Thursday, March 21, 2019

a calling recalled

This week, I submitted my resignation from teaching.

I can't remember not wanting to be a teacher. I was an only child for nine years, playing School most of that time with a makeshift classroom of stuffed animals arranged in relentlessly neat rows, each assigned a name in an old ledger from my grandpa's business. Occasionally I roped my younger cousin into joining me but only as a student, never the teacher. If he thinks of those days fondly, he's being kind; I was a rigid taskmaster in my early days, assigning him (and the hostage toys) leftover handouts my former-teacher uncle gave me in an old briefcase. I also remember conjuring infractions to punish him for, as I hadn't yet learned the art of positive behavior reinforcement. Later, I divided my time between torturing my cousin with math & spelling worksheets and preparing 'lessons' for my baby sister, using Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, and Captain Kangaroo as inspiration. As I got older and better at interacting with others not as a tyrant, I found myself seeking out other broader, more finessed ways of sharing information I learned from my constant reading and TV-watching.

All through real school, my favorite parts of the day were staring at cute boys, reading, and writing (order may vary); on the best days, I helped cute boys with their reading and writing. The one time I skipped class in high school was to finish an English paper due later that day. I admired most of my teachers, especially the English teachers, and those I didn't served as examples of What Not To Do when I got their job. I also babysat a lot and spent most of that time reading to and interacting with the kids before watching TV and eating snacks; I felt like I was a natural.

In college I fell in love with Thirtysomething and the idea of becoming an Advertising Executive (though unclear on what that actually meant), but really I was in love with the cool houses and wardrobes that apparently came with working as an Advertising Executive? Teaching was still in my periphery but I knew it wouldn't pay well and in the late '80s, making money was The Goal. In my junior year, an honest professor mentioned that anyone not willing to sell every awful product being sold would never make it in advertising; I dropped the class and promptly enrolled in the School of Education. I relished the Literature classes directed at future teachers; I tutored other students in writing; I spent time working at the campus preschool and babysitting for graduate students. During student teaching, I surprised myself with instinctual moves like bonding with an otherwise difficult kid through our mutual love of football, and gently redirecting the teen who earnestly asked me to prom. I also incorporated Wayne's World and an SNL skit into lessons. Rock star.

I cherish highlights of my time in classrooms, from the middle school where I designed curricula from scratch and helped 8th graders plan community projects to the GED prep work in a group home with adjudicated youth to the substitute teaching, where I perfected my Love & Logic techniques, to these past 12 years at my favorite place outside of my own home. Despite the long hours and emotional beatings, I continually felt called to teaching.

Until this year. When I signed my intent to return last spring, toward the end of my sabbatical, I didn't think twice. Why wouldn't I go back? I had gladly dedicated most of my time off to my daughter and she was graduating; I'd pursued some Fun Things but none of them had specifically offered me a new career. I put my classroom back together, planned some fresh lessons for classes, made connections with my students, as usual. Yet, it felt different. My boy continued his chemotherapy treatments; my girl marched alone in football games 450 miles away; I kept comparing my hours of preparing lessons to the hours I'd spent volunteering with homeless youth and at film festivals and with public radio pledge drives, and I longed for that freedom to use my time as I wanted. And, I realized, as I needed.

I knew what I was accepting when I chose to be a teacher. I have loved even the hardest, most mentally trying moments of all of my experiences as an educator. I consider every instance a gem in my crown - I couldn't have become the wife, mother, friend, or woman I am without having absorbed the digs and disappointments along with the praise for and pride in my classroom time.

It is strange now to be at the half-century point of my life deciding to change direction, to alter my identity, to become Something Else. More than strange to not even be able to name the Something Else I'm becoming - I might write, I might be a professional volunteer, I might be the substitute teacher some people love and others think is weird. Yet all of these things feel more acceptable than staying in a position where I ought to be uplifting but am instead a slow drain of inspiration & joy.

I hope that those coming into my place are feeling how I did for a couple of decades - excited about designing ways to engage sometimes-surly teens, energetic in their desire to instill a love of learning - and that they are open to embracing the unknowns of classroom life, the demands of loving other people's children, the challenges of balancing dedication to teaching with necessary self-care.

