Jeri (ABC Challenge)

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Geraldine Frances “Jeri” Nein-Nein Cox Wilson.

Lessons I’m still learning from my 90-year-0ld grandmother:

  1. Phone calls to say ‘hi’ can be quick.  Just let people know you’re thinking about them.
  2. If you work hard in your garden all day and eat what you grow, you can have ice cream every single night (with toppings).
  3. Almost every child ever is a handful – deal with it.
  4. Crafts and hobbies are wonderfully addictive.
  5. Squeal a little when things make you happy.
  6. Reader’s Digest is way better than television.
  7. Playing in the woods is way better than Reader’s Digest.
  8. It doesn’t matter what a person looks like, where they come from, what they’ve done – every single person deserves the same amount of love.
  9. You don’t need any more than you need.  If you have too much or can make more, give it to someone else.
  10. Walk fast – there’s lots to do.

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Intoxication (ABC Challenge)

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This next self(ish)-improvement challenge is way less selfish than the rest.  And it’s not one I planned on assigning myself when this A-Z challenge month started:  I’m going to stop drinking.

I know…it sorta feels like I just started!  I didn’t drink in high school – Not (only) because it’s illegal, but because I hadn’t met a drink I liked yet.  And in high school and early college, you kinda just have to accept what someone else is willing to illicitly provide you.  I did, however, learn to hold a drink in my hand.  I would accept a beer or a Bartles & Jaymes so that I didn’t have to go through the complicated turning-down-a-drink exchange, and then I would just hold it.  I might take a teeny tiny sip and try not to wince if I thought someone was watching, but that was it.

Then I discovered the good drinks.  But you had to get out of your house and go somewhere where they make them.  And then you have to pay for them.  So that was rare.

Then I got a divorce and had lots of time and nobody keeping track of my finances (including me.  another story.)  I went to Greek Bros. an average of two weekdays for Happy Hour and usually at least once over the weekend with friends or my band.

Then I moved here and stopped all that nonsense.  I married a man who makes the best drinks and is happy to make them.  And he gladly does a couple of times a week.

Then I learned how to make them myself.  Not a good thing.

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Last night, at a 40th birthday GNO, I had too many.  Yada yada yada, I woke up this morning knowing what I needed to do…Just stop.

I’m not saying I’m never drinking again, and I’m not setting an end date.  But I do know that it’s easier to be the one who says Thanks But I Don’t Drink than to only have one.

It’s a perfect storm right now, really…trying to clear my mind, get into shape, practice all this self-discipline I’ve never had before, save money, and I’m not stressing about my work like I was since I know I’m half-way out tha do’.

So here’s to tea and all the money and calories I’m about to save.  You margarita drinkin’ hooligans can have ’em all to yourselves.  Cheers!

 

Husbands (ABC Challenge)

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My soon-to-be new boss and I shared a few mom-to-mom moments at the conclusion of my interview a few weeks ago.  We found out we had both recently married the man of our dreams, both after raising kids and graduating them off to college, both gained young step-kids in the process – mine boys, which I had never done before, and hers a 12-year-old girl who they had permanent custody of, after she had raised only boys.

Early Friday morning, she got a call at work that I can’t even begin to imagine.  The 44-year-old love-of-her-life had a heart attack on the treadmill at his gym and died instantly.  Gone.  There are no words.  I can’t think straight when I try to describe how devastated (the English language is inadequate), completely world shattered, stopped, exploded, I don’t even know…can’t even finish the sentence.

How do you go on?  How do you even move your body from one spot?  My natural reaction to this was to cling to my husband.  I felt, in the depths of my soul, the fear of losing him and I began to program my brain and my actions based on this fear.  I realized that I was loving him even harder than ever, but it wasn’t fun.  It was emotionally draining.

I’ve only had a few long-term relationships in my life (that seems like it should be a given), but in the first two or three – beginning in high school – there were major issues with fidelity and truthfulness.  Since these were during my developmental years, I never learned what it’s like to trust – wholly, completely, without fear.  Even as much as I know, like KNOW know, that my husband loves me and is committed to me and would never hurt me, I also know we are humans and humans make mistakes, hence there is always something to fear.

