confidence

The R-word.

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Disclaimer:  Racism, police brutality, and racial profiling are not always connected topics.  Each can be as dangerous with or without the others present.  This post is in reference to a particular book and specific incidences of the three intertwined.

 

“But here are the words that kept ricocheting around me all day:  Nobody says the words anymore, but somehow the violence still remains.  If I didn’t want the violence to remain, I had to do a hell of a lot more than just say the right things and not say the wrong things.”  Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely, All-American Boys

It’s easy to sit in my culturally diverse suburb, and teach at my 40/40/10/10 school, and feel like a well-adjusted, culturally blended, superior-minded adult.  I, thankfully, grew up in a home that didn’t judge based on things the eye could discern.  And I sit in my house as I write this with my sweet black widow neighbor to the left, an Asian family across the street, a black couple next to them, and a multi-generational Hispanic family to my right.  AHHhhhh, what a lovely world it is that the pot is finally melting us all together!

But what about when the news stories hit.  What about when another case of police brutality involving an unarmed black man, or child, tops the headlines.

What then?  Oh, we don’t riot or vandalize each other’s lawns.  But our neighborhood quietly, politely starts to show lines of division.  Helen next door solemnly dons her “Justice for Michael Brown” shirt, while Dan down the street quietly applies a “Back the Blue” bumper sticker to his new truck.  Helen probably feels like the police are the new KKK, and Dan down the street can probably quote you all the times police have shot unarmed white men who don’t make the news.  And the family of the cop around the corner probably looks over their shoulder a little more for a while.  But neither will engage the other in any sort of debate.  Neither will call the other foul names.  Because nobody’s racist anymore.  Right?

I just finished reading All-American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, and I’m not sure why this isn’t required reading.  Right. Now. (For the record, I hate required reading…but hear me out…I’m making a point.)  Probably for the same reason the teacher in the book was discouraged (by administration) from continuing The Invisible Man after a student at their school was beaten by a security guard.  It’s too much.  It gets students all fired up.  Last year in the classroom across from me, an actual fight broke out after an essay about police brutality was assigned.  Oh, people talk about it all the time in one-sided discussions with like-minded friends.  But it’s no wonder people avoid the topic in mixed company.

For people like me, the “Oh I can see both sides and I know people on both sides so I’ll just stay quiet unless someone asks and then I’ll make it clear I see both sides” people, there is a lesson in a quote that expresses what has been tried and tested throughout history, through religious persecution, the civil rights and women’s rights movements, in times of war, and certainly amid the horrors of genocide:  IF YOU ARE NEUTRAL IN SITUATIONS OF INJUSTICE, YOU HAVE CHOSEN THE SIDE OF THE OPPRESSOR. – Desmond Tutu.  So, in essence, “seeing both sides” is the same thing as not standing for either, including the one you think is right.

Just as there are non-violent ways for police to apprehend innocent-until-proven-guilty-subjects and place the alleged crime in the hands of our multi-cultural justice system, there are ways to go about reading books like this one and discussing these topics with young people in a non-provoking way that promotes unity and affects change.

Just like this book.  Two writers from two different sides of American culture, who came together to write a book where the characters’ worlds were pretty well blended – much like the high school where I teach – but were fiercely divided in a time when headlines pit one against the other.  To them, and in the real world of 2017, being racist didn’t necessarily mean overtly hating other races…it meant subconsciously siding with your “own kind” regardless of the facts, or what is right.

And if you don’t think real old-fashioned racism still exists, ask yourself this:  Did your parents ever give you the speech?  The list of ways you have to behave if the cops stop you?  Never fight back.  Never talk back.  Keep your hands up.  Keep your mouth shut.  Just do what they ask you to do, and you’ll be fine (pp. 50, 289)…?  Just checking.

This chapter in American history has to end someday, right?  And it’s clear it’s not going to end with the older, scarred and divided generation. And it’s not going to end with or because of the polite generation I’m in.  It’s going to end with our kids.  Our students.  Our future.  They have to learn how to argue without fighting.  They have to learn how to disagree without hating.  They have to learn how to be different without excluding.

Because what if they don’t?

