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Friday, March 27, 2015

April Fools!

In honor of this week’s big holiday—that means April Fools’ Day to everyone but my mother (Mom, here’s a rousing “Happy Birthday”! And look for a brand new, robin’s egg blue, BMW convertible in the driveway first thing in the morning on your special day!)—I scoured the far reaches of the internet, as well as polled my treacherously clever friends, family, and acquaintances to amass the finest collection of pranks, tricks, and capers ever assembled in one blog.*
And some of these people scare me now.
Why celebrate April Fools’ Day? Because…
April Fools’ Day offers a bang-up opportunity to pay your kids back for all the stuff they do to you all year long.
“I told my son I’d traded him to a different little league team.” – Lonnie S., Washington, D.C.
“One time I carefully slit open bags of potato chips, replaced the contents with baby carrots, then resealed the bags and put them in my kids’ lunches.” – Carla T., Silver Spring, MD
“My mother once put raisins at the bottoms of our glasses of milk. We didn’t think my sister would ever recover from it.” – Shelley W., Arlington, VA
Donut seeds, inedible food, and technology obliteration are just a few of the 41 Genius April Fools’ Day Pranks Your Kids Will Totally Fall For.
April Fools’ Day promotes fun family unity. (Or the inception of a potentially longstanding feud.)
Original Photo by Megan
“I added my brother’s address to the directory of open houses in the newspaper’s Realty Section on April Fools’ Day. And I listed it as a short sale.” – Anonymous in an anonymous city
“I sent a mass email to friends and family, announcing that my boyfriend and I were moving to San Francisco to start our new life together. I still haven’t heard back from half the people I sent that to. I don’t get Christmas cards from them anymore, either.” – A heterosexual man in Fort Worth, TX
Photo by Markus Schöpke
“When my son was eleven or twelve he would bring coffee into his dad and me first thing in the morning. On April Fool’s Day he put our cups on our respective nightstands and slipped out of the room. I groggily reached over to mine and brought the hot, steamy morning fuel to my lips—then spewed it out, gagging and choking. I got out of bed, put on my sweetest mommy face and went to find my child. I said, 'Thank you, son,' then pushed him up against the wall and threatened his life if he ever did that again. He’d loaded the coffee with hot sauce.” – Donna D., Chesapeake, VA
Mayonnaise-filled donuts, exploding food, and a ceiling fan powder blast: Check out the Crazy Russian Hacker’s 10 How-To Pranks.
Photo by TipsTimes
Also, a gem of an idea from DeeDee S., in Pittsboro, IN: “Tell your husband and kids that you’re having another baby. Get a pregnant friend to pee on a test stick so you can ‘prove’ it.”
April Fools’ Day is a great time to bolster morale in the office, too.
Fake big-win lottery tickets.” – Nicole V., Greenwood, IN
“New screen savers for everyone. Think a sultry-eyed Justin Bieber, a Beano advertisement, or a scrolling marquis that reads, ‘I stalk my co-workers on the weekends’.” – Anonymous in Arlington, VA
“In one famous prank from 1957, the BBC broadcast a film … purporting to show Swiss farmers picking freshly-grown spaghetti, in what they called the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. The BBC were later flooded with requests to purchase a spaghetti plant, forcing them to declare the film a hoax on the news the next day.” Wikipedia
Photo by
Wikimedia Commons
A keyboard garden plot, balloon-pit cubicle, and autocorrect shortcut alterations will jumpstart your office prank creativity, from Hubspot blogs.
Lastly, April Fools’ Day gives you an excuse to just be a solid jerk for a day.
So put on your impish thinking cap and get geared up for this year’s special day of fun, frolic, and fabricated disasters. We’d love to hear how it went! And if you came up with any dastardly derring-do, or if you had a particularly outrageous one pulled on you, please come back and leave a comment about it.
And if on the morning of April first you see my mother surveying her driveway with an expression of disappointment on her sweet face, please wish her a Happy April Fool’s Day from her shameless daughter.

*WastingMyEducation is not responsible for the safety or welfare of you and/or any of your family members, friends, or relationships should you elect to employ anything that inspired you here. If you choose to give some of these pranks a whirl, just remember that payback’s… well, you know.

