Shhhh… Teacher Secrets

img_2339-1

The celebration you had in September because your kids were finally going back to school has lost its luster. The honeymoon period is over. Now your kid’s teacher isn’t looked at as a savior for making your kid wake before noon and give the Xbox a rest. We have now moved into Blame the Teacher season. 

It’s kind of ok. I hate all the paperwork that comes home and making lunches and keeping up with due dates too. 

But before you send that nasty email or make that call to the office, there are a few things you should know. 

1. We take your kids’ stories home with us, and carry them heavy in our hearts. Sometimes we are up all night with worry and burden our spouses with them.

2.  We are always wondering how it is in the “real” world. With expense accounts. Flexible schedules. Time to chat with co-workers about last night’s game. There are days when the only adult interaction we have is co-cursing at the copy machine and trading quick greetings in the hallway.

3. We understand that our interaction with your kid may be the most positive thing in their day.

4. We might say we don’t, but we really are judging you and your parenting. Most of you do an awesome job. A few of you suck at it. Like “Here’s a free hysterectomy/ vasectomy card– use it” suck.

5. We also hate testing. It kills educational curiosity, classroom community, and intrinsic motivation. 

6. We gobble food like Ethiopian orphans because we are used to lunches in 20 minutes or less.

7. Our bladders have to get re-skinned every year from the strain of holding it for hours. 

8. We consider coffee and alcohol essential food groups. Looking for a gift idea? Last year I gave my son’s teacher a bottle of wine. Much more appreciated (and used) than a teacher mug/ ornament/desk plate/ apron… you get the idea. Don’t get me wrong though, I’ll take anything. No one brings stuff for high school teachers.

9. We get that you attack us in order to mask your disappointment in your kid or yourself, but it still hurts. A lot. And deeply. And even when we know we’re right, it makes us question everything.

10. Around mid-year and at the end of the year, we adopt a dark, ER/ combat zone sense of humor. It’s possible that we have discussed which kid we would offer as tribute. It’s also possible that the plot of Thunderdome has entered conversation. 

11. We have all fantasized about taking a kid home with us because we know how much that kid would benefit from experiencing a normal home life.

12. We may not remember every single name or face, but it doesn’t mean we’ve completely forgotten. We’re just old. 

13. When we hear, “At least you get summers off,” we may chuckle, but on the inside we are gouging your eyes out with an oyster fork. 

14. We get that there are some really bad teachers out there. Make no mistake, we hate them too. Most are awesome. Some really suck at it. Like “Your license should be revoked and you should never work with children again” suck.

15. We are advocates for children first, educators second. 

We’re just human, really. We have flaws. Good days and bad. Personal lives that are often as messy as yours or worse. We will sometimes say things we regret, just as you do. We will reflect on a strategy and make changes, just as you do. 

And we care about your child, just as you do.

Why I Can’t Drink Out of This Mug And Other Neuroses

img_2447

This is a super cute mug that was given to me by a dear friend for watching her two fur babies for a week. It’s adorable. It’s clever. But I can’t drink out of it. 

I have been living with myself as long as I can remember, and at the ripe old age of 43 I have realized that no matter how much therapy, self-talk and medication, there are just some things I won’t be able to change about how I think. 

For example, Bill has horrible restless legs and is a night owl, so I always head up to bed at a non-respectable 8:30 while he retreats the the basement and his man cave. Sometimes, he falls asleep on the couch and is still there when I get up for work. 

However, instead of leaving him be, I put on my CSI hat and stealthily check to see if he’s still breathing. If I can’t hear anything, I don’t give my proof of life quest. I put a hand to his forehead to make sure he’s still warm. 

Because, yes, in my head I completely believe that he might expire during the night while watching a Ken Burns documentary. And every time, I walk through my plan in case he isn’t warm. Call the police, arrange him so he looks all right, call my parents and gently wake the kids. This seems completely natural to me. 

