Friday, September 29, 2006

Yet Another Example of Why I Should Never Be Allowed to Speak

The sweet little 8-year old daughter of my neighbor came knocking on my door yesterday because she had a homework assignment to ask 10 different people what their top 3 wishes would be if they could wish for anything in the “whoooooole wide world”. She was taking this assignment very seriously.

But I had no forewarning! These are the types of questions that I usually like to mull over and think deeply about because I’m a lunatic and tend to overcomplicate and make difficult almost everything in my life. But how could I explain to this fresh-faced little cutie in a way that she would understand that I’m a slave to my neurosis?

So when asked her question, I instantaneously decided to save her from my craziness and just go with the top three answers that came to my mind. Without hesitation, I told her my top 3 wishes would be:

“ Health and prosperity for my family.”

“ Eternal peace and prosperity for the world.”


“A killer body.”.

The little girl was taking great pains writing down my answers. She asked me what “prosperity” and “eternal” meant, so she let me indulge in a little teaching moment, which I loved. When she left my house I was feeling pretty good about my ability to just go with my first reaction instead of thinking something to death.

Until I heard her whisper to her mother as they were crossing my driveway, “Mom! Miss Lori wishes she could be a killer!”.

Is it any wonder I’m neurotic?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Play in One Act

If you’ve ever worked at a television station you know that the overnight master control operators are strange. They are a different breed, most are weird and anti-social. At my station, it’s no exception.

Here is the little vignette that played out last week when I returned to my office near midnight because I decided I needed a particular document for a meeting the next morning. Unfortunately, when I got to the office, I realized I had left my key to the front door in my brief case at home. But not to worry, I knew that Lance, the overnight master control operator had to be on duty and could let me in.

Lori [Earnestly pushing the intercom buzzer for five minutes waiting for an answer]

Lance “Uh….hello”

Lori “Oh thank goodness you answered. My name is Lori. I work for the Foundation. I need to get in and get a disk I left on my desk so I can finish a report that is due tomorrow.”

Lance [mashes intercom button as if he is going to speak, but pauses for long, long time instead. Finally he replies]. “A disk?”

Lori “Yes. A jump drive actually. Look, Lance, can you come down here and let me in? I mistakenly left me office keys at home.”

Lance [after another interminably long pause]. “How do you know my name is Lance.”

Lori [trying to be patient] “You’re the stuff of legend, Lance. Look, I work days, you work nights. I’ve never met you but I’ve heard about you and I really would appreciate it if you would come let me in the front door.”

Lance [long, long, long pause. I envision him slowly shuffling through the employee index. But knowing overnight engineers like I do, I know that the employee index he is looking at is one that is faded, torn and excessively doodled on because it was printed in 1971, meaning my name’s not on it. At long last a reply] “I don’t see a Lori on the list. Are you… a terrorist?”

Lori [after regaining consciousness from the stunned silence that rendered me incoherent]. “A terrorist? NO! I work here, I forgot my keys, I have an important piece of work to finish and I need you to come let me in right now.”

Lance “Well…. then….are you a communist?”

Lori [blood now boiling] “What kind of a ridiculous question is that? No, not a communist, just a card-carrying Independent. Lance it’s too late to call John or I would tell you to call him to verify I’m legit. Just trust me on this one. I office next to Louise, you’re probably talking on the phone in front of the playback machines, and the coffee maker in the break room has a slow drip that makes a soggy place on the carpet. I WORK HERE so please come to the lobby right now and let me in!”

Lance [in all seriousness] “Well…okay…but if you’re a spy for channel 9 I’m going to deny taking any part in this”

Lori [oh my gosh this paranoid, delusional recluse is serious!] “Fair enough, Lance. Just come let me in.”

10 MINUTES later [when the walk should have taken two minutes max], I see Lance through the glass peeping around the divider at the receptionist’s desk. I vigorously wave with a big, fake see-how-innocent-I-look-open-this-door-you-freak smile going . He ducks back behind the divider as if he’s been “spotted”. He slowly peers out again.

Lori [completely losing it and basically yelling.] “LANCE, GET OVER HERE AND UNLOCK THIS DOOR. THIS IS CRAZY”.

Lance [with a look of resignation and slight disappointment that the caper has ended less dramatically than the John Grisham finale he was fabricating in his head] “Ok…ok…hold on…”

As he rounds the corner I see that HE IS WEARING HIS PAJAMAS. Typical weird overnight master control operator stuff.

Lance “Hold your ID up to the door before I open it”.

Lori [digging through purse] “Lance, you’re going to rue this day!” [press driver’s license up to glass]

Lance “Oh yeah, I remember seeing you during pledge. Come on in.” [unlocks door]

Lori “Thank you. Oh God Lance, come on, you’re not going to follow me to my office are you?”

Lance “Yes”.