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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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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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Updates (ABC Challenge)

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The A-Z Challenge was over for most people yesterday…I’m a little behind, but I thought I’d take this opportunity to evaluate progress in the areas I’ve been challenging myself.

A- Acceptance:  Took the A-Z Challenge…still with it.  Took the new job…still excited!

B – Boys:  I’ve stopped trying to understand boys.  Boys and girls are not meant to understand each other.  I am still trying to educate my boys (the little ones) about girls and mostly how to navigate the differences and not piss off the ones you like.

C – Confidence:  Meh.  Wearing a short-sleeved shirt today – does that count?

D – Diet:  Bummed about this one.  Stopped most carbs and alcohol, started Insanity and Workweek Hustle with my FitBit (getting in no less than 10,000 steps a day)…Not a pound lost.  Depressed and discouraged, I rage-ate pizza and wings a few times.  Even besides that, probably not doing too well with this one – and DEFinitely not doing as well as I know how to (as my skinny gynecologist pointed out when I expressed concern about recent weight gain.  Bitch.  Jk, I like her.)

E – Expectations:  I’m realizing that my internal clock ticks really fast…that’s helped some.  I’ve also had a conversation with my hott husband that might have given me more insight than before on how his brain works and why some things don’t happen the way I expect them to.  Besides, I would hate it if I knew what went on in my head went on in his too.

F – Facebook:  This one took for a while, but then I found myself stoplight-scrolling uncontrollably.  Today, I’m going to make the conscious effort once again to not look unless I have something I specifically want to find.

G – Grout:  Picked it…going with the one that’s the most like taking me on a date…cheap and easy 😉

H – Husbands:  Great success in loving without fear.  It isn’t as hard of a task as I thought…and it feels so good.

I – Intoxication:  Went drink-free for 5 1/2 days.  Have had many nights without, a few nights with one (none while home alone), and a couple of nights with two.  Probably need to do a 5-day drought every few weeks.

J – Jeri:  Called her so she could keep rubbing off on me.  Need to do it again soon.

K – Keuka:  57 days on the countdown!

L – Learning:  Learned how to delete a row on an inserted table in Word today…so I’d say this one is a success 😉

M – Magazine Perfect:  I have forced myself to leave a few things out that are not bothering anyone.  I haven’t straightened the pillows on the boys’ playroom couch in over a week.

N – News:  This one has been great – not tempted at all.  And the couple of times that I’ve caught the news, it’s been glaringly obvious how terrible it is.  It’s like eating super-sweet desserts after you’ve given up sugar for a few weeks…bleh.

O – Over-analyzing/Obsessing/Over-observing:  Caught myself reading every license plate the other day and then spending way too much brain energy arguing with myself over what year model a particular car was, but otherwise pretty good, maybe?

P – Plans:  Kinda had a grip on this one, then had a long discussion with hott husband that made me shift my grip, if that makes sense.

Q – Quixotic:  Still me.  Still happy about it.

R – Reading:  Haven’t read in a few nights.  Might put down the pedagogy and pick up a YA novel that I’d want to recommend to my future students.

S – SCR (aka Hott Husband):  Love. Him. So. Much.

T – Testing and Treadmills:  Too soon.

U – Updates! – Done!

Quixotic (ABC Challenge)

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Full Definition of quixotic

1 :  foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals; especially :  marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action

This is me.  In a nutshell.  Emphasis on “nuts”.  Actually, maybe it’s a Nut’s Hell…hmmmmm…?

I have two things to say about this word – this word that I didn’t know until our band’s leader and songwriter wrote a song with the line, “So quixotically we press on toward the sunset” in a song called “Eden for Our Time”.  It’s stuck in my head, and since I’m trying to quickly catch up to where I should be in the alphabet by now, I’m going with it.

1st – I don’t care if the words “foolishly”, “impractical”, and “rash” are used to describe this trait, I like it.  I don’t want to change that part of who I am.  What I can and should change is the reaction I tend to have when my “lofty romantic ideas” don’t pan out.  I mean, it is kinda why I’m leaving my current job and going back into the classroom (aka, Angie-land), but I think leaving is better than getting upset (which is still the feeling I’m having every day that I’m finishing out current job).  Can I have these two things simultaneously?  Can I be a dreamer and a visionary and still learn to not get upset when the rest of the world doesn’t follow?

