music

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.
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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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SCR (aka hott husband) (ABC Challenge)

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Today, on the 44th anniversary of my hot husband’s birth, I submit to you a small pictorial sampling of the things he does that make me smile.

The vast majority of these are from events related to music, sports, water, or motorcycle rides (several are even a combination of more than one) – things I enjoy the very most in the whole wide world.  Though I would still be the happiest girl in the world if we never did anything or went anywhere and had no money and no friends, I thank my lucky stars every day that I get to ride this ride with him…my dream guy.

I think he was put on this earth to do so many amazing things, and he blesses so many people with his gifts and his love and his passion.  But it’s a big enough task to thank him for what he does for little ‘ol me, so I’m sticking to that for this post…

Happy Birthday, My Love!…Thanks, People Makers! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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Forward Progress Under Review

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Before
Before
After counter re-do and new shower curtain
After counter re-do and new shower curtain
After wall-paint :-)))
After wall-paint :-)))
Favorite hack: over-the-door-organizer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not sure exactly how many steps forward I’ve made this week (a lot), and I’m even less sure how to quantify the steps backward I’ve made, but I’m hoping through all of the efforts and disasters that I’m at LEAST one step ahead of where I started.

Much like in football, it’s difficult to measure and celebrate your successes when other things – in completely different areas – have gone so, so wrong.  Let’s start with the positives:

I’M PUBLISHING MY BOOK!!!!  Hallelujah, Praise Jesus, I’m doing something with this story after 10 years.  I don’t know why I have these blocks up in front of some of the things that mean the most to me, but it’s been like the birth of a baby after a long, long pregnancy (I guess).  I “purchased” a publishing team with a great reputation, particularly with the subject matter that I’m touching.

I FINISHED THE CAMPER BATHROOM!  Not nearly as gratifying as the book, but it sure makes going to the bathroom fun.  For me.  It’s probably a little girly for the three males in my house, but I think camping is pretty masculine itself, and I get dirty and smelly like boys, so at least my bathroom will be pretty 🙂  And I’m pretty much the only one who doesn’t pee on trees anyway.

MY PIANO LESSON SERVICES ARE ON CRAIGSLIST!  Again, not really worthy of ALL CAPS, but I’m sticking with a theme here.  I realize that if I pick up four or five more students with this I will be a little busier than I like, but I can’t quit my job until I have everything ready to go in other areas so I can just slip the job out from underneath and it’ll be like, “whoa, girl, you’ve got so much going on, you really had to quit that job thing.”

It’s much more difficult to acknowledge the negative things that have happened (duh).  (1) I think I’ve lost two of the piano students that I had just started the summer.  Their schedule was funky, and mine’s been too funky to be that flexible…They haven’t said they’ve quit, but I know the signs.  (2)  I’ve gained a solid three-four pounds.  You may laugh, but if you’re laughing you’re probably not 5’2.  And I know exactly why – I haven’t woken up early enough to do much exercise, and I’ve been eating more carbs than a carbivore…I blame the Astros and allergies.  (3)  There is dust on most of the surfaces in my house, there is [folded] laundry on everything with legs in my living room, and the dishes in the sink might be from more than just last night.

Those things may not sound bad to some people, I realize that.  But these are three things that I obsess about.  Yes, I obsess.  Compared to my hot husband, I obsess about everything.  But compared to most, I think I am among the “normal”.  I obsess about people I feel like I’ve let down – one of the biggest drag-you-down feelings I can think of.  I obsess about my weight – I’ve been overweight before, and I don’t care what doctors say about the number on the scale…one pound quickly turns to two which quickly turns to thirteen, and thirteen is to a short person what fifty is to the rest of you.  I obsess about my house because, well, I like it clean and picked up and I don’t like it dirty and messy.  They say that the organization of your house/office is an outward display of the state of your mind (chaos vs. structure).  But while I know my mind is waaaaay more scattered and disorganized than most, I find peace and sanity in a clean, organized house.  [Cue Jack Motley’s folksong “Who the Hell are ‘They’?]

After further review, I’ve realized that my body feels too tired and carbed out to show how freakin’ happy I am about the book, the camper bathroom, the piano ad, and my hot husband.  But just so you know, I’m stoked.  The call on the field has been confirmed.

 

To my people…

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I’m realizing how weird – and wonderful – it is to write to an imaginary audience.  I imagine that there are thousands of you out there, waiting with bated breath on my next post…dying to hear the next chapter of my melodrama…discussing it with your friends…

In reality, I’m pretty sure my only visitors have been my lifelong best friend (Hi, Kendra 🙂 and my mother (Hi, Mom 🙂  And yet, I write as if there are throngs of middle-aged mothers looking for direction for the next step in the quest for liberation from “the man”, or the ones who simply know they’ll just live vicariously through me on my journey to the dream job.  My hot husband thinks I’ll be on a talk show one day and I’ll get to share these initial posts with all the bandwagoners, due to the Oprah effect of course, and these preliminary posts will matter.

So for all of you future inspired spouse-employer-covered-benefit moms…here’s the development of the drama since we last parted:

Yesterday I missed being a teacher on the first day of school.  I watched teachers get hugs from last years’ students, and today I passed through hallways of sweet, deodorized, obedient children who all love their teachers still.  The first week of school is the worst and the best for everyone.  Then I sat in an office with my boss for six hours, chomping away at a to-do list – but I didn’t quit my job yesterday.  (I feel like I deserve a treat any day that I don’t quit my job now.  Today it was homemade cheesecake.)

Today was a whole lot more of what I love – team meetings, conversing with teachers, looking for needs to supply, teachers to support, and students to serve.  But then I came home and took my pent-up frustration and loss of control out on my daughter and my hot husband.  And now I feel like a terrible person.

SOLUTION:  Start working on my “what I have to do to quit my job” list.  My hot husband is at band rehearsal, I don’t have any piano students or painting orders this week, so I shall write.  I’m getting out my yellow legal pad and my favorite pen, and I’m going to sketch out the ideas for a children’s book that have been swirling around in my head for almost 10 years now.  My beloved grandmother’s 90th birthday is in exactly one month, and since she’s a part of the story, what better gift to give her.

Adios, my people.  I must go and write now.  You may feel abandoned at the moment, but when you purchase my book for your children and nieces and nephews, you’ll be glad I left the blog world to bury myself deep in the craft of changing lives.  Until tomorrow… (or whenever I make it back on here).

The day that everything changed…

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11752614_10153452935057445_4987833713088427603_nJuly 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.