Souls In Different Bodies

I’ve spent the last three days teaching in my favorite kind of classroom: special education.  I enjoy being around people who were born with developmental “handicaps” or conditions, because God made them that way on purpose.  They have great lessons to teach the rest of humanity.

This high school class had 4 students, and it was so nice to instruct students who spent their class time filling out worksheets and asking politely to get a drink of water, rather than the typical classroom full of students who throw things, tell me the wrong name when I’m taking roll, exit the classroom without permission, and complain about every single assignment I announce. 

I realize different conditions affect people in different ways, and some are very painful or make a person less-than-pleasant company.  My heart really goes out to parents of autistic children; these kids are often super smart, but they look at the teacher with a flat, hard look in their eye and can be just plain rude.  It would be so tough to parent a child who was born without a natural desire to show affection.

But back to this week.  These kids were all so sweet and honest!  I helped the lowest-functioning boy one-on-one with assignments while the others worked on their own.  We played Bingo with facts about Arizona (did you know it is the 48th state and joined the US on February 14, 1912?), and when a square was called I pointed to it on his board, and he put a marker on it.

I noticed this boy would put the marker on a square next to the one I specifically pointed at.  He then looked at me sideways with a mischiveous grin on his face, waiting for me to notice his little trick and exclaim “Hey!  What are you doing?” with a big smile of my own.  His trying to fool me and my being extra vigilant to catch him was more fun than the actual game.

This boy, about 16 or 17 years old, can follow directions and write short sentences with quite a bit of concentration.  He can’t read and understand written English, and he doesn’t speak at all.  He knows one word, “Mom,” which he directs at anyone when he wants to get their attention.  He has this handy dandy little electronic deal that looks like a cell phone with several commonly used phrases on it, and to communicate he pulls it out of his pocket and points to a phrase.  Pretty slick, really.

I was just so taken with how happy this kid was!  Always smiling, and truly delighted over a piece of candy or a basketball.  He strove to make sure the tail of his written y’s, g’s and p’s went sufficiently far below the line on the paper, and proudly pointed out his handiwork to us teachers. 

Such a great dose of perspective.  Another reminder that God created all of us individually and specifically, and that we all have value to add to their world.  It may be a very different kind of value that was is commonly taught by the world (go to college, get a good job, volunteer, recycle your milk jugs, open doors for elderly ladies at the grocery store, and set up a substantial retirement fund), but it is an equally important kind of value.  Under all our human striving, we are all just souls in some kind of body.

Leave a comment

Filed under Tales From The Schoolroom

Winnemucca Ranch Hand Rodeo

The best stories are always unprintable, but here’s one slightly censored version of last weekend’s Winnemucca Ranch Hand Rodeo.

I drove over on Saturday morning with Tilly and her boyfriend Jason.  Tilly was in the rodeo, so we left Elko at 5:15 AM in the morning.  It seems Rule #1 of Winnemucca is “All road trips must begin before 5:30 AM.”  Whether people drove from neighboring states, the Owyhee Reservation or ten miles south of the fairgrounds, everybody left in the dark.  It was good conditioning for a weekend of sleep deprivation. 

First stop for everyone seemed to be the Maverik gas station, where rodeo attendees bought diesel, coffee, and potato chips.  Once at the fairgrounds, the contestants loped their horses around and we spectators sipped bloody marys with plenty of pickled vegetables and ate chili fries. 

First point of interest: the horses from the rez.  I gotta say, I like those long, tall, rangy-lookin’ horses!  Such an improvement from riding Texas cutters, where you can actually help your horse travel by setting your feet on and pushing off the taller rocks. 

Horseflesh aside, I didn’t thoroughly enjoy the trade show.  Looking at all the hand-engraved silver, tooled saddles, Millie Hunt-Porter books, and jewlery with no spending money was kind of masochistic.  I took two-year-old Maggie walking around with me, and she would stop, point, and let out a loud gasp of delight every time she saw a dog or another child her size.  Good reminder that the best things in life still are free.

After the rodeo and during the horse sale, I made a great discovery.  If you buy coffee at the concession stand and carry it to the bar, they will pour a shot of kahlua in it for a small fee.  Yahtzee!  Hot toddies saved my cold-blooded self Saturday night. 

After the horse sale, we migrated to Winners Casino.  The Jeff Palmer Band did justice to some rockin’ dance tunes, somebody drank the bar out of Jack, and we got free popcorn.  Most unique line from a guy I’ve heard so far: “It’s 2:13.  Wanna go sleep in a bathtub?”  I think that was his way of saying “It’s getting late and I’m really drunk.  Can I crash in your room?” 

