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?
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.
So, if you’re one of the few, the proud, who have followed my journey into figuring out what I want to do now that I don’t need benefits – aka, my mid-life crisis – you’ll know that I’ve recently resigned my “coveted” (ha!) position as Curriculum Specialist and taken a job back in the classroom. I guess I’ll call that Step One.
I’m mixing reality shows, but somewhere between Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader and The Biggest Loser, I know that at some point, a failed contestant has to look at the camera and say, “I am NOT smarter than a fifth grader,” and Bob Greene says to the kicked=0ff contestant “I’m sorry, but you are NOT the biggest loser.” I feel like when I walk off this job on June 14th, I’ll gladly look into a camera and say “My name is Angie, and I am NOT a curriculum specialist.”
And that makes me proud right now. I want to be a teaching specialist…A kid specialist, a learning and reading and thriving specialist, but not a curriculum specialist. Sure you have to have a curriculum – even though I managed to be a successful teacher for many years either without one or without paying attention to one. But I understand you have to know what you’re supposed to teach, and by nature, you need some measure of your and your students’ success with those goals. And since there are thousands of teachers in Texas – hundreds or more of which are not naturally good – there has to be a common assessment.
I don’t want a common classroom, though.
My treadmill broke last week, and it’s been stressing me into a depression. I’ve learned to do my running and walking in the comfort of my pollen-free bedroom while watching Keith Morrison lay out the details of murder after riveting murder. There is no way on earth I’m going back outside in the dark where the mosquitos are and it might be humid and there aren’t – fortunately and unfortunately – any murders to be solved. So I’ve done no running or walking, just cursing a lot at my treadmill and the scales.
So here’s where I’m going with this: The scales are how I measure and celebrate my hard work on the treadmill. But without the treadmill, I am stubbornly content to just watch that number go in the wrong direction and bitch about the broken treadmill – as if that’s how to fix it. Tests are how we measure our hard work in the classroom – Is that the way I’m going to measure and celebrate my hard work with kids??? Of course not! Never have, why start now?!? I want to find alternative ways – aka “the right ways” – to sneekily achieve what our advantaged students achieve – without the moaning and dread and copy machine. I know this is possible. Dear friend, colleague, mentor, in a conversation with a Resource teacher, flailing a STAAR practice workbook and bitching about the broken copier, reminded her that what kids really need to is to be reading. Resource teacher said to friend, “It’s not what your kids need, but it’s what my kids need,” (paraphrasing) to which friend replied, in her head, “My kids don’t need that because they REEEEAAAADDDD!!!!” I know these truths to be self-evident.
So translate, brainiac! (me to self) – If you can find alternative ways to facilitate a learning environment that achieves the same (or better) measures of success in the classroom, why are you so uncreative and unwilling with the running?? You ran outside for decades when it was all you had, but you’ve been spoiled. Would you be complaining about your kids scores if you had given up on them too?
Not sure what the challenge here is, but I think it’s along these lines: You know what the goal is, and you know what your resources are, and you know what you have to do…Don’t blame a broken treadmill for your lack of activity. And don’t ever blame a set of broken standards for your lack of creativity.
I just Googled this term, and it’s not even a thing. It was at 510 Brodie when I was growing up. This term, apparently made up by my mother, embodies so many wonderful things about my upbringing and heritage, and so many things I can’t seem to give up.
Are all obsessions bad? I feel like this one is just one of my quirks (I think I’m justifying a lot of these post topics that way lately…) But it is an obsession nonetheless – one that causes undue stress almost every day. I’m not expecting – or even wanting – to turn this one completely off…just moderate my expectations.
If I was going to cast someone to play my mother in a movie about her life, I would have a hard time deciding between the proper Hyacinth (from the BBC) and the oh-so-southern Paula Dean (from the South). She’s the juxtaposition of keeping up appearances and lovin’ Jesus while cookin’ with bacon grease. Her mother (more like a mixture of characters from Dallas and The Beverly Hillbillies) wasn’t too much different in her appearances/housekeeping/presentation standards. On more than one occasion, I called to ask if I could drop by and see her while I was in her area, and she declined because her house wasn’t presentable.