But my day to day anxieties don’t end there. If I hear a noise in the middle of the night, I will listen intently while, again, plotting my plan in case there is ever someone in the house. 

But it’s not good enough to have one plan. There’s a plan if an intruder is coming up the stairs, in the kitchen or in the basement. 

Sorry, Bill. You’re on your own there. I’ll tell the kids you were brave. 

I used to hide these pieces of myself, afraid they would scare people away. They make no sense, and I get that most people don’t think this way. Even typing this, I hear voices saying, “You have kids, a dog and two cats. When would the house be quiet?” 

I used to hide all of this from Bill too. I mean, what would he think? But maybe it’s because we’ve been married so long, or maybe I’m just tired of hiding, or maybe I’m just lazier about covering this shit up, but I started letting him in on this. 

And you know what?

He. Gets. It. 

Which means, more importantly, 

He. Gets. Me. 

So when I order groceries from Shipt (because you know how much I hate grocery shopping) and I make him answer the door, because, you know, strange people, he doesn’t balk. At all. 

When I text him continually when the Got Junk people are here because it makes me feel like I’m not alone with them and I have a witness in case I get brutally murdered, He. Gets. It. 

And this isn’t a gesture I take lightly. It is immensely beneficial to my mental health to have someone who will listen to my rages, who doesn’t take my shit personally, and who responds to irrational texts with “I love you, and everything will be ok.”

So why can’t I drink out of the mug? 

Did you look at those eyes? How can I possibly DROWN THE DOG???? It’s watching me with love and trust! I feel horrible enough that dust collects on him messing up his cute fur coat. 

So right now it sits on the counter like some sort of odd decoration until I figure out what to do. And Bill never moves it. 

Because he gets it. 

No, I’m Not Dead. I Just Feel Like It. 

Welcome fall! Your crisp breezes, your football games, and your goddamn germs. 

Last Wednesday started the cycle– sore throat, stuffy nose, general malaise. I love that word “malaise.” It sounds luxuriously exotic. “Why it’s worse than being tired. It’s complete malaise.”

But I digress. 

Bill, being the good soul he is, encouraged me to take Thursday off. When I refused, he mentioned Friday. 

Now I know this sounds weird. Why not take a day off? Because when you take a day off from teaching it’s like asking for a week’s worth more of work. And no one wants that. And I really thought it would be a regular ole cold that would be over and done with and on its merry way to infect someone else. 

But I was wrong. So wrong. 

Distracting me from my illness was that Kathleen got super sick the next week. Sore throat, fever, and so tired even she had malaise. Well, no virus is going to fuck with my baby so Monday afternoon we were in urgent care for a strep test. It was negative. 

And urgent care can suck. Either you get a decent person who has opened a medical text within the last 12 years or you get someone with a lab coat that looks like it hasn’t been washed in those same 12 years. 

By Wednesday she was still bad so she went to her real doctor and even though it wasn’t strep, gave her some meds due to the unrelenting fever. 

Now through all of this, my cold moved into my chest bringing a smoker’s cough that would put the Marlboro man to shame. I was already off Friday and just wanted to make it through Thursday. 

But then it hit. 

First hour I held it together. By second hour I was freezing and could not get warm. My entire body revolted and was on fire with pain. I left work with the heat on full blast and made an appointment for myself. 

I almost crawled into the house and took the hottest shower I could stand. I had to make it until 3:15 when my appointment was. 

I wasn’t wearing a clown costume, but I’m pretty sure I scared everyone there. I looked and felt like death and people carved a wide path around me. When my name was finally called I was nauseous. 

The poor assistant was trying to chit chat and ignore the fact that I carried a scythe while I searched for the nearest trash can. Finally, in the office, my stomach relented. 

This poor nurse assistant kept up her chatter while taking my blood pressure as I was puking and retching into the garbage can. I answered her questions between heaves.

When the doctor came in my only words were, “I’m so sorry. Please help me!” He could have told me he was Jesus sent to save me and I wouldn’t have questioned it. 

