Live Through Us at The Burrow

My First Day as a Substitute Teacher

OK, not really my first day, but my first day that really really counted as far as I’m concerned (long story). I’m going back to school to get my teaching degree, and substituting locally allows me to make connections and gain experience before being thrown to the wolflets.

I have to be there at 7:20. I work until after 10:00 the night before at my wonderful retail job from the bowels of you-know-where. Seriously, last night, if it could go wrong, it did. I had one cashier walk out without saying a word to anyone, just turned off her light, clocked out, and went out the door. All my registers at the service desk locked up and had to be rebooted, causing me to direct the long line there to registers 3 and 4 where I did what I could to fix the original problem and handle the original customers. I had to work selfcheck and play csm, at the same time, alone, for over an hour. I forgot one person’s break and lunch and felt so terrible about it. She eventually went, but still.

Anyway, so this morning I wake up early, (better than late!) and drive to my destination. The principal there stops herself from hugging me and says, “Thank you for coming! And early too!” I was way early, like over 30 minutes earlier than the 25 minutes early I was supposed to arrive in the first place. The secretary is bouncing with joy I’m there. Something’s off. Everyone is so thrilled to see me. What on earth is going on?

Principal: So I’m guessing you heard what happened.

Me: (So this is what terror tastes like) Eh…….

Principal: We lost a student over the weekend in an accident.

Oh crap.

So, while as terrible as this is, and it was, high school grief has changed a lot since my day, and this was a perfect opportunity to understand the new process before being blown headon with it as a real teacher.

Me: Oh!

Sad, respectful things are said, I’m given my binder, key, and badge, and then my questions start. This school has at least 8 different schedules. Some of them with a short 3rd period, some with an activity in the morning/afternoon/evening. Every period seems to have a “physical activity” time at the end of it. I have 2nd lunch duty. Times of my lunch duty, period changes, etc, are based on which schedule we’re doing. Due to the death, we are no longer on our regular schedule and are now on the homeroom in the morning schedule (yes, they have HR in the midday and afternoon schedules too-eye roll). An assistant principal joins my HR with one crying girl and announces sad things. HR lasts forever, and the announcement during first period states we are now in “activity in the morning schedule because HR took so long.”

I’m teaching choir. I don’t have an accompanist nor the skills to be one. Thankfully, the teacher has left me videos for them to watch. Grease, a ridiculous musical about a sweet, innocent girl who must learn to smoke, drink, and screw around in order to get the guy she loves (There’s morals for ya), and Bohemian Rhapsody, which I was actually wanting to watch. I couldn’t help but stare at his false teeth the whole time. I’m all for accuracy, but they should have just left him with normal teeth instead of making him look like a freak. Sub+movies+unusual occurrence (aka death)=fun times for students who want to goof off. That, and I was literally told by the principal to just babysit my kids today (due to the death) sigh

I had several students in crying fits who went for counseling. I dismissed 1st period 10 minutes early because I took “physical activity” seriously and let them out to go do whatever they were supposed to do, but it actually means “extra time at the end of class” and I should have waited for “physical activity” to be over. I will say this. Dealing with grief at school has certainly changed, but I love how kids now just let loose with their emotions. “Hey. I’m sad. I need to see the counselor.” No one made fun of them crying. Several tried to console and cheer them up. It was awesome!

Lunch duty was a breeze but boring. Every period was filled with at least 5 announcement of students being called to the office for early dismissal (a few were pretty inconsolable). By last period, the sadness of the day seemed gone, and the goofing began. One group talked nonstop and even set up an arm wrestling tournament. I stopped it quickly. Another group of three boys were an entity in theirselves. One would try something, it wouldn’t work, the other two would try the same thing. I mean seriously, if the first time didn’t work, are you really that stupid? Those three did everything, everything to test me. I ignored most of it, sat near them the duration of the movie, and gave them my dead pan stare of “seriously kid? Is that all you got?” that I give annoying customers at work. The stare worked better than it did at work. Good. I put the room back in order, turned in my paperwork, and left a little note for the teacher about his class.

So yeah, all in all an excellent experience. I’m sure the same kids every day would fluctuate. The bad would get worse for a day or two then start to (very slowly) straighten up. The good at first would get comfortable and start slacking, etc. But overall discipline tends to improve over the school year.

