Hell is — high school English

We’re getting ready to read the play No Exit which means establishing a basic understanding of existentialism.

Hell is— trying to explain existentialism to high school seniors. I’ve never done well with philosophy myself. Life has meaning, but is completely pointless. Well, fuck.

I told them that my clearest memory from Philosophy 101 was a T-shirt my professor wore at least once a week. It had a Groucho Marx quote on it: “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” Good stuff.

They survived a visual demonstration of the Allegory of the Cave so we could totally tackle Sartre and Camus, right?

One Hank Green Crash Course video on existentialism later, and half the class made the finger gun gesture to their heads. Solid start.

Honestly, I was a little concerned that some of them might immediately latch on to ideas within existentialism. I mean, Hank Green is telling them that only they can create meaning in their lives regardless of what authority figures like teachers and parents want them to do. We just want them to graduate, but that idea sounds like a built in excuse to get high and do nothing. Suddenly they’ve discovered their essence; they’re all existentialists!

I had them holster their finger guns and we tried some guided notes to simplify.

1. Existence before essence. You’re born and then you figure it out. Only YOU can determine your essence/passion/purpose/importance in life and prevent forest fires. This basically sounds like 3/4 of today’s high school curriculum. We spend so much time trying to reflect on you-iest version of you. Find your path. Group hug.

2. We are condemned to be free. Sounds good, right?! Unfortunately, it means that we are free to make millions of minute choices-turn left vs right, set your alarm for 6 am instead of 6:01am, have the chicken instead of the fish- and suffer the consequences of all those choices. No matter what it’s your fault, kids. I am their daily dose of sadness. The finger guns were back.

I accidentally demonstrated the third point through a classroom supply mishap. I gave everyone a half sheet of paper and told them they had 5 minutes to draw me a picture of Hell, knowing that their drawings would lead to a discussion of archetypal imagery: flames, devils and pitchforks, oh my.img_4504

They started digging into the perpetually dried up marker box for just the right shades of Hades. It doesn’t matter that our department orders a few boxes of new markers every year, I think they send us dry, uncapped markers with the colors picked over from the start.

Within a few seconds, a cry went up.

“THERE’S NO RED! IT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT COLOR IN HELL!”

And here concludes our intro to existentialism.

3. Life is absurd. The final downer for the day is that “absurd” means pointless and meaningless. All those choices? Whatevs. Draw Hell with red markers or don’t. Same same.

There are no red markers. Enjoy drawing Hell, Sisyphus. Insert maniacal laugh here.

(I can’t even plan shit like this.)

I’ll leave this here just as my high school French teacher would after reading The Stranger.

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I Don’t Know How to Answer That

How was your summer?

I don’t know how to answer that. 

I’ve always hated that line of questioning. How was your weekend? Your break? Your whatever? I’m not completely convinced that anyone really cares how my time was spent. It’s a knee jerk social convention that I am guilty of employing myself. 

The asker just wants the other person to respond with “Good” or “Fine”, or possibly with a short but interesting anecdote. Often the question is a jumping off point for the asker to launch into a story of his or her own. “Oh, well let me tell you what happened to me. You’ll appreciate this!” Chances are good that I won’t, but by all means proceed. 

Much as we may or may not appreciate witty vacation stories, no one REALLY wants to know how it was if it was bad. Unfortunately for others, it is completely within the scope of my personality to stop people in their tracks with exactly how bad it was. 

My beautiful friend died this summer. That’s how it was. 

Yes, I did some fun things and had adventures. I could pull out an amusing anecdote if needed. Heck, I was at the beach with my family for the first time in five years when she passed. I wasn’t there for her alcohol soaked bedside vigil at the hospital with her family, and all our friends and a red wagon full of booze. I could only post photos and memories to the Facebook group from afar, going back as far as possible in my digital archives. So how was my summer?

I hovered around the idea of emailing our school staff and begging them to pinky swear not to ask each other the dreaded question. After all, our friend and colleague’s fight against cancer had been the entire school’s fight for nine months. But my reputation as the person who says the inappropriate thing or the snarky thing stayed my hand. Somehow it would have come across wrong. As school started, inevitably the question was asked even by people who had been directly active in her care. 

So I’ve tried to be a good kid and answer with stories of caterpillars, zip lining, yardsales and the like. But a part of my brain screams about her as I tell those stories. 

