Smoothie Pants

This is a story I tell my students in order to encourage them and make them feel better about all of the terrible things that happen to you when you're a teenager. And all the terrible things that still happen to you when you're an adult, despite your efforts to prevent them.

And it goes like this.

Generally on a school morning, I zombie myself to the bathroom to get ready while Tyler hits snooze several times. Then as I dress by the light of my phone flashlight, Tyler zombies out of bed and goes upstairs to make my breakfast and lunch. I know what you're thinking--that is so sweet of him. And the worst of me, because how lazy am I that I can't make my own meals? The answer is v lazy. It is v sweet of him, but it's also because if he didn't I would legitimately waste away slowly and be shriveled into nothing by graduation.

Generally, lunch is one of three: oatmeal, PB&J, granola bar.
Breakfast is also one of three: toast, cereal, smoothie.

On this particular morning, Tyler made me PB&J for lunch and a smoothie for breakfast. He was especially tired so I sent him back to bed with a kiss and a spank.

I sat at the table drinking my smoothie. I suddenly remembered that I had forgotten to grab chapstick (it's a necessity and an addiction). I promptly stood up from the table and as I sidestepped out of the bench my pants caught the tablecloth and began to rip it from it's resting place on the table. I foresaw the disaster with my psychic-like abilities and froze in just enough time so that the smoothie glass didn't move.

"That was close, self," I told myself as I made a mental note not to do that again.

I came back from retrieving the chapstick and continued to enjoy my smoothie. As happens frequently in the morning time and throughout most of my day, I remembered something else I needed to take to work with me that day. I leapt from the bench and quickly sidestepped out of the table. I know what you're thinking, "NOOOOO, the TABLECLOTH! the SMOOOOOTHIE!"

I'm sorry to say that my mental notes often get written on a notepad in my brain titled 'Forgettable' and are promptly forgotten. So I think you know how the rest of this story is going to go.

It looked like a magic trick gone wrong. The one where the magician pulls the tablecloth out from under all the stuff with not so much as a wiggle from the items on said tablecloth and everyone at the table cheers and throws money and flowers at the magician. Yeah, it didn't exactly go like that.

Magic trick from David Ginn Magic-check out his YouTube channel!

And so where do you think the smoothie went? I'll put it in list form in order to speed this up a bit.
There were smoothie smatterings on all of the following in varying quantities:
  • table
  • tablecloth
  • bench
  • pants
  • shirt
  • inside of my shoes
  • floor
And in the process of trying to stop the catastrophe midair:
  • cabinets
  • countertop
  • various rugs
  • sink (which sounds like it would be a positive thing, but at this point it really wasn't)
I stood there, smoothie-clad and fuming and didn't know what to do first. So I laughed. I laughed at how stupid it was that I had mentally informed myself not to do something and then did that exact thing. I didn't have time to change so I wiped myself down and ran out the door. Smoothie pants and all. 

And you know what? The rest of the day was fine. Better than fine actually. I got to see hundreds of my students (a.k.a. best friends, their words, not mine) and they didn't care that I had smoothie pants. I got to teach, and be creative and come home to my wonderful husband who makes me meals. 

One day, despite all your efforts to make your life perfect, you will have smoothie pants. And you know what? It will be fine. It might not be fine in that moment or for a lot of moments after that, but eventually it will be okay. And no one will care that you made a mistake, or forgot something, or weren't perfect for a little while. It will be okay, and that's what really matters. And life is better lived believing that one day it will be okay. 

Why No One Tells the Truth About Anything

A conversation a while ago sparked another viscernifestation of mine. This one is brilliant. The discussion started talking about an incident that occurs often in my life and I'm sure in the lives of many other people: you have a discussion with someone, they ask you a question either simple or complicated, and you lie. You deemphasize, downplay, and flat out lie when you answer.
I started wondering why people do that. I thought about myself and the questions I answer with lies. Questions like:
How are you liking teaching?
How do you like where you're living?
How are you?
And lies like this: 
Oh, it's great. 
It's a good place. 
Good, how are you?
Okay, sometimes those are the truth, but a lot of the time they are not. As I was talking through this with some people close to me, I wanted to figure out why we tell those lies. Why did I start answering questions like that? Where was that habit rooted? 

I realized that most recently it came from the reactions I would get from people as I was giving honest answers to those questions. 

I told the truth and then started noticing a pattern in the reactions I was getting from people. They were surprised (read: uncomfortably shocked) that I didn't LOVE teaching and that I wasn't raving about how prepared I felt and how easy it came to me. Every time I said something other than "GREAT!" about where I lived or how I was, those I was talking to become visibly uncomfortable. Often pining to change the subject. 

I suppose subconsciously I decided that people didn't want to hear how teaching was really going. Or what I actually felt like that day. I don't know what they wanted but they didn't want to be uncomfortable so I started changing my answers to the short ones seen above. 

