yellow angel theatre queens

Normally, I'm a weekend warrior blogger. You get about two posts per weekend from me. But sometimes, on a Sunday evening, something magical happens and I have to post twice. Two times! In one day! That's better than a 10 mile garage sale (I think).

I went to the theater. Remember? I was worried, because I was having a bit of a problem with crowd rage from yesterday's festival and sometimes large crowds deplete me and I need to decompress for a day after being in them?

I will note that this evening's festivities got started on the wrong foot--I arrived two and a half hours before showtime (for dinner) and just as the afternoon matinee was letting out. It was a bit crazy. Have a I mentioned I have traffic jam rage, too? And that I think traffic cops make it far more complicated than it has to be?

So I decided to park about 3 blocks down from the theater. This was  Poor Decision #1. I wore the wrong kind of shoes for that type of thing: wedge heels. Four inch wedge heels. (I don't walk in heels very often--I feel gigantic and my bad left foot refuses to speak to me for about a week after.) But I did it, because I figured I'd be sitting for most of the evening after the high heeled hike.

But then my phone's GPS went all wonky on me and took me about 4 blocks AWAY from the restaurant. I was all: Where the hell am I, Midtown Atlanta? All I knew was I was in Georgia Tech territory, and all I also knew was Georgia Tech territory is notorious for muggings and rapings. And probably pillagings too, but the news only reports the beatings and rape.

So I'm lost, trying to figure out where I am by looking at my phone's map. This was Poor Decision #2. I once dated a guy from Hoboken/New York City and he told me that whenever you're lost in a big city, find a wall to lean up against all casually, and just sort of look down at the ground and think about where to go/what to do next. That way you look like you know where you're at; you're just loitering, hanging out.

I did not do this. I did not look casual or like I was hanging out. I was dressed up, in heels, with a bunch of money in my fanciest purse, with my phone out, looking around, going: Where AM I?? You know: basically, I was Red Riding Hood skipping along through the forest, all lost and shit.

Of course, a homeless man decided to try to ask me out. And when I kept ignoring him, he proceeded to follow me for about a block and a half, telling me how hot I was and he just wanted to talk to me. Normally, this would just be annoying and I'd be on Twitter doing that hashtag #YESALLWOMEN thing. But this was slightly terrifying, because I was all alone, and no one was around--the block was deserted save for me and the horny homeless homey.

Friends, it was the closest I've ever come to real violence, I was so scared. I know I said I imagined drop kicking the LL Bean lady at the food truck yesterday, but I just imagined that. From frustration. I wasn't actually going to drop kick anyone. Earlier tonight, I knew: I could drop kick another human being. If that man had run up to me, I was ready--I was formulating, in my brain, how I'd kick him in the nuts and smash his face with my phone. I was scared and I was angry and I was all "Dammit! The News wasn't kidding!! This area is RANK with violence! WTF, Atlanta?!"

But then I got up to Emory U Hospital and there were people around and he went away. And then I stuck to the main street and decided never ever EVER to walk by myself in Atlanta again. Stay in well-lit areas, with lots of other people around.

Did I ever tell you that I once went to a psychic named Marian who told me I have two guardian angels, a purple-aura'd older woman and a yellow-aura'd younger man? Apparently, I have a purple and a yellow angel and the yellow angel is very protective of me and won't let anything bad happen to me. Next time I come here, remind me, and I'll tell you the story about how I was almost gang raped at a pool hall in Mexico when I was 23. I've got loads of fun stories like this, stories that will make you go: How are you still alive, Amy?! (Because I've got a yellow angel, that's why. Duh.)

At any rate, I did have some absinthe and I will not be having absinthe again, thanks. Did it, got the shirt, don't need to do it again. It tastes like incredibly strong black licorice. Like, if you could take all of the black licorice in the entire Universe and pour it into one tiny glass? That's absinthe. I can totally see now why the Prohibitionists made it illegal. It's clearly a gateway drug to any alcohol that doesn't taste like licorice.

I will recommend Publik Draft House next to the Fox Theatre as a most excellent place to eat (and try absinthe for yourself). I had a very tasty falafel burger with sauteed mushrooms and tzatziki sauce and my friends both raved about their meaty burgers. The only complaint I had about this establishment was that, in their women's bathroom, they have gigantic mirrors covering the entire wall directly in front of the toilet. I bet people drunk on absinthe dig that, watching themselves on a toilet. I, however, was not drunk, or drunk on absinthe. I spent about 5 uncomfortable minutes in there with myself, awkwardly trying to avoid eye contact with me.

After dinner we went to the Fox Theatre to see MAMA MIA. Oh, how I love Broadway musicals! They are fun and wonderful to watch. I like to watch the background actors as much as the stars--I think: what fun, not to have to be worried about missing marks and cues and messing up lines and all that, BUT you get to be running around on stage and dress up and act silly and stuff. How much does THAT job pay??

MAMA MIA consists of a really silly plot line, and so you have to suspend belief for a bit, and the end comes up a little hokey and fast. But friends! It's all ABBA songs, the whole show! And that's like pure heaven for me. I laughed, I cried (at the song where the mom sings about the girl growing up too fast), and I got goose pimples. These are all good things--an English teacher in high school told me once that whenever you experience goose pimples from something (a painting, a song, a poem, a sunset, anything), you have experienced Art. And so whenever I'm at a movie or I hear a song or read a sentence in a book or I see a whole group of people dancing around live on stage and while I watch the audience all dances in their seats? And I realize I've got goose pimples? I go: Oh my god! This! This is ART.

I love it when that happens.

Oh, and! At the end, the whole cast comes on stage and sings ABBA songs. The audience gave them a standing ovation and we danced with them. I have Dancing Queen (you can dance, you can jive, having the time of your liiiiife) stuck in my head right now. I hope I dream about it tonight.

I bet I'll dream about the creepy homeless guy though. Maybe we'll dance to ABBA together? I don't know. (Don't walk the streets solo, girlfriends. Listen to your Aunt Amy.) (And stay out of pool halls in Mexico...but that's next weekend's chapter.)

crowd rage.

Let it go! Let it go! (my mantra yesterday)
Miss M, C, and I went to a Fall Festival yesterday. We like parades and face painting and all that. I go for the people watching, of course. This festival was in metro Atlanta, which just doesn't have the same great characters that, say, downtown Atlanta has; the people out in the sticks are pretty washed down. I'm not judging; I'm one of these washed-down-looking characters--I am nondescript, boringly normal-looking and acting, and I like to blend. Blur. Something--basically, I don't like to be the center of attention. 

But I like to watch people who don't mind a little being watched! And that's why I love stuff like this. 

But I have a slight issue at big, crowded places: crowd rage. My friend Patresa Hartman came up with this term awhile ago, and I am now sharing it with you. Crowd rage. It's when you're in tight spaces with a ton of different people, and the vast majority of the people seem pretty oblivious to the fact that you exist, to the fact that anyone besides them exists, that this is their world and they are the stars and we're all just the extras standing around to make them look good. This enrages me. 

Which is so weird, because (a) I'm a pacifist--I don't like fights or war, (b) I avoid conflict at all costs, and (b) I love my fellow human beings with all my heart. But when I am in a situation where I can't move, and you are clogging up the pathway to my freedom and clearly, you could move and change this but you're in your own little world and we're all just standing here on the edges of that world waiting to serve you? Oh my god. I could punch you. I really have an intense itch to haul off and punch a person. 

It's the only time I feel violence--out in public, in clogged up situations, surrounded by people who are oblivious to others' existence and plight. That's crowd rage.

I'm telling you all of this because I had a lot of crowd rage yesterday. A lot. A lot. It was drizzly and wet, and there wasn't a lot of space to move.

Also, when other people have crowd rage and I can tell they have crowd rage, it just intensifies mine and now we're all enraged at each other, but silently, and in really unhealthy and passive aggressive ways. I wonder if this is how terrorism starts? I bet this is how terrorism starts.

Example1: yesterday, M and I were trying to get on the Tilt-a-Whirl ride. You have to be so tall to ride by yourself, which she's not and wouldn't ride alone anyway, so I bought 6 tickets and got in line with her. We waited, patiently, and then it was our turn to ride. But right before us was a family of kids all riding together. Except when they got to the platform to get on, it was discovered two of the kids were too short to ride without an adult and the man wouldn't let them on. So I had to stand there and listen to their mom, who didn't have any tickets or an armband and had no desire to ride any rides, scream at and just generally be nasty to the ride worker (who was very calm and obviously used to being screamed at by entitled moms) about how she'd bought an expensive arm band for them to ride any of the rides and it hadn't been a problem on that ride over there or that one over there, just let them on! just let them on! She'd talk to someone about him if he didn't let her children ride! She'd make sure he didn't have a job within the hour if he didn't let those kids on this ride!

And I could feel my crowd rage surging, deep from within my depths. Because here's the thing: we're all being forced to wait because this mom is an idiot. You can clearly see there are sticks with heights to all the rides and they can't let certain height people on by themselves, or on at all, and that's for safety reasons. And the reason your two kids got on that ride over there and that one over there was probably because they met the height requirements. And stop trying to skirt the rules. And stop acting like you own this carnival because who are you? Bring enough money for your own arm band to avoid situations like this. Or think ahead and don't put your kids on rides they aren't tall enough for. Either way, stop screaming at this poor man who's just there to press some buttons. That's his job. He didn't make the rules, but he could get fired for not enforcing them and your kid could die. I highly doubt he's going to get fired because he wouldn't obey YOU. So move on.

I muttered all of that to myself as she kept screaming. And I felt embarrassed for her children, who were clearly trying to sink into the platform and disappear. I'm sure a lot of lessons were learned that day in their little hearts, lesson 1 being: Mommy's nuts. 

Crowd rage.

Example 2: standing in line to get a chicken gyro. It's hard, at these festival things, to figure out where the line ends, and if this even is a line. So you queue up, praying you're in the right spot, stand for about 30 minutes and find out you were in line for the corn dogs. So I'm standing in line, hoping I got into the right one, and a lady who'd been in the corn dog line in front of me earlier sidled up next to me to ask if this was the gyro line. 