By the time I called it a night (or early morning, whatever), I had two outside horses to ride this summer, a queasy stomach from breathing several decades’ worth of secondhand smoke plus the freshly produced stuff, and a lap dance.  Success all around!

The theme for Sunday’s rodeo was “My eyes are a shade of red no eye drops can whiten.  I’m really craving French fries, but the thought of food makes me ill.  I barely have the strength to crack a beer and sit on my horse/sit in the stands.  At least it’s Sunday and we can go back to work and catch a break tomorrow.” 

I met a staff writer from the Nevada Rancher, got another story assignment, and met a neat braider/cowboy to add to my collection of People to Pester for Stories For My Cowboy Book.  Add a little work-related activity to a road trip and call the whole weekend a business expense.  I love being self-unemployed.

Like I said, the best stories aren’t printable.  As such, I highly recommend going to Winnemucca next March to acquire some unedited stories of your own.  If you’re there, look me up.  I’ll be the girl drinking cofee (wink wink) and laughing way too loudly.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cowboy Stuff

Some Things Just Don’t Really Matter

Last Friday I decided to take a vacation from trying to be noble.  I was fed up with objectively studying myself as a sub, taking feedback from regular teachers, and adjusting my technique only to have a student ask me on Thursday afternoon “Are you going to be here tomorrow?”

“No.”

“Yessssss!”

I sent him to the office, then sent myself to the Star on Friday to practice my drinking skills.  Usually, I’m a one-glass-giggly kind of girl, but Friday I was in a foul mood unimproved by booze.  I kept up with my drinking buddy, only he was drinking beer and I was downing gin.

By 11:30, when the ranch rodeo at Spring Creek got over and that crowd joined us at Stockmen’s, I had a pounding headache.  I was the angry-looking person sitting along the back wall, glaring at the band.  Everyone else was tuned up and feeling good, and I was slightly hungover.

I just can’t handle my liquor.  My dad says it’s genetic; he used to always throw up after a night of drinking.  I’m rarely the drunkest one at the party, but I’m almost always the most hungover.  I mean, throwing up water, violently shaking hungover.  Not attractive.

I knew going into my five o’clock Friday that no good would come of overserving myself.  Since I drank two Mexican coffees and one Irish coffee (it was like multicultural night in Elko) I laid in bed an hour after I hit the sheets, further exhausting myself for Bible study the next morning.  Good decision, only not so much you’d notice.

One thing jumped out and grabbed me by the jugular at Bible study: Ronda quoted Dan Romans (I think) and said “Some things just don’t really matter.”  Meaning, we put too much thought into and emphasis on some decisions, happenings, etc. that are kind of a wash in the grander scheme of things.

What a relief!  I DON’T have to be Supewoman, Best Sub Ever, Most Likely To Brighten Everyone’s Day Simply By Appearing In It, or Writer Of The Year No Make That Century.

It’s ok to have a bad day, week, whatever.  I can obsess over making sure God specifically told me to work there, date him, don’t date him, never ever have a sip of alcohol, write that story, buy that pickup, move to that state, go to that rodeo, order my steak medium rare, or wear jeans instead of khakis.

It doesn’t really matter!

Since God’s in control anyway, it’s impossible for me to mess up my life.  He knew what I was going to do before I did it.

This raises the question of what, then, is the point of life?  What does it mean to be human?

I will definitely give this some thought.  But, in the short run, it sure is nice to not be inordinately angry at the world anymore.  Whew!  No more binge drinking.  No girl looks pretty with a pickled liver.

Leave a comment

Filed under Off The Cuff

Nobility In (A Really Good) Disguise

Are school mascots supposed to be A) menacing, B) inspiring, or C) pitiful?  If you’re like me, you answered D) “I have no idea, because after extensive study in 2 states I have found no discernible pattern.”

As a young ‘un on the family ranch 4 miles south of the Oregon border, I attended one-room Bogus Elementary School.  Along with the one other kid in my kindergarten class, we were the Bogus Bats.  If I were the opponent of a bat, I would shriek and grab a broomstick.  If I were the bat, I’d hide in a cave.

Continuing with an unexplainable “b” theme, my family moved when I was nine and I became a Big Springs Badger.  Badgers are fierce and fang-y, but their diminutive stature classifies them as “varmints” in my mind.  More like a wood chuck than a wolverine.

In high school I was a Yreka Miner.  Our mascot showed a picture of a bearded old man wearing a slouch felt hat and shouldering a pick ax.  Viewing it, I was torn between, “Aww, poor old bum,” and “Is that a used murder weapon?”

