Sunday, June 25, 2006

Sneaking around

Ok, so I am leaving for France on Monday at 1pm, and it's Saturday at midnight, and I have had a busy day. Even though I have only been up for 12 hours. Whatever.

I made a HUGE list this morning of all the things I needed / wanted to do before leaving for France, and I really have gotten most of them done. That is a good feeling. Of course, that one task, you know, the one that reads a little something like this:

  1. Send complete draft of thesis to committee
Yeah, that one - it's not done. And, let's be honest, I AM disappointed about that. That means that I will REALLY be teaching myself this next month in France that I CAN work all day long and then in the evenings, too. And while that will be good preparation for this next year of teaching at two different institutions, I was really hoping to NOT have to work quite so hard in France. But alas.

OK, but let's look on the bright side - I did get TONS done today.

And now that we've got that out of the way, let's look on the not-so-bright side. Meaning the "sometimes I am not so bright" side.

So I have this GREAT aunt and uncle and big ol' family of cousins who live in town and who don't mind if I do laundry at their house and who don't mind if I know where the spare key is. :) And yesterday my aunt and cousins were talking about my cousins spending time at their grandparents' house over the next two days while both parents are out of town (my aunt left this morning and my uncle gets back tomorrow night), so when I realized tonight that I needed to do one more load of laundry before the France trip I thought

nice, good, kind generous family that loves me + no one home right now + spare key = available washer and dryer = HOORAY!!
So I went on over. And then on the way over I thought, "Wait, why would my cousins be sleeping at their grandparents' house? They are old enough to be home without their parents."

So imagine me, at 11ish at night, desperate to do laundry, pulling into the driveway of a totally dark house where I think, but I am not sure, that there are four kids sleeping. And imagine me sneaking around in the garage, using the little tiny flashlight on my keychain to search for the spare key, and imagine me HOPING that I don't wake them up as it takes me THREE TRIES to get the door unlocked. And imagine me sneaking around this dark house, NOT turning on any lights so that I won't wake them up. I know this house pretty well, so not turning on lights was not that big of a deal, I mean, I know where the furniture and the stairs and the laundry room are, right? Well, ok, except that I forgot that they rearranged some furniture (read: stuck it all in the laundry room) because they were getting the carpet cleaned. So I got safely to the laundry room, and then turned on the light - and then realized that yes, I WAS going to have to climb over all that stuff, carrying my laundry basket. But, hey, I'd made it this far, and I needed to get the laundry done.

So imagine me shleping my laundry over and around all the furniture that would fit in the laundry room, starting the load washing, shleping myself back over and around all that furniture, sneaking back through the dark house, sneaking back through the garage by the light of my tiny flashlight to put the spare key back, and sneaking back to my car.

OK, now imagine me doing all that sneaking with the back of me, from my waist to the top of my calves, TOTALLY SOAKING WET.

'Cause those automatic sprinklers in the front lawn? Yeah, they move.

And I feel like there is what my boss would call "one of life's little lessons" in all of this. And for those of you who missed it, here it is:
All you people who sneak into your relatives' houses in the middle of the night to do laundry, or really for ANY reason, and you notice the sprinklers on in the front yard, BE WARNED. Just because they weren't close enough to get you wet when you opened the car door to get out doesn't mean that they won't, 10 seconds later, be close enough to SOAK YOU TO THE SKIN as you get your laundry, or anything else, out of the back seat.
So there you have it. I finished out the night feeling like a genius. A not-so-bright, not-so-dry, genius. I wonder how you say that in French? I think I'll just head on over there and find out...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

One Arabic speaker, please!

Ok, so I just reread Lisa's email, in the process of responding to it, and she made a comment about how the Lord really looks out for us.

Case in point:

I have, as I'm sure you can imagine, LOTS to do before I leave for France on Monday. So I have put in more hours at work this week than in previous weeks (which is good for the bank account but not for the thesis), finishing up some projects for my boss, who is also in France, but whom I will not see while I am in France. One of these projects involved aligning Arabic and English subtitles for a movie. I, uh, don't speak Arabic, so this has been, shall we say, fun?, for me to do. :) Today, as the penultimate step to this being DONE, I needed an Arabic speaker to proofread a couple of subtitles for me. I went to an office where there are usually a couple of Arabic speakers - both gone. I went to another building, where there are offices for more Arabic speakers. All gone.