Much like my grandmother, I don’t want people to see my home in any state other than “Magazine Perfect” – the term my mother used to distinguish whether she wanted me to merely clean my room – dust, vacuum, empty trash – or arrange it for the magazine photographers who were inevitably going to drop by unannounced to take pictures of our interior for Southern Living magazine – bed made, throw pillows and blankets strategically staged, frames placed on shelves by height and in odd numbered groupings, and stack of classic novels innocently gracing my desk…and of course I want it to appear effortless. (She never told me these were the things I had to do – I just created that as a definition.) As a kid, I preferred “magazine perfect” to cleaning. It involved throwing un-pretty things in my closet and desk drawers (’cause what kind of wackadoo photographer would take pictures of desk drawers???) and making things look pretty. Nowadays, I enjoy cleaning too, but I still – honest to God – have the thought in my head that a magazine photographer might show up on my doorstep, and By God I’d better be ready.
Like I said, this obsession isn’t ALL bad. I love living in a tidy house. I love the compliments from people who drop by. I love things looking nice. But most people really don’t care. I don’t get that, but they don’t. This probably goes back full circle to my Confidence post. I don’t feel like I judge other people if their houses are messy (I kinda do if they’re dirty), but I do find myself grateful that I live like I do, and I do expect to be judged.
Here’s what I need to focus on: Who do I feel like I need to make happy? The answer should be me and my family. It does take a regular cleaning and a regular picking-up to make me happy. It takes very little to make my family happy – I want them to care, but they just don’t. And I should see this as an opportunity for some freedom from stress…I’m going to try.
*voice in my head* I’m going to be SO mad if a magazine photographer really does show up on a day I’m practicing not caring. SO mad.
(in my head, that’s me below)
July 1, 2015, I married the man of my dreams…He’s gorgeous, talented, thoughtful, smart, hilarious, and he loves me like crazy and knows how to show it (yay me!) But I didn’t need a marriage certificate or ceremony to prove it – I’ve known those things since a few minutes after I met him.
That blessed day set into motion a laundry list of paperwork that led to a name change and savings on health insurance. On July 30th, I had identification, bank cards, a paycheck, and a name-plate on my office door that told everyone I was legally Angie Ruth (yay me!), but the role was one I had played for awhile, so it wasn’t a huge adjustment.
The day that everything changed kinda came and went unnoticed. It was a Saturday, we were in San Antonio for the Ska Festival, and what happened that day didn’t even make it onto my radar until yesterday, August 22nd.
I had a terrible week at work, and for the first time in the past handful of years, I – right at this moment – am not looking forward to the weeks ahead. I have made my way from teaching first grade to college and finally made a vertical career move to Junior High Language Arts Curriculum Specialist (yay me!). But this week I contemplated a first grade teaching position, full-time subbing, and sacking at Kroger. I had figured up how much I could make earning less of a salary and compensating with more piano students, more advertising for my personalized paintings, and maybe an Etsy store for my little homemade artsy things.
Then it hit me – My whole adult life, I have wanted to own my own business…In theory, it would be a store-front with rescued resale shop finds, repurposed furniture, and piano lessons going on in the back. What has stopped me?…Fear, and the need for insurance coverage…but mostly the need for insurance coverage. As a single mom for eight of my 19 years of parenthood, and a virtually-single parent for the nine years of my first marriage, I had prioritized my life around a steady income and a job with benefits. I had always worked multiple side jobs because I knew better than to squander the gifts God decided to give me (yay me!)
On August 1st, however, my employer-provided insurance was no longer needed as I was officially covered by my wonderful husband’s policy. Simultaneously, over the course of the last few unpleasant weeks at my job, my interest in upping my game with my side jobs has suddenly surged. Yesterday, I figured out why…
Now that I don’t need benefits, the world is my oyster! I could – feasibly – one day do all of the things I love and make the money I make now, and I could control my own work life.
Now that I don’t need benefits, I am going to do my job within the means of my sanity, I’m going to live my life and take care of my family and invest in my talents and interests with reckless abandon, and if my job no longer fits AND is no longer financially needed…buh-bye! Now that I don’t need benefits, what seemed scary now seems like what I am supposed to be doing.
If you are reading this, you’re at the beginning of a journey that I have no idea where it’s headed…We might do just like I did when I moved to Dallas as an 18 year old and drive around lost for what seems like forever just to end up where we started. But even then, it was the journey – not the destination – where the learning took place.
We’re going to try a few new things in the coming weeks – redecorating a camper, trying Skype piano lessons for the first time, starting a children’s book, and juggling a 7th grader in school band and sports, a 4th grader who is gifted in areas that I want to nurture more, and a 19 year old who is attempting online classes to work around a full-time job. My husband is coaching two sports and working on his MBA, and I like to cook and clean and paint my toenails, especially when I should be doing other things. Thank goodness I have a hot husband.