What’s up with the Wells (NV) Leopards?  When was the last time (or the first) that a big spotted cat was seen on the high desert? 

Or the Carlin Railroaders.  What’s a railroader?  Is it someone who builds railroads, evoking an image of a virile man capable of vanquishing his opponent in a contest of physical strength and athletic ability?

Or is it someone who hitches free rides on trains and sleeps in a blackberry bush?  Should I step aside in intimidation or hand over my spare change and half a sandwich?

I like the Spring Creek Spartans.  Besides the sibilical alliteration, Spartans are a globally recognized symbol of noble warriors.  Plus, they have nifty helmets with feathers.  Only a Spartan could wear that and still look cool.

Pretty much the reason I didn’t go to college in Santa Cruz, besides the fact that I had absolutely no desire to, is that their mascot is the banana slug.  What effect were they going for?  “Stay away, or I’ll slime you”?  Kind of like the middle school basketball player who continually wipes his snotty nose with his dribbling hand.

I guess it doesn’t really matter what your mascot is, as long as you play nobly and fair.  It just seems easier to channel nobility when you’re a Wildcat than a Bat.

2 Comments

Filed under Tales From The Schoolroom

You Just Can’t Know

As horrendous as Friday was, that’s how good today was. 

For comparison: on Friday, a high school boy looked at me and said, “You’re the cutest sub we’ve ever had!” then winked at me across the room.  Not okay.  A middle schooler later asked me if I had a black eye.  “No, I’m just tired, but thank you….”…..for destroying the last milimeter of self-confidence I possessed for the day.  I was drinking wine by 4:30. 

Working at Capriola’s assauged my frazzled psyche.  Cleaning jewelry cases and vacuuming the staircase calmed me right down.  On my lunch break I checked out Mish Mash and Muddle, a consignment store (that’s a five-dollar word for “thrift store”) and scored an imitation leather jacket for $11.  This jacket is seriously smokin’ hot.  If I wasn’t me, I would so hit on myself. 

And then the sixth grade schoolchildren today were absolute dreams to teach.  I have no idea why, but I just went with it.  They hushed up and listened when I addressed the class, telling their talkative friends to be quiet.  They read their history books.  They calculated their math problems.  They asked me for help.  They raised their hands when they wanted to share an answer.  They read silently. 

During free time, some kids played Go Fish, some played Apples to Apples, and one table played blackjack.  I wondered if I should shut down the gambling on school premises, but then thought Shoot, this is Nevada.  Blackjack is practically a basic survival skill, like honking your car horn while driving in New York City or shoving the bag of oranges under the front seat and telling the ag inspection station attendant, “No, we don’t have any fruit,” when driving over the California line.

I just made sure they didn’t gamble the rent money and no one had two hands on their cards.

The class was so quiet and studious that I got all caught up on my New York Times reading online.  I am now educated on the demise of “marginiality” (writing in the margins of books), lesbians and their sperm donors (yeah, TMI for me, too), female reporters in Egypt (the sexual assaults are horrifying) and the new season of Desperate Housewives: Miami (made me feel much better about myself).

I’m teaching high school art in Wells tomorrow.  I have no idea what to expect.  With subbing, you just can’t know 🙂

Leave a comment

Filed under Tales From The Schoolroom

Comic Relief

Here’s some randomly assembled comic relief courtesy of the children.

The other day I taught second grade.  As the class entered the room, I sat in the chair behind the teacher’s desk.  A blonde girl walked over and asked where her regular teacher was.

“She’s not here today.  I’m your sub,” I explained.

“I wish Mrs. Baird was here.  I like her.  But I’m glad you’re here,” the little girl said as she patted me on the head.

I was hyperaware of odd names at this school.  I led the charge after being dubbed, “Miss Lambchopper” by an eight-year-old.  One boy in this class had the last name “McNutt,” the blonde girl who patted my head was “Kate Holmes,” and “Mrs. Lesbo” taught next door.  Today in middle school I instructed “Vidalia.” 

Does anyone else absolutely love that Sammy Kershaw song?  Come on, Erica, you know we do 🙂

As part of her assignment, I asked a second grader how many states were in America.

“Does Mexico count?” she responded. 

Hmmm….is she behind in her geography education or wise beyond her years? 

Another student tried to calculate the number of states. 

“Well, I know there’s Las Vegas and New Vegas….”

I’m reassured that they all know the Pledge of Allegiance by heart.  You don’t have to be able to count to be patriotic.

How about this for a seventh grade insult:
Boy #1: I need to borrow your dictionary.
Boy #2: You need to borrow your face!

