Rags the dog

Can I just say that I could be a curriculum writer. No, let me rephrase that, anyone could be a curriculum writer. Anyone with half and brain and grammar check that it is. Now, I'm not the grammar Nazi. Even working that the WC, I knew that was a weaker point. When students wanted my help in that specific area, I always started casting my eyes around for someone like Anona or Leanna who were good at that. At least, I thought they were. I don't think I have ever had a conversation about this with them. But I guess since they were English majors I assumed...oh well. Anyway, not my area of expertise.
However (oh the fateful and most powerful word of however) in the recent curriculum my school district received to aid us in teaching reading comprehension there are, count them, 7 grammatical errors on page three and 5 errors on page four.
Here is an excerpt from this miraculous piece of cut down trees and wasted ink:

"Hey Jill." Isn't that your dog, Rags?" said Susan.
"Why yes. How did he get to school." said Jill.
"Better take him home. Dogs aren't allowed in school you know." said Susan.
"I will take him home a lock him in the kitchen." said Jill.

The rest of the book continues on in this manner, and I will not bother you with its drivel.
In my opinion, which may not be worth terribly much to the rest of the world and certainly wasn't of significance to my coworkers, if you are going to bother to write a curriculum and sell it for the exorbitant amount of $250 a teacher, you would at least be sure that you had the correct number of quotation marks placed in the appropriate locations.
Aside from the grammar, the question that begs to be asked is, "What in the world are our students suppose to comprehend from a story like this?"
The answer: There is nothing to comprehend. No wonder more that 75% of kids hate reading now. They are expected to read and analyze this?

In other news, I've joined the harrowing and somewhat insane world of the insomniacs. Is there anything special I have to do to be inducted in, or does it just happen based on cumulative hours spent awake at night? You more seasoned veterans will have to let me know.
And if there are anymore posts about grammar at 4 am, you'll know why.


On Death and Mourning

This is something my husband wrote the other night, and while he's not an official member of the WC group, I hope nobody will mind me posting it. One thing I love about his writing is his voice; those of you who have met him (Meghan, Chan, Ivor, Kiersten) will probably hear him speaking it as you read. Also, he pinpointed some truths that I was just starting to recognize, and now I think I know what my next blood essay should be on... Anyway, he'd appreciate any comments/critiques you care to offer.

Tonight? Yeah. She cried again. Same as last time. It was her dreams. No, not those ones. I mean, the dreams that keep you alive. Goals. Aspirations. Since we got engaged, she does this thing where she cries, and I hold her, and then she feels better for a few days, and then she cries again. She always gives me different reasons, but there’s a sort of underlying pattern.

I need to explain something to you or this won’t make any sense. My woman can dance. I mean, she gets on that stage, and your eyes are just riveted. She moves, and your heart wants to jump out onto the stage and move with her. Truly, she is skilled. Others have form and technique. My Shani, she has life and love. They move her in ways that would make waves jealous.

Anyway, ever since she started to dance, I can’t even remember how old she was, I think she was 16, she’s had this dream. There was this old couple that would come to her dance studio. She saw them dancing together, and they were always happy. She wanted that. She wanted the dance to go on forever. Somewhere inside the voice of reason warned her. She knew it couldn’t go on forever, but her brain never told that to her heart.

So, she danced, and the hope got stronger. Being as stubborn as she is, she refused to let it go.
I love the girl to death, but there are days when she can make a mule look like a pushover. Have you ever tried to take something away from an independent 2 year old? Yeah. That’s kind of what it’s like sometimes.

Dreams are what have kept her moving for years now. First, she wanted to be a pianist. She devoted 9 years of her young life to chasing that one. What happened? It did what so many dreams conceived in childhood do. It died. That is the best word for it. Dead, and buried, but with a fresh vase of flowers on the grave.