(Your email address will never be sold or shared.)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

What's Best for Me

Ellis Island
Photo by Cheuk-man Kong
     The United States has a lengthy and reliable history of xenophobia. In some ways it’s comforting to see such ongoing and dependably predictable hostility toward anyone not like us; it demonstrates that we have not lost touch with our heritage, rooted as America is upon slavery and genocide.
     Don’t get me wrong; I love my country and consider myself a patriot. My chest swells with pride to hear my kids recite the pledge of allegiance, and I choke up whenever I sing the national anthem. Throughout America’s history our men and women have sacrificed their lives to secure for us the freedoms we enjoy. But when I consider some of the things we as a nation have done, and continue to do, it’s entirely appropriate that we be ashamed of ourselves.
We stole a people’s land out from under them, obliterated their culture and legacy, and murdered the majority of their population.
We enslaved an entire race, subjecting them to unconscionable and indefensible treatment in the name of economic prosperity.
We incarcerated whole ethnic groups, without consideration for their circumstances or citizenship, under the guise of national security.
We defended abominable practices of clandestine torture and abuse, formerly (and likely still) associated with uncivilized and immoral societies comprised of savages and sadists.
We continue to push for laws to keep our money in and those foreigners out.
     The tenacious theme running through all of these offenses? “What’s best for me is all that matters.”
     This week The Economist, published in the U.K., ran a report on Latinos in America. The largest growing segment of our society, people of Hispanic descent are changing the demographics of America. Whites are expected to become a minority by 2044. But far from fomenting the destruction of our country, such immigrants are exactly what we need to sustain ourselves and our way of life. While the median age of most other developed nations will continue to rise into the golden numbers in the coming decades, America’s is expected to hover at a youthful 41 by 2050, due in large part to the influx of Latinos.1
     Why is this a good thing? Because octogenarians do not contribute significantly to the workforce or the GNP. Because older populations levy social security, Medicare, and welfare programs. Because someone has to provide for those who no longer can or do.
     Let’s hope all these for’ners don’t adopt our American ethos about “what’s best for me”.
     Xenophobia and cultural egoism are relevant topics in my daily life, because my children attend a Title I school in an ethnically diverse neighborhood, where Caucasians like us comprise less than 5% of the elementary school population.
     Our zip code’s population, on the other hand, is 38% Caucasian, according to
     Assuming that the school community is roughly proportional to the overall community (we do not live in a retirement haven or an urban yuppie hotspot), one wonders where the rest of the white children have gone.
     They have transferred to “choice” schools, that’s where.
     The state of Virginia was one of the last in the country to desegregate its public schools; full compliance with federal mandates regarding integration did not take place until the mid-1970’s. Even then, when minority students sought to enter “white” schools, a complex application process made it very difficult for them to do so. 3
     That system, or one very similar to it, still exists today.
     To apply for a transfer out of one’s neighborhood school and into a choice school in the Arlington Public School system requires parents to fill out an application, attend a presentation at the neighborhood school, attend another presentation at the preferred school, and get signatures from the principals at both schools. Upon acceptance, parents must also attend a mandatory orientation at the preferred school. At best, this process requires two business days off work.*
     That may sound perfectly egalitarian, until one considers that middle- and upper-class parents who hold white-collar positions have much more flexibility and autonomy over their schedules than do poorer citizens. Lower income families, where Mom and Dad may both have to work two or more unskilled jobs just to put food on the table, find it either impossible, or a significant hardship, to give up two or three days of work in order to complete the convoluted transfer process to move their children to a more preferred school.
     Never mind the difficulty of navigating the system if English is not your first language.
     The result is that immigrants and lower-income families pool at neighborhood schools, while wealthier families withdraw to their own preferred quarters and circle the wagons around themselves.
     If this system was not intentionally designed to allow the privileged an escape from having to rub elbows with all those undesirable others, it proved a very happy coincidence for the self-concerned and wealthier cadre of beneficiaries and administrators who propagate the scheme and deny that anything’s unethical about it.
     In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the upper-class enclave of St. George is petitioning to create its own city and school district, separate from the rest of Baton Rouge, because the wealthier citizens are tired of paying taxes into the larger district, which provides services to all families, including the ones who pay much less into it. In Separate and Unequal, a 2014 Frontline report about the St. George district’s efforts, a pastor at a local church applauds the secessionists, encouraging them to “do what’s best for your pocketbooks”.4
     If this movement succeeds, the result will be that the rich in Baton Rouge have even more and the poor have even less. And it will encourage other factions of haves to find ways to cordon themselves off from the have-nots.
     There is no defense for this kind of insular and self-serving behavior, either in the annals of Christian charity or the democratic halls of social justice; its only logical rationale stems from a questionable moral code which contends that might makes right.
     Yes, “what’s best for me” is the American way.
     The Economist summed up its study on the American immigrant situation as “an extraordinary stroke of luck… Making the most of this chance will take pragmatism and goodwill. Get it right, and a diverse, outward-facing America will have much to teach the world.”5
     In a nation comprised almost entirely of immigrants’ descendants—if your ancestors lived in this country prior to 1492, you’re off the hook—the fact that racism, prejudice, and exclusionism are still practiced so proudly and rampantly makes me dubious about our chances of getting it right. It’s long past time for Americans to stop asking “What’s best for me?” and start asking “What’s best for us?”
     If we don’t, all we’ll have to teach the world is that we’ve learned exactly nothing from our own history.

