Stand Up Straight

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DISCLAIMER:  I ❤ my high school classmates – Some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever known grew up in the same little town I did. Loved them then, love them now. But I absolutely h.a.t.e.d. high school.  And now I teach high school.  Maybe I love it because I feel like I can make it little less awful for some.  Or maybe I enjoy the sweet redemption of figuring it all out now.  Either way, it’s all part of the most awkward, uncomfortable, confusing stage of development.  Nothing new under the sun.

 

“Stand up straight” is apparently what you’re supposed to whisper, like some weird form of Tourettes, to your self-conscious daughter any time she’s dressed up, in public, or otherwise already overwhelmingly preoccupied with her appearance.  And the automatic response of the daughter will always be…drumroll…the twitch/scoff/eye-roll combined with the deeper, more dramatic slouch, which translates from Cavegirl as “Leave me alone or I’ll embarrass you as much as you embarrass me.”  (“Ha!  Not possible!” –me now, as the mom.)

So why didn’t I?

STAND UP STRAIGHT joins my list of “Things I Would Tell My Teenage Self to Do Now That I’m Old and Know Some Stuff”, along with MOISTURIZE (even though super dry flaky skin is in during your teens.  sorry),  USE BOTH STRAPS on your backpack ya fool (even though no one will dare do this your entire four years of high school for fear of looking like a nerd…Thanks a lot, Urkel), and FORGET ABOUT BOYS…you’re not going to find yours here (even though your second grade teacher will officiate fake weddings for her favorite students, perpetuating the idea that marriage is your primary purpose in life.  somebody has to help sustain the population of small towns in Texas I suppose).

Here’s why I didn’t stand up straight.  I figured it out this week while observing slouching teenage girls.

Every school has cliques.  I teach at a very large high school now, and there are so, SO many.  Mine had two.  Cool, and Uncool.  The weed-out process is much easier that way.

In accordance with ancient law, Cool status could only be guaranteed to four girls and four boys – prettiest/richest girl and her best friend, cutest/richest boy and his best friend, and the top male and female athletes, and their best friends.  It’s the law.

An appeal can be made for special situations.  I’ll call this group Cool by Association.  CBAs can be promoted up from Uncool, but only while in close proximity to a Cool who acknowledges them, and only while properly cloaked in current brand names.  

Uncool included everybody else — musicians, thespians, lesbians, late-bus riders, super smart kids, fairly dumb kids, poets-who-live-in-trailerhouses, mouth-breathers, chubby boys with a sense of humor, and Wanna-Bes.  ( = girls who thought they were All That, when someone or something had clearly pre-determined that they weren’t.)

To this very day at high schools far and wide, the privilege of the Cools’ birthright comes with the responsibility to patrol and monitor the Uncools for confidence-levels deemed too high.  (Most Cools are born with eyes that can eradicate confidence.  CBAs can learn with diligent practice and imitation.)  Their primary targets are the Wanna-Bes, who tend to bring it upon themselves.  Trying a new makeup technique? – Side-eye with a hint of judgment!  Donning cutting-edge fashion? – Stare and pantomime holding back laughter!  Walking with confidence instead of staring at the ground in front of you? – Mimic, mock, repeat! a.k.a. Off with your head!  

The long-term scars are deeper than I realized.  I learned early on from these distinctions, that girls should NOT  have confidence.  Confidence equaled snobbiness.  Well-behaved conforming female Uncools, with ANY hope of becoming a Cool someday, are

  1.  not to accept compliments – discredit them as quickly as you can by immediately listing your flaws,
  2. not to stand up straight – if you walk with your shoulders back, you’re just trying to make people look at your boobs…big shirts, slouch, whatever, just hide ’em any way you can,
  3. permanently disqualified from ever fraternizing with the Cools if and when they decide to go past first base with a boy…in which case, you are granted lifetime status with the Sluts.  They live in eternal purgatory outside both cliques.  Sluts, lepers, kids with facial deformities, and fat kids with no sense of humor.  

So why, now, at 41, does it still feel awkward to adjust my posture, head up, shoulders back, core lifted?  If you haven’t read Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek, by Maya Van Wagenen, based on her 8th grade diary, you should.

