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Spring Break 2015

Recently, I flew home to Austin for 12 days of sunshine and family/friend time. The trip did not involve going to a beach, getting a tattoo, or, frankly, anything you might see on an episode of Cops, but I’m still sharing the highlights with you.

Before I start, let me say that I LOVE the U. S. A. (that’s me below wearing a flag dress in support of a friend who became a US citizen a few years ago). Yes, it has its problems (which, frankly, are too many to name here), but it’s my home and there is nothing like 4 years in Germany to make me want to get back to Texas as often (or as fast) as I can and re-embrace American culture to it’s fullest.

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Proud to be an American!

First stop, Target, where I prefer to go on a Sunday at 8am to avoid the masses and shop with ease. I can pick up my decaf-coconut milk latte from the Starbucks inside and sip it while I browse the endless aisles for a new summer skirt, batteries, mascara, and a bottle of wine. Oh, scratch that. Despite that I can bring my concealed and loaded handgun into a Target in Texas, I can’t buy a bottle of wine before noon on Sunday. That law’s been on the books way too long in my opinion.

After shopping for the essentials, I headed out for lunch. Being on vacation means eating out and eating to excess. So, it was off to Chuy’s with the family, where the overindulgence began with the endless basket of chips and ended with the Elvis Presley Memorial Combo. In between – don’t mind if I do – I treated myself to a Mexican martini, maybe two, because it’s 5 o’clock somewhere. Even though I can’t buy alcohol from a store on a Sunday morning, I can still buy it from a restaurant. Bottoms up, y’all!

Once I’d consumed more calories in one meal than I typically consume over several days at home, I waddled to my car. (This is the only thing non-American about my trip. My mom, born and raised in Texas, does not drive an SUV. She drives a Toyota. Oh, Mother!) This is a driver’s paradise – highways, toll roads, and long commutes. There’s no walking or cycling or taking a bus in my hometown. Don’t make me laugh! These modes of transportation are a lost cause unless you live downtown and want to grocery shop exclusively at Whole Foods, which you probably can afford to do if you live downtown. Even in your immediate neighborhood, you drive. Going down the block to pick up your prescription at Walgreens? Get in your car. Want to take the kids to the neighborhood park three streets over? Get in your car. My mother-in-law told me she drives her car to pick up her mail. From her mailbox. On her property.

No trip home is complete without going to the mall. In my defense, I’m perfectly happy to do all my shopping at Target, but my 6-year old daughter demanded a trip to the mall, and who am I to deny her the occasional shopping spree.  I figure it’s never too early to start promoting consumer debt and acquiring more stuff, so let’s go shopping! The beauty of the mall is that I can uphold these American ways of life (acquisition and debt) while munching on a giant pretzel and contemplating whether or not to get my teeth whitened at a kiosk that is conveniently located next to the pretzel stand. I love the U.S.A!

At some point, I’m finally able to drop off my daughter with my mom and have some ‘me’ time. This is one of the greatest perks of visiting home – free babysitting 24/7. Normally, my daughter would use this opportunity to park herself in front of a TV, something we try to curtail at home. This is apparently a concept that’s lost on grandparents. Luckily for me, however,my sister-in-law had her first daughter a few months ago. So on this trip, Emmy preferred to play with her adorable 6 month-old cousin instead of being glued to a screen. As a result of this, whenever I returned from whatever it was that I was doing, Emmy would beg me to have another child or let her get a dog (bless her little heart, she’s really not picky) so that she could have a playmate. In hindsight, maybe it would have been better to let her watch TV.

Childless, I headed out to see my girlfriends. Four of us went to get Botox from my friend Kristin, who works for a plastic surgeon. If you’ll recall from my post a few weeks ago, I’ve entered a new stage in life, which mostly sucks. But, it sucks slightly less since I got neurotoxin injected into my face. And, what an awesome experience to do it with my tribe. Going with my girlfriends ensured not only a temporary face-lift from the Botox but also a flab workout from the laughter.

(Postscript: I’m just slightly bitter that Diana, below, didn’t need any Botox. You bitch, you’re older than me. Look like it already! Just kidding. You’re beautiful, and I love you.)

