Something is happening really amazing...

Saturday, July 16, 2016

July 16, 2016

Joint birthday breakfast for J and my sister in law this morning. After breakfast, J and his brother retreated to the TV room, leaving SiL, 10 year old niece, and me chatting over the strawberry and bagel remains and drawing with Niece's nice new marker set.

Somehow, our conversation wound around to Claire's (the jewelry store) and flower crowns, and what started as, "Haha, we totally should just leave the boys and go on a crown buying trip!" and, "Haha, right?" quickly turned into, "Mommy, can we, please?" and a quick goodbye to Uncle J, Daddy, and nephew.

I have two new crowns.

When we got back, I discovered this blog post, which is totally appropriate and makes me happy.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

July 6th

My first of two theater camp gigs closed on Sunday, and now I have the entire month of July free before the second one begins. I really built this time up in my mind, imagining all the magical wondrous things I could do in four almost completely unscheduled weeks.

When they started (on Tuesday really, as Monday was J's birthday and full of things to do for that), I sat down with my commonplace book, intending to make a sort of July bucket list. Get all of the vague, exciting potential out at one time to look at and choose from.

I couldn't think of a single thing to put on it.

There were things I wanted to do abstractly. Yeah, I'd like to get my new embroidery piece started (Freddie Mercury is really hard to draw, y'all), and I TOTALLY need to get back down to a size 12, and yes, my house is a mess. But of none of the things that would get me from where I am now to where I think I want to be (with completed art projects, fitting into my fall work wardrobe, and leading what that lady in the KonMari book called a "more feminine life" thanks to my serene, clean home) were things that I was actually excited about doing.

I tried to attach my sense of excitement and desire to the end result (I want to clean my closet because I want to have the kind of life where I ... have a clean closet. Or something.), but that wasn't working for me. I had a strong suspicion that even if I achieved these goals, my overall level of happiness would not increase. I'd pass the four weeks in a vague panic, knowing that I was "wasting" them, and when they were over, everything would be exactly the same.

I am easily moved by the idea that happiness is around the next corner of self-improvement, waiting for me as soon as things 'settle down.' I am perpetually waiting for life's chaos to ease off a little bit and then extending that wait time with every mini-crisis. I get that the mini-crises are what life actually is, but I still hold on to the idea that there is a better version ahead if I could just stop having surgeries and car repairs and huge piles of grading for, like, five seconds.

I don't want to be happy in the future, though. I want to be happy NOW. I've been thinking about this for a while. I'd recently read Tim Urban's blog post that discussed the error in "brushing off his mundane Wednesday and focusing entirely on the big picture, when in fact the mundane Wednesday is the experience of (your) entire life," and I wanted to stop brushing off my mundane Wednesdays. I REALLY wanted to avoid brushing off the month I'd been looking forward to since well before Christmas of last year or wasting it trying to invest in some imaginary 'real life' in the future where I'd finally gotten my shit together and was allowed to be happy.

I put my un-started list away and went to the pool. While swimming, I thought about what I really wanted to do. What would make me happy in the moment. I composed the following list when I got home.

I would really like to be:

Blogging (hey!)
Drinking Coffee

I wasn't completely satisfied, mostly because I wasn't kidding above when I said that my house was a mess. I really wanted to address that problem, but I struggled to put it present-moment terms. After probably more thought than the question warranted, I added

Caring for and about my things and enjoying them fully.


For the most part, I've managed to spend the bulk of my time over the last three days doing only things on the list. (Including cleaning out my fridge and closet, thank you very much!) The dust of my life has in no way settled (Hello expensive car repair and waiting weeks for the part to come in!), but I feel rested and fairly happy. Which you'd think would be easy enough in a month where you have no obligations, but apparently it took work for me.

Friday, June 10, 2016

June 7 and 10

June 10

(Half of this story has been posted on Facebook, and as everyone who reads this blog is also there, it feels silly to retell it, but both halves go together, so...)

The kids found a cockroach behind the iPad cart on one of the last days of school. It was at least an inch and a half long, black, and shiny. The kind people euphemistically call "waterbugs" or "palmetto bugs." This year's cohort of fifth graders contained several ardent bleeding heart animal lovers, so killing the roach was out of the question.