I’m really just trying to help you understand where she’s coming from. Some dreams are more important than others. When the lesser dreams are neglected, they will die. She had the dream of marrying a certain type of person. I’m lucky enough to have been picked to fill those shoes. When she married me she knew that she would no longer compete in dance competitions. Yeah, she still held onto that one for a while. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t help that one go easily. I wanted it because she did. But it wasn’t my dream. It was hers, and it was deeper than I could have guessed. Oh, hindsight was always my clearest view of any issue.

So, another dream is dead. They can be so cruel. They look like strong foundations at first, but we begin to build on them only to have our hopes shake, and often shatter.

There were other dreams, too, but it’s cold outside, and I think it’s time for me to go back inside. I love her. I really do. I don’t know what her dreams cost her. I’ve had dreams murdered pretty brutally before, but you’ve been kind enough to listen to this many of my problems, and I’m sure you have enough dreams of your own to bury anyway. Thanks, friend. Goodnight.


On being a deep thinker

(This is the most fun I've had writing in a long while, it's a journal response for nonfic class - Chan)

So Annie Dillard walks into a forest, and she sits down on this mossy tree, see…I don’t know why Dillard went to sit on the tree, but she calls it “the tree where I sit,” and knowing a little about Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, I assume that Dillard goes to this fallen tree to think. This is discouraging to me, and I’ll tell you why. I’ve tried thinking before, as I assume great writers/profound, awesome, esteemed people do. It didn’t work out for me. When I was maybe a junior in high school I came home one night from hanging out with friends. It was softly raining outside, which, to a high schooler that liked to listen to emotionally manipulative, despondent singer/song-writer music, seemed like really great thinking weather, so I decided to go lay in my front yard. If I remember right, I think I actually decided to go out after trying to read scriptures for a little, and my plan was to lay there until I got an answer whether or not the Book of Mormon was true. A little bit of Enos and way too much Patty Griffin. Anyways, I laid down on my back and did my best to be really intent. I can’t remember what I thought about, but it was probably a lot of fretting about whether or not my plan would work, interspersed with lots of other random bits of music or girls or school. The rain hitting around my eyes was irritating and made my face twitch (I had a buddy that said he loved to be lay out in the rain, and I could never understand it, because, like I said, it makes my face twitch when the rain hits my eyes. I felt enviously less “deep” than he because he liked to do something so soulful as lay in the rain. But then again, he was a liar and we were talking to girls, so in retrospect I don’t think he actually liked laying in the rain. In fact, I don’t think hardly anyone likes laying in the rain, writers or otherwise. That’s why rain jackets and umbrellas and houses are such big sellers). And when my dad’s headlights swept over me as he pulled in the driveway, the whole thing seemed a little embarrassing. So I went back inside.

            More recently (last year) I had a job that was eight days on and six days off, so I had a lot of free time during those six days. And then I quit my job and didn’t have a job, so I had all kinds of free time. Anyways, I figured that with all the free time I had I would get in some really good thinking, pondering. I lived with my aunt in Ogden, so after a couple unfruitful thinking sessions in my aunt’s backyard and later at a park, I poked around Ogden Canyon until I found this big tan boulder that sat in the stream  that runs through the canyon. I had realized since high school that listening to somber feely-feely music, for me, was a slippery slope of somber feely-feely-ness, not a legitimate emotional experience. So this time I chose my spot out of aesthetics and isolation more than whether or not it bespoke emotional turmoil. Anyways, I’d go to this rock every couple days and bring down lots of different books (because you just never know what you’re gonna wanna read when you’re sitting on a large rock), and my journal and a some water and a blanket and I tried hard to think. Now and again I’d have ten or twenty minutes when I felt like I got some good thinking done, but mostly I just got distracted by birds (I like birds, I like knowing their names and seeing new ones). I don’t regret the time I spent on the rock, I spent some good hours there. And I suppose I was thinking the whole time I sat on that rock, but it never really went anytwhere. I'd feel lousy for a few minutes (some troubles had come up), and then I'd see a bird. Then I'd start reading some book for a few minutes, and then I'd see a bird. So I saw some great birds, but I didn't do whatever it is I imagine great thinkers doing when they think. I just don’t understand how people, like Dillard, can go somewhere and think and have such good things come of it. It’s like people who love shrimp—I just can’t relate. So sometimes, when I read something, like Dillard’s piece here, about some person that seems to feel and think more deeply than I, I feel discouraged. I mean, will I ever be a good writer if I’m constitutionally incapable of sitting on mossy logs and probing, like some divinely inspired physician, the slimy but occasionally and surprisingly breathtaking guts of life and humanity with nothing but unflinching honesty and my naked mind!!!? Cause I’m certain that’s exactly how it happens for Dillard. So, anyways, I’m not much of a thinker.  



