Thursday, October 27, 2011

Can't the Golden Rule Just Guide Humanity? Seriously????

I am way too sensitive, a condition of which I am well aware.

I am flawed in a hundred different ways.  I am disorganized.  I'm cranky.  I don't do well without set, drop-dead due dates.  I am goofy when I should sometimes be serious.  My wardrobe is pretty pathetic.  My eyebrows need to be done.  My car might just be radioactive.  I swear like a sailor.

You probably get the idea.

But I am never cruel.

I have the typical human knee-jerk reaction of being pissed off when, for example: 

* Certain ex-husbands who shall remain nameless set up a special outing with the daughter they haven't seen in weeks, ask their ex-wives to spend an additional hour and a half in a car driving said daughter there, then don't show up or even answer the phone, text messages, or e-mails, forcing the ex-wife to try to explain to the sobbing daughter why exactly it's wrong to say that Daddy's a bad person.  Oh, this is particularly egregious when the ex-husband involved owes the ex-wife in question $500.  Just saying ...

* People drag me into drama that does not concern me.  I do not get involved in drama.  I hate drama.  I went on the "Oh, let's make fun of people, isn't it a good time?" trip, the "Let's pick apart every little thing that person does because my friend doesn't like her" vacation for awhile last year, and you know what?  It makes you feel like crap inside after awhile.  I'm out of that, totally out of that.  I made an active choice to remove myself from the set of Mean Girls, and getting pulled back into it when I didn't do a freaking thing is frustrating.

* When your ability to do your job effectively is called into question by fools who have no idea how to be an English teacher.  I once had someone say to me, "All that kids in your class do is read, write, and have discussions."  I was royally pissed off for about thirty seconds ... then I started laughing because, damn, they'd just paid me a hell of a compliment.  But sometimes it's hard to suck up the crap people sling around.  I have never once had my integrity as a teacher questioned by a person whose opinion meant anything to me.  It's easy, though, to say, "Consider the source" and something else again to do it.

Which brings me back to the title of the post.

Let anyone who's never committed a sin throw stones at glass houses (how's that for combining ;-)?), and I guarantee you that ... well, it'd be quiet.

Look, we all suck on some level, in some verb tense.  I used to suck, sucked, will strive to never again suck, but ...

Well, you get it, I'm sure.

Shut the heck up, get over yourself and your stupid childish  mentality, and focus on you.  Look in the mirror, think about what role you play in any of the drama you're so worked up about, and own what belongs to you.

I think you might be surprised, seriously.

If every person in the world could just stop and think about the ramifications of their own misbehavior, to presume positive intentions in others, and to keep their mouths shut if it doesn't involve saying something nice or adopting a "live and let live" policy, the world would be an infinitely better place.

Look, I know I'm living in a world of rainbows and dancing fairies and hobbits.  Just because I make a concerted effort to treat others well or at least to give them common courtesy doesn't mean that others can or will or maybe even should.

But it also drudges up the cynical crystals still floating inside of myself, and the idea of those joining together and changing me because some people are rude, inconsiderate, bullying, lying, hypocritical ... "stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerfherder" ...

Just be good to each other ... it's not that freaking hard!

**Okay, rant over ... my apologies :-)**

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Big, Bad 35

So I turn 35 tomorrow, an event that is giving me much angst and leading to people looking at me like I'm crazy when I articulate this.

Here's the thing.

When you're in your twenties, the teenage years aren't far behind you.  In fact, you can do a lot of the same things that characterized your adolescence.  The world is at your fingertips, so to speak, with the sky being the only limit ... or at least it seems that way when you're young and pretty and such.

And as you approach thirty, you realize the magic that permeates the adult world, how beautiful it is to see connections among and between people, places, things, and ideas.

By the time I was thirty, I knew without a doubt that I'd made a positive difference to a lot of people.  I had a sense of accomplishment that I took great pride in.