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The beautiful Diana (who has no wrinkles and needs no Botox)

The girlfest continued. Thank you, Laura, for hosting a Girls Night In. This was a Saturday event that started early and involved about 10 of my good friends. We drank aperitifs and ate appetizers. We sat outside under a barbed wire chandelier that Laura made (she’s an amazingly talented artist). The chandelier hung from a mountain laurel tree, which was in full bloom and smelled heavenly. We ate a fabulous dinner paired with great wine and the conversation was full of love and laughter. After dinner, and more wine, we played an obnoxious round of Cards Against Humanity (that game cannot be anything but obnoxious), and then headed back inside to finish the night with drunken karaoke. Juanita killed it. Oh my goddess, it was such fun.

Around 2am, I crawled into bed at Laura’s house. Her guest room, my room for the night, is what we lovingly refer to as the Dead Animal room, a moniker acquired when my daughter and I stayed there this summer. Lying in bed staring up at the ceiling and walls, my daughter asked me, “Mommy, why are there so many dead animals in here? It’s kind of scary.” Laura’s husband is a hunter, and the walls of this room are covered with deer skulls and antlers and pelts and taxidermied ducks. So when my daughter, who watches the sidewalk to ensure she doesn’t step on pill bugs, asked this, I felt a little badly because honestly, I hadn’t even noticed the carcasses in my field of vision. Taxidermy is Texas decorating de rigueur, so I just chalked it up to being back home. But, Emmy’s home is Germany, so she’s less oblivious to these decorating choices than I am.

IMG_7989 Laura, the hostess with the mostest, among her taxidermy IMG_7988

Laura, the hostess with the mostest, between some of her taxidermy decor

The rest of the week in Austin continued much like this. Twelve days of Texas. Twelve days of shopping, overeating, drinking, visiting friends, and staying up late. By the time it ended, I needed to get back home and detox.

Austin, it was fun, and I love you, but I’m not sure I can sustain my spring break lifestyle anymore. Tattoos and a Cops episode might be easier on me.

Flab Workouts, Mechanical Bulls, and a Trip to the Gyno

I have the best girlfriends on the planet. The Best. These gals are my rock, the women I text at any time of the day or night when I think I might go over the edge, the women who came to the hospital when I was pushing my babies out of my girl parts. They have seen me from all angles, literally, and they still love me.

When we hang out, it is a win-win for everyone. Our time together often results in a serious flab workout, because when we laugh so much that our abs ache. Like the time Laura and I had a sleep over at Diana’s house. She kicked out her husband and son for the night so we had the house to ourselves. We drank lots of champagne. We stood on the couches, dancing and singing into wooden spoons. I broke her stereo speakers blasting Billy Joel (me and my hair brush anthems). When I woke up fuzzy headed and hurting the next morning, I left a note for Diana. Unfortunately, Diana’s husband found it first, when he came home from his enforced exile. Diana told me that she pinned the note to her inspiration board. I guess so she can be inspired to laugh every day, thanks to me.

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Years before this, I took my then 2 year old son to my friend Juanita’s house. We love Juanita and her husband. They are incredibly funny, incredibly bright people. And Juanita is a great storyteller, who, like me, loves to embellish. Let’s be honest here. Embellishing just makes the story better. It’s like Photoshop. The basic idea is still there, but all the good parts are highlighted a bit more than they were last time the story was told.

Anyway, while Juanita and I sat and chatted inside, my son had been sitting in Juanita’s convertible with Juanita’s husband. The boys spent 30 minutes opening and closing the top of the convertible and pretending to drive. You can imagine what a buzz kill I was when I came outside and told my son it was time to leave. Little britches got completely bent out of shape. “Stay with Day!” he screamed. (“Day” is how he pronounced Juanita’s husband’s name.) “I want to stay with Day! Stay with Day!” Then, crying hysterically, he ran inside the house. Either in an act of defiance or just a toddler antic (at times they are one in the same), Little Britches pulled down his pants and pooped in the middle of the hall. I would have been mortified, but Juanita comes from a family that values poop (and farting) as much as I do, so she thought it was great. We still talk about that story and it happened over 20 years ago.

