Archive | September, 2012

A Little Bit of Self-Evaluation

22 Sep

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
― Aristotle

Every now and then an event happens in my life that makes me feel something unexpected. My own reactions to simple things sometimes take me by surprise, and it’s in those moments that I’m forced to be introspective and really evaluate who I am as a person. As a human being. The result isn’t always pretty, but it is always educational, if for no other reason than it gives me something to work on. I’m not, after all, perfect.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what kind of friend I am. I know I’ve blogged before about my own insecurities (case in point), but blogging about it doesn’t make it any easier to wrestle with. I still feel like I care too much, like I share and give and get very little reciprocated. It also doesn’t help that several of my best friends are the “private” type. They don’t tell me the inner workings of their thoughts, fears, dreams, goals, etc. until things are certain. They tell me when there’s something to tell. That seems logical enough, but I’m not that type. I’m the type that will tell you about the very faintest inkling of a thought and then walk you through every detail of every feeling I’m having about the thought. Then, we’ll discuss every single possible outcome of the thought (complete with a pros/cons list for each option), followed by a step-by-step plan on what I’m going to do with said thought. I’m a sharer by nature; I can’t help it, that’s just who I am.

It’s very difficult for me to accept that not everyone is like this. When my private friends tell me, “I don’t want to talk about it,” or, “I’m not ready to tell you,” my first reaction is one of hurt. Logically, I know that their responses have nothing to do with me. They’re just people who like to sometimes keep the personal aspects of their life personal. But deep inside I go into panic mode. Is it me? Is it because they don’t trust me? Is it because they think I’ll judge them? Is it because we’re not as close of friends as I thought we were? The list goes on. Outwardly I smile and say, “Ok, I understand.” Inside, I’m a mess. This is something that I wrestle with. Constantly. I think it’s because I’ve been burnt before by “friends” that said they’d tell me when there was something to tell and then…didn’t. I think that with time, as my true friends continue to keep me updated about their lives, but in their own time, I’ll realize that “not now” doesn’t mean “not ever.” It just involves something that is hard for me: trust.

I was also forced to look inward this week when a dear friend of mine posted some amazing news on Facebook. She’s a wonderful friend and a wonderful person who deserves nothing but wonderful things in her life. And instead of being immediately happy for her, my first pang was one of jealousy. Followed, of course, by crazy happiness and excitement, but the jealousy was still there all the same. It lingered and left a bad taste in my mouth, and my soul.

It’s always easy to want the best for your friends, and for all their hopes and dreams to come true. Unless those hopes and dreams match your own. I have to admit that as irrational as it is, I think deep down I sometimes think, “Yes! I really want insert friend’s name here to accomplish x, y, and z. I just want him/her to accomplish them after I do.” I’m not proud of these thoughts. Especially since having my friends accomplish everything they want to in life in no way lessens my own chances of accomplishing those same things. If anything it could help me. My friends succeeding in what I hope to achieve can only come with advice, contacts, support and understanding.

To further complicate my inner musings, friends of ours recently faced a personal loss. The same kind of loss my husband and I experienced recently. It goes without saying that I instantly grieved for my friends. Having gone through it myself, I would never wish such a loss on anyone. But, at the same time, a small part of me also felt relieved. I was disgusted by that feeling. Does misery really love company so much, that it would welcome the tragedy of friends? I have a hard time believing that.

Why, then, does jealousy sometimes enter my thoughts when friends receive good news? Why does relief sometimes encroach upon my emotions when friends are suffering? I’m not sure I know the answer. Perhaps it comes down to fear. Fear of watching others enjoy what I might never have. Fear of others obtaining what seems so unobtainable for me. Fear of my own shortcomings and doubts.

Like I said, self-evaluation is not always pretty, but it is necessary for growth. Hopefully these reflections will help me learn to trust. To let go of fear and insecurities and enjoy with abandon the blessings of others, and fully support those in their time of need. To know, in my soul, that my time too will come.

I Prefer a Simple Love

6 Sep

Realistic fiction is a hard sell for my sixth graders these days, particularly my sixth grade girls. When I was in middle school, I was interested in any book that had a romance of any kind in it. My girls now are still interested in romance, but only if it’s accompanied by a side of peril and potential tragedy. It’s not good enough to be a love triangle. It needs to be a love triangle that comes with the risk of death.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t understand the appeal. I love the Hunger Games and Twilight as much as my students do (if not more). I understand the luster of danger. Falling in love with a man who loves you but could kill you at any moment is exhilerating. Having to feign love with a boy who truly does love you in order to save your family and stop the country from rebellion is truly heartbreaking. These stories capture and enthrall me, just as they’ve done my students. It’s no surprise to me, then, that a similar trend seems to be appearing in adult literature. Series’ like Fifty Shades of Grey seem to be popping up all over the place. I looked down the book aisle at Target the other day and was overwhelmed by the number of black and sinister looking book covers. Apparently love isn’t read-worthy unless there are car chases, stalker-exes, and homicidal ghosts from the past involved.

