writing

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.

ENFP -Why it’s fun/terrible being one

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In search of summer…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wah, wah, wah. (ABC Challenge)

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

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

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

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Victoria Days (ABC Challenge)

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I spent 13 years living in Victoria, Texas, after spending ages 5-21 living in a small town just 25 miles away.  Previous to my life in that area, I lived in Kennedale, Burnet (at a boys’ home), and La Porte (another boys’ home) – all in Texas.  For brief smidgens of time in early adult-hood, I lived in Plano, Dallas, Vanderbilt, and Bay City.

I ran in various circles in Victoria – from teachers to piano students to church small groups to CAbi parties to volleyball moms to band gigs.  Through all of that, I probably had something to do with almost everyone in town at some point.  During my later years there, I came to the hard realization that there was no way I was going to be able to keep up with the lifestyle of my peers, and I found myself resenting where my circles had led (too much wine and spending too much money) and regretting the expectations my daughter had established growing up around friends with money and entitlement.  She was about to fall off the edge in various ways, and in an attempt to save us both, I moved us here.

I moved to our current city – a suburb of Houston – almost four years ago, and – other than the town where I lived most of my childhood – never had I felt more at home.  My husband has been here and involved for more than 13 years, and I do a lot of things with a lot of wonderful people here.  Yet, it seems like when I least expect it, my Victoria friends show up in the most extraordinary ways.

I posted an “offer” on Facebook to take old books off anyone’s hands – I need to fill my shelves with great books that freshmen will embrace.  I expected my current local acquaintances to chime in and help.  Not a peep.  Over ten offers from old Victoria friends in less than an hour though.  One offered to hook me up with hundreds of books leftover from the Victoria Public Library purge.  One offered me whatever I wanted from her school library purge.  One drove an hour to meet me to bring me a box of books (and drink mimosas).  And at least four others have offered to drop boxes of books off with my daughter for transport to me here. (One of hott husband’s H-town friends also offered books…I don’t want to neglect to mention her 🙂

I know it seems like a small, impersonal thing (books), but it puts a lump in my throat to think about it and feel the outpouring of support these folks show each other – and even me.  I miss that.  People in Victoria rally together.  People in Victoria don’t do anything alone.  People in Victoria are some of the most generous people I’ve ever known, and though I once felt like something of an outsider by the inherent “elitism”, I know they balance all of that out with their philanthropy, and then some.  It’s a little bit like a cult, but they didn’t disfellowship me even when I moved away and haven’t talked to them in years, and even though I never had to resources to help them in the same way they helped me.

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Our band’s second album.  Didn’t feel the nostalgia it refers to at the time.  And it might not have been my best of times, but they are truly the best of people

Social media helps maintain bonds that otherwise would fade away with time.  I know I gripe about Facebook, but I know in my heart that if I moved to Botswana and was craving Whataburger and one of them found out, somebody would raise enough money to build a Whataburger in my village.  I may not be one of them anymore, but I want to return the love and goodwill any way I can, and I will be eternally grateful for the way our lives intersected while they did.

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!

Testing and Treadmills (ABC Challenge)

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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.

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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.

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(Really???? Gag me – I don’t mind the STAAR, but I’m certainly not going to attempt to motivate teenagers by having them reach for a test.)

 

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.

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Reading (ABC Challenge)

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I’m not sure how deeply I can delve into this subject in one post.  But since I’ve accepted this new exciting teaching position, I’ve been paying way more attention to the gurus, who, it turns out, operate out of good old common sense – something I think our schools have forgotten how to do.

So in honor of my “R” post (on the day I should actually be on “W”), I thought I’d share some nuggets of wisdom from my favorite book right now by my teacher-crush, Donalyn Miller (world’s biggest advocate for self-selected, non-graded non-worksheeted reading):

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(some research cited from other sources within the book)

“…students in remedial settings read roughly 75 percent less than their peers in regular reading…Students who do not read regularly become weaker readers with each subsequent year.  Meanwhile, their peers who read more become stronger readers – creating an ever-widening achievement gap.  Dubbed the Matthew effect by Keith Stanovich…The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”

“Students who don’t read, even if they are capable of completing reading tasks at school, run the risk of falling behind students who read more than they do.  After all, Mark Twain reminds us, ‘The man who does not read great books in no better than the man who can’t.’

“My husband, a self-proclaimed slacker in school, figured out that when he finished his assignments earlier than other students, his reward was more work.  He began to work more and more slowly, stretching out assignments that he could easily have finished…”

“I do not advocate reading to my students because it is good for them or because it is required for school success.  I advocate reading because it is enjoyable and enriching.”