The last really good laughing-induced flab workout I had happened right before I left Texas to move to Germany. I was hanging out with my gal Csonga. Her real name is Chris, but we’ve called her Csonga since forever, because one time she was playing Yahtzee with the boys and me and they couldn’t read her dyslexic-crap handwriting. The Littlest Britches asked, “Who’s Csonga?” We’ve called her that ever since.

About a month before I was set to move away, Csonga and I were went out on the town. I should mention it was the middle of the week. And not much past 6pm. We’re moms and I would have been asleep if we waited until 10pm to go out. Plus, we wouldn’t be able to get inside any club if it was a busy night, and we were competing with the 20 year olds. Yep. Tuesday, 6:12. We’re about to get crazy up in here, y’all!

We were walking down Congress Avenue, stopping to go down a side street if something looked interesting. We sat at some tropical themed rooftop bar for a drink then moved on. A doorman, trying to get customers inside of another club on an obviously slow evening, called out to us, “Ladies, bull riding is free until 8. Come on in and try the mechanical bull.”

Csonga and I looked at each other and had the exact same thought, “Oh hell yeah!”

Now, neither of us had ever been on a mechanical bull before. We’d never even seen one, and we certainly weren’t dressed for bull riding. Csonga was wearing jeans, but I was in a ridiculously too short (for my age) dress, and we both had on flip-flops. I’ve seen Don Gay’s Best Rides and Worst Wrecks. I’ve been to the rodeo. Cowboys don’t wear flip-flops. But we were inside that bar in seconds and had our game on. Bring on the bull!

Csonga went first, climbing a little step stool to get on the bull. She wrapped the rope around one hand and the other stayed free. The bull started to rock slowly, up and down while moving in a circle. As the bull picked up speed, Csonga managed to stay on until being violently thrown off into the padding around the bull.

“That was hard,” she said after she stopped laughing at herself. Naturally, I was laughing with her, not at her, because I am a good friend.

It was my turn. I climbed up the little ladder and daintily crawled atop the bull. I wrapped the rope around my right hand, and used my left hand to tuck my too short dress under my butt. I decided to treat this ride like driving a car on ice, just steer into the direction of movement, don’t fight it. I clamped my thighs against that bull like my life depended on it, and altogether, my strategy seemed to work, because I lasted just as long as Csonga. Actually I think I lasted 8 seconds and she did not, but she says that’s not true. And, since I’m older with 1 more kid than her, my memory is subject to creative recall.

We celebrated our success with 2 dollar beers and agreed, ‘Well, there’s one for the storybooks.

Of course, the real story was a few days later, when I showed up at the girl doctor for my annual private parts check up. I lay on the exam table, feet in the stirrups and legs spread open for God and all to see when my doctor says, “Muse, I don’t mean to imply anything, but I have to ask. Is everything alright between you and your husband?”

“Um, yeah,” I said, thinking this is a weird question for her to ask me since he’s been in Germany for most of the last year while we prepare to move. “Why?”

“It’s just that…the inside of your thighs, it looks like someone’s beaten you.”

Well, I had been a bit sore since my outing with Csonga, but naturally I attributed that to a serious muscular workout riding the bull. And, not normally in this position, splayed open with a lamp illuminating my hoo-hah like I’m about to be in a porno, I hadn’t exactly studied my body post-rodeo romp. Until now. And what I saw wasn’t pretty – huge green and purple welts covering the insides of my thighs.

My face turned red. “Ha ha, oh that,” I stammered. “Right. Would you believe I rode a mechanical bull the other night?”

Mechanical bull induced injuries lead to suspicion of domestic violence at the gynecologist’s office. Now that little tale is one for the storybooks. And it’s always good for a serious flab workout with my girlfriends.

