A Book I Read

Don't take this as any sort of announcement. I had been told that this book had a lot of good adult life lessons regardless of whether or not you had a baby. So no, I am not having a baby.

And those recommendations were right. This book was full of insightful research and ideas about how to live a happy life, and a life that benefits not only others' personal growth, but your own growth as well.

Pamela (I like using first names rather than last, when referring to authors after I've read their books) reflects on breaking tradition and what is gained and lost when one chooses to do so. I think the loss part is okay. Some might think they can go through life and never lose anything and only make gains, but in my long 27.67 years of wisdom it's that in every gain there are some losses. But those losses can have positive influence and you and those around you.

By flooding her opinions with research, Pamela is so convincing in her notions about making changes. You should always be searching for the best things for you and those around you. Seeking them out will make you a better person and make life more enjoyable.

Amen, sister.

Here is a link to buy the book on Amazon.

God must feel like a teacher.

"What do you do?"
"I teach high school."
"Oh, wow, how's that?"

If I put together a top ten list of most common conversations I've had in my life, this would be number one. And it would be exactly the same, exactly the way I wrote it, every single time. 
Teaching is hard to explain to someone who doesn't teach. I say that in the present, as in, you must be currently teaching in order to understand teaching. I believe that former teachers, remember a lot about their teaching experience, but I also think it's a bit like birthing a baby. Most of the pain is forgotten/covered up with the cuteness of the baby and/or modern medicine (or in the teaching case: anti-depressants). 

Being a teacher means you are partially responsible for what 200+ other human beings do while they're under your jurisdiction. The measurement of your work is hardly ever based on something you worked on by yourself and then presented to someone else. You are measured by how well other human beings can do what you've taught them to do. Which means your success and satisfaction in your job is based on what these 200+ other human beings do on a daily basis. I say this because if all I did all day was plan glorious lessons and then hand them to someone else to teach and then went home, I think I would feel pretty satisfied with my work about 88% of the time. However, that is not what I do. Therefore, my self-satisfaction rate is at about 19% on the daily.

I struggle each day to cope with the fact that I don't have total control of what my students choose to do, yet I, as well as others, still base my job performance and my satisfaction with my career on what those students choose to do. Which I shouldn't, right? I should know that I put in my best effort for the day and that's all I can really control. To that I say: ah ha ha ha...ha...HA! It's harder than you think. When they don't turn things in on time. When they don't do their in-class work. When they choose to SnapChat instead of study. When they don't care for their grade for 8 weeks and then beg for mercy 3 days before the end of the term.

I understand that students have circumstances that don't allow them to do things on time or that schoolwork really isn't what they should be worried about. I have those students, I know them and I sympathize that. And a majority of my students are not the ones I'll talk about next. I'm talking about the ones who just "don't." There are no other words that would describe those students better. They don't. They don't care, they don't want to, they don't work, they don't try, they simply don't. Regardless of the reason why they don't, they still don't. Now, how can I be okay with what I do when they just plain don't? Should I say don't again? Don't.

Well, let me tell you how. I had a vision a few days ago. Okay not really a vision it was more like a discernment. Maybe manifestation sounds better? Let's call it all three. In my viscernifestation I learned something.

I teach, and I do my best (most of the time). There are days when we read for twenty minutes because I'm afraid if I try to teach it will come out in a raging yell like Hades in the Disney version of Hercules. And on those days my intentions are to protect the children from my rage, not to slack off.

Instead of holding Pain and Panic, I would be holding students...scary, I know.

And you may walk into my room and we may be watching a clip from The Office. Because when The Office has several examples of the literary devices you are learning, you have to watch it. I feel as though I give my best to my students, most of the time. But there are days when I know I could have done some things differently. More on this tangent another time.

So when I give my best and my students still "don't," the frustration sets in. Frustration with them for not doing the things I ask them to. Frustration because I feel I have exhausted myself trying to find a way to get them to care.

