woe is my mouth.

When my dentist reenters the room and reassures me by saying, “I just drank half a Red Bull—I’m ready to take down this root canal!” you know my first thought is: Yes. This is exactly how I wanted to end my day.

At my last visit to the dentist’s office, the assistant numbed the lower half of my mouth and I literally couldn’t speak without slurring. Unfortunately, slurring led to giggling; at one point, the background jam of “I like it when you call me Big Papa, throw ya hands in the aya…” sent me into a peal of laughter which paused her work nothing shy of three times.

So today, when my dentist decides halfway through the drilling/pressing/pain that this is an excellent time for small talk, I’m a little wary. He asks me about teaching, and I respond with “UNNHHH….” While I had rather hoped this would translate to, “Why are you asking me questions when you can clearly see the jaw-jacking hockey puck between my teeth?” I’m afraid the grunt came across as, “Ask away!” A series of questions later, I lie in the chair and wonder how much fun this conversation can really be, considering that all of my answers are various pairings of sound and noncommittal waves of the hand.

Time passes to the beat of pop and country hits, all of which are relatively enjoyable (with the exception of “Red Solo Cup.” Why, oh why, was that song written?). The attack on my poor little mouth aside, I was honestly pretty comfortable. They even left the heavy x-ray bathmat across me so I could keep warm. My numb mouth made me feel a bit like Scar’s tongue-lolling pal Ed, but they did supply me with sunglasses to wear...at night...indoors. Quite the experience.

The good news is, I should be able to chew on the right side of my mouth again, a habit six months absentee. How I managed to use only my left side, with the occasional test of mashed potato pressure on the right, is beyond me. I’d like to think of this as accomplishment, along with my choice to skip writing for a year and a half, and then post this.


bust your windows outcha car.

Impressed by my unusual morning punctuality, I sling my purse over my shoulder and lock the back door. A few skip-steps through the gate, I round the front of my Pathfinder. The car key gravitates toward the keyhole, but falters, lowers like my jaw. I didn’t leave the window down...glass? Wh—how? Where’s...? Oh no...oh no, oh no, oh NO.

The glass shards glitter on the empty street and against the car’s red interior. Over strewn papers and CDs, my dash hangs—gutted—next to the open glove box and arm rest compartment. I stand dumbstruck, sweating in my cardigan and slacks, willing myself not to cry.

While this won't go down in my history of Best Mornings Ever, I can’t say it was one of my worst. Everyone loses money over car expenses, and that always sucks. However, today, the summation of simple kindnesses outweighs the pretty pennies spent. My neighbor came outside to sit with me until the police came. She spotted that, oddly enough, my iPod dangled from the glove box, left behind. The police officer swept glass out of my car and moved the busted window into the trash bin. My neighbor then took me to new teacher orientation, where I wasn’t penalized for being an hour and a half late. Meanwhile, Dad drove up to take my car in for a new window pane and see about replacing my stereo, because he insisted. A friend from training drove me across the city to my car. Though Stereo Stealer disconnected my A/C in the gutting process, Kwik Kar hooked it back up at no charge.

So now, eleven hours after a disappointing start, I’m singing praises for good citizens and a surprisingly non-detrimental perspective. And let's not forget, it's dinnertime. That ain't too shabby, folks.


so gangsta, i'm so thug.

The best social situations are ones which require zero sociability. Or, at least, that’s my stance today. Honestly, I think this is a terrible perspective, but there must be some truth...otherwise, I wouldn’t have driven all the way (and when I say “all the way,” know that I mean approximately seven blocks) to Starbucks just to pop in my headphones and stare down my laptop. Once upon an academic lifetime, my speedy typing impressed passersby as they awaited their coffee fix. Little did they know, I was backspacing seventy percent of the time... Little do you know, no one notices that sort of thing. But humor me. Let me think that my presence here is beneficial to all.

I just opened a saved word document, and had to laugh at a short dialogue I’d recorded. We’ll call this another little gem that exhibits my socializing oddities. (There are so, so many gems...)

After a big family birthday dinner, my dad pulled a lug wrench out of his car trunk. Somehow, my upturned hand of protest was mistaken for a happy retrieval because Dad placed the wrench in my palm, saying, “Here ya go! This should do the trick with your car-jack if you have another flat!” I appreciate that he was doing the Dad Thing and taking care of me, but, I didn’t drive into town. I rode the train. And, as most train riders would agree, it looks just a tad bit sketchy when a passenger trudges through the aisle with her fingers locked around a lug wrench.

For my sister’s amusement before she dropped me off, I scrunched up my face and shook the wrench around in mock intimidation. Picture it now and you’ll see how effective I’d be at making friends this trip. I sat down on a train station bench in the Crooked I—Irving, for those who don’t know—and tried to look innocent. Needless to say, this was not accomplished. You cannot hide a lug wrench—believe me, I tried. My dad, bless him, also sent me on my merry way with a plastic bag of liquor-affiliated koozies. Even a girly skirt and an embarrassed expression can’t counteract that kind of questionable baggage.

When my train arrived, I desperately scoured the upper-deck for an individual who might not call security on me. I didn’t want to stand around long, as that would draw more attention to the white-girl weapon in my hand, so I motioned toward a tattooed and tired young guy. “Mind if I sit here?”

