ramblings

Where Profanity Comes From

My mom taught me a couple new swear words this morning on the way to school. Traffic was bad. I can’t tell you what they mean or even what they were without getting in trouble, but trust me when I say they were both creative and breathtaking.

Sometimes I wonder where those words come from.

That's the Rule

That’s the Rule by John, on Flickr

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The Book Hoarder

I’ll admit it–I am a borderline hoarder. I keep things I know I probably won’t need, thinking that in some convoluted wrinkle of fate it will come in handy during a future crisis. In truth, I’m afraid the ironic tendency of the universe will cause me to need any item I  dispose of, most likely moments after the recycling truck takes it away forever. Some items have travelled with me through numerous moves, and though I don’t need it currently, I just might someday, and then who will be laughing?

But books are different. Back during my impressionable twenty somethings I used to love to go to used book stores and peruse the shelves for esoteric and thought provoking books that I didn’t necessarily want to read, but I wanted people to think I read. Sometimes I actually attempted to sit down and read the books, but for some reason or another never finished. I usually read just the introductions or maybe the first chapter so I could sound like I knew what the book was about, in case anyone asked. I wanted to seem all philosophical and well read without actually putting the time in to read. My problem is I am a pretty slow reader and I have ADD. Sometimes I read so slow that I get distracted in the middle of the sentence and have to start over. I can’t read fast enough to keep my own attention.

I bought the books because I was always told that writers must read a metric ton to find inspiration and to learn the craft. I was also told that if you want to be a writer then you should buy books written by other people to support the business. I liked to imagine what my own book would look like on the shelves. At one point I had milk crates full of these used literature and philosophy books that I schlepped around with me so I could put them on my bookshelves and look at them. I have sold and donated boxes of my books in recent years, but not all of them. Some I have held onto. Some I still hold the illusion that I will sit down and read someday, which is why I haven’t gotten rid of them yet. I was curious what books I hadn’t sold, so I went into the garage and looked.

So without further adieu, here are twelve plus one of the outrageous, audacious, and courageous books I found hoarded away in my garage. I will include a jacket blurb, and just what in the hell I was thinking when I bought it in the first place. (more…)

Felonious

“Assault, driving under the influence, hit and run, forgery, kidnapping, impersonating an officer, trespassing, conspiracy, grand larceny?” The booking officer looked at me over the reading glasses perched on the end of his nose. “It sounds like you had quite an evening, son. What do you have to say for yourself?” I just stared at his bushy grey mustache while he tapped his pen on the desk and waited for me to say something.

Should I say…

That the night was young and I wasn’t done yet, that I still had some felonies left to commit.

That I was innocent of the hit and run charge, but he forgot to mention the indecent exposure, piracy, and public nuisance.

That I thought he had a groovy mustache.

That I wasn’t sorry as I laugh like a super villain.

That I didn’t mean to, oops, my bad.

That I regret nothing.

That I regret it all.

Was there one single thing I could say that would make him understand?

What would you say?

NO TRESPASSING (by morserj on Flickr)

DP Daily Prompt: Break the Silence

Questions

Why are there always so many questions?

What happened? What were you trying to accomplish? What were you thinking? What are you going to do now? Are you crazy? What’s wrong with you? Who do you think you are? What about the kids? What about Patches and Fluffy? Do you hate me? What did I do to you? How can you  live with yourself? Why are you such an asshole? Are you serious? Are you kidding? What are you, some kind of psychopath? Should I call the police? What do you mean you already did? What do you expect from me? Am I supposed to be a martyr for you? Would you do the same for me? Why are you crying? Do you even love me at all anymore? Where are you going?

Wait, where are you going?

Question mark (by the Italian voice)

now what

I’d like to talk about what.

What does what mean? What is a question. What is an action. What is that thing you can’t remember. What is what I’m trying to say. Do you know what I’m saying? That’s not what I meant.

What I meant was. . . What was I thinking? What is the point? What the bloody hell? What is supposed to happen? What’s the next step? What am I doing here? What can I do to help? WTF? What have I done? Oh my God, what have I done?

These are the kinds of whats I want. Now what are we going to do?

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT? (by nolifebeforecoffee on Flickr)

Humorous Sorrows

I deal with the blues by using humor. I don’t know how but it makes me feel a little better, but also can have the unintended consequence of hiding my true sorrow.

I was in an accident recently that was pretty bad, and ended up missing almost 3.5 months of work. Here is an email update I sent to my boss (the principal). He took it as an indication that my spirits were doing well. It guess it masked the serious depressed sentiments I had at the time. I sent this email exactly one month after the accident.


re: News from the doctors…

Thursday, November 07, 2013 12:39 PM

From: Science Teacher [SV]

To: Mr Principal  [SV]‎; Mrs Office Manager [SV]
Cc: Mrs Vice Principal [SV]‎; Miss Union Rep [SV]

Greetings,

I got some good news and some bad news today. First the good news. My ankle looks great, and the surgery went perfectly. I got a plate and four screws installed, and I think my ankle will now be both bulletproof and bionic. It may also help improve my cell phone reception and be usable as a wifi hotspot, and the hardware does come with a one year warranty. I also got my stinky old splint off and got a shiny new boot. Even after only 12 days the stench on that plaster splint was debilitating and probably neurotoxic. So yeah for the shiny new boot!

