Sunday, February 28, 2010

Last Day of February...Finally

I don't know about the rest of you, but February has been a tough month for me. I'm grateful that it is finally over. Here's a quote that perfectly describes how I feel about this month in 2010.

The reason God made February short a few days was because he knew that by the time people came to the end of it, they would die if they had to stand one more blasted day.
--Katherine Paterson

Monday, February 22, 2010

Why I'm eating a bag of crazy bread

I checked my email during 3rd period today and noticed that I received a message from the college I applied to for grad school. It was an automated message telling me that the decision for my application had been made and that I could view it online.

I shouldn't have opened it.

It was the standard form letter: "All of our applicants are wonderful and thank you for applying, but you really weren't as wonderful as everyone else and, on top of that, we think you need a haircut." Okay, that wasn't exactly what was said, but just about.

At first I just cried, all the while trying to look like I wasn't crying because I didn't really want to sob wildly in front of my ESL kids. Then I moved on to wanting to go down to that there school and use all of the four letter words I know, such as "darn" and "heck", to give them a piece of my mind. But I am holding myself back, because I keep thinking of Great-great-grandpa Brigham looking down on me, shaking his head, as I yell profanities at the university that carries his name.

So, I went to Little Caesars and bought pizza for the boys and when they offered me a second bag of Crazy Bread for just 99 cents, I didn't even bat an eyelash. I am now drowning my sorrows in Crazy Bread. Yes, I just finished off an entire bag of grease-laden Crazy Breadsticks, and I washed it down with a caffeine-free diet Dr. Pepper (and I already want another one).

I'm trying really, really, really hard to believe that there is something out there for me that's bigger and better, something more suited to what I want to do with the rest of my life. And I keep telling myself that it's been nice to have something to occupy my mind in these last months other than the day-to-day mundane realities of teaching and mommying. And of course I tell myself that I would have regretted it if I had given up and not finished the process (which I truly did feel like doing on numerous occasions).

However, I'm really just hoping to have the ultimate revenge by writing the great American novel and then making a note in the acknowledgements that the university's rejection letter is what spurned me on to finish my ground-breaking work. Bwa-ha-ha-ha!


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I Believe in Fortune Cookies

I might have to go back and ammend the thirty things I believe to include this one: I believe in fortune cookies. (I think this is going to be a hot new song: "I believe in fortune cookies; something good in every one I eat!" Sung to the tune of ABBA's "I Believe in Angels".) Well, I don't believe in the cookies themselves, really, but the fortunes inside the cookies.

Just a day or two before TSH left to do his basic training (over a year and a half ago now), we went to Panda Express and my fortune that day said something like, "You will have the strength to get through a tough situation." That day, I tacked the fortune up on the message board in our kitchen. And, lo and behold, the fortune cookie was correct! I never, ever thought that I would be able to make it through 6 months of training, let alone a year deployment after that, but I've had the strength to do it, just like the fortune cookie said. Fortune cookies are genius!

Currently, I have a fortune pinned to the corkboard in my studio that says, "Being aware of your fears will improve your life." Well, I've been facing my fears for awhile now. We'll soon see if facing them will improve my life. Another fortune is tucked inside the case to my iPod touch: "Your dreams of glamour and luxury will come true." So, I'm looking forward to free swag when I step on the red carpet when my book is made into a big Hollywood movie.

Last week, I received the fortune, "You will soon receive help from an unexpected source." I am now looking for help everytime I turn around. I'm pretty excited to discover what help I'll be receiving and who or what is the unexpected source. I'll let you all know what it is as soon as I find out myself!