I go for orientation for a different county Wednesday. A bigger county. A more diverse county. While there is always the chance for a group of good kids, there is also the very good chance of a challenge. I love challenges. (evil grin)


How to Get Started Writing

I recently gave an interview to the Crossville Chronicle where I was asked the familiar question, “What do you recommend to people starting out writing?”. Here’s the answer I should have given.

“Discover if you should be writing.”

If writing a single book, short story, blog post, poem, doesn’t change you as a person forever, walk away. As I sit here and type this out, I feel the flow of emotion run through my arms and into my keyboard as a needed release of energy. When I write poetry, when I blog about my day, when I type out a paragraph in a story, when I release a story trapped in my head, I am free.

Have you ever watched a true artist perform? A singer sing, especially in the studio/while writing the song? Their eyes close, their body gyrates and jerks. Emotions contort their skeletons in obscure ways. This is how I write. I smile, I laugh, I cry, I cringe. Words leave my fingertips and enter the keys of my keyboard, in the same way music flows from a pianists hands. Creativity is a living being, jailed within an artist’s body, and if we don’t find a way to release it, it will kill us from within.

If you are not experiencing these things. If you are not waking up with story ideas. If you are not driving down the road, obsessing about a plot unfolding. If you are not allowing a burning beast to travel from your soul to a piece of paper, you are not a writer.

No, I’m not saying you’re not an artist. I’m not saying you’re not creative. Maybe you need to be a musician, a vocalist, a painter, a sculptor. Maybe you will be a leader in medical science. But please, stop writing. It’s a waste of your time. Instead of discovering what you should be doing, you’re chasing a prey you will never catch.

So, how do you start writing? Ask yourself, should you be writing.

No More Privilege

I remember reading a story in elementary school I thought ridiculous. Who on Earth would think the way this story was written? And yet, I see my society growing closer to that way every day.

The story revolved around two dancers and a middle-aged couple. The dancers were a young woman and man who danced very, very well. The young lady was also very attractive. The middle-aged couple was a woman of average intelligence and the man of above average intelligence.

The dancing couple were forced to wear heavy weights so they couldn’t jump higher than the average dancers. The girl was forced to wear a mask so she wouldn’t be more beautiful than what was considered the norm.

The man in the married couple had an implant which pinged his brain every minute or so, preventing him from having deep thoughts, preventing him from being “smarter than average”.

We live in a society where anyone with better grades and a better job or lifestyle are called privileged, bad, favored, unfair. No, it’s not fair. Life’s not fair. I have a higher IQ than normal. I have a passion for writing. I work a deadend job in a terrible place that sucks the souls of its employees. I’m doing what I can to get out, but I still won’t be doing what I love for a living, writing, acting, singing, things like that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the best singer, and I don’t want to get back into acting, but writing? I’d jump on that moving train barefoot. But under no circumstances whatsoever do I sit back and say, “You shouldn’t have a better life than me. It’s not fair!” Why? Because I’m not a five-year old.

Oh, I used to think that, when I was more immature and silly, but not anymore. I help others down on their luck and study those more successful than I.

I had a conversation with a few people who thought anyone going to a private school was clearly “privileged”. That private schools, quite frankly, shouldn’t exist. That if your school didn’t have starving children with a crappy homelife, well it just wasn’t worth going to! Seriously? You want children to be hungry and have no parents? For the record, most people don’t send their children to private schools to avoid “dirty” children, they send them to get a better education, which they do get. I have both taught and attended private schools, and trust me, the education there is better. If you don’t like the schools, don’t send your kids there. Bam. Problem solved.

So please, stop blaming rich people, smart people, talented people, people with better networks than you for your life. I would never ask a person more beautiful or more talented than I to wear a mask or be crippled so as to never outshine me. That is both petty and ridiculous. Life may not seem fair right now, but requiring those of “privilege” to step down, to make less money, to live differently than how they can afford, isn’t fair either. And trying to make them feel guilty for having a better life than “average” is wrong. Stop.

Sodom and Gomorrah in Prophecy

I’m sure this post will get a lot of hateful comments. I may even lose subscribers, but I’ll let you in on a secret. I don’t care. However, I will stick to the facts and not share opinions strictly to keep from sparking too much fire.