Diagnosis? Bacterial chest infection plus flu. 

Armed with Tamiflu, antibiotics and pain relief/ sedatives I collapsed in bed. The fever caused one more trip to the porcelain god, but I paid my penance and simply slept. 

These last couple of weeks have taught me a lot of lessons. 

1. I have a point where I don’t give a shit about anything– even puking in public. I hope I never get there again. 

2. Drugs are good. Very good. 

3. I know I’m feeling better when I can’t stand Christina’s voice anymore on Flip or Flop.

4. Saltines are only good when you’re inches from death. A foot away and they taste like crap. 

5. Cable TV should invent a sick channel where puppies and kittens play together all day long. With some fox cubs and bunnies to mix it up. 

But the biggest lesson is that fall and spring in Michigan just fucking suck. All the viruses and germs seem to hold all of their conventions here and they bring their kids and families and make a vacation of it. My fall half marathon is now ruined. My ability to enjoy this last week of warmth is shattered. And I couldn’t see my boy run 70 yards for a touchdown. 

Monsters. 

So drench yourself in essential oils, encase yourself in garlic or chomp on zinc tablets. Do whatever you have to do to stay healthy out there. 

Cuz being sick sucks. 

New (School) Year’s Resolutions

img_2338

I never make resolutions for January 1. At that point I am on vacation and the last thing I want to do is restrain myself or resist temptation. Instead, I offer my School Year resolutions.

Almost all of which have already been broken. I suck.

1. Only use the paper that I need and double side whenever possible to help the environment.

Umm, this one already went bye-bye. I had a screaming headache and sent a handout to the lounge to print. I forgot that it was two pages long, so when I went to retrieve it I was met by 80 sheets of paper that all needed to be stapled. The mere thought of hearing the staple clank 40 times (with time for unjamming/ refilling said stapler) was enough to make me nauseous. 

By the way, why are those bastards so hard to unjam? By the time I’m stabbing at it with a scissor point, I’m liable to scrap the lesson and watch Schoolhouse Rock instead. 

So, my solution? I went back to my room and re-printed it double sided.

Good news? I saved the 80 now useless sheets of paper to use for scrap. Until I get tired of looking at them at which time they will be tossed in the recycling bin. Which is kind of the same thing and like I used them anyway, so maybe I still win.

2. Make a hearty and healthy crock pot meal on Sunday night to cook Monday so that we have healthy dinners for at least two nights during the work week.

Yeah, no, but I really had good intentions. I bought a pork loin and put it in the freezer. Where it is still sitting three weeks later. In fact, one week we had hot dogs on Monday, McDonald’s Tuesday and ordered Papa Romanos Wednesday. I figure we have so many preservatives coursing through our bodies that we are guaranteed to live until we’re 150. Or, we will die of a heart attack but can be propped up any family gathering a la Weekend at Bernie’s. 

3. Show up each day fully prepared for each class.

This one is usually easy to uphold. I pride myself on being completely organized and ready and always one step ahead. However, my memory has decided to start taking field trips at odd times of the day, and she won’t answer my texts. So, this is super embarrassing, but my class and I read the Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God sermon (don’t you TOTALLY miss high school English?) We started with notes on rhetoric used in the piece (see? Prepared!) and when we went to actually read the damn thing, I panicked thinking, Shit! This is a long piece! Why didn’t I come up with a guide or note-taking sheet so they could make sense of it? So I ended up grabbing an organizer I was using for another class and handed it out. The kids muddled through.

I kid you not, at the end of the SAME DAY, I looked at my table of handouts, and, in fact, I had CREATED a reading guide, COPIED a reading guide, and PLACED a reading guide exactly where it should have been. On the same. Table. Of handouts.

I may need to go in for cognitive testing.

4. Exercise at least three days a week. 

Week 1– Fail. Week 2– Fail. Week 3– FAIL. 