In other related news, I no longer believe in the online magic 8 ball. When it replied, "Most definitely" to my question, "Should I take off my clothes and run around the commons naked?" I decided it was very flawed and no longer deserving of my important-question-asking business.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

For My Valentine

Okay, I pretty much stink at taking pictures. These are the beautiful flowers that TSH sent me at the school on Friday. Today is our 8th Valentine's that we've been together. 8 years ago, he said that he had to get me the "obligatory gift" for Valentine's day. And he's still trying to make up for that comment. Probably because I keep bringing it up. But I did get a little teary-eyed when I went down to the office and picked this up, since it was so obvious that he had been thinking about this for awhile. What can I say? I lucked out 8+ years ago when TSH called and asked me out and I said, "Sorry, I have a date that night, but I'd love to go out with you some other time," and he called me back the next week and asked me out again.
Last fall I decided that I wanted to write him a love poem, but I had the hardest time doing it. Everything I wrote sounded...mushy. So, I wrote this for him instead and gave it to him for Christmas.
Well, I Tried

I wanted to write you a love poem
but I can’t.
I’m sorry;
I’m not good at the mushy-mushy stuff.
I wanted to write about the miles that
separate us but how there’s an invisible
thread between our hearts and it will
bleed if it’s stretched too far
But I was afraid it would sound too cheesy
And, besides, I think I’ve read that in
a book, so I wouldn’t be the first to write it.
Or, I thought, I would say something
about carrying you in my heart
But, again, I realized, that as well had already
been said before.

So, perhaps, everything that can be
said about love has already been said
and there is no unique way for me
to say it again.
And maybe that’s okay.
Maybe I don’t need to be clever or cute.
This isn’t an Austen novel
and I’m not trying to impress a potential

I was just trying to write a love poem
to the man who I’ve been married to
for seven years and who is thousands of
miles away.
But, I can’t.
There are no sweet words in my
soul/heart for the person who has supported me
and loved me
despite my angry rampages
and depressed moods
Who’s loved me even when I joke about
only sticking around until Hugh Jackman
becomes available
The guy who has given me more hope and more joy
and who has seen more beauty in me than I
ever knew was there.

That’s why I wanted to write you this
love poem.

But I’m blank.

Maybe I’ll go to the grocery store
and find an appropriate Hallmark card that says,

I love you
I adore you
You are my one and only
You are my beginning
You are my end
You are da bomb!
You are my everything
My everything
When I think about you,
that’s what I think of,
You’re my everything.
And if man or God decides to take
you from me
Have I lost everything?

Does Hallmark make that kind of card?

I suppose this is the part where a
better poet would write about how
our love will last forever,
how the sun and stars will burn out
and turn dark before our love ever dims,
but I don't know how to write that
without sounding clich├ęd.

I guess I won't bother to write you
a poem.
I'll have to express my love
some other way.
Happy Valentine's Day, TSH.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dumb Broad

That's what I am according to some random lady at Walmart yesterday. Here's the story:

I took my boys to the store with me because Daniel and Andrew decided that they wanted an alarm clock for their bedroom, so they can get up at the same time I do (oh, joy). We were in the alarm clock aisle, just minding our own business, looking at alarm clocks, when this couple comes strolling down the aisle. They were not, however, looking for alarm clocks, or even anything else on the aisle. Why they were there, I am not sure. My cart, along with the baby, was a little towards the middle of the aisle. When I noticed this couple was trying to pass with their cart, I quickly apologized and moved my cart out of their way. As they walked past, the lady said, not under her breath, but out loud, so I would not mistake what she was saying, "Dumb broad."

I was completely floored. Who calls a random person in the store a "dumb broad" to her face?! Certainly not me or, really, anyone else I know with even a pinky-full of politeness. I admit; my feelings were hurt by a complete stranger. I almost tracked her down to confront her after I recovered from shock, but I decided to let it go.

Now, I'm beginning to think that maybe she had some kind of excuse (not necessarily a good one, but an excuse, nonetheless) for her comment. So, help me out here: give this lady a good excuse for what she said. Be silly. Be outrageous. Maybe be even a little bit rude. I have a feeling she won't be reading my blog and getting offended. I am, after all, just a dumb broad.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Il Bel Far Niente

I'm reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
and last night I read as Liz (because we're tight, you know, I call her Liz. I also call Shakespeare "Bill", but that's for a different post.) explained about il bel far niente: the beauty of doing nothing. I loved this paragraph about Americans how we seek to be entertained and our inability to do nothing and wanted to share it with you.