I have been working on this for a while now – like intentionally and intelligently, and it’s definitely gotten better.  As time goes by, I have less “flare ups”.  In fact, I feel like I can truthfully say that I’m not afraid right now.  I have realized – finally, and due to the terrible news of a husband’s passing – that if it WERE to happen, it would have happened whether I was a blissfully oblivious wife or a paranoid untrusting one, and which way would I rather live?

With the news of my boss’s husband, I had to make myself make a quick U-turn from deciding to live like I might lose him tomorrow to living like we’ve got forever.  I want the same to be true with my trust.  I want to live this wonderful life with him and love him madly forever – but not from a place that’s founded in the very things I fear the most.  There’s too much fun to be had.  Challenge:  Cherish and treasure, but relax and enjoy or it was all in vain.

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.

Expectations (ABC Challenge)

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Last night, I was thinking out loud to hott husband on the phone (he’s in Atlanta on business) about what my “E” post should be.  Since the theme of Accepting Self(ish)-Improvement Challenges has poked its little head out, I now have parameters.  He first said “Exercise“, to which I explained, unsuccessfully, how yesterday’s “Diet” post was really more about Exercise.  I reminded him of my theme, and he – without hesitation – blurted out “Expectations“.

Ouch.

I know this is the one thing that sometimes tries to divide us.  I’m sure it’s really at the root of most people’s problems.  But we’ve definitely identified it as a big difference between the two of us, and my way of managing expectations as being the spark that starts most of our very VERY few conflicts.

Example:  I walk very fast.  I do everything very fast.  I can go to the store with a list of 20 items, get in get out and get home in thirty minutes.  I walk in the door, and hott husband says, “Oh my gosh…you did that in like two minutes!”  Husband doesn’t do anything hastily.  He – as people should – enjoys everything.  He loves to look at items in the grocery store, even if he has no intention of buying them.  He’ll see jelly with a funny name and make up a song about it, dancing in the aisle for a good solid five minutes.  He also doesn’t spend any brain cells trying to strategically plan his grocery run…He might meander from one side of the store and back and back again four times, and it doesn’t stress him out.  All being said, it takes him for.ev.er. to make a grocery run.  He walks in the door, I’ve been running through the three most rational scenarios that could have caused his delay (accident, phone call from family member, fire in front of the exit), so not only has my expectation of time not been met, but when he walks in the door I’m expecting his “Oh my gosh you won’t believe what happened” story to explain his delay.  Instead, he be-bops in the door singing his new jelly song, and the instant he sees “the look on my face, he knows what’s about to happen.  It shouldn’t be a big deal.  It shouldn’t even be a deal.  Why do I make it a deal?

He acknowledged on the phone last night that I haven’t done that in a long time.  But there are still little cases-in-point from time to time.  Not that our relationship is comPLETEly perfect, but it’s pretty dern close.  And I can control one of the tiny little things that blemish it on a monthly-ish basis.

I look at him – Mr. Positive – and wonder how it is that he doesn’t even seem to ever have any expectations that those around him need to try to meet.  And I realize that’s just it.  He’s positive.  I am much more of a Negative Nelly when put up next to HIM, and I’ve never had to see myself that way.

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I need to let him rub off on me.  Not only do I need to Let it Go, I need to not have IT to begin with.  This one’s going to be tough.  (I think I’ve said that about Acceptance, Boys, Confidence, and Diet.  Guess it’s part of the theme too).

In about four minutes I’m resigning from my job.  New chapter.  I don’t even know WHAT to expect, so I’m going to look at that as a good thing.  This might birth tomorrow’s topic.  🙂

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.

Boys (ABC Challenge)

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I’ve known a lot of boys in my life.  I’ve liked some, loved some, hated some, and been irritated by many.  But you don’t know boys until you’ve lived with some.

Not just one – not just your dad.  Dads are different – they can do all the boy things and you don’t notice because you’re a girl and it’s your world when you’re the kid.

I live in a house with three boys now, ages 10, 12, and 43.  They are not like girls.  And they have no interest in learning the ways of the girls.  The big one has at least known enough girls to be adaptable, and my goal is for the younger two to learn to do the same.

I’ve raised a girl – seemed much easier to me.  Critics will tell you otherwise, but they’re probably boys.

