The Fantastic Puns of Teenagers

One of the highlights of my job is that, now and then, one of the students will effortlessly spit out a truly fantastic pun.

Here are some of my favorites.

The first occurred some months ago, when Mr B and Ms Shea took all the honor roll students on a delightful honor roll trip, and lucky me had to stay behind with the seven unfortunate souls who didn’t make honor roll.

This had its cons (they couldn’t seem to stay put in their desks) and its pros (there was a live Christmas tree in the classroom, because a student had randomly won it from a radio station on the way to school, but that’s another story for another day). In essence, I survived.

After lunch, the students begged to play “Occupations.” To play this game, each student writes down the name of an occupation, such as “dentist” or “writer,” and gives it to the teacher. The teacher then reads the list of occupations, and each student tries to guess what occupations the other students submitted.

“Aubrey, are you dentist?” Mic might ask.

“No. Logan, are you firefighter?”

After playing this game many times, we’ve begun to have them list other things, such as types of cheese, or cartoon characters, instead of actual occupations. So on this December day, I decided to try my hand at a funny yet festive theme. “Sure, we can play occupations,” I said. “Let’s do, ‘gifts you would give your grandma.'”

They gave me their gift ideas, I read them off, and they began.

At one juncture Cameron turned to Zane. “Are you adult diapers?”

“That depends…” said Zane.

Fantastic pun #2 appeared more recently, when spring began to tease us, and someone brought a fresh bouquet of daffodils into the classroom. Their scent filled the room.

“Wow, those are strong,” Mr B said, coming in after break.

“What are?” Bryant wanted to know.

“The daffodils.”

Bryant scoffed. “I bet I could break them.”

(This was particularly funny to me because it was the first time I had ever, to my memory, heard Bryant tell a joke.)

The final pun happened a week or two ago.

This Monday our students will head to the ACE Regional Student Convention, and I’ve been up to my ears in preparation. Thankfully a former student, Janane, volunteered to do most of the convention prep, but I ended up heavily involved in the one act play.

First I wrote the play. Then one of the male participants dropped out, so I re-wrote a male part into a female part. Then I spent quite a bit of time with paintbrushes and PVC, trying to construct a set. Then the other male student wanted to drop out, and I told him he couldn’t unless he found another male to take his place (ACE has strict rules about people sticking to their gender in plays) so he bribed one of his buddies with two weeks of lunch trades.

(True story)

Janane in front of the backdrop we made.

So anyway. What with one thing and another, the actual act of practicing the play was falling by the wayside. Lines were hastily memorized. I borrowed things from the kitchen to stand in for props we didn’t have yet. And we practiced that play.

Aubrey, as Martha, was stirring a huge stew pot while Mary sat at Jesus feet in front of a fireplace of canvas and tempera paint. Jesus said his line. Mary said her line. Now it was Martha’s turn, but Aubrey wasn’t saying anything.

Aubrey stopped stirring, reached into her stew pot, and pulled out her script. “Sorry,” she said. “I mixed up my lines.”

What a funny bunch.

Advertisements

Bye, Sprwinter

Today I decided that I don’t have to like February/March.

I feel like I should. I mean, there’s the whole “live life to the fullest” thing. But even more, I always thought my least favorite season was winter, and my favorite season was spring, so should’t I love the moment winter begins to turn to spring?

And then every Sprwinter, for every sunny day and blooming daffodil, we get two weeks of rainy days and bare, ugly trees. It gets under my skin. I start feeling cold from the inside out.

When it’s properly winter, I am perfectly content to wrap in blankets and sip tea and read books and sew. In Sprwinter, I try to go on hikes, and then resent the rain. Or I go on a hike when we have a gorgeous 65° sunny day…

…and then feel tired and grumpy when it pours rain two days later.

Enough is enough. I am re-categorizing Sprwinter. I’m not going to try to like it any longer. I’m just going to survive it.

February Book Winner

The winner of my February book giveaway is…

Natasha Yoder!

Congrats, Natasha. I sent you an email.

