Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Where the Hell I Went... In Case You Were Wondering. Or Not.

For the past 3 and a 1/2 weeks, I've been out of the loop. My only link to sanity/reality has been my iPhone. And I'm pretty slow at writing/revising on such a minuscule keyboard. So where have I been, pray tell?

Well... I went home. To my original home. With my parents. Willingly. Sort of.

Someone famous once said, "You can't go home again". I don't have any clue who it was. I should. But I don't. Because my brain is fried. I think most of my brain cells liquified and oozed out my ears due to the fact that my parents keep their thermostat at the average yearly temperature of Guatemala. Or Panama. Or Mercury. Or Houston. I don't know for sure. Somewhere supremely hot and sticky that I've yet to visit. Take your pick.

The deal is this: my mom needed a hip replacement. My dad has advanced Parkinson's. Add those two together and your result is that the single, childless one has packed her bags to head to the Homefront Lines.

My schedule's been pretty full lately what with all the meds to be given, meals cooked ( that's right.... I COOKED), and Price is Right to be watched (I've added getting on a game show to my bucket list now), so actually blogging has been a no-go. But I've had wonderful friends encouraging me along the way to keep writing ( even when there's no Internet connection and I have to use pen and paper - gasp!). And then yesterday, someone very kindly suggested that I turn this return to my past that's not really my past into blog fodder.

So, when I make my return to the 817 on Sunday, that's what I'll be doing. In all, it has been a good trip, and I'm glad to have done it. I couldn't have lived with myself if I hadn't. But it's been exhausting and trying and sad and painful. But just when I thought I'd reached my limit, and I could take no more, something funny or touching or thought-provoking would happen, and I'd start fresh all over again. I think I've learned more about myself and come to certain truths about life that I couldn't have learned elsewhere. But that's for another day.

Right now, I have to tiptoe out to turn down he heat while the guards are asleep.

See you soon, dear friends.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Parenthood Reversed

For the past 7 days, my life has been a steady revolution of cooking, cleaning, serving, dressing, medicating and chauffeuring. I am up at 3 AM, and then again at 7. Each time I sit, I am needed. Each time I want to be alone, I'm not. Each time I want to give up, I can't.

And I'm about to lose my effing mind.

This is why I'm not sure I'll ever be a parent - or at least not a single parent for sure. Let me tell you, those people are freakin' rockstars.

Friday, December 3, 2010

In Search of a Win

The hardest part about working with kids is that sometimes they are disappointed.

And then this disappoints me.

Tonight my kids worked so hard and then lost in the end, and I've spent the last 3 hours wondering where I could have made it different. In the grand scheme, it's not a great big deal, but on a day like today, I just needed a win.

My only success is that when some other kids talked a bunch of noise, my little hot heads held their tongue and took the high road for probably the first. time. ever.

In my game, that's called a "moral victory". In more ways than one, I suppose.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Turn the Radio Up

I love music. Almost as much as movies and words and books and Diet Coke. Almost.

For me, memories come with a clear scent and a kickass soundtrack. Every important person and moment has a song that I associate with it, and when it plays, it is as if a wave has crashed over me, saturating me with images of days long past.

These are the five most important albums to my life. The Soundtrack of My Existence, if you will.

1. "Thriller" by Michael Jackson-- Yes... I know. But it was one of the very first records I remember owning. And it totally verified, at a young age, that my ability/need to dance in public was sketchy at best.

2. "Mental Jewelry" by Live -- Before they went mainstream... before their verses made lame appearances on melodramatic teen soap operas... just gritty and cool. I thought I was so hip and alternative. I wasn't, but it made me feel as though I was.

3. All the albums of U2 -- Yes... the title says "five albums" but how do you pick a fave? Of course, there has never been a sweeter sound than that of "With or Without You" on a continual loop from the WWII speakers at Lower Pool. Classic.

4. "Ten" by Pearl Jam -- Soundtrack for senior year... spent many a bus ride to games with that in the portable CD player. I still heart Eddie Vedder and Stone Gossard. (sigh)

5. "Rites of Passage" by Indigo Girls -- Reminds me of all the people and the place I love most in the world. Best heard while laying under a cedar tree, waiting for the first star to appear in the night sky. A constant reminder that good songwriting, like a good friend, has no substitute.

Who's on Your Soundtrack?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

One More Reason I Like My Friends

Few things will take the sting out of losing a game you should have won.

My favorite is vodka tonics with good friends. Not many. Not so much that you stop caring altogether -- just enough to lower the blood pressure. And on a school night even.

Even fewer things take the sting out of B-team basketball.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

As In... Two Decades. Plus Two.

Today, someone found me after 22 years. That's so weird... the knowledge that I haven't seen someone for 22 years. As in two whole decades. Plus two.

I can clearly remember a time when I couldn't even grasp how it would feel to have even been alive for 22 whole years. And, I gotta admit... It blew my effing mind for a few minutes.

How did he find me? How does anyone find anyone anymore? Duh... Facebook. Seriously, one of the world's freakiest but coolest inventions in a while.

Reconnecting with him gave me the chance to do two things I thoroughly enjoyed:

A. Write a message to my junior high reading teacher (who happens to be his mom) to thank her for helping to pave the way for my unquenchable thirst for the written word as well as my career in education. (Which, by the way, if you've never thanked one of your former teachers, stop what you're doing right now and find them. Find them. Thank them. Tell them what they've done for you. They love it. I mean... WE love it. There is truly no greater gift because we don't always get to see that you little rat bastards turned out okay. Even if you didn't, it's still even reassuring to know that you're still alive and -hopefully- not in jail.)


2. I got to snoop on the kid that I used to battle it out with for first chair in the trumpet section of my elementary/junior high band. And guess what? He totally rocks out with his funk/jazz band, Mojo Green. This apple-cheeked, boots and jeans wearin' kid is now a real live hipster musician. He took what I perceived as just a way to get out of our dorky music class (by picking up my brother's old coronet) and fell in love with it. No matter if that's your type of music or not, that's pretty damn cool.

But I did manage to beat him out once or twice for that first chair. That's right. I could totally be a professional musician now, y'all. Fo' reals.

Feel free to throw some spare change in the hat.

Turning Awkwardness into Art

Tonight on Rob Dyrdek's Fantasy Factory, they held an "Awkwardness Intervention" for Rob's cousin, Big Cat.

Yeah, that's right. They call him Big Cat. His office is a giant tiger cage, and after he fractured one of his neck vertebrae in a horriffic "grab onto a dirtbike and have it pull you up on a ramp on a skateboard into a foam pit" incident, they made him ride around on a Jazzy (aka "The Rascal Scooter") with a giant lion head on it. This is what makes me laugh. Dumb. Ass. Boys.

Anyway, this might be the greatest, most painfully awkward intervention of all time. They should travel around and do this professionally. The waiting list would be miles long.

Seriously. Love it.

And I don't feel awkward about that at all.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Suck on That, Universe.

I am accomplished at many things.

Spelling. Reading. Writing. Pop culture trivia. Defusing difficult situations. Shooting freethrows. Algebraic equations. Picking things up with my finger-like toes.

Granted, some of those skills are more important and/or useful than others, but still...

I am not good, however, at asking for help. I feel like the Universe reminds me of this quite often. More so than I deem necessary, at least.

All my life, in whatever activity, I refused to ask for help. Learning to ride a bike? My dad sat on the curb, watching me, skinned knee after skinned knee. He was more of the emergency medical tech than teacher since I told him repeatedly, "I! Can! Do! It! My! Self!" Learning to swim? I drove my camp swim instructor insane because I refused to listen. Drive a stickshift? After many a go-round with many a teacher, it came down to me, the owner's manual, and an empty driveway. Whatever problem, big or small, that came my way, I eventually figured out on my own, in my own way, at my own pace.

All my life, stubbornness, pride, and an extreme aversion to humilation public attention kept help at bay. Asking for help = not being able to help myself. Not being able to help myself = weakness. And that, dear friends (just in case you haven't been payin' close attention) = irrefutable failure. It's not for lack of trying on other people's part. As I've said a zillion times before, I am blessed with dozens of friends and co-workers who'd do anything for me. And I always meet their offers with a polite nod and a reassurance that I'd let them know whatever they can do. What's really effed up? I love to help others. LOVE it. NEED it. Get NO GREATER HIGH than from helping others. But I'd rather pull out my own fingernails than ask someone to help me.