I don't think I failed, but I am exhausted and ready to move on.
Here's to a new calling.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

writing for real

I'm more than halfway through my 50 things before 50 quest and have only included a couple of mundane activities plus about half a dozen concerts, though my list of Things To Do during sabbatical is still overflowing with ideas I haven't yet started to pursue, mainly because they scare me.

One of those Big Plans was to "write more," by which I essentially meant "let other people who don't automatically like everything I do read my creative writing." So I entered the NYCMidnight Short Story Challenge - getting a $5 discount by posting an announcement on my Facebook page, which served two necessary purposes for me: saving money that I'm not making this year and publicly declaring my intention so I can't easily back out.

I am a little terrified; Eleanor Roosevelt would be proud.

As soon as I entered the contest (which doesn't start until January, thank baby Jesus), I vowed to establish the long-resolved-but-never-realized habit of writing something each morning. This is especially painful for a perfectionist, even a recovering one like I pretend to be; I am every day mentally apologizing to all of my past students for acting like free write activities are simple and fun.

My first two days were exercises in mild self-loathing and premonitions of spectacular failure, but today I consulted the Creative Writer's Notebook that my beautiful, talented, genius friend Lisa gifted me.
The prompt I chose was about "revealing character." I was given vague details - a traveling salesman, tall with a bad back from uncomfortable beds at cheap hotels, who is divorced and has two young children; I was instructed to use these facts and describe this person through actions and strong narration. I sighed, worried over it a minute, then took to writing (in pen, to keep myself from editing & revising as I wrote). Here is the draft I composed in half an hour this morning (with a tiny bit of editing as I transferred from notebook to laptop, because I'm a perfectionist/cheater):

What must they think of me? A man who has spent his life driving around, trying to convince people to buy things they don't need, who sleeps in places that will never stop smelling like old ashtrays and dirty socks. This lingering odor has become part of me, their father, arriving on the porch seconds before I do so that when they hug my bent neck I can feel their reluctance to get too close; my children will always be the first ones to let go.

Each month when I make my way back to our dusty little town, I look forward to the moments around that first touch and imagine they will be different - their eyes will brighten this time, their hands will reach faster for me, their faces will nuzzle in close again like when they were babies.

I drive past the mile markers, noting each place with a mix of anticipation and shame. The bowling alley at the edge of town, only six miles to their neat little house, was the first place I kissed their mother and made her believe our lives would be different. The grocery store, somehow still standing in the middle of strip malls and supermarkets, blinking as stupidly as it had 20 years ago when I was the star clerk, a local celebrity, about to make everyone proud. The remains of the drive-in theater, rotting in an abandoned field of beige weeds, only one mile to go, shoving broken scenes of fumbling with buttons and snaps, unzipping in the back seat shadows, sweating and whispering and promising.

Thoughts welcome.
Be kind but firm.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

the paradox of perspective

Sometimes when students ask how old I am
(after I give them a silent pointy raised eyebrow to remind them that not everyone loves this question since guesses about age usually skew to elderly and no one wants to be associated with that too soon)
I give them historical math problems by way of answer:

I was born the year before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.
I was born a few months after Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated.
I was born the year before Woodstock.

Some search their brains for these facts, eyes squinted hard for maximum thinking power.
Many grab their smartphones and plug in keywords, triumphantly shout 1968!
then consult their calculators for the final number.
Others blink slowly and look away, uninterested in history & math,
my age not worth this effort;
obviously I was born a long time ago, maybe even before their parents, who are old and boring.

Whenever I go through this exercise I'm reminded
of how many events the whole world knows
happen at the same time
as tiny personal miracles and tragedies.

Other people were born exactly on the day of the moonwalk -
how did those mothers feel, their excruciating labors overshadowed by the constant coverage
of a guy kicking around space dust?

Other people died exactly on the days great men were murdered -
surely those families felt doubly gutted, lost in two worlds of grief, wondering whose mattered more.

Many Woodstock attendees left early, cold & muddy, hungry & tired,
were back at their desk jobs or slumped in classrooms,
while Jimi Hendrix stunned onstage with his Star Spangled Banner.