For Listicle Lovers and Those Who Share Stupid Quiz Results on Facebook

My “friends” on Facebook range from teenagers (children of good friends) to my 90-year old Granddaddy, and they live all over the globe. Some friends are unemployed, some are students, some are business execs, some are authors, some are scientists and a bunch I have no idea what they do. Yet, among all these disparate people, whose single common feature is at some point interacting with me, one thing is for certain. My FB friends love to post listicles and inane quizzes on their newsfeeds.

I love the word listicle, although I admit I didn’t know that’s what these things were called until I started writing this post. A listicle is a combo, an article and a list, or an article masquerading as a list. I guess it’s not called an artlist, because that implies the list is art related, like 10 Impressionist Paintings Every Person Should Recognize, 5 Body Parts Van Gogh Should Have Removed Before He Cut Off His Ear, or 7 Substances the Greeks Really Filled Amphoras With. I think those would be examples of artlists.

Take a second and Google the word listicle. You get half a million results. What is up with these listicles? Duh! They’re way easier to digest than a long article or, goddess forbid, a book. Listicles are made for our fast moving, speed-addicted society. I don’t need to spend hours and hours reading a book on parenting when, in one minute, I can scan the 10 Traits of Good Moms and have my children saved from years of needless therapy. Come on, peeps, I got shit to do. I don’t have time to waste reading content. I need bullet points, Power points, or infographics!

Here are some examples of listicles I found in a 30 second search on the Huffington Post.

11 Bizarre Christmas List Requests From Kids Around The World

18 Things You Should Say Yes To

22 Things That Are Better Than Sex

13 Things You Secretly Like

5 Things Everybody Gets Wrong About Napping

10 Things Every Living Room Needs

 

As you all know, the Huffington Post is an online newspaper. Yet, I fail to see how any of these lists is newsworthy or even mildly entertaining. (What is there to get wrong about napping?!) But, because these are in the Huffington Post I can claim to be reading the news while actually discovering things that are better than sex. By the way, I didn’t need to read the listicle above to learn that napping is better than sex. I discovered that on my very own shortly after I gave birth to my first child.

As I’m living my frenzied, chaotic, fast-paced life, reading listicle after listicle, I get overwhelmed. I can’t go on because I haven’t said yes to 17 of the 18 Things in that listicle above. (Shit. I’m screwed now.) I need a mental break to regroup. So I take 2 minutes to find out what burrito filling I really am. (Note: I’m taking this quiz as I type and the questions to determine my “inner” burrito filling include which Monty Python character I identify with and what underwear I am wearing. Clearly, serious data are being compiled and analyzed for my results.) This is harmless and funny, right? Okay, fine, but unlike my dopey friends, I have never shared the results of these quizzes on FB. You won’t know me any better, and you might even unfriend me, if you see me posting that I am barbacoa,  the truffle of milk chocolate.

Again, below are actual titles I cut and pasted from Playbuzz and Buzzfeed, the two most popular sources of FB quizzes.

Which Movie Villain Should Be Your Drinking Companion?

Which Internal Organ Are You?

What Pubic Hairstyle Should You Rock Next?

Which Original Sinner Are You?

How FINNISH Are You?

Which Horrible Historic Disease Would You Have Had?

 

Which pubic hairstyle should I rock next? I’m lucky I don’t need elaborate braiding and pube pins just to tame my unruly nether nest and put on my granny panties.

Okay, I cannot believe I wasted even 2 minutes of my life on these stupid quizzes.Time to go back to reading listicles, and I’m gonna start by scanning the 10 Traits of Good Moms, because I only have 1 more child left to get this parenting thing right.

 

I’d Be Laughing, If I Weren’t Crying

 

I now have the dubious distinction of having been a patient at a psychiatric hospital on 2 different continents. Try to top that one, peeps! Actually, don’t try to top that, because, let’s be honest, that is not something to aspire to in life.