Lori [heavy sigh]

With pajama-clad Lance in tow I go to my office, get my jump drive off of my desk and head back to the front door.

Lori [feigning sincerity] “Good night, Lance. Stay alert.”

Lance [in all earnestness] “Will do”.

~C’est Finis~

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I Met Him on a Monday and My Heart Stood Still

Shaun Cassidy turns 48 today and when I read that in the paper this morning, for one brief moment the ground underneath my feet shook with the quivering of my heart.

With his 1000 kilowatt smile and awesome shiny blond feathered hair, Shaun Cassidy was my first real crush. I was 10. He was 19. Before Shaun, I wasn’t actually sure what a crush really was. At school I kind of liked Mike O’Leary, the kid who sat next to me, but “liked” meant that I thought he was funny and a little bit cute and I didn’t mind it so much when he yanked my pig tails and got paired with me as my “husband” in our “Japanese Family” unit.

But from the first moment I gazed into the soft, brown doe eyes of Shaun as he stared back at me from his poster tacked on my wall, I knew the meaning of true love. True love meant butterflies in my stomach, goose bumps on my arm and many hours toiling away with my Fashion Plates and crayons designing the wedding dress I would wear when we married.

When mom and dad let us stay home from Sunday night church I watched the Hardy Boys every other week with great anticipation to see how “Joe” was going to super cute his way out of another tight spot. Oh yes, that Parker Stevenson’s “Frank” might have been the smarter Hardy brother, but Shaun’s “Joe” was always the real scene stealer. On the alternating Sundays when they would air Nancy Drew, I would watch that whole thing just to get a glimpse of the preview for the next week’s Hardy Boys.

And the very first record album I ever got? That’s right - Shaun Cassidy – Da Doo Ron Ron. My way-cooler-than-me younger brother got a Kiss album and I got this dreamy salute to the bubble-gum pop machine of 1977. Barbie, Ken and I danced like MANIACS to that record.

Then there were the endless clippings of Shaun I tore out of my Tiger Beat and Teen Beat magazines that mom would get me from the grocery store, along with my equally loved Archie comic books. I always knew what that guy was up to.

Jacquie and I wrote Shaun many fan letters, and while we did hear back from Don Knotts, Eric Estrada, the Fonz and Tim Conway, Shaun was always too busy to write back. I forgave him. Unconditional love is like that.

As my tween years progressed, my celebrity crushes grew to include Jimmy Osmond, Andy Gibb, Scott Baio, Leif Garrett, Ian from the Bay City Rollers and, weirdly, Steve Cauthen the tiny little jockey who rode Affirmed to victory in the 1978 Kentucky Derby. But Shaun? He was the real deal. The first crush. My first husband and father to our children Lilly and Chip. The one I will never really forget.

Da Doo Ron Ron Ron, Da Doo Ron Ron…..

Monday, September 25, 2006

Standing in the Shadows of Maya and Miguel

I I attended an event this morning at the Oklahoma School for the Deaf in Sulpher, Oklahoma. This was a screening of Maya & Miguel, a popular PBS Kids series that is introducing a new character, Marco, who is seven years old and deaf.

The 30 children who were in attendance were awesome – and talk about inspirational. When they saw Marco, the little cartoon character, using American Sign Language they just lit up and were so genuinely excited they could hardly sit still. How neat for these little kids to identify with a cartoon character who is like them!

I learned how to say “friend” and “thank you” and of course I signed my name. The hands of these little kids were just flying throughout the whole event. Some of the older kids could read lips – a skill that amazes me.

All of the children in this state school live on campus, Monday through noon on Friday. At noon on Friday they are bussed back to their families, all across the state, for the weekend, then back again Sunday night. That’s got to get a bit tedious for those kids who live clear across the state. We found out that many of these children first came to the school when they were 18 months old. Can you imagine the sacrifice and anxiety that some parents probably felt about leaving their babies at an “institution”? But the principal told me that language skills are developed at these youngest ages, and for the deaf kids to be as totally independent as their hearing siblings they need to start working with them at 18 months. I really admire the dedication and love that these parents and professionals bring to their work.

After the screening, the costumed characters came out and the kids were thrilled to get their pictures taken with Maya and Miguel. It was so neat watching these children express their joy through their sign language and not with their voices.

These are the times when I am most proud to work for PBS.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hey Girl!

One of my favorite Far Side cartoons of all time is the one called Pre-historic Spelling Bee. One cave man is on the stage in front of the judges spelling “c-a-v-e”. The cave man who is next in line to spell a word has a thought bubble over his head that says, “Oh great. I’ll probably get Australopithecus”. This has always cracked me up because I AM that cave man with the thought bubble - my life is never easy.

But speaking of Australopithecus…

The news of the 3 million year-old little Australopithecus girl discovered in Ethiopia has really moved me, for some reason. What an amazing find. Out there in the badlands of a hot, dry country the fossils of the earliest well-preserved child ever found in the human lineage was unearthed. She’s even older than Lucy.