I remember being home sick from school on March 30, 1981, watching TV on the couch when breaking news announced President Ronald Reagan had been shot.
I remember feeling hollow, the hair on my arms shivering;
I'd wondered how my mom felt when her president was shot.
But then, I remember increasing aggravation
that the coverage was going to interrupt General Hospital,
the bright spot of sick days;
7th grade Me dismissed the possible death of a world leader
in favor of watching my favorite soap opera.
For a few days in September 1998, the troubles of the entire planet disappeared.
My son had been born
quick labor
fetal distress
try to sign the release with your wrong hand because we put the pen in your right and IV in your left
emergency Cesarean
only 4 pounds
low sodium & blood sugar
umbilical hernia
moved to another hospital
miles away.
Certainly there were discoveries and assassinations and victories and catastrophes
important to hundredsthousandsmillions of other people
I only cared about
one thing one thing one thing
minute after minute after minute
until I could bring my boy home.


It is a strange experience
troubling yet comforting
distasteful while delicious
to understand
this world is so vast, so full, so gigantic
and so enclosed, so limited, so minute.

Monday, September 18, 2017

relating in retrospect

As a teacher and mom, I know I'm expected to remind people that nothing is impossible. If I were a motivational speaker or Oprah or an abnormally perky optimist like I'm pretty sure Reese Witherspoon is, I'd point out how the word even says I'M POSSIBLE! I want to punch myself for just typing that.

The thing is though, some stuff is impossible and I think it's important that we face it in order to properly deal with it. I'm not talking about complicated tasks that seem despairingly unlikely - eradicating hunger, exacting world peace, having a million dollars to do with as I please, living in a pineapple under the sea, meeting/marrying Michael Fassbender...I mean something like time travel. Specifically, being able to return to my own teen world and help myself make different choices. This is impossible not only because no one that I know of has perfected a time machine yet, but mainly because what teenage person would ever listen to a grown-up's advice, even if she claimed to have come from the future?

I've found myself in a strange place lately [hello again, middle age, you fucking creeper]. I'm trying to go about my business, aging and contemplating my purpose and letting go of my children as they become adults, but I keep stumbling across these thoughts & memories that make me question what I even know about myself. And if I don't know myself, how do I help guide other people with any credibility? I believe myself to be content with how my life has been but then I fall into a pit of What If and start to retrace my steps - they usually go back to my foolish freshman year of college when I squandered 99% of my opportunities to be a better person (the 1% is miraculously not burning bridges with some classmates whom I still consider good friends and they seem to feel the same). So I try to get inside my own 18-year-old mind but memories are unreliably altered by age & perspective, and reading those loopy-cursive journal entries is so embarrassing; I cannot connect Now Me to Then Me other than generically recalling the events. Everything she wrote seems silly and shallow - I know that's because I'm looking at it through the eyes of a 49-year-old old person, but when I try to imagine asking her to think deeper, to understand why she's doing what she did, I'm at a loss. Why am I unable to relate to my own younger self? I remember feeling so mature, so capable of accomplishing whatever I wanted (though I can tell I had no idea what I really wanted...why??), so almost-sure of myself (disappointment with my hair is a lifelong theme); at the same time I also know I was far more insecure than I let on even in my private writings. I start to feel sad for Then Me and that's when I wonder about the time travel thing - if I could go back, what could I tell her that might inspire her? Would I just drop in as Future Me a la Kyle Reese (with a different end purpose, of course) or simply pose as a naturally occurring adult on campus whose wisdom is somehow welcomed? But then, I didn't listen to my smart best friend/roommate nor my cute Michael J. Fox-lookalike grad student advisor when they tried telling me how to not fuck up, so why pay attention to the righteous old weird mom-lady? And, I ultimately don't want her to drastically change her life because I am happy with how my life has turned out - if Then Me didn't flunk out and spend a year away from university, I probably wouldn't have met my man and had my kids and felt so strongly about helping other teens find their way.

So, what do I really want from this exercise?

I wish Then Me had made more meaningful connections with people, including herself; I wish she would realize how smart & funny & capable she really was - not based on what others told her but because she shut up the loud mean voices in her head and listened to the quieter gentle ones that matter most; I wish she could get comfortable sooner with her body and treat it kindly, with respect; I wish she liked herself more then, because it's been nice for the past handful of years, finally.

There is a paradox here - the past doesn't define me, but it does shape me. I am here only because of where I've been, yet I lament how I spent my time there. Maybe that all makes the now even better though...

Have I just accomplished the impossible?