My stay in the German loony bin happened when I had a melt down last summer. This melt down was not of unprecedented proportion, if you’ve been witness to my crazy spells, but let’s just say it had been over a decade since the last one, which was truly a total come apart (see Tuesday’s post). I had been depressed for months. I was angry. I was drinking. And I had a bottle of Xanax. The combination resulted in a 36-hour (semi-comatose) stay in the ICU of the University Hospital followed by transport to the psych ward. I arrived on the ward around 1am on a Monday morning and was literally dumped by the emergency technicians (for some reason I was transferred by an ambulance from the ICU to the psych ward, although they were the same hospital) in a bed in a patient room with 3 other beds. Roommate 1 was sleeping in one of these beds. The other 2 beds were empty, but it was obvious that I had 2 other roommates; who knows where they were. After this unceremonious, middle of the night arrival, I was on my own. No one came to check me in (‘Welcome. I’m Nurse Birgitte’). No one came to provide me information. (‘Breakfast is served in the kitchen at 8. Group therapy is at 10. Medication is dispensed before bed.’) No problem. I was still in a Xanax stupor so fell asleep immediately.

The next day I woke up when someone in a German National team soccer uniform – it was the summer of the World Cup – bounded into the room screaming, “Mittagessen!” Lunch. It wasn’t casual Friday. It was Monday. So I guess they had a lax dress code at this hospital. Honestly, you would be hard pressed to differentiate the nurses from the patients, especially when they’re all huddled together in the smoking room that was adjacent to the kitchen. Yes, there was a smoking room. Inside the hospital. Oy.

Despite the invitation to partake in Mittagessen! I went back to sleep. Apparently, it takes some serious work to sleep off a bottle of Xanax, even if the prescription is expired. When the doctor on duty showed up that afternoon, however, I had to get up and talk.

“I see you suffer from depression. Do you take medication for this?” he asked.

“Yes,” I told him, “but my meds are at home.”

“Well, have someone bring them in so you can take them while you’re here.”

Wait, what did he just tell me? I didn’t mean to question his professional judgment but I was in a psych ward. For an intentional overdose. But, in an attempt to be a good patient, I called my husband and told him to bring in my anti-depressants.

“Bring some clothes, too,” I said since all I had was the Victoria’s Secret slip in which I’d been admitted and the hospital scrubs ICU dressed me in for the transfer.

My husband showed up that afternoon with some clothes, my meds, my iPhone, and a Sudoku book. Without work or a child, I was practically on vacation. The rest of that day, I laid on my bed playing Words with Friends and Sudoku.

The next day, I finally went to the bathroom. I won’t go into details here, but suffice it to say that they must have given me a lot of activated charcoal in the ICU.

Roommate 1 left the hospital that morning to spend the day with her boyfriend, but, in her absence, Roommate 2 showed up. She introduced herself and announced that she was going to therapy.

“What kind of therapy?” I asked since no one had bothered to inform me of my options.

“It’s one where you make things with paper and cardboard,” she said in her broken English.

“And how exactly does that help?” I asked.

“It’s better to have something to do than to sit around here,” she said, casting me a certain look.

Did she mean something by this, like I was just sitting around doing nothing? I mean, I was sitting around doing nothing, but only because (1) I didn’t even know about arts and crafts therapy until right now, and (2) I couldn’t see how cutting and pasting would help me.

Roommate 2 sighed heavily and left. I laid face down on the bed and proceeded to sob. Maybe I should have gone with her. Maybe making a half ass piñata would have provided me with an emotional outlet when I ultimately destroyed it.

My wallowing was interrupted when the entire staff of resident psychiatrists came in to evaluate me. The Head Professor of Psychiatry introduced himself to me and began to ask me questions while his posse stood around and stared.

“Miss M, was this was a suicide attempt?” he asked.

“I don’t think so,” I said. “It was more of a screaming message that I hate my life right now.”

“Why would you hate it?” the Professor asked.

“Because I hate living here.”

“And why is that,” he asked.

“No offense, but look at yourselves.”

Yes, I actually said this to 6 psychiatrists who were all standing there staring at me while I sat on my waterproof-sheeted bed, crying like a baby.

I continued, “No one smiles here. It’s unfriendly here in general. I’m from the South. It may be fake to wish someone you don’t know ‘Good Morning’ or say ‘Hello’ to a stranger, but there’s a reason that whole happiness movement is going on in the States. Because it works.”

One doctor in the entourage smiled, stifling a laugh.