“Selam” as she has been named (meaning “peace” in Ethiopia’s Amharic language) was actually discovered over five years ago but it’s taken this long to unearth and study her before breaking the story. Her lower limbs support that she walked upright, her arms and shoulders are longer suggesting she probably retained an ancestral ability to climb and swing through the trees, her little skull is a bit elongated, and the presence of hyoid bone in her larynx suggests the origins of human speech.

I don’t know why this discovery has moved me so much.

Maybe it’s because this girl was three years old, just like Macy is now. This little goofy monkey-girl was probably just living her monkey-girl life, playing and loving her monkey-girl mama when something caused her to die. Maybe her mama grieved her death, just like we would do for Macy. But how grand to think that the little monkey-girl’s purpose in life was actually HUGE because 3.3 million years later she will contribute to our collective knowledge by helping us understand our past like no other living creature has to-date. How awesome is that? Who’s to say my little Macy, or any 3-year old you see today, might not have an amazing impact of their own in 3.3 million years? It’s pretty awesome to think about and for some weird, unexplainable Lori Holliday reason it just brings tears to my eyes.

Maybe I’m moved by this story because it plays into the reoccurring theme running through my pea brain these days that we really are all one. We have common ancestry. Here I am, able to go back in my family tree only so far as my great-grandparents. But when I have one of those stoner-gazing-at-the-stars-contemplating-infinity moments, I think that my great-grandparents had great-grandparents who had great-grandparents who had great-grandparents who had great-grandparents and I’m a result of all of them. We all go back and back and back and when taken to the extreme, at some point we go back so far that we weren’t even totally human yet. I was a monkey-girl! That blows my mind.

And maybe I’m fascinated with this story because I’m fascinated by time in general. The passing of time. The ways we mark time. But I think “time” is really a human invention. The earth isn’t really marking time – it’s just spinning on its axis and rotating around the sun like it has for billions of years – and we’re just lucky enough to be along for the ride during our infinitesimally small window of consciousness. When we’re gone, the big rock is gonna keep on spinning and someday our bones are going to be 3.3 million years old, too. There’s no beginning to time and there is no end to time. We all fall somewhere on the spectrum, just like Selam did.

For whatever reason I’m moved, I think it’s cool that we have one more way to better know ourselves and I just want to give Selam some confetti and a pointy pink paper hat, welcome her to the party and let her know that “this is all about you, girl!” Thanks.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Feel the Vibe

I'm feeling homesick for Austin today because it's the first day of the ACL Music Festival. I can’t believe this is already its fifth year, and I certainly can’t believe that I actually worked on that project in my own little KLRU way. It was a massive effort to launch that thing and I will forever applaud all of those involved.

A couple of years ago I was given the “Producer” badge for the Festival – the badge with the greatest access anyone could get with only about 15 given out. This might have been my greatest and most unexpected professional coup ever. I was shocked. Granted, I had worked my arse off on the Soundcheck Gala and Kiddie Limits tent and had spent months prior developing the ACL donor program, but I was still surprised and really honored that the Festival promoter thought enough of me to give me something coveted by so many.

The rub is, I didn’t use or abuse that badge ONCE! Not one, single time. Didn’t go back stage. Didn’t go to the special behind-the-scenes lounge area with the fancy port-o-potties. Didn’t go hang out in the artists compound. Didn’t request the producer’s golf cart to tool around Festival grounds. Nothing! Curses on me for being so tragically unhip!

But the more I thought about it, I just didn’t think I could muster up enough nerve and detached cool to hang with the hip kids. Instead, I did the exact things I’d done for the previous years when I had much lesser credentials – I hung out with the 3-and under crowd managing the Kiddie Limits tent cutting out Arthur sunglasses, making sure the actors in the Clifford costume didn’t faint, listening to the Biscuit Brothers and haggled with the ever-annoying face painting lady. I laughed with Clifton, goofed with Karin and teased Maury when she would grace us with an occasional appearance. I ate chicken and cole slaw in a cone, drank Loose Leaf Ice Tea, chatted with the parents and had an absolute blast.

Now don’t get me wrong. My intentions weren’t all pure. Had one of my musical crushes been playing – like Keb Mo or Bono – I would have trampled over little old ladies in walkers and shoved babies out of the way while yelling “FESTIVAL PRODUCER COMING THROUGH – GET OUTTA MY WAY LITTLE PEOPLE” to get to seats on the stage. But alas, that wasn’t to be. My badge is a great memento that represents a special time in my life.

Once the Kiddie Limits tent closed for the day, I would hit the Festival with a vengeance, hanging out primarily in the Gospel Tent until the big final shows of the evening. Every year the Dirty Dozen Brass Band tore it up and inspired an incredibly fun mosh pit of second line dancers. Good stuff.