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And when you get to the chapter about poise and posture, you’ll find yourself thinking about your posture, holding your chest up like a precious jewel is resting atop your beautiful breasts.  And it’ll feel nice.  And it’ll also feel like you’re trying to be something you’re not.  And that is why my mom was doomed to fail, trying to convince me to stand up straight and present an air of confidence.

And what’s so wrong with trying to be something you’re not?  To think you’re perfect is snobby, right?.  Thankfully, as adults, Cools and Uncools look a whole lot alike.  We’re all dressing ourselves now, we live in towns where our last names mean nothing, and there are very few athletes left.  We are grateful for ANY AND ALL compliments we receive, we admire each other’s confidence, and we’re all working pretty hard trying to be something we’re not – moisturizers, Pilates, (or Pilates cheap’n’easy cousin, Spanx), caffeine, repeat…We’re all just trying to recreate our high school selves, but this time with more wisdom, confidence, and kindness, and less drama, AquaNet, and junk food.

Also, I tell myself “Stand up straight” at least twenty times a day.  Moms know.

Other notes to 1990s Angie from the future:

  1.  You’re going to go back on your word to never ever stop tight-rolling.
  2.  Columbia House will send you bills for twenty years for that 99 cent Paula Abdul collection.
  3.  Musicians end up being the Cools.

Girl Power!

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{It’s not what you think.  I’m not a feminist.  Just defining some things that make life better.  And I’m a girl, soooo….}

The English language does an obscene injustice to the vast color-wheel of envy and coveting experienced by the common female.  Oh, we don’t like to admit it.  But admit it.  Even the best of us has experienced this little demon at some point in our life.

Looking back, my 20s and 30s were plagued with it.  I may not have been symptomatic, but I was a carrier.  Envy presented as “ambition”, but it was there.  Friends had higher paying jobs.  Other friends (or worse…the same ones) had *perfect* marriages (cough cough).  Other friends had nice homes (I realize now I was envious of absurd mortgage payments).  I longed for the country club membership, the nice car, achievements that would bait all the likes, the job that made me sound uber important, or the husband with one so that I could attain the highest of all female statuses…Housewifery.

So I joined the Junior League, bought the used Mercedes, spent money on clothes, got the Master’s degree.  Moved into the bigger house, bought tickets to Charity Ball, earned five half-marathon medals, and got a whole lotta likes.  Know where all that got me?  Exhausted and broke.  And even a little more envious because it appeared that others did it with such ease (cough cough).

Not that my 40s instantly propelled me into total WGAS-mode, but I must admit, I’ve been freed from the chains of the things I used to care the most about.  I’m sure this change was supported by moving out of Victoria and into a life of near-anonymity, as well as baptism into Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love way of thinkingEither way, I’ve found happiness in downgrading cars (come on and hit me with your best shot).  The last thing I want is no job (more jobs is actually what makes me happy).  And maybe even laster than that is wanting to dress up to go to a fancy restaurant or sit poolside with people who American Expressed their perfect lips and thighs.

After five years of half-marathons, I had one excuse after another – divorce, family in town, that little matter of the tib-fib fracture.  The last time I met up with my original running girls (why did we not call ourselves ORG?) was 2012 – I went to cheer for them and eat with them and hear their war stories from the course.  And I felt like a loser.  I love these girls with all my heart, but here they were, more fit than ever, obviously more reliable than me, and with more medals than me.  I was happy for them, but I was sad for pathetic old me.  Guess that was which friend I was.  The loser one.

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What. the actual. hell.  Same meet-up last weekend…they ran, I showed up to eat.  Guess what we discussed over Mexican food and the smell of Icy Hot?…Their run, of course. Their training.  Their journeys.  But also my book.  And my next book.  My happy grown-ass independent daughter.  My awesome new job.  Our years until TRS kicks in (I think this officially makes us adults).  Our amazing husbands and kids.  I’ve done a hella lot this year.  So training for a marathon wasn’t one of them.  WGAS!