I'd been watching her, earlier, people watching her--trying to figure her out. She looked like someone who smokes a lot of pot and drops acid frequently, but doesn't want anyone to know that, so she dresses like she and her family just love the outdoors and she's shops monthly at LL Bean. Now, she's trying to steal MY spot in the gyro line. What!? And so I told her, yes, I thought this was the gyro line, but I wasn't completely sure. She then proceeds to scream, across the food truck area to her husband (or whoever he was), in my ear that she was getting a gyro. 

It was the closest I've come all year to hauling off and attacking another human being. Aggravated assault, I think the police would have called it. And she did cut in front of me, and I did understand--for that brief moment in time--why some of my strong-willed 2nd graders occasionally get into physical kerfuffles with the others while walking in line. I plan on telling them that I get them now, and that if I can stop myself from kicking someone's shins repeatedly, so can they. It's totally doable. Hard! But doable. 

Crowd rage.

The thing about crowds is this: I'm an introvert. I'm not really a shy, can't-talk-to-strangers introvert. I mean, I don't go up to strangers and just talk to them or anything. But if we're in a situation and a stranger talks to ME, I'm entirely pleasant and can carry on a nice conversation about the weather if I have to (I hate having conversations about the weather though--let's just talk religion, sex, or politics--those are much more fun). 

I'm just an introvert, someone who's completely fine being alone and quiet, going to movies alone, reading a book for hours, not talking, etc. But I love getting out and about in the world and being social. I heart parties, I heart a good party a lot. But afterwards, I find myself depleted and exhausted and I kind of need some alone time. It's nothing personal, I just need to decompress from people.

So normally, I'd spend today decompressing. But later today, I'm going to the theatre (please say that in a fancy accent) with some beloved friends to celebrate a one of my favorite human being's birthday. We are eating out a place that serves absinthe drinks. I have never had a drink with absinthe in it before, but I plan on trying one because I will need more effort to control my crowd rage, which was at an all-time high by the time we went home yesterday. I was all love love love when we went to the festival, and by the time I walked in the door I was grumpy girl Sartre. There was an ecard I saw once that said something like "I may look calm but inside my head I've punched you three times." That was me yesterday when I got home. I had plans to grocery shop and get some grading done, but I needed to decompress. 

I'm hoping theater patrons are less oblivious and the absinthe helps. (I don't know what absinthe tastes like--I may end up just drinking a lot of margaritas instead. Margaritas make me much friendlier.)


social media writing platform.

I found an interesting writer/reader place called Wattpad. I discovered it back in July, via the television show DIG (on USA!), which I've been totally slacking off on promoting (I'm sorry, Jason Isaacs! I'm so sorry--I've been in inundated with teacher crap). It's been moved to premiere in 2015, by the way. Moved from Jerusalem to Croatia because of war, moved premiere dates because of...television producer guy stuff (I'm just making that up--I actually don't know why). Television is a tricky medium.

Also, according to Jason Isaacs, Dubrovnik smells like pizza. This location/smell thing reminds me of two stories:

Story 1: I once had a South African friend with whom I went on a road trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. All along the way, she'd scream out in delight, noting things like: "Oh my god! This looks just like the French countryside!" and "Oh, this could be Namibia!" or "Oh my goodness! This is exactly what Switzerland looks like!" 

This leads me to believe that, should push come to shove, I really don't HAVE to leave the United States if I can't scrape enough cash together to globe trot--Dubrovnik, Croatia looks like Jerusalem...The Red Band Society is filming in Atlanta and totally making it look like Los Angeles. Places can look like other places, and I just need to go to different areas not even close to the places I actually want to be but use my imagination. Planetary location scouting, if you will.

Story 2: When I was in high school, some friends and I went to New York City for Spring Break. (Some kids go to the beach for fun...nerds go to expensive, overcrowded cities.) So we went to NYC, and every morning, we'd step out of our hotel and one of my friends would suck air into his lungs and declare, "AH! Hot dogs and piss! The smell of New York!" 

This leads me to believe that every city has its own smell. New York City smells like urine and hot dogs, Dubrovnik like pizza. I'm not sure what Atlanta smells like because I've lived here so long my nose is used to it now, but my guess is rancid smog in the summer and burnt tires in the winter (I know I'm not selling it very well--I'm sorry, Atlanta). (On Sunday mornings, my house smells like bacon--you could come there if you'd like a better Atlanta smell.) 

In conclusion: I'd never thought of placing Dubrovnik, Croatia on my travel bucket list...until I saw Jason Isaacs' tweets about its pizza smell and how well it substitutes for Jerusalem. Sold! Dubrovnik's now a place I want to visit. That, or I'll find some place in America that looks just like it, and I'll eat at Pizza Hut day and night to recreate its smell.

Okay. Let's return to my original point (I did have one):

Wattpad. I found this website because someone was hired to write a prequel leading up to the premiere of DIG (on USA!), and Jason Isaacs demanded, on Twitter, I take a look, and I will always do what Jason Isaacs demands, on Twitter, that I do (unless it's to beat up someone) (okay, actually, I'd seriously consider it, depending on who Jason Isaacs wanted me punch--maybe he and I would like to punch some of the same people) (sadly, I don't know how to punch, so nobody would actually be hurt). It's a very outside-the-box concept for a television show: give people in the know (that's me! that's me! I'm finally in the know about something!) information before they get to actually see the show. Make them feel special (me again!) and in-the-know (me me!) beforehand. Information that people who find the show via just channel surfing won't know about the show. This feels like an exclusive club, and as someone who's a former sorority reject, I like that feeling.

I will admit, though, I was all kinds of I don't know! What do I DO? about this, because this is a mystery/action/conspiracy adventure story, and I hate it when my mystery/action/conspiracy adventure stories get ruined by too much prior information. But I went and read anyway, nothing got ruined at all, and plus I learned: Lands. I could never ever work for the CIA or the FBI. But God bless those who do.

At any rate, the concept of Wattpad--what an intriguing writer-y concept. You publish stories, you build an audience that will hang on your every word, you get discovered by Random House, sell world-wide millions of copies of your novel based on a Wattpad series you wrote, it gets optioned by Hollywood, the splendid Viola Davis [who I've finally forgiven for being in Won't Back Down] and quirky/fun Robert Downey, Jr. star in it, Golden Globes and Oscars are won, and bam! You own a 500-acre chateau in the south of France and your very own island in the Mediterranean and Oprah interviews you multiple times and invites you to tour the world with her. (What? What?? That's my plan, okay? Get your own and don't be so judge-y.)

I think Wattpad is actually an app, but my phone's out of memory and won't let me download it, so I just read online. And I haven't written anything for it to build an audience/start prepping for my chateau and here's why: most of the stuff I've seen on Wattpad is stunningly BAD. The website is amazing, the concept is awesome. Just...from what I've seen, some of what is published there is stunningly BAD. Which seems to be a problem with a lot of sites like this on the internet: people just dicking around. 

Plus, I can't tell you how many One Direction fans have begged me to read and follow them on this place. God bless them--I don't want to be an a-hole and discourage people from writing, because when I was in 6th grade, that's what I did: I wrote stories about Michael Jackson falling in love with me and making up dance moves with my name on them. And later, stories about Charlie Rivera Masso of Menudo meeting me at a library (the only place I ever went in 8th grade because I was such a wild child) and taking me on dates to the movies. And so I really get fan fiction writers, as well as the One Direction story artistes. Once upon a time, this was my tribe.

But nowadays, in my 40s, there are two things in the world I'm supremely disinterested in writing about; fan fiction is one and One Direction is the other. I'm not judging fan fiction writers--everyone has their niche, that one's just not for me. I am judging the One Directioners--that band has infiltrated my life quite enough lately, thanks. (Miss M is obsessed, suddenly, with member Harry Stiles. I don't  know if that's how you spell his surname, and I'm sorry Directioners, I'm not looking it up. Go ahead, threaten my life--I know that's what you do. I've seen your tweets and I don't care. I've better things to do than worry about whether a teenager in Bismark is really going to cut me. Miss M threatens to cut me all the time, too, and I am not worried about her, either.)

At any rate, I've been holding off on writing there, because much of what I've seen just by poking around is sort of hokey and so...what kind of audience would I build there? Please know: I'm not trying to sound like a snob when I ask that--I really don't know what kind of an audience I'd build there (or if I could even build an audience there...since I wouldn't be writing One Direction stories). Yet, apparently, it can be a very useful social media tool for writers. 

And y'all know how addicted I can be when it comes to social media and its various tools.

But also (and mostly) I'm incredibly short on time these days--Life is hectic, and I have a lot of things in the writing oven: my new ghost story, I'm still working on the TV show script (put the word working inside " " because when I say "working," what I really mean is: "thinking up ideas for"), and I have a couple of short stories I need to clean up and start thinking about where to send out. In other words, do I have time? (I never have time.)

But I'm glad I know about this Internet place of writing! And I will most likely, eventually, add it to my social media tool box and use it, because the articles I'm reading from established writers who love it are intriguing and inspiring. And now you know about it, too, and so maybe you'll discover really awesome writers to follow there. And some sweet One Direction stories that will completely rock your world.

I can't believe I connected a post involving DIG (on USA!) to One Direction. I'm sorry, so so sorry, Jason, Anne Heche, and all the cast/crew of DIG (on USA!). When the actual premiere date gets closer, I'll make it up to you by promoting your show in obnoxious ways on my private Facebook page and my public Twitter account. I have about 200 Facebook connections and over 100 Twitter followers now! That's totally going to put you guys over the top in the ratings, I just know it.

Here, I'll start making it up to the people of DIG by directing you all to this interview about it by Carol Barbee (writer) and SJ Clarkson (director) talking about it  and making it sound very exciting and fascinating (and can I just also note how intensely impressed I am by both of them AND impressed by the fact women are so involved in the making of this show? I dig that.) (Heh. See what I just did there? I dig DIG.) Never mind. Just go watch this interview--you'll understand:


ghostly tales with some side stories.

May I share my recent weekly Rob Brezny Pisces forecast with you, reader(s)? (I'm sharing because my suspicion is that Rob actually writes for ALL the zodiac, meaning: you could close your eyes, land your finger on any one of his astrology sign predictions, and find great wisdom you could apply to yourself. Just because I'm not an Aries doesn't mean I can't act like one...if I think it'll get me some place nice.) 

