Monday, March 31, 2014

THIS GIRL BRAKES FOR BREAKS

My friend and I text each other every. single. day.  

They aren't earth-shattering texts -- well, most days.  Some days, we've got the solution to world peace, but we're keeping it to ourselves until our application for that Nobel Peace Prize passes through the first round committee. 

True be told, most people, if given the opportunity to be texting stalkers on our conversations (are there such things??) would probably look at the stuff we text each other and scratch their heads and then immediately run away from us.  

We're sarcastic and acerbic and whiny and goofy and silly and venty (or is that venti?), and dare I say it, b*tchy, and if you really want to know, it's the constant stream of consciousness that runs in my head. And she gets it.  She gets me.

Today, the running stream of consciousness revolved around the fact that, both of us being teachers, we are attempting to do the most in our Spring Break week.  She'd cleaned her bedroom.  I'd vacuumed every surface I could think of.  Both of us agreed we're gross.  It is what it is when you're a teacher.

But that got me thinking ... and have I mentioned my mind is a scary place?  I mean, I think about stuff like how they get toothpaste in a tube.  So, you can totally see how my brain went to, "Wonder what actors and actresses do on their breaks?"

I don't want to ever misjudge any one's job.  Lord knows, mine is on a daily basis. But seriously, what does happen on a break from that job where you memorize lines, hang out in a trailer until they call you out to do your thing and walk red carpets, smiling and behaving like debauchery is a sport?

A trip to some exotic location, I bet.  That's what I would do if I had expendable income.

Instead, my morning started out sometime around 6:40ish.  You see, I am not sure of the exact time because I didn't dare move for fear The Cat would hear me and come running from her perch watching birds to beg for more kibble because for the LOVE OF ALL THAT IS DECENT AND GOOD IN THIS WORLD MY BOWL IS ONLY HALF FULL!  I laid in bed talking myself into the fact that a daily workout on the elliptical MUST be done and then trying to decide if that should happen before or after I tackled some household chores (it happened after, in case you were wondering).  This snow-balled into how long this will take for me to FINALLY lose the extra human that I am carrying around in my hind quarters and then what am I going to have for breakfast and coffee!! Wouldn't it be nice if I had coffee. right. this. minute.  This launched me into a daydream, wherein, I have finally found Prince Charming, and he actually makes coffee and brings it to me.  About this time, a big, 11-pound fur ball, whose hearing rivals that of any spy devise the Federal government has ever used, comes trotting into my room and jumps directly onto my chest, purring the whole time, fuzzy, whiskery face mere centimeters from mine, because she suspects I am awake, what with the difference in breathing that she heard. from. the. other. room.  

I spend my break trying to reorganize myself after the wheels fell off that particular project long about Day 2 of the first week of the third quarter.  I spend it trying to revive the workouts that fell by the wayside due to crazy weather and staff meetings and after-school tutoring sessions and grading and sheer exhaustion.  I spend my breaks trying to feel human again, before that feeling is sucked right out of me again as I enter that fourth quarter. 

My life is lived in a series of quarters with a few breaks sprinkled in there for good measure, and it's in those breaks that I realize the sheer desire to just survive each quarter has left me exhausted and unable to form sentences.  

So, you can see why, when in a meeting with an administrator and some colleagues, when the question was posed, "where are you right now?"  I answered, "On a beach, with a bikini-ready body and a good-looking guy that doesn't talk just keeps bringing me those drinks with umbrellas in them."

Sometimes, I say that stuff out loud.  It's true.

I lose that filter long about Day 2 of each quarter as well.   Good thing I have this break to find it again....


Sunday, March 30, 2014

WHAT DOESN'T BELONG



What doesn't belong in this picture? That is the theme of my life these days.

I feel like this red tulip. Like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.

Wasn't that an uplifting way to start off this blog?  Truth be told, I have been the complete opposite of uplifting these days on this blog. Heck!  In life.  Yeah, I know.  Just a regular big ole storm cloud.  