“What makes reading painful is when it takes longer to do reading worksheets about a book than to actually read a book.” (-a student named Sklyar)

“Students are not reading more or better as a result of the whole-class novel.  Instead, students are reading less and are less motivated, less engaged, and less likely to read in the future.”

 

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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OverAnalyzing/Obsessing/OverObserving (ABC Challenge)

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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.

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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?

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News (ABC Challenge)

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This one is easy…Already started, in fact.

Watching the news is a horrible way to start your day.  Watching the news is a horrible way to end your day.  The news is pretty horrible.  Don’t get me wrong – I was a news junkie for many years.  I like certain news anchors, love obsessing about the weather, and like to feel “in-the-know”.  But frankly, all of that was masking a vulgar load of emotional baggage being pumped into my veins and brain and heart.  Murders, smash-and-grabs, scandals – every day.

With the onset of our Insanity workouts, I’ve been able to thwart my usual routine of waking up, turning on the news, and drowning my daily vitamins with Spark.  I know I don’t have time to be lured into the circuit of stories – it’s a trap…their teases really do work (on me anyway).

I’ve found very quickly that I don’t miss it.  None of it affected me, like, at all, anyway.  I can look up the weather on my phone.  I can make an educated vote in November without knowing how many affairs each candidate was accused of having, how their maid afforded a vacation to Maui, or if they – gasp – took the subway to work this morning.

News on a pro re nata basis only…just like Facebook.  All part of the brain cleanse.  That is all.

(Bye, guys.)

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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)

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Learning (ABC Challenge)

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Next on my Report Card of Life and things marked as “Needs Improvement”…Learning.  I felt like high school was a lot of time spent doing things that would never matter in real life, and I hated high school.  I felt like college was everything I was ever going to need in life, and I loved college.  And I loved graduate school.  And I loved the classes I took after grad school.  But I block out the noise and flip the “Ignore” switch if someone tries to teach me how to hold a golf club or explain north, south, east, and west because why do I care? 

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And thus, you have the summary my self-diagnosed learning disability.  (Second opinion from husband confirms.)

I don’t really think I have a disability – Contrary to the definition of a disability, I’m pretty sure I chose mine and practiced it to a craft.

It is one of the big reasons why I am so happy to have resigned from my current position to go back to the classroom.  My current (soon to be ex-) job requires me to learn how to do a lot of things that I don’t really care about, and they all make me feel mentally disabled.  The things I DO like to learn about in my job all have to do with teaching and learning.  I’ll learn about learning all day from Donnalyn Miller, Jeff Anderson, Kelley Gallagher, Penny Kittle, Julie Lythcott-Haims, and just about any Ted Talk I can get my hands on.  I love learning about forensic science – that post is coming soon.  I love learning about eating right and home decor.  But try to show me how to import a document into an Excel template and customize the margins, and you might actually be able to hear the sound of my brain powering-down.

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I’m happy that, as I’m writing this, I am firmly reminded that I do still have the superb capacity to learn new things.  It’s the learned-stubbornness against things that I rely on others to know that I need to try harder to shed.

*voice in my head*  I’m still having a hard time understanding why I need to fix this flaw – I don’t feel like this one affects me or anyone else negatively…Geez, I must really have a lot of work to do on this one.

Keuka (ABC Challenge)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 🙂 )

 

 

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.

Accepted (ABC Challenge)

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The challenge said “A to Z”, doesn’t sound so hard to me.

Twenty-six days of blogging – I blog twenty-six times a day in my head.  But maybe – maybe – that’s the challenge…ONLY twenty-six things to blog about.

I read the challenge, contemplated, and accepted.

Cocky.  Sometimes I pretend I’m confident.

Acceptance means commitment.  Acceptance means challenge.  Acceptance means a schedule.  Acceptance means I could fail.

I accepted a new job last week (haven’t told my boss yet).  But I’ve committed.  I’ve been challenged.  I now have a schedule.  And I could fail.

So just as I accepted this A-Z poetry/blog challenge, I accepted a job that will make me have to plan every day again, deal with something new every day again, and put a huge part of myself out there for judgment, scrutiny, and personal and professional evaluation every day again.

But that’s what I’ve missed.  So here I am – Challenge Accepted.

 

Draft Mission Statement 1.0

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“Contemplation, concentration, anticipation, revelation…”

Lines from a Coastal Bend B-side non-hit (not that any of our other songs have made it onto the FM dial, but still).  A line our song-writer-leader-producer Tim wrote for me to sing.  I’m quite proud of the final cut of the song, but the morose nature of his creation certainly isn’t a sing-along that’ll win over new fans at your local bar…

It came to mind just now as I’m trying to write a mission statement for my life – an assignment given to me by my boss after I shared (under duress) with her the fact that I wasn’t sure I was cut out for this job and that maybe I should go back the classroom.