Now for the bad news, which unfortunately is more plentiful. I’ll number the items so you can keep track.

  1. Even though I am in a boot I can only put partial weight on my foot, so will still need crutches until the big screw gets removed. Putting too much weight on my foot may result in the screw breaking, which I’m told would be very bad. In case you didn’t know, breaking things in your ankle is bad, even if they are things that aren’t really supposed to be there in the first place.
  2. The necrosis on the front of my shin has finally revealed a large open wound in the center where the impact occurred. The wound is so large they recommend a skin graft operation, which will happen as soon as the wound heals a bit more underneath. In the meantime the doctors had to debride the dead flesh, which looked like an impromptu scene from the Walking Dead. What is left is a great big window through my flesh straight down to the bone. Luckily the extensive nerve damage in the area means I could not feel any pain during the procedure, and feel no pain now. Who ever thought nerve damage could be lucky? Perhaps this should have been included in the good news above.
  3. They finally took a much closer look at my knee. There is an MRI scheduled for Monday to confirm for sure, but the initial diagnosis today was that I most likely completely tore my ACL, MCL, and possibly the PCL, but the LCL is strong like bull (3 out of 4 ain’t bad). My knee is extremely unstable and I am recommended not to put any weight on my leg at all to protect the knee, even though I am supposed to put partial weight on my foot to help heal the ankle bones. The burly medical knee brace that is supposed to help protect my knee from twisting and popping wildly out of joint can’t be worn with a boot, and my eventual skin graft will probably also inhibit my ability to wear the knee brace properly. I am thinking of designing a hybrid walking boot knee brace to help fulfill all my doctor’s wishes and improve my locomotive potential.
  4. I was referred to a plastic surgeon about the skin graft. The area is so messed up and swollen she told me it may be a month or more before I would be able to undergo the procedure. She told me I should keep my leg elevated above my heart at least 22 hours a day. I’ve decided the easiest way to do this is to learn to walk on my hands like an ambidextrous acrobat from Cirque du Soleil. Unfortunately my initial attempts have not proven successful. I fear the percoset may be inhibiting my powers of proprioception, but luckily also makes the prospect of falling on my head less inhibiting.
  5. I have basically been given three completely contradictory courses of treatment from my doctors. Foot doctor: start putting partial weight on your ankle to stimulate healing, but don’t break the screw. Knee doctor: don’t put any weight on your knee without wearing the knee brace that you can’t actually wear. Plastic surgeon: keep your shin above your head at all times except when using the toilet or trying to take a one footed shower with a plastic bag over your leg. Luckily percoset not only helps with pain, but also helps one deal with paralyzing bouts of irony.
  6. Each of my doctors has told me that completely removing my leg and installing a fully bionic model is not an option.

Okay, so what’s next? I’m not sure honestly. All I know right now is that unless I can perfect my hand walking technique, my date of return is still up in the air. I was really hoping that I could return by November the 18th but that’s looking less and less likely, as I will possibly be needing additional (up to four) surgeries. My numerous doctor’s notes excuse me from physical activity until 2014!

It is getting harder and harder for me to keep up with the planning and grading of my different classes. At what point does hiring a long term sub become an option?

I really really really really really really wish I had more good news to share. Unfortunately this is what I got. Let me know what the options are moving forward.

Cordially, Jefe

the shiny new boot

Reposted for the DP Daily Prompt: Singing the Blues

How Did I Get Here?

(aka My Illustrious Writing Habit)

When I tell people that I started writing stories in second grade many find this hard to believe. In truth I may have started earlier, but since the first physical artifact of my early writing still in my possession dates from the second grade, I’ll go with it. The second grade was also when I published my first collection of short stories under the tutelage of Mrs. Olson, my 2nd Grade teacher. Most of my memories of Mrs. Olson revolve around my surprise at how freaking old she was, by far the oldest looking teacher I have ever had. I remember her librarian glasses and how the skin hung off her arms when she was writing on the chalk board, swinging back and forth like a wrinkled hammock in the breeze. It is quite possible that she wasn’t really that old, but the mere act of teaching snot-nosed little brats everyday had caused her physical body to age at an accelerated pace, something I know about all to well having somehow becoming a teacher myself. But I digress.

Chapter 1 – Simple Pleasures

SONY DSC

nogmania

I actually found my book of stories while cleaning out a closet at my mom’s house when we were getting ready to sell it. Its somber title was January Stories by Jeff Hager. One thing I had when I was younger was imagination, though not necessarily reflected in this title. I practically lived in an imaginary world, but  since I was such a lone wolf I had no imaginary friends in there with me. It was me and my words and my pictures. Here’s a transcript of one story, Nogmania.