So I walked up and down a few hallways, hoping to find someone who spoke Arabic. No dice. And it was during this process that I thought, "Heavenly Father, please help me to find an Arabic speaker." I just felt like this has been such a PROCESS, and I really wanted to be done with it today so that I could move on to other things tomorrow, and all I needed was ONE PERSON who spoke Arabic. I mean, c'mon, is that too much to ask? :)

Anyway, this is becoming a much longer story than it was in real life, because in real life it was really simple, and subtle. I couldn't find an Arabic speaker, and was leaving the building, and then! There, waiting for the elevator, was this guy named Steve (not Steve, unfortunately, or fortunately, I guess, since he speaks Spanish but not, I think, Arabic), who used to work in an office that we've done work with, and who also used to be the roommate of a friend of mine, and I said, "YOU speak Arabic!" and he said, "no," and I turned to walk away, and he said, "...I am studying Arabic." And I was like, "None of that false modesty with me, dude, I need your skillz!" and I got in the elevator with him and he checked what I needed checked in the Arabic text on the way up the elevator and down the hall. And he DID find an error that needed fixing, and I got it fixed, and voilĂ ! Prayer answered, problem solved!

(Note how I slipped that French word right in there. This is how Reese Witherspoon got into Harvard Law, and this is how I got a job teaching French. Take note, people.)

And as I was leaving the building, after Steve proofread the Arabic for me, I felt a gentle nudging reminder that Heavenly Father had just answered my quick, simple, seemingly unimportant prayer. I asked for an Arabic speaker and I found one. It really was that easy. And even though I have kind of made light of it here a little bit, it was a neat moment for me when I recognized that answer to prayer. It made me feel like He is just waiting for us to include Him in our lives, decisions, and tasks, waiting for us to ask so that He can pour out help for us. I mean, really, that was so easy! I think that we are the limiting factor when it comes to how much He is a part of our lives. It made me think. And it also made me say "thank you," which is another thing that I think I neglect in my life.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Why I think blogs are fun

My dear friend Lisa just sent me an email, telling me that she had recently updated herself on my life by reading my blog, and added, on the end of her email, "Enjoy your week and remember to eat more than sweet rolls and otter pops."

:) I LOVE it!!

I mean, I would never think to tell anyone that all I was eating was sweet rolls and otter pops, you all know! And see? Isn't that fun?!

Ok, maybe it's just me, but, uh, I thought that was a really fun comment. And this blog is, after all, all about me. So there.

Thanks, Lisa! Love you, too! :)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

World of Warcraft and the Princess Bride

So the other day a friend of mine told me that his roommate, another friend of mine, has been staying up really late to play a certain video game. So the next time I talked to this friend, I teased him about staying up late to play, and he got a little bugged. Apparently lots of people had been teasing him lately about that, and he'd about had enough.

And during our conversation he said, "When people bug me about it it just makes me want to do it more," and that reminded me of the show "The Fantasticks," and the song in there about "We did it 'cause they said no." Or something teenagey-rebelious like that.

And it made me think about how often we do things that we KNOW are not in our own best interest and that we KNOW won't make us happier, or healthier. Take me, for example: 'K so I added this thing on my sidebar about what books I am reading and have just finished reading, and you'll notice that The Princess Bride is on the "just finished this" list. Great book! But the point is that even if I had had the "currently reading" list up before today, The Princess Bride would never have been on that list. Here's what happened...

I put the movie of The Princess Bride in on Thursday night because I needed to format my appendixes, and that is not an activity that requires actual brain power, so I thought putting in a movie would keep me sitting in one place to do it, and if I put in a movie that I have seen literally 9 million times and can quote large sections of then I wouldn't actually have to watch it, and so I would get lots of appendix-formatting done.

This worked reasonably well.