And it worked! No one was ever uncomfortable again! Kidding. But people stopped giving me that look that says, "pleasestoptalkingpleasestoptalkingpleasestoptalking."

You know the look. 
Instead they nodded politely, as if pleased with how content we both were lying to each other. So here is some not lying for you.

Sometimes I really don't like my job and I really don't want to go to work. 
Sometimes I get frustrated with my house and that it doesn't have what I think I need. 
And sometimes I'm sad/mad/irate/frustrated/annoyed. 

But so is everyone else, and so are you, and you should just stop making that uncomfortable face and say something nice to people who tell you the truth. 

You've been Walter Mitty-ed!

The first time we saw this movie I left the theater feeling like I had just experienced something incredible. The only problem was that I couldn't figure out quite what that something was. Obviously I'd experienced the movie itself, but the movie made me have some other experience that I couldn't identify or describe. I think I'll say the word experience one more time just to push you over the edge. Experience.

Obviously I'm a literature connoisseur because I'm an English teacher, right? Wrong. There are millions of texts, nay, trillions of texts, that I don't even know exist. This is so you understand that I didn't know The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was originally a short story because I don't know everything.

Now you'll understand my pleasant surprise when I found out about the short story.
The original, in only it's skin and bones, is not thrilling or particularly entertaining. To quote some of my sophomore students after reading the story, "What the (insert teenage expletive)?" "Where's the ending?" "That was dumb." If you don't understand the context of being a high schooler, allow me to give you a glimpse. Almost everything you experience can be followed by "What the (insert teenage expletive)?" Most things in English class are especially "dumb." And with many things going on in your life you often wonder, "Where's the ending?" So, in the context of being 15, these statements are not that unusual.

However, those reactions aren't often associated with short stories. Short stories are supposed to be a snippet of thrill, and a moment of being transported to another world and another mind. But Walter Mitty just doesn't seem to evoke the same reactions that a normal short story does. That's how I coined the phrase "being Walter Mitty-ed." I decided that's what happened to me when I saw the movie and again when I read the short story.

Walter Mitty's life is boring. The only thing that brings him any thrill is daydreaming about thrilling things. My question to my students, after reading the story, was "Why?" Why tell the story of this man and his painfully boring life and his overactive imagination?

When I first asked them that question I wasn't sure that I even knew the answer. But while I watched parts of the movie with my students and we talked it over, I think we may have discovered the answer. Or at least one of the answers.

There is a scene in the movie where it seems like Walter is daydreaming again, but something is different this time. This time he isn't glazed like a Krispy Kreme doughnut while the daydream happens. This time he jumps onto a lifting helicopter that's about to fly into a storm. His daydreams begin to mix with his reality. From then on he never has another daydream for the rest of the movie. But sometimes, as the audience, you question the reality of his reality, and wonder if he's slipped back into a daydream. But he hasn't. He goes on to fight a shark and run from an erupting volcano. He climbs the Himalayas and gets to see a rare snow leopard. He began living what would definitely have been daydreams only a few days before.

Asking my students what they thought of this, they became very angry. Probably because I provoked them to anger. Sometimes analyzing literature is best when you're feeling a powerful emotion. Or at least that's how I rationalize provoking them. I asked them how they could possibly know if he was dreaming or not. Their response was that he actually did something while he was daydreaming.
Mrs. L:But how do you know?

Class: Because he jumped on the helicopter.

Mrs. L: Well maybe the helicopter is part of the dream.

Frustrated class: It's not.

Mrs. L: Well then what is part of the dream?

Irritated class: Cheryl is part of the dream.

Mrs. L: Okay then how do you know the helicopter isn't?

Angry class: Because it's real.

Mrs. L: Well how can that be? When he daydreams he doesn't move, so either Cheryl is actually there or the whole rest of the movie is a dream. Which one is it?

Infuriated, leaping out of their desks with pitchforks class: BECAUSE SOME OF IT IS A DREAM AND SOME OF IT IS REAL! AAAAGGGHHHHH!

Mrs. L: Why?

I'm the best teacher.
In almost incoherent yells of frustration, draped with drool and framed by steam coming out of their ears, they tried to tell me why the filmmakers made this choice: to mix dreams and reality. We talked about what this represents to us as an audience and what it means for Walter Mitty as a character.

You see, Walter made a choice in that moment to stop daydreaming and instead DO what his daydreaming self would do. Jump on the freakin' helicopter. Notice how I didn't say "live his daydream."

My students and I came up with a theory: telling someone or telling yourself to "live your dreams" is stupid. We decided that Walter Mitty didn't choose to live his dreams--he chose to do what his dream self would do in real life. His dream self took risks. Dream Walter acted in whatever moment he was given. That's exactly what Walter started to do. So don't live your dreams. Instead, live like your daydreaming self. Be where you are, but be bold. Take risks. Do things out loud that you would normally only do in your head.

Go get Walter Mitty-ed. It's a thing.