Month: February 2013

Life is Funny.

Funny as in ha-ha-ha, sometimes.

Funny as in hmm, that’s odd, more times.

Funny as in IRONIC, most times.

Why is it, do you think, that we (me, my family, like that) keep having the same struggles over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over? Have we really not gotten gracious under the fire of this particular trial? Because we look pretty gracious to me. And we think we’ve learned what we need to know. But look. Funny, ironic life is giving us that same test AGAIN.

Hilarious. Life is hilarious. Life, you should get your own cable TV talk show. You’re *that* funny. I’d watch it. If I had access to cable channels. At very least I’d watch it on YouTube. Because, funny.

Totally.

Thoughts on Kindness and Small Efforts

There’s time for it. It doesn’t take all day.

It doesn’t have to cost anything, really. Even if you’re one of those people (like me) who show their love through foodstuffs made of white flour and butter, there’s always the option of NOT BAKING.

Smiling at people is not the hardest thing you’ll do today, but if you smile at me, it will make my day. See how easy that is? (Unless you’re one of those people cursed with an obviously insincere smile — that smile that screams “I DON’T MEAN THIS! I DON’T EVEN LIKE YOU!” I can actually tell. As can pretty much everyone else in the world. Try harder to mean it, even if it is the hardest thing you’ll do today.)

When I correct my Kids’ hideous behaviour, I can actually do it kindly. (Not saying I do. Just that I can. And [note to self] I should.)

You know that thing? The one called the benefit of the doubt? It helps. Giving it, I mean. Because it takes a small effort to assume that the things meant were gentler than the things done or said. And then, bingo. Benefit of doubt.

I assume that I’m not the only one who has kind thoughts far more often than she acts on her kind intentions. Am I wrong? I think not. So here’s an easy follow-through. Text. I love text messaging. It is SO EASY for me to send a one-liner with a few words of encouragement or apology or just thinkiness. And as we know, I’m all about the easy. (If I weren’t so lazy, I’d have this printed on vinyl and stuck on my wall: “I’m all for the kind of kindness that’s not inconvenient.”)

If you’re a little more awesome than I, you send an entire email. Instant, paid for, and convenient – because we’re already on the computer many hours of the day, right?

If you’re far more awesome than I, you can send a note. On paper. In the mail. Does receiving a piece of mail like that make you so full of giddiness you can’t stand it? Me, too. My SIL is the queen of the mailed note. I love her for it. A whole lot.

I may have become one of those people who strikes up conversations with strangers in the grocery market, pointing out my favorite foods (mainly ice cream, because who doesn’t want a new ice-cream-related vice?) and asking for advice (grocery market related advice, not the other kinds). It’s pretty easy to tell if the stranger is pleased, and if she is, yay. And if she isn’t, no biggie. Bye, now. And I’ll grab another bucket of Blue Bunny Bordeaux Cherry Chocolate.

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I know you probably don’t need this. It’s just a reminder for me. Because I need to remember that it’s not so hard when it feels like it’s SO HARD.

Probably I’d Like to Not Be A Nazi.

Sometimes people are just a little too. You know? Just a little too. Too angry, too awesome, too obsessive, too perfect, too clever, too moody, too gorgeous, too eager, too sure, too ridiculous. I think I’d like to be just enough. Of all those things. And all the other things.

I was reading a mass-marketing email message (that I totally signed up to receive, so I can’t actually complain, but hang on — I will) about healthy eating stuff, and the writer of the email was touting the benefits of an all-plant diet, plus the weird protein add-in powders that her company was happy to sell me, in natural protein-powder flavors like strawberry. Because, of course. Strawberry protein. Also chocolate. Right. Anyway, I’m skimming along, smiling to myself, proud to be moderate, when she says something like this: “Green smoothies, blah, blah. And I’m not talking about adding a handful of spinach to a fruit smoothie. That’s not a green smoothie.” Um, lady? YES IT IS. Because, see? It turned GREEN when I added that big handful of spinach to it. Which I chose to do to feel more healthy, and to put more dark green leafies in my body. Not because it tastes good. Because it does not. And you, lady, do not have the power to make me question my food decisions. Feel free to continue on the path of Food Nazi, while I sit here occasionally eating buttered popcorn or — gasp — a cheeseburger. And adding handfuls (that is a word) of spinach to my fruit smoothies. And being enough.