The bus bumps along the windy mountain road. Our tour guide is talking, but in Chinese of course; apparently he’s funny though, because the people in the seats around me are laughing. I squeeze my husband’s hand and stare out the window, trying to ignore the smell of body odor emanating from members of a culture that has yet to discover deodorant.

We are en route to the LongJi rice terraces, about a three-hour bus ride from our hotel in Yangshuo. The tour guide explains in English that we will first visit the village of the native Yao people, who are famous for their women’s long hair (sometimes 2 meters long), and then take a local bus up the mountain to where we can hike around the terraces.

As we pull up and then alight from the bus, my eyes fall on a couple of small restaurants in the buildings before us. Then, piranha-like, they are upon us.

“Hello! Look!”

“Hello! Beautiful!”

“Hello! Cheap!”

The local people have spotted fresh meat, and there is no hesitation. We push our way past women in brightly colored woven clothing, trying to make our way to the entrance of a nearby swinging bridge without finding ourselves the sudden owners of postcards, weavings, and sundry other items these women are anxiously proffering.

Having gained the relative peace of the bridge, we cross the river and find ourselves in the Yao village. We follow the crowd of tourists into one of the log structures, and our guide explains that we are in the actual home of a Yao family who has agreed to open their home for tours. It’s a neat cultural experience; I mean, you could honestly believe you’re in a traditional Yao home if it weren’t for the giant basket full of plastic bottles on the top floor, or the NBA posters visible through the half-open door of a bedroom.

As the rest of the group files into a new-made-to-look-old building for the local show (“only 55 yuan!”), my husband, Ryan, and I wander on through the village. The streets wind up and down as much as side-to-side, but it takes maybe two minutes before we emerge at the other end of the village. The path continues on, however, so we do the same, following it until a side path looks more interesting and we end up on some large boulders at the edge of the river. Here we stop, and look back toward the village and up at the mountains.

Someone has left a dead snake on one of the rocks, and its three-foot long corpse basks in the sun as though it could still reap some benefit. Ryan goes over and kicks it into the river, but it holds my thoughts, because it bears similarity to the village I have just seen. Like the snake, this village once had true vitality; now it has a semblance of life. Amidst the bustle of tourism there is a forlornness to this place which it seems only my husband and I can feel; perhaps because we alone took the time to stop and truly look. Beneath the tourist façade, does this place still have a beating heart?

But the heart of a place is its people, and that is the core of our dissatisfaction here. This is a people who were once proud and hardy, a people who literally carved a living out of these rocky, steep mountains for 700 years. Now a woman in traditional dress and with her long hair tightly wound around her head laughs loudly as she waves a 100 Yuan bill in the face of her neighbor. A child finishes his ice cream bar and drops the wrapper in the street, just as he sees all the adults do. A man in an old wooden shed runs a stand selling ice cream, water, cigarettes, and beer; the last of which fills most of the shed, and scattered bottles around the village testify to its popularity. A man and his wife thrash rice as their people have for hundreds of years, but next to them looms a satellite dish.

What has happened to this people? Is modernization the problem? Tourism? Our guide explained to us that the Yao can’t grow enough rice to support themselves anymore, so the government subsidizes them. Why can’t they grow enough rice? Is it because all their time is spent catering to tourists?