“See. That’s all I need,” I said. “I am a human being, and I need a human connection. Really, you guys should work on your bedside manner.”

The Professor wrote down some stuff. The one doctor continued to smile, and the other doctors continued to stare at me. Then they all left, and I returned to my wallowing.

That afternoon the lunatic left the asylum. My husband came to get me, and we took the subway home. I carted my ICU scrubs and Sudoku book in a garbage bag, like a homeless person. Crazy and back on the streets.

A few days later, I went to see my psychiatrist. She wrote the paperwork for me to take medical leave for the rest of the month, which meant I could stay in bed and cry all day if I wanted. Except that I couldn’t because I have a daughter, and it turns out my daughter had just gotten her first case of head lice. Friends, remember that overnight farm trip she went on with her kindergarten the previous week? Well, her roommates were the 3 kids who had lice at school (that same week) plus the one kid who’d had strep throat the week before. I should have asked the damn kindergarten teachers to see if they could find a kid with chicken pox to throw in the mix. You know, just get it all done at once. Luckily, we live above an Apotheke, and all I had to do was buy some shampoo that treats lice in one wash. So the second I finished my mama chimp head grooming routine, I got the shampoo and nit comb and went to town.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get more challenging, that same day, as I’m nit picking, my husband came home diagnosed with pneumonia. Yes, pneumonia. Now he had a stay-at-home-for-2-weeks medical leave pass, too.

Friends, I wish I could say that the worse was over. But, of course, it wasn’t. (Damn you, life!) That very night, I shit you not, my daughter complained of an itchy bottom, which, when I played doctor on Web MD, meant she had pinworms. What?! I’d never even heard of them before. I could confirm this internet diagnosis by waiting until my daughter fell asleep, spreading her little ass cheeks, and shining a flashlight to look for “moving threads”, because the female pin worm only comes out at night to lay eggs in the anus of the child. Sigh.

I considered checking myself back in to the loony bin at this point. Seriously. This shit is my life. Oh. My. God.

 

Random Things on the Web I Dig Right Now (January 2015)

1. Poop Bread Recipe http://www.mynewroots.org/site/2013/02/the-life-changing-loaf-of-bread/

Okay, this isn’t really called poop bread, but that’s what I call it (to the chagrin of my husband, because you know how he feels about my potty mouth). My former community college students can tell you that I have a thing for poop. The consistency, color, smell – poop is important. It’s a window to your health. If you aren’t intimate with your poop, you need to be. Anyway, I found this recipe on line; this bread is gluten free, vegan, and will keep you regular. I have a pan that makes 8 mini loaves and I like to bake this bread on Sundays so I have a small loaf (ha ha, poop joke!) ready to eat every day of the week. I’ve found you can mix the recipe up a bit. I tend to add cinnamon and ginger and dried fruit or an overripe banana. Enjoy and may your poop be solid with this.

 

2. Funniest blog post I’ve read in a while http://tracyontherocks.com/whats-up-doc/

When I found this post, I laughed so hard and sent it to all my girlfriends to read. The girl doctor visit can be an awkward thing. You’re sitting there naked while someone makes small talk with you and inserts some probe all up in your private parts. I’ve usually had 5 cups of coffee before my visit and my doctor presses really hard on my flabs (that’s how I lovingly refer to my entire abdominal area) to feel my ovaries. “Your bladder is full,” she says in her German accented English. Yeah, no shit. She’s lucky I didn’t just pee on her. One time, I told my German gyno, who is not the most fluent in English, that I felt a lump in my breast. She said, “Don’t worry. I will taste it when I do the exam.” Whoa! Really? Now this is full service, I thought. But, she caught her mistake and, red faced, said, “I mean touch it. I will touch it.” Okay, so this Tracy on the Rocks post is along those lines. I hope you are as entertained by gyno humor as I am.