Don't mistake today's post as a revelation. ANYBODY whose been around me for, say, 20 minutes or so can name 10 different times that I should have asked for help but didn't. This is something I've known my entire life. It is something I have struggled with my entire life. But today, I was honest. I said what I needed. I told someone how to best help me. And they swore they would, and I believe them. In no way, does their help solve my problem. Nobody, not even me, has a solution to the task at hand. But, for once, it didn't matter.

And this is what I think I've been confused about my entire existence. Asking for help does not equal shoving my burden onto another person. It doesn't necessarily mean that someone else will solve the problem I was unable to decode (which would automatically make them more successful than me). It also doesn't make me weak. It makes me human. It may seem pretty simple to you, but it was a little bit stunning to me.

So today, the running total stands as thus:
Universe -- 1,842,756,003. Human -- 1.

Suck on that, Universe. I'm on the board.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Popcorn Therapy

In my movie marathon, I watched many of my favorite movies of all time. Movies that make me feel good, that bring me relief, that remind me of the blessings I have in my own life. This is why I love movies in general -- their ability to transport me to another world and, in the same breath, cause reflection about my own. Let's call it popcorn therapy.

My favorites collection ranges all over the spectrum, but the ones that ring truest have shaped not only my personal views and opinions but even my life's greatest ambitions. Dead Poets Society and Hoosiers touch upon even my career in teaching and coaching, showing not just the impact a teacher and coach can have upon a student but also that power that a student or team can have on a passionate although flawed adult. Field of Dreams gave me the hope that with love all things which seem impossible cannot remain so. Good Will Hunting lit forth in me that true friendship means loving someone else and wanting for them more than you could ever do for yourself. But two of my favorites, The Color Purple and Steel Magnolias, trace not only the beginnings and lifelong journeys of friendship (as what I believe all my most treasured movies and books do) but the relationships of strong women. Women who were forced to be stronger and tougher than they themselves ever thought to be. Women whose strength resided not only within each self but also within those closest to them. These are the women I have thought about all weekend.

It is a hard thing to be strong. Everyone assumes that strength is the opposite of weakness when, truthfully, the very essence of strength is the awareness of weakness. To know all the soft spots within yourself, and still have the courage to expose them, is the last empowerment we have at times. Lately, I haven't felt very strong. I know that I will continue to have days where my weaknesses and fears nip at my heels. I also realize, however, that fleeing them is not an option, for I will never be fast enough to outrun them. I've never outrun anything in my life.

Probably too much butter on my popcorn.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Movie Marathons and Vick's Vapo Rub

It is amazing how a hot bath, clean pajamas, and a movie marathon can ease a troubled mind and achy body. Too bad those things were accompanied by a runny nose and hacking cough.

In other news, even though it's been like 5 years since I've seen Field of Dreams, it still leaves me sobbing on the floor with an incredible desire to play catch in the back yard. *sigh*

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Firefly Dreams

Growing up, one of my favorite things about summer was the fireflies. At camp, if you took the forest trail after dusk, the trees would practically glow with them. You could walk along without even the aid of a flashlight because the fireflies would light the way. For a nine year-old, it was about the closest thing to magic there was -- their brilliant bodies bobbing along in front of me, reassuring me and guiding me through the darkness. My friends and I tried once to catch some in an old Mason jar, but it wasn't the same. The light seemed dim and sad once it was captured. I understand now that the truth of their light lay in their numbers, their light reflecting off the light of the others.

I hardly ever see fireflies here in the city. I don't know if they're dying out or if the light pollution keeps them from my view. Or maybe I've just lost that sense of nine year-old magic. Whatever it is, I miss this comfort from my childhood.

Last night, I dreamed of fireflies. I was wandering through a forest. Every way I turned, things looked the same -- confusing and overwhelming. Then, as I was ready to sit down and let the darkness swallow me whole, a tiny light appeared before me. And another. And another. And another. Until all around me was a chorus of fluttery lights, each reflecting off the other and illuminating me. Illuminating the path. Maybe not lighting the way out of the darkness, but lighting the way nevertheless to remind me that I am not alone.

Thank you, sweet fireflies. You know who you are.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Finding My Way: Day 3

Remember when I said that Vacation Day: Numero Uno was D-Day (as in "Deana, get off your ass and clean up this house" Day)?

Well... it took a little bit to get going, but I went to the store, stocked up on grub for my solo Thanksgiving, weatherproofed my back porch for the impending cold front, started the mountain of laundry, and did some loooonnnnggg overdue dishes. It was all pretty gross and tiresome, but just the act of moving helped a bit.

I even washed the old cat bed for my foster kitties, and I cut a little hole in the weatherproofing so they could still use the back porch to escape the wind. I felt a little stupid doing it, but everybody needs somebody every once in a while. Even an old scraggly, stray cat.

P.S. One foster kitty tends to sleep on the back porch each night. His brother, who I (perhaps) call Boo Radley, tends to roam. But on blustery cold Thanksgiving morning, I found them curled up together in one tiny cat bed. It was pretty sweet until Boo Radley stormed the inner sanctum and sent Alpha Kitty into a hissing, spitting stroke. Biggest fail of the day -- not having my video camera out.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What Was God Thinking?

I went to the freezer today. There was no bottle of vodka in there. This is either tough news to take or just another example of God saying, "Ummm... no. Not today."

I guess it depends on who you ask.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Why Hoarders is Going to Put a GPS on Me and Just Wait Patiently

You know that show, "Hoarders"? The one where some crackpot with 1800 baby outfits (but no baby), closets full of leftover pizza boxes, and an R.V. museum of vintage beer cans and fishing lures allows a film crew and a psychiatrist (and a nation full of judgment) into their home to document their out-of-control lives? The one where they lead us into the eye of Hurricane Nutso and allow us to gawk openly and unashamedly?

Well, I am scared of that. damn. show. Mortified. Terrified. Stupefied. Because, in my head, I keep wondering, "Could that be me?". You think I'm kidding, but every day, I am watching for signs. See, I come from a long line of hoarders. Seriously, it's a sickness. My dad has 3 storage sheds, chock full of "treasures", and when he and my mom bought the house next door, they simply left all their stuff and bought more stuff and moved in. And, now, my childhood home is literally overflowing with tangible memories of my past. Stuffed animals. Trophies. Couches. Broken television sets from 1982. Some of my friends think it's hysterical and possibly even kind of quaint. Some of them would give their left nut to go rummage through all of that. Me? It just makes me have nervous tummy. I have just a touch of the disease, but combined with my laziness and unwillingness to peel myself from the couch lately, things are beginning to spin out of control.

Between the stacks of junk mail, books, and empty Diet Coke cans, my sanity mills around, thinking, "You know, you should really clean this shit up." But then I realize that it takes cleaning and multiple trips to Salvation Army to even make a dent, and make a plan for another day. Making a plan makes me feel better... until it's time to put the plan in action. I then quickly talk myself out of it. I'm really quite persuasive. The newest D-Day is Wednesday. I have a systematic plan of attack in my head, and I have been visualizing what it will feel like to come home to a nice, clean home. I smell the lemony freshness of it all. I see the floor. I see the windows shine. I see all of the light bulbs replaced. I see the vaccum, the folded laundry, the closet in order. We'll see how it all pans out when the alarm goes off on Holiday Vacation: Day Uno. In truth, what you'll probably see is me nursing a vodka tonic on my couch and weighing the idea of writing a hot check to Merry Maids.

In further crazy lady news, the two stray cats that I (perhaps) have been feeding, are becoming quite at home. The little black one strolls right through the front door any time it is open more than a quarter of an inch. Tonight, I picked him up and (perhaps) hugged him a little. Stray Cat Numero Dos has taken up residence on my back porch. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the old cat bed that I (perhaps) put out there when the temperature started to drop. Picking up strays is also one of the many genetic gifts my family blessed me with. I'm fairly certain that they have been planted as feline spies by those rat bastard executives at A&E.

Well-played, A&E. Well-played, indeed.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Finding My Way -- Day One

It's been a while since I've written. I hate that since I started this blog in order to be able to write more often. Daily, if possible. I could blame it on the fact that I'm overwhelmed at work. I could blame it on the fact that the holidays are coming up and things are always crazy at the holidays. I could blame it on the fact that this last 8 days has been a roller coaster for those closest to me. But, in truth, I just haven't felt up to it. Strangely enough, I don't think I've really felt anything for a few days, and to write... to write well at least... it's important to feel.

I know all the things I'm supposed to have been feeling. I only know that, however, because I'm smart and observant of others. I'm good at taking social cues. I smile in all the right places. I can shed the appropriate amount of tears. I can tilt my head at all the correct angles... to show interest or empathy or confusion. And I remember what it was like to feel, so I draw from that.