But then I felt the need, after watching this great movie, to, yes, you guessed it, read the book. That night. Until I literally passed out at 2am. And then finished reading it in about 15 minutes after my shower on Friday. (And no, I am NOT going to tell you what time that was on Friday. I would like to maintain some semblance of self-respect.)

But the point is that earlier this week I was so stressed out I thought I was not going to survive. And I still have all those things to do, so I fight hard to keep myself from completely freaking out from stress...and then I stay up REALLY late and sleep in REALLY late so that I can read the book of the movie that I just watched, and which I was only watching as an aid to getting some work done.


And I know that if I read my scriptures first thing in the morning then I will feel better and have a more productive day, and yet I don't always do that. And I have been told that eating sugar weakens your immune system and since I am sick that is currently the equivalent of "kicking my immune system while it's down" and yet I am going to have one of Jenn's homemade cinnamon rolls for lunch. And I know that getting exercise will help me to deal with my stress better than will reading Calvin and Hobbes and eating Otterpops. And yet...

It's funny, because sometimes when I am around a child who is whining to try to get what he or she wants, I think, "Someday that child will grow up and realize that that is not the way to get what he or she wants. The way to get that would be to ask nicely and calmly" or whatever. But you know what? it applies to me to. Someday I will grow up and realize that if I really do want to feel physically good every day then I will go to bed early, and eat three healthy meals, and exercise...yada yada yada, I know, I know, I know.

So I have resolved to try harder to do what I know I should do, not "should do" in the sense of obligation, necessarily, but to do what I know will help me feel healthy and be happy and feel good about myself. We'll see how it goes. I think it's called "self-discipline."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

OK, so after all that...

...touring of my school and yay-i'm-a-real-French-teacher and this-is-for-real stuff, nothing makes you feel QUITE so much like a college student as eating mac 'n' cheese out of a tupperware container while walking across campus after spending all afternoon in the library and knowing you're going BACK to the thesis for a couple more hours after this class.

After this class and this healthy, well-balanced dinner, I mean.

Uh, this is for real, people

So this morning I went back to my school and met with the principal again. Funny that it was a week ago yesterday that I went there for my interview, and today I went as an employee. WAH-HA-HA!!

And found out that since school starts 23 August and my sister's wedding is 25 August, and that is only the third day of school, I will have to write a letter to the superintendent in order to miss school to go to her wedding.


The crazy part is that I only teach every other day, and so I have all day THURSDAY off, but Friday, the day of the wedding, I teach all day. Hmph.

But I saw my classroom! And the media center! And the faculty workroom! And I got the phone number of the French teacher who just left, whose spot I am taking, and I thought of all these things I want to ask her. And I want to ask everyone that I know who has EVER taught in the public schools about classroom set up, and decorations, and classroom management, and the first day of class, and what to have a sub do with my students on the third day of school, and on and on and on...and then I thought, "You know, Margaret, you can do all the research and interviewing and opinion-gathering and analysis you want, but when it comes down to it, YOU will be the one in the classroom and YOU will be the one who will have to make it all work."

And that's a big deal! It's a big deal in a good, yippee-I'm-a-real-French-teacher way, and it's a big deal in a scary, but-no-really-what-if-I-totally-flop way. I have done so much studying about, and talking about, and teaching about, and observing of language teaching for the last, oh, 7 years, that it will be really interesting to get into a classroom myself and, uh, see how it all turns out. I have lots of ideas of how I want to do things, and I know I'll change things every time I teach, and I know I'll survive :) , but this is going to be different from anything I've ever done before. And really, I'm excited!

And let's keep it that way for just a leeetle longer, please. And mayhap this feeling of excitement will carry me through after the total panic sets in.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


So I mailed off the package today to get my passport renewed by a company that says they'll do it in 72 hours. Phew! Then I called my mom and asked her to pray for my passport. She told me that I don't need to worry - these companies do this all the time and they will get my passport to me on time. :) Ok, as my dad would say, "find something else to stress about."