My goal as step-mom has evolved from wanting to be one of the boys to being one of the girls they get to learn about early.  I no longer feel bad asking them to do “boy” things, in fact I delight in it.  I no longer make apologies for wanting things to be clean, for curtains to be straightened out after rough-housing, for the certain reward for “hmmmm!s” and “ahhhhh!”s at the dinner table, and for the proper arrangement of throw pillows on every couch and bed in the house.

They will remember me when they meet girls that expect the same.  They may not remember me fondly, but they will not be shocked or dismayed by this behavior – and for that ONE day, they will be thankful.

Boys are great, and I love these with everything in me – the big one more than anyone I’ve loved in my entire life.  But I’ve come to the conclusion that you can’t make a boy into a girl, and you shouldn’t want to.

 

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.

Stage Crew Credits

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Being a step-mom is weird.  It’s nothing you can learn about from anybody else.   And I hate the term “Step-Mom” for all the reasons one would expect – including the only two adjectives I’ve ever heard preceding it…evil and wicked.  There are no (or if there are, I can’t think of them) popular examples of step-moms who are loved, appreciated, or revered.  There’s even a show devoted to stepmothers who murder their families.  As if.

I blame Disney.

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For the first year playing this role, I felt like a new mom – The boys’ bio-mom was scarce at best…I was Mom #1, and unmarried, so without the “Step-Mother” label.  It was great.

This past year, the ex-wife has re-emerged as Mom #1.5, and I have had to learn to play the role of Mom #1.5, and be introduced and known as Step-Mom.  It’s much harder.  They say “Step-mom” but it feels like “Step aside…we’ve got this”.

 

I started dating my dream guy when my daughter was 16.  Small-child-parenting days were over.  When she and I were on speaking terms, it was about jobs, colleges, ACTs, careers.  My dream guy had eight and six year-old boys.  It was never a decision – I never contemplated NOT being with him.  I would have taken him von Trapp style if that’s how he showed up.

But any of you who have been here know that it’s nothing like raising the first, biological one.  Older, wiser, less self-absorbed, and much MUCH more worried about screwing someone else’s kids up than your own.

So many things are different/harder with steps, boys, siblings.

Weekend before last, we had two events Friday night, two lacrosse practices, two lacrosse games, a birthday party, junior high solo and ensemble, and a high school musical on Saturday.  Then another birthday party, team photos, a grown-up painting party, and Scouts on Sunday.  I was joking with my hott husband (and the ex) that We Did It!…relieved that we hadn’t left any kids behind, hadn’t missed or forgotten anything (that we know of ;-/), and that was all with my parents and her sister in town.  Then I realized that I did nothing of logistical value.  I was merely the calendar keeper…I made sure everybody knew where everybody was supposed to be.  My hot husband did all of the transporting or arranging of transportation for everything.  He physically drove everyone everywhere they were supposed to be, and was the parent of record for both kids at each and every event.  I felt like I needed to take my “WE Did It!” back and apologize for not pitching in.

I felt bad – until I remembered these seemingly small but critical things (to which few people give/get credit):

Everyone had home-cooked meals, the little athletes and big coach had chilled water bottles, the birthday friends had wrapped gifts, everyone sported clean uniforms and nicely pressed band gear, we had reserved seating at the musical, and everyone slept on clean sheets.  I finally know what the home fires are and what it means to keep them burning.

Thankfully, I have a wonderful husband who praises every little thing I do to contribute, but I’m sure there are many who don’t, and THAT makes me understand why second marriages run an even higher risk of divorce than firsts.  I work harder raising your two kids than I did my own but I’ll never earn the endearing title that implies unconditional appreciation – “Just Plain Mom”.

It’s his turn to be the actor on the stage who everyone knows his name, and it’s my time to work backstage to make sure he has his props and sets and zipper up to deliver the thrills without a hitch.  It’s a role I’ve not only made peace with but become fond of, and it’s a love language I didn’t even know I had until I became Step-Mom.

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P.S. –  As I’m writing this, I’m picturing my hott husband driving around in an eighteen-wheeler (which he does not), with dark glasses and Ronnie Milsap hair singing,

“She keeps the home fires burning, While I’m out earning a living in a world that’s known for its pouring rain…
She keeps the home fires burning, Ooh and it’s her warm loving that keeps me returning again and again.”

🙂

 

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.

 

Could someone please pass the tradition?