In the morning I write it down in my planner. I visualize getting home early, changing into running gear and heading out the door while it’s still light. I imagine upping my distance, or running some sprints to get ready for the half marathon that is looming next month.

By the time I get home I am wiped out.

Take last Thursday. It was over 80 degrees in my classroom all day. I usually make a mocha to keep me awake on the drive home, but it was just too hot so I stuck with water. After exercising my eyelids during the monotony of 275, I dragged myself into the house, kicked off my shoes, fell on the couch and crashed. I didn’t wake until Derek walked in the door, and it still took me another 30 minutes to fully wake. Super Fail.

5. Get things graded in a decent amount of time to stay on top of things.

There’s no way around it– grading sucks. It’s time consuming, gratifying and disheartening. Some things MUST be graded right away. A free write has to be looked at and returned before continuing the lesson. Papers take MUCH longer due to all of the comments. I was on track and started to believe I would make it this first quarter when… the English 10 essays were due. They were due September 15. There are 33 of them. I have graded 4.

Oh, they’ve come home with me every weekend and even some week nights. We’re like besties at this point. But, yeah, they will take a while and I just have a block. I am writing this right now to avoid them (don’t tell).

6. Write a blog every week

FINALLY something I have been able to do for the last three weeks! Even though they haven’t all been winners, I am writing and that makes me feel REALLY good.

So right now that makes me 1/6 for resolutions. Or 17%. But 17% is keeping me sane and balanced so far, and that really is the ultimate resolution for the school year. 

I Know I am Annoying You, But This is Just Too Important

After the first two weeks of school, things are starting to get into a routine. The kids and I are getting to know each other. We’re starting to figure out who we’re going to be in the class– goofy, studious, open, closed, assertive, passive.

I don’t know everyone’s name (there 178 of them), so I play a game where I spot kids in the hallway or when they turn in a paper or raise their hand and I quiz myself– first name, last name.

Yet, some I have gotten to know really well, although they might not know it.

I know that about 15% of my tenth graders cannot correctly spell “Wednesday.”

I know that there are too many who cannot write in complete sentences.

I know that there are several who are lacking credits to graduate on time.

You might be thinking, What the FUCK? High school? Sheesh.

But before you do, let me explain what I also know.

I know that at least one student is forced to care for his younger sisters every single night and that this leaves him with little time to do homework.

I know that at least one student missed classes this week because his aunt OD’d on heroin.

I know that at least one student is struggling with her cancer treatment.

I know that at least one student is having her name changed because her father has been arrested on multiple charges.

I know that at least one student has been sexually abused by both her step-father and biological father.

I know that at least one student is being raised by someone other than a parent.

I know that at least one student has been or is in foster care.

And these are the kids who still come to school. Every day. So far.

Early on in my career, I had a long term sub position with sixth graders. I was young, naive, and ignorant. I was living with my parents at the time and it seemed like every day I came home I would have stories to tell. And rarely were they positive. It got to the point that one day my dad said, “Don’t you ever have anything positive to talk about?”

And I get it. I really, really do.

No one wants hear about my pay freeze, or enormous class sizes, or paperwork that never ends, or kids who have tethers, or have just transferred into my district after count day, or are reading at a fourth grade level in the tenth grade, or have been removed from homes, or are homeless, neglected and abused.

I get it.

When Sarah McLachlan comes on the TV with her guitar and dogs and the music swells and images of emaciated animals fill the screen, I turn the channel too.

I get it.

But this is important. 

It’s not getting better. And it’s not going away.

I often get accused of being negative. Of not being “happy” or “upbeat” during the school year. When I go out with friends, I know they don’t want to hear sad, angry or WTF stories. I admit it’s true because at times everything seems to suck.

It’s because this shit roils inside me. I worry and plan and work and worry and talk and research and worry about these kids while awake and asleep. The thoughts get all consuming at times and I fall into darkness so upset that I can’t help. That I’m not good enough. That these kids are alone and adrift and without a positive force. 

