Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Why the hell it means so much to me.

My life is not measured by coffee spoons, but if I were to create a timeline, each increment of time would have a song. It's funny how a song can take you right back in time, without even a slight sucking sound. I hear Johnny "Cash Ring of Fire" and I am in the shower singing as a nine-year-old. Three bars of Bananarama and I can FEEL the 9,000 bangles on my left wrist and my eyes water from the cloud of White Rain that followed me like a totally bitchin' version of Pig Pen. "The Star Spangled Banner" took on new meanings that creased so deeply that I still can see the smoke from the Twin Towers when it plays before a game and tear up every single time. So when Jen over at Sprite's Keeper asked about songs in this week's Spin Cycle, I had a hard time narrowing it down. A very hard time.

When I went back to college, I felt like I was meeting an old friend I hadn't seen in ages. I realized that I had stopped being me, I had put aside what I thought I had to in order to be a good mom and wife. Turns out this is exactly the opposite of what is supposed to happen and that made everything all sucky. Apparently. I felt like I was emerging from the cocoon I had allowed myself to be swaddled in and I could finally BREATHE. Suddenly, I could see.

I think about the female teachers I had in school who made a difference in my life. My high school teachers (thank you again, Mrs. Federoff!), my professors like Deb DuBartell, Dr. Snodgrass, and Jerra Jenrette, who amazed me with their intellect and personality and imperfections (before them, I didn't know that it was ok to be imperfect - that simply was not allowed by my mother), but also gave me that paragon to look to when I was becoming the person I wanted to be.

I also hope to be that person for my daughters and for my students - to fill every corner like I was born in black and white; I want the power to see and the power to give and I want to pass that on to every student I have. I want them to find that person they want to be within themselves and have the power and confidence to make that happen.

UPDATE: I heard this song while I was plowing my way to work this morning on a mixed cd I forgot was even in the player, and I love it so much because I wish that I could FORCE every 9th grade girl to listen to it and love themselves for who they are - not loathe themselves for what they fail to see in the mirror.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Friends, Grammar, and Waxing

This week's Spin Cycle challenge was to rhyme. As an English teacher, I jumped up to do a little happy dance all around the bedroom when I read that, but then my husband started throwing dollar bills at me so I stopped.

I had a hard time deciding exactly which poetry to put in here: something I loved? something I wrote? recent? old? ack! But what made up my fantastical mind was a friend from 8th grade finding me - I'm definitely posting about the past and waxing nostalgic.

My favorite poet is Robert Frost - his imagery casts a spell and I hear his New England accent
tell these stories in that lulling nasal canter.

This one makes me feel at home, now - stopping to wonder and think, and to know that the road before me is long but full of moments of splendor and grace.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

When I was in college, I struggled with grammar. Struggle might be an understatement, since I believed in my heart, to my very core, that every rule and law was a gauntlet whacking me in the face, mocking me to go ahead and break me - you won't. So I wrote poetry to release some of my tensions:

Ode to a Grammatical Urn

With a shape so supple
flowing like a stream
filled with the ashes
of my self esteem.

With hands of great talent
Strunk & White have created
this wondrous vessel
which holds me cremated.

Like the Phoenix from the ashes
their teaching rejuvenates my parts
showing me the path
to grammatical smarts.

Still here? Want another?

Cry grammar, grammar!
Will correctness prevail?
Or are we doomed
to flounder and flail?

Cry grammar, grammar!
Wash us clean
of dangling participles
which I ain't never seen!

Cry grammar, grammar!
Colloquialisms run amok
improper conjunctions and tense
cry what the ... (well, maybe not).
Allusion is to illusion
as allude is to elude
so easily switched
in all the confusion.

Cry grammar, grammar!
My spontaneity, so breezy and light,
can be confused with genius.
I do it all the time - you might!

Ok, I'm sure publishers will be rushing to email me with job offers, begging me for more!


Could you tell that while I was taking Grammar I was also talking Classics of the Greek and Roman Empire?

But my favorite is one that I wrote with my older daughters, when they were little, with refrigerator magnets:

I laugh wonderfully loud

I dance when I sing

I dream while I play outside

I fly instead of fall.

Now, back to my day job!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ok, I think maybe I'm too busy. Or maybe someone is slipping me drugs but I don't have any fun side affects; they just make me stupid.

Imagine this: My children are playing together - nicely - on the PS2 and they are playing Madden which is perplexing on many levels but still nice. There I am, shredding the beef into the home made salsa that is simmering in the cast iron skillet, wafting through the house, dancing in whorls of airborne flotsam and jetsam from the woodstove. A tab of bacon fat into a smaller cast iron pan, melting to marry the frijoles refritos with the cumin and salsa. mmmmmm.