Sunday, September 3, 2017

50+ things before 50

I will have lived half a century by next August and would like to diminish the societal weirdness of being 50 - having to check a new demographic box on forms, knowing most women begin to be dismissed at this age - by mindfully engaging in activities that bring me joy, magnify the wonder of our world, show myself and any doubters that I do indeed still have relevancy & usefulness & vibrancy. I started this process last fall when I requested a sabbatical for the 2017-18 school year, to have 180 days to freely manage my time, being available for my graduating daughter and exploring different kinds of opportunities.

Here I'll record the unique things I do during this year, to remind me in my old age (many decades from now) that I loved life, that I came to live out loud and did.

Day 1, August 23, 2017 : Dinner at Le Pigeon featuring grilled skate + foie gras sorbet

2, August 24 :  Poetry reading with secret boyfriends Anis Mojgani & Derrick Brown

Precious Anis Mojgani
Darling Derrick Brown

3 + 4, August 26 & 27 : Iggy Pop, Spoon, and Beck in concert

5, September 8-10 : Assistant to Tom Kenny, voice of SpongeBob Squarepants et al, at Rose City Comic Con
6, September 11-19 : MVHS band fundraiser

7, September 15 : Miller's Crossing at Reader's Theatre Repertory

8, September 22 : Alison Moyet at a tiny theater with my college bestie

9, September 24 : Wine tasting + vineyard tour with friends in the Gorge

10, September 28 : Begin weekly volunteering at p:ear, a program for homeless & transitional youth

11, September 29 : MVHS band social

12, September 30 : Pullman for Mason's 19th birthday

13, October 5 : Answer phones for OPB fall pledge drive

14, October 5 : Cobra to Seattle, train home

15, October 6 : MVHS Homecoming football game

16, October 12 : Happy Hour gathering with colleagues

17 + 18, October 13 : Greek dinner + The Turn of the Screw at Readers Theatre Rep

19, October 20 : Fun Home at Portland Center Stage

20, October 21 : Burlescape show at Crush Bar

21, October 23 : Depeche Mode in concert

22 + 23, October 27 : Train to Seattle for Tegan & Sara concert + overnight with high school friends

24, October 30 : Mary Lambert concert, meet Mal Blum

25, October 31 : Halloween party + face painting at p:ear

26, November 1 & 2 : Check in filmmakers/actors/guests at Portland Film Festival

27, November 3-5 : Dad's Weekend at WSU, Seth Meyers performance + Stanford football game

28, November 6 : First meeting of Citizens Advisory Committee 

29, November 11 : MVHS Holiday Bazaar prize table

30, November 12 : Extra on the digital series, The Musicianer; meet Beth Harrington & Lowell Deo

31, November 14 : David Sedaris reading

32, November 15 : Design giving tree tags for p:ear

33, November 17 : Paula Poundstone, front row at the Aladdin

34, November 25 : Tailgate at Apple Cup in Seattle

....stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


I will not be teaching this year; I prefer to call it a 'sabbatical', evoking a noble adventure, instead of a 'leave of absence', which sounds like illness, defeat, or sad emptiness. It has taken a significant amount of mental energy for me to first decide this is a good idea, then to talk about it aloud, then to discuss logistically with the people affected, and finally to make a formal written request. I enjoy imagining I'm the rebellious type who lives by a sassy "Better to ask forgiveness than permission" philosophy, but in reality I tend to be a rule-following pedant. However, as I have approached the half-century mark of my life, I'm ready to take a break from some tendencies.

Many people (women - let's be honest about who tries to please everyone else all of the time) talk about giving themselves permission to say "No" more often - no more taking on unsatisfying jobs, no more spending time on unnecessary tasks, no more saying or doing or pretending to be something they aren't or don't want to be. These are very important considerations, but as a woman + parent, I long ago allowed myself to say [FUCK] "No" to any activity or behavior that did not directly impact my children's well-being and/or might result in an arrest, but what I haven't done as much is say "Yes" to the things that make me feel good. Vibrant. Successful, purposeful, necessary, alive. See also "Potential Midlife Crisis But Shut Up Because Your Judgement Isn't Helpful." I might still have some issues to work out.