The long and the short of it is that I am struggling.  

Shakespeare had a quote from Richard III (or Richard the 17th, I can never keep them all straight -- okay, I'm just joking about Richard the 17th ... maybe) that goes something like this ... "Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by this sun of York."  Honestly, it's been 20 years (20!!!!) since college, so I don't really recall what the reference to the sun of York was all about, but man!  I can definitely sidle up next to that winter of our discontent business.  I feel like I have been in a winter of discontent for a while now.  

I just don't feel like I fit in. I suppose it's as simple as that.  

I am a single woman in a sea of coupled people.  

I am a 42 year old single woman in a sea of 20 and 30-something singles.

I am suppose to be strong and independent, the very thing that scares everyone off.

I am quiet and "stand-offish" in a new group, and apparently gregarious and extroverted in groups I know.  So, either a wallflower or the one that seems to suck the life out of the room.

I prefer the reality in my mind rather than the true reality that surrounds me. So, honestly, we probably should put air quotes around that first reality, because what goes on in my mind?  It never seems to come to fruition in real reality ... a double negative or something there.  Like how I did that? 

I despise sappy, but secretly desire the old-fashioned values that are wrapped up in sappy.

I am a single female that owns a cat.  Not 20, just one, but apparently, that qualifies me as a cliche.  

I am a single female that owns a cat and teaches fourth grade.  Apparently, that qualifies me as another cliche.

Oh crap!  I'm a cliche!

And cliches stick out like ... like ... well, like a red tulip in a sea of white ones. 

My pastor warns all the time lately to guard our hearts against bitterness. Trust me, this fact, the "all the time" business?  The irony has not been lost on me.  And apparently, I'm not doing a very good job of that either, of fighting off the bitter, because I'm going to admit to you.  I'm bitter. 

I know, I know.  What do I have to be bitter about?  As I look around, I see the abundance of riches I have (not the monetary kind), and that alone shouldn't make a girl bitter.  And yet, I find myself leaning that direction.

I hate feeling out of place.  

No, I don't want to be a cookie cutter.  

No, I don't want to be a Stepford wife or girl or anything ... whatever.

But, being vastly different ... well, let's just say, it's lonely being the red tulip in a sea of white.  And that loneliness is taken as desperation or weirdness or quirkiness or all of those things rolled into one.  

I've said it before, and I am winding up to say it again, but this is NOT how I saw the trajectory of my life. At 24, when I sat on a canoe livery dock and begged to God for a radical change, I never expected this.  And while I stand in wonder and awe at the way pieces have fallen into place, not by my own doing, mind you, I am blown away.  Absolutely blown away by the weaving of what I asked for and what has come true.  Still, as I sit in amazement, I feel guilty that there are other parts that I wish I didn't have to own.

Trail blazing isn't fun.  It's exhausting, and I'm weary.  There are days I look at myself in the mirror and wonder if this "being an example" thing is really for me.  And I feel the guilt of just wanting this one more thing ... 

Being red in a sea of white ... not belonging in a world that everyone else belongs in ... it's a struggle ... 




Tuesday, March 25, 2014

READ SOME BOOKS IN 2014 CHALLENGE UPDATE

I set out to read some books in 2014.

No lofty goals for this girl.  No sir.

Just a simple "read some books" sort of goal.  Considering, I've had a real dry spell in the area of reading, reading any book is a step in the right direction.

So, far, I've read some interesting books.

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS by Rebecca Skloot.
THE CUCKOO'S CALLING by Robert Galbraith
LABOR DAY by Joyce Maynard
THE GOOD DAUGHTERS by Joyce Maynard

My favorites, so far, are LABOR DAY and THE GOOD DAUGHTERS.  While the second of the two titles, I was able to guess the plot, it still was well-written and left me thinking, "Wow!"  Just. Wow.
Well, check me out!  I've read four books in my READ SOME BOOKS IN 2014 Challenge.  I am rocking this out!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

GETTING MY ACT TOGETHER

Yesterday, I was told I needed to get my act together.