I walk into my room to pick up a book. Not to sign a treaty or hammer out the cure for cancer, but just to pick up a book. And forget. I open my laptop (?) and start reading about Jenny and Oatmeal and Obama and the Peanut comes hurtling into my room and says all breathy that the house is on fire 'cause there's smoke.

Luckily, no fire, but Lord, do I have a house FULL of smoke, because bacon renderings apparently smoke like the dickens when left unattended. Apparently.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

There's no such thing as TMI.

Sprite's Keeper came up with these fun interview questions:

1. If you could invent an easy fix (just one) for anything in your life, what would it be and how would it change things?

I would invent a Step-Mom’s Magic Eight Ball that would tell me exactly how to handle every step-mothering issue I face. Then, I would not have to worry about overstepping that crazy mom/step mom line that I swear has the contortion of a rattlesnake (and sometimes the venom of one) and I would be able to rest easy, knowing that I have not somehow innocently pissed off my husband’s ex-wife in a glorious fashion that is about to send her into screaming fits of rage. More importantly, I would be able to do exactly the right thing at exactly the right time, so that my stepson would still feel loved after his opportunity for self-improvement. 'OSI' we like to call those.

2. You have been given a large sum of money, $500,000.00. Here's the catch: you can't keep it and you can't donate it. You must buy something with it, but for someone else in your family. Who would you buy for and what would you buy?

I would buy my husband and children land to hunt on and build a barn on, and a whole mess of horses, four-wheelers, and dirt bikes for everyone to ride.

3. You have the opportunity to erase one embarrassing moment from your memory. What would you erase? (Why is optional.)

My freshman year of high school. All of it. I was such an idiot. No, wait, that should be capitalized and bold: IDIOT. If you went to high school with me: I am sorry. If you were my teacher, you deserve merit pay. My parents? They have already extracted their pound of flesh. My only defense is that I did it all without thought – there was no malice. Cyndi Lauper was my HERO and all I wanted to do was have fun. And, um, WOW did I ever!

4. Imagine that you had your dream job. What are you doing? What hours are you working? How much do you think your salary SHOULD be?

I am already – I absolutely love what I do. However, ahem, I do think I should be making about double what I do. I know, taxpayers and all that, but there seems to be a LOT of misconceptions about teachers and the time we spend. Summers off? “BAH!” I say to thee. Let’s not even consider the master’s courses I am required by law to take. Let’s instead focus on the 10-hour days I work, time I work on the weekends, and call it a Break to Bring the House Back from Disgusting and Possibly Dangerous. In the business world, a person spending that kind of time with my credentials would be making a great deal more money. This is me now stepping down from the soapbox...

5. What is the one luxury you can absolutely not live without and why not?

Getting my hair cut, highlighted, and purchasing the products that support the system of vanity. I have a mass of waves and curls in various shades of brown – from red to almost blonde (this was truly my color before 30 and – ugh – gray hairs popping up like wiry flags of age, announcing “HEY! Hot flashes and wicked mood swings are just around the corner!) and I am ashamedly vain about it. Ashamed but recalcitrant. That seems to be a theme that runs through my life in general, come to think of it.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Guilting the Lily

This week's Spin Cycle is all about guilt. And boy, is it a tough one ...

I am a divorced mom, a stepmom, a working mom. I am a daughter who lives three thousand miles away from my aging father and sick sister. Guilt is as much as a part of my daily life, my daily thought process, as is remembering to take my vitamins and deciding which black pumps to wear with my tweed skirt. It simply is.

My friend has cancer. Four words, mostly single syllable, devastatingly simple, and, while summative, are woefully inadequate. She is more than a friend, she is my daughter's Sensi and friend, my older daughter babysits constantly for her, she is an alter ego - another self - one who knows me as well as I do and someone who is not afraid to tell me when I am being an ass. Which seems to happen way more than I think it should. hmmmmm. She reads like I do, with her mind and heart, and we have had so many interesting discussions about what we have read. Yes, we are even weird enough to read the same books so we can talk about them. I am so lucky to have her in my life.

She was diagnosed a breath away from stage four.

My guilt, the guilt that washes over everything beautiful and leaves a thin translucent coating, is that I know I cannot do enough. I have cooked for her, listened to her. I was there when she had her gorgeous curls cut off (the doctor said this would make the loss of it to chemo easier) and our bookclub made a quilt for her (each of us created a square). But I keep thinking of what I am not doing - even though what I should be doing is a hazy idea I cannot quite pull into focus. I really don't know what else to do, but I should definitely be doing it. Right now. Because if she ... the word is too difficult to write. It makes it to real to write that tiny, terrible word. But if it happens, then I know I will berate myself for not having done that elusive 'more.' I knew a girl who was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, and it honestly never entered my mind that she would die - for cryin' out loud, we live in America in a time of astounding medical advancements and drive-through Starbucks! Who actually DIES these days?

She did. And I have never forgiven myself for not doing more.