I owe this realization to a meal and conversation about running in that very same Mexican restaurant ten years ago with the very same friends (God bless Lupita, whoever she is).  I owe a lot, in fact, to watching them both (should I call them Sarcy or Marah?) and their desire to study and truly learn the sport (thanks, RPG, for everything), commit to something and stick with it, and support each other through accountability and lots of laughs.  I have those traits!…just didn’t use them in the same way.  And guess what?  I’m not sure if I was more proud of their marathon or if they were more proud of my book.

Moral of the story:  In good times, and bad times, I’ll be on your side forever more.  That’s what friends are for.

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So yeah, that’s what friends do.  Sorry and sad it took me this long to enjoy it this much.

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The Year of the Titty-Baby

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Who knew a consecutive string of 365 days could be responsible for so much anguish in the world!  2016 killed people, I hear.  Politicians and media are at their all-time suckage level.  And worst of all – the Dab.

I have thoughts.

First, Liberia.  I’m writing a piece with a friend, and I’ve had to do some research on Liberia.  We may have a president with awful hair who is appalling and embarrassing and maybe even evil.  And we may have lost some people (who we never met) (most who were old) (who we stopped paying attention to almost completely until we binged watched/listened immediately after the news of their passing to show our love and devotion).  But guys.  Please.  We have homes with plumbing and cool air and heat and refrigeration and best of all Netflix!  We can walk out of our homes with our Netflix (without getting shot) and get in our car (without getting bombed) and drive to work (where we earn a decent paycheck) and hang out with friends (without getting Ebola) and go out at night (without being raped)…What a great year it’s been for US…Yay!!  If this has been your Worst Year Ever, you’re still one of the luckiest people on Earth.

The beauty of being American is, our politicians and media only affect you if you let them.  So you’re the one at an all-time suckage level if they bother you.  Plus, frown-lines, guys…don’t want ’em.

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Second, guess what.  Guess who made 2016 an embarrassment.  We did.  Maybe our ancestors contributed to our lineage of bad decision-making skills, so we can blame them a little, but we mostly did this to ourselves.  We gave the Kardashians an inch (big inch) and Donald Trump took a mile (big mile.  the biggest mile.  tremendous miles.)  We let news anchors fuel our thinking and GIFs and memes guide our emotions.  We’ve kinda been the weakest generation.  And our diplomas and degrees don’t mean much if we get our information from Twitter and mass media.

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So just flip the freaking calendar…it’s just another day on Earth.  People aren’t going to stop dying (especially if they keep getting old and/or shooting heroin).  Nobody decent is ever going to want to run for office again now that they see how that all works.  And the Dab will be replaced by something. even. dumber.

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I’m going to do the splits in 2017.  The center ones.  And I’m going to continue to gauge my happiness by the world around me.  The one I actually live in, the people I actually care about, and the life that’s actually treated me and mine very well lately, thank you very much.

The Green Piano Post

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Summer schlummer.  Whatever.  It’s over.

The great thing about blogging is you’re always blogging in your head.  The awful thing about blogging is you’re always blogging in your head.

This one’s been swimming up there for a while, but nonetheless, I give you “The Green Piano Post”.

So.  Sometime between 1970 when my parents got married, and 1975 when I was born, my folks spent their hard-earned G.I. money on – No, not a down-payment on a house…No, not stocks in McDonald’s – a piano.  God love ’em.  Such a beautiful hippie love story, and I’m proud of it to this day.  I’m pretty sure they were eating beans and rice or the equivalent, but By God they had a piano, and I know they sat at it night after night and played Kum-Ba-Yah and Puff the Magic Dragon and whatever else the Readers’ Digest Piano Book contained that was in a key that worked for their perfect triad:  guitar capo, piano, and vocal range.

Forty plus years later:  Their 1970’s flower child who grew up playing that piano now spends hours a week with her hot husband/love/bff/duet partner and his guitar/ukulele cranking out Kasey Musgraves and Symarip and Jack Johnson.  The same piano is featured in her newly renovated front room, and it hosts at least 12 different pairs of hands each week.

The variable:  Instagram and an obsession with paint.  So, you need some background here – I’m the girl who saw curtains she liked, couldn’t afford them, bought some similar curtains and painted each and every stripe the desired color…four pairs of 96″ curtains.  She wanted yellow and blue, not khaki and blue.  I’m the girl who bought a figure-flattering dress for her role as Grace Farrell in “Annie – the Musical”, but was told she couldn’t wear a red dress because Annie wore a red dress, so she spray-painted it with car upholstery paint until it was some weird form of black with a red sheen.  Also the girl who follows Annie Sloan Paint on Instagram because her motto is “Paint Everything”.

