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.



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.



Forward Progress Under Review

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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.)


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).

The day that everything changed…

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11752614_10153452935057445_4987833713088427603_nJuly 1, 2015, I married the man of my dreams…He’s gorgeous, talented, thoughtful, smart, hilarious, and he loves me like crazy and knows how to show it (yay me!)  But I didn’t need a marriage certificate or ceremony to prove it – I’ve known those things since a few minutes after I met him.

That blessed day set into motion a laundry list of paperwork that led to a name change and savings on health insurance.  On July 30th, I had identification, bank cards, a paycheck, and a name-plate on my office door that told everyone I was legally Angie Ruth (yay me!), but the role was one I had played for awhile, so it wasn’t a huge adjustment.

The day that everything changed kinda came and went unnoticed.  It was a Saturday, we were in San Antonio for the Ska Festival, and what happened that day didn’t even make it onto my radar until yesterday, August 22nd.

I had a terrible week at work, and for the first time in the past handful of years, I – right at this moment – am not looking forward to the weeks ahead.  I have made my way from teaching first grade to college and finally made a vertical career move to Junior High Language Arts Curriculum Specialist (yay me!).  But this week I contemplated a first grade teaching position, full-time subbing, and sacking at Kroger.  I had figured up how much I could make earning less of a salary and compensating with more piano students, more advertising for my personalized paintings, and maybe an Etsy store for my little homemade artsy things.

Then it hit me – My whole adult life, I have wanted to own my own business…In theory, it would be a store-front with rescued resale shop finds, repurposed furniture, and piano lessons going on in the back.  What has stopped me?…Fear, and the need for insurance coverage…but mostly the need for insurance coverage.  As a single mom for eight of my 19 years of parenthood, and a virtually-single parent for the nine years of my first marriage, I had prioritized my life around a steady income and a job with benefits.  I had always worked multiple side jobs because I knew better than to squander the gifts God decided to give me (yay me!)

On August 1st, however, my employer-provided insurance was no longer needed as I was officially covered by my wonderful husband’s policy.  Simultaneously, over the course of the last few unpleasant weeks at my job, my interest in upping my game with my side jobs has suddenly surged.  Yesterday, I figured out why…

Now that I don’t need benefits, the world is my oyster!  I could – feasibly – one day do all of the things I love and make the money I make now, and I could control my own work life.

Now that I don’t need benefits, I am going to do my job within the means of my sanity, I’m going to live my life and take care of my family and invest in my talents and interests with reckless abandon, and if my job no longer fits AND is no longer financially needed…buh-bye!  Now that I don’t need benefits, what seemed scary now seems like what I am supposed to be doing.

If you are reading this, you’re at the beginning of a journey that I have no idea where it’s headed…We might do just like I did when I moved to Dallas as an 18 year old and drive around lost for what seems like forever just to end up where we started.  But even then, it was the journey – not the destination – where the learning took place.

We’re going to try a few new things in the coming weeks – redecorating a camper, trying Skype piano lessons for the first time, starting a children’s book, and juggling a 7th grader in school band and sports, a 4th grader who is gifted in areas that I want to nurture more, and a 19 year old who is attempting online classes to work around a full-time job.  My husband is coaching two sports and working on his MBA, and I like to cook and clean and paint my toenails, especially when I should be doing other things.  Thank goodness I have a hot husband.