My main motivation for the sabbatical was to be present for my daughter's Senior year of high school (much to her now-horror; I'm hoping she'll be grateful later. Stop laughing). I realized when my son was graduating that I'd either missed or scrambled to be involved in many little events & opportunities throughout the year, and I determined to not let that happen with my last child. I know who I become when I'm trying to Do All the Things for family + school + self and she is unpleasant, and since I'm now on the verge of turning 50, I feel the need to get better at this Living Life Fully gig. There are so many small, beguiling things I realized I've wanted to do with my time for decades and am determined to use this one year differently. I will turn my unstructured blank-canvas days into masterpieces - some will be be fuzzy Monets, some crisp Vermeers, some wildly spectacular Jackson Pollocks & Hieronymus Boschs, others bewildering but fascinating DalĂ­s. 

This year's Yes goals, in no particular order:

  • Volunteer for causes I love - Band Boosters, 2018 Senior Parents, Portland Film Festival, OPB pledge drives (I CANNOT WAIT TO ANSWER PHONES), finding solutions to homelessness
  • Read more - I have a ludicrous number of books hanging out waiting on my nightstand, dresser, table next to my livingroom recliner; follow me on GoodReads and send encouragement, maybe let's create a book group?
  • Weeknight events - more concerts, collage nights, poetry readings, book signings
  • Audio book recording - I've already looked into the [very intimidating] paid world and blanched at the requirements, but have found some ways of reading aloud for fun/free
  • Reader's Theater - a local director encouraged me to try this low-key version of acting; terrified but excited
  • Travel - Keeping eyes open for opportunities to visit new places without spending a lot of money I won't have
  • Baking - whatever, whenever; it calms me and I'll want that often, I suspect
  • Writing - I've already begun to attend to my blog more often, trying to harness thoughts into a theme people might be interested in, but I'd like to investigate screenwriting, more poetry, or short story crafting

Permission is a dastardly thing. It wants you to think it is necessary, that it is the only way you will be able to accomplish what you wish. But you are in charge of your life - some parts feel unchangeable but don't let them guilt or worry you into believing you aren't in control - sometimes it's only a matter of changing the question from Can I? to How can I? 

And it might take 50 years, which is okay.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

memories, dull the edges of my mind

I wasn't exactly a mean girl when I was younger, but I was definitely an accessory to mean girls. My little sister might say I was an actual mean girl sometimes, especially regarding possessions. But, for example, I maintain that since I'm 9 years older than her, most of the Barbie stuff was mine before it was hers so how can I be accused of stealing that tiny copper pot and besides, she's known where I keep it not locked up, in plain sight AND I'm pretty sure I've offered it to her many times in our adulthood and she won't take it. So anyway, on the periphery of mean girlness. Moving on.

Lately (which, in an almost-50-year old's brain means "in the past 20 years") I've been giving increasingly more thought to the usefulness of memories. As someone who writes & reads and encourages others to do the same, I realize the importance of memories but after having had a few instances of my very vivid, certain memories turning out to be completely unverifiable with the people involved, I am now wondering what is their real purpose if they're ultimately unreliable? 

First, the case that basically invalidated most of my 6th grade year. To set the scene, I silently but forcefully disliked nearly everything about my teacher that year: he was old, he made us run and play sports CONSTANTLY, he called my mom to admonish her for letting me eat a Pop Tart and orange juice for breakfast every morning, and each week he would dump desks that he deemed 'messy.' Now, as a lucid adult + teacher myself, I can make these adjustments: he was only about 40 that year; we ran and played soccer maybe twice a week; that is a pretty terrible diet for a preteen girl [but still, I felt bad for my mom because she left the house to work at 5:30am so not her fault I was/am still no good at nutrition]; and while I would never shame students, I do promote neatness in my classroom.

The parts of this teacher I did happen to like were his constant encouragement of my writing skills and praise for my tidy desk, which leads to the first memory I had that was blown to smithereens a few years ago: I saw the name of a boy tagged in a former classmate's 6th grade photo and immediately remembered him sitting quietly next to me at the back of the classroom, waiting for that teacher to come down the aisle to dump his desk. Every week. I had offered many times to show him how to organize his books and pencils and tissue box, reminded him to throw out crumpled papers & empty snack bags, actually rearranged his things myself + told him breathlessly, probably harshly (mean girl tendencies) when it was time to CLEAN HIS DESK! I'm starting to sweat again right now. In my twitchy memory, this kid sat with almost amused resignation, as our menacing teacher moved Gestapo-like toward us. 