In America going to “Colonial Williamsburg” doesn’t bother me. But see, Williamsburg is just a re-enactment: people putting on a show, then at night going home to their regular houses and lives. They are showing what the culture was, but there is no mistaking the fact that it’s pretend; a museum of sorts. Here you can taste what the culture should be, but it’s warped and sour; a caricature that tries to convince you it’s the real thing.

These people are no less tenacious than their ancestors, but now it’s directed into selling post cards instead of sculpting mountains. Thanks to the wonder of tourism, a part of their heritage and culture will always be preserved—but is it worth the cost?


Roborto in the testing center

A tall and thin man waits in line at the testing center. The line, stuffed full of students, weaves throughout the room and presses against the white walls. A white, human-sized robot, rounded edges softening its square shape, follows closely behind the man, who is five students from the front.

“What’s that?” a freshman behind the man asks.

“This is Roborto, my Spanish-speaking robot. I’m taking a Spanish test, and he’s going to help me.”

“Is that allowed?”

“Oh, this is technically a seeing-eye robot. This is the future. It’s allowed.”

The man thought about the ethics of pretending to be blind in order to have a robot help him on an exam. The thought fluttered through his mind like a butterfly, then danced away with a smile.

In the testing center, cramped into a desk, the man hunches over a red and pink bubble sheet and a photocopy of a multiple-choice test. His right hand squeezes a pencil.

“¿Roborto, qué es numero siete?” he whispers.


“Gracias, Roborto.”

Several students lift their heads and stare at Roborto, who is also stuffed into a desk. His smooth robot knees barely fit under the little table. A test proctor wearing round gold earrings and glasses walks towards the man, bends down, and asks him a question:

“Sir, could you please turn the volume down on your robot?”

“I’m sorry,” the man replies. “It’s as low as it will go, and I have to have him.”

“Well, sir, he…”


“Yes, um, Roborto…he is disrupting other students. If he continues to disrupt the testing center, I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to remove him.”

“This is my seeing-eye robot. By law, I’m allowed to have him. If you try to make me remove Roborto, you’ll be discriminating. That’s discrimination, and I don’t have to take it.”

The proctor’s face went from being a polite smile to a blank expression. She stood up, turned around, and walked to the back of the room.

“¿Roborto, qué es numero ocho?”


“Muchas gracias, Roborto.”

Our Hero

Matt earns a new picture because he paid back his IOUs (and I'm sure he added an extra donation along with it). Emily Martin--our math expert--how many pizzas could we buy if 18 people donated one dime a day for 30 days, plus Andrea, Chan, and Jenny? Ummmm
And, Attention PA, Provo, and Nevada people? It snowed all weekend and is presently 29 degrees. So, Hello, we're packing bags to come for a visit.



Doesn't he LOOK like "guilt" itself?
It's unanimous. Matt needs to pay up his IOU in the Pizza fund (and everyone else who borrowed without writing IO Us. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE).
I publicly apologized today for being a jerk yesterday (though I don't promise it won't happen again). And Matt has promised to repay our pizza fund. Then we're on to better days again.
Therefore, without government aid--we will slowly build our private fund with quarters, dimes, and nickels back to its original flamboyant amount. Then, listen, we can turn off the news and blow off the stock market. Our WC will be in-the-black-solid. We'll be just fine once again. (Whew. I'm so glad to put my finger right on the pulse of our problems and find such reasonable fixes. I should run for vice president.)
P.S. Leanna brought in her babe today on the same day of the Pre-Professional Conference where one year ago, she read a paper about panic over thinking she was pregnant. It was almost eerie. But this babe is a cutie. Looks just like Leanna.


Mrs. Emily Goodsell, Legacy High School English Teacher

It’s official: I’m an employee of the Clark County School District. For five weeks, I’ve been bitter as I wake up and drive forty minutes across town to Legacy High School. Bitter as I correct student papers knowing with each passing minute that this isn’t my job. I’m just a substitute. Bitter when students leave their gum on the ground for me to pick up and whine with every given assignment. I feel cheated when I get paid.