They caught it. Under a cup. I was the one who slid the paper under to trap it. I was the one who did that. Then I ran screaming for the door and nearly knocked over a dear, sweet, quiet girl named Gabby when I threw it open. The kids reverently deposited it (the cockroach. COCKROACH.) in the grass and cheered, encouraging it to find a safe home and family.


Yesterday was the final workday of the year. No kids, just me and a mountain of cleaning and paperwork. It was well into the day when I encountered our shiny black friend's close relative, hiding behind a stack of guided reading books.

I screamed. No one came. My vision got blurry, and my heart started racing. Clearly, in spite of my earlier heroics, my phobia was not cured. I went and got a colleague to help me dispose of it. Then I put my head on my desk and sobbed.

The end of the year is always an emotional time. By this time, you and your class have learned each other. You're a strange kind of family. And then they're gone, and that's it.

But there was more than that going on for me here. At the time, it seemed clear and heartbreaking to me that my students are the source of my powers. They were my phonebooth. Around them, I can be a superhero because I HAVE to be. And for the next two months, I have to just be a regular human being. Mild mannered and phobic.

I'm still slightly stunned that I lucked into a job that I love so much. Of course, it's an impossible job, and I'd die if I didn't get to take a break from it every year, but I still like myself better when I'm doing it.

June 7

This year, I have become much more open about the anxiety disorders I've been diagnosed with. Which today led to the following conversation with a colleague as she prepared her report cards (we both waited until WAY the last minute to do our report cards).
Her (looking distraught and overwhelmed): "I have reached panic mode. It's finally hit me that tomorrow is the last day of school."
Me: "Haha, that's my life all of the time."
Her: "I know. How do you live? I couldn't do it.


A. I am so grateful that she recognized my truth here and didn't see my response as oneupsmanship.This colleague and I work very closely together, and our relationship has not always been smooth. A road of very open communication and hard work to understand each other has led us to a place of mutual support and benefit. I credit this to the fact that, in spite of our almost completely different mindsets,  personalities, and preferences, we both value relationships, are open minded, and want what is best for children.

There was a time when I wouldn't have admitted this on her behalf, and it is still hard for me to say (anything positive) on my own behalf. Things like this make me realize the huge growth I've made in my 4 years in this profession.

(And for what it's worth, me in the past? She's a fucking amazing educator, and you're lucky to have her on your team.)

B. I do not believe in bragging about or fetishizing one's diagnosis. I don't want the fact that my body releases a toxic flood of chemicals every time I receive an email punctuated with periods instead of smiling emojis to be something that I use as an excuse or crutch to avoid responsibility. That said, it is helpful for me to recognize that my reactions are not normal, and that they are a physical thing that my body is doing. I've spent too long believing that I reasonably hated myself because I was a terrible human being who does everything wrong.

That said, it was disappointing to realize that having a better understanding of my emotional responses did not make them go away. I am learning to be satisfied with being able to handle them better. I've taken back the control they had. So that's something.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

April 23, 2016. A few notes as I try to unstick this stuck thing.

Got a call from a parent yesterday morning telling me that her son would be late to school. Remembering the boy's week-long hyperactive enthusiasm for the Thursday night concert his dad was taking him to (Jimmy Buffett! His first concert, and it was going to be his favorite singer! Could anyone in the world be luckier than him?) I said that I understood and that I hoped he'd had a wonderful time at the show. His mom immediately became apologetic, saying she'd been afraid that he was going to talk about it at school, and that it was just a really good father-son opportunity, and of course they would never usually consider such a late night during the school week and.... And her apology made me really sad.

It is really humbling when I stop to think about what I remember of my own fifth grade teacher. Almost nothing. She yelled at me for reading books under the table and she had black hair. End memory. I have lots of really strong memories of being that age, but almost none of them take place in the classroom.

I don't want to suggest that the classroom isn't important, but it's not the MOST important thing when it comes to a complete, happy childhood that carries you well into adulthood. And a complete, happy childhood is more important than math class on the Friday morning after the best night of your young life. Let the kid sleep at home, and don't worry about apologizing to the teacher.