Particularly today. Her sister reminded us that it was a year ago today that everything changed. What she had spent most of a year thinking was sciatic nerve pain hobbling her movement, was an insidious creature absorbing her hip bones and building tumors up and down her fragile spine. It was so wretched and evil that doctors wouldn’t be able to identify its source for another six months. 

Running its course, the cancer immobilized her, then teased her and us by letting her build back the strength to walk unassisted again. It took her hair. It took her appetite and stole her taste for favorite foods. She could no longer stand chocolate. That’s a horror story. It played with creating new lesions and growths in different parts of her body just to keep the doctors guessing. For a while it gave her a lazy eye and double vision. And in the end, it sucked up her ability to get enough oxygen on her own, and her dream of seeing her two-year old at Disney. But all through the ridiculous ups and downs, and loss of dignity, she smiled her gigantic Disney princess smile. A smile that had a little bit of the villainess behind it. I couldn’t have loved her as much without a little wickedness being there,and a shrieked “RIGHT!” and cackling laugh in response to my own sarcastic commentary. 

She was a life-long cheerleader, positive but not a Pollyanna. Where I would have been the worst and grumpiest patient, she was gracious to all. She gladly absorbed all the tributes, signs, tshirts, videos, and projects created in the name of keeping her strong; or more likely keeping us strong as we powerlessly watched everything happen. 

There had to be times when she just wanted a private life instead of constant well meant bombardment. Times when she was overwhelmed by the pain and the fear of what was happening. She must have leaned on her mother, sister, and husband’s shoulders in those moments. I only had a few moments like that with her. As always, she worried about other people, not wanting to make them uncomfortable by talking about how she really felt or things like planning her will. She was more often in the role of comforter. 

The first time I visited her after the diagnosis and initial surgery, I cried because all the pain killers made her voice sound strange. Of course, she just kept saying,”I’m sorry. It’s okay.” As if this was her fault. It’s a cliche, but I’ll never feel like I did enough or visited enough or did all that I could for her. But I desperately cling to the idea that she was mine. 

The last time I visited her with a friend, she was groggy and in and out of a very disturbed sleep during the visit, not really aware of us until we were leaving. When I told her I loved her as I kissed her goodbye for the day, she managed to make eye contact and mumble a “love ya” back. 

So that’s how my summer was. 

“Sorry about your vagina” Part 2: Maybe your vagina needs a t-shirt?

I’m not very good at protesting things unless child-like whining or loud profanity counts. Also I’m not very good at understanding why woman have to continue to fight so that their reproductive organs aren’t constantly batted about as political whipping “boys.” I mean if we’re going to be archaic, let’s burn some motherfuckin’ witches while we’re at it! Clearly vaginas are full of witchcraft.

I’m great at sarcasm-see above-, and at imagining evil fantasy plots that I should not put into writing as they may be used as evidence in future court trials.

I’m pretty-okay at making silly, angry drawings for greeting cards. However I am not okay with walking away from the daily news with a sane mind.

 

No April Fools, March was Women’s History Month. With no sense of irony, Evil Anderson Cooper Impersonator broke that tie for the vote

Fortunately, I have friends who are more politically astute than I. Their arguments do not revolve around “eat shit and die, evil empire!” Yea, I would have wreaked havoc on the Death Star.

My squirrel friends at Squirrel Den Studio have found a way to rise: the Pussyhat Pussycat tee. With every purchase they make a donation to WEDO.

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Under that pussyhat, which sidenote I have had for years because…cats, there is all kinds of witchcraft and nasty woman. It’s called hot yoga hair.

The Den made me a racer back version because I’m like their unspoken, unrequested (they did not ask for this post) super model.

Check them out on Etsy for your squirrel, dog, and feline needs.

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These shirts help make donations to animal shelters.

Trifflin’ S O B’s

The governor of Ohio wants me to become an intern. I’d love to see him run my classroom as an intern. Trifflin’ ass. 

President Cheeto Skin Butthole Mouth appears to be more incompetent on a daily basis,but no one seems to be stopping him. I wonder what would happen if I tweeted “You are a bad man” at him daily. 

There hasn’t been any REAL snow all “winter.”

Ipads just give the asshole in my class more opportunities to be an asshole and continue to say, “What? I didn’t do it. He he he he” Some children want to be left behind. 