So when I saw a painted piano on her feed, I thought “huh.  I haven’t painted a piano.  I have a piano.  I have paint.  Why don’t I have a painted piano?”

Now, I’ve painted a lot of things, but nothing has caused me pause and reflection quite like this piano.  Nevertheless, with the kickass new home reno and no hope of a baby grand in sight, I just decided to close my figurative eyes and jump in.  LOTS of encouragement from hot husband, who, based on his experience with me, couldn’t believe that I talked about it and didn’t make it happen the same day.  I told him I needed to process this one.

So, after a couple of weeks of reflection, I stuck the brush into the green paint and touched it to the piano and knew that now I had to do it.  It made me a little sick.  Until two very strong feelings swept over me consecutively, in a very connected way.  In such a way that I’m not sure I’ll do it justice.

First, I was overwhelmed with the realization that those two hippies who could have bought food or a television or something else more conventional – bought a piano.  And then they made a baby, and their combined DNA created a baby who wanted to paint everything and play every song and sing every note and love everything deeply.  And I realized that they can’t get mad that I’m painting their piano – they made ME, and so it’s their own faultslashcredit.

Then, without warning, I was overcome by the feeling of gratitude for having a Nike husband.  To anything I want to do, his response is “Just Do It!” or something like it.  And he MEANS it.  It my past life (ex-life), I wasn’t even allowed to play the piano when ex was home because it “made too much noise”.  I was discouraged from painting all the things I wanted to paint because I would “diminish their value”.  So what am I even here for?  Something in me was programmed to want to make things different from everything else…What was really going to be negatively affected, the painted furniture, or who I thought I was?

So.

I love my green piano.  It is fun.  It says, “come play me…I don’t bite…we’re all just here to have some fun while we can.”  It speaks volumes about how much I love the way my parents raised me.  It sings a melody of the freedom that comes from finding your one-and-only who wants you to just keep being more of you.

And hey (this could have been my life’s motto), if you have to be an upright, be the funkiest one in town.

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ENFP -Why it’s fun/terrible being one

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One thing my boss learned about me in my final weeks at my job is that I’m a tightly-wound ball of loose, fun, colorful, frazzled yarn.  Or maybe I’m a loosely-braided ball of really hard, tough wire.  I don’t know…Who knows?!?!  She looked at me with great sympathy and said, “It must be really stressful being you – you’re a walking contradiction of OCD and ADD.”

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I was known as the free-spirit, the hippy, the rule-breaker, the “what box?” person in our office of 16.  So it seemed strange to her when I melted down in my office and busted out with the admission that my house was in disarray because of the reno, my treadmill was out of commission, and it made me feel like my whole life was falling apart.  Okay now that does sound dramatic.  However, I thrive on structure and schedules and to-do lists, yet I operate in un-structured spontaneous irreverent ways.  I finally realized that the lists and order are coping mechanisms I’ve developed to survive in the real world.

This got me thinking…Is there any part of me that is wholly and completely any one certain way?  (These things are probably not unique to ENFPs, and certainly not unique to me…just a little self-realization at 40, that’s all.)

Political views:  With regards to taxes, government-involvement, economic policy, domestic and global protection…completely Republican.  With regards to personal decisions …completely Democrat.  I realize this pretty much makes me a Libertarian, which pretty much makes me screwed.

Religious views:  My dad, grandfather, and uncle are/were Southern Baptist ministers.  I was raised in the church and am so thankful for it.  I like believing in the things the Bible teaches.  I like the way I feel/am/behave when I leave church.  I think a lot of the world’s problems would be solved if more people knew and followed Jesus.  I don’t believe everyone else has got it all wrong and are doomed to hell.  I don’t believe science had no part in this.  I don’t believe we should look any differently at people who don’t believe like we do.  I don’t believe what Christianity is taught to be, in most cases, was what was intended. And even if I’m still afraid to be so brash as to claim that any parts of the Bible are wrong, humans are.  All the time.  And we’re the ones trying to read/teach/impose it.  Language and metaphors and translations and interpretations are real actual things.  Jenn Hatmaker says it best in her book, For the Love…”If it isn’t also true for a poor, single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true.”  Fact check, mic drop.