At any rate, here's what Rob says to do this week:

For a long time, an Illinois writer named

ArLynn Leiber Presser didn't go out much. She had 325 friends on

Facebook and was content to get her social needs met in the virtual

realm. But then she embarked on a year-long project in which she sought

face-to-face meetings with all of her online buddies. The experiment
yielded sometimes complicated but mostly interesting results. It took her
to 51 cities around the world. I suggest we make her your inspirational
role model for the coming weeks, Pisces. In at least one way, it's time for
you to move out of your imagination and into the real world. You're
primed to turn fantasies into actions, dreams into practical pursuits.

Isn't that nice? Let's go out and turn our imagination into the real world, Internet! Get off Twitter, turn off Instagram, stop stalking people on Facebook and get out there! Turn  your fantasies into actions, your dreams into practical pursuits.

Here's an example of how I did that this week with writing:

Some friends and I are going to Tybee Island/Savannah next month, and two of us are intensely fascinated by ghosts and hauntings. So of course we're taking a ghost hunting tour. You can't go to the most haunted city in America and not do this. If I find out you've gone to the Savannah area and NOT gone on a ghost hunting tour? Oh, we are so done. Don't even come back here! I mean it. And NO, I don't care if you're terrified of icy, invisible fingers trailing down the back of your neck. Are you for real?! That's a story you can tell random strangers you meet in pubs and subways. Now stop being a skeptic scaredy cat and get into that pitch black room where the man was butchered 150 years ago and has been heard growling ever since! GO!

So I was online looking for times/dates/suggestions/etc for ghost tours for when we're in town, when an idea for a story suddenly popped into my head, beginning with a few big What If? questions: What if there was a girl who was in love with a ghost? And what if that ghost loved her back, but in a really creepy, obsessive way? And what if the hauntings in that girl's small town started to suddenly and mysteriously pick up, in very undeniable ways? Ways that captured the attention of people who may or may not have that girl's (and that town's) best interests at heart? And how could a ghost's creepy obsessive love for a girl and a town play into that?

I'd read a story like that. You might not. You might read those what if questions and go: snore, Amy. And that's fine. But I'd read a story like that. And also, you clearly don't understand: GHOSTS ARE REAL. Stop messing around and get with the program. 

I took about an hour and developed a whole story outline. An outline that I'd call more outline-ish, because quite frankly I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to very long novel writings. My craft is short story. But I'm going to attempt a novel. And I'm going to start attempting it as soon as parent teacher conferences are over.

Hey, speaking of--can we talk for a moment, Internet?

I've noticed some trendings over the last several years in regards to how teachers are treated by the general public. Can we talk about that? Let's talk about Good vs Bad Ways to View Schools and Teachers and What NOT to Do (I promise I'll swing this back around to my ghost writing content at the end):

1-This may come as a shocking revelation/unexpected surprise/depression-inducing disappointment, but teachers are not babysitters. Yes, yes. I realize "YOUR" taxpayer money gets put in our paychecks, so maybe you feel like you should get to dictate to us how, when, where, and why we do our jobs and in what capacity. And also maybe you're a misogynist who has absolutely no respect for the teaching profession because the vast majority of its professionals happen to have two X chromosomes, and humans with two X chromosomes are supposed to babysit and bend over backwards to your every whim and command. 

If that's the case, let me school you a bit. Listen: "YOUR" taxpayer money also gets put into police officers', firefighters', postal workers', and public librarians' paychecks, too. Okay? We all enjoy certain services like paved roads, protection from criminals, being saved from burning buildings etc because we pool our monies into systems that do that for us. Sorry, i am NOT waking up at 3 AM to dump water on your burning house because you fell asleep smoking. We pay firefighters so we can sleep while the neighborhood burns down. 

But you don't walk up to firefighters and demand a drink of water from their fire hoses while they're putting out a forest fire, do you? No. And you don't walk up to a police officer and demand they arrest your neighbor because he keeps throwing his grass clippings onto your lawn. (All right, fine. Some people actually do this. And the police write them a ticket with a hefty fine for wasting their crime fighting time.)

And NOBODY in America bothers postal workers anymore. I think we've all learned some hard lessons about what can happen to over stressed people who have to deliver a lot of mail.

So ditto for teachers. You can't just say: "Oh, my conference time is XX:XX, but I can't get there exactly at that time, so I'm just going to leave my kid at school. The teacher can watch him/her because it's what she/he does all day anyway. What's 2 more hours?" 

No. NO! Do not do this. First of all, I'm not sitting around after school diddling my fingers, wishing I had more kids to hang out with. I'd actually like to get up and go home and be with MY kid. But I have a J-O-B to do. So I'm grading papers, prepping for tomorrow's lessons, making parent contact phone calls, planning for future lessons, or--more than likely--filling out endless mounds of paperwork 21st century "new" education demands of me. I love your kid and monitor and safeguard and help your child and give your progeny my 110% from 8-3, but I got other stuff to do, too. This is a JOB.

2-You can't just...SHOW up at my door whenever you damn well feel like it. I'm sorry; it just doesn't work like that. Please don't put me in a position of having to be a rude meanie and tell you to go away. If you have a conference with me to talk about your kid on Thursday at 3:30, then that's the day and time you show up. Not Friday at 6:00 AM, getting all hot and bothered about the fact I'm still sleeping in bed in a different location. Not Wednesday at 3:00 because you happened to be in the area and what the hell? let's go for it. 

No. NO! Do not do this. Listen: you make appointments to see a doctor, a dentist, a lawyer, an accountant, etc. What happens if you make your appointment with Dr. Gumbleed for Tuesday at 4:00 but you're done your grocery shopping early on Monday at 1:00, you're in Dr. G's area, and so you just show up at Dr. Gumbleed's office at 1:30, going, "Oh, yeah. I know my appointment's tomorrow, but I'm ready to see Dr. Gumbleed right now. So I'll just have a seat in his dental chair back there."

What?! Gumbleed and his teeth scrapers would throw your butt right out the door, and if I'm their 1:30 appointment, I'm helping them. 

Treat teachers like you'd treat your doctor, your dentist, your lawyer. Don't treat teachers like you'd treat the police, because the police can be scary. But treat teachers like you'd treat the police when they're at Starbucks or doing police charity work, and at their nicest.

Teachers are professionals. Highly trained, professionally degreed professionals. Don't know why your kid is drawing weird crap in all her family portraits? I've actually had training on why that happens. I can talk Piaget theories until you weep. I can tell you what a Kindergartner can/can't do developmentally, and all the way up through 3rd grade, which is where, for personal reasons, I decided to stop my expertise. 

Okay, public? That's your public service announcement from your friendly teacher rep, speaking on behalf of all underpaid, overworked teachers everywhere. We just want to be respected and treated like top notch professionals, that's all.

And for those of you with big complaints about bad apple teachers? Listen, it happens. Just like you'll run into crazy doctors who make you go: "What the hell kind of medical school did YOU go to?!", unfortunately you'll probably also run into teachers like that, too, once in awhile. It happens. That's Life. Bad hires happen.

But just because you had a bad apple teacher once (so did I--two, actually) or you saw something on FOX News or read something in your local editorial section about how teachers are such douchebag problems for society, don't approach all teachers like they're your personal servants and their classrooms are your living room to flop down in whenever you want to. 

My classroom is my office, just like what Bill Gates has except I personally make all my office decor and have a better color scheme and didn't pay a designer $10,000,000 to create it. Once every single person in the public gets clear on this, teacher stress will go down, WAY down. And that's for teachers in every country of the world; I read school news from the UK, and it sounds bad all over right now (but I will say the British seem to be far nicer when wet noodle slapping their teachers around; there are times I read stuff from the UK and say out loud: "Too bad America lost the Revolutionary War") (to be fair to my country: there are also times I read stuff from the UK and go: Phew! Close one!).

Speaking of too personal, can I jump way off track with one last this-has-nothing-to-do-with-anything-I-just-wrote-about story? But connected for me because I'm talking about inappropriate public behavior?

One time I was at a movie theater, and this chick sitting two seats down from me lifts up the armrests on both the seats between us and proceeds to pull out a blanket AND A PILLOW. She puts these down on the seats and stretches the eff out. On the movie theater seats! In the movie theater! 

I'm sorry, no. NO! That's why Netflix was invented. If you need to lie down to watch a movie, then you need to be in your house, in your bed, streaming Netflix movies. 

What is going ON, Human Beings of Planet Earth?! Get it together.

Okay. I'm done. Now I'm going to go work on my ghost hunting tale. There's a pirate involved. And he's SWARTHY. Which are the best kinds.



I am simply having THE best weekends, Friends. Simply the best. These weekends MORE than make up for Monday through Friday, and I am so thankful for them. By Monday morning, I'm re-charged and ready. Even if I do still have a stack of ungraded tests and classwork sitting in the backseat of my car. I'll deal with them Monday evening--I'm going to suck up Saturday and Sunday for all they're worth.

Before I begin, I must heads up you of two things: (1) this entry shall be all over the place and (2) I've had 4 large glasses of sangria. Apologies in advance for any poor grammar, bad spelling, and weirdly joined compound sentences you have to read 3-4 times before piecing together what I'm attempting to communicate.

1-Saturday I went to lunch with sweet teacher/writer friend Becky. Becky is working at a most awesome school this year--she's working for a private school that truly "gets" kids and what's best for them. They do The Arts! And Environmental Education! And project-based learning! And they have goats and chickens and archery and an orchard and a big learning garden and a donkey on campus. It sounds like heaven to this public school weary teacher. I'm currently scheming how I can get a job at this Utopian palace of learning, and survive the massive pay cut.

2-Miss M and I visited Tiny Towne, which is one of THE coolest places if you're a tiny person. They teach you to drive, way before the government says you can. You're given tiny cars to practice on realistic-looking roads. And there's an arcade with amazing games--readers, I'm talking games that have real water involved, and not a SINGLE CARNIE HUSTLER IN SIGHT. And a food court. And a TRAIN. With a real tunnel to ride through. With music playing. A train disco.