I immediately sent this guy a friend request and waited, heart thumping, for him to accept so I could find out that he had fully recovered from this obviously horrible and humiliating treatment 30+ years ago. Except that when we did reconnect, he had zero memory of this situation. Nothing. In fact, he sent me a photo from his law office where boxes and papers were stacked impetuously around the room. And, inexplicably, beyond that, he said our 6th grade teacher was one of his favorites - they had gone running and rock climbing with other classmates on weekends; they'd kept in touch for many years afterward.

After a tiny spark of irritation that I had spent so much mental energy trying to needlessly defend this kid's dignity for decades, I realized my own standards of what makes a good experience and solid relationship clouded my perceptions of what happened for him. (Hello, productive counseling sessions). That is, if that teacher even really dumped desks - how can I know for sure? I'm afraid to ask my friend, the classmate who posted our picture in the first place.

But then last week, I found out another situation I had been involved with (this is where the almost-but-probably-an-actual mean girl thing comes in) has apparently not lived on in the psyche of a key player. 

The summer before our Senior year, a friend & I decided to call a pay phone outside the Safeway. (I'm presuming all of my readers are old enough to know what a pay phone is, and understand why calling it randomly would be considered a fun thing to do during summer break in a small town). I think a couple of harried adults answered and hung up before we hit the jackpot with a couple of boys from our high school; we immediately became spectacular improv artists weaving elaborate storylines for ourselves: a couple of hot 18-year old girls from Las Vegas visiting our cousin. The details were embarrassingly, painfully silly and unbelievable but we had a captive, willing audience.

Fast forward to weeks later, after we've called these boys many times at their homes to talk about increasingly outrageous nonsense while somehow never being able to meet up with them in person, and school is starting so the Las Vegas girls have to return home. We promise to call again though, and that's when things become actually terrible - we notice in the halls what these guys wear then claim to have had a dream about them in those outfits, or we remark on something someone at our [pretend] school said or did, which happened to have been exactly what we saw one of our boys did that week.

Finally, because I wasn't a mean girl at heart, I decided we should stop. But also, we needed to tell them the truth. My reasoning, I (think) I remember very clearly, was that they would be confused & sad if the Las Vegas girls just stopped calling them. Somehow it seemed better in my mind to expose their utter gullibility face-to-face. To be fair to young stupid me, I saw myself as the bad guy in this scenario and thought of the reveal as more of a confession (and absolution, of course) of my crime. Regardless, I told "my" guy during a slow dance at school and he laughed. Again, young stupid me considered this a good sign - I actually wrote in my journal that I thought we were going on a date shortly after that, though I'm pretty sure he never spoke directly to me again. And for the last five years, he has not accepted my friend request on Facebook.

But here is the thing that makes me doubt my recollections: I finally found someone to tell him hello for me and mention I was sorry; my theory, based on my finally realizing that the 30-years-ago confession was more a humiliation than a relief, was that he thought I was a horrible person unworthy of being his friend, even in cyberspace, but if he knew I was apologetic we could move on - yet he told that person he has no idea who I am. No idea. Now, I know this thing actually happened because a) a friend was involved and can back me up plus b) I wrote about it in my journal and by God, that thing is full of unsettling true things. It stuns me that someone, like my 6th grade acquaintance, will have a completely opposite memory of a situation and I don't understand why.

However, again as a result of good counseling sessions, I am letting it all go. We with opposing memories will just have to forever agree to disagree. 

Maybe. (Is this a male/female thing? An age issue?)

Probably not. (Why does this matter so much to me??)

I guess I need a few more counseling sessions.

Monday, August 1, 2016

things we forget to remember

I went to my 30th high school reunion this past weekend, and I not only loved every minute of it but I've looked forward to it, and all of my reunions, for years. Somehow I had a childhood that left me unscathed and even happy, and I still enjoy being around the people I grew up with.

Because I am one of the planners (of course) and a huge fan of the Mortified concept, I decided to read some excerpts from my 1985-86 journal. I mainly thought it would be a funny addition to the evening but the more time I spent reading & choosing selections, the more I realized how significant those [insanely embarrassing] reflections really are.