And it makes me wonder who really gives a fuck about Anglo-Saxon poetry when these kids are dealing with things most adults couldn’t handle?

I feel guilty because I can’t help them as much as I should. I feel guilty because there are other kids who are not on my immediate radar who I should be helping. I feel guilty that I am neglecting my own kids worrying about these kids. I feel guilty that I am so tired and worn out. I feel guilty that I am not taking care of myself.

I joke about the vodka (I swear I’m not a lush) but these thoughts will drive you to drink. Just to take the edge off the worry and guilt. It affects me deeply and in every core of my being. And that’s a good thing, but it also fucks with me on a daily basis.

But I will try and focus on the positive. I will try and keep the worry and guilt and depression from oozing out. I will try and be as upbeat to all of you as I am in front of my students. I will laugh and engage and enjoy as much as I possibly can.

And if I start going down the spiral and it’s not the time or the place, just give me a sign. A face slap will work. A re-fill might be just as good.

I just ask for patience.

Because soon I will know all their names and many more stories. And these kids need people to hear them.

I am SO Hot (wait for it…)

I got a joke for ya– 

What do you get when you take 37 high school sophomores and pile them into a classroom with one teacher when it’s 93 degrees with a heat index of 103?

A big fucking mess.

You’re right– NOT funny.

This week was the first week back to school. The time to see old friends, meet new ones, and return to an “academic institution of learning.” Instead it was like a fraternity’s hell week.

Every day gave some new obstacle. Always present was the unforgiving, relentless, mother-fucking heat. But just to fuck with us, there was also a downpour that caught kids as they were coming into school soaking their clothes, backpacks and shoes. 

I have to give the kids credit. They showed up in their super cute back-to-school outfits, their carefully chosen footwear and accessories, with hair gelled and straightened and curled, and within an hour they were all sporting a sheen of sweat.

Every school without air conditioning was in this predicament. 

But we rolled with it, being the professionals we are. We came up with all kinds of teachable moments. Science experiments switched from simple machines to how much hot air will this dollar store fan push? Math changed from Pythagorean theory to calculating the heat index. Language arts students wrote placards spelling “Help me” and social studies participated in a Vietnam War simulation. For the record it was “big ol’ fat rain” and only some kids kept their feet dry. Vocab word of the week? Trench foot.

So, how hot was it?

It was SO hot, that my room rose from 80 degrees to 82 in ONE CLASS PERIOD.

It was SO hot, that my knees were sweating. Did you know that your knees sweat? I do now.

It was SO hot that during my prep I unrolled my yoga mat and got a free Bikram class minus the shower after.

Two out of those three are completely true. (HINT: I haven’t done Bikram in months)

At one point I was going through some Logic notes and all of a sudden I honestly thought I burst into flame. Sweat began pouring down my back and uncurling my water bottle arm was like unsticking sweaty legs from a leather seat. 

For a split second I thought I had become a Phoenix. Minus the ability to cure injuries with tears. Although my shower walls think I have a lovely singing voice.

Each day the heat brought new hallucinations. Was that a macaw perched on my bookshelf? Was the wasp circling the ceiling trying to lead us to water? Or was he like, “Fuck stinging you sorry bastards, get me out of here!” After climbing a table (twice) to kill him with my band new planner, my hair was plastered to my face and I felt like I should call it a day.

But it was only second hour.

I wonder what would happen if people with “real” office-type jobs had to work in places where it was so humid that a rain cloud formation in the building would not seem out of place. What kind of productivity would they have?

I went to my son’s open house (in another district) and of course, his school has been plagued by the same conditions. Parents looked completely bewildered as they tried to navigate the hallways. Button down shirts were no longer crisp and had pit stains. Office skirts were bunched and heels wobbled on the tile floor. Salon hair drooped and frizzed. “I wonder if it’s been like this all week?” one parent asked as we both hustled to sign up for conferences.

Seriously?