Unfortunately, it's like $5,000 for 2 hours of everything (i'm being hyperbolic; it's really about $50 for two hours), and so we'll only go twice per year. However! I feel confident she'll be ready for the chaos that is Atlanta traffic when she's 16. Thanks, Tiny Towne!

3-This afternoon, our neighborhood Home Owners Association had its annual catered picnic. My thoughts on this regular event:

*I love old people. Old people and little kids--I love them both so much. Little kids are full of magical thinking without care or concern for ultimate outcomes; they are daredevils who will ride their bikes down a big neighborhood hill at break neck speed and freakishly delight in how many mothers are completely losing their shit watching them do it.

Old people know what's really real, and they have the BEST stories to tell about Life. I could listen to them go on about their life histories and happy/sad experiences all night, even if they do throw in the occasional, crazy right wing tea party spewage like "And that Obama kid--he's destroying the country!" Because I felt the same way about that George W. Bush kid, and anticipate saying that a lot when I'm in a nursing home.

The sweetest stories I heard tonight were all about how they found each other--some had lost dearly loved husbands or wives, and a son or daughter found them a new "friend" and now they're all married and blissful...while others had been through some pretty tragic relationships and finally were living perfectly happy lives all alone, and they just happened upon each other, discovering another soul so very similar to theirs it was too big to deny.

It's those connection stories that make my soul soar, and make me so grateful to be on this planet, flying around through the Milky Way on this rock of chaos and destruction. For every person who thinks ISIS is a good idea, there are at least 100 others who cancel that person out. And I am thankful to often find myself interacting with some of those sweet, lovely souls who consciously choose to not waste the Universe's time. There are so many amazing stories to hear and tell, and we all have them.

*Speaking of stories--the tabloid kind: I HEART it when the neighborhood gossiping starts!!! OMG, I heart it so deeply, I cannot even describe to you here in words how deeply I heart it. I just listen, taking in mental notes, developing all kinds of stories about it. My husband is all: Yo, time to go! He can't do it; he hates it when the neighbors start psychologically dissecting one another. But I reluctantly leave, still desperate to hear how the annoying leaf blower story ends, or the story about the neighbor who put the bikes in the sewer and the other neighbor who fished them out and sold them at a garage sale (he was joking). I left, fist pumping the air to myself as I hear the HOA president point to one of the more outspoken, younger neighbors and say: "Sounds like we found our newest board member, y'all!"  at the same time somebody else is in the midst of another complaint about the grass levels the landscaping company continues to chop the grass down to ("They're burning the yards! They're burning the yards! We pay them so much every month and they just keep burning the yards!"). Oh sweet Jesus, God bless them.

*Also, I accidentally broke someone's $10 plastic sangria pitcher tonight. I hope they're gossiping about me out there right! now!

3-I've given up soda, Internet. Yes, all soda--diet and regular. Because I got nominated to be on a get healthy competitive team thing at work, and so I started by giving up soda. I've survived one week. But this makes me want to eat all the things, and that defeats the whole, get healthy competitive thing. Doesn't it? (Whenever someone asks me if I want to be on their competitive team, I have two reactions: (1) ME?! You guys picked ME?! OHMYGODTHANKYOUTHANKYOU!!!! HOORAY!!!!! and (2) Are you sure?? Because I'm not really big on competition; I was raised by people who consciously chose to teach their children NOT to compete with other people, and so...I typically lose at games.)

But I'm always grateful to be picked. I feel so loved.

I had something writer-y to tell you about tonight, but I've forgotten it. It'll come back to me later this week. In the meantime, I'll tell you about a student of mine, who I will call Larry, because he reminds of the character on the Bob Newhart show who always introduced himself as "My name is Larry, and this my brother Deryl and my other brother Deryl." So Larry is a sweet little boy with the kindest heart imaginable. I love Larry with all of my heart. But I also need Larry to sit the heck DOWN, multiple times per day, and listen. And I need Larry to stop shaving crayons with his pencil sharpener and leaving a Pigpen-esque mess all around his desk. And I need Larry to focus, and stop humming constantly. And pay attention. And stay in our line. The walking through the halls bit is the most worrisome part, because he's mucking up the line and causing half the class to be half a mile away from the destination. So the other day, I told Larry he'd need to hold my hand in the halls all the time, every day, everywhere we go, and that he'd be my special hallway helper. For all of this school year.

Larry loved this; Larry felt loved by his new appointment, I could tell. And it works for me, because now I can keep track of where the other half of my class is when walking from point A to point B. Win-win. But Larry did have a concern:

"I gotta hold your hand every day, Ms. S?" he said,
"Every day, Larry," I said.
"When we go to lunch, too?" he said.
"When we go to lunch, too, Larry," I said.
"What about when there's a substitute?" he asked.
"Even when there's a substitute, Larry" I said.

Larry was quiet in the halls (an unusual thing), and then asked, "But what if the substitute's OLD?"
"What? You can't hold an old person's hand, too?" I asked.
"No. No, I don't want to hold no old lady's hand!" he insisted.
"Why not?" I asked.
"'Cause. They all wrinkled. I can't hold no old lady's hand."
"Okay, Larry. Then I'll put in my sub notes this message: 'If you are old, then Larry doesn't have to hold your hand in the halls.' Okay?"

Larry nodded, satisfied.

"Hey, Larry. How old do you think old is?" I asked.
"How old's you?" he asked.
"42," I said.
"Oh. Then I guess 43."

Nice. Thanks, Larry. Nice. So in February, I'm officially old, friends. Get me a cane, some Metamucil, and prune juice for my next birthday. Which I guess I'm okay with, because it means I'll fit in with the HOA neighbors, and can fascinate a young person with my tales from back in the old days.


international stories in spanish

I had a long week, Internet. Three whole mornings of testing, and then today was stupendously bad (on the student behavior front). Half the class of wayward children got put in study hall all of their recess, while being reprimanded to think about appropriate school choices vs. inappropriate. I hate being mean. I want to dance and sing and throw glitter around and have FUN! But I have to have an agreement from my small charges that they'll bring it back to center once the glitter is on the ground so we can also do the stupid grunt work society is currently expecting us to do. And I hate taking away recess--in public school it's really their only time during the day to just be kids and do the work children are truly meant to do which is learn how to grow up successfully; nobody ever fared well from having their creativity and sense of playfulness smashed down. I think Orwell's 1984 was really about people who get drilled like little machines with curriculum content.

Fortunately, it did end on two happy notes:

1-Coworkers who are ridiculous. I'm so happy I work with ridiculous people who recognize this is all so ridiculous. Their sense of humor is sarcastic and sardonic, if it's possible to be that at once. Since those are synonyms.

2a-A parent-teacher conference in which the mom told me I'm really awesome at speaking Spanish. And we had a (in Spanish) conversation about how I can speak Spanish pretty fluently, but can't understand jack, and she can understand English pretty fluently but can't speak jack. And that's jacked up. (I have no idea how to say that in Spanish, so I'll just throw this lovely tidbit out there for you: mierda. Yeah. I said it. Google it.

2b-Also, we had a long conversation (in Spanish) about my last name and The Bible. She likes that her child was put in my class because my name is so biblical and by the way, do I read The Bible? I told her I have read The Bible, but it's not a book I read every day. To which she said I should read it every day and invited me to their church. To which I said thank you, but we have a church we're pretty happy with right now. (It's called Our Lady of St. Sleeping In on Sundays.) (But I always appreciate the effort to save my soul.)

Here's why I learned Spanish: when I was 13, I had a crush on Menudo, the Puerto Rican boy band. Specifically, I had a crush on Charlie Rivera Masso from Menudo. Ricky "Livin' la Vida Loca" Martin was a member for a time (I did have a big crush on Ricky "Copa de la Vida" Martin for awhile, but only after he manned up and before he came out of the closet--when I liked Menudo, Ricky & I were the same age, and I did NOT want a 13 year old boy. I was desperate for Charlie, who was 16 and could DRIVE. Because 16 is almost a full grown man and also and more importantly he could DRIVE. And I had a little picture I cut out of Charlie from Tiger Beat magazine in which he and his Menudo bandmates were in a Cadillac with the top down, and Charlie was behind the wheel, and he was LOVE. I would stare at this picture for hours on end, sighing big sighs, and begging God to convince Charlie to drive the Cadillac to me and take me on a date to the movies. All I wanted was a date to the movies. With a swarthy older boy from Puerto Rico.) (Nothing's changed.)

So, of course I was going to marry Charlie Rivera and move to Puerto Rico, and I'd need to know Spanish. So when I started high school a year later, I no longer cared about Menudo at all because I'd moved on to man band Norwegian pop sensation a-ha. (I wasn't shallow or fickle at ALL as a teenager, no not at all.) (Nothing's changed there, either.) But I remembered how much I'd really wanted to know what Menudo had been saying in the straight-to-VHS feature film Una Aventura Llamada Menudo.

He's not driving, but he's wearing yellow, and STILL looking at me with Come Hither eyes...28 years later. 

Four years of high school Spanish, 2 years of college + 1 minor in Spanish on my Bachelor's degree, and 3 years of teaching on the Mexico/Arizona border? I am totally able to have Google Translate do all my note translating needs, and I conduct my own parent-teacher conferences that, were you a fluent Spanish speaker listening in, would sound something like this to you (please read my parts in a heavy Russian accent):

PARENT: Is my child doing well in your classroom?
ME: Yes. For most part. At times, he to do much talking very very loud. But yes. For most part.

PARENT: How does he behave for you?
ME: Ah, yes. He do good behavior almost always. At times, too much play, but always such a good, good boy. Is good I have your boy is with me. 

Something like that. Is what I imagine I must sound like in translation.

I've tried to watch telenovelas on Univision and Telemundo to get better at comprehension and increase my vocabulary, but quite frankly? They're ridiculous, these telenovelas. They're mini-novels on tv is what they are, and they have a perfect story arc with a beginning, middle, and ending so you'd think they'd be right up my alley. But nobody dresses like this in reality, nobody just...happens to have a gun in her purse for no reason except to shoot the lover who's been found to be sleeping with her neighbor who's actually her long lost cousin who's really her sister but she doesn't know it yet. And nobody could survive a gun shot to the head and an 18 story fall out of a skyscraper. I'm sorry, this wouldn't happen, and I have a hard time with it. In spite of the ham acting, which I normally do love. No puedo hacerlo, telenovelas. Lo siento mucho. Yo no puedo.