(Added to this thought is the guilt that I feel anytime a parent comes into my classroom and we're doing something other than sitting in our seats learning, by golly! I want to protest that I really DO teach! Often!)

On the same topic, one of the things that I love about this age group is that they literally were born yesterday, and so things that I have long taken for granted are often presented to me as wonderful miracles, and I get to appreciate them in a different way. Case in point was this boy showing off his concert tee shirt, "And you know what's REALLY cool? Look at the back; that's all the cities he played on this tour! See Raleigh? That's the show I WENT TO!"


My large circle of musician friends (J being the most important of them) are mourning the death of Prince. I feel a little awkward in this larger social conversation. Everyone I know is sad! But my strongest Prince memory is that the lyrics to Darling Nikki were printed in a lot of the "Music and Satan are basically the same thing!" religious tracts that I could read in the back of church as a little girl. Services went on for a long time in are small town Illinois store-front church, and there was very little to do if you were a kid. My favorite tracts were the OhNoSecularMusic ones and the one called "Turmoil in the Toybox." Apparently a lot of seemingly normal toys were actually Satanic, which was thrilling and interesting in the bright light of a Sunday morning, and scary at night.

But anyway, I can't really talk to my friends about Prince. Our experiences just don't match up.

Friday, August 7, 2015

August 7, 2015

My projects seem to be taking two weeks on average, so maybe I should amend my initial commitment.

On deck for last week/this week was a shirt that I bought -- kind of an old lady floralish thing that had a pattern and drape that I liked and a surprisingly flattering cut, except for the high round Hanes Beefy Tee style neckline. I've taken a small round neck to something more like a boat neck once before, but that was on a dress with a zipper, so the final project looked awesome from the front and from the back was a mess of safety pins and flapping strips of fabric that I covered with a denim jacket. I figured this would be easier since it had no zipper, and I'm pretty sure it was handmade in the first place.

Alas, I have no pictures, either of the before or after variety. I forgot to take any befores, and it turns out to be pretty impossible to take a picture of myself from the neck down, so you'll just have to wait until you see me out and about in a kind of old ladyish purple shirt, and when you comment on it, I will humblebrag about the alteration, oblivious to the fact that you were only being polite because it's weird that I'm wearing grandma clothes.

I did get a picture of the single random neon green cross stitch on the shoulder.  I have no idea what it was for.

Like most teachers, I'm guessing, the bulk of my creative energy these days is going into preparing my classroom for the upcoming year. I am not too cool for Pinterest-inspired bulletin boards or spending too much money on new office supplies because they are in MY colors.  Aqua and Lime are my room's thematic colors, thank you very much, and the effect is bad ass. And really conducive to learning, I'm sure.

Also, my library is a work of art.

I am generally against posting pictures of anything that could attach this blog to my real identity (she said as if anyone but her friends read this blog),  but I might have to post a picture of my library. It really does rule.

Friday, July 24, 2015

July 24, 2015

So, I made this commitment to finishing up backlogged projects. That's a thing. A thing that I have not posted about in two weeks. I did start a project about two weeks ago. A fairly easy one. I expected it to go by quickly, but something like perfectionism really got to me (which is odd because I don't consider myself a perfectionist) and left me pretty well paralyzed for a while.

Let's talk about The One That Almost Did Me (and this whole project) In.

Here it is:

Yep. A drawstring backpack. There's a whole story to it. It really is a project I've been sitting on for a while.

I like to walk to this coffee shop that is about a mile and a half from my house* on mornings when I don't have to work, but I'm wimpy and don't like to carry anything heavy. String backpacks are the lightest (and most balanced!) way to carry a book and a wallet that I've found, and they're fairly easy to come by. I don't think I've ever actually paid for one; they're usually handed out free at the local teacher 5K where my coworkers and I annually bring up the rear. However, while free is nice, those bags are usually ugly -- made of that material that's not quite fabric but not quite paper and covered with advertisements for local shops. (Oh, but thanks for sponsoring us teachers, local shops! I don't mean to suggest that I don't appreciate it!)