In my head right this minute are a half-dozen thoughts of rants I’ve heard or read lately where people* are Just Too. And I’m not actually up for moderating angry comments or whatever, so I’ll just say that the only Just Too that works for me right now is Just Too Kind. Because things go awry. People disappoint. Life is hard. Money is tight. Flippant remarks hurt. Illness happens (and mental illness is as real as diabetes, my friends), and sometimes people are gay, and innocence is misinterpreted as aimed offense, and we (all of us) constantly disappoint here and there, and guess what? Kindness is the way to react to stuff.

And I’m pretty sure I could be really, really kind and still not qualify as a Kindness Nazi. But if I were one of those, I guess it would be all right.

DISCLAIMER: I am nowhere near qualifying as a Kindness Nazi. Not even a little bit. I KNOW THIS. You don’t need to worry that I’ve forgotten how I snarked, how I snapped, how I rolled my eyes, how I rubbed my forehead in frustration. I know. No one is more aware of my failures than I am. I am so aware that it might surprise even my most-aware acquaintances that I know just how often I fall short. In every way. But I chose, and I choose again today, and I will continue to choose to be kind. And I know it doesn’t always turn out that way. Because I fail. But I will keep trying to choose kindness, and if it turns out that there’s a better way to be happy, I’ll let you know when I find it.

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* Strangers. Not you.

Proud Mom Blog Post (feel free to skip)

I just have to say this. My Kid 1, who is amazing at a whole lot of things, nevertheless wonders about her own awesome, occasionally. She questions her performance (wonder where she gets THAT?) and consistently thinks she could be doing things better.

Today, a Piece of Mail arrived (in the post box, isn’t that quaint?) notifying her that choosing the Speech and Drama Sterling Scholar* “presented significant challenges for the selection committee,” and that the committee “appreciate your efforts to participate… and gratefully acknowledge your dedication and preparation” and then she started to cry. Because, yeah. Thanks for trying. And then this: “We are pleased to invite you to represent [Your High School] as the Sterling Scholar Nominee in Speech and Drama.” Then she cried a lot more. Happy, giggling, ulcer-relieving cries. Sigh. Yes.

So here’s what I want her to know. Kid 1, you are the combination of a pure, gentle spirit, a lovely human, and a brilliant and capable mind. I am proud of so many things you do, including but not limited to the ones that make me laugh. When the awards come, you accept them with such graciousness, and that makes me happy — and when they don’t come, your grace still shines through, and that thrills me. I love to see you working for the sake of the work and learning to uncover the subtle, interior, internal rewards. You are a blessing in my life.

*Sterling Scholar is a thing they do here in the Frozen Mountaintops, which teaches HS seniors portfolio skills, interviewing skills, stressing-out skills, feigning-patience skills, and emotional-eating skills in 14 categories. There is the possibility of scholarship dollars at some point down the road, but… EXPERIENCE. This is what we’re going for. Experience.

Personal Pledges of Feminism (sort of)

So I’ve had occasion lately to ponder my take on feminism. Here’s a weird thing about me. I’ve never aligned myself with feminism as a Thing, because I grew up in a home and a society that looked upon angry, noisy, bra-burning women with gentle pity and regret. In my brain, I assumed those women wanted to be men, because men had it all. And for YEARS, I let that image, those imagined, frustrated phantoms, wear the feminist badge. But I didn’t need to wear it.

And then (five minutes ago?) I grew up. And I realized that DUH, of course I’m a feminist. Because I want women (all of us, everywhere) to have what we need. AND THAT WHAT WE NEED IS NOT THE SAME THING. Because, with the exception of food, shelter, and love, we — all of us, humans, men, women, children — need different things to be fulfilled.