So I was thinking on the drive to work today that maybe what I should do is find somewhere this summer to immerse myself in Spanish for 2-3 weeks. At first, I thought: somewhere in the Mexican Riviera, but then I remember when my family and I went to Cancun when I was in college, everybody in Cancun spoke English. Such a let down, but more for my dad than me (I'm about to tell you a side story. Get some popcorn. Ready?):

When we got off the plane in Cancun, we were attacked by taxi drivers, desperate to take us to town. They were all speaking English, but my dad wasn't buying it. My dad, who spent the entirety of the plane ride to Mexico turning around to my brother and me seated behind him to say really awesome things like: "When we get there, the first thing I'm going to say is: DONDAY ESTAY EL BAAAANO, SEEENYORAYS." Because that's not gringo at all--totally sophisticated world-wide traveler.

Before we'd left home, my father informed me that since I'd had 4 years of Advanced Placement Spanish in high school and 1 whole college-level Spanish Literature class under my belt, I was to be the family's sole means of communicating to the good people of Mexico, and that all of our needs and safety concerns would be resting on my shoulders, our family's well-being would be in my hands, my absolute responsibility, so don't chingado it up. So we're all in the Cancun airport, hot and tired and thirsty and dusty and confused and a long way from an American consulate, being attacked by taxi drivers begging us to pick them! pick them! for a ride to our hotel. In English, they're begging us. They're walking up to my dad, palms out, frantically pointing to their taxi and saying things like, "Senor, I take you to the hotel? You pay $10." In total, complete English, but my dad was convinced it was Spanish because this was Mexico dammit, and look them--they're from Mexico and this is a land of all Spanish. So when I tried to explain to him that these taxi drivers were all speaking English and just needed an English Yes or No from him (or gringo Spanish Yes/No with a bathroom request or whatever), my dad freaked his freak and I ended up translating English to English that day and every day we were in Cancun.

Not a single moment of Spanish. We went to McDonald's for lunch one day, and the cashier asked, "Do you want cheese on that Quarter Pounder?" in American accent English, clear as sunshine, and my dad looked at me with that expectant look of Well, GO ON, so I sighed and said to him in American accent English: "She wants to know if you want cheese on your burger." And he smiled all knowingly and went, "Ah. I understand now. Tell her I said, SI. Yes. I would like CHEESE ON MY BURGER." Because when you yell at people who don't speak your language they can magically understand you. And then I sighed, turned back to the cashier and said, "Yes please. Cheese."

I did that, in between running interference for my mom, who would go to restaurants and say things like: THIS ISN'T MEXICAN WATER, IS IT? I CAN'T DRINK MEXICAN WATER. While my brother and I looked around nervously for banditos who might want to kill some ugly Americans that day.

Oh, and neither one of them could pronounce the hotel, which was called Las Palmeras, my father being the worst offender. Every time they directed a taxi driver to it, it was Los Palaramas. Or El Palama. Or Las Palaciamos. Somehow the drivers always knew where they meant and managed to get us to the correct place. Though I wonder how many of them said things like mierda under their breath and seriously considered how much trouble it would be to sell us all into slavery or something.  (Amy's tip of the Day: Don't travel internationally with your mom and dad, kids.) (That's for American kids only; European kids, you live with international borders and so I'm assuming you know how to comport yourselves when abroad from the age of zygote. We don't have that here--this country is too large, and the one above us sounds too much like us when they speak English. And the one below us is our big whipping boy, our scapegoat. So it's not going well.)

Speaking of international travel, did you know Scotland almost left the United Kingdom?! They voted and decided not to after all, but not before severely damaging some deep trust that I'm sure will take years of expensive talk therapy to fix and upsetting the children. I'm so surprised Queen Elizabeth didn't send Prince Harry and the RAF up there to rough them up a bit, let them know who's still in charge. King Edward I would have.

Still: thank you, Scotland! Thank you. I hope Texas was watching and maybe got some good ideas. Maybe Rick Perry is hatching some plans right now. I think Kansas would love to mediate those proceedings. I'll help Texas move. (I'm sorry, Texas. I'm just picking on you. I'd suggest Florida leave too, except they have all the nice beaches. You have Austin. The End.)

One last (non-international) thing before I go: if you have a moment this weekend or week, would you please send prayers, light, and/or love to a little girl in Georgia? She has terminal cancer, and her family is spending as much time with her as they can now, creating as many memories as they can fit in over the next few months; they've exhausted all their options and they're choosing love and hospice now as the final part of their fight. She's a cute little girl with a beautiful heart who's been karate chopping cancer since Kindergarten. I'm a firm believer in the power of thought and light altering the very make up of ourselves and our existence here, so if you could send some light & love and good vibes to sweet Lizzie and some really strong love for strength and courage to her mom and dad, that'd be so swell of you. And, if you're so inclined, you can help Lizzie's family enjoy the last sweet moments they have together. CLICK HERE to do that.

You can do it in Spanish with a Scottish accent if you'd like.


character building

Do you know how to do this in writing? And if you're a reader, do you know how writers try to do it? Here's what I find is best: interviews. I interview the character: what's your favorite color? food? sleeping position? sexual position? how'd you get that weird mole on your neck? etc and so forth.

I have, in notes I took in a writing class, a list of about 20 must-ask questions for a character. Also, imagined scenarios--like what drink would your character order in a bar? and how would she or he respond to an intimate question from another patron or the bartender? Something like that.

But I also like to just watch people. I find regular, out-and-about people to be the best foundations for building/creating story characters. Malls in economically depressed areas are rife with fodder for this. And so are malls in ritzy, glamorous areas. Airports and subways are particularly riveting.

I once talked to an actor who told me he does this, too. He watches people's mannerisms and maybe, later, he'll incorporate them into a character. I have another actress friend who based a whole stage character she did on a mutual friend of ours (it went well for the actress; the friend was horrified). And both actors told me they pretty much do what I do when I build my characters: they build whole background lives on their pretend people. Some of what they make up lands in whatever production they're doing; some of it never does, but they know what's going on (in the background of the character's long ago) as they're acting it all out. I will say ditto to this for written characters--some of the stuff I know about a character in a story, only I know; the information never makes it into the story. But knowing it as I write helps keep me straight on the character and his/her motivation and all that.

Here's what happens if you and I go out to dinner (want to? No, I'm serious--want to? I'm totally free Saturday): we'd talk and have a lovely time, enjoy ourselves, etc., but my brain would wander away often from our table. I'd be noting and wondering about the sad-looking lady sitting alone at the bar in an awkwardly-fitted spangly top, absorbed in a Texas-sized margarita (WITH a Corona upside down in it, no less) and speculate about what she's looking at on her phone. I'd be distracted by the couple sitting at the table catty corner ours, because they look miserable, just miserable (what the heck happened? are they breaking up? did somebody lose a job? did they forget their wallets? or seriously, yo. The minestrone WAS really bad tonight).

It's a problem, but I'm good with it now because (a) I find other human beings completely fascinating, and (b) god knows I've worn enough awkwardly-fitted spangly tops and been morose at plenty of restaurants in my lifetime. I'm certain I'd have been written into a Charles Dickens novel had we been from the same era and hung out in the same pubs.

Here's a good example of how minutely detail-oriented I can be when it comes to people watching: I was watching a YouTube interview some time ago with Jason Isaacs (hello to Jason Isaacs!).  I remember I wanted to watch it because I'd discovered, on Netflix, a short-lived but fascinatingly excellent police drama series he'd been in that was canceled all too soon (dammit, American TV and American TV watchers--get with the program! Less Kardashians, more mind-bending blue-eyed cop dramas! Is it too much to ask?!). So they were interviewing him and two of the show's creators; it was on a panel-y thing, so they had a pitcher of water set in front of the 3 people. While one of his coworkers was answering a question, Jason Isaacs decided he needed some water, but instead of just pouring himself a glass, I noted he poured the OTHER two people each a glass and THEN served himself. Didn't even ask them if they wanted one, just thoughtfully poured them each a glass, just in case, and then served himself...last. Clearly, this is a person who was raised well. I bet his parents made him do chores. (Note to self: find some chores for M to do.)

Also, I can't remember anything they talked about, which was the whole point of my watching the interview. More info on the show (because I was also reading its pilot episode script at the time, trying to figure out: how does one write a pilot episode script?). But I do remember the thoughtful water pour.

That's the kind of stuff I get distracted by at dinners out, and the stuff that goes into my character building mental bank for later use: I'd use that information to build into a story (or write a story about) someone who's got a lot going on--stuff's happening around him, he's working, but in one particular moment he stops to think about other people's needs first. That's what makes it into the story, and the reader goes: oh, this is a nice person.

What doesn't make it in is the background information I made up that he does this because when he was XX years old, his dad made him get a paper route so he could afford the guitar he really wanted...and one day he got mugged on the paper route and one of his fellow paper route boys went out and bought the guitar for him and it affected him for the rest of his life.

Is that weird? Do you do that? I do worry it's weird sometimes, that I can't always remember what we talked about 20 minutes ago, but I remember that you used your utensils in the European way instead of the American because I wondered who taught you to do that, where you learned it, and why you felt McDonald's was a good place for it. (No judgments here: I once ate midnight breakfast at a Waffle House with a Scottish person who did this, and found it utterly charming.)

One last thing before I sign off to go stress myself out with grades and parent-teacher conference preparation:

Evil characters. Let's talk about how I think all writers should being do those, if they're interested in doing them well (some writers are not, and that's fine too...I just won't find your antagonist very believable). I think the most important aspect to an evil character (or someone in a story who's just really, really antagonistic) is to sprinkle them with a bit of angelic dust. I just saw a quote earlier today about how Satan is actually lovely to look at; not at all the hideous, red-horned monster he's usually depicted as, and that we should all remember this because evil walks amongst us often in beautiful disguise. Perfect summary for how to build a crazy ass evil antagonist. I mean, even Hitler painted watercolors.