I have glimpses. Flutters that happen. Moments where I feel something, but it never encompasses me anymore. Then they're gone, and replaced with nothing but hollowness. And this isn't me; I've always been the one with too much emotion... too much feeling... too much passion. I seem lost, more so than usual, and afraid, again -- more so than usual... and it's tough.

I should feel...
...happy that one of my best friends has found the love of her life and that another is busy creating yet another beautiful child for me to snuggle.
...grateful that two important people, through foster care and adoption, are preparing to accept the challenge of loving and caring for children the system has failed.
...proud that my students are continuing to succeed despite the chaos that surrounds them daily.
...angry that I feel alone in caring for my family.
...faithful that other friends will be taken care of in perhaps the most trying journey they have ever known.
...embarrassed that I feel so clueless and whiny.

But I don't know if I do, and the not being able to identify my emotions is almost as bad as not having them at all. So, I'm back to square one. Here on this little place on the internet, doing what I promised myself I would do when I started this 8 months ago. To write, no matter what, because writing makes me alive. And I need to feel alive if nothing else.

So, if you're here now, bear with me as I try to find my way back to a place that's more familiar. And thanks for staying. But if you can't, if it's all just too much for you to take, then it's okay to walk away. The best part of this whole medium is that I won't even have to watch you do it, and you won't have to feel bad about it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

It's Just a Moment

Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you'd made one different choice?

Shown up 12 seconds later?

Went left instead of right?

Picked heads over tails?

These are things I can never stop thinking about. I obsess about each moment and how it came to be because I cannot for the life of me grasp the concept of how things just always seem to work out, flow into one another, and transform your existence before you can even take notice. I took notice tonight. As I sat at dinner with some of my darling friends, I tried to trace back how this moment, over a plate or tortellini and a basket of bread, even came to be. But there are a million moments... a million tiny, seemingly inconsequential choices... that led to that table, and along the way, wonderful things happened as a direct result. Jobs I've loved. People I've met. Stories I keep in my heart. The comfort I have known.

I try to trace back to that moment that kicked it all off so that I can relish it, be proud of it, whisper my thanks for it. But each moment is triggered by another and so on and so forth until I find myself in a space I cannot remember anymore , and I realize that each step of my life, each decision no matter how trivial, has led me here to this little plate of tortellini and basket of bread, surrounded by laughter and warmed by the love of my friends. And I remind myself that although I may never fully know that first moment, I do know this one, and I can cherish it just the same.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Mediocrity Marathon

Yesterday, during my toughest class I was struck dumb. Literally... dumb. But only for a moment.

While discussing their recent "Standardized Testing -- The Preview" scores, I told them that of all my classes, they, as a class, had the lowest overall passing percentage. For real, just over 50 percent (and of those that "passed" did so with the lowest score possible. Only one student scored above a 60). I also took a moment to try to help them make the connection that behavior relates to academic performance as they also have the highest rate of misconduct slips of all my classes. That my need to manage behavior makes it nearly impossible to disseminate the information necessary to them. Because they. are. wild.

I knew that they might take the news poorly, but I had no idea. And that's when it happened.

Little Miss Sassafrass stood up, crossed her arms and retorted, "You're so rude. Why do you gotta be putting us down like that?"

Uhhh... exsqueeze me? Baking powder?

I stood there for a moment, choosing my words carefully and asked her how exactly I was being rude if I am simply stating a fact.

"Because you are our teacher, and you should be making us feel better about this. You should be telling us that it's alright. That we can do this. You shouldn't be telling us how we failed." This, of course, was met with lots of furious head nodding and angry muttering agreeance.

C'mon now. Really?

Hello world. It's Entitlement and Mediocrity at your door, and we're here to sell you some more of our bullshit. At that moment, I wanted to punch something. Hard. Not a child... more like their parent.

Since when is speaking the truth and pointing out NECESSARY improvement a bad thing? I did not throw my hands up in disgust and announce that I was through with their effing apathetic, righteous load of horseshit. I did not call them losers. I did not say things like, "How the eff can you make a 27 on a multiple choice test? I could train a brain-damaged chicken to make a 27! (And I could. I truly think I could, by the way.) I did not sit down at my desk, pick up my Diet Coke, and write them off. Because, believe me, THAT would be a less troublesome choice. Letting someone fail is only about a billion times easier to accomplish than pushing someone to not only succeed but also to push past a limit they never thought possible.

So there I am, struck dumb as I told you before, processing this load of nonsense. But like I said, that moment didn't last long. It never does really. My righteous indignation has a fairly quick on switch, and it takes a while to burn out.

"Whomever has told you that your feelings and self-esteem is more valued than your need to work hard, pay attention, and learn from your mistakes has done you the biggest disservice possible. People who claim to love you, but never push you, are cowards who are holding you back from your own success. People who ignore your mistakes and failures because they don't want to hurt your feelings are afraid of you. They are afraid that you'll stop loving them. They're terrified that you will leave them. They are convinced that pacifying you is the only way to keep you. They strap you into a straightjacket of politeness.

We have become a society that has swung too far on the pendulum. In order to combat segregation and degradation, we've developed a passivity toward the truth. We've made everyone feel so special that it's become difficult to spot the truly extraordinary. We live in a time where we hand out ribbons and trophies simply for participation. What? In truth, that means you are being recognized just for showing up. We've shot ourselves in the foot with the need to be politically correct, socially equal, and FAIR.

(Oh, dear Lord, do I ever hate that word. I practically spit it out like expired milk.)

Do I want people to be mistreated? No. Do I want people to feel unloved or unnecessary? By no means.

Do I want people (i.e. you) to understand that success is a goal? That your happiness and self-worth can't be handed out like mashed potatoes on a serving line? That although you and I are not perfect, the quest to attain the best can be both exhausting and exhilarating? Absolutely. "

And then I breathed. And I breathed some more. I took a quick check of my mental faculties and tried to gauge whether I was about to have a stroke right there in the middle of room 207 (sometimes my rants are like an out of body experience, and I'm a little light-headed from the sudden rush of anger flooding out of my mouth). And I looked out into my class of 19 miscreants and mouth breathers who were finally shocked into silence and told them one last thing. "You might not like me right now. Heck, you can go ahead and hate me for all I care. But understand this - I have dedicated my life to making you better. I've dedicated my life to being the best teacher I know how to be. I'm not there yet, but I know for sure that I am not satisfied with being a teacher of a class with a 50% passing rate on this test. Getting better, being smarter, has no quick fix. Education is not a sprint; it's a marathon. But I plan on all of us crossing that finish line in June, and you can either stand up alongside me, or I can drag your lazy butt across it, but you will finish it. The truth hurts, but I'm not going to stop telling it. So, suck. it. up."

And they did. And it was exhausting and exhilarating all at once. But after class, one kid did ask me, "Is there really a marathon in June?"

*Sigh* Note to self. Tomorrow's lesson -- metaphors.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Suck It, Yankees

It is well-documented that I love a good underdog story. I bawl my eyes out when Rudy finally takes the field. I get choked up when Jimmy Chitwood steps up at the town meeting in "Hoosiers". The Miracle on Ice. David vs. Goliath. The Spartan stand. Rocky. The Bad News Bears.

My undying loyalty for the Duke Blue Devils is my only real trek into the world of the perennial powerhouse lifestyle, but my lifelong love of the Chicago Cubs surely balances that out 10 times over.

Lately, my attention's been caught by a local underdog story... the Texas Rangers. Over the last eleven years, I have worked just across the freeway from the Ballpark. I've gone to (and thoroughly enjoyed) a few games. I've cheered when they won, and I paid little attention when they fell apart. I heard tell that this was the norm. Continually overshadowed by Mark Cuban's antics, the Stars, and the House that Jerry Built (literally overshadowed now), the Rangers are rarely ever the top story in a sports broadcast. Until now.

With a blue-collar work ethic and drive, team effort, and some additional spark in the pitching rotation, the Rangers have done the previously unthinkable -- won a division series and have now won a post-season home game. Although I am excited for the team and for our city, it is my friends I am most excited for. Every spring, I am subjected to endless conversations about trades and lineups and schedules. I am in the midst of the purest form of anticipation -- like Christmas morning -- but inevitably, by the beginning of the next school year, sadness has set in and made its home in the hearts of people I adore. I have to admit, it was nice to see them finally smile in September.