And when I'm forty, fifty, sixty ... well, I'll be even prouder of those accomplishments.  I'll be able to say with complete confidence that the world was a better place because I walked its roads.

I mean, I look forward to those days ...

So, yes, I am the odd duck that is perfectly okay with turning 40 ... but totally freaking out about turning 35.  Totally.

And then I realized that it's especially sad because it's a--let's face it--surface thing.  It's a youth thing.  An, "I don't want to look like an old lady", an "I'm going to have to get my eyebrows dyed as well as waxed at the salon now", an "I didn't get carded when I ordered a Captain and Coke Saturday night ... it's the first time I didn't get carded in ... well, pretty much ever" thing.

Wouldn't you think that, if you can take pride in your adult accomplishments and look forward happily to future endeavors, you could get over the fact that you're getting wrinkles and weight doesn't come off easily like it once did and so on?

Bottom line, I have to accept that the looks (such as they are ;-)), are leaving, that being funny and cute and peppy are no longer the things that'll get me through life.

After all, funny, cute, peppy forty- and fifty-year-olds are sort of perennial jokes ...

I know this is rambling and not concise and so on ... honestly, I'm about a second away from deleting it.  It'd be deleted already if I hadn't promised my friend Heather that I'd articulate the catalyst for my 35 freak-out.

Well, Heather, I attempted to articulate the catalyst.  All right, I failed, but the attempt was there ;-)

Any of my wise, articulate blog readers want to try to put the gist of what I mean into words?  The comments are all you, people :-)

Monday, October 24, 2011

I Do Believe in Kangaroos in New Hampshire

I can't stand cynicism.

While I have had moments of being bitter and cynical myself, I still can't stand it.  There is so much in the world that is noble and fine, interesting and thought-provoking, funny and even a little bit magical.

I got thinking about this today on the way home from picking Belle up.

As usual, she was gabbing away a mile a minute (and nope, I have no idea where she gets that from :-p).  She plowed through what she did at school today (drew an illustration for the children's book adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera that she read in music class), her proposed attire for tomorrow (it's red white and blue day ... she wants to wear a sundress ... sigh), and why the tortilla chips at her afterschool program are superior to the ones we have at home before she got down to the real business at hand.

Halloween, of course.

She's going trick or treating with her friend on the next street over.  Addie and her best friend are taking the little girls door to door as a sort of farewell to another childhood ritual, and Belle started telling me how relieved she is that "the big girls" are coming since they have to walk on a path where there might be wild animals.

Okay, I wasn't paying 100% attention until she got to the wild animals.

ME: Wild animals?  What sort of wild animals?
BELLE: You know, tigers, bears, lions.
ME: Oh my.
BELLE: You're so funny, Mommy.
ME: There aren't any lions or tigers here.
BELLE: There could be bears, though.
ME: True, I guess there could be.
BELLE: Probably not, though.
ME: Nope, probably not.
BELLE: Maybe gorillas.  Or toucans.  Or flying monkeys.
ME: You never know.
BELLE: Kangaroos? Wild turkeys? Boa constrictors?
ME: I love your vivid imagination, sweetheart.
BELLE: There really might be bears, though.
ME: Yes, baby, I know.

Believe it or not, the word that most resonated with me from this entire exchange was "kangaroo".

Yes, I'll explain myself ...

Last fall, I was driving Addie to school one morning when an animal jumped out in front of my car.  Addie and I separately thought it was a kangaroo, although neither one of us was willing to state it aloud for a couple of minutes.  It jumped on large legs, the size was right, and ... well, it just looked like a kangaroo.

I never really publicized my, "I saw a kangaroo on a highway in New Hampshire" experience because, really, who would believe it?  It seemed like an interesting little event to break up the monotony on that long-ago day, not something I would ever really talk about and certainly not an encounter that would impact my thought process a year later.

