life; really mature, you know?  I’ve been financially independent for over a year now and I haven’t starved or been without a roof over my head even one night.  I have not fallen into some financial fiasco involving reckless credit card abuse.  I have no wildly humiliating, inappropriate photos or sex tapes circulating the internet preventing any chance of future employment.  I am still alive and it doesn’t appear I’ve done anything to totally screwup any possibility of future happiness or success.  In addition to this, I have filed my taxes on my own (and in February, no less!), navigated the dreaded FAFSA loan process totally solo, independently piloted the graduate school application, and even more impressive, the post-acceptance process.  This is quite the accomplishment: living in the real world and not being totally eaten alive, not wealthy but certainly happy.  I’m on my way to becoming a grown-up, or at least the closest version of a grown-up I will ever be.

But Wendy Darling eventually grows up and wishes, "You won't forget to come for me, Peter? Please, please don't forget."

I admit, I can’t pass a park without testing out the swings (especially when they have long chains extending endlessly upwards allowing the swinger to go really high) or trying out the slides (especially those that are extra high up and twirly, but not too twirly that it slows the rider down.)  I enjoy nothing more than to curling up with a good book and my kitten in my Little Mermaid sleeping bag.  I own, and wear, a pair of red with white polka dot, button-up, footie pajamas.  When roasting marshmallows I typically resort to catching the puffy mass aflame and eating a blackened treat because I’m too impatient to slowly roast it to perfection.  I have a propensity for skipping when excited, and turning the occasional cartwheel when I’m outdoors and the grass is particularly green and springy.  I also admit to my affinity for young adult novels and children’s books, and that I eat mostly the diet of a toddler.  And sometimes, sometimes, I even make a pouty face and cross my arms when life doesn’t go my way.

All that being said, I still feel quite proud and adult like at the end of the day.  Then I have moments like tonight.  Moments where the search engine bar in my internet browser reads, “Do you have to cook a sweet potato?” because minutes before I eagerly cut into a raw one and anxiously tried to scoop out its contents into my mouth.  Moments where, after discovering that yes, indeed one must cook a sweet potato prior to consumption, I had to look up how one goes about cooking such a food.  Then, out of all of my options of cooking appliances (convection oven, microwave oven, oven oven), I actually select the microwave.  Finally, after semi-successfully cooking my food, I’m left wondering, “Do I eat the skin?”  After all of my shining adult moments, occurrences such as these happen and I feel incredibly childlike.  (Seriously, do you eat the skin?)


Events From My Childhood That Scarred Me With Irrational Fears

#1.) Fire Safety Week: five instructional days dedicated to teaching school children what to do should their house burst into flames or they begin to spontaneously combust. Many of America’s youth reflect on this week and recall activities such as:

  • Mapping out fire escape routes in your home
  • Deciding on a meeting place for your family once escaping the fiery place of residence
  • Perfecting the ‘Stop, Drop & Roll’

All classic memories of this week in school.  The week ended, we took our maps and plans and knowledge home to share with our families (along with the death sentence to our furry friends whom we were instructed to leave behind), and continued with our lives.

Except for me.

I, Miss OCD, did not get on and merrily continue with my life.  I lived in deep fear day and night.  Horrific scenes haunted my dreams as I lay, apparently not so safe in my twin sized bed.  Images of becoming trapped in my second floor bedroom flooded my mind.  I even once begged my parents for an escape rope ladder.  (They declined this request.  After a bit of research it turns out said ladder would have been a greater hazard to a child than a fire.)

Denied my one remaining hope for survival, I cowardly climbed into bed each night hugging my most beloved stuffed animal, Ernie tightly to my chest.  “But don’t worry,” I thought to myself, “you can’t take him with you either: no toys!”

I was most distraught by this thought.  I could eventually learn to cope with leaving my photos, blankets, pets, and all of my other possessions to set ablaze in the fire.  Fine.  You win fire safety marshals. But not Ernie.  Ernie was pushing it too far.

It was at this point I began to desperately search for a loophole.  The lovely men at the local fire department didn’t want children burning to death in their homes whilst searching for Mr. Potato Head amidst an array of a toy-covered floor.  That made sense.  But Ernie wasn’t cast off into a vast sea of toys, nor did such a pile exist in my mother’s household.  Ernie slept with me each night; he couldn’t be that hard to find.  Except, sometimes he did slide down and get wedged in between the mattress and the wall or other tricky hiding places.

I had to devise a method to quickly and easily locate my beloved friend should my house erupt in flames.  Running out of options, it dawned on me.  The only items that made it out of my room in such a catastrophe were myself and my pajamas.  If Ernie was in my pajamas, I wouldn’t be breaking any rules.  Just as your pajamas made it out safe and sound simply because you just so happened to have them on your person, Ernie would just so happen to make it out as well.

Thus one day my mother walked into my bedroom to the following site: me, crawling across the floor in my pajamas with Ernie stuffed down my bottoms, head sticking out above my waistband.  (I had to practice.  Duh.) She must have thought I was crazy, or clearly was already messed up in some weird, sexual manner.  I like to hope she recalled the rope ladder incident months before and connected the dots before phoning a psychologist.

*This post inspired by Genesis Meranda