The person grading me on my lack of having it all together didn't have the courage to tell that to my face.  Rather, she told it to someone else.  Whether she meant to or not, the message was passed on.  I heard it loud and clear.

I will admit it.  Most times, while I would love to be perfect, I am very decidedly NOT perfect. Most days, I fall decidedly in the imperfect, messed up, jacked up, hopelessly flawed category.  Newsflash, we all do.

And yet, for some reason, in this age when you have this gigantic audience called Facebook and Twitter, that you falsely assumes cares, you feel the need to deflect your imperfections and highlight and magnify another's.  You think it's cathartic.  I find it mean-spirited and ugly.

The funny or ironic thing is this woman?  The one that felt I needed to get my act together? She's right.  I don't have it all together.  Not by a long shot.  In fact, allow me a few moments to list the ways in which I DIDN'T have it together this week:


  1. I responded, incorrectly, to a situation.  It didn't end well.  I probably made the problem worse, not only for myself but for countless others.  I've lost sleep over that one.
  2. I have been snippy and short with colleagues.  They didn't have the back story on my week, so they most assuredly felt slighted and misjudged ... more than likely dreamed scenarios in their mind for why I have been responding in said fashion.  I guarantee none of what they came up with in their minds matches reality.
  3. The looooooong winter has worn thin on just about everyone, including the 24 children in my classroom.  Patience and level-mindedness has not been a character trait anyone has held in the last few weeks. That wears on my emotions.  I'm human.  It's bound to happen.
  4. I have piles of papers around my desk that are threatening to bury me alive.  I WISH that was a massive overstatement.  It is not.  Most of those papers? I am some how suppose to analyze or dis-aggregate or plot progress points or file or read or put into practice.  Seven months into this academic year, and I am still struggling to find the time to do that.  You'll pardon me if I am just a wee bit stressed about that.
  5. We began assessing students because our government requires it of us.  And yet, for some reason, a number of people think this is my fault.  That I single-handedly created this thing called assessment.  That I spent years of my life in school devising ways to make every one else's life a living hell with assessment.  That I am the cause for every one's child who now suffers from stress-related health issues due to testing.  Okay, this might be an overstatement, but you see where I am going with this.
  6. If we are speaking about stress-related issues, after two very ugly encounters, my jaw and neck have started aching at certain times of my day.  The seriousness of this situation is not lost on me.  However, I have 24 students that I am responsible for their well-being and education and moral compass and making sure they get to my room on time and leave school on time and in the correct transportation and then still deal with the complaints about the lack of homework or the fact that there is too much homework or that it somehow didn't meet their child's ethnic, cultural, religious, non-religious, nutritional needs ... there just isn't anytime for me to pursue why my jaw and neck are aching.  I have my suspicions, however.
  7. I have failed to inform parents of testing schedules.
  8. I had to do some last minute cancelling of programs. 
  9. I have lost notes.  I have failed to send stuff home that I said I would.  I have buried to do lists....
On top of all this and the normal, every day stuff that comes with my job, there is this: 



 I ask that you take a moment to watch it. It's purpose highlights the plight of foster children, but I wonder if you could step into the shoes of this child's educator for a moment.  Did you notice how distrustful this child was of absolutely everyone?  I bet you're thinking, "Well, rightfully so!"  And you are so absolutely right. 

Let's take this video one step further.  Let's highlight this child in the classroom, where her entire day is consumed by thoughts of whether mom will be at the house, such as it is, when she gets home and in what shape she will be in.  What about that baby brother?  Will he have eaten at all while she's been at school?  So, when the lunch lady, following school directions -- no fault of her own -- makes her throw away the food she was shoving in her pocket, and the child completely flips out, making it nearly impossible for your child to learn the Math concept I had planned to teach today ... perhaps you have an inkling of understanding?  

Perhaps not ...