Burn?

I visited with an eighth grade boy during a slow moment in the classroom.  He told me he had a big family; lots of half-siblings from both his parents.  His older half-sister had three kids, his next half-sister had four kids, and his other half-sister had one kid.  He mentioned one half-sister’s name was Jolyn.

“Hey, that’s my name!” I said.

“Really?  Hey, maybe you’re my sister!”

Kids.  Some days, I go to work grumpy, but I’m always smiling within twenty minutes.  They’re funny people!

1 Comment

Filed under Tales From The Schoolroom

This One’s For The Girls

  Freakin’ Eve.

If that one damned (literally) woman hadn’t eaten that one little apple, women today would not be plagued with our array of female-only problems, including but not limited to incredibly painful childbirth, PMS and never being able to find our size on the 80%-off rack at JCPenney. 

I can’t really blame Eve.  She probably had an irrepressible hormonal craving.

What is it about hormones that makes women throw spatulas across the kitchen, kick holes in the bottom of bedroom doors, sigh all day long at work, pry ourselves out of bed and collapse into a nap as soon as we get home from work, hate the sight of every single item of clothing in our closet and our roommate’s, eat Oreo’s, ice cream and sea salt and vinegar potato chips, and cry?

Oh, I hate the tears most of all.  In California, I used to sit in the tack room and bawl my eyes out.  I couldn’t catch an outside horse to ride; I’d just throw a curry comb at him within five minutes and then he’d snort and run off and I’d cry. 

I told my horseshoer neighbor once that some days all I can do is sit in the saddle house and cry.

“Oh, hell, I wish I’d have known that – I’d go over there and cry with you,” she replied.

I tell myself some days I just can’t make major decisions or new friends.  I hate every article I’ve ever written and I know in my heart I will never amount to anything.  I have to remind myself to look at people when they speak to me and brushing my teeth feels like a major accomplishment and therefore I deserve a cookie. 

I can’t muster the energy to ask new acquaintances, “So, where ya from?” or cheerfully introduce myself to the other teachers at a new school when I’m subbing.  I’ve survived 24 years without knowing these people, and I’m okay with that.

I now know that “This, too, shall pass.”  Within a week I will be bounding out of bed at 5:30 AM, sticking my hand out and saying “Hi, I’m Jolyn,” with a big smile, and walking down the chip aisle without grabbing a family size bag of Fritos.  In the meantime, I will refrain from signing a lease, applying for a new job, quitting my current job, telling a man we were meant to be together but fate cruelly intervened, telling my sister I hate her, or getting a haircut. 

I will also permit myself one loud, heartfelt utterance of the f-word.  I’ve found that if I say any more than that, my anger escalates, but just one can be very therapeutic.  Never underestimate the soothing power of a curse word and a bag of Reese’s.

2 Comments

Filed under Off The Cuff

Oy

This week kicked my butt.  I subbed every day, and after school I worked on the pile of freelance assignments I’m trying to complete on deadline.  I’m not complaining, because I’m grateful for the work, but yeesh! 

I told myself, You’re sitting in a nice warm classroom.  You’re not expending any amount of energy long trotting or roping with a wool sweater, down jacket and two pairs of gloves.  You pansy, why are you so tired?  I realized the mental exhaustion of guiding a group of schoolchildren through a day of learning is much greater than the physical exhaustion of sitting on a horse all day shoving cattle around.

After yesterday, I decided “Miss Laubacher” is a bad word and anyone who utters it more than ten times a minute should sit in the corner for the remainder of class.  If anyone corrects me and says “But that’s two words,” you can sit in the corner, too. 

I designated Saturday as my official Get All My Writing Assignments Done And Emailed To My Editors day, but so far all I’ve done is watch Made of Honor  (Patrick Dempsey is HOT) and drink a glass of wine.  It’s not quite noon.  I thought I’d fall back on an old Chico State trick called “when you’re stuck on writing a paper, drink.” 

I’m having my doubts about how well this will work, and not just because I actually laughed out loud at the phrase “bling-bling” typed on the screen.  Maybe I should arrange for the post office to deliver magazines featuring my work with a bottle of merlot.  I think it would help the circulation, anyway.  Actual readership, not so sure….I get a little tipsy and want to socialize. 

If I were in Chico, I would put on some mascara, a swingy skirt, and take a stroll downtown.  There was always someone in their yard enjoying the sunshine who wanted to visit.  In Elko, I’d have to walk a few miles to downtown, including dodging the big rigs on Mountain City Highway and make it over the I-80 overpass.  I haven’t drank that much wine yet, but ask me again at 3 PM.