 

3. Inspiring podcast lectures on Buddhism http://www.audiodharma.org

Okay, enough with the 7th grade humor (can I help it? I raised 2 boys on Dumb and Dumber movies). Every morning when I run I listen to audio podcasts. Right now, I am so girl crushing on Andrea Fella of the Insight Meditation Center in California. She is a Buddhist practitioner and is wise and compassionate and really speaks to me, right where I am, right now. So, when you need to feel inspired and want to embark on your path of self actualization, listen to some of her talks. They will give you much food for thought.

(Potty) Mouth Wide Open

“Take it easy there, Sailor,” my husband will say to me when I start swearing. He says this, that is, unless (a) our daughter is present or (b) he’s not feeling very generous with me, which is most of the time honestly. He doesn’t like my potty mouth. He doesn’t even like me to euphemistically curse, which I find really funny.

“I can’t say Fudge around Emmy?” I’ll ask, smirking. “But, it’s not even a bad word.”

“It is if that’s your intention for saying it,” he’ll respond. “Tone is powerful. Words are powerful.”

“Seriously? Then what the fuck am I supposed to say?”

This is the point where he rolls his eyes, sighs heavily, and walks away.

 

When I taught high school, my preferred profanities were “Hot desert sands!” and “My stars!” The former I yelled when I was put out. Like, if I actually stepped on some hot desert sand, I would probably scream, quite angrily, “Fuck!” “My stars” was for when I was a bit dumbfounded or in awe, like “Holy shit! That really just happened?” Of course, on occasion a real bad word did cross my lips in front of our impressionable youth. One time, I was opening a freestanding locker in which I kept a model of a human skeleton (I was an anatomy teacher) and the entire skeleton and locker fell on me. I screamed, “Shit!” trying to hold up this huge weight. All of my 18-year-old students just sat there, staring at me. Finally, one sweet girl who always wore shirts that exposed her cleavage – which was so lovely that even I was distracted by it so I have no clue how the boys her age actually sat across from her in class and learned anything – jumped up and helped me right the locker and put the skeleton back inside on its hook. I apologized for swearing in front of my class. Again, the students just stared at me. And why did I even bother?

One of my former gang banger high school students once told me a favorite quote of her grandmother’s, “Profanity is the crutch of the conversationally crippled.” I like that quote and have repeated it often (like when my students cursed in class). But I am not conversationally crippled. I don’t curse in front of my 90-year-old Granddaddy or at work functions. I don’t drop the F bomb in every sentence I utter, but in front of my friends, or my immediate family, I’m not censoring myself.

In general, I am not known for having a good filter. If you meet me and ask me a question, I’ll be honest. Sometimes this mouth-wide-open quality gets me into trouble; sometimes it upsets people. But, those are probably the people I don’t want to be good friends with anyway. My life is an open book. My mouth is wide open. Deal with it.

Yesterday I was listening to an On Being podcast interview with the Lutheran pastrix Nadia Bolz-Weber. She is also a sailor and if I were a Christian, she is totally the kind I would be. Nadia cusses a blue streak and prays things like, “God, please don’t let me be an asshole today.” Her response to people questioning her language is, “Hey, this is the community I come from.” Truth be told, she grew up Church of Christ, and I’m 150% confident those people didn’t speak like she does, so she must mean her current community. She is the pastor of Denver’s House for all Sinners and Saints, a diverse congregation that, according to their website is “Christo-centric, social justice-oriented, queer-inclusive, incarnational, contemplative, and irreverent.” Sounds pretty badass for a church group.

About an hour after I listened to that podcast I was surfing Facebook when I saw a post about women who have embraced their foul mouths. Now I’m thinking this is a sign. The language gods are either telling me to go ahead and cuss like I want or to stop it altogether. Which way do you think I interpreted it?

Fuck yeah.

There are no dumb questions, but there are really awkward ones

After last week’s heavy posts, here is something a little light-hearted from my past life as a teacher. Oh, the stories I could tell…

 

Despite being 23, I looked about 12 when I first started teaching high school. My classes were filled with Latina girls who outlined their lips in black and penciled their eyebrows into the thinnest possible lines. The boys sported homemade tattoos and wore colors, bandanas for the gang of which they were purportedly members. A few students were pregnant, some with their second child. In addition to these kids, the regular lot, my classes always included a large percentage of special needs students. I’d like to think it was my passion for teaching and skill with all learners that got these students into my room, but, honestly, it was because I was a first year teacher and too naïve to know better or demand something different from the administration.