I, by no means, consider myself a true Rangers fan because if there's anything I detest, it's a Johnny-come-lately who jumps on just as the ride gets good. Yet I've found myself pulling for this hometown team not for myself but rather for my hometown friends. So it is for them that I have cheered and cussed and cried and shouted. For all those who loved something or someone, even through the darkest of days, I cheer for you.

So, come Monday, when the Rangers step up to the plate in the House the Babe Built, I will throw on my Rangers Red, stand up for the national anthem, and flip the bird at the t.v. screen.

Because if there's anyone that any true Underdog hates, it's the mother effin' Yankees.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Poking Fear in the Eye

With this post, my little space on the interwebs officially turns 50 -- a goal I wasn't sure I'd ever reach.

Fifty times that I've logged on, started typing, and let my feelings go where they may. Fifty times that I've put aside my insecurities and let my true voice out. Fifty times that I cast out my line and waited for a bite. Fifty times that I breathed deep and searched for the words that exorcise my demons or soothe my soul.

Sometimes... it is funny. Sometimes... touching and sweet. Sometimes... bitter and angry. Sometimes... wistful. But always me because those are all the things I think I truly am.

When I started this whole thing 5 months ago, I wasn't sure I'd keep up with it. I was afraid I'd be too busy. I was afraid I'd have nothing to say. I was afraid that no one would care. I was afraid I'd let too much out, and I was afraid I'd hold too much back.

I've lived much of my life in fear. Disappointments, discouragements, failure, rejection. I was (and still am) fearful of it all. But with each post, with each shout and whisper to the world, I feel a bit stronger and more confident, and I've poked Fear in the eye 50 times now, and rarely It has poked back. Because I have kept up. I wasn't too busy. I did have something to say, and people cared -- no matter how much I put out there.

And I'm pretty proud of myself for it, and that in itself is cause for a little celebration. Thanks to all of you who have shared in it with me whether it's been the first or fiftieth time. I'm glad you're along for the ride.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Research Says: You're a Lunatic.

Today, I watched a totally grown adult pitch a complete fit. It was atrocious and deliciously awful, and it made me shake with rage at the way she acted and spoke to both me and a fellow colleague (who is literally not only one of the nicest people I know but also an amazing teacher), spitting forth her famous retort that should silence us all... "Well, research says...".

Her insanity oozed all over me like a flow of mentally deranged lava. Then I was treated to an email whereupon she not only challenged the talents and teachings of people I completely respect but also climbed on some weird medal stand of one to congratulate herself on being the best thing since sliced bread. She also quoted "Best Practices" -- which some uphold as practically the word of God. Quoted it.

It was gross and tacky, but it got me thinking.

Whatever did my own teachers, coaches, and professors -- the people who not only inspire me daily but practically saved my life -- do before all of this mountain of research and statistics and books advising them on every detail of their teaching careers? I wondered how many trainings they must have gone to? How many afternoons and Saturday mornings did they give up to learn the next greatest way to teach me and my classmates? Were they bombarded with facts and figures predicting their success or failure as well as my own?

I will simply never know. Probably because until now, I never thought to ask. I assumed that they chose their career because they wanted to help kids. They taught what they adored. They taught what they were passionate about, and that this passion was enough to move their students... whether that move was to pass their class, graduate, or someday find their own classroom in which to motivate, inspire, and help change others.

I'd like to think that their Best Practices were simply this: to love me. To celebrate my successes. To comfort me in my losses. And to teach me throughout both. To not only attend my basketball games and drama performances but also to attend to my failures at Home Ec sewing and trigonometry (although I've yet to use either in real life). To know my parents. To know my friends. And to counsel me when either let me down.

So to Little Miss Meltdown, you can keep your data and theories about what makes a great teacher, and I'll keep my memories of the real life ones.

Monday, September 20, 2010

I Have Been Virtually Murdered. Quick... Call Someone Who Gives a Damn.

So... yeah. Someone "defriended" me on Facebook, and I just realized it tonight. Someone I've known for a long time and considered to be a really close friend once upon a whenever.

I gotta tell ya, if they were looking to sting me, they did. Because... for real y'all... it's murder.


It's not virtual manslaughter. It was no "accident". Oh no, kids. They got me execution style. I never saw it coming. Oh, wait. Maybe I did. Maybe I should have noticed when this person hadn't spoken to me, in an actual conversation, for like 3 years. I was curious when they sent me the friend request. I should've listened to my better judgment. All they were doing was setting me up for the fall. Now I've wasted like 12 minutes of my life wondering about it, worrying that I'd done something out of line, hoping that all my friends wouldn't follow suit. And I could have really used that 12 minutes for something productive -- like cleaning hair out of the drain or scooping runny cat poo out of the litter box.

I tried to be nice, even with the lack of any real friendship in existence. I "liked" and commented where I could. I tried to stay away from any offensive/obscene postings that might o-ffend. I don't even use the eff word on Facebook for fuck's sake because some of my friends have little kids who will eventually learn to read, and I'd rather teach it to them personally. Not through some faceless typeset.

But it doesn't matter because now that I'm officially, completely, virtually dead. Shot through the heart by Lee Harvey Fuckface, and I'm probably to blame. *sigh*

There will be no services because I don't really give a shit anymore. Your 12 minutes is officially up.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Latest Early Retirement Plan

One of my dear friends (and former co-worker) and I used to kick around the idea that we could write a book. A book on parenting. It would be delightfully wicked and brimming with what we deemed the "common sense" approach to child-rearing.

Only problem? Neither of us have actual children.

But you know what? I think that not having children will make this process even easier. No little rugrats to eff up the process with their whining cries for food money love. No extra sentimentality or fears that one day I'll wind up on some low-rent version of Oprah as my thirty year-old, grown-up child outs me to the public at large as a horrible parent. It's basically the most perfect plan I've ever conceived.

Am I qualified to write a book about raising children? Most would say probably not. But as a teacher and coach who spends 10+ hours a day guiding hundreds of children through the moral and physical perils of junior high life, I'd say I'm actually a little over-qualified.

I'm in the process of working on some chapter organization and titles. In order to appease both my people pleaser side as well as my snarky, bitter side, I think most chapters will probably bear a subtitle. I really, really adore subtitles and sarcasm.

Chapter 1:
"Teaching Your Child About the World of Competition"
"Shove Your Participation Ribbon Straight Up Your Ass"

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Enjoying the Show

Remember what I once said about change?

No, well... I talk about it often, most notably here.

I've been doing some healing thinking, and I'm trying to change my ways.

Those sweater-less dinosaurs? This is why they're extinct. The inability to plan and accessorize. Stupid, pea-brain beasts.

And those firecrackers? Sometimes, if you let them go, they fill the night sky with blooms of light and color, quick and brilliant like a shooting star. It might be a little sad when the flash and bang is over, but if you're lucky enough to be watching them with friends, and you turn your head at just the right moment, the beauty falling upon their lit-up faces is well worth the wait. And then it's fulfilling enough simply to sit back and watch the show.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fake It 'Til You Make It

I walked into my faculty meeting this morning and was greeted by total darkness. Funny, since the night before, I came home to the total darkness of a power outage. And when I had arrived home, I was already mad. Consequently, all the anger and frustration I'd been feeling for days and weeks and months suddenly came out sideways.

And it came out on my car tire.

I got out of the car. I threw down my purse. I stomped my feet. I shouted at no one in particular. And then I kicked the ever-living shit out of my front tire. I kicked so hard and long that I was either going to flatten my tire or break my foot. So, after a good 45 seconds of continual muttering, cussing, and kicking, I sat down on my front porch and came to a conclusion.

This is not the end of the world.

I went inside. I came up with a plan to charge my phone off of my laptop. I posted a couple of wry and sarcastic statuses. I enjoyed a game or two of WWF. I obsessed about when the t.v./air/lights would come back on (because these are my needs in order, by the way), and then I obsessed about going to sleep with the blinds open because 1) Someone might peep in and see me sprawled upon my couch and decide to kill me for the $12 in my purse or B) someone might peep in and see how disgusting my house is, decide my $12 is not worth the trouble, and bother my nice neighbors instead. Then I was slightly depressed that my house might be too filthy for even your average low-life meth head. Once I decided I would probably live, in spite of the open blinds, I closed my eyes, drifted off and waited to be jolted awake by either the television's reappearance or my alarm clock. And I got over myself.

So, as I rolled into work and noticed the impending darkness and the electric company truck, I immediately started checking out the nearest thing I could kick. I encountered an available person who was determined to make my morning turn ugly when I made a choice.

This was not going to ruin my day. It wasn't because I wasn't going to let it.

