Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 35)

More Found, Rather Nonsensical

If you’re looking for deeper meaning, look elsewhere. This is a moment in my (former) life – the life when all four of my kids lived in my house and I was better at writing moments down.

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How to vacuum perfect lines in my living room carpet: First you have to move out all the furniture. Not all the furniture, because if you try to move my piano, the front legs will snap off. So leave it. Besides, it’s parallel to the wall, so… straight lines. But move out the bench. Move out the couch. Move out the huge ottoman. Move out the two wood-and-leather chairs. Take them to the front room or to the kitchen or just scoot them into the other half of the living room if you want, and then you can scoot them back when it’s time to do that half.

Now the extras: take Katie’s violin stand and her scads of loose music sheets and shove them in the closet. Pick up Ellie’s piano books (which are always right next to the piano so they’re easy to find) and toss them into her piano bag, which also sits right next to the piano, but rarely with any books inside. Pick up blankets, which we always need in the mornings, because in summer we sleep with the windows open and the living room is so, so cold after all night with open windows. Fold and stack the blankets on the kitchen table if it’s clean and a kitchen chair if the table is foody. Pick up the books from the floor. Matthew’s reading Neil Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book” right now, but only in daylight (because it’s a pretty good scare), so it’s sitting on the floor by the big living room window. Move the plants and the three-foot-tall yellow vase into the kitchen.

Now look. You have a nearly-empty living room. Now, starting with the wall the piano’s on, plug in the vacuum cleaner. From the corner where the fireplace wall meets the piano wall, move straight along the wall from north to south, slowly. You’ll see a line forming in the carpet where the vacuum makes all the carpet fibers stand up at attention. When you hit the bookshelf (but don’t hit the bookshelf, really, because it leaves a black mark on the bottom where the vacuum tries to kiss it), turn the vacuum cleaner 180 degrees and move it so the edge matches up with the edge of the line you’ve just created. Then travel along that straight line from south to north until you reach the fireplace wall. Turn 180 degrees again, and shove the vacuum over so you can match up the edge with the previous edge. Repeat until you’ve arrived at the far (west) wall. Step back to take a look at your amazing work and see how nice it looks when all the lines line up.

Dr. PimplePopper

This is a thing. I wish it were a thing I made up myself, because DR. PIMPLEPOPPER. But, in fact, my Kid 3 showed it to me last night.

Let us go back.

There is a truth universally believed but partially unacknowledged that there are few more satisfying feelings than getting rid of a zit. Am I right? The grossness factor adds to the overall satisfaction, I’m pretty sure. This is a thing that my kids and I have discussed.

So Kid 3 climbs into my bed last night and says, “I know you’ve had a bad day. This should help.” And she hands me her phone. Pulled up to Instagram. And I proceed to watch video after video after video (after video) of this dermatologist … wait for it … popping zits. Apparently she’s gotten past the HIPA laws because she wears a camera on her head and FILMS THE POPPING OF THE GOOEYS.

It’s horrifying.

And I can’t look away.

It’s so awesome. My life is forever changed.

Morning Mantras

It’s not meditation, not really – because I’m not sitting still. I understand the value of that part, and I’m all for it. I’m just saying, it’s not how it happened today.

Today it happened for 2.5 miles up the mountain and then 2.5 miles back down. And here is what I told me, over and over:

Time is abundant.
You are strong.
Your words bring beauty to the world.
All-powerful God knows your needs and desires every good thing for you.

And now I believe it. I trust it. I feel it.

Songs of Themselves

So we did a little Whitman in Junior English. I had them read the first eight sections of “Song of Myself” and respond to it. Many of them liked it, and lots of them hated it. (In their defense, there is a great deal of arrogance there.) When they got to class, we read a bit of it together and then I took them outside. They had to leave all electronics in the classroom. They took a pen and a piece of paper. That’s it. And they sat on the grass and stared. They loafed and gazed at the lawn. They pondered their identity. I made them sit there like that for 15 minutes. If you don’t think that’s a long time, try it. Their bodies fell asleep. They twitched. They hated it, mostly.