Prophecy states the end will be like Sodom and Gomorrah. Everyone, at least most everyone, associates that with homosexuality. But homosexuality wasn’t the biggest deal with Sodom and Gomorrah.

The Book of Yashar is mentioned in Joshua and Samuel of Scripture, possibly more. A copy of it can be found here. But I always recommend you find a copy that works for you. (Personally I don’t enjoy 40 pages of preface, but maybe you do??) Anyway, it goes into detail on Sodom and Gomorrah.

For example, did you know it was illegal to give a traveler food? Bear in mind the distances between cities were several days minimum, in a desert. Most wouldn’t survive without food and water, especially water. So S&G set up a torturous system where they would give a traveler copious amounts of gold when they arrived, but made it illegal to sell them any food. One of Lot’s daughters was killed for giving a starving man bread and keeping him alive. S&G had four beds set up on the road for travelers. If you slept in the bed, the locals were allowed to rape you, to death.

Another example is when Eliezer was hit with a stone, causing his forehead to bleed. The attacker demanded his money for “ridding him of his bad blood”. See, the law there was, if you hit someone, they pay you for your services. Uh huh. Eliezer got out of it by throwing a stone at the judge and saying to apply the money the judge now owed him to the other guy.

This example brings us to today. A guy breaks into a store to steal, falls and breaks his leg, sues the store and wins. Sounds a lot like the stone situation to me. Or how about the recent Australian story where a guy saved a girl from being killed, and some of the population want him punished for harming the girl’s attacker?

S&G had a LOT of problems. They were vile, selfish, lawless, hateful, dangerous towns I would NOT want to visit, let alone live in. So when you read prophecy, like when you read any Scripture, try to understand the culture at the time. If you tell an isolated Ukrainian child you’re going to take them to a wonderful place like Disney World, they’re not going to understand. Explain Disney to them, and they will. We can’t look at this prophecy based on the tiny bit of verse of Lot. We have to look at what S&G were really like, and then we’ll realize, it’s not just homosexuality, it’s a lot more.

Magiquest in Mason, OH

We recently visited another Magiquest, the one in Mason, OH. I took my dad’s Gopro, but sadly haven’t been able to figure out how to access the files. You have to download and use an app or something. Anyway, while he spends the next decade working on that, I will say the water park was nice, not great, nice. And the one thing keeping it from being amazing was the lack of an adequate signalling system.

Most water parks, at least modern ones, have a signalling system of some sort, be it a monitor to watch the bottom, a person at the bottom giving a thumbs up when it’s safe, or little green and red lights at the top to tell the sliders to go. In fact Dollywood’s Splash Country has just the lights and they will tell you, “When it turns green go.” But here, at Great Wolf Lodge in Mason, OH, they have one attendant with four slides. He will go to one slide, set it up, very very slowly, let them go, wait, mosey, wait some more, set up the next one. It took FOREVER to get on a slide because the attendants were sooooooo slooooooowwwww, and they were being slow on purpose because for all I could tell, there were no signalling devices.

That being said, the lazy river was nice, and the slides were nice, I just wish I got the enjoy the slides more.

But let’s be honest, I was there for Magiquest. Aren’t I always? Pretty much everything was the same as my previous posts save two. The first is that Shadowquest had two screens down, making several of the quests impossible, causing you to have to go to the shop and get those specific quests marked as “done” by their little computer. The second was the most frustrating, Remember Compassquest? Remember that one quest, I think the last one, that causes you to visit every single podium in a specific order? Yeah, this location randomizes that quest. It’s impossible. No, seriously, especially since this location was in even worse shape than the Magiquest locations no longer considered pet projects by the main company. (Still irked about that because they RUINED a wonderful culture and several businesses, and they did it on purpose, kind of like walmart, but I digress.) I was running through all five hallways in all three stories, sweating. I was in great shape at the time, running and working out regularly, and my son and I both tried to do it, racing each other, at times when it was as sparsely populated as possible. Still no. I wound up having the merchant have the computer say I did it.

That was far from the only glitch. One poor child had tried to finish the fairy quest so many times she was almost in tears. I came up and tried to help her, it still didn’t want to work. I think it could have been her wand, but a LOT of people were having trouble there, more so than any location I’ve ever been to. Shadowquest was so bad, it had to be rebooted for me to finish it.