(I wonder what George W. Bush's one good quality is?) (GASP! I'm sorry! I'm very, very sorry and I apologize for that last bit, for bringing up politics--were you eating? I'm sorry if you were. I have angst about George: first, I think we're related--one of my ancestors is Henry Sampson, a Mayflower pilgrim, and I think George's mom Barbara is also related to that guy. Which makes George and I like 200th cousins 1,000 times removed or something. Second, he always seemed like a lovely man--someone I'd enjoy talking to at a cookout, even if he was helping to master mind war crimes and all.) (That last part just proved my WHOLE point about how to write a good evil character. Score!)

And, conversely, you should do the same with protagonist characters--give them some flaws. I mean, nobody's perfect. I look at myself in the mirror every single morning and go: "You're going to be PERFECT today, Amy. You're going to use your time wisely, get your work done, leave early with everything ready to go for the next day, cook a gourmet meal, clean a bathroom, do a perfect bedtime routine and write 10 pages tonight. PERFECT. Get going!"

And then I hang out on Twitter half the afternoon, blog instead of finishing up my grading needs, nothing's ready at work for tomorrow, I'm eating take out right now, my bathrooms are possibly harboring Ebola, I'm thinking we're going to let bath time slide tonight, and I will have only written this blog entry.

But I'm not as beautiful as Satan, and so you know. Small blessings.


fairs are smorgasmords.

What a wild week I had, dear Internet. And two amazing weekends in a row! People are just lovely. Sometimes I meet other humans and go: Man, Sartre was right. Hell IS other people. But more often than not, I meet them and go: I'm so damn lucky I get to be a human being, this is FABULOUS. Last weekend and this weekend were examples of moments I thought the latter.

So the week was wild--lots of lows, lots of highs. Good news/bad news stuff. I finished on a high. I finished on such a high, I think I may have slightly damaged my bad left foot (the one I broke a year and a half ago) from jumping up and down. No, seriously. I was jumping up and down, literally, from joy. THAT kind of high. Ask and ye shall receive, dear friends--the Universe just needs time to dot the i's and cross the t's, is all. Because I think It likes to make sure what It does works out for everyone affected by the decision.

So that was my extreme high of the week.

Then, Friday. After school. I stayed late (of course) to get ready for Monday's tests stuff. I had a 200 foot pile of work I need to grade and enter in my grade book and also parent-teacher conference stuff I need to work on; I intended to do all of it yesterday afternoon and evening. ...and then I left it all sitting on my work table. At work. In my classroom. At work. Doors locked for the weekend.

I cried. I sat in my car, in the parking lot of my daughter's after school care place, when I realized what I'd done. All that work I need to have done by THIS Thursday morning at the latest, and how in the world would I have time Monday through Wednesday to do it all. I cried and cried and then remembered what Rob Bell told me last weekend: BREATHE, Amy. Breathe. There's a reason it's sitting in your classroom; you'll figure it out. The definition of overwhelmed is not believing you can handle whatever it is you're facing. And you can handle this little blip, easy peasy lemon squeezy as Miss M would say. So....breathe.

And after I did that, I decided to have fun. That's what the Universe clearly intended for me to do: go have fun. And so I did--I took Miss M to the County Fair.

Have you ever seen the 1973 animated version of Charlotte's Web? The one in which Debbie Reynolds is the voice of Charlotte? Oh, how I dearly love this classic movie of one of my favorite stories of all time. Walking through this County Fair this weekend, all I could think of was Templeton the Rat in this movie, singing this song about fairs being a paradise:

That's the song that kept running through my head. Because there were strangely dressed people there. And I got hustled out of $20 for a $5 (and if they bought it at Dollar Tree, it was $1) stuffed wolf. And how did they manage to do it to me? Because I am shallow, Internet. I am shallow and have low self-esteem, and my inner princess needs to be told over and over again how she's the fairest in the land. And on top of that, I am naive. I am naive and too trusting, and I believe people when they tell me things. And so when a man with an overly large mole on his forehead who looked like he hasn't had a bath since 1985 pulled me over to his game booth and told me because I was the hottest girl he'd seen all afternoon? And that he wanted to give me a free stuffed animal? I was all: Oh! Okay! And then he told me he's working carnival game booths so he doesn't have to hustle the streets, so if my beautiful self could help him out, he wanted to give me a stuffed animal for my beautiful little girl. And damn! I was FINE. HOT! (Because I actually was: with humidity, it was exactly 18,000 degrees yesterday.)

$20 later, he was STILL hustling me for more--he tried to get $30 out of me for one of the big stuffed animals he probably swiped out of Wal*Mart's dumpsters. So there you go, makers of American Hustle. There's your American Hustler, right there. He's got a big ass mole on his forehead and his fellow hustler runs side interference by complimenting you on your smile and white teeth and they both hustle at the local county fairs down south. Frickin' carnie workers. Honestly.

Yet, the people were so lovely (not the hustlers). We ran into so many kind, sweet people yesterday. Some need some serious help in fashion sense; what's appropriate for public outings and what's not, but really who cares? It's what's inside that really counts. And as we sat in the air conditioned exhibit hall for a bit, an ancient man who's probably worked the county fair since the late 1920s brought us a bottle of water, because he didn't want us to overheat, and he complimented my girl on taking good care of her mommy. Then we walked around the exhibit hall, and I marveled at what it is to be from the rural American South: there were the 4H prizes for biggest squash and best artwork, etc...and also booths of people who still cling to the Confederacy, as if it was even a good idea to begin with, and think you should agree with them. There were scary people promoting Open Carry guns and helping kids learn to shoot their fellow human beings. There were Jehovah's Witnesses hawking pamphlets about why birthday parties AREN'T OKAY. And then there are the Republican Tea Partiers, who were a bitter-looking lot with scary stickers foretelling of impending doom which you could plaster all over your car's bumper so you could become as shriveled inside as they were, and perhaps take other drivers and hopefully the rest of your family with you...SCORE!) (I bet these are the SAME scofflaws who don't wait in the traffic line like all the other humans, because they think they're far more important and so they try to skirt around the jam by driving on the side of the road, causing all kinds of traffic and road rage mayhem amongst the other drivers). 

Oh, and the very sweet but slightly insane old man who attempted to wash my 5 year old in the blood of Jesus ("We're good on Jesus blood here, thanks," I told him. But I did accept a New Testament Bible to pacify him. I left it on a food table near the stuffed animal hustler's booth, in the hopes some Jesus blood will cure him of his pimp-like tendencies.)

So, other than the game booth hustler, the bitter Tea Partiers, the slightly frightening old man who wanted to talk about blood baths, and the strange people who exist somewhere pre-Civil War 1800s? Lovely, lovely people. Very kind. And (of course) my daughter made two new best friends in the kiddie ride section. We have no idea how to contact them, but their parents were sweet and lovely, too. One of the new BFFs (who we'll call "Song," because she was named after one) complimented M on her dominant personality. And, while M and Song rode a race car ride, I confided to Song's mom that I do worry sometimes my little one is a bit too pushy and domineering with the other children of the world. And then Song's mom and I talked about how some people could view it as "bossy" and a know-it-all, which are bad...or we could look at it as being assertive and confident, which are good. And we talked about how hard it is to raise girls in a world that discourages them from being assertive and confident, and how she and I ourselves struggle with being assertive and confident, because the world was so successful in stifling that in us. But at the same time we don't want to raise rude children, and we also want to create empathy in our sweet girls' hearts. I should have gotten her phone number so we could continue the conversation, but she was grimy and sweaty and eager to go, and I didn't want to overwhelm her. They're from our area, so we may run into them again (fingers crossed).

Such lovely people. 

While talking to Song's mom, she also revealed that she's always thought about going back to school to become a teacher. She asked me how I liked it. And I got to ask my question that I've decided to ask anyone who expresses an interest in teaching nowadays: Why? Why do you want to be a teacher?

Because if the answer is: I love to teach people; I love to show people how to do things and help them learn. Then I say: have at it. Go to school, get your teaching degree, and go forth and be awesome. High five for YOU, teacher wannabe! 

But if the answer is (like mine was when I declared a teaching major in 1993): Because I love kids, and I want to help them, then I say: run. Run, run, RUN! There are million ways to help children; teaching is quickly becoming a profession that is no longer one of these ways. Not with the way it currently is, and it's certainly not helping American poor kids at all. (This was the answer Song's mother got, and I also apologized profusely to her as I gave it, and encouraged her to please ignore this disgruntled old foot soldier from the trenches...if this was truly her dream. To which she said it was not truly her dream, just something she'd been thinking about so she could be on her daughter's schedule. To which I said: try daycare.) (This bit of the conversation was another reason I was reluctant to ask for a phone number.)

At any rate, I was thinking last night (after I'd showered 100 layers of sweat and grime and dirt off of me): I do write (on my writer's blog) an awful lot about kids and teaching, don't I? So clearly, kids are very important to me. And clearly I'm very passionate about teaching still, in spite of itself. 

I don't know what to do with that information at the moment. I'm just putting it out there because it occurred to me. And so I'm letting it occur to you. And I'm going to announce here to you, that I intend to marinate in it, and consider it, and wonder about it for a bit and maybe ask the Universe if It could direct me to where It would like me to go with this news. 

May your week have zero game booth hustlers, not one single bitter political dogmatic hack, and may people who want you to take baths in blood give you a wide berth...my wish for you is for you to only interact with lovely, thoughtful people who have interesting conversations with you and bring you water on hot, thirsty days. And may there be at least one moment where you over-extend some foot tendons from a tad too much jumping for joy.


universal conspiracy theory or: how the Universe is a drug

First of all, if you are connected to me on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, I apologize about yesterday. I was an annoying geek who didn't know when to shut up. Because I wanted every single one of you to BE where I was, to be doing and seeing and hearing and feeling what I was getting to feel because it was completely and insanely amaze-balls.

Second, I also apologize for the length of this entry you're about to read. If you're busy, come back later...if you have time, please get yourself a refreshment before beginning.