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The Thanksgiving tradition for my family was set in stone, until us grandkids started getting married and having kids (and various renditions of those two things), which brings the inherent conflicts in schedules.  This also means that there started to be years without the sausage balls (sacrilege!), and then there were years with no kids’ table – which meant I had to be an adult…which hopefully didn’t mean I had to do dishes.  Yikes!  Hurry and take a nap on Grandma’s bed until the after-meal chores were done!  Nevertheless, holding to the “tradition” had become something unrecognizable and slightly less Thanksgivingy.

My hott husband was a Navy brat, and, with much of his family scattered around the planet, hasn’t spent any of his adult years living near the rest of his family.  So holidays are simply opportunities to get away – ski, surf, camp, etc.  The blended family that we are means our kids have other families who DO have traditions, so our take has been “pressure’s off…you don’t have to pick or split your Thanksgiving between family obligations…y’all go and have a good time with the ones who are tradition-oriented, and we’ll take advantage of the freedom to do/go wherever.”  One condition is required of our doing/going wherever:  Whataburger feast for Thanksgiving meal on two wheels.  This new tradition began simply because, unlike most places, Whataburger is actually OPEN on Thanksgiving!   Like most Texans, we love our Whataburger.  We eat there maybe monthly throughout the year, but Thanksgiving at Whataburger means Whata-sizing, extra everything, soda, milkshake (chocolate…duh!), AND fried apple pie.  We’re pretty sure we still come in WAY under the average American caloric intake.

Do my parents love this new tradition of ours?  Doubt it.  Do our kids care?  Doubt it.  Do we enjoy the opportunity to free ourselves of holiday obligations and chill in a camper, scooter parked outside at the ready?  Absolutely.  Do we spend a great deal of our time here expressing how thankful we are for this dream we get to live and the happiness we find in these simple things?  You betcha.

We love our families, we adore our children, but we hope and pray that they know that our happiness together is a testament to the long legacies of families who appreciate the simpler things – we’re just taking out the pressure of cooking, traveling, tryptophan comas, while using our time to relax and recharge so that we can be thankful EVERY day for this crazy/busy/wonderful life we live the other 364 days of the year.

Our way is not for everyone, but it is for us, and we hope the legacy we leave our children is to take this time of year to do what makes you thankful, whether that is celebrating a centuries-old tradition, starting a brand new one, or just taking the opportunity to rest and relax.  If you can’t be grateful everyday wherever you are, you’re probably not thankful at this time of year that is designated for giving thanks.  When you’re living the dream (even if it’s your own dream), appointed days don’t seem so necessary.

So what you’re sayin’ is…

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Two weeks to go.  Two weeks left in the 30s club.  Two weeks to lose more than those pesky five pounds that I can lose for every important weekend (Halloween, concert, etc.) but that find their way back after a couple of days of Indian food, wings, pizza, and no (seriously, no) exercise.  Two weeks to be where I want to be when I have to say that I’m 40.

Way back in my late 20s and early 30s, I ran the Austin half-marathon every year.  Every year my M.O. was completely different.  But one year, I created a playlist on a borrowed iPod.  I made sure I had two hours and 35 minutes of music on it – because I knew I better not take longer than that.  I alphabetized the playlist, and I estimated what song I should be hearing at each mile marker.  Knowing my alphabet would be a skill that would help me figure out if I was ahead or behind my targeted finish time.  I probably should have spent this valuable time actually training, but this was so much more fun.  The coolest thing ever – that I could not have predicted – was that I ended up rounding the corner of the capital building with the finish line in sight as The Eagles encouraged me to take it to the limit one more time.  Tears welling up in my eyes, arms and fists pounding as if I knew how to play the drums…Sing that intro in your head – yes, it was that beautiful.

I’ve scheduled my life out in little increments.  I’ve set goals based on high school reunions, weddings, vacations, milestone birthdays – goals that included weight (usually based on pre-determined outfits), career changes, degrees earned…where I wanted to be at what point, and how to know if I was ahead of or behind the deadline (or the curve, now I see).

Now, with this little adventure I started with this blog, I’m looking around at my life as it is, and something just occurred to me.  I was really down on myself last night because I haven’t been as hell-bent of a go-getter toward this self-employment thing as I am when I’m blogging more – which is usually when I’m unsettled about something – which is usually when change occurs.  I thought to myself (and out loud to my hot husband), “I’ve had all this time to do more toward my goal, and now that I’m all happy with my job and stuff, I haven’t done anything.” (pout)

How pathetic am I?  Complaining that my life is so great that I haven’t done anything to change it, and woe is me…I’m going to turn 40 with my life so great that I don’t want to change it…Waaahh!