So in the spirit of the Mighty Bells of Joy that you’ll hear singing loud and proud from the Gospel stage, let’s shout “Halleluiah” for the ACL Music Festival and “Praise God” that my dear friend Beth Doughty has moved to Pflugerville and won’t have to endure one more Festival road block or rude bicyclist blocking her apartment! (But oh how I will miss hearing about her annual letter to the editor…).

Rock on.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

What's Your Secret?

I am fascinated with the Share a Secret art project, which has been highlighted a few different times on NPR over the past year. Basically, people anonymously send the curator of the project their secret on a decorated post card. He selects those that are published weekly on

Art is a pretty subjective thing but I think some of these look so great, and they are extremely interesting from a sociological and psychological perspective. Granted, some of them might be engineered or sensationalized for their effect, but I have a feeling that most of them are real.

Some of the secrets are funny, some are creepy, some are hateful and many are just sad. New cards are posted ever Sunday and there has already been a Volume 1 book published which of course I had to get and really love.

The picture I’ve used on this post is actually one of this week’s secrets. “I’m the first person in my family to not work at a carnival.” HA! Something so random and unexpected and fun to read is what makes these special to me. I enjoy reading these secrets primarily because people’s creativity constantly amazes and inspires me. Plus, I’m fascinated by the workings of the mind and you just never know what people are out there thinking.

On the flip side of this subject, a big mega church here in Oklahoma City recently launched their website, which is an on-line confessional. This church is HUGE and this website has received a lot of attention. They will appear on the Today Show next week talking about how popular this has been and how thousands of people are sharing their “secrets”, looking for help, forgiveness and ultimately absolution. The minister says the purpose of the website it to let people purge their sin and find resources that will help lead people to find Jesus and work towards a solution of some sort.

After hearing about this site on the local news I checked it out and I just hate it. But why? It’s very similar in concept to postsecret, which I love, but I guess it bugs me because it isn’t artistic and there is too much information. It’s too much like reality television, most of which makes me extremely uncomfortable and want to turn the channel.

We humans are such sensitive, emotional beings and it’s amazing how much *stuff* can just bottle up inside of us, messing up our lives and physically manifesting itself in strange ways. I guess if talking about your life and problems on-line in semi-anonymous ways makes you feel better, more power to you.

Wait a minute….that sounds suspiciously like how SOME people might use their... blog….

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

From the Land of Vita Malt Ginger Drink

As I’ve been reflecting this week on the anniversary of September 11, I’m feeling a bit despondent over world affairs. Without turning this into a rant, my biggest concern is the division today between people – between political parties, between nations, between religious ideologies – with each side vehemently standing their ground, convicted that their way is the right way. No compromise.

How can humanity ever expect to achieve peace if we don’t find real, authentic ways to bridge those gaps, realizing that we are all one – we are all connected – and we all want the same basic things out of life? It’s an age old question, I guess, and the sad truth is maybe we will never really understand each other. I certainly don’t understand why a group of people thought it was okay to fly planes into buildings. Like my dad says, it’s quite possible that we’ll be at war until the end of time.

I do find it fascinating to get to know people from other cultures, however, and I’ve always been drawn to them for some reason. Case in point - one of the biggest surprises I’ve received living here in the Heartland has been my unexpected friendship with Gbadabo Adeueye, aka “Sam”, my friend from Nigeria. Sam comes from a long line of African royalty and his father is the King of his tribe, one of the largest in Nigeria, making Sam the Prince and heir apparent. Seriously. If you’ve ever watched “Coming to America” with Eddie Murphy and Arsineo Hall then you know Sam’s story.

Sam is an extremely intelligent, articulate, sensitive and funny person. His command of English leaves me in awe, especially when I remember he’s only been speaking it for about four years. We have long conversations and sometimes heated debates about Nigeria and Africa and his experience growing up in what is basically a third-world country. Truly fascinating and always entertaining. I have quite a few good Sam stories that I want to share over time, but today I’m thinking about cultural differences.

Some of the subtleties and nuances of life in America escape Sam, one of them being holidays and gift giving. Sam doesn’t grasp the concept of certain holidays – especially ones like Valentine’s Day and Halloween. He gets the idea of Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter, and understands there are times we honor people of importance to our country like Martin Luther King, Jr., our Presidents and Christopher Columbus, but the culturally specific holidays like St. Pat’s day confuse him. And he never knows when gifts are in order.

Last week, on Labor Day, Sam gave me a present and was perplexed when I explained that we don’t generally exchange gifts on Labor Day. But I certainly let him know that I was honored to receive… the three hair scrunchies… bottle of Vita Malt Ginger drink… and condolence card…

When I explained what it was, we laughed until tears were running out of our eyes about the condolence card.

It is one of those really elaborate, wordy ones that begins, “The Light of Life. When one of earth’s most lovely lights has flickered and gone out, the shadow in your heart is almost more than you can bear”… and it goes on for many more lines and the message on the inside says, “Day by day, may the light of your memories diminish the shadow of sorrow and bring you peace”.