Don’t get me wrong. I know that there are TONS of jobs that put employees in horrible weather conditions all the time. I feel a pang of empathy every time I pass landscapers and construction workers working in the unbearable heat or cold. 

But fuck, man. 

I’m trying to get kids to pay attention and learn and get excited and write and think and analyze and laugh and feel comfortable in this.

And God love ’em, they were mostly game this week.

I did my best but I’m about five pounds lighter and fifty times more worn out.

The fucking weather people better be right though. 

If next week is like this I may just adopt some “new age” lessons and spend the day doing quiet, non-moving meditation. Eyes closed. Snoring optional.

If next week is like this, I’ll rent a sno-cone machine, sell them for $20 each and retire early.

Hmmm…

But for now I’m going to scrape the salt from my face, take a cold shower, pour myself a drink and enjoy the wonder of air conditioning. 

Stay cool, bitches.

I Stopped Pulling Weeds and Let Life Grow

This summer we had new siding put on, and even though the job was finished by mid-July, I used it as an excuse not to weed my flower beds all summer. At first I felt pretty bad. I mean, our yard is more weeds than grass and there are so many bald patches that it looks like the lawn is trying to pull off a giant comb-over that isn’t fooling anyone. 
But in the last month there was this:


And this:

And this:


And all was right with the world. 

I recognize that there’s some deep lesson here and I have been trying to find the words to articulate it. The saying, “The sickness of the oyster is its pearl” comes to mind, but that doesn’t really fit for me. Yes, something beautiful came out of something that at first appeared to be a nuisance, but that’s not exactly how I connect with it. 
So I’ve been mulling it over and finally figured it out. There are times when you need to stop interfering, controlling, working, and worrying because you may miss something truly unexpected and beautiful. 

Had I kept those beds clean of all foreign foliage, yes, they would have looked cleaner and more “kept” and more pleasing to gaze upon, but I would have been sacrificing the chance to witness something spontaneously joyful. 

This is the message that resonates with me the most. Its song is a sweet lullaby that rocks my subconscious into relaxation and serenity. 

So this weekend, I’m going to take every possible moment to let go of the need to control, to predict, to worry. And hope something beautiful blooms as a result. 

10 Things I Give Zero Fucks About

img_2220

1. Screen time for my kids 

I used to be so ashamed of how much TV my kids watched and how much time they spent on their iPads that I would coach them before their annual check-ups. “Now when the doctor asks about screen time, it’s always ‘two hours’.” Then I finally had an epiphany. We live in Michigan and I hate cold weather. So, for six months of the year, pretty much no one is going outside unless they have to. Come to me, iPad! And anyone who says Minecraft isn’t educational should be shot. Future architects, mother fuckers.

2. Eating healthy meals  

I try, ok? I try. And it’s all about the intentions, right? I get into modes where I’m all about making dinner every night and making it healthy and balanced. So I will make grilled free range organic chicken (which seems odd that that makes it better. I mean it’s still dead and on my plate. Is it REALLY more humane to let them live the good life before whacking their heads off? And that reminds me of Hansel and Gretel who ate all that candy only to realize the witch was getting them fat to be eaten, but whatever), with a side of steamed antibiotic free broccoli and humanely harvested sweet potatoes. But before I can even pat myself on the back, the comments start. “This broccoli tastes bad, I only like potatoes with cinnamon, Why can’t we have McDonalds, We’re having THIS?? and the inevitable three bites followed by “Is this enough for a snack?” At this point I wave the white dish towel and make a vat of macaroni and cheese for the rest of the week. If dirt builds immunity, then preservatives and artificial colors build character. Sue me.

