Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lessons Learned Today

Every once in awhile, I like to stop and think about everything I've learned over the course of a day ... and the manner of how it came about. It's thought-provoking and almost always either a real "pat yourself on the back" moment or a "How could I have handled this differently?"

So, my lessons learned for today ...

1. Rushing to charge your iPod on speakers twenty minutes before you leave for work is worse than just leaving it at home.
If you are my Facebook friend (and some of you are ... feel free to add me if you'd like, I suspect it's an entertaining feed at times), you might have noticed that my status yesterday involved lamenting how long the drive to work is without my iPod since I'd forgotten it.

I was determined not to make the same mistake again today, but of course I forgot to plug it into my computer, so I figured I'd do a quickie charge on the speakers in my bathroom while I got ready for work this morning.

I'll say this, I managed to have music for the ride to work. On the way home, though, the raw power of The Clash was silenced mid-casbah (which I was singing in full force). I was so in the mood for music, and losing it so abruptly was even worse than not having it at all.

2. There is a circle of life to middle school students.
Me in September: The eighth graders are the bane of my existence! They are so mean to each other, they are ridiculously disrespectful, and they won't stop talking loud enough for me to get any teaching done. Thank God for the seventh graders ... they are so sweet and willing to learn and kind to each other. Mornings are the bright spot of my day!

Me in May: Thank God for the eighth graders, who have become mature enough to handle class discussions that include virtually everybody. They're really starting to look out for each other and will rise to challenges that they wouldn't even have bothered attempting in September. Afternoons are the bright spot of my day! Why? Because the seventh graders are the bane of my existence! They are so mean to each other, they are ridiculously disrespectful, and they won't stop talking loud enough for me to get any teaching done.

3. Addie is far more resilient than I thought she was.
Addie had a dentist appointment this morning.

Now, she got her license in November but has been ... shall we say, reluctant ... to drive anywhere but from home to school and back again. I say all the time, "Isn't one of the payoffs of your kid getting a license (and a car) supposed to be that they can get a dozen eggs for you?" because this is very much not true of Addie.

She is a very timid driver, although she's come a long way. Well, she had quite a challenge put before her today when she was told that she would have to drive herself to the dentist and then to school. Now, her dentist is not exactly easy to get to, so I was kind of a wreck myself.

She made it, though, and with no problems (other than the news that she has to get her wisdom teeth removed ... blah :-()

4. Belle is incredibly bright ... and I think she has her father's brain.
Belle and I have a wonderful bonding experience every night when it's story time. She reads a book to me, and then I read a chapter or so of whatever "real" book we're reading together.

Our current venture are Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain (The Book of Three (The Chronicles of Prydain Book 1), The Black Cauldron (The Chronicles of Prydain), The Castle of Llyr - Book 3 in the Chronicle of Prydain, Taran Wanderer (The Chronicles of Prydain), and The High King (The Chronicles of Prydain)), a series absolutely beloved to me when I was a child.

Belle realized when we started reading the second one that each book has twenty chapters (only the child of an English teacher is forced to "pre-read" text structures ;-)). Tonight, as we began the first chapter of The Castle of Llyr, Belle said, "Mommy, I just noticed something."

She went on to inform me that we were no officially halfway through the book, which was cool of course, but she'd made the same statement while reading The Black Cauldron. No, she kept on talking, that child of mine.

"We're halfway through the third book, so that means we're halfway through the series, too!"

While I was still kind of gawping, she noted how cool it was that this triumphant event transpired on a Wednesday, which is halfway through the week.

That kid is a trip, I tell you.

5. I get my self-destructive streak from my mother.
My mother is making a quilt. Wow, you might be thinking, that's pretty cool. Not everyone can make a quilt.

My mother is a heck of a seamstress, actually--her specialty is needlepoint, but she can quilt, cross stitch, knit, and all the other things you can do if you're crafty (and she's also hemmed every pair of pants I've ever owned, I think ... it sort of stinks being not quite 5'2"). The house is replete with beautiful works--everything from framed cross stitched pictures to pillows to quilts--that she has made with her own hands, and my siblings and I were dressed in gorgeous handmade clothes when we were little.

How she managed to raise a daughter who got an F in junior high home ec because she sewed her finger to the cloth (more than once) is beyond me ;-)

But anyway, the best way for my mom to clear the house has always been to say, "I'm going to make some curtains", or "There's a dress I have to hem", or "I started taking a basket-weaving class." I mean, the end result is always gorgeous, but when my mom is in "CREATE" mode ... beware.

Yelling, screaming, swearing, crying, long tirades berating herself for even trying to undertake some project or another, and snapping--sometimes inexcusably--at anyone who happens to be in her way ... yup, I think a huge part of my internal make-up was molded by Mommy's craft projects.

When she started taking a quilting class with one of her co-workers a month ago, Addie and I exchanged a nervous glance (Addie has experienced enough of Mimi's sewing spells to know to keep a low profile).

I have no pride, so I'll tell you the truth. I tried to talk her out of it. Tried hard. "Why would you do that to yourself, Mom?" I asked. "You'll procrastinate until the last possible second, then you'll be a psycho-bitch the night before the last class because you'll be up all night sewing." She said the work would all be done at the class, that it was just for fun, and that she's mellowed in her old age.

But I suddenly realized that my mother's needle endeavors are pretty much akin to me living life hard at times to be able to find both the material and the passion to write. We're adrenaline junkies, both of us, that are able to pull off veritable miracles by waiting until the last possible second, by pushing the envelope as long and as far as we can.

And ultimately, I am proud to know that my mother has lived her life daring to eat the proverbial peach, to part her hair behind, to listen to the mermaids singing knowing that somewhere they are singing for her. She has raised daughters who will never be women who "come and go, speaking of Michelangelo".

She has raised daughters that make a positive difference in the world every day in their own way.

My mother and I had an extremely rocky relationship until I was an adult (and even then sometimes), but I'm so glad that I've gotten the chance to understand her, to appreciate her, and to see the gifts that she has passed on ... even the ones that don't seem so bright and sparkly on the surface.

So what about you? What lessons have you learned today?