But when I heard "kangaroo" this afternoon, I remembered that day.  I remembered how hard Addie and I laughed over the absurdity of the situation.

And I remembered that damn kangaroo.

Here's the thing--I would not have said a year ago that I saw a kangaroo.  I might have said, "I think I might have seen a kangaroo, but ... it MUST have been something else.  I mean, a kangaroo in New Hampshire?  No way!", but I wouldn't have gone any further than that.

I would have doubted what I saw, tried to force my mind to bend into logical and rational ways that it doesn't naturally go in, and in general convinced myself that it must have been a rabbit, a dog, something other than a kangaroo.

Today, I am stating with certainty that I saw a kangaroo hopping across Route 101 a year ago.  I don't know how it got there.  I don't know why it decided to jump into my life for a matter of seconds.  I don't know where it ended up.

I do know, however, that the mindset allowing me to believe--and believe fully, at that--in the possibility of the impossible is a magical thing, a freeing feeling, a general impression that keeping your eyes and heart and mind ever open for the remarkable will be the only thing that allows the remarkable to come to you.

When something bizarre and, on the surface, utterly ridiculous comes up, consider giving yourself a moment of contemplation ...

You might be surprised what an existential experience it can be (even a year after the fact).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Parallels: "The Bottoms" and "To Kill a Mockingbird"

I've spent the past two days home sick with some really horrific cold/flu/high fever/horrible headache/body ache/cough/generally feeling like crap kind of thing.  

I hate being sick for obvious reasons, and I hate missing work for reasons too numerous to name.  However, one of the few positives is that I was pretty much confined to bed (I'm not a "lay in bed" kind of person ... when I choose bed over lounging on the couch or in the recliner, it means I really feel dreadful), which meant, of course, that I got to read.

Henry lent me The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale several weeks ago, and I'm ashamed to say that it's taken me this long to read, even though I liked it from the start.  Once I got a chance to dig in, though, despite it being in and out of fever-riddled sleep and Nyquil daze, I couldn't put it down. 

Especially when I started noting parallels to Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, probably my most beloved book ever.  I was in English teacher ecstasy throughout, I tell you :-)

I know that To Kill a Mockingbird is both well-loved and widely read.  Lansdale, who is considered more of a "cult favorite", achieves masterpiece status in my mind with his very similar offering.

Both books ...

*  Explore the strong bonds of love that exist between siblings.
Interestingly, The Bottoms is narrated by "big brother" Harry Collins, who feels deeply the tremendous responsibility of keeping his younger sister, Tom (short for Thomasina) safe.  Makes me wonder how different Mockingbird would be if told from Jem's point of view ...

*  Take a contemporary reader into a world where blacks are treated horribly.
Perhaps because of Scout's tender age, the specific horrors of life as an African-American in Maycomb, Alabama aren't expounded upon in detail.

Lansdale pulls no punches in the small east Texas town portrayed in The Bottoms, with the KKK figuring prominently into the story, white doctors refusing to perform an autopsy on a brutally murdered black woman, tarring and feathering, and the lynching of an old black man who was very briefly considered a witness in the murder of a white woman.    

*  Force the protagonist (well, brother/sister team of protagonists, I suppose) to realize that the person-cum-monster that colored the nightmares of childhood are both more and less than what they appear to be on the surface (or in local legend)
Call him Boo Radley or the Goat Man, but this lesson is one that stays with a reader.

There are lots of other connections between the two (too many to list, actually, without being a total spoiler), but I just had to share how cool I found it that another book was able to, in some small way, address the very tough themes and issues brought up in what's arguably my favorite book ever.

I'd never seen it done before on such a grand scale, and I'd never really heard much of Joe R. Lansdale before Henry introduced me.

I figured it was  my responsibility to pay it forward.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Changing Definition of "Fun"

My friend Jessie has a name for the period of time when you first start dating someone and everything is just flowers and light and smiles and so on--"The Hearts and Bunnies Phase".