As for the rest of you unlucky losers, worry not! I shall give away another book at the end of March.

The Way We Live Now

Every February the ladies at my church have a ladies retreat, and then a week or two later the youth at my church have a youth retreat, and I have to decide whether to go to one or the other or both.

It’s always at the coast. I don’t know what people do who don’t have a coast to go to. There’s a rented house, sometimes the one you used last year and sometimes a new one. And when it gets too small and loud you can slip away, barefoot in the cold, down the cliff on rickety wooden steps, to where the ocean waits; your friend.

This is the way we live now.

One week it’s all birth stories, and dark tales of the spiritual abuse from their past. Awful stories of evil, power hungry bishops who tried to control their weddings. Their weddings! I was so confused. What business was it of the Bishop’s? It wasn’t his wedding. You don’t understand, they tell me. You didn’t grow up like that.

Then, two weeks later, it’s a buzz of matchless energy and hormones, only I can never keep track of who is flirting with who because I’m over here chatting with the youth sponsors. We were all friends in high school, the youth sponsors and I. We’d go on the youth coast trip together, and back then I know who the flirty ones were. It was them, but only in the most subtle ways. Now they’re married.

I’ve barely arrived before I find myself driving down to Thor’s Well with Justin and Ben, the youth sponsor and my brother, respectively. We stand in the sideways rain and marvel at the natural wonders of the world, and talk about careers. I get soaked to the skin. I only have one set of clothes, because I’m not staying overnight, because I am no longer a teenager, and staying up is no longer a privilege; sleep is a privilege.

Back at the rental house, I borrow a change of clothes from Jenny and browse the bookshelves for a book to read. A thin, yellow paperback catches my eye: Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, and Seymour, an Introduction. The only J.D. Salinger I ever read was Catcher in the Rye, which I deemed OK-ish. But I heard that he wrote stories about a family of geniuses called the Glass family, and I wondered if this was one of those books.

It was.

I was completely enchanted.

But then, I thought, about the time I’d reached page 3, the point of spending time with the youth is to spend time with the youth. Which you are not doing.

I looked at my enchanting book and my cup of tea and the sideways rain outside the window and sighed.

But books like these can be found at thrift stores and read, later, in the comfort of my own home. Time with these people is a precious commodity. And I genuinely like them. All of them. The ones who have found themselves and the ones who haven’t. The ones whose bishops ruined their weddings and the ones who subtly don the baseball cap of the boy they like and it becomes a BIG DEAL.

This is the way we live now; sometimes a naïve woman who has never suffered abuse or birthed a baby, sometimes a world-weary youth who goes to bed too early and talks about careers. But always someone who cares about being part of your world, even if I don’t slot into it quite as neatly as everyone else does.

February Book Giveaway

I think I’ll start doing a book giveaway every month, at least until I run out of books to give away. Starting with this book.

Beverly Cleary was a favorite author of mine growing up. Throughout the years, my Dad read pretty much all of the Ramona Quimby books to me. Cleary is one of those rare authors that truly understands how children think. But it wasn’t until I was older that I realized she wrote some young adult (YA) as well.

I don’t know about you, but YA is very hit-or-miss with me. The universal appeal of YA is that while our teenage years are certainly not the best years of our lives, they’re certainly the most vivid. So diving back into that world can be a fun diversion. But all my life I’ve had a lot of trouble finding YA books I could actually relate to, or that even remotely resembled my own teenage experience.

Then, recently, I read this annoying article in which the author confidently writes, “sex, drinking and drugs are part of a teenager’s reality. This isn’t me suggesting every teenager has sex, or drinks, or does drugs — only that it’s there. It exists for them. And some adults may bluster — ‘Bluh, bleh, muh, not my teenager!’ — to which I say, even Amish teenagers deal with this. The Amish. The Amish. So, I’m always dubious of any young adult book that doesn’t at least address one of these three in some way.”

When I read this I rolled my eyes so hard that they were sore for days. If this is what people think the reality of every teenager is, it’s no wonder I could never find YA I could actually relate to.