When I asked him what he was thinking, he told me that he didn’t really realize it was something you gave someone after a death, he just thought it was a “blessing” that honors those who’ve gone before and the message was ultimately about happiness and peace, which are things he wishes for me. Made sense given that Nigerians are big on “blessings”. Sam text messages a translated Nigerian blessing to me almost every day – most of them he forwards from those he’s received from his African family and friends, and some (my favorites) he composes himself. Some are sweet but most crack me up because they sound kind of crazy after being jumbled in translation – both linguistically and culturally.
Here is the blessing Sam sent me today:

“This new month you won’t dig in the wrong places for treasure and you won’t fish in unproductive waters. May God order your steps to divine abundance.”

So, because some of the blessings he sends have honored family ancestors and the dead, I can see why he thought the message in a condolence card might be a nice thing to give a friend.

The Vita Malt Ginger Drink is hysterical. It started when I told Sam that I was looking forward to Beth’s visit a few weeks ago. I explained to him that she has had a difficult year and needed some time to relax and reenergize. So, on her birthday, Sam showed up with a gift for Beth – some bright, beautiful African fabric and a bottle of Vita Malt Ginger Drink. Thank goodness he has a great sense of humor, so when we finally stopped laughing he told us that this was an African drink that his family occasionally takes when they are particularly troubled or “down in their spirit”. He says it has vitamins and minerals and helps stimulate their circulation which clears their minds and they are better able to cope with the problem at hand. A perfect example of cultural differences… we Americans might turn to “malt beverages” to deal with our troubles, too, but not in this same spirit!

Kind Sam, who works for a big oil company, exhausted after coming off of a 24 hour shift on the oil field that morning didn't go home and sleep but rather began searching to find this drink for Beth. There are no African grocery stores in OKC, but there are a couple of Indian groceries that carry some African products. There is also a decent-sized African community here, so the guy at the Indian grocery told Sam about a wholesale importer from Cameroon who might have access to the drink. Sure enough, Sam called the guy and he had two bottles of the drink left. Sam drove all the way to south OKC to pick it up because he felt like it might be good for Beth, given that she had been through a hard year and was needed rejuvenation.

Beth got a bottle and Sam gave the other bottle to me for my Labor Day gift. I can’t help but think of the VitaMeataVegeMin episode of I Love Lucy whenever I look at the bottle.

So that explains my condolence card and the Vita Malt Ginger Drink. The hair scrunchies? Maybe he’s just trying to tell me something…

Perhaps the widest cultural divide I ever tried to cross was with Omar Salam from Algeria. This happened pre-September 11. I say that because I bet you dollars to donuts had he asked me out after the events of 9/11 I would have said “no” so fast his head would spin. Is that right of me? No. But sadly I admit it’s probably true.

I was living with Beth at the time and she was dating a man from Algeria. They always seemed to be having such fun – great conversation, he was romantic, they did fun things together and it was all sort of exotic. Since I’m an admitted copy cat, when Beth’s friend’s friend, Omar, asked me out after a brief meeting I said “yes”. How worldly of me – going on a date with an Arab from North Africa!

Small problem. Omar hadn’t been in the U.S. very long and he spoke very, very little English. He did speak French, so I figured I knew enough French that we could make our way through a conversation. Beth’s friend who spoke good English explained Omar’s story for me – Omar had been a “former officer” in the Algerian “air force” before that country’s most recent regime change, after which he was “asked to step down” before deciding to head to the U.S. to make money by coming to Austin where he had “friends” and opening a QUICKIE MART. That sounded perfectly acceptable to me then. Today, I fear I would be much more skeptical and would hear “terrorist” instead of “former officer”, “alcida” instead of “air force”, “asked to infiltrate the land of the infidels” instead of “asked to step down”, and “alcida network cell” instead of “friends”.

But anyway, I figured dating an Algerian was working for Beth so it might work for me. It’s not like I had men beating down my door, so if I wanted to date at all I needed to be open minded to the guys who actually asked me out! I agreed to meet Omar for dinner at the Stonehouse, a lovely little restaurant about five blocks from where Beth and I lived.

Thankfully, I had a little bit of sense about me so I told Omar I would meet him at the restaurant rather than have him pick me up. Praise Allah that I am an intuitive Pisces and had a feeling that it might be better to wait until I got to know him before telling him where I lived. Omar was handsome and dressed nicely in black pants and a black button-up shirt but I smelled him before seeing him because he was wearing a gallon of super pungent cologne. I laughed nervously when I saw our table because he had it decked out with a HUGE bouquet of flowers and a bunch of those bright, foil balloons that said “I Love You”.