Oh, except that it's "find something else to feel guilty about" that my dad says. Whatever. :)

But there is still the question of when will I defend my thesis around my trip to France and my new job starting and one of my committee members potentially being possibly TOO detail oriented, and how will I afford / fit it into my schedule to go to LA with Ron and Chad and Josh to go to Disneyland for my first time EVER and to see Wicked and how will I live with myself if I don't go with them and how will I live with myself if I do??

And I complained and unloaded all my stresses to Josh, and he said, "What can you do today?" Nothing like a little realism to take all the air out of an i'm-feeling-too-stressed-to-breathe moment. :)

Focus on what I can do about it TODAY. Then tomorrow, think about tomorrow.

Breathe in, breathe out.

I can do that.

Monday, June 12, 2006

I may be an IDIOT, but at least I am employed

Yeah, so the last few days have been very eventful in my life. Some good things, some...perhaps blessings in disguise? :)

So while I was out of town helping my sis and her family move, I got some help from a FANTASTIC cousin of mine to get some electronic job application stuff turned in to a few school districts. It became apparent that her help would be necessary after I had the following conversation with a woman at the education placement office at the university:

Me: So I just wanted to make sure that the letter of recommendation that I turned in last week got posted to my file.

Her: Yes, it has been posted.

Me: Great! Well, I'd like to have my placement file sent to these two districts.

Her: You need to make that request online.

Me: I'm out of town, helping my sister and her family move, and we packed up the computer so we don't have an internet connection, and I can't really leave in the middle of packing and clearing to drive around town looking for an internet connection. Can I please make the request through you?

Her: Uh, no. You have to make the request online.

Me: Thanks for your help.

So then I called this cousin, who not only has an internet connection in her home, but whose husband is currently applying for teaching jobs, and who herself was a teacher for a year, so she is VERY familiar with the workings of this particular office AND with the teaching job application process.

And she rescued me. She got the rest of the info that I needed, and got it all sent off, and called the next day to verify that all the information had arrived where it was supposed to, and I was, and am, VERY grateful for her help.

And that was maybe Monday or Tuesday, two weeks ago. So I arrived back at my home on Saturday, June 3, and checked my email for the first time in more than a week, AND! from WEDNESDAY there was an email from one of the school districts, saying that they wanted to interview me for the position!! And it had been sitting in my inbox for THREE DAYS and I had not known it and so had not called back to schedule it and say how interested I was in the position! So I went into Modified Stationary Panic, which, for those of you who are NOT McManus readers, means that I ran like a mad woman IN PLACE instead of careening into walls in my panicked run, and then decided that I couldn't do anything about it except call the school first thing Monday morning, apologize, explain, and hope they still wanted to interview me.

So I did, and they did. So we set up an interview for Tuesday morning, and then I called my good friend Heather, who was not available at the time, and then another good friend, who is teaching French in Texas, and grilled her for more than an hour about what to expect in this interview. (It was for a part time French teaching position at a junior high. I guess I never said that.) And I am SO glad I did! The interview went well, and the principal said he'd be making a decision in the next week and a half, and that there might be a second round of interviews. So I prepared myself to wait.

But I also prepared myself to check up on the other teaching jobs I had applied for, not wanting, as they say, to put all my eggs in one basket. So in the next few days I found out that the other teaching jobs that I had applied for had all been filled. eek. And I FINALLY found a website with links to ALL the school districts in the state, and went to ALL of them, and found only ONE other position teaching French, but they wanted English, too, and I'm not certified to teach English. eek.

So if I didn't get this job...I would have to literally dig up more work at the university (I was planning to do part time at a school and part time at the university anyway - that's what I really WANTED to do, but finding MORE work would involve me "selling" myself to another department), or keep checking for French jobs in these other districts NOT close to where I live and HOPE and PRAY that something came up. And then I got a call from a professor whose department at the university was considering hiring me (that was my main back up if I didn't get a teaching job), and he said it didn't look like they were going to hire me. So...eek.

And then! Friday I got a call from the principal, and he offered me the job!!


And I was SO relieved - I will have an income this next year! That sounds dumb, maybe, but it was a real worry. (Actually, it doesn't sound dumb. Not having an income is a real worry.) AND since it is a part time position I will get to keep doing work at the university that I LOVE, so I am REALLY happy about it! :) :)

So here comes the "I am an idiot" part of the title of today's post.