Career:  I need someone to tell me exactly what to do, and then I want to do it completely differently and them not get mad.  Good thing I’m going to be a teacher again.

Homosexuality:  If you’re going to use the Bible for reference to claim something as a sin, you have to use the same Bible as your reference that God created everyone in His image.  Never met a gay person who was faking it.  Never met a gay person who hadn’t tried to be straight.  I have lots of friends who are gay.  Some of them are the very best at showing God’s love – why should I care who they show it to?

Gun control:  Guns should be controlled, but if I want one, please sell me one.  I don’t care about privacy when it comes to this topic.  I believe in lots of regulations here.  But I think the sudden surge in taboo-izing guns is part of the problem.  I want to be the one to decide who gets to buy guns and who doesn’t.  I think that might help.

Marriage/Family/Divorce:  Going to have to make this one a separate post.  Stay tuned.

Parenting:  I want to give them tons of structure, bedtimes, schedules, rules to follow, expectations to meet, with tons of independence, freedom, and self-expression.

Media:  I hate the media.  100% completely.  There!!!…I found something without a “but”.

**The Myers-Briggs Personality test categorizes ENFPs (Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perception…also known as Campaigners, Champions, Idealists) as constantly contradicting themselves because they genuinely see multiple sides to most situations.  Sorry not sorry.

In search of summer…

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I’ve had five days off since my last day on the job, yet, in typical fashion, I’ve managed to make sure I don’t feel like it’s summer break.  Not sure what’s in my head (single-mother syndrome?), but I’ve always tried my derndest to make sure no one has an opportunity to see me as “lazy”.  I feel like I’ve always been so excited about summer, but never really really done what you’re supposed to do with it.  Today might be different..

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This looks like what I feel like, minus the hat.  I don’t feel this confident in a white fedora.
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This is an actual photograph of me, for reference.

I’m going to justify some down-time today to write.  Kwame Alexander answered a fourth grader’s question, “What is the hardest part about writing a book?” with the response, “BIC.”  Butt In Chair.

Well my butt is in the chair, it’s 10a.m., I have a glass of Skinny-Girl wine in front of me and no bra on, so, by golly, it must be summer so I’m writing.

I’ve had a lot of posts swirling around in my head, and though I haven’t made time to write any of them down yet, I’m going to make a list of the posts I want to write over the next three or four days.

  1.  My soon-to-be-published book, Where Poppy Lives – past lessons, present timeline, and future plans
  2.  My conflicting views on just about everything & why they make me happy-slash-sad
  3.  Inspired divorce (this one might merge with #2)
  4.  Home reno update
  5. The boys of summer

I’m going to try something new for me…I’m going to leave this page right now, and I’m going to set up the drafts of each of these pages.  Then I can add to them as I think of things – this technique more closely resembles my brain anyway, so it might be a better mode of operation for me.  I will set them up, type a little, go get on the treadmill (better not take a second sip of this wine), and come back to each of them as required.

We leave for the lake (hallelujah) this Saturday, so my goal is to complete(ish) each of these by then because I want to be free of all brain activity by the time we get there.  THAT will truly feel like summer.  (Right?…I think…not sure I know what it’s supposed to feel like.)

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Wah, wah, wah. (ABC Challenge)

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I just deleted the whole post I had started (and almost finished) here because of how whiny it sounded when I reread it just now.  I’ve been crying a lot.  That’s it.  Don’t know why (maybe job-change, house in boxes for upcoming reno, band seemingly slowly dismantling, treadmill isn’t working, watching Call the Midwife, allergies, lack of sleep, being 40, maybe.)

In the meantime I blamed everything else imaginable.  I know it’s not my husband’s fault, or lacrosse’s, or his band’s, or anything else I accused.  But I can’t really fix any of the likely culprits.  So I’m going to stop whining.  (I might not be able to stop crying, but I can stop whining.)

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That’s it.  Short post.  If I keep going it’s going to turn into whining.  (And probably crying.) 

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