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.