“Get real.”

“Get a life!”

“Get a job.”

Every day, people hear those words from friends, family, colleagues, and even enemies. But where do they go to “get-a” something they cannot get with money? Welcome to the “Get-A” Mall — the place you go to “get-a”. Open 24/7/365, this mall is available for all your “get-a” needs. But, a word of caution, it is not online. You need to “get-a” there in person.

The “Get-a” Mall offers a variety of stores, including its three most popular:

* “Get real”: First, do you really want to get real? Reality is scary. Sometimes, it even sucks! Divorce, disease, disability, death, bankruptcy — they are all part of life. But, if you are tired of your virtual existence, the nice folks at “Get real” aim to serve.

* “Get-a life”: Now this store’s waaaay more fun. Always wanted to be a stuntman? Here’s your chance. A ballerina? We have a tutu for yuyu. Rock star? Rock on!

* “Get-a job”: “What?” you say, “I don’t have any training!” Relax, man. Get someone else’s job. Be a doctor. Yeah, being a brain surgeon would be cool. All you would need is a good Black and Decker drill and you’re golden. Just go operate on someone else’s brain, okay? I’m good for now.

Attorney: (You really want people to vilify you?) Get a pair of running shoes – handy for chasing those ambulances.

*Teacher: (What? Are you crazy?)

Those are only three of the “Get-A” mall’s most popular stores. But how many times have people’s faces gone brain-dead and their eyes glassed over when you told them a joke? For those unfortunate sense-of-humor-challenged souls, there’s the “get-a joke” store. In one department, “stand-up comedy” schticks. In another, vaudevillian slapstick. And in a deep, dark medieval dungeon reserved for the truly humor-deficient, court jesters hired to jump out and tickle them senseless.

So, there you have it. “Get real”, “Get-a life”, “Get-a Job”, and “Get-a Joke”. Be the first to visit the “Get-a” Mall today.



November 12, 2011

Hello, everyone.  My name is Kim, and I have a messy little secret.

On September 2,with a heart full of hope, I moved into a two-bedroom townhouse. Excited about owning my first home, I picked out my furnishings carefully. I wanted my surroundings to reflect who I was and what I was interested in.  I planned to open my home to family and friends.

I especially had big plans for the smaller upstairs bedroom which I envisioned as  a teacher’s haven. A place to compose inspiring  lesson plans. A refuge for sipping coffee  while grading stacks of essays.  Ideas firmly in place, I drove to Rooms-to-Go where I picked out  livingroom, kitchen,and bedroom sets  and was almost out the door when I spied  it –a big-honkin’  cherry computer armoire  with drawers, shelves, and nooks galore.  It was tall enough to pierce the heavens. Shoot, that bad-boy even had a whiteboard on the inside of one door and a bulletin board on the other. As I gazed at it, I salivated, imagining  the heavy-duty computing I would accomplish.

“Fix me up with that, too,” I told the salesman, noticing dollar-signs in his pupils and his tongue hanging out.

Having  picked  out my furniture,  I needed a place for  books — text and otherwise, so I moved in a wobbly metal bookshelf  from my  parents’ home.  I finally had  everything I needed, right?

Whoa! Not so fast. Planning lessons and grading papers  require caffeine. Lots of it. So, to Target I trotted to purchase a mini-fridge for  diet Cokes and a coffeemaker. After all, why interrupt those spurts of creative genius by trudging all the way  downstairs to the kitchen of  my 889- square-foot home?

Then, one more detail began to haunt me. What if company came? Where would I bed everyone down? Grabbing purse and keys, I hightailed it  to a bedroom shop and purchased a futon. After all, I could always use it for a daybed. After all, doesn’t sleep induce creativity?

Now, I was really on a roll,  snatching up two second-hand filing cabinets from an office-supply store that threw itself into my path, one day, when I was en route to Staples for office supplies for my computer cabinet.

Soon, my dreams of  a  cozy teaching and writing retreat met their Waterloo.

You see, filing cabinets are for storing documents. I had planned to store personal files in one and school and writing documents in the other. But pack-rat that I am, I was afraid of shredding files —  even those of my parents’ from the 1990’s. What if I were to need them?

Well, you know where I’m going with this, right?  Yes, once I moved it all  — the computer-cabinet, recliner, bookshelf, mini-fridge and coffeemaker, filing cabinets, and futon, I had  barely room to turn around, much less sit.

No longer able to walk into the room, I turned it into a storage space — a burial ground for mail, dead laptops, cast-off high-tech gizmos,  shattered dreams.

Now, here I am, facing all of you today.  It’s taken me five years to gather the strength to admit my weakness.  With time and your support, one day I’ll be able to be you for someone else. Someone with a messy little secret just like mine.


Fall of 1989.

Clutching the attache with my newly-minted graduate degree, I, a fledgling college professor, walk into my first-ever  English class,   Masterpieces of Literature.

On the days I didn’t attend classes at University of North Texas, I was a substitute teacher for high school where I put up with inattentive and unruly teens. It was a higher level of baby-sitting, only some of those babies were six-feet tall and others, pregnant with their own babies. In short, I had enough experiences with secondary school to know it wasn’t right for me.

Now, as I look at the sparkly eyes and attentive posture of these college students, my heart slops over with hope.

For the most part, these students are adults with families and day jobs. Their attendance hinges upon finding sitters for their children and engaging their supervisors’ cooperation in coordinating their work schedules with their class time. Both deliberate, proactive steps require effort. .

During the sixteen-week term, I administer frequent reading quizzes, three to four themes, and a final examination. Some who pass the class leave rejoicing. A small percentage, for one reason or another, don’t. Still, both groups assume the same responsibility for their success as in the beginning of the semester; they accept the grades they have earned.

The key word, here?  Earned.  In The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the infinitive, to earn, means “to receive as return for effort and especially for work done or services rendered.”

Another operative word? Effort. Defined by Merriam-Webster, effort is “conscious exertion of power: hard work.”

What is absent from these two  words? The implication of privilege, especially when it is undeserved or unauthorized. That leads to the final word, entitlement.

According to Merriam-Webster, entitlement means right or privilege, “a belief that one is deserving of…certain privileges.”  A store coupon entitles a consumer to save fifty cents. A will entitles beneficiaries to take possession of  property bestowed upon them by the deceased.

But  warming a seat in a classroom, buying a paper from an essay mill, completing only enough work to avoid  breaking a sweat, and sending Mom or Dad to harass the professor when students don’t receive the grades they ordered?

No, those actions do not entitle students to pass.

Fast forward from the class in 1989 to those of 1990-2011.  To some of today’s students, there is only one passing grade: an A. This standard is  good as long as the quality of work, the level of dedication is commensurate. Sadly, for some, there lies a discrepancy between the grade students believe they deserve and those they actually earn.

Diligent students get it.  They arrive early and stay late. They are present on test days, even if they run 103-degree fever or have a flat tire on the way to school.  They contribute to class discussions, ask questions during and after class and assume responsibility for their own progress.

Today, there are still  good students in my classes. Enough to keep me returning to the classroom, heart slopping over….