Dear Alex, Keep the Frog!

Alex, when you asked me for the Yoga Frog statue I know I hesitated and then when I wrote about it, I made it look easier than it was.

This is what really happened.

First I said, yes you can have the frog, but on Thursday, I need a little more time with him.

Which sounded crazy. What grown up professor lady needs time alone with a frog statue???

So then I said, yes, you can take the frog, but you have to bring him back so I can have him at the end of the semester to take pictures with, again.

Then I sent the frog off with you.

Now I know I don't need the frog back.

In fact, I'm adamant about this.

Keep the frog.

I don't want to be a woman who has only one story to tell; I want to have new stories with new frogs or gorillas or duct tape or whatever inspires me.   To do that, I have to let go and make space for the next wonderful thing.

So yes, keep the yoga frog, it's yours, and the more I think about it, it was never mine -- I was just hanging on it and helping you two find each other.

He Left Me. Happily.

Remember Alex and the frog from Prayer of the Laughing Yoga Frog?

Well today Alex came by my office to get a copy of the book for himself and his mom. No problem, I remembered to pack them this morning. I didn't remember to put my lunch in the car or bring the water bottles from the car to my office, and I certainly didn't remember a jacket on this winter day, but yes, I remembered his books and happily handed them over.

We talked for a few minutes. He told me he went with his church to  Peru, on a mission trip, and said people work too hard there and don't laugh and play like we do in America. I shrugged. I've been out of the country for 4 days of my life, so I can't offer much.

Then we discuss his classes and other issues. I hate to hurry him out of my office but he's the fifth student in a row in the past two hours and I still have to fix up today's lecture and the Dean wants to see me and I have 18 emails to answer about essays due online.

Not one to be hurried, Alex stays put in my doorway and says he had a dream.

My eyebrows raise. Oh no.

He dreamed the frog wanted to live with him.

My eyebrows stay raised. I knew this was coming.

 I knew deep down in my that someday I would give the frog away.

Anyway, I loved it too much to keep it to myself, right?

So I put the frog into a big bag and hung it on the back of Alex's chair.

His frogilicious yogarific head peeked out over Alex's shoulder as they rolled down the hallway.

They looked happy together, I thought for one moment before looking at the empty space on my desk.

My desk won't stay empty for long -- I'm sure the universe will send me something awesome, something I can't yet imagine.

We Broke Up. Please Delete Me*

Dear Pizza Chain,

I used to love you.

I used to look forward to your thin crispy crusts and your cheap child pleasing cheeses.

You were cheaper then, easier then, convenient and cheerful.

Then during last summer's gas crisis you raised your prices, and I said nothing, but I started exploring my options.

That same week -- you would not know this, but it's time I told you -- I joined Costco and I found dinners far cheaper and more interesting than you ever were. (Can you say "Tilapia?")

Also -- you would not know this either, but it's also time I told you -- I got this amazing sharp knife from my father this past Christmas, and I now I love cooking. Or at least, I love chopping. I'm looking for good pots and pans, maybe some glass bowls. 

I don't know exactly what I'll buy, but I know I can't get what I want by turning to you anymore.

I can't say this any clearer; I've shown you with my actions by not ordering from you since before Christmas, and now I'm telling you with these words.

I don't want you to cook my food, I don't want you to bring me food, I don't want to eat what you cook. I want to cook my own food.

Please, please, stop texting me and emailing me and sending me mail bragging about your specials, promising me satisfaction, delivery, warmth.

Maybe you haven't changed, but now, to me, you seem greasy and actually kind of desperate.

I would be ashamed to place your box on my corner in the recycle bin.

If you have any dignity at all, please don't text me any more, don't email me anymore, and don't bother mailing me any more of your brightly colored flyers.

I am immune to your charms.
Delete me, Pizza Chain, forget we ever knew each other.

Our Lady of the Chocolate Finger

It is between classes on Friday and I'm weaving through and around my colleagues (but not taunting any of them, I swear) when the Dean calls my name.

"Soldani! Need you!"

I extricate myself from whomever I was not taunting at that moment and  follow him and his voice into the inner sanctum room where textbooks and really important things worth locking up are kept.

"It's about religion, you know about all that stuff" he says as I join him and Debbie, both looking perplexed.

"Yay, right up my alley," I offer, knowing and follow their eyes to a trail of something leaking mysteriously from the file cabinet.

I rubbed my finger in the substance to see what it was -- not blood, not really sure if it was chocolate, but maybe old thick coffee?

"Well, it probably isn't Mary bleeding. She weeps. This has to be Jesus if it's blood and  it seems more like chocolate syrup or dried coffee...."

I offer to taste my finger, I almost do it, but I can't.