Oy….here I am, blogging in an effort to motivate my writing self and finish these dang assignments!!!!  It’s kind of worked….but not so much you’d notice.  Luckily, the dryer just dinged, so I can continue my procrastination by putting clean sheets on my bed.  Happy Saturday! 🙂

3 Comments

Filed under The Writing Life

God Before Money

At the last minute, I decided to attend the monthly Independence Valley ladies’ Bible study.  For some reason, that name always gets the song “Harper Valley PTA” stuck in my head.  Hmmm.  Strange.

I wasn’t going to go to the study; I planned on working all day at Capriola’s.  I told myself I was too broke to pass up the paycheck.

Ronda called me Friday night to see if I was going to the study.  I said no then changed my mind right after I hung up the phone.  I realized I will always be broke to some degree or another.  Right now I have vehicle registration, a pickup repair bill, rent, a doctor’s bill, etc., and in the future I will have to pay more vehicle repairs, cell phone bills, doctor’s visits, etc. 

I will always have some expense making a grab for my wallet when I’m not looking.  The decision to put my Lord before my money is always there.  I just have to make it. 

I’d subbed every day last week, so I wasn’t haphazardly saying, “Money?  Who needs it?!”  I took time to care of fiscal business.  I needed to take care of spiritual business.

The study was wonderful!  Lunch was a potluck, but we ate before we opened our Bibles because “the kids were hungry.”  The under-eight crowd sat on the floor by the heater and colored while we grown-ups discussed Christ’s Second Coming, woman’s place in the church, how it is way cooler to be made from a rib than a lump of clay, and how to stay positive in depressing circumstances. 

I left Ronda’s house feeling much richer than if I’d worked for Nevada minimum wage all day.  Fellowship strengthens our souls, our relationship with God, and replenishes us so we can share the goodness of Christ with others.  Plus, I got a recipe for my favorite no-bake peanut-butter-and-corn-flake cookies 🙂 

John 8:32

Leave a comment

Filed under I Love The Lord

Can Openers, Buttons, And Cherries

I have decided to take up cooking for sport and sustenance, mainly because if I eat another bagged salad with chopped lunchmeat and call it supper I am going to scream. 

Right now, I have three staple recipes.  The first one can be adapted for a variety of meals.  It involes two simple ingredients: a jar of                        (peanut butter/dill pickles/peach jelly/marshmallow creme/applesauce/cocktail onions/etc.) and a spoon.  I won’t insult my readers’ intelligence by writing instructions, but remember to remove the lid first. 

If you find you cannot remove the lid due to no fault of your own except lack of physical strength, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Meet the neighbors.  Phone a friend.  Don’t suffer alone.

Recipe #2 involves the rare times when I am feeling mechanical and decide to whip out the ol’ can opener.  I never use the electric kind, because they frighten me.  Old-fashioned hand-crank can openers are good enough for me (in this case, “good enough” means “simple enough”).  The how-to-eat steps are basically the same as Recipe #1, except you generally wind up eating stewed tomatoes, canned green beans, chili, enchilada sauce or pickled beets. 

All right, Recipe #3!  Are you ready?  I can feel the excitement emanating through the computer screen.  This one involves spices, so you know it’s good.

Step #1: (See how I’m not telling you what it is you’re actually making?  This adds a level of suspense usually not seen in cooking.) 

Okay, Step #1:  Fill coffee maker water holder with water.  Step #2:  Fill coffee maker filter with ground coffee.  Step #3:  Add a liberal (don’t tell the Republicans) dash or six of ground cinnamon.  Step #4:  Push the button.

Don’t forget Step #4, or you will take your morning shower, revive the fire in the wood stove, turn on the news, and go “Arrrrgggghhhh!” when you realize you forgot to push the button. 

Step #5:  Double check to make sure you pushed the button. 

In an effort to advance my culinary skills past can-opening and button-pushing, I sat down with some cookbooks I found buried in the back of a cupboard today.  One was published in the 1950s, and I learned all kinds of cool stuff!  Mainly, people used a lot of gelatine back then.  It was in everything!  Fruit salads, vegetable salads, desserts, wallpaper glue. 

I discovered you can make baked “fried” chicken in the oven with potato chips and butter.  Sweet!  I love potato chips.  I want to try corn salad, which I’ve never even heard of.  This could be fun.

I just hope there aren’t any brand-new jars to open.  It’s one thing to be defeated by a too-tight wire gate, but inability to open a jar of marshiano cherries is just embarrassing.  And likely to happen 🙂

Leave a comment

Filed under Off The Cuff