"Generally speaking, though, Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure. Our is an entertainment-seeking nation, but not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one. Americans spend billions to keep themselves amused with everything from porn to theme parks to wars, but that's not exactly the same thing as quiet enjoyment. Americans work harder and loner and more stressful hours than anyone in the world today. But as Luca Spaghettie pointed out, we seem to like it. Alarming statistics back this observation up, showing that many Americans feel more happy and fulfilled in their offices than they do in their own homes. Of course, we all inevitably work too hard, then we get burned out and have to spend the whole weekend in our pajamas, eating cereal out of a box and staring at the TV in a mild coma (which is the opposite of working, yes, but not exactly the same thing as pleasure). Americans don't really know how to do nothing. This is the cause of that great sad American stereotype--the overstressed executive who goes on vacation, but who cannot relax."

Whoa. How true is that?! So often, on the weekend, I feel guilty because I don't want to do anything. I don't want to go to a movie or even shopping. I just want to stay home and read a book or play with paints. I guess that's still doing something, but it's not something interesting or something important or even something with people. And when I go on vacation, I always want to be going somewhere, buying something, seeing something that I can't see at home.

Maybe, as Amercians, we can't dedicate a month or a week to doing nothing and/or seeking pleasure. We don't live in Europe; our world is very different from theirs (I know this to be true as I lived in Europe for 18 months), but we can learn something from them. Can we take a day and do nothing? Can we take a couple hours a day and do something that brings us pleasure? What do you think? What would you do if you gave yourself a day to enjoy il bel far niente?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Awakening the Heroes Within

Have I ever told you that I'm kind of addicted to self-help books? Okay, I'm addicted to all kinds of books really, so maybe it's more of a sub-addiction (I totally just made that up! Maybe I should become a psychologist...or a writer of self-help books!)

So, I won't tell you how many self-help books I'm reading right now, but I will tell you about the one I got in the mail today: Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World
by Carol Pearson. This one has been on my Amazon list for, well, probably years, but I saw that I could get it through my bookclub for much less, so I ordered it a few weeks ago.

First, I guess I should tell you that I'm also fascinated by archetypes. This fascination started when I was first introduced to the idea in a literature class my junior year in college. The idea of the collective unconcious floored me, and, I had to believe, that the reason we have this collective unconcious (this invisible background knowledge that people all over the world have!) is because we all did come from the same place, that this collective unconcious that is carried in the DNA of our spirits. These archetypes are character types that are found in the stories of cultures and peoples all over the world. Want a simple example (and probably my favorite)? Cinderella. All over the world there are Cinderella stories. Cultures that never interacted with each other have Cinderella stories. How is that possible?! you ask. The collective unconcious, is my reply.

So, I saw this book, I finally ordered it, I opened it up tonight and right away I see that I can take a quiz to see what kind of archetype I am, or, more accurately, which archetypes I am most like. My highest score was for the Seeker, so I promptly turned to the chapter about the Seeker. This is what Pearson writes: "The quest always begins with yearning. We feel discontented, confined, alienated, or empty." (Um, hello, is she channeling me? Sorry, I'll continue.) Often we do not even have a name for what is missing, but we long for that mysterious something. Cinderella longs for her prince to come; Gepetto longs to have a child; Telemachus searches for Odysseus; the prince seraches for a great treasure. The urge to sek the grail, to climb the mountain in search of visions, to seek wisdom, to cross new frontiers, to achieve the formerly unachievable in all areas of life seem endemic in the human race. The Seeker responds to the call of the Spirit--to ascend."

Seriously. This is so me right now. Probably, if I read every archetype in the book, or if I scored differently, I would probably say, "Seriously. This is so me right now." Despite that, I can't wait to see what more Pearson says. Maybe she can tell me how I can feed my children and be a full time writer. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

If there were an Academy Awards for teaching...

I would not win it.

Especially after today.