I've had it in the back of my head for a while (like, two years) that I should just make my own out of a prettier fabric, but those plans really started to come together about six months ago. I'd just made myself a different sort of drawstring pouch for carrying my embroidery in since the one I had been using (that I think came around a gift set of soaps when I originally got it) finally fell apart. Making that bag was much more complicated than I imagined it would be, but the end product was nice, and it made me start thinking about finally getting around to making a nice "walk to the coffee shop" backpack.

The purple fabric comes from a dress I bought at the thrift store. Its long, loose silhouette reminded me of the dark mori girl aesthetic, which I really love, so I bought it without really being mindful of the fact that visual kei stuff looks very different on doughy blond women of almost 40 than it does on the waifs who model it. I never did wear it out of the house. I got as far as cutting it into a useable piece of fabric and then stuck it into my sewing box, to be forgotten until I pulled it out to attend to as part of this project.

Ok. So there's even more backstory.

This is my backpack from college:

 It was also my best friend's backpack when she went to college (we were both non-traditional adult students and not the just out of high school kind). I was grateful to her for giving it to me because I could not afford another at the time. It was in pretty rough shape though, and over the four years that I carried it, it burst many seams, especially around the front pocket (that zipper just really wanted to come off.)

Every time a new hole appeared, I'd sew it back together. I knew that my stitching left something to be desired, and I wasn't motivated to even try to be neat, so I went the opposite route, using brightly colored embroidery floss and making my stitches as obvious and uneven as possible.

This was my favorite part:

You can't really see it, but the pink stitches are little X-es.

My original plan had been to do the string backpack similarly, but I realized that I'd kind ofoutgrown that sort of willful messiness. I thought it would look forced if I tried it, so I decided I'd do this one as neatly as possible. Besides, it would give me an opportunity to practice my sewing. I'd love to someday do machine-perfect, even granny stitches even though J says, "If the stitches were perfect, how would people know it was hand made?"

This is a week's worth of effort at making a straight line:

I pulled those damn stitches out and started over SO many times. And they're still not straight.

I pretend like I have a really good handle on the growth mindset. I get it. You have to be bad before you can be good. But I've BEEN bad at this for a LONG time, and I was working really hard at being good this time. It really surprised and frustrated me that I didn't have a magical breakthrough fueled by past failure and good intentions. Maybe someday I'll be a granny-level seamstress, but it will take a lot more work than I've done here.

I wound up stuffing the thing back in my basket, letting my guilt about its unfinished state (and this neglected blog) build until this evening when I threw on my headphones and sewed for three hours straight.

Ha. I have a finished project, a blog post, AND a backpack that is not made of weird paper-fabric. (What is that stuff anyway?)

Now I need to think of something to do for next week.

* The coffee shop is almost directly between my MiL's house and my condo, so this ritual actually went uninterrupted for the year that we lived at her house.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

July 9, 2015

Aarrgghh... Saying I'm going to do something means that I actually have to do it or else I'm lame, doesn't it? I was reminded of this while reading today. I'm in the middle of the collected blog entries of Aaron Swartz. (Raw Thought, Raw Nerve. There's a lot of good stuff here, but man, the "a lot" almost overwhelms the "good." My kindle is slowly developing a backlog of books that he wrote about in a way that made me want to read them as well, so even when I'm finished, I won't really be finished.)

Anyway, one of the entries (essays?) I read today was on good management, and while it made me very happy to be a FORMER retail manager as opposed to a current one, it also had some lines that were applicable to my new, preferable, non-managerial life.

For example, "If you're not getting things done, you can always come up with excuses for why. Competent people get things done anyway."

And also, "Just having a list with all the stuff you need to do -- and taking it seriously, actually going down it and checking stuff off every single day -- is the difference between being a black hole of action items and being someone who actually Gets Stuff Done." 