Anyway. All that to say, I tend to collect YA that addresses what I see as the actual universal feelings of young people. Like when you like a guy more than they like you, or when you’re angry at your mom but can’t fully pinpoint where your feelings stem from, or when things matter enormously but you can’t explain why, or when you like the idea of a guy more than the actual guy, or when you start to discover how big and interesting the world really is.

This compilation by Beverly Cleary addresses all those feelings, and more. It is such a fun read. I recently found a second copy, and decided to give it away to one of my readers.

The compilation includes three books:

Jean and Johnny

Fifteen

The Luckiest Girl

If you’re interested in some fun happy reading, comment below or on Facebook saying you’d like to be entered. You can also mention what your favorite books were as a teenager, if you wish. If you share this post on Facebook or Twitter I’ll give you an extra entry. Just mention in your comment that you shared it.

That’s all for now. Happy Reading!

ETA: Giveaway now closed.

Things that Lurk in Google Drive

My friend Janane was looking over my shoulder and laughing.

“What’s so funny?”

“Your google drive! Mine is full of random pictures, and yours is full of random documents.”

This makes sense when you consider that she is a photographer and I am a writer. In any case, this inspired me to poke through some of the random things I’ve written and stored in google drive. Like this bit:

Stand on a stool.

Try standing on your tiptoes.

I’m sorry, I was in a meeting.

I’ll try to answer my phone next time.

Don’t worry, your arms will grow.

Try calling back when I’m not so busy.

Um, context please, Emily of the past? I don’t even remember writing this, and I have no clue what it’s supposed to mean. I think I just wrote down my exact thoughts, sans context, just for fun.

Here’s another:

I want to go somewhere else for a while:a foggy place where I can look sideways into the misty breeze, and read ancient hardback romances, and drink tea from sophisticated glass tea cups. No one will tell me what to do, or even make hints, and I will only write the things I want to write. If I get tired of having no responsibilities, I may get a very small cat. That is all.

And, a little weirder:

Sometimes when I’m lying in bed at night I think things that don’t make a lick of sense, and it makes me happy because it means I am inches from falling asleep. But this afternoon I scrolled through Twitter and thought, “I am grape.” That didn’t make any sense, obviously, but I’m not falling asleep, so what does that mean? That I’m inches from crazy?

LOL, I remember writing that one. I wasn’t falling asleep but I was experiencing a crazy amount of daytime fatigue at that point in my life.

Here’s another.

I thought that in his life everything must happen in the summer, all the colors muted, and the whole town diving into the creek, and people loving each other. I wanted to go back in time and photoshop myself in, so I could have the same memories.

And another.

“I’ll admit it,” he said. “I’m intimidated by women who make more money than me.”

I don’t know what her opinion of him was, then. She was a feminist, but not an angry one. I tiptoed through the conversation, smoothing down the corners.

And a bit of fiction for good measure.

“You see that thing that looks like a really bright star?” Roberta said. We were lying on the trampoline, snuggled into our sleeping bags, and her arm pointed up across my slice of sky like the dial on a speedometer.

“Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it a star?”

“No,” she said. “That’s Mars. That’s where I’m gonna live some day.”

“You’re not gonna live there!” said Cliff. “You can’t live on Mars. There’s no atmosphere.”

“I’ll wear a space suit,” said Roberta.

I tried to imagine a grown-up Roberta, wearing a long, floral skirt over her puffy space-suit pants, a prayer veiling pinned up under her helmet.

I guess I imagined her going, but not really leaving.

In the course of my poking around, I also found part of a book proposal that I’d forgotten I’d started, my graduation speech from 2008, a two page “About Me” section I wrote for this blog and then didn’t use because it sounded pretentious, the hastily-designed program for the Christmas Play I directed, and a transcribed interview with my grandpa.

Oh, and contrary to Janane’s claim, I did have some random photos as well.

IMG_1125

IMG_0108

IMG_1581

I can’t be the only one. What are some of the strangest things lurking in your Google Drive?

 

What Goes Wrong Where I Work

Of course the first comment on my last post asked me, “So, where YOU work, what is likely to go wrong?”

I should have anticipated that this question might come up. I was basically asking for it. But I still have avoided writing this blog post because in order to say what goes wrong where I work I have to first explain where I work, and my job is enough of a cobbled-together position that it’s hard to explain.

Okay. Here goes. I work at a small Christian church school, and my official job title is “secretary.” About 1/3 of my work hours are spent doing secretary work, about 1/3 of my work hours are spent teaching, and about 1/3 of my work hours are spent tutoring.

We’re an ACE school, so my “teaching” consists of helping out in the classroom once a week, as well as substitute teaching when necessary. I’m also in charge of two courses that sometimes require me to teach in the traditional sense, but are mostly writing-based, so I usually “teach” by meeting one-on-one with the students.

If you have ever been involved in a small Christian church school, I am sure you can easily envision this type of position. If not, I’m kind-of sorry if you’re still confused, but I am tired of trying to explain.

Actually, that could be thing-that-goes-wrong #1. I have a hard time explaining my job to those who have no concept of the small Christian church school.

So, thing #2, and this is probably the main one: I’m the one who hears the most about things that are going wrong, but has the least power to fix them.

The secretary is kind-of like Switzerland.

Well, except for the time I told the students not to wear t-shirts after the school Christmas Program. The school handbook said the students were to wear white button-down shirts to the Christmas Program, but I didn’t see any reason for them to wear button-down shirts under their costumes. So, thinking I was being cool and reasonable, I told them they could wear t-shirts under their costumes. But I didn’t like the idea of them wearing grubby t-shirts after the program, when everyone was eating refreshments, so I told them they could bring nicer shirts to wear afterwords. Maybe a polo or something.

Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me, it is totally in vogue for high school students of today to bring grubby t-shirts to Christmas Programs, just so they can change out of their fancy duds the instant the program is over. And I, the evil secretary, had just upset their plans.

That was the one time I was the center of drama. Instead, people usually complain to me when they’re upset at someone else. Which is fine. I’ll lend an empathetic ear. But it’s frustrating because there is usually very little I can actually do to help.

Okay, things that go wrong #3: I have an inconsistent schedule, but everyone else is on a very rigid schedule that I have to work around. And sometimes the people I help are on different schedules from each other.

Basically, grades 1-6 are on a completely different schedule from grades 7-12. The only time they kind-of overlap is at lunch, but even then, the older students are supposed to be finished eating and out on break by the time the younger students come out to the lunch room.

Last Monday, a friend of mine convinced me that the reason I’ve been so sick is because I don’t eat enough raw veggies. She suggested I bring salads for lunch. So, on Tuesday, I brought a salad for lunch.

It barely made a dent in my hunger.

Wednesday I brought an even bigger salad. It still didn’t fill me up.

Thursday was my day to help out in the older classroom, but I also had to tutor a 3’d grader. We made it work. But when the older classroom let out for lunch at 11:45 I was still tutoring, so I didn’t get to eat until the younger classes let out for lunch at noon.

I took out a plate and prepared my salad. It was a HUGE salad. The whole plate was heaped with kale and lettuce and parsley and avocado and beans and cheese. I began eating.

And ate.

And ate.

And ate.

The 12:15 bell rang. The younger classroom went out for break, and the older classroom came in from break. I was supposed to be back in the older classroom, doing my teacher duties, but my salad still loomed in front of me.

It took forever to chow the whole thing down. Have you ever tried eating a heaping plate of kale salad? I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, unless you like chewing and chewing for 20 minutes and not ever feeling full.

I mean, I feel healthier though I guess.

So. If you ever want to write a book about someone who had a job like mine, you can make them have a hard time explaining their job, and everyone can come to them to complain, and they can have strange scheduling conflicts that result in them not having enough time to eat their salad.

And everyone will think you know what you’re talking about.