Showing posts from 2017

How Lyndon B. Johnson Ruined My Childhood.

When I was in elementary school, my absolute least favorite  activities involved the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. It was something President Johnson created in 1966 to ensure that generations of American school children were "physically fit" and dreaded gym class. I mean, seriously, fuck you Lyndon B. Johnson and your push-ups and curl-ups and sit-and-reaches and mile run. Want me to sit with my feet against a weird little wooden box and see how far I can stretch forward over my toes? Fine. Ask me to run a mile? Less cool, but I'll do it at a brisk walk. But demand that I pull myself over a metal bar in a curl up? Not going to happen. Even by the ripe old age of seven I knew upper body strength was never going to be my thing. Somewhere in my sixth grade year the tests were supplanted by the ominous climbing rope. The day that thing unfurled from the ceiling of our gym I lost a little faith in God. I don't remember ever climbing the rope. I don't remember e…

Bone Weary

I've been listening to Christmas music for a solid month now, and I've come to one very important realization: there are only actually about six Christmas songs and all of the good ones were written before 1962 (except for "Christmas Eve in Sarajevo," but that's okay because that one just replaced the super rape-y "Baby It's Cold Outside" so it's an even swap). And my all time favorite song is "O Holy Night." To be fair, "O Holy Night" doesn't really hold up the same way "Carol of the Bells" does, but it has one solitary, beautiful line in it that helps it secure the number one spot: "A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices/For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn."

"The weary world rejoices."

Y'all, let me tell you. I am weary this year.

2017 has, without a doubt, not been my year. Rehashing the myriad of ways people and circumstances have clobbered me this year isn't really the …

The Stigma of Messiness or Yes I Do Have Anxiety Flashcards

I have never been under any illusions of being a "laid back" kind of gal. I admit that, at the best of times, the term "high strung" can accurately be applied to me. I like things done a certain way, at a certain time. This accounts for my neat-freak habits, my road rage, and my inarticulate rampages in crowds. But these have always been manageable. I get butterflies before my team competes at Sections, I can't sleep the night before we leave for a big vacation, and I recheck my alarm every night at least three to four times (let me tell you, I slept through it once and woke up 32 minutes before I was supposed to be teaching in my first hour an hour away--never again).

But six months or so ago, this transformed into something completely foreign to me: real, honest to goodness anxiety. I don't mean the anxiety you feel before starting a new job, moving, or even the first day of school. I mean the kind where my mind doesn't feel like my own anymore. Where…

Fifth Grade Trust Issues

When I was in elementary school, there was a girl in my class everyone adored--let's call her Cassie. In retrospect, I'm not really sure why we coveted her friendship so much; to be completely honest, she was boring. But we all wanted to be her best friend, and it caused enough bitterness in the class that in fifth grade, all the girls were forced to stay inside at recess to "talk it out."  (Side note to all elementary school teachers: this does not work. It was just 35 minutes of brilliant passive aggressive mind-fuckery). But, by some stroke of luck, Cassie was my best friend. For whatever reason, she chose me.

And then one day I found out--Cassie was a bitch.

I was walking into the hall when I heard a bunch of girls in my class whispering outside the door. Apparently Cassie had told them I "made her" be my friend. She didn't actually like me, but I forced her to be friends. It was never clear to me how I was supposed to have done this--I assume throug…

More 90s Anthems, or Staying Power

Anyone who knows me knows I love Nelly's song "Air Force Ones." Once, when drunk, I completed a rhetorical analysis of the structure to prove its brilliance. I maintain that lyrics like, "I get to stomping in my Air Force Ones" and "If the shoe is on the shelf then you got one, man" are pure genius.

This is the hill I'm dying on, y'all.