3. A clean house

When I didn’t have kids or a husband I gave a shit. Now, not so much. I categorize my cleaning style as my friend Michele once said, “recently looted.”We do have a company that cleans the house every two weeks and the night before they come I’ll run around and go through two weeks’ worth of mail and notes from school and sort things. But that’s just straightening up. And the cleaning company isn’t filled with miracle workers. There are marks on walls and door frames and windows and everywhere else. But who cares? There are four Nerf guns lying around with innumerable bullets that the cats have batted under furniture. My dining room table is piled high with Legos and a moat of them cover the floor like mini punji pits. The wood floors are all scratched from kids and pets and life. Several years ago my daughter had a friend over and at one point she queried, “Why is your house so… dirty?” nose wrinkle and all. After initially wanting to gouge her eyes out, I responded sweetly, “This is more clean than usual! And Santa isn’t real.”

4. Animals all over the place

We have two cats and a dog and we love them unconditionally. But I get that not everyone feels that way (although they are wrong and generally suspicious individuals). It hit me one night when my husband came home late from work. I took in the visual as he sat for dinner. Spot was lying on the kitchen table, inches from the plate. He was curled up against the mound of said mail/ school papers (see #3). As my husband ate, he was simultaneously patting Ginger on her head. I asked, “Do you think other people live like this?” And he sighed, “Probably not.” So, if you ever come over, that hair in your drink could be cat, dog or human. And if that completely grosses you out then we probably can’t be close friends. 

5. Making myself look good

Ok, caveat here. Like most people, sometimes I like to do my hair and makeup and dress with some consideration about my outfit. Weirdly, usually when I’m going out with the girls. But the other 99% of the time, I just don’t care. At work, I might start Monday with my hair done, Tuesday a ponytail, and Wednesday through Friday give up with a messy bun. That may have still been in since the day before. In fact, right now I am wearing an old UM shirt of Bill’s, black workout shorts circa 1990, a hat, no makeup and bun hair. And I’m in public at football practice. At least I put a bra on. Don’t judge me.

6. Too much ice cream

Does this even need explaining? Summer, fall, winter, spring. We have three places near us and I rotate so the workers don’t talk about us. I know it’s bad when I suggest making an ice cream run and my kids are like, “AGAIN?!?!” When we get there I totally play the role of mom-treating-kids. It’s all for me though. Always. 

7. Making 10 things

So, yeah the title read 10 things, but come on… You already know I give several fucks about things I shouldn’t if you’ve read my past blogs. And if you haven’t, you really should. Something like five people recommend them. Including me and my mom (thanks, mom!) And you’re probably happy this ended early, like when you had class from 6-9 and when 8 rolled around the professor was like, “I think we’re done for tonight” and everyone packed up their shit like running from a hurricane. 

You’re welcome.

I Have Not Been Productive All Day, But It’s So Not My Fault

A weird thing happened at Pet Smart today. As I was wheeling my cart filled with all new litter boxes and mats (I feel your jealousy), I came to the end of an aisle and almost ran into someone. As I stammered out an apology, I noticed her shirt. In black letters it said:

NO GLUTEN.

In all capital letters. 

And not in a playful font like Playbill, or Showcard Gothic, but in a Serious. Font. Like Copperplate. (Now you’re super jealous. You’re wondering, “How does she know all those fonts?” Years of study).

So the rest of my day was blown because it’s been bothering me ALL DAY (in Copperplate). 

Why would someone buy and wear this shirt?

Is it a warning? Like just in case she’s walking down the street and someone eating pizza walks towards her and thinks about throwing the crust in her face. Don’t you fucking dare! It says NO GLUTEN, asshole! If that’s the case, then the television news has been doing a shit job. I had no idea we were under siege by driveby glutenings. If that’s a word. Spell check says no, but apparently it’s a thing. Keep up, spell check.

Maybe it’s a political stance. Like those No Nukes shirts. Make love not war. Maybe there’s a movement (sorry, couldn’t help myself) called the No Gluten party. Meetings would totally suck without donuts and bagels. Chips would be ok though, right? Now this is something I can get behind (sorry again). I have lots of salsa. And I have the maturity of a seventh grade boy.