Today I freaked out at one of my students. This kid, we'll call him K, would not stop interrupting me. First of all, he's from Africa and he's picking up on Spanish from all of the latino kids in my class (have I ever told you that I'm one of two white people in my 2nd period and the only white person in my 3rd period? Not that it means much, but that's the way it is.). K, while he's really a nice kid, was shouting across the room in Spanish all period long, he couldn't hear me because he had his iPod on (although I had told him to turn it off and put it away several times), and he interrupted me various times while I was reading a book to them (K: Did you say Liberian? Me: No, she was a librarian. K: My uncle is a Liberian. Liberia is in Africa. Me: Yes, I know, K, but she's not a Liberian; she's a librarian, like in a library. K: Then you should say library and not Liberian. Me: I DIDN'T SAY LIBERIAN! SHE IS NOT A LIBRARY; SHE IS A LIBRARIAN!)

But that wasn't the worst part of the period. I actually screamed at K when he interrupted me yet again to tell me that I needed to go slow when I was reading what I wanted them to write. I felt like I was yelling at my middle child for using the entertainment center door as a swing and breaking it while the oldest child sat and watched him do it. (I probably won't be getting any nominations for Best Supporting Mother either.)

If there were Academy Awards for teachers, there are several teachers in my school who not only would be nominated, they'd win. I can't even get my students to vote for me for Teacher of the Month, no matter how much extra credit I throw at them (Okay, I've never actually offered extra credit for it, but I do often tell them that they should vote for me for teacher of the month.)

I'm thinking maybe I need to make my own award and present it to myself. Maybe I'll even dress up in a fancy dress and lay a red blanket on the floor and have my children interview me. And I'll post my acceptance speech on my blog for the world to see. I can receive the "Best Reader of Friends' Facebook Status Updates" award. Or the "Most Valuable Michael's Shopper" award. What do you think? What award do you think you deserve?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Querencia--September and Now

Back in September, I had my high school creative writing students write about their "querencia" which, according to Georgia Heard inWriting Toward Home: Tales and Lessons to Find Your Way
is Spanish for "the wanting place." It's the place where you feel the most comfortable, the most safe. Below is what I wrote about my "querencia" 6 months ago:

I've only been to my querencia once, last April. And ever since that time, I've felt kind of lost, homesick even. When I dream of the perfect place to write, to create, I dream of this place: Fort Warden in Port Townsend, Washington.

I don't know what it is about this place that I've been to once that has entrapped my soul. Is it the cold, spring rain that tastes like sea salt on my tongue? Is it the beach that I walked along, making deep intentations in the sand with the heels of my polka-dotted rain boots? Is it the frost that lay across the carefully groomed green lawn and leafy treas of the fort, turing this place into an icy fairyland before the sun came up and melted it off? Or is it the silence that allowed me to think, to dream?

Really, I don't know what makes this place my querencia. But it is. And I know that as long as I live in this desert state surrounded by noise and little water, that I will always yearn for that other place. I dream of going home to rest.

Tonight, I shared this same idea with my adult creative writing class and I wrote again. Here's what I wrote tonight:

I've thought about my querencia a lot the past few months. When I first wrote about it in September, I had myself convinced that my querencia was in Port Townsend, Washington, a place I had only been to once. It seemed magical to me last April, a place that only existed to feed my soul. And I worried that I would only ever find peace at that place, that I'd only know true happiness there.

Now I've begun to doubt that, perhaps for my mental well-being, because I'm worried that if I never get to spend real time in Port Townsend, I'll never find true happiness.

So, I've begun to wonder if I can find my querencia here. Because it seems to me that maybe querencia is really inside you. Joseph Campbell said that the place of rest, Nirvana, can only be found within ourselves. I think that's what querencia is: it's the place where I can feel at peace, where I can feel the magic of creation, and it's inside me.

I need to find a way to carry my querencia with me all the time, like a little token in my pocket or a charm on a chain around my neck. How can I do this?

So, this is what I'm thinking about right now. How can I carry this peace with me, this comfort and this happiness, wherever I go? What do you, my friends, do? And where do you feel is your querencia?