For a minute I blame Tinsley, our colleague whose life we will be celebrating tomorrow. He wasn't much of a trickster, but he loved to laugh.

If he were here, he'd definitely put down his NYT crossword puzzle and offer some sort of advice.

But Tinsley's passing isn't funny and we are to sore to face it now, today, when we don't have to, so we don't.

Debbie closes the file cabinet and again the mysterious miraculous chocolatey oil cascades out again.

I run my hand  under the drawer.

I get down on my back, on the floor (in my cute dress, a long one, very appropriate for all matters of religion, sushi eating and for also teaching about the Dawes Plan) and look up at the bottom of the cabinet behind the drawer.

There is more or that magical gook there and Debbie hands me a wipe to get it all away.

Satisfied our files and textbook closet have been properly sanctified, I go off  back to my office reminding myself over and over to not lick my fingers and see if that stuff really was chocolate.


My favorite time
is still
those hours
right before

The Godfather, Tigger, and Spiderman

It was just as I was getting the class into the 1990s that his phone went off.  This never happens in my classes, most especially to the brave souls who sit close up to the action in the front row of the auditorium class.

It's a boring buzz buzz ring, and its clear whose phone it is because he's stretching his leg out to pull his phone out of his pocket.

I ask "Is it your mom?" and he nods his head.

 I need to get the class back to domestic terrorism during the Clinton administration, but I can't let this moment go. I wait for  him to give me $20 for interrupting lecture and compulsively lecture him on ringtones. "You can do better than that, I know you can. No one has to have boring ringtones.  I have Usher singing YEAH YEAH. And one with cool bells from Harry Potter.  Right now I'm using the Godfather."

He shakes his head. 70 people behind him giggle, and I'm off topic for just a minute, but it's the end of the semester and they KNOW I'm going to pivot right back to lecture. But this is important.  He can do better as far as ring tones go.

 I ask the class if they knew that now you can set any song on your iPhone to be a ringtone or alarm. Several people nod happily.

I feel like I've performed ample public service for the moment and get back to explaining history.

And just as I'm deeply into the religious philosophy of the Branch Davidians I hear something strange but I keep going because these students do NOT know about the events at Waco, Texas and they're on the edge of their seats and I want to keep going but twitches on faces tell me they hear it too.

Where's it coming from? 

Finger, faces tell me it's coming from my bag at the front of the class.

It's playing the beginning tones from "Somebody that I used to know" (you know the song, just like you know Gangnam style, I'm not going to sing it here for you).

  I fumble for my cracked iPhone and turn the sound off.

The sound button shows the sound should already be off, so I turn the phone all the way off and spin on my heels, back to lecture.

A student asks, "Wait, were there PEOPLE in the compound when the ABT attacked?"

The music continues. I'm so distracted. It's the same song and now the guy is starting to sing "you can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness..." but my phone is off so I must be losing my mind.

There's the culprit, hiding under papers.

It's the super cool Samsung Galaxy I stole from my son.  I love this little tablet except it won't synch up to my Mac and download my iTunes. Every other device I've brought to the Mac has been different -- the Mac finds it, welcomes it, shares with it, and everyone is happy.  Now, with the Galaxy the Mac is acting like an old tired dog who is annoyed by a perky kitten.

I can't get the music to stop without logging on to the tablet with the long complex password I invented to keep my son from unilaterally reclaiming the tablet (fair is fair in love and war) and I fumble through it while the song keeps playing "But you treat me like a stranger and it feels so rough" and I realize I'm not getting the tricky password here and now with the tiny keys and I power the tablet off.

The song dies, I fist pump, the class cheers, and we head back to Waco, then to Oklahoma City and through the USS Cole before the end of lecture.

As the students file out I realize and remember there are no songs on my tablet, no alarms, no ringtones. I have no idea where or how that song came from or why the tablet just turned itself on and spontaneously started playing like a bad bad kitten waking you up at the wrong time.

The next class meeting, before lecture while the students are copying down key terms and asking questions about upcoming exams I stand away from the screen so I don't block their view. I'm wearing a long swishy dress with wedge heels and as I'm standing still at the front of the classroom I suddenly lose my balance like someone kicked my knees out from behind me and hit the rail of the whiteboard hard on my to falling flat on my butt in front of the class.

They stare in silence. I'm FINE I say as a throb tells me I'm going to have a big bruise on my back.  A nice guy whose family should be VERY proud of him springs up from the third row and climbs over chairs to offer his hand to help my up as I'm already getting. I shake off his offer and say "Help pregnant women up! I'm fine!" and off we go back into lecture.