Last, before I say this, please know: I don't do drugs. I Do Not Do Drugs. I was, and still am, a total, vanilla goody-two-shoes about putting things in my body that would make the Drug Enforcement Agency want to arrest me. I have always been like this, always. But yesterday? Yesterday I got high. But I'm back to normal now. Sort of.

Let me explain:

Miss M likes to connect to people. Specifically, Miss M likes to connect to other children. If you are an adult and Miss M meets you for the first time, she's slightly shy...for about 5 minutes or until she can find something about herself she thinks will amuse or astound you. Then she won't shut up, because you MUST pay attention to her. The. Whole. Time. However, if you are a child and Miss M meets you for the first time, you are instantly her best friend forever. Forever. The next day when M talks about you, she won't have a clue who you are, where you're from, what your name is, or how to even get back in touch with you. But you are friends. Best Friends. Forever.

That's the kind of high I was on yesterday. I made new best friends. Forever. I don't know their names or even how to get back in touch with them. But they are my best friends. Forever.

Here's some more about connections:

So I had a bad week one week. Actually, I've had about 6 bad weeks. (Actually, I've been having 86 bad weeks, but that's another blog entry.) It's been a stressful start to a school year. Last year was, too. And the year before that. And the year before that. Teaching is hard. (I think I've alluded to this before.) So it's hard, and it feels like it's getting harder and it doesn't seem to be letting up, and I've been in a quandry because 15 years ago if you asked me: Do you love being a teacher? I would have said: YES. It's hard, it's a lot of work, some of the families are really challenging, but YES. I would have said this 10 years ago, too. Even 5 years ago.

I cannot say this today; I don't know what's happened. I have theories about what has happened, and these may or may not be correct or insightful, but the point is: Me, personally? When it comes to teaching as a job, I can't say YES today. And also, I hate how I sound when I talk about what I do for a living. I cringe when people ask me things like: "How's your school year going?" or "Do you like being a teacher?" because I have to stop and think: do I tell them the truth and ruin their day and spew negativity into the world? Or do I lie and participate in perpetuating the ick I see going on right now in public ed at the expense of children? Because I certainly can't and won't say YES to any of that. But by not responding at all or staying silent I feel like I'm not participating in Life, that I'm not connecting, that I'm not being real, and god. THAT isn't who I want to be. I want to be many things, but I know I do not want to be someone who brings the bad but also is afraid to tell the truth.

So I spewed about it on Facebook one night. And then I started thinking: I need to change my perspective, or I'm going to have either a mental break down or a heart attack. *I* need to change. So I started looking for blessings, and I found some. And I wrote about them on my public writer Facebook page. And then someone at work I really like saw my blessings post and read it. And then she read all over my public writer Facebook page. And then, the next day? She ate lunch. And someone else I work with who she works happens to have a cousin who had some tickets for Oprah Winfrey's Life You Want Weekend at Philips Arena Friday and Saturday. And after lunch, my friend came and asked if I wanted those last minute tickets. And I said YES. I had a bunch of stuff to do this weekend, some of it of timely importance, but something inside of me said: SAY YES. And then the other coworker emailed them to me and I said YES (and THANK YOU) to that. And then I checked with my husband, and he said YES. And then I checked with M, and she said NO (but then I explained how important this was, and she said NO again and I said, SORRY, YOU DON'T MAKE THE GROWN UP RULES.)

Because my friend noticed, on my writer page and here, that I pretty much hero worship Elizabeth Gilbert's brain and writing abilities. And I bet you can guess right about now who was going to be presenting at Oprah's big Life classroom thingy, right? That's right. THE Elizabeth Gilbert. And her amazing brain. So that's why I said yes, because it was a chance to be in the same space as someone who's been an inspiration to me. And I used to watch Oprah when she had her talk show, and I figured that would be cool, too.

So I went. And I got high. Totally, completely, unexpectedly HIGH. The kind of high the DEA can't arrest you for. The kind of high that won't involve mug shots or bad skin or visits to emergency rooms. The GOOD high. (I apologize if you're very let down right now because you thought you were going to read a story about my first crack experience or something. Sorry if you were looking for a drama post.)

Because the energy was HUGE. At first it was because I was super excited about Liz Gilbert. My plan was: see Oprah in person, go: Wow! I got to see Oprah in person! and then listen to Liz talk, and then sit through some other speakers (blah blah blah), grab some lunch, and go home. I have a ten foot pile of tests to grade. I have a 200 foot pile of grades to enter into my online gradebook because midterms go home on Friday and I didn't get anything accomplished last week because there were meetings every single day except Friday and I was exhausted on Friday and still couldn't get out of there before 5:45 and C and I got into a tussle because of this late leaving stuff and M needs her hair done and I have laundry and need to do grocery shopping and I have to cook dinner and... (BREATHE). So I was just going for half the thing and then home to do my stuff.

And then Oprah came out. And that was exciting. And then Deepak Chopra came out and taught us a whole bunch of things like:

Challenges are opportunities. We are the potential of all that was, is, and ever will be. Choices are actions, so choose consciously, with intention, because every choice you make affects EVERYONE in the Universe. We are all connected, divine pieces of star dust. Ask yourself: What do I want? Do I really want it? (intention orchestrates its own fulfillment so be careful: if you ask, you'll get it.) And don't put a lot of effort into your choices--do less/accomplish more...do nothing/accomplish everything. Because if you can be who you really are, you'll become who you've always been meant to be, which is who you really are and that's actually not that hard to do, if you're just yourself. (Freaky, huh??)

Detachment = surrender. Let go of "should" and let the bigger picture take over; it's always more magnificent than what you're presently experiencing.

Choose happiness--have goals, have compassion, know you are a divine spark as an expression of the Universe, we are sparks of the Universal Intelligence. Know the Universe is mathematically precise, so get in touch with your creative center--every single one of us has a creative center which is the creative center for the manifestation of the Universe. We are all divine manifestations. (This should make you HAPPY!)

Happy people know that to be happy, they must make other people happy. Successful people help others be successful, and they celebrate those successes. This is the key to success and happiness. You must make others happy and successful first. Give, and you will receive.

Finally, know we are Star Dust beings. We are a privileged species--we are self-aware, we know who we are.

(Please go back and re-read all that with a Deepak Chopra accent.)

And then we meditated and that was calming.

And then Oprah made us do a writing activity in our workbooks, and I sat and wrote, tears dripping onto my workbook. We were to think of one person we love with all our hearts and put them there. Then we were to write every single thing we could think of that we wanted for them, and we were to think BIG, no limitations. So of course I picked my child, even though earlier she'd attempted to thwart my big day. This is my dream for her (I'm trusting you with this, don't abuse it):

To adore and be adored. Health. Happiness. Love. To be surrounded by Art & Music & Literature. A comfortable home filled with things she thinks are beautiful. Laughter. Playfulness. To know who she is. To love herself as is and be okay with it, to see others as they are and love them anyway. To be loved as is. Supportive friends. To see the world. A connection to herself. A connection to other people. A connection to whatever she thinks is God. An ability to dream and go for it. To live to live, not to work. To be bold, not afraid of anyone or anything (no big bad wolves). PEACE.

Some of the things I drew clouds around because they were THAT important: Laughter, Connection, no big bad wolves. PEACE got a cloud and I darkened it a lot so it would stand out.

Internet, I cried as I did this, because I know Oprah and all her tricks. My heart knew I was asking for things for M, but really I was asking for myself--tricking my ego into thinking it was asking the Universe on somebody else's behalf. And I also knew that something really important was going to happen that day.

And so after all that? After the Deepak information and meditation and the crying workbook activity? I stayed. I stayed for the WHOLE thing. (And I got high.)

Here's some more of what I learned:

Breath. Life is about breathing. How often do you think about breathing? I know I don't; it's just something I do. But have you ever thought about how important breathing is? I mean, if you stop breathing bad things can happen. From the moment you're born, you take a breath. It's really, really important when babies come out that, you know, they BREATHE. That first breath--everybody in the room is waiting on it, and if it doesn't happen it's a problem. And then it's important to keep doing that, breathing, until you can't any more. Because the moment you stop breathing, that's, you know, the moment you're basically done here. Your work, your being is done here.

I learned that almost every language in the world has a word for breath and that word translates to "spirit." Breath is spirit. In Hebrew it's ruach. In Greek it's nooma. Breath means spirit.

I learned that when you breathe out, if you say the sound AH, that's a pretty big thing to do, because you're basically saying the name of God. Because in many religions, the word for God contains the sound AH: Rajah...RA...Jehovah...Yuh Hey Vah Hey...Hallelujah. The very first, ancient people who ever concocted the concept of "God" and uttered a sound for it made the sound AH.

I learned that, in fact, the ancient Hebrews didn't necessarily even have a word for God, because in ancient Hebrew the word is mostly vowel sounds and so when you say the ancient Hebrew word for "God," it basically sounds like you're breathing: Yuh Hey Vah Hey.

I learned that God (or spirit or the Universe or Life, or whatever you wish to call It) is in each of our breaths. God is in every breath we take. What I took away from this knowledge is that, when we die? It's not because we got sick from cancer, had an aneurysm, suffered a heart attack, or just got old. It's because we can't say the word God anymore.

Breath is spirit.

So. Oprah made me cry, therefore I stayed. And then Liz Gilbert took the stage and I was too happy. And she favorited my SECOND tweet about her, which--I don't know if you're aware of this or not--just sends me into peels of total writer fan geekiness whenever someone I hero worship recognizes me on social media (I am 12, at heart). If I'd brought her book The Signature of All Things (which I had considered bringing, just in case we ran into each other at lunch or something), and taken a picture of it enjoying the event, I bet she'd have re-tweeted me...or (cue angelic music) REPLIED.

What I learned from Liz are 3 important stories:

1-The Hero's Journey. Every culture in every country in every language across the planet tells these: a boy (always a boy) has to go on a journey. He's living his life, la la la, and then one day has some sort of awakening in which he realizes: I have to take a journey. Sometimes it's to fight a dragon, sometimes to rescue a princess, sometimes to slay a monster. But it's always a journey, and as he journeys he always comes to a low point, a point where he is beaten down and has hit rock bottom and doesn't know if he can continue his journey. Joseph Campbell (who came up with the theory of The Hero's Journey) called this the Dark Night of the Soul. It's where the hero must decide to die or to live. If the hero chooses to live, the only way to do so is to change, and that change is always HARD. Eventually, the boy fights the dragon, rescues the princess, or slays the monster. And he comes home and is glorified and written about and stories are told of him for all of history, the end.