“Not at all,” he said.

“Thanks...Don’t mind my wrench...”

His eyes glanced my hand. He shrugged, “As long as you don’t beat me with it.”

I set the metal on the table between us. A white-flag gesture. An inconspicuous shrug. “I’ll try to hold back.”


processing error.

Where thinking is concerned…I’m out of practice. My success in school depended on my ability to dissect whatever I read, viewed, or heard and to then fashion an intelligent afterthought. Naturally, I considered myself pretty successful, like most over-confident English majors do. But, now, I can’t seem to take anything further than, “How pleasant! I think I liked that.” Excuse me? Who is this eighty-year-old first-grader? The last few books I’ve read and movies I’ve watched are seriously profound in idea and beautiful in portrayal—I’m quite sure of that—so why am I satisfied with re-shelving the book or ejecting the DVD without understanding why these stories move me? It’s rather disappointing, really. I’m failing somewhere. I’m an average reader and mindless movie-watcher. Come on, Self, you didn’t use to be this way!

Without the threat of a due date, writing no longer has “purpose” for me. That statement alone should make me shudder--the good news is that it does. Hello, Child, writing isn’t about proving your ability, your skill, or your worth to a teacher, or anyone at all!

I need to be honest with myself. I process through pen and keyboard. I’m more thankful, more appreciative, more creative, more intellectual when I hold off a minute and let my mind wander. The first detour is meant to entice, not discourage. Keep going. Keep thinking. “I think I can, I think I can…”

In post-academic life, no one requires (or would even care for) me to spit out well-articulated analyses and arguments. But that’s not really the point, is it?


really, another disney star?

I wonder if, when I’m forty, I’ll still catch myself thinking, “Okay…that teen heartthrob is pretty dreamy.”

Because that would be gross. And totally inappropriate.

I just read an article on Nick Jonas. Why? Excellent question. Unfortunately, there is no acceptable answer. “I really respect his music,” would be a lie, considering I can only recognize one Jonas Brothers song and have never heard him solo. “I had nothing better to do,” would make my life sound pathetic. “His picture caught my eye and compelled me to read the entire article,” would be…accurate, and so, so lame.

You won’t see me in the first row at his concert, pressing an “I <3 NICK” shirt to my heart and crying joy-tears when he winks at the crowd. You won’t even find his album on my iTunes. But, if you ask, I’ll admit that, yes, I think he’s cute…even if he’s seventeen.

Honestly, it saddens me to know that this is the second teenage poster-boy I’ve written about. If I ever post anything with “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob,” someone please—I implore you—stop me before I start scribbling Mrs. So-and-So with hot-pink gel pens on my notebook.


the family that farkles.

I look at my dad’s first cousin’s daughter’s second husband and state, “Face it, man: you’re a farkler.”

I think that’s decent proof that family reunions are a bit ridiculous. In a good way, of course. I went to our reunion this weekend out in Super Small Town, Texas where, after walking in with Grandmother’s fruit tray, I was soon introduced to a second cousin twice removed (by the way, this is not The Farkler, and I have no clue at all how these two would be related). Soon, familiar faces trickled in with their multi-colored casseroles. We joined hands to pray; together, we circled the kitchen, hall, dining room, and den. By the time I picked up a plate, my young cousins were already scooping out seconds. Piles of macaroni and brisket disappeared and my aunt started to round up some of us for a dice game—she’s a big gamer, and we’re pretty obliging.

The Farkler corrals the dice with his forearm and shoves them to his daughter. “Right-o,” he says. “I farkled. I farkle. And don’t worry, folks, I’ll be farkling again soon.” We laugh like kids and test the verbs ourselves, tasting the silliness.

Farkle is a game of chance and risk-taking, but, as sixteen of us take turns, I realize that we’re all pitching out advice (even if it’s the peppy devil-at-your-ear kind). We’re involved and laughing regardless of which player’s rolling. As we’re gaming, I look through the window to the sunroom and see another twenty family members sipping tea and coffee, chatting and remembering. Being around families stirs that feeling in me that I get when I snuggle under my quilt and my dog curls into the crook of my leg, rests his head on my knees. It’s simple, sweet and comforting.

Now, really—who would expect that from a game called Farkle?


a minute on music, wind-style.

What’s new, pussy cat? Whoaaa, oh-owhoa-owhoa. There’s no reason for that sing-a-long (though I do hope you did sing along), except that I’d like to write today. If I’ve skipped writing for a while, I usually type out lyrics until I figure out what’s on my mind. And today I’m posting the lyrics, simply because they’re from a great old classic. That song trails into “Love Potion #9,” then “On the Boardwalk,” and eventually “Stand by Me.” I’m dreaming of a nap. In a hammock, swaying in the light breeze. Humming to old tunes and reminiscing about drives in my dad’s old orange Chevrolet, finger-drawing in the blonde fur seat covers.

When sweet, spring weather graced us last Monday, I popped Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits in my car stereo and skipped ahead to track eight. My elbow fell where the window disappeared and the wind sang Sweeeeeet Emohhhh-tion. What is it about wind-whipped acoustics that transforms good songs into great songs? Slip on your aviators, tousle your hair down and, hey now, check you out—life’s perfect and everybody wants you.