After class I find myself holding my Tigger keychain and remembering I'm like him. Bouncy.  I go on Twitter and admit to the fall. I have to laugh about it or become the professor who falls down and acts like that's normal so get used to it.  A witty student writes back that she thinks maybe David Koresh did it.  I agree a little but admit it felt kinda like Oklahoma City and rub the bruises on my butt and arm.

In another class, while they were taking their exam, I slide up onto the window sill for a minute -- it's so hard for me to sit still, and I have to look everywhere for cheating.

 I know the students by name and quirk and handwriting by this point in the semester.

 No one in here would cheat on me, not a single one of these these respectful hardworking awesome students, but still. I have to keep looking.

 When I finish my surveillance from this angle and start to move to another one I lose my balance and fall awkwardly almost down on my ass again.

Instead of crashing I catch myself, spring up and whisper shout "I'm Spiderman!"  to the four students who saw it happen.

They shake their heads, giggle a little, and go back to their job of taking an exam by explaining the the pieces of the puzzle of American history.  And while they're writing I turn on my phone and tweet my triumphant Spiderman moment to the world.

After finishing the exam several students see the tweet and are annoyed they missed my fall.

I tell them it was fast and quiet and all that matters is I laughed and got back up again -- just like I want them to do.

Desperate Times: Pirates, Communists, Roaches

More than 200 years ago, when the US was a new country and just making her way out in the world, she came across the Barbary Pirates of Tunis, Tripoli and Algers on the North African coast.

US merchant boats full of goods to trade were not able to trade freely on the Barbary Coast, and instead were forced to pay "tribute" money to the "Princes" just to keep the pirates from blowing up our ships and selling all the crew into slavery.

 Between 1790 and 1800 the US authorized payments to the pirates of between 1/6 - 1/3 the total government budget. Anyway, European nations (ex: Denmark, the Two Sicilies and other World Leaders at the Time) had been long paying these "tribute fees" to trade along the Barbary Coast.  Who were we to change this tradition, a new country with a flag that hardly anyone recognized yet?

All this money,  for what? To not be killed? Yes.

The Barbary Pirates were running what we now call a "protection racket" (also known as "racketeering') -- translated: paying bad people to not be bad to you.

As soon as Thomas Jefferson became president he refused to continue to have US resources drained by racketeering thugs.  Jefferson called on Congress to authorize "millions for defense... but not one (friggin) cent for tribute" and asked for the creation of a navy.  A few years later the new US Marines stormed Tripoli and announced the whole racketeering thing was over.

  I love that moment of US history, but I didn't love my week this week, and what happened that makes me keep thinking of racketeering pirates.

A few weeks ago I saw a roach in the dishwasher. Ew. That's not OK.

Then one under the coffeemaker. Then one -- was it the same one? he had that same sneaky look - on the floor by oven.

I don't want to kill them, actually I'd like for them to get jobs, buy their own food, bathe, and maybe   pay me to hang out here, but I kill them anyway, quietly, surgically, followed always and every time by a burial at sea (flushing).

I mention this to my awesome landlord, and he sends over the Bug Guy who is not actually the Bug Guy who kills things but actually is the Bug Guy who takes your money and promises you there will be Other Bug Guys.

I dislike him from the beginning, I get the feeling he is talking to me but is spewing something he's memorized. He tells me all about German Cockroaches  - their eating habits, nesting habits, shitting habits, and babyroach-making habits.  I've lived in the South my whole life. I know enough about roaches, thanks.

He keeps talking.  My awesome landlord interrupts after 30 minutes, asks how much it will be and writes a check for about $600.

At this point I want the Bug Guy to leave and take his bug stories with him. But apparently he can't.  He tells me that for every roach I see, there are a thousand hiding behind my walls that I can't see.

"Like Communism?" I retort, admiring the juxtaposition of the two feared"pests"  and laugh at myself but  he doesn't stop talking for a second. Like he didn't hear me.  Hello? I compared the roach scare with the red scare, hello? Funny? Anything? Nothing.

 I'm pulling on my sweater, I have my keys jangling, every bit of body language that says it's time to leave but now he is set on trying to gross me out or get me to flinch or whatever sign he will know he's scared me enough into paying him his protection money.

He flashes his light at my counter where 30 minutes before I had made Cuban coffee. "See that? droppings, right there on your county" -- I don't correct him. I know the truth.  The truth is that those are coffee grounds and I want him to leave and he won't leave.

He then goes on to explain to me the fact that I see any roaches at all  is because the hive is so overcrowded a few have literally starved and are losing their minds.  After pausing for about two beats, he adds "If you knew what was behind your walls, you wouldn't be able to sleep at night...."