I realized that teachers must feel a tiny bit of what God, or whatever you equate to a god, feels sometimes.

You just want them to try it. You want them to feel or know or care about what's there. You want them to see that what we're doing is relevant to them and that this is about their human experience. You want them to take in everything you are giving and do something with it.

He just wants you to try. He wants you to feel something and to do something about what you feel. He wants you to see your relevance in the world and experience the things around you, rather than watching them pass by. He wants you to take what you have and do something with it.

And how frustrating that must be, to feel as though you have given everything and yet your student meanders in and out of your classroom each day unaware that what's in front of them could help them, or change them. Better yet, that they could take what you've handed them and turn it into something more.

It must be pretty damn frustrating. 

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.

A book I read: Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

After reading Eat, Pray, Love, I HAD to see what was going to happen to Elizabeth Gilbert and her Felipe.

Allow me a small confession here: I have a really hard time buying books. One of my favorite pass times from ages 19 to 26 as a single lady (is that really the word we want to use between girl and woman? I mean, it sounds slightly like a tiny princess toilet rather than a thoughtful human being. I guess Beyoncé called all of us together cause she figured we were at her level. I suppose I am on Beyoncé's level. Thanks, Bey.) was to go to a bookstore and stare at the books I wanted to buy. Mind you, my boat is full of integrity so ne'er e'er did I crack the covers of those books except to read prologues, praises, or the poignant, tear-jerking, nostalgia-inducing author dedications. (I mean "For Dad" come ON. You wouldn't be able to wipe all of my tears from that, even if you had a ShamWow.)

I would just stare at them and wish that I had them in my hands. After my betrothed discovered this adorable habit of mine, in order to shorten the length of time spent staring at books on our dates, he would just buy me the books that I was staring at. I tell you this because Committed was one of the first books he bought me. And also embarrassing anecdotes are fun.

Back to the real reason we're here: the book!

In my other book review (singular...someday it will be more plural...someday), also a book by Elizabeth Gilbert, I simply wrote down my favorite writings from her book. I suppose that isn't really a review. I wanted to show how powerful and clear her writing was and I just didn't think that my words about her words would be able to convey that power. And I'm confident that I made the right choice in doing that. You should go read those words. So maybe I'll do the same thing here. Or maybe I won't. I guess you'll have to keep reading.

Okay, you're right. I'm going to put my favorites of her writing here + some of my thoughts. Sheesh, lay off me.

"Perhaps they do not assume that those two distinct entities (love and marriage) must necessarily intersect--either at the beginning of the relationship or maybe ever at all. Perhaps they believe that marriage is about something else altogether." (About the Hmong women she met) p.38

"...the emotional place where a marriage begins is not nearly as important as the emotional place where a marriage finds itself toward the end, after many years of partnership." p.41

"We Americans often say that marriage is 'hard work.' ...but how does marriage become hard work? Here's how: Marriage becomes hard work once you have poured the entirety of your life's expectations for happiness into the hands of one person." p.48

"...perhaps I was asking too much of marriage. Perhaps I was loading a far heavier cargo of expectation onto the creaky old boat of matrimony than that strange vessel had ever been built to accommodate in the first place." p.49

"...marriages based on love are, as it turns out, just as fragile as love itself." p.80

"Sometimes life is too hard to be alone, and sometimes life is too good to be alone." p.81 (In the book this quote is from "a friend's grandfather" just to be clear)

"Infatuation is not quite the same thing as love; it's more like love's shady second cousin who's always borrowing money and can't hold down a job." p.101

At this section here in the middle-ish to front-ish she talks about a theory from Dr. Shirley P. Glass, an infidelity expert, that every healthy marriage is composed of windows and walls. You should read about it, it's beyond sensical and eye-opening. 