I recently rediscovered my love of this classic late-90s ballad when I started listening to Nelly Radio on Pandora (okay... I'm so old, yes I still use Pandora). And as lyrical masterminds like Ludacris, Nelly, Chingy, Eminem and Chamillionaire started blaring out of my car stereo at 6am on the way to work, I discovered something disturbing: I know an alarming amount of offensive rap lyrics from the late 90s and early 2000s. I no longer remember most basic math, anything from a single science class I've ever taken, or even my sophomore English teacher's name, but the lyrics to D12's "Purple P…

An Angry Email and the Beauty of Teaching

Six years ago, in the dark depths of December, when everyone—students and teachers alike—was desperately counting down the days until Winter Break, I got an email from one of my freshmen students. The email was sent at 11pm on a Tuesday night. We were in the middle of our unit on To Kill a Mockingbird, and the students had been assigned to read the chapters in which our mockingbird, Tom Robinson—a black man wrongfully convicted of the rape of a white woman—is shot and killed. In desperation, in a wild fit of hopelessness, he tries to flee prison and is killed, shot in the back 17 times. My student, enraged at the unfairness of it all, fired off an email ranting about the book, about injustice, about her absolute disgust at the unfairness of it all. In her 14 year old vernacular, she angrily accused me of lying—I told her that, in general, Mockingbird had a happy ending—and the world of being unfair.

See, when I tell people that I teach high school English, I get one of two responses: …

My Girl Hillary

I love Hillary Clinton. That's not a popular opinion, even among Democrats, but I proudly cop to it. I don't mean I voted for her or that I think she'd be a good president (though both those things are true). I mean I love her. I have a Funko Pop doll of her on my mantle (granted, it's in the basement, but still). I admire her. I think she's strong. I think she's smart. I think she's a bitch, but that's okay because, in the words of Tina Fey (another woman I love), "Bitches get shit done." Y'all, I love her.
Most of all, what I love about my girl, Hillary, is the fact she is unapologetically Hillary. She owns up to her mistakes, but she doesn't apologize for being strong, or opinionated, or doing what she thinks is right, even if it turns out to be wrong later. I truly believe one of the reasons so many people dislike Hillary is this very lack of apology. A lot of the criticism leveled at her is, in reality, dislike of the fac…

Cheat Codes and Free Will: What the Sims Taught Me About Life

Perhaps my worst kept secret is that, for years, I unabashedly loved the computer game The Sims. I was never a Sims City fan--that required far too much work and even at a young age I had no illusions that I should be, in anyway, in charge of running... well, anything.But The Sims was different. In the game, you built houses, decorated them, and then created families to move in and live there. The premise is your Sims need to build skills so they can get jobs, make money, and improve their houses. But y'all, Sims are stupid. Left to their own devices, they leave their babies outside in the snow because they wanted to watch TV; they don't go to work because the house is too dirty and it depressed them. And they never study. But there's a little switch in the settings of the game that makes all this a moot point: The free will button. See, you can turn free will off, and then your Sims can't do a damn thing unless you tell them to.

I mean, the ability to be totally in ch…

Crotchety Old Bitch

In August, my husband and I adopted a dog named Ellie; then we immediately turned into insufferable millennials who talk about said dog way too much. It's amazing.

Ellie is a bundle of contradictions: She likes her own space, but she has to be in the same room I am. She's sweet and likes people, but only on her own terms. She's skittish around strangers and loathes kids. She gets cranky if she's not in bed by 8:30, hates to get up in the morning, and is relatively sweet until someone gets in her face, at which time she'll snarl, growl, and--in the case if my in-laws' dog--attack with teeth bared if you don't back up. She's sweet and cranky at the same time; cuddly and stand-offish; loves walks but gets winded after 6 blocks.

Y'all. Ellie is me.

Let's review:  Dislikes strangers, children, and exercise. Always wants to be in bed. Sweet, but will attack you right in the face if you tick her off.


We ended up adopting Ellie because her previous f…

My Confession

Even when I was young, I thought Confession at my Catholic grade school was suspect. I get to be awful, and all I have to do is go in a little box, say I'm sorry, maybe a couple prayers, and everything is forgiven? And even if I do the same awful things again, I just need to repeat the process? That's it. Forgiveness: eternal and unconditional. 
Christ, that's not how any of that works. 
I actually pride myself on being a fairly forgiving person. Actually, really forgiving. To a fault. Sometimes I forgive where others think I shouldn't. And the truth is I'm okay with that. It is a trait that has occasionally frustrated other people in my life, especially when it means I maintain relationships others think I'd be best without. Yet of all the crappy things I've forgiven, I've never regretted giving someone a second--or third, fourth,or even eighteenth--chance. In the end, it's always been the right choice. I'm okay with forgiving.
But lately…

My 90s Anthem or How Not To Stay

I love Lisa Loeb, completely and unabashedly. Okay, I love the one song from her I know. Her song "Stay" is, without a doubt, the anthem of the 1990s. Recorded for the movie Reality Bites, that song was my jam (yeah... I was 10... what of it?) To this day, the whole world pauses for me when it comes on. I hear the opening chords and I freeze. And then, I sing (loudly and badly).  But there has always been one part that drove me crazy:

"I thought that I was strong
I thought, "hey, I can leave, I can leave"
Oh but now I know that I was wrong
'Cause I missed you."

