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.
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.)
That’s it. Short post. If I keep going it’s going to turn into whining. (And probably crying.)
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 wish – so badly – that I knew how other people’s brains worked. I don’t feel like mine is normal, if there even is such a thing.
It would give me some peace to know that everybody’s brains were completely unique – like a fingerprint – so there was no “normal” to compare to. But I have a feeling that there is a range of brain and thought patterns, wide as it may be, and mine is way outside the range.
OVER-ANALYZING: I wish I didn’t always care what people’s motives were. When someone does or says something, I like to interpret what they really meant. I like to try to figure out what they’re hoping my response will be. When I was single, this was bad enough, but then I had a child, and now a husband plus two, and I do it for all of us since none of them seem to care to do it for themselves.
OBSESSING: As I’ve probably explained quite well so far, I obsess about a lot of things. But the thing that probably qualifies me for medication and possibly some federal funding is the obsession I feel when I find out I don’t or didn’t know something I should have known (fill in the blank with just about anything that either didn’t affect me, didn’t matter, or wasn’t at all a big deal). I want to know why, I want to know who’s job it was to tell me – is my email broken? do people not think about me? do I even really exist??? I will obsess until I get to the bottom of it – which usually involves knocking some people down along the way and talking really fast (and not listening to “answers” that don’t do anything to “answer” my questions.) Apparently.
OVER-OBSERVING: If you’ve been an acquaintance at any time in my life, I’ve known what you drive, and if I’ve passed you ever on the road, I’ve seen you. I probably waved and you didn’t. I’ll notice every discarded tag in the bathroom trash, any set of blinds that is turned a slightly different angle than I turn them, and any Q-tip that doesn’t look like it came from any of our ears. I should have been a detective, because this super-power does me no good whatsoever in my everyday life. Also, I seem to be the only person at work to utter the words “Y’all match!” It’s a wasted gift, really.
What I want from all of this is to be Oblivious – some of the time anyway. I don’t want to take prescriptions or do illegal drugs. I think it’s probably why I like a little drinkiepoo every now and then. Any suggestions? Meditation? (Just so you know, I’ve tried to be a pray-er, but I don’t focus very well, and before I know it I’m planning dinner or remembering to return my Stitch Fix, and then a few hours later I remember that I need to say in-Jesus’s-name-I-pray-Amen.) Anybody? Same?
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)
In 73 days, this family will make its annual pilgrimage back up to the holy land – known to others as Keuka Lake.
I hear all of the Finger Lakes are spectacular, but Keuka is the one where I’ve perched for two solid weeks of relaxation each of the past three years. My hott husband has been there almost every summer of his life. And last summer, it’s where we celebrated the 50th year of Maga’s Lake House and we were married on the dock in a perfect little gathering.
His family home there is warm and welcoming, its hosts are laid back and gracefully hospitable, the lake is cool and clear, and the people are friendly. But even if these things were not true, there’s something else extraordinary about this place…
They have a time-travel portal.
If you count their horses, the Amish might outnumber televisions, and they definitely outnumber air conditioners. You might find some of what you need at the little grocery store, but you still need to stop at the butcher’s, the Amish market, and the fruit stand. The summer days are long, the tables are large, and the windows are open.
But here’s my favorite part of the time travel there: kids get to be kids – without instructions or a plan or an itinerary or supervision, all day, all the while learning more than we could ever teach them. Our kids and the neighbor’s kids run all day – All. Day. – up and down from the lake to the woods and around again. They fish, build forts, make up games, swim, kayak, sail, paddle, run, run, run, did I mention they run? everywhere? When they’re hungry, they figure out how to eat while running. When someone gets hurt, they clean each other’s wounds. They celebrate the big catch together. They come up with creative things to make out of trash from the gully. At dinner, plates get clean, stories get relived, brothers don’t fight, and a good hard sleep comes easy. They strategize plans to most efficiently accomplish the assigned daily chores. You can’t make this stuff up! But they can. And they do. For four weeks straight. They learn more there without adult supervision than in all the time and money we adults (collectively) try to “invest” in their development. NOTHING is as important at their age as learning things for yourself. That is hard to find in the suburbs, my friends.
It seems like these days, if your kid turns out to be a self-sustaining adult, it almost has to be in spite of us, not because of us. My father-in-law dropped this wisdom on us a couple of years ago – “Don’t handicap your kids by making their lives easy.” But we do it every day.
My adult daughter is a walking reminder of this. It is abundantly apparent what aspects of her life I kept out of and gave her independence, and which aspects I stunted her growth by treating her like she couldn’t do it on her own (well, right, enough, etc.)
Challenge/Reminder: I am going to stop doing for the kids what they can do for themselves. Obviously, there are time constraints and bedtimes, but their ability-level is way higher than we give them credit for…and there’s a lot of things they should know how to do by this age, but they don’t – simply because we’ve never taught them.
