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.