I’m certainly not trying to brag (though I do have the best husband, kids, a house that I love to be in, a job that right now is my dream job, and wonderful family and friends, by the way), but I think I’ve been so caught up wanting to do something heroic and remarkable, that I’d lost sight of what the picture looks like right. now.  It’s like finishing my half-marathon with Take it to the Limit, but thinking about how much cooler the Wonder Woman Theme Song would be.  YOU’RE AHEAD OF THE SCHEDULE, WOMAN!  Quichyer bitchin!

(Wonder Woman is 64.)

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The Academy for Inappropriate Reading Levels and Writing Topics

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Pardon my rant and my break from this blog’s purpose, but maybe – if you read all the way to the end – you’ll make a connection like I did.

If anyone knows if such a school exists, please let me know so I can send a resume.  I want to work there, I want to send my children there (re-send the oldest one), and I want to watch the students blow the kids from Appropriate school districts out of the water on all things related to Life.

Who wouldn’t love for their child to be immersed in a culture- and vocabulary-rich novel, and watch them Skype with students from other states and countries so they could discuss the different ways to view the character and the problem from other points of view, and hear them discuss with their friends how a book and an author helped shape them into the person that they always knew they needed to be…?

Oh, sorry.  You can’t.  The title has the word “ass” in it.  Throw it out and ban it from any future conversations.  But continue on with your television, commercials, movies, and video games where violence and murder are the vehicle for entertainment at the touch of a button.

I’ve recently downloaded the podcast “This American Life” on my phone and I listen to it in the car constantly now – I kinda short-circuit if a call comes through or I reach my destination because I have to put the stories on hold temporarily.  It is a series of collections of short-stories, read by their authors…it’s SO great in so many ways.  I just finished #379 Return to the Scene of the Crime, and I can’t help but think of my junior high students and the writing experiences that could come out of it if only the language was more appropriate.

Apparently the kids at one local Appropriate middle school had been reading “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” but just had it ripped out of their tightly gripping hands because it was deemed “not an appropriate reading level for Advanced 6th grade students”.

I’m tiring of the word “appropriate” these days.

I went to a writing conference this past Tuesday and learned more, internalized more, and have done more with what I got from the presenter than EVER before in 17 years of being in this profession and going to conferences (zzzzz).  One word to describe this presenter?….Mildly inappropriate.  (okay, two.)  And he worked magic.

The students at The Academy for Inappropriate Reading Levels and Writing Topics really learn stuff.  I can only assume that their understanding of deeper and greater things and their desire to take risks and communicate significant (and insignificant) things in clever and crafty ways might outweigh the severe emotional damage done by hearing the word “ass” or learning compassion through children who knew no prejudices during the Holocaust when they’re 12 instead of 13.

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NEW THOUGHT, RELATED TO OLD THOUGHT

Maybe this is what’s happening to me:  I subconsciously know I’m going to make an exit from this job one day, sooner rather than later.  I always thought I wanted to have a school named after me.  Still not an unpleasant thought, and still not out of the question if I start my own school one day.  But it’s a long-shot, and I don’t even know who the people are who our schools are named for, nor what they did to get it there.  MAYbe, I want to go down in a blaze of glory.  On my way out the door, I want to shake this place up, poke the bear, stir the pot – pick your idiom – so much that this district will never be the same, and there will be folk-tales whispered about me in Language Arts classrooms when their doors are shut.  That would be much more my style.

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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.

 

Little House on the Pavement

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I was born in the 70s, but I consider myself having “grown up” in the 80s.  However, I’ve come to realize that growing up in the 80s in a small town is a lot like growing up in the 70s.

For a family who said they didn’t watch much tv, I remember a lot of tv shows.  My dad’s lunch breaks in the summers taught me to love Andy Griffith and the Monkees, I loved Rob and Laura Petrie and Bob and Emily Hartley like they were family, and my primetime viewing consisted of Hart to Hart, Moonlighting, and the Barbara Mandrell Show.