I don't have my act together.  If I did, I would have made the situations for countless numbers of my students through the years right ... a long time ago, when I first became aware of the situations ... long before the authorities stepped in.  I would have donned that super cape and swooped in to save these children, found safety and security and love for these kids.  

When you get on Twitter or Facebook and you lay out your side of the story, do you stop to think about the back story?  Or are you merely working to highlight the fact that I don't have my act together?  That any of us have our acts together?

The teacher that sent home work that you felt wasn't challenging enough or wasn't appropriate enough or didn't somehow meet your child's needs?  Did you speak with her?  Did you find out her struggle for finding something that a child who doesn't like to read, whom she is trying desperately to introduce the love of reading to, was trying whatever tricks in her bag that she could in order for your child to see the joy in reading?  Or did you immediately get on Twitter and complain? 

The bus driver that took twice as long to get to your house?  Did you stop and investigate why it took too long?  Or did you shoot from the hip and immediately tweet about eight different kinds of wrong that created for your child's life as well as yours?

More than once I've been diverted or delayed only to find out later that I nearly missed a nasty accident.  If only I had my act together ... OR praise Jesus, you spared me from death or horrible injuries.

You are absolutely right.  I do not have my act together.  None of my colleagues do.  But you can be sure we will work with every fiber of our hearts and minds trying to do the best job we can for every one of our kiddos.  







Monday, March 03, 2014

GROWING OUT -- An Analogy for Life

This "grow out" has been driving me crazy!  

Like every thing in my life, I want my hair to get to the finished product NOW.  I don't want to wait.  I want to look FAB-U-LOUS now!  Not tomorrow or the next day. NOW!

Oh, how this pervades my life, this incessant need to have every thing right now. Like a whiny, entitled child....

Today, while putting some styling gunk in this hot mess head of hair in attempt to tame the wings and whirls, it occurred to me: "Just go with it. You might find that the fun is in the growing out rather than the end product."

Why is it that I always come up with these nuggets while I am in the shower or in front of the mirror???  

Perhaps, deeply, it's because it's at those times I find myself at my most vulnerable, literally, naked, as well as figuratively so. 

I wonder how many times I've missed out on the fun because I haven't stopped to enjoy the grow out?  It's often in the grow out that we learn to enjoy the finished product. The work that goes into getting to an end result is so much more appreciated when we see the result of that hard work.  

There is a country song out there by another Michigan-born "kid" called HELLUVA LIFE.  Okay, yes, he sings about beer and girls and good times, and let's face it, helluva is probably offensive to half of my readers, including my mother. But I can't help but be captivated by the refrain, "It's a helluva ride... Yeah, It's a helluva life, it's a helluva life."

It's true.  This life?  It is a helluva ride.  Or least it is if you allow it to be ... if you stop asking for it NOW and just get out of the car, stretch and look around you.  Grand vistas stretch before you like never-ending horizons, and suddenly, growing it out doesn't seem so daunting.  

WHAT 42 LOOKS LIKE -- BODY IMAGE

I have committed to two things for this week and beyond, and I am just praying that these two things won't be bigger bites than I should have bitten off, if you know what I mean.

THING #1:  I plan to get on the elliptical for 15 minutes every single day.  I know, I know, it doesn't seem like a lot to you all that work out like crazy, but a sic month hiatus does horrible things to a body that wasn't all that fit and trim to begin with. So, having learned from my many, many mistakes, I plan to start off small and do 15 minutes every single day.

Today was easy.  I have a snow day.  Have I mentioned how utterly OVER this winter I am?  However, the snow day allowed me to sleep in, which I've desperately needed.  It is also going to allow me to do things like taxes and bills and just generally clean up this house.

THING #2:  This is the more radical of the things I am committing to, and it's for more than a week ... but I think ... no I hope ... this will be beneficial and work in my favor.  Ready?  I only plan to weigh myself monthly.  I know, right!?  RADICAL!  When I was doing Weight Watchers, one of my biggest downfalls was that weekly weigh-in.  My body was changing constantly, for the better, but if that scale went up for any reason (even gaining muscle, which I did a lot of), I got extremely discouraged and sabotaged myself.  A number, for me, is both a good thing and a bad thing, but I've come to decide, mainly a bad thing.  I tend to focus more on the number and less on the fact that I feel better and on those times that my body is attempting to tell me what makes me feel good and what makes me feel bad.