*Update: Since publication of this article Arlington Public Schools has changed its school transfer policies, now requiring only a simple application turned in to one's neighborhood school. Kudos and thanks to the superintendent and school board for doing the right thing.

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1 “How to fire up America.” The Economist 14-20 March 2015: 15. Print.
2 “22204 Zip Code Detailed Profile.” Advameg Inc, 2013. Web. 16 March 2015 <>.
3 Daugherity, B. J. "Desegregation in Public Schools." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 30 May 2014. Web. 16 Mar. 2015. <>.
4 Separate and Unequal. Frontline. 2014. Webcast. PBS. <>
5 The Economist, op. cit.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

How to Fake Maturity

When Juliet Brynn's
drawings begin
to come true,
she discovers a power
at work in the universe
which forges paths
into places most people
choose never to go.
A common reaction people share with me after reading Drawn, is “How do you write fourteen-year-olds so believably?” I respond that I can because, deep inside, I still possess the affective and psychological psyche of a fourteen-year-old. Then they laugh.
I don’t get why they laugh.
But it occurs to me that I must appear an emotionally and psychologically mature adult.
Maybe friends occasionally ask my opinion on matters of life navigation, not because they consider me a cautionary example against which the truly wise would do just the opposite, but because they actually think I… ulp… know something.
I’ve heard it said, “Fake it till you make it,” and apparently I’ve been simulating adulthood pretty convincingly. I thought I’d share five of the most effective maturity-feigning techniques I’ve discovered.
No. 1: “‘Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”
Photo by Madhavi Kuram

Learn How to
Listen Like a Pro
Generally attributed to either Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain, this practice has served me well. I have rarely regretted something I didn’t say, and focusing intently on someone else who is speaking gives me an air of deliberation and interest in the topic and person at hand. “What a sage and thoughtful listener she is,” the speaker thinks. Silent attentiveness makes me seem serious and intellectual. And all I have to do is stare and occasionally nod.
This works great with parents, by the way. Especially if you follow it up with, “I’ll think about that. Thanks.”
No. 2 is akin to No. 1: Do not utter the first thing that comes into your mind.
If you have been blessed with a speedy and reliable internal filter, you may be able to ignore this one. But I have not. So, if you’re like me…
The first thought that occurs to you when someone else speaks, or when you’re reading a newspaper or textbook or comic strip, or when you’re asked a serious question, is probably the same thing 98% of the rest of the world also thought, and/or is simply wrong, cliché, trite, or just plain stupid. I know this from personal experience.
Photo by nov2874

You, Too, Can
Learn to be Funny
And the snappy, sarcastic comeback is a relatively recent invention, spawned in the intellectually-vacuous cesspool of TV sit-coms and adolescent-boy-targeted movies. Thirteen-year-olds may find you hilarious if you regularly employ this inane attempt at rhetoric; most people over the cognitive age of fifteen will just find you tiresome and not worth wasting conversational energy on.
If, on the other hand, you are searching for a truly witty and/or thoughtful thing to say, churn through the first few ideas you have, reject them, and stretch for something that actually takes a little mental work. The cream will rise if you give it time.
No. 3: “I think” are two of the finest words in the English language.
I cannot count the number of times I have been 100%, undeniably, without hesitation certain that I was absolutely, totally, inarguably correct about something.
Then I found out later I was wrong.
Framing your assertions with the introductory clause, “I think”, will save you so much humiliation and crow-eating.
Unless you are Stephen Hawking discussing astrophysics, Shaun White discussing snowboarding/skateboarding, or God discussing anything, you don’t know nearly as much as you think you know.