But I watched all of those with my parents.  The one show that I considered MINE was LIttle House on the Prairie.  I thought Laura was the coolest kid ever, Mary was the prettiest, and I’m pretty sure Michael Landon was my first crush.  I learned about mean feelings and how to deal with them thanks to Nellie Oleson. I thought it was amazing that a family of five could live in a one-room house and still like each other.

But now we have a camper.  And I’d like to live in it.  All five of us.  And make dolls and tell stories and hear the kids’ tired breath as they sleep after a long day of hard work and hard play.

Our second trip out with the camper was the first trip out with kids (only two staying the whole time…eldest came for dinner.)  My parents camped in the spot next to us – thank goodness because we’re still learning what to pack for these trips.  Now the camper is parked [illegally] in our street because we booked a spot for this next weekend – just me and my hot husband this time.

I think it’s the yin and yang of things…I’ve definitely found myself seeking balance through this weird time.  And I think I’ve unknowingly sought peace and simplicity in a way that eerily resembles the way I learned about it as a child…Ingalls-style.

Update on my Dreams in Development:  no new piano students added, no orders for paintings, but I did finish Phase One of the camper reno, and I finished writing my book!  And my hot husband has encouraged me to go all in and try to publish it fo’real instead of self-publishing or going to Kinko’s…he’s amazing.  Now I just need a GoFundMe account or to rob a Starbucks.  And I probably need to stop buying things.  Like groceries.  

I Double-Dog Dare Me.

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So I noticed something this week, and it is the reason I felt like I needed to post something tonight.

I texted my good friend Danette mostly because we haven’t made contact in a while, and she’s one of my most ambitious friends.  I told her I had started a blog – blamed it on what is likely a mid-life crisis – to which she texted, “Yay!!  Mid-life crises can lead to all kinds of great stuff :)”  And I thought, Wow…what a waste it would be to have a mid-life crisis and get nothing out of it!  I don’t want a new life in the way that I think most people do…I love my hot husband, I love my home and family and my ten-year-old car, I know that spending money won’t make me happier, and I’m still a generally happy person regardless of my career conundrum.

I think what I’m most dissatisfied with is the fact that I pursued what I thought would be the pinnacle of my career, and the further I get indoctrinated to it, the less I feel like my specific gifts and talents are valued.  And I feel most valued when I am doing those things that make other people say, “Wow, you have such a special gift!”

Thinking back, I do think my childhood spoiled me to that.  I was/am an only child, and I grew up in a small town where creativity was valued but not exercised by most.  So I stood out.  Or at least I felt like I did.  My freshman year in high school, I knew that most of my friends WEREN’T rearranging their parents’ living room or practicing piano or creating oil paintings for their dads’ offices.  They weren’t dreaming of moving to NYC to play for Broadway musicals and enjoy a career in interior design (I do drive a Nissan Pathfinder, which was what I wrote in my Senior scrapbook would be my dream car.  Score.)

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To my point – I don’t make moves in the direction of my dreams when I feel satisfied with my present;  it didn’t occur to me to go to college and earn more than minimum wage until I was pregnant with my daughter and realized that didn’t amount to much money for two people, and then I completed a four-year degree in two.  My last blog post was Tuesday – I proclaimed that I would sketch out my children’s book, and I did – all of it – finally.  My hot husband was at band rehearsal and I was feeling sorry for myself.  Plus, he’s amazing about praising my productivity while he’s gone.  I sketched out 13 pages, commissioned an illustrator, and explored my publishing options.  But Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and today, life has been good all around.  No authority has pushed me in the wrong direction, and work has been pretty gratifying.  And I’ve done nothing toward my book, my piano clientele, or my painting “business”.  (I did start on the camper reno today – pics to come…)

So I’m blogging because obviously when not provoked by dissatisfaction with my job, my strongest accelerator of action is to put in writing that I’m going to do something.  Blogging has become a way to dare myself into action…put it out there, and you have to do it or you were wrong, and I hate being wrong.

So here are the goals for the week:  Amid two Open Houses, one band parent meeting, a hair appointment, and shopping and packing for a Labor Day camping trip, I will – Nay, I MUST – edit and upload pages one through four of my book and enter Phase II of camper reno (Phase I – countertops and shower curtain – was completed today, Phase II is painting the walls.)

So thanks, Blog, for being the next best thing to a bad day at work.  Together, you and Bad Days at Work might actually get us to where we want to be. 🙂

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).