It sounds contrived, but it's true.  

And no one in the world wants to hear the details of how dizzily happy you are, that what you've always dreamed of seems to be happening, that you're walking around floating on air because life feels so very good.

Which is why I haven't been blogging much lately.

The fact that Henry, who is also an English teacher, lent me his Edgar Allan Poe action figure to share with my students after finding out that we were reading "The Cask of Amontillado" melted my heart, but I'm sure it sounds just lame to other people.  

He made a playlist of songs that reminded him of me, burned them onto a CD, and I listen to it all the time.

As Pythagorus became increasingly unbalanced and emotionally abusive the past few weeks (before disappearing entirely for days at a time more than once), Henry has been incredibly supportive, offering not advice or anger but love, logic, and laughter (after Pythagorus left a couple of disjointed, rambling voice mails that concluded with him giving his full name and phone number, Henry opined that Pythagorus is freaking out because he can't control and bully me anymore ... and stated, "You've got his number ... literally").

It's a very new feeling to be around someone unfailingly positive, constantly kind, and ridiculously funny ... but also trustworthy.  I never thought I'd be able to fully believe in anyone again, but being with Henry is making me rethink a lot of things.

Including the parameters of what a really fun time is.    

Last week, Belle and I went with Henry to his friend/co-worker's house.  Joanna is also an English teacher, so it was a gathering of the minds ;-)  Anyway, we brought pizza, soda, and Rock Band ... and that was it.

I enjoyed Joanna and her husband from the start, and we had an absolute ball playing Rock Band with the kids and such (they have two kids, one almost exactly Belle's age and one a few years older).

After the excitement of Rock Band wore off, the little ones moved on to board games, hide and seek, and dressing up in Halloween costumes, and the adults went and sat out on the porch, talking and laughing (drinking root beer and Diet Coke, I might add ... it was noted more than once how odd it seemed to be dissolving in laughter so often without drinking alcohol).

It was pretty late when we left, so Belle and I slept in Henry's guest bedroom (and she slept in until 8:00, which I still cannot believe).  Belle had a birthday party to attend, but Henry made pancakes for her (and an omelet for me ... yum!) before we left.  He also put coffee into a travel mug for me, but I forgot it at his house in my rush to get Belle to her party on time.

Cue the following text exchange.

HENRY: You forgot your coffee, you goofball :-(
ME: Oh, shit, I did :-(  And after hogging the cream,
HENRY: Don't worry, I won't let it go to waste.
***a number of texts came and went***
HENRY: Hmmm, the coffee tastes off.  I think I need to clean the maker.  You're not missing out after all.
ME: Haha, that's a relief :-)  It's almost ten, and I haven't had coffee...perhaps a first since college.
HENRY: Lol, oh my!

And the past week, it just keeps coming.  Everything is beautiful, and I want to sing and dance and hug the sky and such.

Henry met my brother and his family last night when we all went to the beach house for dinner.  It was wonderful.  The dinner party concluded, in fact, with Henry and Adam fixing the beach house toilet (while this was transpiring, my sister-in-law kept saying how great Henry is and how close he and Belle are ... it made me feel so good).

And so as I'm finding happiness (some might say "sappiness" :-)) and, yes, joy in pretty much everything right now, I'm also aware of the nuanced changes in the definition of "fun" as I understand it.

I feel an amazing connection to Henry, in every possible way.  He's an incredible man, and I still find myself shaking my head in disbelief to know that he really wants to be with me.  Sometimes I doubt that, but those moments are lessening, that fear of him disappearing dissipating as we seem to grow closer and more dizzily drawn to each other than we did when we'd just started dating.

There is fun everywhere ... if you are willing to see it, to appreciate it, to let it come.  

Are Minorities Discouraged from Taking Upper-Level Classes?: The Elephant in the Room

As a public school teacher for sixteen years, I sometimes feel like I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen Standards come and go (and despite the brou...