2nd – I need to learn more words.  I love words, and I love writing, yet I’m not particularly adept in the area of colossal superfluous colloquies…and I wish I was.  (I have to use the word “somnambulating” in a song on our upcoming album, and I had to ask what it meant AND how to say it…ugh.)

Cheers to Jack:

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Magazine Perfect (ABC Challenge)

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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)

this one

Grout (ABC Challenge)

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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 🙂

Facebook (ABC Challenge)

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I’m not sure how I feel about Facebook right now.  I’m kinda getting over most social media, but Facebook has particularly been bothering me lately.

I have 476 “Friends” on Facebook.  I know, we’ve all heard the talk around who’s really your friend, why you have certain people in this category at all, how some of your “friends” wouldn’t even speak to you if they saw you in real life…But that’s not really what’s bothering me.

I’ve recently developed a perceived physical sickness from scrolling ad nauseum.  I’m sure it has something to do with staring at a little screen, and probably NOthing to do with my aging eyesight.  But it’s even more than that.

I feel physically sickened by knowing so much about so many people – their kids, their jobs, their political and religious affiliations – only the parts they’re proud of, of course – and I don’t know why I need to know all of this, and I honestly wonder if parts of my brain are being overrun by irrelevant bits and pieces about people I may or may not actually care about – along with beautiful scenes in Italy and mouth-watering culinary masterpieces.  I certainly don’t need to take up space in the emotion department of my head with car accidents that happened near Lubbock, men being arrested for abusing dogs in rural Indiana, and a football player I’ve never heard of who has been accused of abusing his kids.  I love the quippy little smart-ass quotes, but I find myself replacing real human conversation with the recitation of funny things I read.  I love seeing pictures of my friends’ kids grow up, and I hope they enjoy the moments that I decide to share, but at times it almost feels like exploitation.  Most of the kids featured – mine included…most recent pic was a car-ride-napping pic – didn’t make the choice to have their picture passed around to hundreds of people.  And referencing my “Confidence” post, I too often find myself critiquing/judging things that have nothing to do with me or my business.

And I can’t leave the Facebook quizzes off my list – I don’t really need to know what state Facebook thinks you should live in, and I CERTAINLY DON’T NEED TO WASTE MY BRAINCELLS WONDERING WHAT STATE I SHOULD LIVE IN.  BUT I DO.

 

Next Self(ish)-Improvement challenge.  No Facebook until Sunday.  I know that’s only three-and-a-half days away, but it’s a first step.  I want to see how I feel, even though I already know.

This theme I’ve created has kinda turned into a monster.  I’ve sort of created 26 years worth of Lents into 26 days.  I’m not even Catholic – I don’t need this kind of pressure!!  Just kidding – I do.

Diet (ABC Challenge)

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I’m not talking about “dieting” in the American twenty-first century sense…I’m talking about diet.  I’ve been eating and drinking a lot of crap lately.

Today was my first day of my fourth round of the formerly-popular Insanity workout.  My hott husband (then hott boyfriend) and I bought a used boxed set of the DVDs off Craiglist in 2013 and started on April 1st.  It was also an all-important English I STAAR testing day for me, and I worked at the high school which required my arrival by 6:45a.m., and I was just coming off a ferocious tib-fib break that had birthed a titanium rod in my left leg, screws in two places, and a cut open and stitched back together knee-cap.  Thinking back on it now, I was one tough cookie that year.

But it was all about the challenge then.  I was out to prove something.

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The next year was good too…it was nice to feel like it was a little bit easier.  Last year I was such a slacker.  I was scheduled to have surgery at the end of the first month of the two month program, so I knew I was only going to get in one month.  I didn’t even do that month with any real vigor.

This year needs to be different.  I have added 10 solid pounds to my “normal” weight, 13 since the wedding.  I’m forty now.  And I’ve made the career decision for August that puts me back in the classroom where I’m happy and know I can feel my best.  My motivation has never been weight, and it’s a good thing because Insanity has never made me lose any.  But it needs to this year.