Now, I totally understand that as a middle class, college-educated white woman of US citizenship, I walk every day on the gentle paved road that my historical sisters have laid for me. And I appreciate their radical efforts, their vision for their daughters, their bravery in the face of hatred, or worse — of disdain. I read books. I know a little history, and I know a little current policy in other parts of this big world. I know (I KNOW) I have it easy compared to almost everyone, everywhere, ever in history.

Oh, I appreciate that ease. I really, really do.

And I have had occasion, in my small ways, to feel put upon because I am a woman. Personally. Intellectually. Professionally. Socially. And it never, ever feels good. But the difference between me and that strange, imaginary Feminist (the one I constructed inside my tiny brain) of my youth is that I want to be a woman. I want to be a wife and a mom and a nurturer. I want to teach and instruct, I want to nourish and (sometimes) even clean up after my family. I find joy in traditional home pursuits. And I want to be free to find my joy. And I want you and all our sisters to be free to do the same, however that joy be found.

Above all things, I want to use my feminism to be feminine. In fact, I stand by my right to do so.

And I don’t think that makes me anti-anything. It’s possible for a woman to choose another path in this feminist journey. And I’ll stand by them. And it’s possible (and awesome) for men to choose to embrace the traditionally feminine personality-traits of nurture. And I’ll stand by them, too, and be glad.

The best compliment I find myself giving out these days (years) is “Lovely.” That’s a word I use to describe all manner of people, and also art and food and music and homes and clothes. And it’s a traditionally feminine word, but it’s never really occurred to me that it would be a wrong word to use to describe men. And I use it about a lot of men — admirable ones, all. Maybe they’d hate it. But I hope not, because what could be more lovely than being lovely?

And perhaps my pledge is “Be Lovely. Foster Loveliness. Seek the Lovely.” Those are words I can live by.

I read.

I finished a book, put it down, and thought, “That was really, really great.” But the thing is, reading it, I didn’t necessarily feel that way. I picked it up because several friends recommended it. And I trust them. So, I plodded through it a little. With a few exceptions: times the author’s prose made me suck in my breath a little and go, “Oh. I wish I’d written those words.”

So the book is THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater. It’s the first one of hers I’ve read, and here are some words that make me envious: “Dad had dark curly hair that was like me — in that he told it first thing in the morning what he wanted it to do and then it went and did pretty much whatever it wanted to do. (p.59)”

Or these: “Mum said that before I was born, it rained for seven days and seven nights solid, and when she went out into the yard to ask the sky what it was weeping for, I dropped out of the clouds at her feet and the sun came out. I always liked the idea of being such a bother that I affected even the weather. (p. 294)”

See? Some brilliant prose, startling and surprising. And a sense of magic and wonder and danger, because it’s about killer water horses, unpronounceable and mysterious. It appears that what I’m saying is that if you’re looking for an adventure-y book with a little sweet, a little scary, a little romance-y, and a few take-my-breath turns of phrase, this one ends well, making me think maybe I didn’t love it enough while I was reading along. 3.5*/5*

Moving Right Along

I did it, guys. I survived January. And not only survived, but I had fun inside that madhouse of a month.

And I finished the long-term substitute teaching business. It was nearly every day of 2 months, and some kids were growing tired of me, and to a lesser extent, I of (a few of) them… but on my last day, look. Look what I got from someone I can’t name (because I don’t know who sent it).

 

I ask you, does it get any cuter than that? And does my life require much beyond a little overstated praise now and then? No, no it does not. So, thank you, unnamed kid at the high school. You have brought me gladness. Loads. (Also, proper use of “You’re” — so, I love you. Whoever you are, I love you.)

And this marks the third morning of Not Teaching, and the third morning of Writing Instead. And ideas are coming faster than words, but hey — that’s okay since words will arrive to follow the ideas, whereas sometimes the words come by themselves, and just trust me, it’s better when those pesky words have Idea Chaperones to keep them on task and out of trouble.

And so it goes, day by day, word by word, class by class, moving right along. Feeling grateful for the days that don’t move quite so fast as some of the others. Holding on tight to moments and minutes and happies.