Now, despite all the glitches, and there were a LOT of glitches, Marcus and I wound up getting the top 10 for several leaderboards: runes collected, gold collected, points for the month, etc. I haven’t included all of them so as not to bore you, but here are a couple (I’m Stormy, he was Sniper).

So, my main reason for writing this was to tell you that particular level of Compassquest is randomized at this location. Don’t bother with the list. And although this wasn’t part of the original post, I’m going to add, we’re pretty much done with Great Wolf Lodges. We may visit a Magiquest location if we travel there, but as far as the walmart versions known as Great Wolf? Not anymore. We’ll stick to the good stuff.

My Proudest Moment as a Parent

The other night my son came to me with a mischievous grin on his face, and a story on his lips. “I have to tell you something.” We were sitting in the hot tub, an almost nightly ritual for our family where we talk about our days and have those special sharing moments. So I told him to wait for his father to join us. He said, “I’d rather wait to tell him. I want to tell you first, because you’re more rebellious than he is.”

I wasn’t sure how to react to this.

Arlis joined us soon enough, and he was not disappointed!

Marcus got ahold of the password for the teachers’ network/wi-fi, not the students’. He uses this network because he says it’s faster, etc. OK, not a problem.

It was the end of history class, and they were allowed to goof off until the next class started. He started watching YouTube – Pina Colada. Then he pressed “cast”. Then he turned the volume all the way up. He later heard the story of what happened in the classroom full of victims because some of his friends were in there. In the Culinary Arts classroom (a whole other story on its own), the TV turned on and started blaring “Pina Colada”. There was a mad scramble for the remote. They turned the TV off. Marcus turned it back on. Off. On. Mute. Volume max. Turn down. Turn up.

He stopped the casting, presumably when class was over. He repeated this with a different song a day later, on a different TV.

Then he watched “Power of Love” by Huey Lewis. And he found a new TV, one he hadn’t seen before. He pressed “cast”. For whatever reason, he was able to roam the halls this time. I assume it was lunch time. So he walks around, trying to find which TV he’s just invaded.

The same battle ensues. Off/On. Up/Down. He hears the song’s lyrics bouncing in volume from down the hall. He follows it. It came from the office. Oops.

He about faces and disconnects. Now, Arlis is not angry, he’s laughing. I’m loving it. But Arlis mentioned something I hadn’t realized, “You know your YouTube username shows up when you do that.”

Without missing a beat, Marcus said, “I know. I used a fake account.” Bam!

And that, folks, is my proudest moment as a parent.

Why This Manuscript Means So Much to Me

I’ve had a lot of curious people ask me some interesting questions. They all seem to be about my current situation and future plans in writing. I’ve answered the ones I can think of below.

I started this book like any other, with the intention of getting it published. My last manuscript,  Inhabitants, never caught the attention of an agent. I had plans of trying one more time, with the one I’m writing now, and then thinking of my writing as a hobby. Just slap a cover on them and throw them on Amazon. I’ve already stopped marketing. I’m not in this for the sales.

So why do you want them traditionally published?

Two reasons, maybe three. One, the approval of the powers that be. I want my work to be good enough for a traditional publisher. The other reason was so I could have a job I liked instead of one I tolerated. I love every aspect of writing. I love the joy of a new story popping in my mind, of sorting through those stories to see which one, if any, will work, of plotting those stories, of writing those stories-discovering the characters and what happens, the tears, anger and frustration when it doesn’t work. Every. Aspect.

Except marketing. I love going to events, whether story-telling or book signings or other stuff. I love interviews and conversation, but I hate trying to get sales. I mean, if I had a PR agent who told me, “Do this and this and this,” and I was a full-time writer, then sure, no problem. But with my limited time and money, forget it. It’s not worth the stress. Traditional publishing takes care of that for me. (allow me to qualify my definition of “traditional publishing” as not including micro publishers.)

So what’s going to happen to Inhabitants?

Ah, I get asked this alot. I told so many people (because at the time it was true) I would self-publish it if an agent didn’t take it. At the same time, I also thought it would be my last attempt at the traditional route. It has since been shelved. My current plans with it are to let my current manuscript run its course, whether an agent picks it or not, then go another route. Whether that route is a quick overview of Inhabitants before listing it with Amazon or querying small publishers, I don’t know. I won’t know until the time comes. But I will follow through with my promise, one way or another, and have Inhabitants published at some point.