And then I had them write a little about their thoughts and identities and all the grasses. They talked about stuff. About how we can step on grass and flatten it, but then we move our feet and it springs back up. How we don’t even notice the dead and dormant grasses even though they’re all around, and maybe that’s like how we don’t see all the groups of people in high school who are unlike us. About how the lawn gets stronger when it’s mowed, kind of like we get stronger when we’re “cut down” by life and the world. About how much grass grows down into the ground at the same time that it grows up toward the sun. About how much hidden life must be inside people if there’s THIS MUCH hidden life inside a cubic inch of lawn.

Then we went back inside and they each wrote the Song of Yourself. They’re lovely, thoughtful people, these juniors. They think thinky thoughts. They even get brave enough to share them out loud in front of each other.

I’m proud of them for sitting still for fifteen minutes and writing with pen on paper. I’m proud of them for pondering identity and Self-ness. I’m getting nostalgic because I may possibly be hitting the home stretch of the school year. But they’re pretty awesome.

In Just-

It’s feeling Just Spring to me today. So I revel in e.e. cummings’ poetry and all the weirdness thereof. I don’t think I can convince the high schoolers in general that cummings is the way to go, but there are a couple, a weird, bizarre, artistic couple, who seem to get it. The magic of Just Spring, the playing with spacing and tabs and returns and spelling and all of it. The increasing creepiness of the balloonman. Mud-lusciousness. The word “piracies,” for the love of English.

It all makes me a little giddy today, as I peek into the beginning of what might be a perfect spring.

The Turtle Part

My 11th grade students are reading THE GRAPES OF WRATH. Okay, that’s a lie. They’re studying it, though. Because I have this goal – I want them to finish high school LIKING Steinbeck. I love Steinbeck. And so, instead of requiring them to read a book that they won’t likely finish and can’t hurry through and still understand, I chose to go about teaching this book a little differently.

I showed them the movie.

(That was different.)

And now we’re studying some chapters. Today we read the Turtle chapter (it’s chapter 3, if you’re playing along at home). In this chapter, we see a turtle struggle across some landscape and cross a highway. A car swerves to miss it. Then a truck swerves to hit it. It survives, and life goes on*. It’s three pages. Not painful. But so many good things are in there, and I want these kids to know it. So we talked about it. We talked about how it’s all a big metaphor and junk. About how it’s not about turtles at all, and about humanity and evil and kindness and victimization and everything important. And then I made them write about it. I made them write for just 10 minutes – when have you metaphorically swerved to hit? When have you swerved to miss? When have you been the turtle?

Oh, they’re clever kids around here. They wrote amazing, open-heart things about being a Hitter (and almost universally regretting it, minus the kid who confessed that he crumbled [and then stirred] saltine crackers into his little sister’s giant birthday jar of Nutella; he doesn’t regret his choice – Yet). They wrote tender, humble things about being a Misser and how they wish they could more often be a Stopper who gets out of the metaphorical car and makes sure the turtle is okay. And they wrote self-aware things about being the Turtle. About how those people speeding past don’t know anything of their struggles to get to the road, let alone across it. About how sometimes life is hard. About how sometimes people are awesome.

Listen: “Maybe to get to the stage of being the woman who swerves to miss the turtle, you have to have been the turtle before.”

“I see those turtles in the road and I have sympathy for them. I want to make up for my crappy former self that was the one trying to hit all those turtles.”

Maybe none of these kids will ever try to read GRAPES OF WRATH. Maybe none of them will ever like Steinbeck (but not because I wasn’t trying). But for at least ten minutes today, they thought about their actions, and how those actions look to others, and how they will affect the world. That’s why reading.

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* We talked about the weed-seed part, too – and about how Life Goes On, sometimes in spite of our trials, and sometimes because of them.

I love Steinbeck. Have I mentioned that lately?

Truce

You know the story of the World War I Christmas Truce? Where the German soldiers sing “Stille Nacht” from the trenches? And then the Allies peek out of their own trenches and they all tiptoe out and then they play together? I hope you’ve seen the two beautifully-done films I’ve seen bouncing around the internet this Christmas about the Truce.

One is a British grocery chain ad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWF2JBb1bvM

The other is this glorious thing: http://faithcounts.net/christmas-truce-peace-is-possible/

(You know it’s really me doing the posting when it’s the lowest-possible-tech way to share media.)