I noticed there were already three empty beer bottles at the table and Omar was drinking beer like it was water. Literally, he was draining a bottle of beer in about three drinks. My guard was quickly going up and the needle on my freak-o-meter had left 0 and was rapidly heading towards FULL TILT.

I realized we were going to have a problem because Omar spoke beautiful, fluent French but I couldn’t keep up because my French skills were not that sophisticated. I tried to communicate my surprise and concern when he kept handing me present after present after present. And odd presents they were. Bottles of wine, Guinness beer, a watch, a huge Tiger’s Eye ring, a bright red scarf, a pen and pencil set, a key chain, stationary. The gifts kept coming and Omar kept downing the beer. I remember we both ordered chicken and he only ate three bites of his food but drank seven beers during the entrée alone.

After many false starts I devised my conversation plan – I would just say a word and he would take off talking in French about that subject for as long as he had anything to say about it. When he would stop, I’d say another word and he’d go again. I said words like “Algeria”, “United States” and “Quickie Mart”.

He never asked me one thing about myself, but was somehow already convinced that we were compatible because about half way through dinner - when he was super slurry drunk and chain smoking - he started in with his first proclamation of devotion. He said his first “I love you Lori Holliday”. Omar never called me “Lori”, only “Lori Holliday”. This was not good.

A little jazz combo started to play at one point and Omar stumbled up there when they were between songs and grabbled their microphone and slurred “I love Lori Holliday!” while pointing at me. Everyone in the restaurant turned their eyes to me at our table stacked high with gift crap and started to applaud. He stayed at the microphone for a good minute continuing to say “I love Lori Holliday. Je t’aime Lori Holliday.”

I thought I was going to die and I was beginning to panic. Damn that Beth for dating an Algerian and making me think it was okay!

After the applause and “congratulations” from the other patrons died down, Omar staggered back to the table and I told him to “stop it” in a really stern voice. Well that started the drunken waterworks going. Omar started to cry saying “I’m sorry Lori Holliday”….”I love you Lori Holliday” in between lots of French words where who knows what he was saying. I told him it was time for me to go home – we’d been there only one hour. “No, no, no, no, no, no, no Lori Holliday” followed by lots of French words.

It was at this point that Omar slid an envelope over to me. I told him “no” but he pleaded with me to open it. *Gulp*.


I was in total shock. This whack job gave me a $2,500 plane ticket with my name on it on our first date when we couldn’t even communicate with each other about what to eat for dinner! Was this for real? Did this psycho really think I was going to agree to leave for Africa with him in two days? Was I being kidnapped? I’d heard about white slavery – was that going to be my fate?

By now, we were sort of creating a scene at the restaurant so I jumped up, grabbed my purse and ran outside. And, at last count, with 12 beers in him Omar lurched after me. I stopped at my car and tried to compose myself telling Omar as best I could that I didn’t want to see him ever again because all of this was highly inappropriate. About that time, our waiter came out of the restaurant holding all of that crap that Omar had given me and he dumps it all in my arms and runs back inside.

Not thinking clearly, I threw that stuff in the car and started to get inside when Omar started SHRIEKING at the top of his lungs, “ I LOVE YOU LORI HOLLIDAY!” As I was tearing out of the parking lot I looked in my rear view mirror just in time to see Omar Salam drop to his knees, grab the top of his shirt and rip it apart down to his waist baring his hairy chest and cheesy gold chains while yelling “LLORRRREEEEE HHOOOOOLLLLLIIIDDDDDAAAAYYYY!”.

Holy shit.

It’s at this point in the story when I like for Beth to take over the retelling because she does it so well. My car at the time had a terrible clack in the engine. It was very loud and very embarrassing and it was constant when the engine was running. Remember, we lived only 5 blocks from the restaurant and Beth was on the porch. She says that she was so surprised that after my being gone for only one hour she could already hear my Subaru in the distance and the clack kept getting faster and faster and louder and louder because I was driving so fast. I screeched to a stop in front of the house and jumped out with all that crap in my hands – balloons, flowers, wine, beer, jewelry, stuffed animals – and sprinted to the front door. When Beth mimics me she says I had a wild look of terror in my eyes and I was yelling “GET IN THE HOUSE! GET IN THE HOUSE! BLOCK OMAR’S PHONE NUMBER NUMBER! GET IN THE HOUSE! NOW!”

I’ll end the story here but to this day, when Beth and I start retelling our favorite memories we can get ourselves doubled over in laughter with the Omar Salam story. I never saw or heard from that weird-o again. When Beth’s Algerian friend was pressed for an explanation he didn’t want to discuss it and he and Beth broke up soon thereafter.

Abruptly bringing my thoughts full circle, on the global front maybe it boils down to this – the differences between people from different cultures might always keep us apart. But maybe, just maybe, someday we’ll find a way to bridge our cultural differences and find common ground. I don’t know.