My skin is crawling and I keep dropping everything. Can’t even nap successfully. 

I suspect 3-5 glasses of wine plus sinus medication might even things out… or not. 

Olivia Wigglebothum looks how I feel. 

“MOTHERFUCKERS.”

Bitch, please.

“Sorry about your vagina” and other greeting cards you might need

Back off greeting card industry unless it’s to offer me my own card line featuring this amazing artwork all drawn on the notepad app on my phone while lazing on my couch. The Photogrid app helped to add and adjust text although I think I can do that in the photo editing tools on my camera roll. Plus I just learned how to add a watermark in Photoshop! (It’s a complete pain in the ass. How about nobody steals my shit??? Lets agree to that.)

I like my greeting cards funny, filthy, and sarcastic with a touch of weird. There’s never really a card that reflects what is going on in my brain. Example: “Happy Father’s Day…I guess. Meh.

I mean what card is there for my friend with cancer who has to mentally and emotionally psych herself up for her chemo treatments? I didn’t think about this aspect of chemo until she had to miss a treatment because of test results, and was devastated. It was an emotional kick in the teeth for her.

I’m not going to send her some creepy sympathy or “thinking of you” card with funeral flowers  on it and a sappy poem inside. Not my style. So I sketched up a little something for her next treatment. She deserves (a better artist) beams of sunlight radiating from her bald head. I also sent her cat hair to make a merkin, but that’s a whole other issue.img_5628a

My cards would not be complete without involving my cats!

This is for those of you who have helped your BFF pull the one giant gorilla hair out of the middle of her chest in public. C’mon, she was getting ready to get a portrait taken! Chest hair not welcome.

Or perhaps you’ve helped someone with glasses pluck her “goat hairs” off her chin because she can’t focus on them herself.

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This card is threatening. One person interpreted it as uplifting and encouraging “Oh, your cat wants me to have fun”, but it was drawn with threat in mind. If you knew my cat

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I anticipate my top sellers would be my “Sorry about your vagina” line.

I don’t like babies, or small children and often I dislike large children, some days I dislike most adults. What the Hell? People suck. More cats please.

So when my friends crap out babies, which they seem to do with great frequency,I’m generally more concerned with the shattered state of their bits and pieces than with the damned baby. (Who does not look like you or your spouse. It looks exactly like all the other wrinkly babies! I cannot see that it has your nose. Ugh.)

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Again radiating beams of light.

I don’t like spinning. I’m pretty sure I’m doing it right, but it makes certain things hurt and not in a “Boy, I worked out today type of way!”

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For when your down under feels political. I made the mistake of watching part of the live feed of the Women’s March on Washington and reading the comments as they scrolled by. Every other comment called the marchers whiny, sore losers, baby killers, and even Satanists (what?). It would be nice if people would realize that women’s rights and healthcare goes beyond abortion. The caliber of the comments made it painfully clear why this large child was voted into office where he can pick equally large children to be his playmates in a game of “Leader of the Free World.”

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To end on a lighter note, we all get old and those crazy gray hairs show up…EVERYWHERE!

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I am so psyched about these vagina foxes! Adorable!

 

Scruffy Looking Nerf Herder

Goodbye, Carrie Fisher.

My Christmas card from 2008, back when I took the time to Photoshop things and torment the cats more thoroughly. Yes, it has been pointed out to me by a number of nerdly, small children that Princess Leia never had a light saber much less a red one. (Yoda and the ewoks weren’t cats in costumes either, but that has not proven to be  a problem.) Look, I’m not a graphic designer or anything. All I know is that the red light saber showed up better against the frickin’ universe.

More to the point, I’d rather be Princess Leia than Princess Barbie. Leia kicked ass, and balanced out the Han/Luke testosterone fest. Plus there was the whole Greek tragedy Darth/Luke/Leia thing happening. She was tough and sexy, but open to falling in love (…sometimes with her brother, but it all worked out).

That tough, sexy, sassy attitude showed up even in small “Hey! That’s Carrie Fisher!” cameo roles, and definitely in my other favorite Carrie Fisher character Joliet Jake’s “Mystery Woman” in The Blues Brothers.

May the sassy Force be with you all.

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What the Hell, 2016?? Who’s next on your hit list? (Pssssstttt, I have suggestions.)