A Letter to the Leader of North Korea

Dear Mr. Kim Jong-Un,

Oh wait, that’s not right.

Dear Mr. President Jong-Un,

Or is it Prime Minister?  No, no, that’s not right.

Dear General Jong-Un,

Hmmm, that doesn’t sound right either,

Dear Great Leader,

No, I think that was your grandpa.

Okay, this is getting ridiculous!

Dear Kim,

On behalf of my little blog here at Life As I Understand It, I’d like to thank you for reading.  How do I know that you are reading?  Well, I have had multiple hits on recent blog posts from The Republic of North Korea, and considering that no one in your country is allowed to have Internet access, or any access for that matter, to the outside world, I assume that somehow, you are enjoying us Westerners as much as we enjoy us Westerners, and by the grace of God, you found my blog enjoyable, although slightly cheeky, and you have started to follow.  Thank you.

Since I seem to have your attention, I’d like to say a few things on behalf of the United States of America.  Please understand, I know you would be furious if one of your citizens spoke on your country’s behalf, but her in the good ole U.S. of A., we are allowed and welcomed to say what we think; we have freedom, which is actually one of our inalienable rights.  So anyways, I think a bunch of us over here are thinking you are out of your damn mind if you decide to actually attack the United States as you have done so successfully in the propaganda films you are showing your captive citizens.  It would not end well, you know, for you guys. This is not a threat by any means, I am more of a pacifist myself, as are many of the people I know.  To borrow from a 1960s Vietnam-era mantra, “Make love, not war.”  Peaceful, open communication really would be better for all of us, and I hope that you consider opening up some communication with the rest of the world, and check the tough, little-man image at the door.

Secondly, I don’t know if you have figured this out yet, but Dennis Rodman is kind of a freakazoid.  I have seen the pictures of you guys hugging it out, and although not shocked, I am a little bewildered.  Have you Googled him?  He likes to wear women’s clothes and make-up.  He likes to do anything and everything that is considered outlandish.  Do you know he actually married himself?  I don’t know how that is possible, but he did it.  You can’t marry someone of the same-sex in most of America, but apparently it is okay to marry oneself.  Who knew?

I digress.

By my estimations, you are a pretty conservative fella, I don’t know if you want your repetition soiled by hanging around with such a volatile wild-child.  Nonetheless, he does speak very highly of you.  He told Donald Trump on the Celebrity Apprentice finale that he thought you were a “cool guy.”  Wait, you probably knew that.  Don’t even try to pretend you don’t watch Celebrity Apprentice.  If you have the ability to Google this little blog, I know you would watch your “friend” on Apprentice.  Maybe seeing how he looked on the finale opened your eyes a little bit to how peculiar he really is.  I really think you should think twice about being his friend.  I am including a photo for you to maul over.


Lastly, I just want to say most of the world is saddened that the citizens of your country struggle the way they do.  By now you know I am a high school English teacher, and much of the way you run your country is very reminiscent of Brave New World and 1984.  You do know those books are considered dystopian literature, right?  Those worlds are not the ideal; on the contrary, they are fictional models of what not to do.  Maybe you could read some other Western works that our more upbeat and uplifting.  The United State Constitution is a pretty decent work.  Too pushy?   Too, you-should-be-like-us?  I get it.  You don’t want to be us.  Well, what about Walden by Henry David Thoreau?  It is also non-fiction but it has a really good message about living life with purpose.  I really think you would like it, and maybe it would help you see that keeping up with the Joneses is not all that it is cracked up to be, and you and the citizens of North Korea would probably be happier if you came out of your lives of quiet desperation.  After you finish Walden read The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.  It’s not really a life changer, but it’s one of my favorite books, and I think you might enjoy it.

Okay, well, thanks again for reading.  I hope that you continue to enjoy, and I hope you take to heart what I have said.  I tell my students often, “Make a friend, be a friend.”  I think it’s important to be kind and show love.



Day 156: An Open Letter to the Toyota Motor Corporation

I would like to begin by saying I have been a loyal Toyota customer since 1998.  In the years of bad mortgages and sweet lease deals, I leased a Camry for a very cheap price.  I will admit, never did I feel taken advantage of.  Thus, when my lease was up in 2002, not only did I release a Camry, but my husband bought a Toyota, too!  Toyota, I have loved you for your dependability; I have loved you for your reliability; I have loved you for the amenities that you offer.

With that being said, Damn you, Toyota!  In this technologically advanced age that we live in, can you not design a mini-van that can keep its hub caps?  I mean, really, I know it’s a lease, but it’s not a rental!  I am not going to beat it up to turn it back in.  I expect you to represent.

I choose you Toyota because of your reputation.  (Okay, not the Toyota recall reputation.  At that time, people were like, “You drive a Toyota?” They were in disbelief that I was willing to put my life on the line day-in and day-out,)  You stand behind your motor vehicles, and when something is amiss, you are willing to admit fault and fix it.

Thus, I need you to admit that something is rotten in the state of Denmark.  I need you to admit that something went awry.  For whatever reason, the hub caps on the Toyota Sienna slip off at the slightest jousting.

Okay, maybe I am partially at fault.  I drove a Camry for so long, maybe I take turns a bit too sharp.  After seven years, maybe I still misjudge the size of my car. Maybe I have skidded across a curb or two.  Nonetheless, why can’t you engineer a wheel that can withstand a little bad driving?

Toyota, I deflect the blame to you.