So I might be the bad guy around here for a while, but in this whole step-parenting adventure, I’ve learned that my role is sometimes different than the parent – but just as important.
(Pretty sure it would be a big help if we do what we keep saying we’re going to do and cut off the cable…So many of these challenges are actually going to save us money – I’ve saved money on eating out, not drinking, not picking grout ((oops))…Feelin’ Pre-tee Good 🙂 )
Geraldine Frances “Jeri” Nein-Nein Cox Wilson.
Lessons I’m still learning from my 90-year-0ld grandmother:
- Phone calls to say ‘hi’ can be quick. Just let people know you’re thinking about them.
- If you work hard in your garden all day and eat what you grow, you can have ice cream every single night (with toppings).
- Almost every child ever is a handful – deal with it.
- Crafts and hobbies are wonderfully addictive.
- Squeal a little when things make you happy.
- Reader’s Digest is way better than television.
- Playing in the woods is way better than Reader’s Digest.
- It doesn’t matter what a person looks like, where they come from, what they’ve done – every single person deserves the same amount of love.
- You don’t need any more than you need. If you have too much or can make more, give it to someone else.
- Walk fast – there’s lots to do.
This next self(ish)-improvement challenge is way less selfish than the rest. And it’s not one I planned on assigning myself when this A-Z challenge month started: I’m going to stop drinking.
I know…it sorta feels like I just started! I didn’t drink in high school – Not (only) because it’s illegal, but because I hadn’t met a drink I liked yet. And in high school and early college, you kinda just have to accept what someone else is willing to illicitly provide you. I did, however, learn to hold a drink in my hand. I would accept a beer or a Bartles & Jaymes so that I didn’t have to go through the complicated turning-down-a-drink exchange, and then I would just hold it. I might take a teeny tiny sip and try not to wince if I thought someone was watching, but that was it.
Then I discovered the good drinks. But you had to get out of your house and go somewhere where they make them. And then you have to pay for them. So that was rare.
Then I got a divorce and had lots of time and nobody keeping track of my finances (including me. another story.) I went to Greek Bros. an average of two weekdays for Happy Hour and usually at least once over the weekend with friends or my band.
Then I moved here and stopped all that nonsense. I married a man who makes the best drinks and is happy to make them. And he gladly does a couple of times a week.
Then I learned how to make them myself. Not a good thing.
Last night, at a 40th birthday GNO, I had too many. Yada yada yada, I woke up this morning knowing what I needed to do…Just stop.
I’m not saying I’m never drinking again, and I’m not setting an end date. But I do know that it’s easier to be the one who says Thanks But I Don’t Drink than to only have one.
It’s a perfect storm right now, really…trying to clear my mind, get into shape, practice all this self-discipline I’ve never had before, save money, and I’m not stressing about my work like I was since I know I’m half-way out tha do’.
So here’s to tea and all the money and calories I’m about to save. You margarita drinkin’ hooligans can have ’em all to yourselves. Cheers!
Compelling topic, right? I’ve been tossing around all kinds of “G” words, should I tie into what’s going on in my life? Should it be metaphoric? I toyed with Girls (as opposed to Boys), Girlfriends, Group (I heart my writing group girls), Gravy (who doesn’t love gravy?!), but I’ve settled on Grout.
We’ve decided to go all-in on our house. My hott husband got this house for such a great deal…stole it really…that even if we did all the things we would want to do in our wildest dreams, we’d still owe considerably less than what the house is worth. We plan on staying in this very house for another 10ish years, so we want to enjoy it and not wait until it’s time to sell to start updating.
(That’s not my house, btw.)
I’m madly in love with Saltillo tile. I’m pretty sure it is connected to my childhood memories of nice expensive homes and my current emotional relationship with Mexican food restaurants, but I love the look – especially contrasted with our eclectic style in art and furnishings.
We’ve had two bids, and two different professional opinions about the actual tile installation – particularly the grout choice.
I may have mentioned before that I am not a patient woman. But I, myself, would like to compliment myself on the self-inflicted patience that I now find myself comfortable with. Rather than be in a great big hurry to ready set start go finish yay like I usually (always) am, I, a mature woman now, have recognized that our lives are too hectic for home reno at this time. Lacrosse practices, car pools, piano lessons three days a week, writing group, just to name a few, equal too many bodies and feet in and out all week. Everything can come to a screeching halt in May, and I am perfectly fine with that, thank you very much.