On Wednesday, I got a phone call during my prep. The district told me I had been hired as a full-time teacher. I’d get all the benefits that go with it—even a new nametag that said, “Teacher” rather than “Visiting Teacher.”

At first, I called Brad and sobbed to him during my prep. Then I called my mom and sobbed to her. My face was still splotchy when my next class came in. So much of me didn’t want the school district to offer me the job. I’d feel better if they told me they couldn’t fit it into the budget to hire one more teacher. And then I could leave feeling more bitter and more angry towards the school district. I could hate them forever. But this?! Now they’re offering me a job that I don’t even want but know I have to take.

But something changed Thursday morning. It was my first official day as a real teacher. None of the students and most of the teachers didn’t know a difference. They didn’t know about the transition between long-term substitute and full-time, contracted teacher. But I knew, and I had a new sense of confidence in the classroom, my classroom. The discipline problems weren’t a problem. I wasn’t bothered by the girl who screams out, “MISS!” every time she gets another assignment because I’m somehow ruining her life by giving her class work. I wasn’t bothered by the boy who picked his nose all throughout the class, thinking that no one could see him as he covered his nose with one hand and picked with the other. I wasn’t bothered by the know-it-all teacher because  now I am on her same level. She cannot talk down to me anymore: I’m a teacher too. And I plan to be a much better teacher than I was a substitute. 


Chasing a Breeze

A series of randomness from my journal today.

i opened the door and heard something familiar on the breeze call to me, some kind of home or memory so i left our apartment and roommates making pancakes.

i walked through autumn scattered around my feet. Each step forward a crunch and crackle or the scattering dance of leaf on pavement that is fallspeak. And in the muted light of a sunny day and approaching storm, the stark brightness of oranges and yellows fall slowly against the dark grey-blue clouds. i felt more than heard again the voice of my eyes in the sadness of a furrowed brow.

Long trails of willow waving in the breeze, the faint hint of October and forgotten orange yesterdays by the ocean drifted to me from trees unlike the ones i knew. And then i noticed a lone tree, shining an almost silver in the autumn light, starting to shiver and lose its leaves. Silver feathers floating slowly. The lone tree isn't alone and i walk through row on row of silver, through light and dark leaves i wonder about where my youth has gone, where the innocence where i once slept careless and carefree had blown away to. When did it become crushed under foot like so many leaves painting the ground in splashes of orange and red?

i crush a cedar leaf in my hand and smell a memory evoked of home. By the hospital in the distance the American flag waves proud in the wind, but its not my flag. Where is my home? It's not this place where i cannot smell the water in the leaves spilling all around.

No, it's me-- this soul so hungry for some kind of of emotion in the breeze that i must wander to an open park and sit under smaller versions of giant cedars from home. i wonder then why, why my heart feels open and naked even though no one has stripped the armor away from it, or taken the time to watch it cry again like a little homesick youth.

As i watch my heart unfold i realise why the wind in the trees seemed to call my name. These autumn days of coldness was when i first awakened, saw the world and began to feel a something in my heart that no word can describe. These are days that feel like home, the real home inside, more so than any summer or spring. These are days after fencing class. Back when maple leaves that were wider than the span of two hands carpeted everywhere.

This was where i, a little free, began to wander the streets of Lynn Valley--golden wet in yellow sunset. Wander around cedar trees of Lynn Valley, lost in the hand numbing cold and light filtering through a Sunday afternoon. Those trees though, are not these October trees after conference, where i alone on windy Rexburg afternoon, step between the shadows of spirituality and shades of myself.



Did you know Salt Lake City is really a city? Me neither.

There is a scripture somewhere in the Book of Mormon that says something like, "the people were converted by the Spirit of God and they knew it not." I read that sometime last semester and I remember thinking, "How could your countenance be changing and you not know it? If I suddenly felt happy and good and wanted to become my best self, I would probably suspect something was up. How could they not know?"

I will tell you how that happened in my life. I think it has something to do with small and simple things.