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So I’ve been announcing to anyone who will listen (my hott husband) that everything goes into high gear today…Insanity in the mornings (second Craigslist boxed set since we wore out the first set), healthy eating all day, walking in the evenings, and alcoholic beverages only for special occasions.  It’s only 8:03a.m., but so far I haven’t fallen off the wagon.  I have accepted yet another great challenge geared toward self(ish)-improvement.  Insanity will work on the outside, but diet has to be the focus to feel better on the inside.

I’m prepared to dress in pin-up fashion this Friday evening for the Art Car Ball.  Even if it’s only in my head, I want to feel better about my body from the inside out…and then I’m going to walk out the door with the confidence of someone who doesn’t judge (see yesterday’s post).

I’m also considering whether or not to provide myself some extrinsic motivation…thinking of registering for a half-marathon in some fun place – maybe San Diego?…Pretty sure hott husband wouldn’t mind a surf weekend soon 🙂

No gimmicks, packaged foods, or calorie counting…just good ol’ fashioned common sense and junk-food snubbing.  Here goes…

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Confidence (ABC Challenge)

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Confidence is a funny thing…it comes and goes, and not at convenient times.  I have been told many times – after dates, interviews, by friends and co-workers – that my confidence is one of my strengths.

It only makes sense that I’m an amazing actress, because this idea that I have confidence, much less enough to be admired, is one of the more bizarre things I’ve had to get a grip on as a human person.

I know the things that I am good at – I’ll even be so bold as to say that there are some things that I feel I am one of the best at…in my field…in this area…during this time period…but still.  Piano, art, teaching, all areas I feel truly confident.  I make bold choices for my home and I don’t worry about them or question what anyone else will think about them.  That’s confidence, right?

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There’s not even a word, however, for how I feel about other things…inconfident, unconfident, nonconfident?  It’s not the same thing as self-conscious, though I definitely suffer from that curse too.  It’s more that sense of being judged, being talked about negatively by the popular girls, being measured up against.  I can put on an outfit I love, fix my hair and makeup perfectly, choose accessories that I know people will compliment, feel fabulous about myself, and still as soon as I step out of the car to walk up to a place, I’m as close to panicking inside as a person can get without a diagnosis.  Does everyone feel this way?  Was my maturity stunted in junior high by some traumatic girl-incident that I’ve blocked out of my memory?

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Yesterday, my hott husband and I had a chance to take advantage of the perfect day and go out on the motorcycle.  We had been wanting to ride up to The Heights and cruise through the cool old revived neighborhoods and eat at BB’s to get our Cajun fix.  Since it was 70ish degrees outside and likely to cool down as the night wore on, I wore a Nike jacket, running tights, and my new snow boots since they are warm and cover my legs where they need to be covered to serve as protection.  We parked and started walking toward the restaurant where, I must say, I immediately noticed that everyone was dressed as if it was an occasion.  Standing in line to get a table, I heard a guy behind me say to his date, “those are some awesome shoes, aren’t they,” and I swear he was pointing at my shoes and snickering.  Granted, I would have been the person in line behind me thinking “What was that girl thinking?  It’s April in Texas – put the Uggs in the attic, or better yet Goodwill,” because yeah, sometimes I’m that mean.  Oh.  My.  God.  That’s why I’m inconfident…It’s my own fault.

What the person behind me should have thought, which was what I was screaming in my head, was, “THERE’S A VERY GOOD REASON WHY THIS INTELLIGENT GROWN-ASS WOMAN IS WEARING SNOW BOOTS IN TEXAS IN APRIL!”  And now, as I preach to myself, I must remember the same.

That tattoo might be weird and not make sense to me, but I’m sure that’s not how the recipient felt about it when they got it.  That shirt might be buttoned up two buttons too high, but she or he chose that number of buttons to button and who am I to judge?  Or CARE, for that matter?

I think what I’ve learned here is that I may never know true confidence in these areas until I learn to stop worrying about other people’s choices.  Accept it.  There it is.  Just accept it.

Actually, I’m thinking about the things I don’t understand about some people and I’m realizing how hard it’s going to be to just accept certain things.  So, I’m going to learn to accept without understanding.  That’s better.  It’s like agreeing to disagree, but better because I’M going to be better for it in the end.

Ugh…this is stressful already.  But I want confidence so badly – the kind that a forty-year old should have earned by now.  I’ll let you know how it goes…this might take some falling down and getting up.