But I find myself paralyzed by grout right now. I’m perfectly happy – as usual – saying “Whatever is cheapest and looks cool and you can start right now right?” But this might actually hold up our start date more than anything else. Epoxy or cement grout? I’ll spare you the list of pros and cons because this isn’t a home improvement blog. It’s about my inability to make this decision. I haven’t seen epoxy grout in person. I haven’t lived with either one for decades to know which is easier maintenance and better longevity. And I don’t hold the checkbook. (I have a checkbook, duh, just not one that has enough money for home renovations in it. Sometimes it can barely buy a home renovation magazine. Another topic.)
I’ve made major life changes that apparently took more guts than the people who seem to be impressed by them have, I can change careers, get a divorce, move to a big new city with one friend after 13 years with many, and I’ve purchased 16 cars since I started driving. But I can’t change cell phones, and apparently I can’t decide on grout.
There are some decisions I don’t really like to make because they’re things that I don’t care about but somebody else might (where to eat). There are some decisions that I make with no problem because I DO have strong opinions about many things (who to vote for). But I can’t make this one, and I don’t want it made for me either. And I don’t really think it’s that fact that bothers me as much as the fact that I’m not used to being the one who has to go and seek out the information I need to make the decision.
Because what if I’m wrong.
That’s what this is about, I suppose. I am paralyzed by decisions where there actually is a right choice and a wrong choice, and I can’t handle that responsibility. I just want to call my dad and say “tell me what to do”. Most difficult decisions that I have been able to make easily, it’s because I’m willing to work to make what might have been a bad choice into a good one. This is one where I can’t fix it if it’s wrong, and I can’t bitch about it if I just don’t like it.
Such a small thing with such big implications. I guess I’m off to start doing my research. I’ll update with my findings, in case anyone cares. I need to see it, price it, and consumer-report it. As Nike says and my hott husband lives, Just Do It.
In other news, the Diet and exercise are going great! It’s only Thursday, but I can see and feel a difference. I’m about to practice some real big Confidence…going into a meeting to present to a few people who have petitioned my public beheading. Haven’t been on Facebook and haven’t missed it one bit. And Expectations, a work in progress. (Small episode last night, no need to talk about it now.)
I still feel like a blog is me talking to myself, but I’ve started reading many of yours, and I’m completely driven now by the rewards of being on both sides of a blog. So thanks 🙂
Last night, I was thinking out loud to hott husband on the phone (he’s in Atlanta on business) about what my “E” post should be. Since the theme of Accepting Self(ish)-Improvement Challenges has poked its little head out, I now have parameters. He first said “Exercise“, to which I explained, unsuccessfully, how yesterday’s “Diet” post was really more about Exercise. I reminded him of my theme, and he – without hesitation – blurted out “Expectations“.
I know this is the one thing that sometimes tries to divide us. I’m sure it’s really at the root of most people’s problems. But we’ve definitely identified it as a big difference between the two of us, and my way of managing expectations as being the spark that starts most of our very VERY few conflicts.
Example: I walk very fast. I do everything very fast. I can go to the store with a list of 20 items, get in get out and get home in thirty minutes. I walk in the door, and hott husband says, “Oh my gosh…you did that in like two minutes!” Husband doesn’t do anything hastily. He – as people should – enjoys everything. He loves to look at items in the grocery store, even if he has no intention of buying them. He’ll see jelly with a funny name and make up a song about it, dancing in the aisle for a good solid five minutes. He also doesn’t spend any brain cells trying to strategically plan his grocery run…He might meander from one side of the store and back and back again four times, and it doesn’t stress him out. All being said, it takes him for.ev.er. to make a grocery run. He walks in the door, I’ve been running through the three most rational scenarios that could have caused his delay (accident, phone call from family member, fire in front of the exit), so not only has my expectation of time not been met, but when he walks in the door I’m expecting his “Oh my gosh you won’t believe what happened” story to explain his delay. Instead, he be-bops in the door singing his new jelly song, and the instant he sees “the look“ on my face, he knows what’s about to happen. It shouldn’t be a big deal. It shouldn’t even be a deal. Why do I make it a deal?
He acknowledged on the phone last night that I haven’t done that in a long time. But there are still little cases-in-point from time to time. Not that our relationship is comPLETEly perfect, but it’s pretty dern close. And I can control one of the tiny little things that blemish it on a monthly-ish basis.
I look at him – Mr. Positive – and wonder how it is that he doesn’t even seem to ever have any expectations that those around him need to try to meet. And I realize that’s just it. He’s positive. I am much more of a Negative Nelly when put up next to HIM, and I’ve never had to see myself that way.
I need to let him rub off on me. Not only do I need to Let it Go, I need to not have IT to begin with. This one’s going to be tough. (I think I’ve said that about Acceptance, Boys, Confidence, and Diet. Guess it’s part of the theme too).
In about four minutes I’m resigning from my job. New chapter. I don’t even know WHAT to expect, so I’m going to look at that as a good thing. This might birth tomorrow’s topic. 🙂