But the stories never include girls. Joseph Campbell would some times be asked (by astute women back in his old timey classrooms): Why not? And he would say: because you're not supposed to be taking heroic journeys; women don't need to grow. Women have babies and feed the world from their breasts and basically, you know: just stay in the kitchen, chicks. You don't want this. It's for hardier stock.

Then, to show us (and hopefully Joseph Campbell's ghost) how wrong Joseph was about women's hero journeys, Elizabeth told us about the lady with the coffee can:

2-The Coffee Can Story. She once met a lady at a book signing who told her about her Coffee Can. So, once upon a time, the lady was married. She had 5 children. One day, her husband couldn't take the hardness of being a working husband and a dad with 5 kids and so he just up and left and they never heard from him ever again. (Heroic, no?) And the lady sacrificed and worked and pretty much had a million Dark Nights of the Soul while trying to get her children safely from childhood to adulthood All. By. Herself. No help. But she made herself a promise the night she realized her husband was never coming back: My life will not always look like this. I can't do anything about it now, because I have to help these children and I have to survive. But my life will not always look like this.

And so she came up with a plan. Her plan was this: every day she would save one dollar. She figured that no matter how bad things were, she could always at least save one dollar. She got a coffee can and started putting the dollars into the can. When one can filled up, she'd get another can and fill that. And her rule was: no matter how bad things were, no matter how tempting it was, she would never, ever touch the money in the coffee can.

One day, her children were finally all grown up. They'd somehow all made it out of childhood, gone to college, and were on their own. And so she got down the coffee cans. And she bought a ticket on a freight ship. And she traveled the WHOLE world.

And her life never looked like that Dark Night ever again.

3-Find Your Elephants. The last thing I took from Liz was: find your 5 elephants. When things are really, really bad and you don't know how you'll go on? Go find some elephants.

So one day, things were down and out for Elizabeth Gilbert. She was at the post office having not just having a Dark Night of the Soul, but a Dark Life of the Infinity. And she didn't know how to go on. She just wanted to go home and sit on her sofa and cry. That was the only thing she aspired to that day: I can't wait to go home and cry. And a still, small voice said to her: Okay, Liz. You can do that. If that's all you aspire to, fine. Go home and cry. But first, go find something beautiful.

That was the deal--go home and cry, but first you have to go find something--ANYTHING--beautiful. So she made the deal, all disgruntled-like, and then she opened the post office door. And she saw 5 elephants. Five huge elephants, with gold fabric on their backs and beautiful show girls in sparkling costumes riding them. (The circus was in town, and the elephants were taking a walk through midtown Manhattan because, you know, why not?)

When it's really bad, go find your 5 elephants.

And let me tell you about Rob Bell now:

I discovered someone I'd never heard of named Rob Bell, who's a pastor of a church somewhere. He's the one who taught me about breath is the same as spirit. He also taught me about how very connected we all are; it is impossible to be a human being and not be connected. We are all the same. Every atom of us is a piece of cosmic star dust, and there is scientific data to back that up. However, he also taught me things like THIS:

"The mess is where the interesting things happen." (Because seriously: go back in your life and think of the time(s) that you learned the most from, the things that changed you the most...bet they were all messy messed up pieces of clusterfuck.)


"You can't give me data on why a song makes your spirit soar." (Seriously, can you? I mean, if you're an education reform-y type, I know you're thinking: yeah, I bet I could pay a testing company to measure that. But guess what, education reform-y types? NO YOU CAN'T. Some things aren't measurable. They just aren't. There will be world peace when reform-y types get that.)


"When despair comes to visit, STOP, take a breath and realize: you are a MIRACLE."

Because we ARE breath.

Here's what else happened:

We had to exercise. A very excited lady brought loud, pumping music and made us punch the air and pull in goodness. Before that, the DJ played songs that women like to dance to, and the entire crowd was up on their feet either dancing or clapping or pretending to (that was me). The energy was palpable. Have you ever been somewhere where you can actually FEEL electricity in the air and not the kind that will kill you? I think that's where I tweaked. (As opposed to twerk, which I did not witness at all during the spontaneous dance portion, thank god.)

Iyanla Vanzant came out and talked to us about humping puppies in our minds. Humping puppies = negative thoughts about who you are, what you can do. Don't let your humping puppies hump on you. Okay? Also, she drank champagne, but promised us it was just cider.

**I learned that if you don't know what your passion is, follow your curiosity.

**I learned you should pay attention to what shows up when you get what you want.

**I learned the real definition of OVERWHELM is when you try to convince yourself you can do something you don't really believe you can do.

**I learned that INTEGRITY is when your thoughts, feelings, and actions all align.

**I learned every choice has a short term consequence and a long term consequence and that's why you should choose carefully because you should be ready to deal with both.

**I learned we don't HAVE a spiritual life, we ARE a spiritual life.

**I learned why quests are important to take, because you never know how a quest is going to end.

**I learned why Storytelling is so important to the continuation of our species. Yesterday was all about Story. Story after Story after Story. And in the end, I felt so connected to the 20,000 people in that stadium, to the world, that when I left it was pouring down rain and I didn't care. I walked to my car in the torrential downpour and I felt cleansed and whole, and like that was the Universe giving me a great, big shower.

Phew. I think I touched on the most important things from yesterday.

Oh, also! I sat in front of famous people. They were actors from a show on Oprah's network called Haves and Have Nots. People kept making me stand up so they could get in front of them and take pictures. At first, I just thought somebody had recognized family or friends in the audience and were saying hello. Then suddenly I was surrounded by 10,000 people with iPhones and I was in the WAY, dammit. Could I move PLEASE? THIS IS VERY VERY IMPORTANT. MOVE!!!!

So I picked one of the ladies waiting to their picture and said, "Hi. Um, can I ask you? Who are they? Why?" and she was shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you. How could I not KNOW these two people??? Do I not own a television???????? And I let her know: yes, I do own a tv, but I don't watch a lot of tv. When I do, it's usually a series on HBO or Showtime or a documentary. And then she stood and told me all about the Haves and Have Nots (it's like an O network soap opera, and it's HUGE!! and these two people are STARS!!!!) and somehow we got onto Dukes of Hazzard, which I did watch. When I was ten. And only because I wanted to marry Bo Duke and dress like Daisy Duke but my mother said NO.

Last night, I imdb'd them. The man was Aaron O'Connell and the lady was Crystal Fox. Crystal Fox was on In the Heat of the Night years ago. She's also worked with incredibly legendary thespians such as Cicely Tison and Sydney Poitier. I didn't talk to them, and I didn't take their pictures. Because I didn't know who they were and I hadn't asked for permission, and also it just felt weird to be taking random pictures of strangers sitting behind me. But I did take a selfie or two. Because that's not weird at all.

(What are we doing to ourselves as a species, taking pictures of strangers and ourselves?) (But I still think asking for autographs is even weirder--why do you want someone's signature? So you can practice it and forge it when you do bank fraud? If they're going to also write you a personalized note on a piece of work they've done, okay, I get that. But just their signature? Like, on a bar napkin? Why?)

At any rate, Aaron and Crystal were kind, sweet, gracious, very normal and down to earth people, these famous people everyone wanted to talk to. And after the show started, they were left alone, and I was happy for them. Because they're star dust, too, breathing in and out God. We are ALL connected, friends. We. Are. All. Connected.

The last thing I want to leave you with is what I wrote at the end of my workbook. (Lands. WERE you busy today? I'm so sorry if you were...listen, this has taken me five hours to write--hopefully it's taken you far less to read and you've gotten something from it)

At the end of the day we were to take every thing we'd learned that day, all of the other workbook activities, and evaluate, analyze, synthesize it all into one descriptive paragraph that expresses what we want our life to look like, who we think we actually are (that's called Higher Order Thinking, Bill Gates and friends, and there wasn't a SINGLE TEST INVOLVED). Here was mine (I'm trusting you with this, so please don't abuse it):

I am healthy and well. I eat healthy food & exercise my body. I meditate every day. I am in touch with the AH, the breath, the spirit that make me Me. I feel connected to others & strive to empower them & celebrate their successes. I am open & my heart is full of light and life--I can be alone and be okay. I am who and what and where I wish my daughter will be one day. I am consciously manifesting my dreams, choosing with careful intention, accepting all the consequences. I am a writer who is surrounded by Art & Beauty & Music & Story & Words. I am a traveler, a soul citizen of the planet. I am a piece of light in an expansive Universe & feel that Universe move through & within me, every day. I am connected. I am who I AM, who I was always meant to be, who I've always been. And so it is.

Now. For those of you who got this far and are all sarcastic and eye rolling, going: oh, THIS was a butt load of freaky New Age-y bull crap in a cow field Oprah Thought-Speak (though I suspect that, if you've gotten this far, you probably aren't one of those people), I will have you know that I fully anticipate to be sort of back to my constant state of WTF?!ness by tomorrow afternoon.

The thing is, though, I think it will have a different flavor than it had Friday afternoon when I left. I will be less attached to the outcomes, because they don't apply to me; they don't make me who I am. I know this now, and that's a very freeing place to be. I refuse to let others' humping puppies hump on me, and I will no longer be participating in their strange madness. I've decided. We're too connected to hurt each other like that, and I won't participate. I will not.

Freedom is sort of what it's all about, I think. And having a plan! Which I am formulating, and I hope you are too, now. It's begun. Breathe.

Oh! And if you have even MORE time? Here are some pictures that I didn't vomit all over social media (I was like one of those email spammers who have no self-control, and again: I am sorry, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I am sorry):

Deepak helps Oprah (and the audience) find our creative centers.

Writer Hero Elizabeth Gilbert tells me: Get a plan.

If you went to O Town, you got a special white bracelet that lit up during this part so it looked like we were all sitting in the Milky Way Galaxy.

We DANCED. Because we are happy and young at heart and FREE beings.