And (best for last), "We procrastinate because we are afraid. We're afraid it's too much work and that it will drain us. We're afraid we'll screw it up and get in trouble. We're afraid we don't know how to do it. We're afraid because, well, we've been putting it off forever and every time we put it off it seems a little more fearsome in our minds. That's why not putting things off is so liberating. We're forced to confront our fears, not let them grow bigger by repeatedly running away. And when we confront them, we find that they're not so scary after all."

I have been putting off step two of the "finish all the unfinished projects" project. With my summer camp work I don't have a lot of free time, and I've been just generally uninspired. It was really hard to feel like any of my incomplete work would be interesting to do, much less to write about.

I had done a few things that felt like making progress. I got a decent camera. I went through things, did a lot of organizing. But the closest thing I've done to making anything this week was some basic seam ripping and stitch reinforcement on costumes for the campers' show next weekend.

After work today, I struggled with what to do. I wanted to be someone who is competent. Someone who Gets Stuff Done. But I also wanted to not do anything. Hadn't I earned a night of doing nothing by working all day? I tried to come up with versions of Nothing that sounded like Stuff Getting Done. (This almost always turns into shopping in my world. See above regarding the new camera. This time, it was bra shopping. I need a new sports bra, so going to the store would be a productive activity.)

I also had this project that I'd publicly committed to hanging over my head, and I was feeling it grow more and more fearsome. 'I don't have any good ideas.' I thought. 'Anything I do is going to sound forced and stiff, and I'm going to be embarrassed by it.' I am afraid that I am going to screw up. I am afraid that I don't know how to do it.

Anyway. So. I did something. I'm not sure if it counts as a "creative endeavor," but it was something I had been putting off, and something that was half-started, so I'm counting it for the project.


When J and I moved back to the condo, we radically rearranged the rooms and furniture. Everything is much more in line with the way we actually use our living space, and a lot of dead spaces have become functional. We've also gotten rid of a lot of furniture that didn't actually serve a function. Being away from the place for a year helped us step away from the idea of what things we're supposed to be ("This is the dining room") and closer to what we actually need.

This is all AWESOME. But. I'm one of those people who collects things.

Oh, I pared down my collections by an impressive margin over the course of this year, but I come from a long line of antiquers and collectors, and there are some things that I just like too well to get rid of.

But with the reorganization, I had a lot fewer random surfaces to put things on. (Every thing is being actually used, so there's no room for useless stuff.) Luckily, the shop that I used to manage sold organization supplies,  so I at least had a pretty good store of knowledge regarding how to fix the problem. I decided to go with ledge shelves on the blank wall above my sewing chair. (I'd seen some gorgeous work with ledge selves on Pinterest...)

Ok. I spent a good chunk of my life promising people who shopped in my store that installing ledge shelves was SUPER easy. I was apparently very, very wrong. I purchased multiple shelves. I hung one, and pretty much gave up. (I decided I'd hang the rest "later.")

Here is the one shelf I got up. It can never come off the wall because the drywall behind it was basically destroyed in the process of hanging it. Also because I stripped a screw (Ok, when the directions say tighten with a screwdriver, DO NOT use a drill) so it will probably come out of the wall never.

The shelf in the context of the entire space. Having only one looked really pathetic.

Does hanging shelving count as making something? I am going to say yes. At any rate, it was hard and (I think) it resulted in something that looks nice.

I wish I could say that between applying the lessons that I learned fucking up the first one and the fact that I'd acquired a stud finder in the interim, this second go round went much more smoothly. Unfortunately, it did not. I screwed stuff up. I didn't really know what I was doing. I now have THREE shelves that can never come off the wall because there is evidence of extreme fuckery behind them.

There is another unfinished project hiding in this picture.

I think they look all right, though. Not, like, magazine perfect or anything, but I have a place for my Holt Howard figurines now, and wasn't that the point?

Again in context. The lamp is so ugly, but a very young me saved up the $45 to buy it, so I'm keeping it in honor of her belief that being pink made it really beautiful and special.

Aaron Swartz also wrote that most people have no idea how to do things right. I'm definitely one of those people. But he also said, "Usually, if you do you give your best shot at something, you'll do pretty well." (I think he was talking about internet startups and such as opposed to hanging shelves, but I'll take it.)