But maybe it’s not that and it’s like a public service announcement. Instead of Just Say No to Drugs, it’s Just Say No to Gluten. But if history has taught us anything, it’s that the war on drugs was a bust so telling people not to eat gluten is like planting a wheat shaft in their hands. And that sounds weirdly sex-like in not a bad-not-good-weird way. Forget I mentioned it. 

If there was a comma between the words, it could signify a new supervillain. NO, GLUTEN! Have mercy on me and my intestines! The shirt could be lined with extra cilia to filter evil wanton gluten particles lurking in the air ready to strike innocent passersby.

Wait. What if THAT’S THE NAME OF HER DOG? And the poor thing has diarrhea all the time so they named her GLUTEN! And when she gets the shits, the woman yells out, “NO, GLUTEN,” and she yells it so much someone made a shirt for her?? Poor puppy.

Now I feel bad.

It’s really bugging me though. This woman felt the need to spread her hatred of gluten in kind of a passive-aggressive way. It’s like she wore it just DARING someone to ask, Hey, what’s with the shirt? And then she’d be all up in their grill preaching the gospel of the “gluten-free lifestyle”.

Maybe next time I go to PetSmart I’ll wear an old Bread t-shirt. That band was hot the year I was born, but that’s beside the point. Maybe we’ll glare at one another in the dog toy aisle. She’ll grab a duck, while I snatch a hot dog bun. She’ll snag a rubber tire and I’ll volley with a cheeseburger squeaker. 

It’ll be ON (in Copperplate).

Sticks and Stones and Other Lies

img_1788

Why is it so important for me to be liked? Why is disappointing others my worst fear? And what do I do when someone intentionally tries to break me?

For a myriad of reasons, I need approval. Not constant back patting and cheerleading, but every once in a while, a “good job” or other sign of genuine appreciation really goes a long way. 

And it’s not just at home, or with friends, or at work, but everywhere. I seek approval and fear disdain. 

I imagine that people are judging me all the time. When I go grocery shopping, I imagine what the cashier thinks about the items in my cart. And I start rationalizing my purchases. Yes, I have a box of Nutter Butter snack packs, but I also have grapes.                         

And it’s realistic to think that this is crazy, that the cashier could not care less, but after being publicly judged for buying baby formula and pull-ups ONCE, I think it is happening all the time. 

Like about a month ago, a cashier complimented my shopping cart for being neat and orderly, so now I’m hyper-aware of how I pack my cart. 

I feel like I ooze this vulnerability. I want to be seen as a good patient at the doctor’s office and so I read those “Things doctors wish you knew” articles like the gospel. I listen, have my list of questions ready and acquiesce. I want to be seen as a good mom so I swallow my insecurities about small talk and socializing and make friends with people at the playground so my kids have someone to play with. 

I’m not sure where this came from, but I do know that I have felt this way most of my life. I can remember washing the car in my parents’ driveway and hoping that anyone who was watching noticed how well I washed all of the car. How I vacuumed every last crumb. How responsible I was. How hard working I was.

Is that narcissism? I worry about that. Am I so full of myself that I think everyone is watching me? 

Or is it paranoia? Worried that everyone is watching and judging me?

Either way, it’s not a good trait. 

So when someone picks up on this vulnerability and exploits it, uses it to their advantage, I feel completely paralyzed. My spirit deflates. My enthusiasm evaporates. My heart crushes. 

And what do I do? 

The normal advice would be, “Don’t worry about it. It’s their problem, not yours.” “You can’t let someone like that get to you.” “Just put your head down and move on.”

But it’s just about impossible for me to do that.

I have to fight the urge to do more, show more, be more to win that person over. I have to fight my brain that says it’s due to some deficiency in me, some level of incompetence, some personal failing. I have to fight the spiral that threatens to develop that says if this person feels that way, all people feel that way.

So what can I do?

I can write this, as a way of expressing those feelings that aren’t good for me. I can go for a run and tire my body and brain to diminish the thoughts in my head. I can email and text friends who have my back. I can play board games with my kids and watch the Olympics.

And I can hope that’s enough to keep the thoughts away.