But I do know that my life is richer – and funnier - from having befriended foreigners, and I hope that never changes.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Fourth Grade

I have never experienced anything in life that fell as short from my expectations as teaching the fourth grade. Surprisingly, I don’t look back with (much) regret. While paying off the student loans for a master’s degree I really didn’t use is not my favorite thing, the experience was meaningful because I endured something extremely difficult that ultimately helped me find my career path.

Plus, it made me appreciate teachers so much. If you have children in school, drop everything you are doing and go hug their teachers right now. Right. Now.

I thought teaching would be inspiring. I thought I would make a difference in the lives of my students. I had glorious notions of holding children in rapt attention while we memorized the times table, leading them wide eyed into the world of Charlotte’s Web where they would come out the other side with a deep appreciation of great literature, and always knowing by the looks in their eyes the moment they “tipped” and really DID understand that I generally comes before E except after C.

Having received my master’s degree in education via one of those accelerated “MA’s for working professionals” programs, I only had about 4 semesters of class work and a few weeks of classroom observation before starting student teaching. I learned that teachers who receive their bachelor’s degree in education are so much better prepared for the realities of teaching, because it is through that extensive study when you take those courses that are ultimately going to be your most important – psych 300 “Abnormal Psychology” and sociology 401 “Crisis Management”.

Everything about my student teaching experience was challenging:

* My teacher enjoyed her cocktails a little too much, plus she was having the first love affair she’d had in 15 years so she was preoccupied to the point of distraction. She spent very little time with me as a mentor, more often than not skipping days or going home early, leaving me hanging on a thread just barely above the deadly clutches of heaving fourth graders that needed to feed on fresh meat.
* My school was considered one of the poorest in the community. English was the second language for more than half the kids. Many kids had lost, or were losing, their parents to drugs so they had no security, no sense of home, no good food, no supervision, no manners and no way to direct their anger. They weren’t exactly entering the front door “ready to learn” in the mornings and that cold, harsh reality of life set up situations at school that very few teachers could handle well.
* Those parents who were involved or interested in their kids’ education were some of the most obnoxious people I had ever met. Most of them were young, single mothers who had their kids when they were 16 years old, never finished school themselves and they were FULL of anger and highly suspect of “the system”, so they wanted to give you an earful of their discontent at every available opportunity. It was always the teacher’s fault that Johnny failed his tenth spelling test in a row and never the fact that Johnny was so busy at home taking care of his younger siblings, or so unsupervised that he was running wild and getting very little sleep, that he never studied or completed his home work to prepare for the test.
* The administration of the school was in turmoil and there was a huge disconnect between administration and the teachers. High school cliques have NOTHING on the cliques that formed between theses teachers. As a result there were no systems in place to handle discipline, emergencies, or limited resources.
* There were only two student teachers in the school – me and another guy teaching the fifth grade, so I had no peer support group. To give you a feel for the difficulties of classroom teaching today, this other student teacher was lead from the school by police and arrested just a few weeks before the end of the semester because he lost it with a fifth grade punk who he DRAGGED out into the hallway SCREAMING PROFANITIES and proceeded to tie the kid’s hands behind his back and seal his mouth shut with DUCT TAPE! I kid you not – perhaps you read about it in the paper.

Sound grim? I hate to say it, but it was so different from what I had expected that I was incredibly disillusioned by the whole thing. So I decided to look at it as gonzo teaching. I was on my own and, after one particularly bad day, I tore up the resignation letter I had just written and decided that come hell or high water, I wasn’t going to be a quitter on this one. I did my best and marched forward.

Some of the time the kids in my class were simply awesome. Most of the time they were disinterested and distracted. Occasionally they were hostile and mean or so deeply sad that your heart broke wide open. I had one student who was the ring leader of bad – the Bart Simpson of the group – and given the lack of stability in his life and his anger issues, my guess is he spent his teens in juvie and is probably in prison today. I never could win him over. Many of the children liked me and they all called me “Meees” no matter how many times I reminded them to call me “Miss Holliday”. The kids were often funny and the silliness of 10-year olds can be some of the most infectious humor.

But mostly, I just tried to keep the circus together well enough to make it to 2:30 p.m. and the final bell. We had to teach primarily to what was then in the TAAS test, but I tried to make lessons as interesting as possible. As a teacher, I found I liked doing the same things I had liked doing when I was a fourth grader – going to the library, art class, assemblies, field trips, reading, writing on the chalk board, decorating the room and scoring well on tests.

The most memorable project I taught was an 8-week natural science unit that culminated in building a terrarium/aquarium ecosystem. We led up to that activity learning about environments, animal and plant life and the elements needed to sustain life. After six weeks, it was finally time to begin work on the ecosystems. If you can imagine this, you took a 3 liter plastic bottle and cut it in half. In the bottom half you built your aquarium with the rocks, water, plants and fish and in the top half, you inserted a “floor” than poured in dirt from the top of the bottle and added a few plants and rocks some crickets and ants. You than put the terrarium half on top of the aquarium half and taped them together, so it looked like you had your 3 liter bottle again.