My impatient body languages escalates my walking to the front door like I'm going to just leave him here with his communist plague roaches. Before he can go he explains I'll need to clean out - empty out - my kitchen. All the way empty.  Bleach it all down, wipe it all down.  His men would be coming to spray stuff into outlets and then find hives and suck the roaches out with these high powered bug sucking vacuums; I'd need to be out of the house from X to Y time, and then they would be back again for another treatment Z days later.

Finally he leaves.  I empty the kitchen. I clean, I pack, I clean and clean. I find dead roaches and name them Trotsky and Lenin. I can't sleep that night as images of swarming roaches scratching behind the walls starts to really skeeve me out.

The Bug Guy with the poison and the vacuum arrives in the morning.

He does his work, then reports he found about 40 roaches.  He'll be back in 2 weeks to make sure the invisible communist roach problem doesn't return.

 I imagine that for $600 I could have bought some super cute shoes and danced all over those roaches and vacuumed them up myself.

For that same money I could have bought each roach a ticket to Halloween Horror Nights and then abandoned them there.   But that would have been too swift and simple and answer, too Jeffersonian for our modern world.

For bi-monthly payment of about how much it costs to fill my SUV with gas, the Bug Guy Mafia will continue their oh so capitalistic  invisible but horrifying roach destruction and protection racket.

Meanwhile, my kitchen is super clean and I have to eat every meal at a restaurant until the Bug Man returns. He didn't tell me I had to do this, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Drunk Gummy Bears and the Spread of Communism

The Cold War that has broken out in my house is my fault and I take full responsibility.


I took my beautiful iPhone out of the thick rubber bounce-house I'd encased it in for over a year.  Without all the plastic it was half the size and so much prettier. The screen felt better, the phone fit in my wallet better, everything went well.

Until the day I walked by the spot my iPhone was charging and hit the cord and OH for a few seconds the phone was airborne  and I thought I could dive and catch it but actually I winced because too quickly the flight crashed with a decisively loud smack-bam on the ground. I found it face down.

 Still, no pulse, cold.

 Pieces of glass were missing from its face.

Long cracks splayed themselves across the glass like instant age lines; it was the same phone but it looked like it had aged 100 years.

Despite all the physical appearance of disaster and mayhem, I clicked around and found all my icons were there. The camera still worked. The volume still worked. The phone still worked.  Fantastic, crisis averted.


I kept using the arthritic iPhone  these past weeks even after the one day I held it wrong, forgetting to guard myself against the 12 separate bayonettes of glass that jut from around the gaping holes, and tore a big gash in my finger splattering blood all over the faceplate of the phone.  Since then I've dropped it a few more times, never intentionally (of course) but less apologetically.  It still worked, we still needed each other, and a small truce was signed that held up well until Halloween night.

Last week I asked around about how to make vodka gummy bears (follow me here people) and was told all I had to do was pour vodka over gummy bears and viola there would be a new creation.

So the night before Halloween I poured a bunch of vodka over (very willing volunteering brave) gummy bears and left them alone to marinate and party.  On Halloween, late in the afternoon,  I checked on the mixture and it kinda seemed like the gummy bears had some crazy orgy and became one big jello shot of a gummy bear.

 If you've ever taken Mardi Gras beads and melted them into cool projects, or if you've lined up crayons on paper and shot hot air from a blow dryer at them and watched the waxy colors blend and melt you'd recognized the same pattern in these melted drunk bears.

Not knowing what else to do I reached for my iPhone to take a picture of the drunk tank on my counter. It was hard to get at just the right angle to see both their transparency and their gelatinous drunkedness so I put the phone right over the bowl, very close and then it jumped right in.

I can't blame the phone for wanted to join the party but I really needed to take this picture so I fished it out and then mopped the sticky vodka melted gummy guts it off with 10 papertowels, then returned to the bowl to finish my mission.

 There. Done.  Posted on Facebook.

(I think)


As I check to see if the post has gone through I see a darkness creeping across the screen from the cracked area of the phone, the part of the phone that probably convinced the rest of the phone to jump into the gummy bowl, the cranky troublemaking side.

An hour later the darkness has spread across the face of my iphone like communism across Europe.

I don't know who to call (Churchill? Truman? Stalin? Steve Jobs?) but I do see my awesome iPhone still works, so I still have it.

Halloween has passed and now we are into November and I have yet to make a move, continuing my Cold War against the phone. Maybe the phone will attack me. Maybe it will jump again. Perhaps it will do nothing and stay exactly the same and we will peacefully coexist separated by the Iron Curtain of the iPhone faceplate.

Meanwhile, don't tell my iPhone but the gummy bears are chilling in the refrigerator, perfectly happy and blissfully unaware of their (unphotographed) impending doom.