No. 4: When you don’t know something, just say so.
Lack of knowledge does not indicate lack of maturity or intelligence. One key giveaway of the immature person is that he exhibits a constant need to outdo everyone else in the room.
Photo by Russell McNeil
For example, I know someone who delights in pointing out others’ mistakes. If I mispronounce a word, it is immediately drawn to my and everyone else’s attention with gleeful mocking.
The best response I’ve ever learned in dealing with such a person? Say, “Oh, I didn’t know that. Thanks for telling me.” End of conversation. If the disparaging critic continues to make fun of you, he’ll just look like a jerk. Especially if you simply shrug your shoulders and say, “I clearly can’t compete with your intellect.” (That’s self-deprecating irony, by the way.) Someone else will probably come to your defense, and even if no one does, you’ve taken the high road and will appear the wiser and more mature between the two of you.
Trust me on this.
No. 5: Be nice.
I know, that probably sounds a little off. What does nice-ness have to do with faking maturity?
A lot, actually.
Enhance Your Maturity
with this T-Shirt
A mature person is secure enough in herself to pay attention to other people. She doesn’t need to compete with others, to put others down, or to set herself up as more of anything than those around her. If you think about the most “popular” people you know—I don’t mean the ones who are just crazy-talented in some way, or who are or supermodel good-looking, but the people you genuinely like and enjoy being around—they’re really nice, aren’t they?
You may not feel confidant, but you can pretend to be by casting the limelight on someone else, instead of hogging it for yourself.
You may not feel attractive, but you can tell someone else that he or she is.
You may not feel smart, but you can ask someone else for his thoughts or opinions.
You can fake it till you make it.
The great thing about all this is that outward behavior almost always gets interpreted as inner character. (Of course, that’s the not-so-great thing about it, too.) People will treat you the way you show them that you ought to be treated. And you can influence that to a huge degree by what you say and do. Or what you don’t say and do.
And at some point you’ll probably realize that you’re not actually faking it anymore. You'll really have become mature and confidant and able to navigate the world and your relationships successfully.
At least, that’s what I’ve been told.
I’ll let you know if I ever get there.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Evening Vespers

Photo by Matthew Savage
The sun has drifted to its rest
Upon Horizon’s cobalt nest
And night songs of the—
                                                —evening trees
blow in the zephyr’s wake and please
my harkened soul—
                                    —at such a time
when peace and stillness become mine—
(Ear-splitting screech.) “DON’T YOU HIT ME! MOM, SHE HIT ME!”
and Day’s relentless work has ceased
upon the tides of—
                                    —blessed peace
“Girls! We don't use hurtful words! Now brush your teeth and get your PJs on!”
then full within the calming heart
come whispers of divine
that call the stars to take their place
in dark, celestial
“Girls, don’t make me come up there!”
                                —window case
like eyes of angels, casting low
their guardianship—
                                    —on all below
and think I that their holy wings
could wing away all irksome things
(Terrified screeching in two voices.)
“Stop scaring your sisters! I'm serious!”
that trample down all patience, joy,
delight to vex, gall, pique —
(Malicious boy laughter.)
“NO! Go into your own rooms and get ready for bed!”
“Then brush them!!!”
Calm, Mother. Rest thy anxious soul.
The night unfurls, a sacred scroll,
a text of ancient, learned hours
for thy repose and ‘plenished bowers.
And still—
“They’re in the wash.”
“Yes, you can!”
“NO, I CAN’T!!!”
“Just put something on your body!”
“It’s getting down to twelve degrees tonight!”
“Whatever. Do whatever you want. Just get into bed!”
            —the creatures of the eve
stalk wild upon this native heath
and would, giv’n but a space of breath
(Terrified screeching in two voices.)
“I swear if you do that one more time I’m coming up there and you’re going to wish you’d never been born!!!”
do all within this house to death.
Please, God. Dear God. Oh, God, upstairs—
“I’m coming up to hear your prayers—
five minutes!”                        —and this day is done.
I’ve no enthuse to see the sun
arise, because it wakes these beasts
that feed upon me, ravage, feast—
their feckless rants against each other—
beget here nerve-enfractured
Need I but a sanctuary
Still and dark as January
(Terrified screeching in two voices.)
Father, help me. Peace, I beg.
Help get these savages abed.
This woman’s soul is shredded, spent—
“IT’LL DRY!!!”
Night, oblivion, onyx sky
Why, dear Heaven, why oh why?

“GROSS!!! She puked! It’s all over everything!”


The morrow will arrive, its glow
an east-born west-bound circling foe flow
another day, another eve—

“Oh, son-of-a— #@&*#— Fine!
I’m done with the freaking poetry!
Yes, I’m coming to clean up the puke!
Here I come, right now!”

Stomp, stomp, stomp the stairs—

“How come you’re always in such a bad mood at night?”

                                    —Such are th’affairs
Of vespers.
Every eve.

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