“Today, we will discuss the parts and what they do – using strictly biological terms. Tomorrow, you can ask questions, but you must use the correct, biological terms,” I said as I introduced my first lesson on sex ed.

I was mostly saying this for my own reassurance. While I was fully prepared to answer questions like, “Can you get pregnant if you have sex for the first time?” or “Can you get pregnant if you have sex in a pool?” I thought the students should have some correct information about the parts and process before we engaged in the kinds of questions I anticipated their asking.

The students labeled a worksheet, male and female reproductive anatomy, while I stood at the board and talked. I sensed their growing disinterest. The drawings did not look like what they’d seen in movies, or in person, and the word ‘vagina’ was only funny the first few times I said it.

But I persevered, launching into the comparison of male and female gamete production, where and how eggs and sperm are made.

“In human males, sperm are produced continually from puberty until death. They are made in the seminiferous tubules of the testes and over the course of about 70 days they mature and travel to epididymis, where they are stored until they are ejaculated during orgasm. Males can ejaculate several times a day, each time producing about 150 million sperm.”

“On the other hand, human females are born with all the eggs they will ever have. Then for a defined period in life, typically around 30-40 years, the female body releases 1 egg a month, regardless of an orgasm, which is viable for 36 hours or so. If it isn’t fertilized, that’s the end, no continuation of life. When you think about these numbers, it’s a wonder anyone ever gets pregnant.”

I was feeling pretty confident. No one had interrupted me. However, it wasn’t because the lecture was so engaging. The silence was more likely due to the fact that many students were utterly bored. Some had their heads on their desks, sleeping through the lesson. Others stared at the windows, which looked, rather anti-climactically, onto the dumpsters and the teacher parking lot.

‘Really?’ I thought. ‘I just said the word ‘ejaculate,’ for crying out loud. That didn’t even register a snicker from the class?!’

Sighing silently, I was about to continue when a short, round girl in the 2nd row raised her hand. Apparently someone was paying attention! But before I could call on her, LaQueenta began to speak.

“Mizz Moe-reen,” she said, in her carefully articulated Southern drawl, “I know a man know when he’s havin’ an orgasm. But how do a woman know?”

What?! All those students who had been napping or writing notes to friends or staring off into space suddenly showed an interest in the lesson. Heads snapped to attention. Jaws hung agape, and every face, every eye, was looking to me, waiting for my answer.

Unfortunately, I was totally stymied. I needed to say something, but what? How does a woman know? Is this even appropriate for a group of 14 year olds? (Okay, many were repeat freshmen, so may have been 17, but still.)

As I was composing my thoughts, LaQueenta continued.

“My momma tole me,” she said.

‘Oh, sweet, baby Jesus,’ I thought. ‘Is she going to tell us how her mom knows she’s having an orgasm? Wait, would her mom tell her that? Oh, shit, please, don’t say anything, LaQueenta.’

While I was standing failing to send LaQueenta my telepathic message not to continue, she did just that.

“My momma tole me when she’s having an orgasm she get all cold and shivery. Is that true? And why is that?”

There was about 2 seconds of silence in which I stood dumbstruck, jaw agape like my students. Then their riotous laugher broke the spell. LaQueenta smiled when her classmates started to laugh, but she was earnest. She really wanted to know how a woman knows when she’s having an orgasm, and if her mom was correct in her assessment.

At that moment, every bit of knowledge left my head. I was utterly flustered by the thought of LaQueenta’s mother, a woman I had never even met since she didn’t bother to come to Back to School Night, having her cold and shivery orgasms and then sharing this experience with LaQueenta.

The laughter died down and the students sat silently. They looked at me. They expected an answer. I could read their minds. They were silently screaming, ‘Well, is that true?!’

In a clumsy and hurried voice I blurted out, “You just know, LaQueenta. Believe me, a woman knows when she’s having an orgasm.”

I sat down at my desk and contemplated my career choice.