Oh man. This project went bad in so many ways. I’ll save all of the gory details but this one…the crickets.

I knew we were going to need crickets on Monday, so Sunday afternoon Beth and I went to the local pet store and made the purchase. I knew this would be easier than driving all the way to the school district’s supply center that I had already been to for the fish and it was a bloody nightmare. The guy at the pet store suggested that I put the crickets in a one of those giant styrofoam cups like you get at Sonic, poke a few air holes in the lid, then put the cup in my refrigerator. The cold would make the crickets go into stasis so they would calm down and be easier to transport. Once they warmed up again, they would be back to normal.

Good plan.

The next morning I was driving to school at the ungodly hour of 6:00 a.m. (we had to be in the classroom by 6:30 a.m.) and I was on I-35 when all of sudden all hell broke lose. Those crickets came back to life almost instantly and they started jumping with such voracity that they popped the lid of the cup off and started leaping out in the car. On me! On my dashboard! Crashing into the windows! Swarming, and hopping and chirping! 90 crickets were on the loose in my car and I started SCREAMING HYSTERICALLY, swatting at them to stay away from my face. What was I going to do? I somehow managed to veer off of highway without getting hit but there wasn’t much I could do to wrangle them all back into the cup. So I just steeled my nerves and drove on to the school with the crickets flying. I can only imagine what those who passed me must have thought. When I finally opened my door in the parking lot and leapt out, a swarm of locust of biblical proportions came out of the Subaru, causing two other teachers to scream and run for their lives.

I was so completely nerved out that I could hardly contain myself and then I had to face a classroom of excited kids and tell them I didn’t have the crickets! They were SOOOO disappointed. So I got everyone in a line and we marched outside to the parking lot where two of my braver little boys got in my car and started catching those crickets that were still there, and still alive. The other 24 of us were surrounding my car, some laying on the hood, some sitting on the trunk, peering in all the windows and squealing every time one of those wretched insects would crash against the window. Poor, brave Cornelius and Tony finally caught about 25 crickets, which was enough for everyone to get one. We traipsed back into class, each kid got their precious cricket and we taped those babies shut so there was no getting out. Everyone was so keyed up that the rest of the day was lost and the kids were little hellions for the next six hours.

I was never so glad to see a day come to an end. When I made it back to my car and opened the door, a few lone survivors hopped out before I got in and sped away. I found dead crickets and various cricket parts in that car until the day I sold it two years later!

As mentioned, I’m saving you from the other ecosystem horror stories that included a strange algae growing on the soil, ants that made their way out and the day we came in to class and about half of the guppies were floating upside down. Good grief. Bring back the days when we grew a bean plant in an empty milk carton!

My student teaching came to an end fourth months later with little fanfare. Thankfully, KLRU had offered me a job a few weeks before and I knew in my heart that was a much better fit for me professionally, so I turned down the teaching contract and quickly moved on. I spent the next few years processing my feelings about failing at teaching. And of teaching failing me. I have seen a few amazing teachers and I know there are so many out there, but I had to accept that I just wasn’t one of them. I’m fine now, no real regrets, because I’m much happier and better paid in my profession now then I think I ever would have been as a classroom teacher.

But I do let myself fantasize every now and then about how awesome it would have been to be a teacher in a utopian environment. I’ve often wondered how my fourth graders have fared over the years. Hopefully well. In theory, they all graduated from high school in May of this year. I bet some didn’t make it that far. I bet a few are freshmen in college. I bet most got jobs. Some probably have their own kids, now. I can still close my eyes and go around the room and name each child, remembering all of their individual funny quirks, strengths and weaknesses.

I wonder if any of them ever thought of Meees Holliday, again?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Funny Find Taken From Another's Blog

I read this entry on another person's blog and it made me snort diet coke through my nose, so I'm borrowing it and putting it on the Dotopotamus.

Her "list" reminds me of the short time I spent teaching the fourth grade and how funny, and ridiculous, 10-year olds can be. As an aside, because I don't have ENOUGH reasons to be freaked out about getting older, I can add this one to the list - the fourth graders I taught are (technically) FRESHMEN IN COLLEGE this year. Those innocent, horrible little kids who broke my heart every day have graduated high school, save Miguel, I'm sure. My guess is he's seeking his GED in prison given that he'll have another 5 - 10 years to get it right. (But I'm not bitter!).

Anyway, here's a funny list explaining in no uncertain terms why Parker is a retard.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Help Me! Somebody Help Me!

It has been really great having Beth here this week. As always, we crack ourselves up in a big way and this visit it has been because of our spot-on imitation of the Little Richard for Geico commercial.

It really is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time.

“Mash potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce…. WOOOOOO”.

Little Richard is awesome. Watch for yourself.