Then, sitting next to Danette in writing group – who showed me a post about Coastal Bend (my band) – I couldn’t help but get stuck on these lyrics (just be glad these aren’t the ones I decided to tattoo on my hip in an earlier state of duress).

After reassuring me that I AM the right person for this job (…and other flattering things I’ll get into later), my boss asked me to do two things before making a decision – one of which was to write my own personal mission statement.  She wants to see it when I’m done, and we’ll analyze whether it’s the mission statement of a teacher or that of a curriculum specialist.

I’ve written one draft already and deleted it because it was quite contrived to fit my current mood.  I always seem to connect lyrics to songs to how I’m feeling – and then proceed to sing loudly so that all the land is on my page – so I feel like the place to actually, and honestly start, is with these lyrics.  “Contemplation, concentration, anticipation, revelation” sums up what I love about people and teaching and my job and what I want to do and get better at and shout from the mountaintop.

Please ignore the fact that the name of the song I’m quoting is “Waste of Time”.  The line from a Coastal Bend song that I DO have tattooed on me is “Let Me Show You How to Fly”…which would be much more appropriate for my Mission Statement 1.0.

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I believe my earthly “job” is to inspire.  Though my content skills may be surpassed by others, there is something about the transference of attitude, desire, and sound philosophy that intrigues me.  It is the one element common to all of my jobs and hobbies that I think about night and day…How is what I am doing going to inspire others?  It motivates me to push myself in ways that nothing else will.  I haven’t mastered this art, but I long to more than any other professional goal.

Stay tuned.  This will get better.  Otherwise, I think it tells me I have a career in a commune somewhere where Becca teaches Yoga and I close the day with an inspirational quote worthy of Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley.

This forty got me feelin’ like…

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I don’t like it.  So far, not so good.  On a personal level, my life is still awesome.  Hott husband, adult daughter who is proving to be more and more mature every day (or maybe more accurately, more or less mature every day), a job that allows me to do the things I am passionate about (even if there are facets of it that make me want to hide in bed), younger kids who are pleasant, smart, and healthy, finances are in order, book is being published, etc, etc, etc.

Body-wise…ick.  Oh, people told me, “just wait until you’re forty”, “you can’t lose weight after forty”, “your eyesight goes after forty”, “blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”  In my mind, I always thought they were just super grumpy people who finally found something on which to blame their afflictions.  Not me – no way.  Why on earth would, one day – suddenly – my eyesight, health, AND metabolism all decide to abandon me simultaneously?

Guess what has happened in the two months since I’ve turned forty…  I can’t see a thing up close without cheater glasses on.  I’ve gained five MORE pounds – totaling 10 since the school-year started.  I’ve developed panic attacks, acute occasional anxiety, vertigo, my first back-ache, and a whooshing sound in my right ear that sounds like a baby’s heartbeat in an ultrasound sounds, except it’s mine.  My heartbeat.  Now projected through my right ear so loud at times that I can’t pay attention to what people are saying.  Nice.

Had my hormones tested.  Normal.  Had my ears checked.  Nothing.  Got off the holiday junk food kick.  Gained five pounds.  W.T.F.???

Every day I just want to come home and get in bed.  I want to watch tv and scroll through Twitter and drink Prosecco.  I have to get over/through/past this, but suddenly it feels like that would require going backward in time, and that hasn’t been invented yet.

I need to feel obsessed with something healthy again.  Tonight, we started a writing group at my house.  There are five of us at this very moment.  Five of us, sitting, writing, conversing with some one or some thing via hands and words.  I don’t think we’ll change the world.  I don’t think we’ll change our own worlds.  But I do think this is the vehicle that has motivated me before, and it’s the method of choice for me deciding to whip my body’s ass back into the land of the living again.  And I’m grateful for the time and kindred spirit that we all can share so that I’ll leave the tv off, stay awake, and write.

So as before, here are my professions:  1)  I will eat right this week, 2) I will exercise with the enthusiasm of a model, 3) I will drink more water than alcohol, 4) I will pretend I’m 39 until my body stops acting like it’s 40, 5) I will write at least twice a week.

When President Obama speaks, I always seem get caught on something he said that just bugs me more than the vocal majority.  During his executive order speech about gun control a couple of days ago, he stated something about the fact that gun violence in America has little or no correlation to licensed gun owners.  Then the very next thing out of his mouth was a very stern, presidential, “I reject that thinking!”  If he can reject a fact, then so can I!  I am 39 and 14 months.  Forty is for suckas.