To begin with, the picture I've kept in my mind of my teenage self did not match the voice I heard when I was reading through the journal. It seems strange that I would see myself so differently considering I literally am the person who wrote those things. Many times we will create a version of ourselves that is better than what we are/were but in a way, I've been remembering a Teen Me that was much less confident and more timid than what I presented on those pages three decades ago. Some of it is cringy to Adult Me - the unnerving, lengthy explanation of how I named a teddy bear after Prince, my Canadian boyfriend, and his best friend who I also thought was cute - but a lot of it makes me nod proudly for the moxie I had, at least on paper. Alone. In my bedroom with the door barricaded against parents who never knocked before entering.

Of course there is the obvious connection between my life today, full of Potential Second Husbands, and the constant celebrity crushes I wrote about: Many were completely understandable like Matt Dillon, Richard Gere, and Andrew McCarthy (who I mentioned at least 4 times in the 18 months of this particular journal, one time in detail as the basis for my fantasy future son's personality) but some were unexpected and intense (Phil Collins, Martin Short...??) or obscure: "I do like Carlo Imperato from FAME very much - yes. And I still feel weak when I listen to Friday Night." Props to Teen Me though - that performance is pretty hot.

However, there are dozens - not an exaggeration - of entries featuring boys from school whom I now have no memory of being interested in.
  • An excited note remarking on what an upperclassman wrote in my yearbook, which I revisited last week and found hardly eyebrow-raising at age 47. 
  • The 4-page entry I read at my reunion that describes multi-day encounters (I'm avoiding the word 'stalking' as it has such a negative connotation) with an underclassman I've literally never spoken a paragraph to, before or after that time. And I know this to be fact, not just an effect of my apparently-faulty memory, because I certainly would have written an all caps, exclamation point-filled follow-up, right? Nothing; I moved almost immediately on to other boys, most of whom were also eventual nonentities in my real life.

I've been trying to figure out what this means. Maybe nothing. Teenage brains are mercifully wired to dismiss a lot of once-monumental information in order to make room for more useful adult details like who will make a trustworthy partner, when rent is due, which vodka is actually good, and how to stay alive in general.

It is probably a good thing that we don't remember all of the things that happened to us in high school, when many of us were so rabidly insecure that we behaved like lunatics, spending half our time desperately trying to be noticed and the other half hoping to not stand out. But I do think that being able to revisit these times is useful in that it resurrects a person you didn't know you were, someone you might actually be proud of, so you can reevaluate who you think you are now and maybe even better understand other people. Reading about times I was nervous but rallied and cheered myself on makes me appreciate Teen Me better, which reminds me to like Adult Me more and stop second-guessing my skills, and praise myself for doing the things I'm afraid to. If I can do this for myself, I should do it for others more often.

I mean, after all, they might be Phil Collins fans, too.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

mom of bad mom, revised

I wrote most of this for my mom's birthday a few years ago. Today I revisited & revised it thinking I might share at her retirement party, but we were laughing too much about this woman's shenanigans as lunch lady for 31 years for me to step in and squelch the mood with a Hallmark moment.
Yet I still want to put it out there, because she is pretty kickass and deserves the recognition.

She's been a young mother, a single mother, a drag racing & dating mother, a working mother, a mother of two, a second mother to many, a mother-in-law, a grandmother.

We've done a lot of things differently through the years - I never did drag race anyone... - but I have never doubted the influence of my mom's example as a brave & decent woman.

My mom taught me
family is important, even if they can be embarrassing and exasperating at times.
My mom taught me
we help people whenever & however we are able.
My mom taught me
quality is key, in work + play:
we mowed lawns like John Deere and colored like Van Gogh.
My mom taught me
it's best to let go of things sometimes.
But when I say 'things' I mean hurt feelings and bad memories, because...
My mom also taught me
garage sales & thrift stores are far more marvelous than the mall.
My mom taught me
napping is allowed.
My mom taught me
ice cream is a food group and we should eat it often.

And my mom taught me
if something is valuable to my child,
it should be valuable to me.
There is a difference between time spent
and time invested.

My mom is extraordinarily full of kindness. I'm proud of all that she has accomplished in her life with astonishing graciousness. She's even managed to stay devoted to the Seahawks despite 40 years of relentless Cowboys fanhood by her husband & first born. I'm actually beginning to think she has willed the switch in talent between the two teams...

I should say it more often but again, my mom is one sharp, capable woman so I think she knows how awesome I believe she is.

My mom (plus me)
July 1968


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