I’ve been thinking about truce-ing. Turns out that’s not a recognizable word. But it should be, so I’m not changing it. Have you ever been in a metaphorical war and found a moment that is was The Right Thing To Do to call a truce? To stop the battle for one day, or one night, and find reasons to think about something Other?

I’m not really so much a warrior, so I don’t have a great deal of experience with this kind of thing, but it comes to my mind anyway. I think about others’ battles – ones I only witness from the sidelines, out of the line of fire. It’s a matter of material collection. For stories, you know. Because in a story, isn’t everyone in a battle about/for/against/with something? And then, I work in a high school. So there’s a constant stream of battling happening around that good place. Some for reasons that are noble, and some because stupidity. Kind of like war, I guess. It all makes a perfect kind of warped sense.

Maybe if you’re in a war you’ll experience the grace of a truce this Christmas time. Maybe you’ll feel so good about it that you’ll surrender. Maybe you’ll find a common ground upon which you can choose to end the war. That thing you’re fighting about/for/against/with? Maybe it matters enough to start the battle back up after the day, or the night, or the weekend. Whatever it is, I hope you have some peace in the weeks to come. And I hope it sinks deep into you so you can look back on that peace when things start crumbling around you once again. And you can remember how it feels when “all is calm; all is bright.”

Flex

I love Yoga. I have a beautiful friend who teaches an early morning class, and I really wish I could get all my business together so I could attend. Because there’s not an obviously better way to start a day than with purposeful breathing and stretching and all that awesome Hippie goodness. As it happens, school day timing isn’t perfect for this opportunity.

When I try to do Yoga by myself it’s not so good. I creak and I whine and I (occasionally) fall over and I giggle at what appears in that moment to be silliness. For some reason, leaping out of bed and into Warrior 3 is not so great. I don’t manage to bend like I wish I could.

And now. Metaphorical flexion:

I like to think of myself as a flexible human. When things are supposed to go a certain way, I expect them to go that way within reason, but I really believe that I can bend with uncontrollable circumstances. In certain arenas of my tiny life, I’m kind of famous for it. Being bendy, I mean.

But then. Then there are times when I crack in half. When I refuse to flex (because I don’t know how, or because my planned world will shatter and crumble and deteriorate if This One Thing doesn’t go the way it’s supposed to). Sometimes when that happens, I know in the very moment that I’m being a freak. I know that I should just run with it. But sometimes I don’t. Run. Or roll. Or bend. At all. Usually it’s not a choice to crack. When I feel capable of making the choices, the decision is generally To Go With It. To Make It Work. To Flex. But when decisions seem beyond me, I feel that rigidity overtaking my spine and it scares me. Because I have every capacity to behave badly in such inflexibility. I can roll my eyes to a degree painful to witness. I can snark like a champ when I’m making passive-aggressive remarks about people who have dropped their respective balls and therefore made things Not Go Well. I can deliver a well-timed reply that makes everything worse.

Can you just trust me on this?

When I make things worse, they’re really, really worse. Sometimes worst.

And all of that is to illustrate that I really prefer to flex. I always would rather be the one who picks up the dropped balls and makes things work. I love the bending, most of the time. I like being the repairer rather than the destroyer. But when it’s too hard, when I’m too stiff, and I react badly, I know it instantly. The heat rushes to my face. Thoughtless words pour out of my mouth. Edges blur and all I can see in focus is the wrongness of the situation that equals the wrongness of my response.

So here’s what I wish for me and for you: This (crazy) Christmas time, I hope that things go the way we’ve planned them. I hope the gifts we’ve ordered all arrive on time. I hope our tape wrapping paper supply outlasts our box supply. I hope our travels are undeterred by weather or sickness or inconvenience. I hope the recipes turn out perfectly. I hope the happy outweighs the stress. I hope that snow falls when and where it ought. I hope that gladness attends.

But when it doesn’t, I hope we’ve had enough of a stretch that we can bend with it, make it work, make it feel right. Namaste and stuff: My flexibility bows (deep and low) to your own flexibility. Breathe deeply. We’ll make it right.