See, the implication is that if you miss someone--if it's hard to walk away--then you're weak. You were wrong to leave. You'll never get away.

Lisa. Come on.

Because the truth is, if it's easy to walk away, if it doesn't hurt or make you sad, then it doesn't require any strength. You don't have to be strong to walk away from someone you don't care about, and you d…

A Little Black Stool

This worn, chipped, dusty stool is probably the single most important thing in my entire classroom. It means more to me--and to many of my students--than any of the hundreds of notes, pictures, or even cards that line my shelves and walls. It's more important to what happens in my room than the laptops, the pens and pencils, or the books. This battered black perch is why I teach.

This stool has been privy to a lot over the past ten years. Every day, students drag this stool to the edge of my desk and settle in. Sometimes they have their laptops open, sometimes a notebook, sometimes just their hearts and stories. But as they sit there, that's where the real joy of my teaching begins. I love the moments in front of my classroom, watching my freshmen read Romeo and Juliet out loud and giggle at Mercutio. I love watching my sophomores fume over Daisy's betrayal of Gatsby or my seniors as they tear up as Hamlet takes his last breaths. These moments with my entire class can some…

What I'm Left With

Spoiler Alert (that will surprise approximately zero people who know me): I am horrible at letting go of things.

I don't just mean slightly worse than average. I mean awful. Appallingly, shockingly awful.

Ever since I was young, the idea of losing something--losing people--has preoccupied and terrified me. So, when confronting a potential loss, I have the super awesome (ahem... read: annoying and pathetic) tendency to hold on as tightly as possible. I mean, who doesn't love clingy, amirite? But the flip side of this is I've never been a person who lets others in very easily. In high school, my best friend of three years told me one night, "You know, you're really hard to get to know. But once you let someone in, you're for life."

It's 16 years later and she's still my best friend. So, you know. She wasn't wrong.

I don't let people in easily, it's true. I invest a lot of energy in people, but at the same time, there's usually an emo…

Welcome to the Shitshow

Adults lie all the time. And I'm not talking about the obvious Santa Claus-Easter Bunny-Tooth Fair lies. Those are relatively innocuous. In fact, the worst lie isn't even something adults actually say--it's a lie we tell everyday in just existing. A lie we tell in every move we make as adults. I don't know if adults even know we're lying. But we do it. All. the. time.

So here's the truth, people-who-can't-rent-a-car-yet (that's my adult threshold): Adults are messy. And none of them--not a single solitary one--has their shit together.

I mean, none of them.

Shit is everywhere. Everywhere.

Most young people think that, once they're bonafide adults, they'll have their lives figured out. The chaos and uncertainty will fade and suddenly it'll all make sense. I know I believed this. I believed that when I was a real adult--when that would happen was a little hazy--I would suddenly find myself competent at things like insurance and taxes, home main…

The Room Where it Happens

When I was sixteen, my friends and I sat down to watch the National Champion in Original Oratory, Jared Weiss, on my friend's VCR in his basement. We watched Weiss's speech. Then we rewound (I'm old, y'all. This was 2000) and watched again. And again. And again.

We talked endlessly about being on that stage--being in that room. And I have never been the same.

This past summer, I once again found myself watching Nationals, but this time I wasn't in front of TV or computer. This time I was sitting in Birmingham, Alabama, surrounded by 3,500 speech people watching it all in person. That's when it hit me. Oratory had just finished and we were waiting for awards. I looked around and suddenly felt my heart stutter. Here I was. Sitting in the room where it happens. At last. And not only was I sitting where it happens, but that year, I had been a part of it all happening. I had a student break to semifinals--she finished the tournament 10th in the nation. I was finall…