My kids (and others) totally freaked about the small things...
"I can't see my locker combination!"
"Do I need my binder?!"
"How will they cook lunch?!"
"Will we get to go home early?!" (which, face it, we ALL were wondering)
"What will we do about flushing the toilets?" Uh... toilets are not electric. Helloooo? (This was asked several times, even by some adults).

I answered each question as patiently as I could sans sarcasm, grabbed my 30 kids, a sack of markers and paper, and their writer's notebooks, and then we went outside to the no-longer-raining great outdoors and wrote some cool poetry. The whole time, the what-ifs and the whys continued to flow, and I took each one in stride with a smile. When someone, adult or child, began to piss and moan, I attempted to strike them down with a positive.

Eventually, someone noticed and said, "Wow... Naz. You are really taking all of this calmly. You're so happy." And I was. There are worse things that could happen, and although this was annoying and off-putting, to complain was not going to make things go any better or faster. In fact, it was only going to make me and all my students more miserable. In the end, all my kids had fun. Two even gave me a big hug and informed me that they were glad to have had this minor adventure with me and another presented me with some homemade chocolate chip scones. Scones are delish, by the way.

All day, I thought about that choice I'd made. It wasn't easy to force myself into happiness, and there's always a chance that it won't take. But most days, I'm going to try to remind myself that when:

I feel alone
Things don't go my way
I am running behind
I've forgotten my lunch
Someone has hurt my feelings
I make a mistake or fail at a task
The cat has thrown up on my pillow/couch/favorite book
I don't have any milk for my cereal
I'm not sure if I made a difference...

It's not the end of the world.

And if that doesn't work, I at least know that my front tire can sustain up to 45 seconds of uninterrupted kicking.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Happiness in Fifty Lines or Less

Things that Make Me Happy:
the smell of rain
backyard burgers
letters in the mail
fresh flowers
kid giggles
margaritas from Joe T's
homemade bread
when the lights first go off in the movie theater
Diet Cokes from QT
crushed ice
holding hands
learning something new
teaching someone something new
laying in the grass
old books
laughing until I cry
brand new socks
puppy dogs and their waggly tails
watching other people when they don't think anyone is looking
breakfast for dinner
brick or cobblestone streets
walking barefoot
late night movie marathons with friends
sleeping in
singing along with the radio
t-shirts and jeans
high school football
little league baseball
Duke basketball
dangling your feet in the pool
cinnamon gum
holding a sleeping baby
Mondays that aren't disasters.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

First Day of School -- 30th Anniversary Edition

Twenty-nine years ago, it was a bad day. A terrible day. A day that will live in infamy.

It was my first day of school. Ever.

And I was determined to make it my last. Ever.

I kicked and screamed and wailed up and down my parents' hallway. I cried in the car, and I cried through the Baker Elementary hallways. I'm fairly sure I cried for the entire day. Now, I am a crier by nature, but I am completely sure that I have, since that morning, never reached the decibel level and tear frequency that I worked myself up to that day. I can remember every detail of what my mother wore that day, even down to her flip-flops and red headscarf, because I was absolutely certain I'd never... see... her... again. Never. I can remember her walking me to my classroom, giving me a hug, and then abruptly turning to walk away. Growing up, I thought this was indicative of the relationship we would have: me falling apart and her turning away in frustration. It is only now that I can tell you with certainty that it was me falling apart and her turning away because it killed her to see me so upset. It was the only way to prevent herself from picking me up, walking out, and never forcing me to go back. This, I realize now, is the truth of our relationship. I sometimes wonder where I'd be now had she not made that about-face so many times in my life. Nowhere good, I am sure.

Even now, I cannot tell you my kindergarten teacher's name or the names of any of my classmates. Nor could I tell you, specifically, any activity I participated in that day or any other day of my kindergarten year. That's how traumatic it was. I have completely blocked it from my 5 year-old memory.

But I survived it, and strangely enough, I even fell in love with the act of going to school -- even that dreaded first day. The new clothes, the school supply shopping (oh, how I love new school supplies!), and the feeling of a brand new start. Sure, I suffered through the awkwardness and struggle to fit in, just like everyone else, but for me, school was a place where I felt confident and successful. And I was blessed -- blessed, I tell you -- to have wonderful, thoughtful teachers who made that confidence and success happen for me. I can only surmise that this is the reason I chose to become a teacher and why it is so important to do a good job every day. It is to honor all of them.

And to honor the sacrifice of that woman in the red headscarf, hurrying out the school doors, drying her eyes, and counting down the minutes until noon.

So now, as I lay in bed, readying myself for my 30th First Day of School, I pray that it will go smoothly for both me and my new students (and their moms). And that the trauma will be kept to a minimum for all.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sometimes, A Thinly-Veiled Metaphor is the Best I Can Do.

Yesterday, as I was tooling along on the Road of Life, making my plans to finish out a pretty good day, it happened. Out of nowhere -- sideswiped. Actually, no real damage to me, and I guess that's lucky. Just shaken up pretty badly and stalled on the corner of Shit Happens and WTF.

But here's the truly crappy part. The person who hit me wasn't at fault. That person was going about their day, too. Making plans, dreaming about tomorrow, not knowing that shit was about to get serious.

And so how did all of this occur? Some a-hole in a big effing truck decided to change lanes. Without signaling. With no concern. No notice what-so-damn-ever. Then came the swerve. And the crash. And the carnage. And I'm pretty sure the fuckers never even looked back. Because that's what these fuckers do, see? They could give a shit as to who they're running into because that's what they have big effing trucks for. When you have a big effing truck, there's no need to worry about damage because big effing trucks absorb it and keep on going.

Of course, there are some who might argue that this truck (and the a-holes in it) was just trying to get where it's going. That it has a right to move over, and, as a defensive driver, you should be aware of what's happening around you. And you might have a point.

Just don't be in the next lane over. 'Cause there's a good chance you're gonna get wrecked.

The girl in the car? She'll be okay. She'll knock out the dents, dust herself off, and get back on the road. Of this, I am quite sure. But for now, for her and for me and all those who stopped by to help, we're left with our heads in our hands, wishing for a better tomorrow. Specks in the rearview mirror who aren't sure about traveling this road anymore.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Technology, Damnit. I Shake my Fist at You.

I just spent the last 2 hours working on a post, highlighting my favorite parts of this summer. Complete with pictures even! None of it is lining up correctly and now it keeps mysteriously vanishing. There has to be an easier way.

Stupid technology.

But at least all the pictures made me smile. And I needed a smile today.

I'll try, try again tomorrow, I suppose.

*Note: This was the frustrated post I did after the picture post was started. I finished my Summer ala Photo Form post this evening (Monday), but they have now posted in the wrong order. It seems that at one time, I knew how to change the order of posts, but I have since forgotten and really have lost the urge to care. Shocking, I know.

Summer 2010 (As Told by iPhone Camera)

All signs point to the fact that fall is fast approaching. Camp is over. I've been stocking up on blue and black pens for school. The Earth has officially rotated so that Texas is approximately 3 inches from the face of the sun.

But it's been a great summer. One of the best in a long time, and I'm sad to see it go. Here are some of the reasons I will miss it dearly, as told by iPhone pictures. Truthfully, I'm too damn lazy to carry a stinkin' camera, thus the photos by phone. The camera capabilities alone made the kool-aid worth the taste.

Poppa J:

Stylishly dressed as always. He's basically the male version of Tyra Banks. Fo' sho'.

Or the the female version. I don't know that there has ever been a better sport than this kid.

Love him.

The kids:

Seeing successful moments with kids. The little one is a kid I wasn't sure would make it through the first day. The big kid is someone I've watched grow up for 5 summers now. He's a big part of why the little one lasted all six days. Sometimes, success passes generation to generation right before your eyes, and it's beyond words.

Or Homesick on First Night to Candle of Hope winner on Last Night. All at the age of 6. Lovely.

Fun field trips:
Ciaran and (practically) his winnings in Shreveport which, for the record, is not in Arkansas. Closer than you might think, but still... not in Arkansas. Not. At. All.

Taking Jamie and Ciaran to the House that Jerry's Ego Built. It's easy to love something you swore to hate as long as you're with people who make you smile.

Ryan, Jamie, and I heading to the Ballpark to ruin Cliff Lee's debut. Truthfully, the Baltimore Orioles ruined Cliff Lee's debut; we just witnessed it. But it didn't deter Ryan's love of the Rangers. Look how happy.

Surprise Visitors:
If camp is like a t.v. show (as Jarrett's theory proclaims), one of my favorite things are the special guest stars. KJ and her sweet puppy, Maya, were two of the best. Even if Maya did steal my bed when I took too long to brush my teeth.