My first shock came when I-15 went from two lanes to three and then four. "Oh ya, four-lane highways are the norm. I forgot what those looked like."
Then the sun set and the valley floor sparkled, and I remembered that it does that here.
I saw a billboard advertisement for an elite health club and thought, "Are there actually people who care that much about what they look like?" Then I remembered that I'm a Gold Member there. I looked down at my wallet and could see the card that proves it, with "Miss" preceding my name, and alongside it is a slender looking picture of myself. I was embarassed.
Shooting past downtown Salt Lake, I caught a glimpse of some once familiar social hot-spots. The sports bat where we would go after Jazz games to catch Sports Center and laugh as we split baskets of fries. Seeing the large block letters of NORDSTROM was as close as I've ever come to waking from a coma and remember the life you left. I've been deleting their emails about new arrivals and the mark down of old ones without even a blink.
Salt Lake really is a metropolis crawling with unquenchable consumers and salted with businesses all selling some form of pop culture. I never considered myself as a "city girl". I never really considered Salt Lake a city. I knew it was developed and more people seemed to flood here every year, but it still didn't qualify as a a real "city" in my mind. It was like Salt Lake had been unveiled and although all the streets looked exactly as I remembered them; I had never really seen this place. Where was I when I was growing up? I can't be a city girl, that isn't me. If I were a cartoon and wearing the same outfit everyday, I would pick my favorite AE shorts, Chacos, and a Patagonia sweater. City girl? I think not.
But regardless of how I view myself, I think I have a mental facade because now the true life I used to lead is very apparent.
When I came home, I opened the fridge and literally almost cried tears of thanksgiving. I don't remember ever having that much food. What I do remember is opening the fridge after practice and ordering pizza because there was nothing to eat.
I went down to my room, walked into my closet, and wished I could donate it all (some with the tags still on them.) 
Yes, I was a city girl.
I asked my mom if she was excited for General Conference. She told me that she was, and then raved about all the seafood she had ordered from her favorite caterer for us to eat in between sessions.
And now i sit in my room, remembering how comfortable a bed can be, and feeling like a big greedy pig. Now I see it. I grew up in the city.

Somewhere in these four weeks I was changed. I was transformed from what my society had made me into, to being grateful that my '97 Camry still has two hubcaps.

I was changed and I knew it not. 


One of the entries for PreProfessional Conference

I wish we could post all entries from WC assistants. They were great. Here are two poems by Ivor. Ivor and Dan had pieces accepted.

thought I'd let you know

i’ve been thinking,
of the grouchy park ranger woman
kicking us out for climbing the rail, and letting the roar
of the falls call loud to us from the edge of wet rocks.

when you are still,
i’m always trying to match the rhythm of you, your breath
with my own soft and nervous
by the way you “enfold me”
inside the feeling of your freedom.

i watch your content smile rise higher than your ears
but cannot convince
myself the form of this feeling,
or the dormant wonder lying in the details of your blue eyes i once thought were green
or this thought that comes,
more potent than the “syntax of things.”
but there you, asleep in a sunset tree and i think
i’d be about you.

who are you with these sealed eyes
shutting me out
with the rising crease of your lips from something
deeper than you and i without the tags of being human?

you are always so free,
running into oceans to let waves break against you,
they can’t move you, no more than i can.
and i always chasing, one step behind
the you that stops to stare at moonlit trees in the summer night,
or following you over the rail in the rain to see the falls.

Speaking in Wind
by 3525

Yesterday, running blind-like into the wind
I heard it speak through fluttering caution tape.
I heard the wind lifting
brown lines, and scattered leaves
to its shape, an angry cloud
through the field of dirt behind the art building.

I stopped to watch through squinted eyes
the growing blur and suddenly a grocery store flyer
lifted past me,
slid across the cement,
rolled its broken rhythm
with each tap on the ground.

It crinkled in the bellows
until it too was drowned
in the flurry’s exhale.

Then the fall of stone on stone, the clanking
rocks and wheelbarrow draws my attention away
to trees whose swaying chatters a chorus
of shivering leaves.

Yesterday in the wind a leaf too could speak.