Why have you made these decisions?

There are several reasons for this, but they basically boil down to I have to move on with my life. I have been writing, marketing, querying, researching, etc. every spare second of every day for years now. That’s not fair to myself or my family. Our family is changing, and I have to adjust to that. That’s not to say I’m going to quit writing or that I won’t be this obsessive about it in the future, but for now, it has to take a backseat.

What if a book sells?

Of course I would go with that! Unfortunately though, the book would have to sell well for me to not have to work elsewhere at the same time as writing. That said, I would probably return to my obsessive writing behavior until I no longer had to work elsewhere or I fizzled out, whichever happens.

What’s the rush with your current manuscript? Why are you so obsessed with it?

Again, two reasons-lol. I am really proud of this manuscript. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever written. I honestly believe it’s my best work. At the same time, I am filled with the self-doubt all writers face (another reason I want to be traditionally published. If I was represented by a reputable agent, etc, much of that self-doubt would disappear…or so I believe).

The other reason is because I’m going back to school in two weeks. Yikes! Yeah, I already have a degree, but it’s not going anywhere, so I’m getting a second one. It’s the right time in our family’s life to do this. I can’t write and attend school and work all at the same time. That’s why I’m so obsessed with finishing this manuscript by a certain time. I’m trying to get this thing in betas’ hands by the 14th so I can query it over summer break.

So there you go. I hope that answers most, if not all of your questions. Yes, Inhabitants will come out, one way or another. Unfortunately, this is a business for the very very patient. I hope to announce my request for beta readers via my mailing list, The Collective Cauldron, very soon. Hope to see you there!

Lucy and Ethel at the Cash Machine

We closed today at 6PM, which meant some of us, such as yours truly, stayed until 7 closing down registers, etc. The self-checkout registers are recyclers. That means they recycle the money people put into it and give that money back out as change, etc. So every night when they are shut down, we print out a little slip that tells us what they need to be “topped off”, we get that money from the main recycler, and we put that money in the self-check out register. We literally dump the coins in the same slot you do when paying. It sorts the coins slowly, and sometimes (OK, alot of times) it doesn’t like the coins. This is when it spits them into the well at the bottom-that place you normally pick up your change. We then take all the extra money (bad bills/coins, coupons, etc) and turn it into the cash office. In order to get to those bad bills/coins and coupons, we have to open the front door.

So here’s the story. But before I start, bear in mind this is the first time Katy has done this.

Katy, that’s not her name of course, is standing in front of a self-checkout register with the door open. It starts shooting quarters out like a cannon. She screams, “Debby! What’s happening? What do I do?”

I, while miraculously not falling over laughing, yell, “You’ve got the door open! Shut the door! Shut the door!”

Three co-workers getting ready to leave run to her. “Katy! Katy! Money!” Although it was more like, “Sputter! Words! I don’t know what to say!” They ran around stomping coins to stop them from rolling away. Meanwhile, I stood on the other end of the chain (I was actually too far away at the time to be of any physical use) laughing my head off, pointing, and trying to tell everyone left in the store what was happening.

Katy, still in shock, manages to find her legs again and use them. They pick up all the money, but by this time they’re laughing too hard to be of much use. I wish-I had this- on camera. O. M. G. It was like Lucy and Ethel on the chocolate belt. It. Was. Hy-sterical.

Y’all have a good night now and enjoy yourselves.

The Human Turd

By now you know I work at Wal-Mart. And I’m sure your realize the random insanity that can happen there. Like the other day when the maintenance guy finds a turd under the bench by the front door. A human turd.

This bench is not made so that the patron could have backed up and deposited their treasure out the back. It was made in such a fashion as to make one wonder how it got there.

So. The maintenance guy calls security up and tells them to look on the film and see how it got there. She does. Here’s what she told him.

An old guy came in, shook it out of his pants leg, then kicked it under the bench.

Um … doing this outside was out of the question? You felt the need to deposit this in a store with people and food? How long have you been carrying this around? Or, did it appear during your entrance? I’m not sure I want to know the answers to these questions, but thank you for reading another prime example of #mylifeatwalmart #helpmeiworkretail

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