Overcoming Fears:
I overcame lots of fears this summer, and, of course, some are still standing on deck, but this one is done. Anyone who knows me understands that I'm not usually down for such a thing as a snake bracelet, but I'm willing to do almost anything for a homesick kid. Including letting a wild beast make its home on my wrist for 15 minutes.

The Randomly, Awesomely Funny Moments (in truth, there are far too many to list/photograph):

Like Jamie's continual Web MD'ing. New day, new diagnosis. This was one of the last "sickly" moments, whereupon he took his temperature every hour on the hour. First, it was 98.2 (not super-abnormal) then 98.6 (normal, right? No.). Fever, rising "by the minute". I did feel slightly bad when he really did turn out to be sick, but honestly it was bound to happen at some point. Better tonsilitis than angina or colon cancer.

Alison "lifeguarding" at the pool. Granted, there were no actual humans in the water at this time, and she is, in fact, not a lifeguard, but it still made for a good photo opp.

Laughing, loudly. All day. Every day.

This was when Jamie forced Alison and me to be "trolls" at the low bridge. Once we stopped being offended, we laughed our asses off at anything and everything. I love this picture because I can almost hear the laughter skipping across the Trinity.

Closing Campfire:
It's no secret that the last night of camp is my favorite. It could be the togetherness. It could be the smell of hundreds of campfires past. It could be that it's the few moments where all is quiet, peaceful, and still. Mostly, it's all three.

Broken Arrow Award

The Circle of Light

And, one of the best parts of camp is making new traditions. Caleb capped off every Thursday night with this song.

Summer 2010. Hallelujah, indeed.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Be Warned: All My Wisdom is As Seen On T.V.

I live a good life. I promise that I logically know this.

Remember that... because bitterness is sure to follow.

I have a great job -- two great jobs, in fact -- where I truly feel like I make a difference. I know this because people tell me so. I know this because, sometimes, I even get to see the results of my efforts. Because of my great job(s), I make a comfortable living. I'm not rolling in the dough, but I manage to put food on the table, have cable t.v., and the occasional pedicure. I have tremendously awesome friends. Seriously, I have been blessed to know and work with incredible people all my life. I don't know how this happened, but I'm overjoyed that it did. I have a family that loves me -- even when I'm difficult to love. Even when they are difficult to love.

But sometimes (and this is where you need to refer back to my opening line), it doesn't feel like enough. And then, I feel supremely guilty because then I think about all the people in the world who are not as lucky as I. But still...

There are parts of my life that I'm not happy with, and I struggle with this fact. Down in those deep, dark parts of my soul, there is a sadness. A loneliness. A resentment of everyone who seems to have it all together, and lately, that has felt like everyone but me. All around me, it seems, happiness and fulfillment are breeding like mother-effing rabbits. To those people: I'm proud of you. I'm happy for you. I promise. But for real, here's my confession: I'm a bit jealous of you, and that jealousy is a big, fat troll lolling about in my subconscious. And here's my other confession: I don't believe you. At least not all the time.

All of you people with big bank accounts, fancy cars, the perfect love, the best job, the perfectly white, straight teeth... I have something to tell you. I'm calling bullshit on you. Your life isn't perfect, and the whole world knows it. How does the whole world know it? Because they're not perfect either, and face it, we can always smell our own.

Then there are those people in this big, imperfect world who have all the answers. They piss me off more than all those who keep up their perfect pretend play. Those people who tell you that the answers to your problem reside in a pill bottle, Jesus, or a boyfriend/husband. I call bullshit on you too. You're no better than the dude on the infomercial promising an easy fix to all your "problems".

Tired of always having to shave? Try this! Want your baby to learn how to (freakishly) read himself his own bedtime story before he can walk? Buy this! Need to trap yourself a man (subliminal message-- whose love and attention is better and more fulfilling than a hit on the crack pipe)? Call now for this shampoo/tummy tucker/diet pill!

Now I love me some late-night infomercial products. Love. Them. But I'm no dummy. That shaving solution? It will remove your leg hair... along with several layers of skin and most of your soul. Your genius baby? He doesn't want to be a genius who can read. The best part of being a little kid is having someone who loves you enough to read the same fairytale no less than 500 times and still make all the different character voices. The "get yo'self a man" solution? Don't even get me started.

If you buy those things, might they help? Yes. Your legs will get smoother (and hopefully, eventually heal), your kid might have an advantage when they start kindergarten, and yes, most men are, in fact, more attracted to women with a flat stomach and voluminous hair (and smooth legs... don't forget the smooth legs).

But they're not the answers. They're aids. Just like that pill. Just like that prayer. Just like that boyfriend/husband.

Just like my job. Just like my friends. Just like my family.

What I think is the only real way to fight that sadness, that loneliness, that resentment is to live. To wake up everyday, take a hard look at myself, and work to get to the root of my life. I have to cherish all the wonderful things I do have while still giving attention and thought to the ways I want my life to be better.

But it would be nice to never have to shave again and yet have impossibly smooth legs, no?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Closing the Gap

Today is my dad's birthday. This is a hard day for me and my family because sometimes it feels like we are celebrating someone who isn't here anymore... except that he is.

My dad has Parkinson's disease. Most people know this as the Michael J. Fox disease, and while he's been a great advocate, spokesman, and fundraiser for this cause, sometimes it's a bit misleading. When Alex P. Keaton goes on Oprah, what the ordinary person sees is a man who struggles to stay still or a man who has a few more physical obstacles in his path. What the ordinary eye does not see is that this is a man who most likely has taken several doses of medication and a shitload of prayer just to get through a 60 minute taping. The ordinary eye does not see behind the curtain to the people, his family, holding him up while trying to just stay upright themselves.

Parkinson's is a shitty disease that scares the bejeezus out of me. It has robbed my dad of his independence as well as his mobility. It has taken his easygoing, sweet laugh and his natural social graces. And due to some poor medication choices, it even stole his sanity for some time. It has left my dad as a shadow of his former self, and it makes me sad and angry and frustrated all at once because it took away my hero and left me with a mortal man.

And, for a while, it left me without my family.

For the past few years, I have depended on my friends to fill that void. Note: I have wonderful friends. Amazing. Mind-blowingly incredible friends. Friends who saved my life on more than one occasion. Literally. They will always be like family to me, but, in the end, there are only a few people in this world that have known you, loved you, cared for you since the very moment you arrived on this earth. Hopefully, they will be with you, and you with them, until the very last moments as well. That's a pretty special relationship.

But a crisis has a way of dividing, and pretty soon the guilt and blame and frustration carves away at people like water on a rock. This is how the Grand Canyon was formed, with constant and continual wear over a long period of time. Then you find yourselves on opposite sides, separate and alone, wondering how you can ever get back to one another. This is where I have been with my family for a while now.

In the end, it's no one's fault and everyone's fault, including my own. But in the past few weeks, the chasm has started to close; we have begun, with lots of help, to slowly but surely build a few bridges and look for new routes back to one another. So today I spent the entire day with family I love very dearly and have seen far too little of. And it felt good. And I felt proud. And I didn't feel so alone. And I don't think they did either.

So today, even though I had doubts, was a very good day to be a Nazworth. And although he will never know or understand it, this is the gift our dad gave us on his 67th birthday.

Happy Birthday, Daddy Dean. I love you.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Second Looks

I went to see "Inception" tonight.

It was good but confusing. Much like a book that absorbs me, I will probably see it again to catch all the parts I missed the first time.

It did make me think though. Without giving things away, I will just say this... I totally get the feeling of reality vs. the world we create for ourselves. In truth, I tend to build things up and create/desire the impossibility of perfection.

Goals that are out of reach... people beyond my grasp... dreams that never reach fruition. I live in a world of impossibility. Then sometimes -- most times -- reality creeps in and the dream tends to crumple. For a while, I crumple with it. And that really sucks.

This is what I remind myself of, however. Life, like a good movie, can be good but confusing. But it's always worth a second look.


Tonight, I wanted to say good-bye.

But I couldn't.

Maybe because I didn't want it to end.

Maybe because I'm never sure if it will begin again.

And even if it does, it is just never the same.

But I missed my chance nevertheless.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Being Normal

Today, a dear friend of mine asked me when it became out of fashion to just be "normal". It was the most thought-provoking question I'd heard in a long time because in truth, I don't even know what "normal" is anymore. But I sure as Hell know what it isn't.