Since I started driving the Sienna in 2004, I have lost seven hub caps.  Seven!  If that does not seem like a particularly abounding number, I will admit, on my last lease, I stopped buying hub caps in the second year of my lease after I had lost my fifth hub cap.  Seemingly, I could have purchased dozens more.  Instead, I swallowed my pride and went hub cap-less for four years.  With this current lease, I lost both passenger side hub caps within six months.  I cannot afford to continue to replace them (you know, the economy and all); I have no choice but to mitigate my own self-worth and drive an automobile that is poorly constructed.

I have been scarred.  Last week, I had the windows unrolled; I had forgotten about the physical appearance of my car.  I was stopped at a stop sign in one of the nicer neighborhoods of town.  I looked at a passerby and tried to smile.  She ignored me.  I thought I saw her mouth, “White Trash.”  It couldn’t have been that she was listening to music and singing along to a song.  No, it had to have been the appearance of my car.  I have been reduced to White Trash because of your failure to create a wheel that can keep a hub cap, and I am seriously contemplating psychological counseling to get over the trauma of this experience.

So, Toyota, I beg you, please fix this problem.  I am not the only loyal customer who has dealt with this issue.  I see Siennas all over the roads with the same problems.  I am calling upon you now  to fix this problem.  Do not let another middle class American mom experience the pain and trepidation I have experienced.  Do not allow another loyal customer feel the shame that I feel.  It is time for you to take a stand, Toyota, and fix this problem.

Do it for soccer moms.

Do it for hockey moms.

Do it for spelling bee moms.

Do it because it’s the right thing to do.

Day 116: Oh No, She Didn’t!

I promised myself when I became a teacher I would never be that parent.  I have dealt with overbearing, unreasonable parents, and I know that many times, they do not and cannot see clearly when it comes to their own children.  We live in a society where personal responsibility is deflected because someone is to blame.  I promised myself that when my children reached school age, I would not be the parent calling the school and creating a stink; I would make my children take responsibility for their own grades and actions.

With that being said, yesterday, I felt that I needed to be that parent.  I needed to at least speak up for my daughter who was afraid to speak up for herself.

To preface my story, Carson is a good student.  In the four years since she has been receiving letter grades, she has only had a B on her report card once or twice.  She likes school, she is a voracious reader, and she loves learning.   She is the type of student who works on projects and writing assignments on Friday night so that she has ample time to edit and revise.

Yesterday was 4th quarter progress report day.  Her school sends itemized progress reports that delineate each assignment.  When she got into the car, I cheerfully said, “Let’s see it.”  She burst into tears. I grabbed the report and scanned the grades. Two Fs!  Carson has never received an F in her life, and here she was with two of them.

I calmed her down.  I knew she would not intentionally avoid an assignment or sabotage her own grades.  I asked her to explain to me what happened.  Carson told me her teacher missed two days of class two weeks ago.  In her absence, a substitute was hired to conduct class.  On each day, she had handed out assignments for the kids to do.  The substitute did not understand the assignment fully and she ended up confusing the students.  She said she was not the only one who received Fs.

“Did you tell Miss T_____________?”  I asked.

“Yes,” she said.  Tears started to flow down her cheeks again.  “She said we couldn’t blame the substitute because we couldn’t follow directions.”

Oh no, she didn’t!  I was furious.  As a teacher, I know what can happen when a substitute covers class.  Sometimes assignments are done incorrectly.  I also know that if my best and brightest said that the substitute was confusing, I would give them the benefit of the doubt.

So what did I do?  What I love to do!  I composed a letter.


 Dear Miss T__________, 

I am not upset about the progress report brought home today.  As long as my girls are trying their hardest and doing their best, I am proud and content.

However, I do think Carson tries exceedingly hard, and I feel that two of the grades on this progress report are bogus.  Each assignment was accomplished under the tutelage of a substitute teacher.  I understand that you chastised the students after you graded the assignments and told them that they should not deflect blame onto a substitute, but instead, they needed to take ownership for not reading the directions and doing what the assignment asked.

In Carson’s defense, she said she did read the directions but the substitute teacher confused her.  First, I would like to address the Subtracting Integers assignment.  She said she knew to change the sign and subtract, but she said the substitute said if both were negative than the rules changed.  She listened to the instructions of the teacher that was present, and because she listened to the substitute, she received a 15/54. 

The second assignment in question is the preposition assignment.  Carson said that as a class they had been working on adjective phrases, so she was thrown by the switch to prepositional phrases.  Secondly, she said a fellow classmate asked a question and when the substitute could not answer the question, she asked the class for a consensus on the correct answer.  It is obvious to me that the teacher did not understand the assignment herself, so by asking for a consensus, she thought the students as a collective whole would be able to help each other.  Obviously, she was incorrect in this assumption, and from what Carson has reported to me, the majority of the class failed this assignment.

I have been teaching for fourteen years and I know when students are trying to pull the wool over my eyes.  Nonetheless, when I have good students score so egregiously poor on an assignment that I left with a substitute, I question 1. My assignment, 2. My substitute, 3. The instructions I left with my substitute, and then I give my students the benefit of the doubt.  I would hope that you would agree with me that our job is not to punish students for misunderstanding, but to encourage their growth and understanding.

I would hope that you offer the students enough opportunity to pull up their grades.  Carson is very upset by these assignments and I do not want her to develop distaste toward school at the end of the year.

If you would like to discuss this with me, please feel free to call me. Thank you for taking the time to listen to my grievances.


I am happy to report that Miss T____________ called me at the end of the school day, and she plans on offering ample opportunities for the students to improve their grades.