I'm going to France in two weeks. That is not what makes me an idiot. :)

I have been planning this trip for about a year, but didn't know, because of the thesis, etc., EXACTLY when I would go. So with the progress that I have made and my chair's trip to Europe, I have recently settled on the dates of my trip. And starting looking for plane tickets. Well, folks, it's peak tourist season in France, and tickets are QUITE a bit more expensive than I was hoping for. But after checking around for a couple of days and getting a sense of the price range, I called the university travel office, and had them look. They can sometimes get better deals, and it's WAY easier for them to check things like the day before and the day after to look for cheaper deals than it is for me.

So after 40 minutes on the phone, we found my tickets. This was last Friday. And we put them on hold until Monday, today, just so I could have a couple of days to digest that I was spending this much money and to make sure it felt ok.

And it did, so I called and purchased the tickets this morning. :) :) I am actually-factually going to France two weeks from today.

And then - I realized that my passport expired in May.

Oh no, I am not kidding. I only wish I was.

So I Googled "passport renewals fast" and found a plethora of companies that will GUARANTEE that you will have your passport before your travel date, and tomorrow I will get all that taken care of, but GOOD GRIEF! It's not like I haven't known for A YEAR that I was going to France this summer. It's not like I really have money to just THROW AROUND on this. I mean, I had a big chunk from a job last summer that I had set aside for this, but I didn't want to use all of it on MY STUPIDITY!!

So that's been my last week or so. Oh, plus the mild panic that I had this morning when I called the district to schedule my contract signing and found out that the next one is the afternoon of the Friday before the Monday that I go to France, and I thought I had to have that done before I could get my keys to my school and take the tour and find out what textbook I'll be using and what other materials are already in the school for French. See, I want this trip to France to be really productive as far as gathering materials to use in my classroom, and so I wanted to know what the school already has and thought that I couldn't do that until AFTER I signed the contract. But the university travel agent guy said that to push my flight back to Tuesday would raise the price $500, so I called the principal and explained, and he said we don't have to wait until after the contract signing to do all that stuff, so I'll be going in on Wednesday. Phew! :)

So I'll be getting a new passport, which will cost me a pretty penny, but I AM going to France, and I DO have a job, and I WILL graduate, and from where I sit, even after all this hoopla, life is looking pretty good! :)

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Back to life, back to reality

So I just got back to my little town (and to the internet :) ) after being gone for a week and a half to help my sister and her husband and their four kids move. It was a good week, for a lot of reasons. It's always good to spend time with the fam, ya know :) , and I am THRILLED that they are now only 40 minutes away from me, and I am glad that my life schedule is flexible enough that I could go and help.

And, I won't lie, it was good to be away from the thesis for a bit. Maybe that was my 7th-inning stretch (or is it 5th-inning stretch? whatever) so that I can make the final effort to get this thing done. Tuesday night, the night that my sister and bro-in-law's friends were going to show up at 6 to load the moving van, my 7-yr-old niece and I were sitting out on the front porch a little after 5, and after a couple of days of crazy-paced packing and cleaning, it was a little...odd? be sitting so quietly. So I explained to her the phrase "the calm before the storm," saying that things were going to get REALLY crazy at the house starting at 6, and so it was nice to have these few minutes of quiet before all the craziness started, but that we knew that it was not a calm that was going to last. And, being 7 :) , she asked me a bunch of questions about weather, and WHY it's calm before the storm, and I realized that with an intelligent, inquisitive child, I should really think before I speak. :)

So I kind of feel, about this last week and a half, the way I felt about that few minutes before the moving crew arrived. The calm won't last. I have TONS to do. My chair leaves for Europe this week, and I have lots of editing to do before he leaves. And we need to figure out paperwork, and scheduling, and committee members availability, etc., so that I can really be DONE with this thesis thing before school starts in the fall. Because this fall, people, I'm giving up the status of "university student," at least for a while. And it's going to be GREAT!! :) :)