Know this: I am rarely shocked by the atrocities that one member of the human race can commit upon another. It is sad but true. But I am always horrified by it. Especially the crimes perpetrated under the guise of love. Those wolves that lay in wait and don the sheep's clothing.

I had to call a mom today, and I had to tell her something about her daughter, something that had already shattered her family beyond recognition, something that she already knew. And although she already knew all the things spilling from my mouth, I still managed to wreck her with my words and poke my fingers into a wound that will not heal in a thousand lifetimes. When her voice hit that first unmistakable crack, my heart broke in half. She was falling apart, and I wanted to as well, but in that moment, it's just not very professional to fall apart yourself.

I held on somehow for a few more minutes, and managed to hang up the phone before I crumbled. I don't know how, but I did. In that moment, all of my indignant rage, all of my well-deserved and much-needed anger that normally shoots through me vanished. It fled my body. I was left with a nothingness that pissed me the fuck off. Normally, I would yell or scream or kick the shit out of some inanimate object. I would scream and cuss and rage against the unfair world and faceless God who would allow such a fucked up thing to exist, and now I couldn't.

All I could do was weep.

Ordinarily, I might see this girl once in a day. Maybe twice. Today, however, she was everywhere I turned, and I had no clue how to speak to her or look at her without totally losing my shit. But somehow, I did. Because when someone is just trying to hold on, to live their life without losing their shit, it's just not very professional to lose yours.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Just Another Sanity-Saving Saturday

The hard week streak is over.

I know by proclaiming this, it is sure to jinx me, but jinxes be damned. I woke up today with a dead sleep hangover, still holding on to my guilt and sadness and anger, and I assumed that nothing could cure it. And so because I wanted to be in a bad mood, I was.

And then I wasn't. Mainly because no one would let me.

First, my sweet friend bought me lunch, and I never let him buy me lunch, but the jackass snatched the check right outta my hand.

Then I went to the basketball court where like 10 kids gave me like 10 hugs apiece and seemed genuinely, completely excited to see me. I don't feel like this happens a lot, so it was quite nice.

Followed up by a trip to the pool where one of my campers told me I was wearing "Streetwalker Red" nail polish. Normally, in real life, this might offend people. It does not offend me. It IS kind of streetwalker-ish red, and it was even better because she admittedly has no idea what a streetwalker even is. She's just repeating what her mom says. Attention moms of the world: they really are listening.

Then I got to spend a whole hour with my feet in the cool water, my shoulders soaking up some much-needed sun, and my sides hurting from Alison making me laugh 'til I cried. It was luxurious and awesome.

A decent dinner, a whacked-out camp talent show/dance, and kids with hundreds and hundreds of glow sticks. And glow sticks automatically make everything better. Snacks and songs in the dining hall, and now I'm waiting for my funny friends to come join me on the rooftop for more funny stories and even more laughter. And laughter is the soundtrack of camp.

All around me, life went on, and I loved it and treasured each and every moment because I only have 6 days of those moments left.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Getting Lost

I find that I am constantly losing my way. It's well-known that I'm pretty directionally challenged (it's a genetic defect that no GPS can cure), but my sense of mis-direction sometimes creeps out of the car and into deeper, sometimes darker parts of my soul.

And that's when bad shit goes down.

Somebody told me once that, in the car, I am easily lost simply for the fact that I never trust that I can find my way -- that I doubt my own abilities and senses, and in that worrisome moment of "right or left?" or "this exit or that one?", I lose all consciousness and fixate on the fact that I might mess up.

I fucking hate messing up. Even more than feeling lost.

He reminded me that maps can be handy, all roads eventually lead somewhere, and if all else fails, you can always effing turn around and just start again.

But this is the problem. Sometimes, you can't just start again. Because life doesn't come with a road map and a set of do-overs. Sucks, but true.

I've made lots of choices in my life -- some good, some not-so-good, and some which were just plain lucky. One of my worst habits, however, is the second-guessing of those choices. Even the good ones. I have never been able to just accept that things happen. I tend to remind others that "everything happens for a reason", but let me tell you right now, most of the time, I'm totally full of shit and just saying what I think will make you feel better. You shouldn't really listen to me in that moment, but everyone does.

Sometimes things happen, and I, nor you, will ever know the reason. Sometimes things happen in the blink of an eye, and even that is long enough to jack up all of Existence. And that idea makes my brain hurt because I will backtrack and examine the chain of events leading up to that moment, and I wonder where I fit into it. Where was the beginning? Where is the end? And where, at times, is the beginning of the end? I roam around in the World of What If, obsessing about "left or right?", "here or there?", and "this or that?", and I fixate on the moment where I feel like I messed it all up.

Then I'm lost, and I'm left stranded on that road to nowhere, wishing I could just turn around and effing start all over again.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

This Too Shall Pass

The Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day has now stretched into the Three Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Days.

And it totally sucks balls. Hairy Balls. Sweaty, hairy balls. And that's just no bueno.

But out of the darkness, there is always light.

Here's my two little rays of it:

A) Heather, my totally badass friend who is powering through spinal surgery recovery, is getting to go home to live, once again, on her own. This assures that World War III is guaranteed to not start at her mother's home. At least not yet.


2) My friend, Amanda, is somebody's mom. And it's a very lucky little somebody, for sure. Welcome to the world, Griffin (formerly known as Li'l George Foreman). I hope to steal you from your Aunt Courntee's arms very, very soon.

These two pieces of news give me hope. Hope that no matter how bad things get, life will go on. Life will be successful and joyous.

Because, let's face it, if you can survive something like having someone's hands on your mother effing spinal cord for 12 hours or shooting a human being out of your va-jay-jay, these days too will surely pass.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Today was a hard day.

An unbelievably hard day.

Today was the kind of day that makes you question not only the choices of others but also your own personal choices in what kind of life it is that you mistakenly signed up for. Emotionally, physically, and mentally draining.

But this is what I learned about myself.

I can do the things I wasn't sure I could. I can put aside my own whiny tendencies to support those that need me more than I need me at any given moment. And, yet again, everything I've learned in the past 15 years really does come through when you need it most, and, yes, I am still learning each and every day.

And, today was surely not the hardest day ever. It just felt like it.

But I also remembered that others, when you need them most, will always be there. Whether it's a hug, or a smile, or a meaningful text, or a free Diet Coke, or a visit even though you don't have time to visit, or just continuing on their way without questions but with the knowledge that they just have to carry on. Those are the important things to remember as you lie in bed.

It's my self-appointed job to go around saving others every day, trying (sometimes in vain) to fix the unfixable, and feeling the pain/joy of being needed and purposeful. But some days, even the savers need to be rescued, the fixers feel broken, and the driven lose their way, and that's just how it is. Hopefully, when that happens, someone will be waiting patiently to pick you up, dust you off, and send you back into the fray.

So tonight, this one's for the Cavalry because it's almost time to saddle up again tomorrow.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

How the Stones (Might Have) Totally Got It Wrong

"You can't always get what you want...
But if you try sometime, you might find...
You get what you need."

Ummm... sometimes you might find...
That you don't get what you want or what you need.
And that totally blows goats.

I don't think the song would've been nearly as popular with this message. It just doesn't give you the same cool, sing along at the top of your lungs, kind of vibe.

My optimism tank is on empty today, and I'm not sure why. Maybe I'm just dreading the end of something that I both want to end soon but cannot bear the ending of, and I'm not very adept at such a paradoxical idea.

Maybe I'm just being super-tired and more than a little bit whiny. This is always a distinct possibility.

But I think it's probably the first.

And that totally blows goats too.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Five Steps to a Classy Lifestyle

So, my friend Alison is one. classy. broad.


She is.

And when we are hanging out together, we totally class each other up even more. In fact, here's our "Guide to Being a Classy Broad... Just Like Us".

Rule #1 -- Classy broads need their beauty rest.

When you feel the urge to take a disco nap, just do it.

Doesn't matter where.

Doesn't matter when.

Doesn't matter what six year-old is watching you, taking a nap on the ice cream freezer, through the camp store window.

But you should always carry a pillow.

Or a stuffed possum to use as a pillow.

That's the creepy tail hanging out. Gross.

Rule #2 -- Classy Broads don't need doors. Windows do just fine in a great escape situation.

Rule #3-- Classy Broads are always in fashion.

Even when your only choices are a giant turtle shell, a bungee cord, and a cowboy hat.

Rule #4 -- Classy Broads will be okay with a friend announcing her fake pregnancy on Twitter because... who knows? Maybe those bitches will throw a "Cash Only Baby Shower".

Rule #5 -- Classy Broads cannot be tamed.