So, I weighed myself on March 1st.  It was high, not gonna lie.  But I do not plan to weigh myself again until April 1st.  Hopefully, I will see a difference in the number.

I want 42 to look strong and confident with a crazy, fun personality!  I DO NOT want 42 to look like a number.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

SAYING GOOD-BYE

One of my favorite people ever passed away yesterday morning.  My great Uncle Ev.

You never knew a more jovial person in the world than my Uncle Ev.  He told the funniest jokes and usually laughed the loudest at them. I think that fact was more enjoyable than the jokes themselves, actually.

See, this is what I dislike about growing older ... saying good-bye to those that have been in your life for what seems like forever. I am aware that it's going to happen, but I don't think that makes the saying of the words any easier.

My pastor says "this isn't our home," and he's right, of course. We're just here for a bit before we all meet in Heaven.  And I know I will see him and others of my extended family in Heaven one day.  I have the distinct legacy of long lineage of Christ-followers. Talk about a blessing!

In my mind's eye, Uncle Ev entered glory yesterday morning and was immediately met by my grandfather and another uncle we lost last fall, Uncle Ellery.  After the initial handshakes and pleasantries, I imagine Uncle Ev told him one of his jokes, laughed boisterously, and then said, "Where are the fish biting, boys?"



Saturday, March 01, 2014

WHAT 42 LOOKS LIKE ... The Series

After probably a six-month hiatus from any exercise whatsoever (an let's be honest, healthy eating as well), today ...

After months of not being able to fit into most of my "new" clothes ...

After months of feeling my "bad" knee getting more and more painful ...

I FINALLY strapped on the Exercise Uniform and hit the elliptical.

I will admit it.  It was an act of rebellion, this exercise hiatus.  I am good at that. The rebellion bit.  Just ask the 'Rents.  Pretty sure the gray hairs on each of their heads are from me and my uber rebellious nature as a sweet tyke.

I just got tired of paying attention to stuff that I was sure no one else in the world had to pay attention to (I was/am wrong, of course. Plenty of people are very careful about what they eat and what sort of exercise they get). Plus, my job got in the way.  It ALWAYS gets in the way. Oy vey, this job! Society would have me believe that my entire world revolves around those that walk through the doors of that school.

But here's the thing.  Society?  My kids?  Their parents?  My colleagues? My administrators? My friends?  My family?  Whomever is vying for my time and talents?  They don't live in MY body. Not a one of them.  They don't have to try to make this thing work daily until the good Lord calls me home.  The ONLY one living in this skin is me.  And man! I have to make sure I am doing it right.  I have a limited time in this thing, and if I'm not careful, I will running it into the ground rather than out into the sunset.

Up to this point?  Not so right. Pretty much the opposite of right.  I've been doing it all wrong.

Two years ago, when things got wildly out of control, I made some steps to take the control back.  I took steps to put healthier things in my body.  I took steps to make healthier, more active lifestyle choices.  And it worked.

I was happier.  People noticed it.

I was healthier.  My skin never looked better. People noticed.

I was slightly thinner ... 20 lbs thinner. People noticed.

And then ... I don't know what... I hit a plateau and a bad attitude, and suddenly, I was doing everything for every one, and the only one feeling the benefit was, well, every one BUT me.

No more of that nonsense!

The buck stops here.

I started off slow.  My knee will get worse before it gets better -- I know this from experience.  And there's no sense injuring some thing right off the bat.

But I want to shock people with what 42 looks like ... and in a good way.  Not at "holy crap, THAT'S what 42 looks like?  No thanks!" kind of way.

So, 42 looks like claiming a stake in my own life!  42 looks like taking back the control.

This is what 42 looks like ...