My nogs live in people’s hair. If you don’t comb it they will eat you up. If you take one out they will give you a disease.They are like little savage monsters. They are smaller than a termite. One day everybody was combing his hair and all the nogs died, except one was lucky and didn’t die. He moved into Bottle City!

Despite the fact that the POV changes and there is a character named everybody, it is better than a lot of my first drafts. As you can see I also illustrated each of the stories, and I was quite the young artist if I do say so myself. I was using similes at age 8, and unlike a lot of the stories I wrote in high school, something actually happens in this one. But I also see why my teachers and mother were so concerned. I rarely ever spoke, in class or at home, but when I sat down to write somehow words and ideas poured onto the page. Soon after the triumph of January Stories I completed another illustrated book called Lost Land. It involved a young boy going back in time and meeting a bunch of dinosaurs. Some were nice and some tried to eat him. I think it was loosely based on the original Land of the Lost television show, which was a favorite of mine. This book proved very predictable in its storyline, but the illustrations were pretty kick ass, mainly because my father had given me a book on how to draw dinosaurs. I probably drew a dinosaur on at least 75% of my papers in elementary school, usually when I was supposed to be working on math problems or something else that didn’t interest me. Dinosaurs were cool. That was all that mattered. These early writing successes planted the writing seed somewhere deep in my brain, but unfortunately the successes were short lived. My youthful enthusiasm would soon be placed ruthlessly into a chokehold by the iron grip of editing, criticism, and rejection.

Chapter 2 – The Doubt Creeps In

3rd grade was difficult. ADD wasn’t widely understood. I wasn’t hyper, but definitely had difficulty concentrating and staying seated in class. My third grade teacher had called for a conference with my Mom about my distractibility in class, and her suggestion was I may have ringworm that was causing my restlessness. She swore she had seen it before, so my mother took me to the doctor to have me tested for parasites. I wish I was making this up, but unfortunately my imagination is not that macabre. Needless to say there were no parasites. I continued to struggle in school, except when I was writing.

By fourth grade my teacher noticed my writing immediately. She thought it was good, so good that she accused my parents of writing my homework assignments. Of course they didn’t. They proofread maybe, but I was very incensed that someone didn’t believe I had written the words that I wrote. My parents were contacted and of course denied the accusation. Being a teacher myself I know that parents always do, whether they wrote it or not.

My fifth grade teacher went even further and accused me of plagiarizing my state report. There were four grades and I got an A+ on three. On the writing grade I got a D because my teacher assumed I could not have written such descriptive and interesting passages. This was about twenty years BG (before google) and the internet was still a glimmer in some nerdy engineer’s glasses. I had written every word myself, and put a lot of work into it. I’m still not sure what is more disheartening for a writer, being told your writing is not good enough, or being told your writing was so good you couldn’t possibly have written it.

Chapter 3 – Accusations and Lies

It wasn’t until middle school that I finally found the recognition I thought I deserved. But it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. It was middle school after all.

During these middle school years my writing actually started gaining a little momentum, and garnered some praise and recognition from my teachers. In seventh grade I got first place in our school limerick contest, though I have no idea how, as poetry has never been my strong suit. The teacher that judged the contest had a peculiar disdain for me, and assumed I must have plagiarized the content from somewhere. I was called down to the principal’s office to answer to these accusations. She didn’t know where I had plagiarized it from and had absolutely no proof, but was nonetheless positive I could not have written the poem myself. But lacking any concrete evidence, I denied the charges and was eventually allowed the first place prize, and awarded a tacky little certificate most likely run off the school ditto machine. I have no further proof of any of this happening beyond my faulty and questionable memories of these incidents.

It was finally in the eighth grade that a teacher directly praised my writing abilities and presumably my intelligence. In English we often had to answer in class essay questions in response to the literature we read, and my English teacher would always start reading my paper the moment I handed it to her. I remember one time that she gasped out loud after I had turned in an essay response, while most of the class was reading silently. “Jeff, your response is perfect,” she said, “just perfect.” I felt suddenly embarrassed by this, and I’m sure that my classmates were looking at me like I was some kind of do-goody brown-noser, though I can’t be certain due to my prominent position in the front row (did I mention my ADD?). This one teacher had praised my writing privately many times, reassuring me that I had a certain lucky proficiency with words that was above the average.  Since she actually witnessed me sit down and compose the words in front of her, she must have realized that I had in fact written it myself. She was the first person I remember telling me to keep writing, which later became a theme among teachers that recognized some kernel of talent in me, and even as I write this now I try to keep telling myself this. Just keep writing.

Posted for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Writerly Reflections

Stay tuned for more chapters…(upcoming episodes)

Chapter 4 – Acceptance

Chapter 5 – College (what I can remember of it)

Chapter 6 – Life Experience

Chapter 7 – Self Actualization