Not even with duct tape and sheer determination.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Rainy Day Blues

I don't like rainy days.

They make me think too much, question too often, and wish too foolishly.

They make me lonely and lazy and a little bit insane.

Today, I almost bought a dog because I wanted someone else in the house. I have two cats, but they could give a shit if you're lonely. Not if it's going to interrupt their nap time. This is probably why you'll never see such a thing as a seeing-eye cat. They wouldn't give a damn and would just expect you to find your own way around, Lazy Ass.

But the laziness brought on by the rain outweighed the loneliness, and the pet store seemed ultra-far away.

Rainy days make me do stupid things like begin a closet clean-out, drink by myself and look up old boyfriends via the Internet. And those last two things are a dangerous combo.

Don't worry though, I don't keep booze in the house, and my internet's all jacked up. My iphone's great and all, but it's for emergency stalking only. And one day of rain does not constitute an emergency.

I better check the forecast for tomorrow though.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Get Your Credit Card Out Now. That's an Order.

So... I'm still pretty new at this blogging thing. Originally, I was a little fearful to write because I was worried that it seemed pretentious and self-centered. The only people I knew with a blog were people with charities and things like new babies. Well... I don't have any rugrats to keep people posted on, and although I associate with many different charitable organization, I'm not sure that they want their names associated with a blog that has posts which reference bull testicles, dead snakes on a string, and my extreme love of the "F" word. Therefore, I was a little nervous to start this whole blogging business.

In my own obsessively-compulsive tendency, I did lots of "research" (i.e. following lots of different blogs/bloggers), and one of the writers I fancied the most is a fellow named Black Hockey Jesus. In fact, I fancied him so much that I read his whole blog beginning to end in two nights. And, believe me, that's a ton of reading and even more thinking. He makes me think. Like to the point where my brain actually hurts. He's excellent. Truthfully. I'm telling you... check him out here. After staying up two whole nights, reading his blog life from beginning to end, I found myself doing something I swore that I'd never do.

I wrote a friggin' fan letter.

Well...technically, it was a fan email, but that sounds even more ridiculous and embarrassing. Therefore, I'm sticking with fan letter even though it does make me feel like I'm choosing between Team Edward or Team Jacob or doodling Black Hockey Jesus's name on my binder at school. I'm way too old for that casserole of nonsense.

And guess what? Dude wrote me back. Immediately. And he was amazing and reassuring and much-needed in my life. I figured out that what I was missing was a total stranger to tell me to quit my tiptoeing around and just step up and quit being a worry wart. I knew my friends would encourage me because that's who they are... but when it's your friends, you can never be sure where the line between total honesty and bias really lives. Fuck everyone else, he told me, and do what makes you happy. He was a total smartass at first and then became super-encouraging with my questions/qualms about this whole writing dilemma I had. If he didn't already have an incredible wife who he obviously adores and two funny-ass kids he's sure to not abandon, I would've developed a mad crush. But he does have those peeps, and I'm not completely insane, so I've kept it to just a writer's admiration.

So, anyhow, this whole blog you're reading can very well be traced back to BHJ's delightfully awesome email. I hope it's been worth your time. If it hasn't, then what are you still doing here, jackwipe?

Now here's the real need for this post (although I've been looking for a way to publicly love/thank Mr. Black Hockey Jesus but didn't want to look like... you know... a stalker).

BHJ, for all of the ways that I adore him, has a passion/obsession with running. Seriously, the man has run over 1100 miles in the past 6 months. I don't get it, but he does it and truthfully, that's not really the worst addiction he could have, so I'm gonna let it slide. It just means that my love for him is a definite no-go because I totally suck at running. Seriously, if I was the girl in the scary movie, I would totally just give up and take a machete to the face because all that running? No thanks.

He's run for causes before, and I've noticed and been appreciative. There's a few posts where he links to other super worthy causes. I don't ever click because I know myself, and I know that I would click away my life savings for the people on the other end of those clicks. But this time? That mother effer showed me a picture. A picture of a completely darling 8 year-old kid named Tanner. A picture of a completely darling 8 year-old kid in his wheelchair. A picture of a completely darling 8 year-old kid, in a wheelchair, who will never escape that wheelchair becasue he has muscular dystrophy. And all I could think about were all the completely darling kids in my life, some in wheelchairs while others are not, and it pissed me off that there is even a need for 8 year old sized wheelchairs. That's where I feel like God or Nature or genetics or even the world is nine kinds of fucked-up.

Whoa... rant coming on. Switch gears, D.

Anyway, this kid's aunt is apparently a blogger and has organized a 5K for Tanner in which everyone will run in a tutu. Black Hockey Jesus, however, has upped the ante as he's known to do and you can read about it here. For reals, click the link. Don't be like me.

BHJ's going to run as many 5K's in a row that he can handle. The Dude's a lunatic. He gets it. He owns his lunacy, and that just adds to his complete awesomeness. I told you... the running is an obsession, but now his obsession is helping a darling 8 year old, and I totally heart this (me + BHJ = LUV).

So, click the link, fall in love, toss out a vote for a nickname for little Tanner, take out your credit card, and help out. Or you can make a pledge right here on this little widget, placed in honor of my pseudo-friend BHJ's request. But make it big. Like I said, this dude's crazy and will run until he cannot run anymore, and I simply cannot wait for a post update while he re-hydrates in some hospital.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Yellow Candles and the Art of Being Present

Today, I lived my life as a bystander.

I missed my opportunity to be present and attentive to the world spinning and humming around me.

I was disjointed and disappointed, and I let that get the best of me.

I hate that.

And then, a kid... a kid who has bitterly opposed any and all authority for the past 5 days, all snarls and eyerolls and teenage annoyance... snapped me back to reality.

Want to know how he did it?

He cried. This too tough 15 year-old wise ass, sobbed throughout closing campfire. He wept for almost 20 minutes, at first quietly and then not-so-quietly, until his counselors pulled him away to check on him. Then he revealed that he was sad because camp was ending. Here's a kid whose smart-mouth and shit-eating grin and eff-the-world attitude had steeled him against almost any kind of real emotion for God only knows how long. And he was so present in that moment, so sad and scared and unsure, that he forgot to be ashamed of his tears. It was stunning.

After campfire, when he came to grab his Foster Kid Cocktail of Meds, he asked me if he could keep the candle he'd made for our closing ceremony. He told me he wanted to bring it back next year. All I could say was, "Sure. Of course." It was such a sad little candle, no bigger than something you'd find on a birthday cake, but he held onto it so tightly that it made my heart ache.

I had a different post all planned. I'd been writing it in my head all day. It was going to drip with smart-mouth and eff-the-world attitude. It was depressing and angry and spiteful. But the whole time I was typing tonight, all I could see was that crappy little yellow candle in his hand and his eyes, red from crying, and I couldn't leave it alone. I arranged and re-arranged and changed it up a hundred different ways, but to no avail. The whole thing felt disjointed and disappointing, and I've had enough of that today.

I hope that kid never loses that candle. I hope he does get to bring it back next year. I hope that when he gets back to his home, he takes a piece of all of us with him. And I hope that I can remember tomorrow, what it's like to be present... fully present... for the world spinning and humming all around me.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

It's Probably Fine

I learned about 85% of what I know from camp. Maybe more.

Sorry, Mom, Dad, siblings, and teachers, but it's the truth.

Whether as a camper, where I learned how to swim or build a fire or shoot a bullseye, or as a counselor where I learned to soothe a homesick kid, take a fish off a hook, entertain 60 kids crammed into the showerhouse during a tornado, or identify a venomous snake. Or as an ad staff member where I became well-versed in parent phone calls, CPS reports, human resources, and buttering up the important people like the registrar, maintenance crew, and kitchen ladies (b/c let's face it -- those are the people who truly run any business). I've got skills that no college class could ever teach me.

More than anything, however, I learned the best skill possible. Flexibility. And it's totally a learnable skill because, as a nervous-nellie kid, I liked knowing what was going to happen. I relished my routine, and I took comfort in the normal. I still do, and I totally prefer it, but the reality is that when you work with kids, "normal" goes out the effin' window fast. Because, honestly, nothing at camp will ever go according to schedule. At camp, you're dealing with anywhere from 75 to 150 different personalities, wants, and needs at any given moment. Then you throw in things like rental groups, rainstorms, and random acts of WTF, and camp becomes a recipe in "What the hell are we supposed to do now?"

Well... here's what you do.

You just do. You do what you can with what you have, and if you do it with the right attitude, with the right people around you, sometimes shit just works out.

And that's pretty incredible.