"Anybody can love the most wonderful parts of another person. But that's not the clever trick. The really clever trick is this: Can you accept the flaws? Can you look at your partner's faults honestly and say, 'I can work around that. I can make something out of that.'? Because the good stuff is always going to be there, and it's always going to be pretty and sparkly, but the crap underneath can ruin you." (this is something Felipe said to her. Cue simultaneous "awww") p. 130

"There is hardly a more gracious gift that we can offer somebody than to accept them fully, to love them almost despite themselves." p.130

"To be fully seen by somebody, then, and to be loved anyhow--this is a human offering that can border on the miraculous." p.131

"...that an awful lot of my advantages as a child were built on the ashes of her personal sacrifice." (this was what she said of her mother and when I read it I realized that my childhood was very much the same.) p.184

"Raising a child is the very definition of ambivalence. I am overwhelmed at times by how something can simultaneously be so awful and so rewarding." (from a friend of hers, an exhausted single mom and gifted novelist, as she put it.) p. 188 When I read this I felt this rang true to me as a teacher, not saying that it is anywhere near being a mother but being a teacher is also very awful and very rewarding at the same time and it's ambivalent and confusing and frustrating. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes reading other people's insights into life and the many entanglements that come with life. 

Taylor Swift Is Singing My Life 10 Years Ago.

I know I'm tagging in late, but hear me out.

At first I was mad at Taylor for not letting me listen to her latest album with my Spotify subscription. Then I thought to myself, if I wrote an incredible book (which I will someday), then I would like people to enjoy it for the worthy price of $16.99 ($14.99 paperback) and not $9.99 a month, along with busloads of other songs, eh...books, that feel like they are FO FREEEE!

So after that train came veering safely around the corners of my mind, I decided to forgive Taylor for wanting a fair monetary representation of all of her hard work. I get you, Tay. Which is to say, I bought the album.

For the first few listens I went straight to the hits: Blank Space, Shake It Off. That lasted a couple days. And then I hit the deep tracks.

You guys. In the words of me, " MY LIFE!"
There are at least a hundred songs on the 1989 album that are literally about my life when I was in high school. How does she know?!

Honestly, I was listening to the lyrics and the thought that kept repeating in my head was "If only I had had this to take out my teenage angst and rage instead of Avril Lavigne." Avril just didn't speak to my teenage issues the way that Taylor was in this moment. "Sk8er Boi" really never emulated my experiences in high school nor did it give me any sort of enlightenment regarding my troublesome dating life at 16.
But Taylor's lyrics were just vibe-ing with my teenage soul.

"Style" is the song for boyfriend #1 and #3 and #6 (do you see why this fits so well? It's the same boy) We were meant to be! Because we loved the same bands and had a similar distaste for parents.
And when we go crashing down, we come back every time
'Cause we never go out of style
We never go out of style 

"All You Had To Do Was Stay" is dedicated to boyfriend-ish #2. Oh boyfriend-ish #2, if only you knew how weird it was that you thought I would want you after you made out with silly Melissa or Melanie or Stephanie, or whatever her name was while we were still dating. Here was the beginning of a confusing phase of life in which I didn't understand how someone could have multiple girlfriends. Later I would learn that that was weird and not normal. 

People like you always want back the love they gave away
And people like me wanna believe you when you say you've changed

"I Wish You Would" really is dedicated to boyfriend #4. I wasn't ready to be adored and thought it was weird and so I shut him out forever. Upon realizing what I'd done and that I had under-appreciated being adored, this song was how I felt. I eventually gave up wishing he would come back and it was for the best. That would be a very awkward confrontation today. At the time though, these were my EXACT feelings. 

I wish you would come back,
Wish I never hung up the phone like I did.
And I wish you knew that I'll never forget you as long as I live. 

It may seem silly to you, but this was a cathartic experience for me. I finally felt like someone was expressing what I had been feeling so long ago and didn't know how to express except by trying to spy on boyfriends with my girlfriends and throw ice cream at their stupid cars. That was cathartic too, but not quite as "healthy," one might say.  

And this is what I did while trying to be Tay: