cinema ROI: a vacation SOS.

Sorry if you've gotten used to frequent posts from me this past week--that ends tomorrow (I'll be back to weekend posts...assuming I find something to write about here). I'll be back at work tomorrow; since mid-October, returning to work after a long break is about 1,000 times less upsetting that it has been for the last few years. But still hard and sad to do...mostly, I think, because of all that I meant to accomplish that I did not actually accomplish while off for an entire week. I think because for the first half of any break, I spend a lot of time decompressing from the stress of classroom teaching in a Title 1 school, but also because it's me. It's just me. And I've been analyzing for a few years now this inability I have to address that which needs addressing. Currently, I'm at the Screw It point. Whatever it is will eventually get done when it gets done; pressure tends to make my inner donkey-child get stubborn and refuse to move. 

All that to say: this has been a long week off. For someone who's had a whole week of vacation, I am clinically exhausted. With tomorrow looming ahead of me, I feel for sure now I've picked the wrong profession, and I would like to time travel back to that 20 year old college girl I was, poised with a pen to check off "Education" as her life vocation, and I would like to shake her. I would like to shake her hard. 

Or rather, I picked the wrong profession to be in AND also have my own child. Some teachers appear to do this with great ease: have their own child/ren and seamlessly manage 25-30 other people's all day long. I am finding this challenging. I can do other people's children or I can do my own child. But to do other people's children and then have to go do my own child means I never get a break from children...jesus god, it's exhausting. Because children are exhausting. I'm sorry if you disagree (and I suspect that, if you do disagree you either don't have children or you do but you don't do most of the care taking of said children). Children are demanding and loud and they make a lot of messes and they don't care, and mine will say that right to your face: "I don't care." And then you have to get into these arguments with them about why they'd better care. And mine likes to give me a lot of back talk. And when I try to discipline her, I am co-parenting with someone who tells me I'm too mean about it. And this week I found myself so tired at one point, I just sat and laughed and laughed about all the bizarre things that come out of an adult's mouth when with a loud, demanding child for an extended length of time. Things like: "put some pants on, for god's sake, nobody likes to look at another person's hooha all day long" and "no ma'm you are NOT wearing shorts and flip flops because it's friggin' 25 degrees outside" and "yes you WILL wear underwear with that flippy dress" and "yes I do too wear underwear" (I actually wasn't, but it would have lost me that argument) and "all the other people in Georgia are wearing pants today, sorry if you disagree with them" and "if you break your head open, don't come cry to me--you'll just have proved my point." 

Horrible things, horrible things to say out loud to another human being. Children make adults say horrible and bizarre things, because children are exhausting and messy and they don't care. And for me, there's no where to go, no where to turn. Except for very large bottles of Pinot Noir and sometimes just straight up bottles of vodka disguised as chocolate martinis. And what I would really really like to do right now is have a long weekend at a spa resort with nobody else to be responsible for except for myself. And I would wear underwear AND pants. (Maybe not the whole time and never while by myself.) And I would take myself to the movies and out to eat and I would get lost in a book and while writing a book and nobody would interrupt me to ask weird questions like "Did you know Elsa can make your lips turn blue? Do I look like Elsa with these blue lips?" and I would not then have to have a fight about using too much blue lip gloss and where the hell did you get that stuff anyway? I would like that right now. I would like a true vacation, a relaxing and restorative vacation. 

(I'm sorry if I sound like a bad mother right now; if it helps, please know: I feel like a bad mother right now. But I'm also being very, very bluntly open and honest with you because I think a lot of women often feel like I do. If this is you, you are not alone. You are not alone. Let's meet for coffee and just sit together in adult communal silence. Or get a couples massage together and not speak. Or, fuck it--let's go to a silent retreat somewhere and sleep a lot.)

Today I had a bunch of things to do, but my child was exhausting me so I said: screw this, we need to get out of this house. And we did--we went to see Big Hero 6

Which brings me to the topic of this post: Can we talk about me going to the cinema for a bit? There are a buttload of movies out right now I'd like to see--Interstellar (I'm actually desperate to see this movie), Fury, The Theory of Everything, St. Vincent, Gone Girl, Birdman, Beyond the Lights...there are more, but those are the ones I can pull out of my brain immediately. But these are not movies I can see with a 6 year old, or movies a 6 year old even wants to see. And I am simply unwilling to be one of Those People--you know the kind: the people who want to see Freddie Krueger Part 25 so bad but are too cheap to get a sitter so they bring the kid...and end up mentally scarring their child and ruining fellow movie theater patrons' experience (who dropped $100 or more on the movie AND probably paid for their own babysitters on top of it PLUS dinner). This is nothing but a maw of selfishness, and I think those people should be flogged. I am all for the bringing back of flogging when it comes to rude cinema patrons. So because I'm not willing to be that rude or deal with future therapy bills, what happens is that because I enjoy the act of going to a theater to see a movie, I end up seeing mostly kids movies. Which I don't necessarily have a problem with; many children's movies are lovely experiences and thoroughly rewarding. I mean, my god, today I was in tears TWICE during Big Hero 6 and I walked out thinking: that was an okay, cute movie with a nice message and how nice that it promoted STEM education. Everybody needs a Baymax.

Yet. I'm dying of cinematic thirst over here, you guys. I'd kill to see a grown up movie--alone or with other grown ups. I'm dying to go see a grown up movie, go out to dinner afterwards and talk about it, and just basically have human interaction with someone or someones who don't whine when I refuse to buy candy AND popcorn at the concession stand. Is it too much to ask?

I have a bucket list--I think I've written about that here before. One of the things on my bucket list is to go see a movie with a professional. I come out of movies all the time and go: that was awesome! and then I read a bunch of critical reviews that go: that totally sucked! Or I walk out and go: I don't get it? and then I read a bunch of critical reviews that go: that movie rocks! (On a positive note, usually when I walk out of a movie going: that movie totally sucked, all the professionals tend to agree with me: yes, Amy, it did suck. This lets me know I have some semblance of filmatic taste.) 

So I would like to see some movies with a professional who can tell me why something works or why something doesn't and how in the world they know that. Is it all just subjective opinion? Or is there a training program of sorts one can go through? I don't know.

What I do know is a 6 year old simply isn't someone who can thoroughly discuss a movie to any extent. This was our conversation on the way out of the theater today:

What did you think about Big Hero 6?
(shrugs shoulders)
No, I mean, did you like it? I liked it. Did you?
Well, I mean, what was your favorite part? 
(shrugs shoulders)
My favorite part was when they....(I won't disclose what happened here, in case you haven't seen the movie yet, but it was at the end)
I liked the fist bump. 
(does an air fist bump and makes the fist bump sound that Baymax makes in the movie)
Who was your favorite character?
(sighs, clearly done with this conversation
Can we get a hot chocolate at Starbucks? Can we stop at Target so I can find stuff for my Christmas wish list?

And then later I found out she wasn't even wearing underpants like I'd told her to. We agreed there would be underpants or no movie today. So. You see? That's why I need a professional grown up to see movies with, so I can have a stimulating conversation about what was just seen, and I can hang out with someone who dresses responsibly. So far, I just shell out muchos dolares to see these things, and then get no return on investment whatsoever. I'd like some cinema ROI. And adult conversation.

Instead, I'll be surrounded by children tomorrow--1200 total, but 25 to myself all day long. And we will be having conversations like that. And so on my Christmas Wish List this year is a movie date with a professional movie goer, someone who I can see Interstellar with who can explain to me what was so amazing or sucky or weird or wonderful about it, and I can agree with them or argue with them or wonder about humanity out loud with them. 

We can fist bump over hot chocolate at Starbucks in Target. Anything. Just. Please save me. SOS.

I would like to be here...alone...right now.

But I'd take this, too. Beggars don't get to be choosers.


social media & politics are ugly bedfellows.

If I felt more comfortable with you--okay, not necessarily YOU you because I'm sure YOU are totally fine and trustworthy and not a scary stalker at all, I mean the world wide web and other humans at large--I'd open up my very private, personal Facebook page just so you could peruse the messy human that is me. Not that I don't expose my mess a lot here...but on Facebook, you get a lot of personal pictures to go with the messy living out loud (which, by the way, is also the title of my all-time favorite movie for grown ups). (You can also get some of my personal pictures on Instagram, but I don't link up to that much here since it's usually just me trying to be very Artsy....or document my child's oddball behavior so I can use it against her when she's 15.)

So typically, I shy from controversial political topics on social media. I find internet arguments futile and counterproductive to the overall advancement of humanity. Plus also, one way to make me roll my eyes way to the back of my head is to constantly post controversial political topics on social media but specifically on Facebook (full disclosure: if you post controversial political topics on Facebook and I happen to agree with the opinion expressed on that topic, my eyes don't roll back at all...I will fist bump you for it, but only in my head and/or by clicking the like button). In this way, I maintain my dignity and can be passive aggressive, all at once. Win-win! 

Seriously, has anyone ever changed their opinion based on a Facebook post? And do arguments on the Internet ever resolve, with one side agreeing with the other?  I've never witnessed it happen. I think people really just needed an area to spout off their opinions(god knows I do, why do you think I have a blog?) and the Internet turned out to be a good tool for that. What's happened, though, is that it's turned us all into people who aren't really interested in the other side's talking points, because everybody's convinced THEIR talking points are The Infallible Truth, the end. In addition to social media, we also have polarizing media outlets and their online platforms that encourage that. Also, you can Google your point of view and find 100 websites that back you up, and if I disagree with you, I can Google and get 100 other websites that prove you wrong. The world is just nutty these days--lots of information, but then there's the questionable usage of it. Holy god, don't even get me started on the "facts" posted on Fox Nation and such. Those guys keep factchecker.org and snopes.com totally busy. 

Can I tell you a quick story about how people USED to bombard other people via social media, before there was the Internet? Here is my story:

My grandfather, my dad's dad, who everyone called Papa Joe because he was a stern man, a quiet man, but also a decent man, liked to drink and socialize at bars. All the time. As in, he had many talents, but the bar thing was sort of his obsessive hobby. So what Papa Joe would do is, after work, he'd go to his 1950s version of Facebook (aka a local bar) and slide onto a bar stool. If there happened to be a stranger sitting nearby, Papa Joe would strike up a casual conversation with that person. Then, Papa Joe would lead the conversation into a political debate, based on whatever topic was the hot button of the day. Papa Joe would figure out what side the stranger was on, and then immediately start arguing for the opposite side...even if Papa Joe agreed with that stranger. The argument would continue for however long, usually until the stranger got so mad he was about to punch my grandfather, and when it got to that point, Papa Joe would laugh, clap the fellow on the back, and say, "I'm just yankin' your chain. I agree with everything you said. Let me buy you a beer." 

In that way, my grandfather paved the way for the Internet. He sparked ideas, ran his own discussion forums, built content. He grew an audience. He got friended all the time. People retweeted his thoughts, and Liked what he shared, but they did it 1940s and 50s local bar style (meaning, they bought him beers, he bought them beers). Papa Joe was the original Mark Zuckerburg and the 4 creators of Twitter, all rolled into one person. Except he was 10,000 times less geeky and he could build his own house. And play the piano and the trumpet at the same time. And he knew a lot about electricity and hunting his own food. I suspect those guys don't know how to do any of that, which is why they just built social media platforms for people to argue hot topics of the day on.

Except, somewhere along the way, something went awry. (My suspicion is it happened when sociopaths, aka trolls, got online. Sociopaths and internet trolls: mucking it up for everybody else, since 1996.)

You know what else is really weird to me about social media? Tweeting in general...I've been researching the how and why of Twitter, because I want to understand. I'm up to over 200 followers, and we all sort of follow each other because she follows her and so I follow her too and then he follows me and I see that he follows her and her and her, too, so I follow him and...I think that's how it works? I still don't know. Generally, I follow back if something about the person connects for me--when someone follows me, I always visit their twitter page,and sometimes links they put up there about themselves. If I think: yeah, I could hang out with you for a bit in real life, I follow them. What makes me sad is when I get an auto Direct Message after following someone back...isn't that like buying someone a beer and them trying to sell you a watch in response? But my strict policy is to block people I can immediately see are spammers...or hookers. Businesses trying to build a base I'll let slide, but spammers and hookers? Gots to go. (I get a lot of hookers for some strange reason. Maybe Olaf photo bombing me in my current picture is too provocative.) 

Also (and mostly), I'm pretty sure I'm still doing it wrong because I think I'm not interacting enough--I've gotten more followers, but I'm still too shy to interact with them. I know how to, but about what? And if they're having a conversation with someone, I guess I'm just supposed to butt into it and give my thoughts on a conversation that didn't even involve me? In real life when that happens, I'm usually all: Hey, uh, this is an A-B conversation so C your way out of it, particularly if it's a sensitive topic. But nope, not on Twitter, it seems--nothing is sacred. Which is why I can see I'm doing it wrong. You just have conversations (about what?) in public with strangers. In front of billions of other strangers who are watching/listening in and sometime butt into your A-B conversation and suddenly make it a C-D-E-F-G-H-I-JKLMNOP conversation. And nobody's even buying anybody else a beer. Or anything! 

Lands, this is the same feeling I get when I've just met someone and now I have to find something to talk about, make small talk. Or I'm at a party and I'm nervous about interrupting a conversation that's already under way...I don't want to be rude. In real life, this is always so much easier to do if beer or wine is involved. Is there a Twitter bar people like me can pony up to? (Ironically, I don't have an issue replying to celebrities' tweets--I think because they never respond, so I still feel like I'm shouting into thin air and no one is paying attention to or hearing anything I'm saying. At first, I was all: Oh god, what if he sees this and thinks I'm a dweeb? Or: Oh god, what if she reads this and blocks me? But now I don't think they see anything I write to them, and so I just talk to them like we're bestest of friends. ....which is really weird, too, because we are not friends. We are strangers. They could be completely famous psycho twats for all I know, and I just tweet all my thoughts out loud to them, in front of other not-famous psycho twats. Twitter, you are the most bizarre social media tool ever, and if I didn't have such an addictive personality, we would no longer be speaking. But I can't quit you, and so here we are. You're like Christian Grey and I'm that girl Don Johnson and Melanie Griffiths' daughter plays in the movie, except I'm not sure if that's a good analogy or not since I refuse to read that book and not because of the content but solely because of the writing quality. Listen: don't tell anybody--we have to keep all this on the down low til I'm ready to come out of the closet about you...or someone stages an intervention.)

Wait! Where was I? I started this blog post with a planned route in mind, and now we're completely lost. This is why GPS is a better invention than social media. Let's see...Twitter weirdness, social media, Papa Joe antagonizing strangers, politics...oh, right! So anyway. There I was on Facebook, posting about politics and I got kapowed! And thus. I learned my lesson, lesson learned (until my next hormonal/PMS phase). I tried to educate people with some data/facts I Googled about Ferguson, in an effort to stop the racist pictures in my Facebook feed as well as the even more racist ensuing commentary beneath those posted pictures, which were of looters and such. Who knows where these pictures even came from? Many of the subjects in them sported hairstyles from 1995. (And don't white people ever steal? I'm certain they do. This reminds me of the time our house was robbed several years ago by Caucasian, middle class meth heads. And when I'd start to tell people about it, they'd almost immediately make a comment about illegal immigrants or blacks. Nope, I'd tell them--our looters were just little ol' coked up honkies, sorry to blow up all your prejudiced assumptions.)

So someone I genuinely like, who makes me laugh and laugh when I'm around him, but has politics far right of where I exist came and commented under my reality facts article. And of course I was overly hormonal and tightly wound that day. Could not do it; simply could not engage on any level. This person and I once had a lively, spirited debate on gun control that, while infuriating on a certain level, was respectful and humor-filled and ended on a positive note. 

Wednesday was not that day.

First off, I'd been at the mall surrounded by a lot of women wearing designer jeans with sequins on the back pockets; these people are always passive aggressive and massive triggers for me. (I think I've written about what interactions with people like this do to me.) And a handful of these people were rude and passive aggressive to my child and my niece and nephew simply because they were being children, and I was all: HEY! Only I get to be rude and passive aggressive to those kids! Not you--LEARN THE RULES. And secondly, I was recovering from some serious PMS hormones. And thirdly, I have a shitload of stuff happening in my personal life right now that has me on edge most days. So he said some stuff, then I called him a name, and he poked at me some more and when that happened, you guys! I could literally feel my tightly wound rage starting to unravel. So I begged for mercy. Fortunately, despite being a gun-worshipping ultra ultra right wing freak, he views me as a big sister and has a sense of humor. And I've doted on him for  years, and I have a sense of humor and so now we are okay. And thus I learned not to venture forth into those shark-infested waters ever again. Until I see more racism in my news feed on a super hormonal day when I'm really feeling out of sorts...which, I suppose, are precisely the days I should take an Internet break. sigh. One day I'll get it.

Really, that whole experience reminded me why I decided to stop following CNN and other news outlets on social media; my brain knows I need to know about what's happening on the planet, but my heart is begging it not to. For now, I'm listening to my heart because my blood pressure can only take so much.

You know what else the internet and Twitter and Facebook don't help people with at all? Good eye contact. I think if you're going to argue with someone, you should have to look them in the eyeballs the whole time. This always sends me into fits of giggles, which means no one--not even me--ends up taking my argument seriously, and we all end up dancing to the Bee Gees on the dance floor (there should be a dance floor, everywhere you go). Which is how it SHOULD be on the Internet: after an online argument, everyone has to upload YouTube videos of themselves dancing to the Bee Gees on the Internet dance floor.

Here, I'll start us. This is my favorite Bee Gees song, of all time. I want it played at my funeral, actually...after Barry Manilow's stuff, of course. Nobody can stay mad at anyone as soon as this song starts to play:


thanksgiving dysfunctional therapy stories (plus some jokes).

A Thanksgiving joke from Miss M to all of you:

What kind of turkey opens any door?

A Moose-Turkey! 

HAHAHAHA! Get it?! It's a moose but also a turkey! And it can open all the doors!

We also discovered this Thanksgiving that the word "poop" sends M into peals of giggles, every single time. Like, you can just look at her, say "Poop," and she's on the floor peeing her pants with laughter. I let her know the UK word for toilet is "loo" which, of course, rhymes with "poo" and this sent her into even more hysterics. ("Poo in the loo! Loo in the poo! Poop in the loop! Loop Poop!" I sense I'll eventually regret sharing this knowledge.)

She's sitting next to me as I type this, and has requested I share one more Thanksgiving joke with all my readers, should there be any:

What kind of cheese can open any door?


Get it?! It's funny because it's cheese...made out of Poop! That opens all the doors! HAHAHAHA.

Hoo. Boy. Somebody stop her. (My sister in law remarked at dinner, and I happen to agree with her, that six year olds are still very much like drunk people. To all the 1-6 year old people out there: you're drunk, go home.)

I saw lots of bitter humor pictures on the internet about celebrating National Steal Land and Native American Genocide Day and all that, which makes my inner namby pansy left-winger cringe with guilt. But really, angry fellow liberals: that's only 1/100 of why we celebrate this very American holiday. This holiday is SUPPOSED to be about being with people you love and reflecting on what you do have and gorging yourself on obscene amounts of food. Or, you know, ordering an extra large pizza and drinking a lot. However you choose to celebrate.

I have lots of things to be thankful for--a ridiculous, silly girl...a family that instigates far right wing political talk just so they can sit back and laugh at me...a life of privileged conveniences in which I never have to worry about being deported back to the foreign slums I escaped from with my very life and/or being gunned down in cold blood on the depressed streets of a St. Louis-area suburb...you know, just the regular things. (That last part was for my conservative family/friends reading this--stop poking me with your Rush Limbaugh sticks of death. Love you! Hugs!) I'm also thankful for good friends, laughter, and those every-now-and-then moments when I really feel connected to this weird, crazy planet and its inhabitants.

I have a lot of friends who are struggling with health issues right now, or deeply worried about family members who are struggling or losing battles with health. I am thinking about people I love who experienced their first big holiday today without someone important. Those firsts are always the hardest, I think. I am thinking about each of them but also the people who still have their important people but are worried they won't for much longer or, even worse, know they have limited moments left and this may be the last Thanksgiving. I am sending all of my love, and all of the biggest, strongest light and love I can muster to them. It's hard to be a human. Maybe because it's so heartbreakingly fleeting. Be thankful for every drop, every second you are given. Drink it all up, breathe it all in. Give thanks.

............Hey--do you want to hear a family holiday story (I promise: no jokes with poop or moose are involved)? There are tragic elements to it, but it makes me and my brother giggle...now that the pain has subsided. The title of this story is:

It's Thanksgiving, Goddamn It!

Once upon a time, there was a girl. (Me, the girl was me. This story is about me.) After graduating college, I moved to Yuma, Arizona (there's an excellent movie with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale based on that town that was filmed almost entirely in New Mexico, which I find very strange since Yuma has perfectly good desert--what the crap, Hollywood?) At any rate--I'd been living in Yuma and because it's hard to be a Kentucky girl stuck in the desert, I was finally able to escape and make my way back to land with green hills and four seasons.

So it was my first Thanksgiving home in three or four years, and me, my mom, my brother, and my dad were all sitting around our Thanksgiving table and feast ready to have our small nuclear family celebration just as we had for decades. The table was loaded down with obscene amounts of food, all the Thanksgiving place mats out with the good china and silverware on them, and my mom had placed a small glass of grape juice (an aperitif if you will) on our plates. The idea was: say the grace, drink the juice, dig in.

So my dad starts saying the grace--I don't remember what he said. But at the end, my mom goes, "Bill, you forgot something." And my dad goes, "Huh?" (My brother and I were also going: Huh? Because he'd kind of covered all the major thankful checkpoints.)

And my mom goes, "Amy." And my dad goes, "What about Amy?" (And here, Amy--that's me--starts to go: Oh god. Oh god. Here we go.) And my mom goes, "Well, this is her first Thanksgiving back with us. In three years." And my dad goes, "So?" And here, my mom starts to get annoyed and upset which should have been my dad's Big Red Flag but my dad was fairly oblivious to Big Red Flags, of any kind.

So then my mom goes, "Well...you didn't tell God 'thank you' for bringing Amy back so she could have Thanksgiving with her family again." And my dad goes, "Well...GODDAMN IT!!! How was I supposed to know that, Goddamn it?! Goddamn it!!!" And he threw his napkin onto the table.

(Looking back, I now see my dad was embarrassed for having forgotten. And, being raised by the generation he was raised by and being the way he was in general, he was not the touchy-feely kind of dad who apologized and made amends...he was the "Goddamnit, Are You Friggin' KIDDING Me?!" kind of dad, the "How Is THIS More Important Than The Fact Obviously I'm Thankful She's Home Again Do I Really Have to Pray About It Out Loud For Christ's Sake??" kind of dad. But you know: 20/20 Hindsight.)

So my mom is very quiet. The whole table is very quiet. God is quietly planning on how best to exact revenge on my dad for saying GODDAMN IT over and over and over again. And then my mom jumps up and leaves the table to run to the bathroom from which we can all hear her very loud sobs.

My dad, my brother, and I all sat in silence at the table. After several minutes, my dad sighed, got up, and disappeared to the bathroom. Two minutes later, he comes back, sits down, and starts scooping food angrily onto his plate. "Eat," he said, pointing to the food. "Your mother is probably not coming back to the table."

But nobody can eat like this. Have you ever been in one of these situations? Nobody can eat.

Anyway, the three of us are now awkwardly sitting in silence, staring at a feast going cold on our plates, listening to sobs from the bathroom. Finally, my dad breaks the silence and goes, "Did I...At any point, did I say ANYTHING rude or inappropriate to your mother at this table?"

Lord, that was a hard a question. A damned if you do, damned if you don't hard question. My brother and I stared diligently down at our plates, as if they were the most fascinating things we'd ever encountered. After many strained seconds of silence, my dad yelled, "Answer me, goddamn it!"

I looked up at my brother. He refused to make eye contact. And so I swallowed and I took a deep breath. Somebody had to be the sacrificial turkey this Thanksgiving, and so it would be me. It was one of my bravest moments, ever. I'm not kidding.

"Actually," I started quietly, staring at my plate while fear clawed at my belly, "It wasn't what you said as much as how you said it."

"Well, goddamn it!!" my dad said. And then he got up from the table, stomped out the door, and we heard his truck start and then peal out of the drive, down the street. My brother and I were now alone at the Thanksgiving table, looking at piles of food that would--hopefully--make decent leftovers tomorrow, even though they were salted with bitterness and our mother's tears, with a side of Goddamnit gravy.

My mother's sobs continued from the bathroom, though they were softer now.

"Soooo," my brother said after awhile. "What are you thankful for this year?"

"Oh, I'm thankful I didn't say the grace this year. What are you thankful for?"

"Oh, I'm thankful that we didn't have dinner guests."

And oh, weren't those two wonderful things to be thankful for, that year! (Eventually, my mom came out of the bathroom and sat at the table again, and we did eat. And eventually, my dad did decide driving all the way up to the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania without telling anyone that's what he was doing or where he was going may not be a very smart idea, and so he came back.)

The End

Every year at Thanksgiving, I remember this story. I miss my dad, every Thanksgiving, because Thanksgiving has never been, and will never be, the same now that he's gone. But every year at Thanksgiving when I remember this story, as much as I miss my dad with my whole heart, it also reminds me of another reason we have Thanksgiving: it keeps psychiatrists and counselors and other mental health professionals in business. (No, I'm very serious: talk therapy can really help you get some of this stuff out...so that NEXT Thanksgiving you don't own the problems. DON'T OWN THE THANKSGIVING PROBLEMS. Okay?)

Now. Get some sleep, sweet friends, so tomorrow you can go to the mall. Because tomorrow is Black Friday, and Mall Shoppers aren't going to bring out ANY of your dysfunctions at all. (I'm just being sarcastic, silly goose--Mall Shoppers will bring out dysfunctions you didn't even know you had. Trust me: I was just in one on Wednesday afternoon, and I've only just now stopped eating my feelings. Thank god it was Thanksgiving, and there was a reason to eat.)


wine & cupcakes: what the hell do i know.

So. I'm having some blogger block issues, and starting to google things like "what to blog about" and "blog topics." And I'm seriously mulling over accepting ideas from mommy bloggers. There are a lot of them. Things like: The One Movie Out Right Now I Absolutely MUST See (what if there are 25 of them?) and My Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes (what if your favorite Thanksgiving recipes come from the deli section of the local supermarket?) and A Guide to Your Hometown (what if you'd like to move out of your hometown?) The Worst Birthday You Ever Had--but be funny! (but what if it still makes you weep?) (Seriously, mine was my 16th birthday and it still makes me weep...I don't remember exactly what happened. Just sitting on my bed, weeping, going: This is my saddest birthday. EVER. And promising myself to never forget that it was my saddest birthday ever, and I haven't forgotten. I've just forgotten WHY it was the saddest).

At any rate: Mommy blogging--I'm cringing here. I don't want to invoke the wrath of any mommy bloggers or anything, because they certainly have a niche and mad props/respect to that. Also god knows, I get some of my best recipe and DIY ideas on Pinterest from them.  And some of them are seriously stupendously amusing and funny--ought to be touring the country, doing stand up, not wiping boogers and butts. And yet. I don't want to be in their ranks. I just don't. I'm sorry, but I don't. 

If it helps any, please know I feel the same about trashy beach romance writing. I was in the public library yesterday checking out books for Miss M and me, and I considered checking out one or two trashy romances, just so I could read and analyze; I hear it can make one quite a lucrative living, if done right. But then I just couldn't. I couldn't! I checked out An Untamed State by Roxane Gay instead; it's more the kind of thing I'd want to write. And sure enough, I was uncomfortable and awed by page 3 and in tears by page 6.  My god, what a story (my god, what a writer).

So mommy blogging and trashy romance novels: I enjoy both from time to time, but it's not my schtick.

(The ironic hypocrisy here is that I started this blog under the guise of a writing blog. A writer writing about writing. And now I only write about writing once in awhile, and about everything else the rest of the time. ........I suspect this is because my blogging is mirroring my writer's life in that it is unfocused, unscheduled, haphazard, and full of distractions like having to attend to the demanding needs of a 6 year old and work a full-time, draining job that involves a lot of having to attend to the demanding needs of a lot of 7-8 year olds. But I digress.)

I do realize I write about my kid now and then, and I do so because she's a humongous part of who I am and my life...but do know: I'm really, really fighting it,  becoming a mommy blogger. My name is Amy. And I am a writer and a teacher and a mom and a woman. Who likes wine and books and cupcakes and naps and indie films and indie books and too much chocolate and traveling and beaches and long hikes and lakes and mermaids and words and telling stories and listening to other people's stories. Being someone's mother really is only 1/10 of who I am. And I'm okay with typing this out loud--partly because I've had 3 glasses of this fabulous Carmenere wine** I found and partly because I think it's really important for women not to become too tied up with other people's ideas of what their identity should be. We are told from an early age "how" little girls should be (and little boys are told "how" they should be...sugar and spice and everything nice etc and so forth) and when I became a mother to a little girl, it became poignantly important to me not to confine her, to set an example for her as to "how" girls should be. And that "how" literally has no definition, ladies. There should be no HOW. For us. You like sports? Go for it. You like pretty pretty princesses? That's all you. You want to wear a tiara while you get your Tai Kwan Do black belt? Go you, girlfriend!

(And by the way, are you asking yourself yet: Hey Amy, what's up with the weekday posts? I thought you only did these on the weekends? Yes, well. I'm on Thanksgiving Break is why, and so I have more energy for writing. Or just drinking a lot of wine. Whatever.)

I am drawn to women. I am drawn to their stories, and what makes women tick in this man-centric world. I am drawn to girls. I am drawn to their stories, and what makes them tick in this boy-centric society. I am drawn to children and animals and the elderly and the mentally ill and the poor, and issues of powerlessness surrounding those groups. I am drawn to social justice, and issues of Race in America. (Why in the world did an innocent young man get gunned down with twelve--TWELVE--bullets, with two policemen standing over his body in the street afterward, doing nothing? When he didn't even have a gun? How does that happen? Knowing all we know in the 21st century, looking back on all the history we have to look back on, how the hell does something like this happen? Every day? All over the place?) How and why do rapists go free? Why do people defend and justify them? Why do people defend and justify racism? Sexism? Why? Why? 

But then. i'm also drawn to cupcakes. And Pinot Noir and Carmenere and a good Riesling, so what the hell do I know? And I'm writing a story about a ghost pirate and a girl who falls in love with him. What the hell do I know. I am not a good person to question why. Most days, at least.

Roxane Gay seems far more knowledgeable about the Why's--you should read her stuff. And go find some mommy blogs! They have some recipes for holiday sangrias that look like they will rock your world. They certainly may rock mine, should I be able to gather myself together and make them.

Okay, done. The end. I think this was totally short and sweet and to the point. Which was that there really was no point. Remember? I'm struggling to write (every day! something...every day), googling things to blog about, so this is what you got. Go make some sangria and figure out how to fix racism in America. Or come up with a kick ass cupcake flavor. Or better yet, help me find a job. (Preferably telling stories. For at least $50K a year, which I don't find too ridiculous as an asking price at all.)

(End Note/Heads Up: I'm considering moving this blog to Wordpress. The reason is going to sound so shallow, and I'm so sorry if you're attached to it now or anything but: holy emojis, I can't take the blinking holiday emojis anymore. Every time I log on here, there they are--the effing holiday emojis. From Halloween still! I mean, you'd think we'd at least get some turkeys or a Santa and elves or something.  But no. No! Still pumpkins and Frankensteins. Can. Not. Take. The blinking emojis anymore. I can X out of them, but it annoys me nonetheless.) (It may take me awhile to switch over though...I'm re-working/updating my resume/s while on break. Seriously, I'm not kidding: does anyone want to hire a shallow sommelier social justice angst-y wannabe? I just need about $50K a year plus healthcare benefits. And 6 weeks of vacation. Sick days not included. Oh, and it has to be in Atlanta. I'd love to be your angst-y social justice empowering sommelier in California wine country, but for personal reasons I can't leave Georgia.)

**I'm not tech savvy enough to know if there's a time stamp to each of my blog posts, but if there is then you're probably going: Amy! You posted this at 6:30 AM! Are you drinking already?! Well, no. Not that I couldn't drink wine at 6:30 AM...if you have to wait until a certain time to drink wine, I've heard that makes you a light weight. But I was not drinking wine at 6:30 AM when I posted this. I wrote this at 11:00 PM the night before, and then uploaded it the following morning. 

Because, okay fine. Fine! I actually am a light weight wine enthusiast.


8 pieces of information or: how to survive a pisces

I'm kind of tired of writing about things that give me angst, and I suspect you may be tired of reading about them. So, in the words of Forest Gump: "I'm kinda tired now. Think I'll go home." And so that's what I'm doing today. Going home to the tried and true, the whole point behind the phenomena that is social media and blogging: shamelessly talking about one's self.

Here are 8 Random Things I think you should know about me:

1-My favorite professor in college was my Psych 101 professor. His name was Leonard Schmaltz, but he insisted we all call him Captain Lenny. He would not tell us why. But he was droll and smart and peppered his lectures with superbly amusing stories. I always wondered if class was just one big therapy session for him. And if they hadn't suddenly made Calculus a pre-requisite to declaring a Psych major, guess what I'd be doing today? (That's right: teaching Psych 101 at some college somewhere, and making my students call me Admiral Amy but not telling them why.) (FYI: Captain Lenny is no longer with us, and I'm so sad about it. RIP, good sir of psychology.)

2-I have to really work at not being passive aggressive. I think it's an inherited gene. At any rate, I always know when someone's being passive aggressive with me, and I have two instant reactions when I realize it: (a) my dormant passive aggressive nature is triggered and it comes out full force, like a shark feeding frenzy in a pool of blood because (b) I think: Are you for real?! Don't even try it--only one of us is walking away from this in one piece and, oh, it won't be YOU. The other way I'd put that is: don't try to bullshit a bullshitter.

3-For most of my life, I've been 5'10". Last year, I went to the doctor for a routine checkup and I was 5'9". This summer, I went to figure out a weird cough I had and my height was 5'8". If this keeps up, I'm worried I won't be allowed to ride the big people rides at amusement parks in a few years.

4-I become easily addicted to routines, people, places, items of clothing, foods, drinks...it's part of being a Pisces with a moon in Cancer. I'm actually being serious--every astrological thing about Pisces says this about us, and it is true for me: Poor, wayward, passive aggressive, addict Pisces. We're like the 12 Step Program of the Zodiac. 

Right now (for example) I'm addicted to the podcast Serial on NPR because I'm addicted to Twitter where I'm addicted to checking what Jason Isaacs is saying and he's tweeted about his Serial addiction enough that I decided to check it out to see what was so awesome and then 16 hours later my eyes are bloodshot and I'm jittery from all the caffeine intake I used to stay awake to catch up on the thing. Seriously, the other night I listened to about 4 hours' worth of it, trying to catch up and I STILL can't decide if Adnan is guilty or not. Just when I think he is, then I think wait, no! he's not! It's the single worst thing a Pisces/Cancer person could be exposed to, because not only is it addictive, it feeds into our wishy-washy inability to make a single decision, ever. Thanks, NPR. Thanks, Twitter. Thanks, Jason Isaacs. 

5-I'm an INFP on the Myers-Brigg thing. Every single time. Which means I'm completely helpless around INTJs but really into ESTPs. (I just made that last part up...but evil villains in movies are all supposedly INTJs, and so I'm pretty sure I'd be helpless around them.) (I don't think there is such a thing as an ESTP...I just made that up, like I do most everything I'm unsure of.)

6a-I was raised Presbyterian by a Methodist and a half-Catholic/half-Presbyterian. (Methodists are Baptists who can read, Presbyterians are God's Frozen Chosen, and Catholics...well, you've heard the rumors.) I think this explains why I think religion is good in theory/always poorly executed. Many of his followers freak me out, but I dig Jesus. And Buddha is so chill. I also think you can combine religions, so I usually tell people I'm a Buddhistian if they ask. My house is filled with crucifixes and Buddhas. Although I like Hindu, too; I could decorate an entire room like an ashram if left to my own devices. And I'm so sad I don't get to celebrate Hanukkah or Passover. But if I had to choose, I'd be Zoroastrian. (Because don't you think it kinda has the name "Zorro" in it and how cool is that? "Hi, my name is Amy and I pray to Zorro, blessed be his name.") On the flip side, Jehovah's Witnesses make me really nervous. And those Mormons who live out in the Utah desert, self-segregated from regular society and being forced to marry their parents as soon as they turn 12? Yeesh. No thank you.

6b-But I have a really firm, BIG belief in "Something" out there. I call it "God" for convenience and to not get strange stares or angry threats of hell-fire damnation from others down here in the Bible Belt. I've always felt connected to It, and I trust It. ..........okay, no I don't. I don't trust It. I don't trust It at all. I think it likes to play games of How Far Can I Take Her Before She Breaks? too much. But I've always felt connected to It. And I'm glad It puts up with me. Because sometimes Its sunsets are pretty awesome.

7-When I finish something I start, it's always a THING. A Thing, as in: we should have a celebration. I trained for a 10K and finished it: that was a Thing. I started and finished a master's degree: that was a Thing. But I start novels all the time and don't finish. When I finish one, I'm going to have a debut party with or without a publisher. When I finish a TV pilot script, we're going to have a series premiere party, with or without a network. Those'll be THINGS.

......Right now, I've started learning about wine. I'll probably casually stop my wine self-education oh, maybe around New Year's. Because then I'll start a DIY basket weaving project or something. I wish I knew what was wrong with me. Do other people have this problem? 

8-Words are my JAM. And I love learning about other cultures and their languages. I pick up bits and pieces of different languages here and there, just so I can throw them out at people at random moments of the unexpected. I do this with both cultural references and language. For instance, I know a smattering of Welsh based on what my dad learned from his Welsh great-grandmother...I can't wait to go to Wales one day, casually approach a stranger, and blow their mind with my Welsh introduction (Halo, bore da, Amy ydw i. -- Hello, good day, my name is Amy.) (Other than Merry Christmas and mungee, Welsh for "grandma," this is the extent of my Welsh.) 

Oh, and! I can't wait to go to Liverpool because I once hung out with two dudes from Liverpool, who taught me a whole bunch of Scouse (Liverpool lingo). The only words I remember now are "biftas" (cigarettes) and "swerve" (which if I'm remembering right means run away). At any rate, I don't smoke, but if I'm ever in Liverpool, I'd casually string a bunch of scouse together and ask someone for a bifta. But I'll do it in a real thick South Georgia accent: "Y'all got any biftas here or should I swerve 'roun' to the other place, like?" 

You know what language is epic, though? German. Germans will take a whole idea and condense it into a single word. Grenzbegrifflich, that which is very real but beyond description. Freundschaftsbezeigungen, demonstrations of friendship. Schadenfreude, pleasure derived from other's misfortunes. Bildungsroman, a story about a spiritual awakening or a coming of age. Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz, the law for the delegation of monitoring beef labeling.

What's coolest about German is the fact it's constantly evolving; they are constantly coming up with new compound words like this. I think the closest we've ever come to something like this in English is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, which I'm sure the Germans could make even longer if they needed to. I mean, theoretically, Germans could write an entire novel in just one compound word. Which makes that an epic language.

But I'd really like to learn French or Italian, because they have a lot of close cognates to Spanish which I already (mostly, and loosely) know. The problem is that I need to be able to start something I can finish, and if I start to learn something new, well....you know now how that'll go.

And in conclusion to this entire piece, Yiddish amuses me to no end. My favorite Yiddish word is tuckus, the word for butt, simply because you get to make the clearing your throat sound. I once knew the word for buttcrack in Yiddish, too. Clearly it wasn't as awesome as tuckus which is why I've forgotten it.


hug your velveteen rabbit.

I will not be downer in this post. I will NOT be a downer in this post. I will not be a downer in THIS post. I will not be a DOWNER in this post. I will. Not be. A downer. In this post. I WILL NOT BE A DOWNER IN THIS POST.

But first! Can I tell you that I had some frustrating work news today and it clarified and cemented a decision I've been waffling on, all wishy-washy like, for well over a year? (Remember? I don't do change well.) I can't go into more details, but it was frustrating. And so I finally made a firm decision on what to do for next school year. Because combine the news with the fact I am finding, increasingly, that children who come from generational poverty in schools that are located in overwhelmingly economically depressed areas are being given a raw deal. And I am not magic. And I have my own child to raise. And sometimes Love doesn't save anybody. But mostly, I'm finding low income kids are being given a raw deal. In that they are not being met where they're at, to be given the real basic tools they need to succeed. That their parents are not being dealt with realistically, or firmly, or in ways that help them succeed as parents. I think it's one thing to be sensitive to a person's situation, and another thing entirely to not do the necessary thing because you're terrified someone's going to call News Channel 1 or get a lawyer and sue. And thus. We are becoming a land of entitled wusses who can't bear to have our feelings hurt and when those feelings are hurt we lash out like wounded animals. This is going to come back and bite us on our Collective Bum at some point. It may already have.

But I'm also finding this is not any particular school's fault, or any particular school system's fault. It is the fault of ALL of us; a failure on us, those that have. And it is a failure on the part of our government, those that could fix it but won't and either find ways to make it worse or actively block ways that could make it better. And it is a failure on the part of society, those that could gang up on those that could fix it and won't but instead choose to slink off like Quasimodo with Esmeralda, receding into the dark recesses of their hoarder-like mentalities. 

(Wait! Wait! Where are you going? Oh, don't go! If you stay with me, I PROMISE there is blinding, happy light at the end of this tunnel.)

Can I tell you about what's happening in education these days? American public education, specifically, but I read The Guardian and sometimes The Telegraph if I can stomach the Boris Johnson editorials from time to time and so I know England is struggling with this too and here it is:

Children are not products. 

There. I said it. Children are not parts and bolts and bits of flavoring to be tweaked, molded, or processed into whatever and whichever form you think will be most marketable. Children are breathing, living beings, with hearts and minds and fears and really really really bad taste in junk food. To treat them as anything less than small, soon-to-be-adults is abusive. I once read a quote where someone asked, "Why do people abuse children so much?" and the answer was, "Because they can." (Because children don't vote, therefore have no voice, therefore no power over what happens to them. And then they grow up into adults who feel powerless and when THAT happens, they start organizations like ISIS or The Crips or serial rapists and we all sit back and go: Woah! What happened there?)

And I am not your assembly line factory worker here to mindlessly do your bidding. Children are not products and education is not an "industry." It is not a "business." Stop talking about being in the "business" of educating people; education is a science but mostly an art. There is nothing business-y about it, other than the dweebs at the state and federal Congressional levels who are in some business person's pockets giving them kickbacks off the backs of children and calling that "reform" so they can guilt trip people into silence. 

On Thursday, C and I had an intense discussion in which I became very passionate about education and what's happening to it. We mostly got into a big discussion about Common Core and technology in education. 

Let's talk about Common Core first: I see the allure of it; I get what they're trying to do. "Go deeper." Sounds catchy in a slightly creepy way. My concern is the One Size Fits All mentality of it. Not all children are one size fits all--did you know? Some children are autistic, high and low spectrum. Lots of children have attention span issues (good god, lots of adults do too these days, thanks Internet and smart phones!). Some kids don't test well, ever. Some kids are good to go on Monday, some aren't quite all there 'til Tuesday afternoon. Some kids only pay attention when you start talking about dinosaurs because they're the Dinosaur Learning Style. 

And the reality of many, many, MANY children's daily lives is that some children don't have anyone talking to them at home, or reading to them. Some children go to bed hungry. Some children wake up hungry and there's nothing to eat so thank god for school breakfast. Some children watch their moms get screamed at by their dads. Some children watch their dads get drunk every night. Some children watch their moms do meth every night. Some children are completely, utterly, totally ignored, their only friend the iPad or the television. Some children are being raised by wolves. Yes, you heard me: some children are being raised by wolves, and Common Core simply isn't going to fix that. Ever. 

(You know what will fix it? Addressing poverty and requiring Parenting Skills and Sex Education (NOT abstinence; exist in Reality, friends) classes at puberty and making sure politicians can't defund education accounts in order to give obscene tax breaks to their business cronies. But if I can't have all that, I'll take: addressing poverty.)

Some times, children need to be met where they're at, and given the basics. Not everybody's a future rocket scientist. Do I want everyone to go to college? Yes. You know what else I want? Five hundred trillion dollars and permission to rule the planet. I think it's okay not to go to college--college isn't for everyone. I'm not a horticulturist because I kill plants; I suck at DIY projects so I don't fix my own plumbing. Which is why I'm so thankful no one ever got in my face and pushed Horticulture School onto me. And that time I had to take Wood Shop class in junior high school? Thank god for getting a teacher who was humble enough to recognize I didn't need to even be near the jigsaw cutter-of-death machine and just gave me industrial sandpaper and a C at the end so my GPA wasn't trashed. God bless you, Mr. Wood Shop teacher, wherever you are.

Last week, we all agreed Kim Kardashian's sizable ass was worth commenting on for 24 hours. It was stunning, watching Humanity come together on one topic. If we can do that, I bet we can all come together and agree that Reality is often a better place to exist. As soon as we're done talking about people's buttocks? Maybe? Because what I've noticed is that the people who are touting the "Everybody should be able to go to college! Everybody should be ready for, and desire, a higher degree!" are the types of people who came from homes where a college education was the norm. Or they weren't, but they had some intrinsic need, some inner understanding, that college mattered and they wanted to go. And they defied their odds and went--good for them. (My college roommate was one of them, by the way: she knew, at age 7, if she didn't get herself up, dressed, and to school, her life was going to turn out very bad. And so she did that, her whole school career and then she put herself through college. She was a unique human being, and she would tell me this: "Not everyone was like me--I knew kids who could have done that too, but they just didn't want to or care to. I don't know why I did. I just....knew.")

I understand the passion for wanting everyone to be okay, thank god for this kind of passion because god bless them: they want to save the world. Magical Thinking: I own millions of shares in that company. But it's still OKAY NOT TO GO TO COLLEGE. For some people. For me, it would not have been okay not to go to college; my father would have disowned me. It will not be okay for Miss M because her father will disown her. But for some other kid? Going to be just fine making an honest living answering phones or installing cable lines. Because some people are fine without it. Some people are perfectly happy fixing plumbing, building houses, wiring electricity, laying tile, flipping hamburgers, and making hotel beds for a living, and THAT'S OKAY TOO. Is there something wrong with jobs that don't require degrees?  

Some people are going to read that and accuse me of the soft bigotry of low expectations. If you are one of those people, with all due respect: Fuck you. Come walk for a month in my shoes, come see what I see day in and day out. At the end, let's go have drinks and you tell me why your belief that every single kid from every single home in this country should go to college still makes sense. Because I think you're a snob who looks down on hard-working people with trade jobs and I hope you're around when a good handful of this country's citizens are self-medicating to deal with the stress and disillusionment of being sold a dream they never asked for, never really wanted in the first place. There is no shame in burger flipping, if it pays your bills and that's the life you want. I think it's better to meet people where they're at, and give them one level up to aspire to rather than take someone who can barely add 2+2 and insist to them if they just work harder they'll be mathematical enough to build rocket ships. For instance, in my classroom, if a kid says he wants to be a Ninja, I say: Cool! You could get really good at Ninja-ing and then go open your own Ninja school. That's THAT kid's dream; I'm not going to pee all over it and go: "Oh, sweetie, that's nice. But what about COLLEGE?" Please.

........(breathe)........I'm sorry. I've totally off-tracked myself. Let me backtrack.

So the district I work for is rolling out an online system, and it wants families and students to do more academics online. Which I'm down with--I wouldn't call myself a techno geek or anything, but I can find my way around the 'net (fervently avoiding eye contact with troll-ish types), create a website (as long as I don't have to do the HTML), and I'm all about social media (though angsty at the same time). But here's the thing: Just 'cause it LOOKS cool doesn't necessarily mean it IS cool. Let me explain.

There are a lot of teachers out there who do an awful lot of stuff on smart boards, laptops, smart phones, etc. And that's good. I mean, how cool to Skype with a class on the other side of the world. We are a technologically driven planet now. And I'm very aware I'm teaching kids who may be doing jobs that haven't even been invented yet. Technology matters--it's here, it does help us in many many ways, and everybody still agrees: ATM machines are frickin' awesome, especially on Saturday at 3 AM. Technology took us to the moon, lets people work from home, and helps us make friends in countries we've never set foot in. That's amaze-balls. But there's a dark side to technology and--just like addressing poverty and what's going on/not going on in many children's homes today--we are not talking about it. (Okay, some of us are. And then iPhone 7 will get released and everyone will lose their collective shit once more.)

Several weeks ago, I was teaching 2nd graders about all the different reference materials (and this is a Common Core component by the way) like thesauruses (thesauri?), dictionaries, atlases, and encyclope---wait, what? I stopped and looked at their little slack-jawed faces and went, "Boys and girls, listen. You guys don't have a clue what an encyclopedia is, do you?" (They nodded, drool dripping slightly.) "I don't know why you even need to know about all this. I'm teaching this to you because the quiz I have to give you at the end of the week is going to make you choose the correct reference material to find the answer to what you're looking for. But guess what? You know where I go when I need to find a map? Google maps. You know where I go when I need to find a synonym to a word? Merriam-Webster thesaurus dot com. Same for the dictionary--Oxford dot com. If I want to find information about penguins? I go to an encyclopedia...ON THE INTERNET. It's all free. On the Internet." (Here, I held up my smartphone.) "This is your reference tool, boys and girls. Also: iPads, Kindle Fires, and computers. So, we're going to learn this because I have to teach it to you, but just know--the internet pretty much has everything on it."

And then I thought: if the Common Core is so groundbreaking, so cutting edge, why didn't its creators know they need to teach Internet Smarts & Safety instead of antiquated reference materials? I'm shocked I'm not teaching the card catalog system, too (that's probably taught in 5th grade). 

At any rate. I'm telling you all of this because I want you to know: I heart technology. Seriously, I'd be wandering around Midtown Atlanta lost right now and mingling with homeless rapists were it not for Google Maps and the invention of the smart phone. Technology, good. Getting lost, bad. 

But I'm worried about how fast we're replacing the tried and true, our Old World sensibilities, with all this new, shiny, fancy crap. You know what this reminds me of? The Velveteen Rabbit. Remember him? And the old Skin Horse. Surrounded in that nursery by all those toys made of wind-up metal gadgetry, all snotty and stuff, so sure they were the best. But their parts rusted if left out in the rain. And eventually, they broke and were thrown away. They had a short shelf life. 

And also (and mostly), the boy couldn't hug them. He couldn't make tunnels in his bed late at night with them, or take them on picnics, or whisper his secrets in their ears. When their parts broke, they were thrown away and replaced. But when the rabbit's whiskers wore off and his fur became shabby, he was still loved. And being loved so hard hurt but it was worth it because, in the end, it meant he was real. Because love is real. And those of us who've truly loved know it hurts, it isn't easy, but it's worth it. Real things always are.

I think about that when I think about some of my veteran teacher friends, the ones who were teaching when I was still in high school floundering about, the ones who've watched the educational fads pendulum swing back and forth many times. They're usually the ones who are only on email because this is how people communicate in 2014 but if you ask them to create a simple web page by plugging in some data points here and there, they look at you as if you have toes growing from your eyeballs. Those ones. I think about them.

I think about how awesome they are with kids. How, magically, they know how to get a child with very little impulse control to sit still for 10 minutes when the four other teachers that kid had before went home exhausted after working with him every day. I think about how they understand how children's brains work, and so they know that children need exposure to certain things and frequent repetition and hugs and high fives and lots of fresh air. They know kids need a sense that, if they just keep trying, next time they play Around the World, they're going to make it. THEY'RE GOING TO MAKE IT. All the way around the world. Or at least past that little twerp Bobby who laughed real mean when they blurted "SIX!" as the answer to 3+2 last time. 

Some of those people know exactly how to make school exciting and cool, even the Parts of Sentences lessons. I teach next door to someone who makes it sound like The Price is Right is being filmed in there every day, and those kids rock the end of year tests. Every time. And they learn good manners while they're at it--and I'm finding good manners are increasingly scarce, too, these days.

Computers don't give any of this to you. They don't give you a sense that you're going to MAKE it next time. They don't teach you manners. They don't hug you or listen to your secrets or lay quietly with you when you're sad or sick. They don't high five you. When they break down after 5 years you go get a new one because after 2 years they're ancient anyway. They teach you to be impatient, and they keep you feeling just connected enough to keep you disconnected. They give you a false sense of security. They can lead you to believe you're smarter than you actually are, or make you feel dumber than you actually are. 

And I know all of this because I'm on them. A lot. You know what else technology does? It helps you veg out. It helps distract you from the problems in your life. You can mindlessly pin things to a hundred different boards on Pinterest. You can endlessly scroll through your friends' Facebook feeds. You can scroll through strangers' Twitter feeds. You can create blogs that nobody ever comments on. You can google insane things, and spend hours giggling at college humor YouTube videos. 

And you will never learn a goddamn thing. ....Okay, fine. You may learn a lot from Russell Brand's brilliant The Trews YouTube videos, but honestly, that's it. I was re-organizing my Pinterest boards last night--I have well over 10,000 pinned images and not a single thing to show for them. ....Okay, fine. I did learn how to make ceiling lanterns out of tissue paper, but honestly, that's it. 

What I'm attempting to say is: technology is here, it's occasionally helpful, and we all need to embrace it. But aren't you worried it's making us distant from each other? It's making the world smaller, and yet we're becoming so disconnected. Aren't we? Because we're playing with the tin wind-up toys, and forgetting to hug our Velveteen Rabbits. Don't throw away the Velveteen Rabbit! He's REAL. Love is real.

At work, I can't get my Mimio (a device that turns a white board into a touch screen computer board) pen to work. So I don't use the Mimio--I simply don't have time to play with it to figure it out. I teach from paper and books and stories and talking with my students. But I've noticed they're much more attentive when I turn on a video, and it concerns me. I feel like I'm balancing on a tight rope--I want technology to help them learn, but I also want them to know how to connect to others. For instance, I show YouTube videos to enhance what I'm teaching, because it's like virtual field trips. And I take my students on virtual field trips because 55% of their parents won't pay for the real ones and/or return the permission slips. (40% of the parents won't even read the monthly newsletter I send home or practice the reading books.) Technology enhances what I do, but it's not all that I do. It's an enhancer. As it should be. In all jobs, unless you work at Apple, Inc. or Microsoft.

C thinks we're moving into a Khan Academy-style age, in which children will eventually sit at computers all day and learn while monitors walk around making sure they're on task, answering questions, etc and so forth. Jesus God is that not depressing?! The thought of children being mined at computers all day long depresses me, and I'm a person who LIKES sitting in front of a computer all day; some days sitting in front of a computer is all I can handle. But I'm also a grown up who thinks quiet, peaceful rooms are best. I can't imagine being a wiggly little kid, desperate for sunshine and laughter, having to sit in front of a screen all day. If that happens, if we go to school in big warehouses where we sit at computers all day, Humanity's going to become one big ol' attention deficit obese disconnected blob with carpal tunnel syndrome by age 10, mark my words. Don't even get me started on what Vitamin D deficiency can do to a person.

So C and I  had this intense discussion about all of that--because I said: "Some of the older teachers are a tad freaked out by all the new, sudden emphasis on technology," to which he said: "And those teachers won't be teaching M." To which I said: pretty much everything I just said here in this blog post. 

Except the Velveteen Rabbit stuff only just occurred to me as I was typing. Don't you hate that? When the perfect example to defend your argument pops into your brain 32 hours after the argument ended? I hate that.

Anyway. Back to where I was at when I started this: I WILL NOT BE A DOWNER. I will NOT be a downer.  So here's this. This LINK is your antidote to downer-ism for the rest of the weekend:



How do I love the movie SIDEWAYS and actor Paul Giamatti?
Let me count the ways. (I am NOT drinkin' any fuckin' Merlot!)
I wish I could write a really sappy, happy blog post. I'm worried these blog entries are starting to turn into one-sided therapy couch sessions. Or that I look depressive and/or bipolar. Or that I am oversharing in ways that will drive away readers (if I have any). Or that I appear wishy-washy and indecisive (I actually am wishy-washy and indecisive).

Friday I took a sick day to catch up on some doctor appointments. The rest of the time I spent catching up on grading. Or I was supposed to. I had, seriously, twenty 2 foot stacks of class work and quizzes to grade. Because Life. And M's birthday and Halloween. And sometimes family comes first.

However, instead of focusing on catching up on my work, C and I went to lunch and talked about some important family and Life issues.

And so.

The rest of my day was spent weeping. (I did manage to tackle the class work...now I just need to hone in on the quizzes....and take another day to enter them all into the gradebook. Jesus Mary and Joseph, this is an exhausting, thankless job.)

I would like to detail out here why I spent the rest of Friday (and some of today) weeping. All I can say is: relationships are hard; communication isn't easy (particularly for me--isn't that strange, so very odd? I write. I communicate ideas and thoughts and feelings, all the time. You'd think I'd be the world's best communicator. And yet. This is an area of my personal life I truly, truly suck at). And I don't know if you've learned this like I have but...Love isn't always enough; sometimes love doesn't save anybody.

But! We have a beautiful little girl we love a lot, a lot, a lot. And that type of Love is very deeply fierce. And we love each other. And we are friends. C is one of my life's greatest teachers. We are being kind and careful and trying to be as gentle as we can. And there is no anger (okay, I am angry, but not at him...just in general: I am a tightly coiled ball of rage at all times, if you must know, except I don't really know at what, and this will probably be something I'll focus on when I can find time to focus on it). And so we'll work through it maturely and kindly and in the best interests of one little reluctant mermaid who has some very dramatic tendencies.

That's it for this blog post. I'm going to finish a bottle of Pinot Noir now and maybe attack my flailing pirate novel for a bit tonight. (I do know drinking doesn't help or fix anything; but it blurs the edges...until the morning when I worry I'm becoming a whino and one step away from panhandling in front a liquor store.)


let go or be dragged into a low winter sun.

I forgot to add one of Miss M's techno-terror strikes to my last blog entry: when she was 3, she ordered $600 worth of streaming videos from amazon.com. I had hundreds of Ni Hao, Kai Lan; Dora the Explorer; Yo Gabba Gabba; Peppa Pig; and more Disney princess shows than you can shake a tiara at on my Kindle. I opened up my email one day to hundreds of thank you emails for the $1.99 download. Thank god for credit card dispute action. Also, I figured out how to set the parental control password and why the creation of that option was so necessary. Thank you, techno geeks, for having parents' backs.

I'm in a bit of an emotional crisis, Internet. This blog entry is the fifth entry I've started--the other four were all deleted because they were whiny and dumb. One of them, I got all the way to the end (1,000 words) and actually wrote: I'm going to delete this whiny, dumb crap. And then I did. I should probably just have taken a break from all social media for the weekend, but I can't stay off Twitter now--it's become an unhealthy habit...like smoking, but worse. And I feel obligated to post something here every weekend now, because I started the trend of posting SOMETHING at least once per weekend, and I can't just stop. So I think I'm just going to type and spew and if you're interested keep reading and if not you should go find something better to do. 

Basically, my emotional crisis is that I am in flux. And basically, I am in flux because I sense I'm doing it wrong. For example: I know writers are supposed to write every single day, and that if you don't write every single day, you're doing it wrong. I do not write every single day. Some days, I can barely manage to get dressed. I suspect I am doing that wrong, too, by the way. (You probably should get dressed every single day--change PJs, at the very least; make some type of effort.)

But please also know this is all fairly typical for me, this time of year, so I'm just trying to just work through it per usual. Have a I mentioned that I think I have that SAD thing? Seasonal Affective Disorder? This time of year is simply not my favorite--the time change always effs with me. While grateful for the extra hour, is it too much to ask for the daylight to stay as well? The short daylight thing doesn't work for me. It makes me want to go to bed early with Netflix and watch a lot of indie films (tonight I watched Beach Pillows, which was a very sweet film that I thought was about taking control of your life and figuring out why you're here...I like it when I am in a flux and the Universe sends some kind of Art to me, with exactly the kind of message I need at just that moment). Thank you, Sean Hartofilis for writing/directing/producing such a good story (when did you sleep and eat while doing all of those jobs?).

In addition to good movies, I also read an article somewhere online this weekend about a man named Viktor Frankl and the important message he tried to give humanity. Viktor Frankl was a neurologist, psychiatrist, and a survivor of the Holocaust. Viktor lost everyone most dear to him in the concentration camps, including his pregnant wife. He somehow managed to survive and make it out, and after he did, he wrote a book about why some people survive horrific events and some do not. He spent the rest of his time here on Earth trying to help other people learn what he'd figured out: that you're not here to be happy; you are here to find purpose. He proposed that people who overcome terrible things or just generally hard, sucky life moments are able to because they have a reason to; that they feel their life has a meaning, or there is some purpose either intrinsic or extrinsic for them to survive and go on. And so Viktor's theory was that when people say: "I just want to be happy," what they actually mean is: "I want my life to have meaning." 

I bet I know what your brain is thinking right now: Amy, are you saying your tiny emotional crisis is that your life has no meaning?! 

No. No, I am not saying my life has no meaning--the biggest meaning in my life is asleep next to me as I write this, and it's my sole duty in life to keep updating my Kindle's parental control password so she won't bankrupt the crap out of me. 

What I'm saying is: I'm just in a flux, at work and at home, and I don't know what to do about it. I am actively searching for my purpose, in both places, and it is causing a flux. This flux is making me drag right now, and Daylight Savings Time and the knowledge a low winter sun (which was also an excellent show on AMC, by the way, that got canceled because nobody has any taste any more) is coming is NOT helping, not helping this at all. I do much better in the summer when I am not stuck to a constant, soul-sucking schedule and the sun is out from about 6:30 AM all the way to 9:00 at night. 

I also read another article tonight titled "Why My Child will be Your Child's Boss." It was about how Americans are crippling our children right now--the Swiss send their kids into the forest with saws and pocket knives and expect their children to walk to school with friends, and they do this as young as 5 years old, and Swiss children are far more adept at facing Life's challenges and changes with bravery and skill than American children are. 

Which, on the one hand, I get what they're saying and agree--we are becoming a nation of entitled wusses and I work every day with children who are being taught how to deflect responsibility for choices and weasel out of personal consequences. I am also witnessing what's coming: people who don't respect or appreciate the wisdom of mentors; those who've learned and have knowledge to pass on. On the other hand, I was a kid who walked to and from school by herself as a 1st and 2nd grader, and this one time we had a school assembly about stranger danger and I remember walking home that afternoon utterly, absolutely terrified some stranger was going to nab me and stick his dirty fingers all over me. I remember walking with my umbrella out (it wasn't raining), held in front of me like sword because I planned to use it to beat a grown man senseless if he even tried anything. I am sure Swiss children go through this as well, in 2014. This is probably why everybody trusts them with their money and they get to be neutral about everything and not partake in international conflict.

Where can I go, what can I do, where I will not have to drag myself out of bed at quarter six Monday through Friday, stand numbly under the shower, and mindlessly blow dry my hair so I can walk into a place that asks me to do things I no longer agree with, that I don't feel is good for the people I am asked to do them to? Where can I go, what can I do, where I can work with people who actually want to be there themselves, who are also not just dragging themselves out of bed mindlessly so they can hang out somewhere to be asked to do things they don't agree with or want to do (and, here, please note I am not speaking of the adults)? And where can I go, what can I do, where I will be working collaboratively with people who are creative thinkers who want to make connections and not just let someone else tell them what to think and do everything for them and then complain and threaten when the results aren't what they'd been hoping for? (This is my work crisis.)

My home life crisis isn't something I can really write about in full detail right now, partly because it's mostly in a holding pattern but mostly because it wouldn't be respectful to write about it. Let me just say regarding this: I don't handle change particularly well; my resistance to change and my inability to let go (Let it go! Let it GO!) would frustrate laughing Buddha. Because what typically happens in these cases is that I fight tooth and claw to hang on, and eventually someone (usually the Universe) makes the decision for me and then I'm cast out into the ethos all willy-nilly wild which means I have to spend a lot of time curled up in fetal position hugging a half-drunk bottle of wine, struggling to see through the veil of tears.

Essentially, I am the poster child for this picture: 

(I get dragged, a lot. Is what I'm telling you.)

I am also struggling with a lot of shoulds. Remember when I told you about the church of hippie love I went to, and they told me not to should all over myself? Yeah, no. I still do that every single second of the day: I should be writing right now, I should empty the dishwasher, I should learn how to do French braids and do them every day so my child can look perfect, I should eat more vegetables, I should put down this gelato and go for a run, I should fold that laundry, I should read more, I should send those stories somewhere to be published, I should tidy my car every single day so it's not an Ebola breeding ground, I should find a way to love my chosen career path, I should shut up and stop complaining, I should just accept things for what they are, I should stop being so hormonal, I should grade that 50 foot stack of papers and enter them in my gradebook but jesus god that feels soul crushing to even contemplate. 

I should all over myself, possibly every second, like shedding skin cells (did you know you shed 8 pounds of skin every year, and then every 9 years your body renews itself?). At any rate, this shoulding shit is a real drag, and I know all about getting dragged around, I promise.

So. I'm in a flux, in all areas of my life. Which means I go from really optimistic and "I just KNOW the Universe has my back! I know this is going to be OK, and I'm going to land exactly where I need to be!" to treading water (my current state of being) and "I'm going to lay this extremely important Thing To Do aside and go watch some indie films or read this book, because I need to escape to someone else's world for a bit" to really having to fight hard not to get into my car and just start driving and not look back. (Which I would NOT actually do--I just think about doing it a lot. But I would not actually do this, because somebody needs to monitor the parental control password to the technology so our credit scores don't nose dive.)

Flux. Parental control passwords. Letting go. Low winter suns. It's where I'm at right now, and it's sort of effing up my writing flow with that Nanowrimo thing but also flow in general. And God bless you if you stuck this whole lament out, because you know how I'm going to end it? By basically going: and then I woke up, the end. Because I'm going to tell you I think the main source of my problem is that I'm not getting enough sleep every night. (Insomnia: a constant battle...though I've addicted M to episodes of Mr. Rogers, and I'm finding that in addition to YouTube hypnotherapists, Mr. Rogers' soothing, calm voice and personality are also helpful sleep tools. Go to YouTube when you can't sleep and let me know if I'm on to something.)

via buzzfeed.com
Oh, Mr. Rogers, I really really miss you.