Much to my better judgment, I recently read the Fifty Shades of Grey books. If I’m being honest, they’re ridiculous books, and I almost quit the series after the first book because I thought the protagonist was such a fucking moron (pardon my French). She’s a stupid girl who spends the entire book contemplating whether or not to date (and I use that term loosely) a man who openly admits he wants to beat the shit out of her for his own personal pleasure. And in her head she goes, “Well, you are really hot…” What?! It comes back to that desperate scenario where girl meets disturbed guy, and thinks she can fix him. Us desperate girls always think we are going to be the one, the one that’s special, the one that can fix this broken man in front of us. In reality, every girl I’ve ever known who’s tried to fix a guy has failed. These men need to fix themselves. The whole concept of Fifty Shades of Grey is really disturbing to me. Protagonists in these books are otherwise smart, attractive and should-be confident people. Instead they emit low self esteem and place their value on a man’s opinion. How frequently this appears in books now is something that seriously concerns me. But I digress, and for the record, the Shades of Grey series does get better after the first one.

Do I like all of these books? Yes. Will I continue to read them? Absolutely. But I can’t help but feel nostalgic and long for books that emphasize a simpler kind of love. I grew up on Classic Disney Romance, and I love a knight in shining armor as much as the next girl, but I much prefer love stories closer to life. Stories where girl meets guy, girl crushes on seemingly unattainable guy, guy realizes girl likes him, asks her out, they fall in love and they’re together forever. Stories where boy next door all of a sudden becomes the boy, they fall in love and they’re together forever (Cory and Topanga style). Am I slightly biased because one of these scenarios happens to be my love story? Perhaps. But I still maintain that the love in these stories is just as real, just as palpable, as any love-in-the-face-of-death is.

I’m a fan of the old-fashioned romance. No glitz or glamour, just…life. Anne and Gilbert – Anne hated Gilbert for most of their growing up because he made fun of her hair. It took him getting deathly ill to realize that she’d loved him the whole time. Betsy and Joe – Academic rivals from different circles who eventually realized that their differences weren’t enough to keep them apart. One of my all-time favorites is Willa’s story from Patricia MacLachlan’s sadly undervalued Unclaimed Treasures. (If you haven’t read it, do. It’ll change your life.) I’ve often related to Willa in that story. She wants her life to be adventurous and extraordinary, but what she doesn’t realize is that life is extraordinary in and of itself. Love is extraordinary in and of itself. Every now and then I need to remind myself of that. I definitely need to remind my sixth graders.

When I think about my relationship with Husband, I still get butterflies. In my head, he was so out of my league. He was gorgeous, and popular, two things that I was definitely not. I couldn’t sleep the night before our first date, and on that first date when he kissed me… I was a goner. That feeling never faded. I’ve spent the ten years that we’ve been together floating on cloud nine. I’ve never once feared for my personal safety with him. To the best of my knowledge, the government wasn’t after us because of our relationship. We’ve never battled opposing vampire clans or nearly died because our personal helicopter was sabotaged. We have, however, helped each other out when we’ve been sick. We’ve held each other through painful losses and incredible joys. We may not have a Red Room of Pain, but we do alright in that arena too (*wink wink*). My every breath is better because he’s in my life. That’s what love is, and it didn’t take a near-death experience for me to realize that.

Bella and Edward? They’re ok. Ana and Christian? Meh. I’ll take Willa and Horace any day.

My Summer Bucket List – Revisited

4 Sep

If there’s anything that my graduate program at the University has taught me, it’s how to be reflective. As teachers-in-training, we reflected on everything. While it may have seemed like tedious overkill at the time, I do think it’s ultimately helped me become a better teacher, and better in life at general. If you can’t look back on things you’ve done with an open mind and constructively criticize your work, then how can you possibly grow and do better? It’s with this thinking that I’d like to reflect now, my students’ first day of school, on my summer bucket list.

When I started summer, I had the following goals:

  • Finish my master’s degree
  • Read the books on my Summer reading list
  • Finish the first draft of my novel
  • Brush up on my French
  • Clear out the stack of magazines accumulating in my bedroom
  • Get caught up on my T.V. so I’m ready to go when the new seasons start

Here’s an update on the progress (or lack thereof) I’ve made:

Finish my master’s degree – Check! I must admit that this took up the bulk of my summer and was more time and energy-consuming than I had anticipated it might be. I am proud of the work I’ve accomplished and I can already tell that what I’ve learned this summer is going to help me leaps and bounds this upcoming school year. My only complaint is that even though I finished my degree the first week in August, it won’t be posted on my transcript until the 20th of September. *sigh* C’est la vie.

Read the books on my Summer reading list – Alas, my progress on this front was not so great. I’m not ashamed to admit that of the books on my list, the only ones I managed to actually read were the Fifty Shades of Grey books (more thoughts on that series coming soon). What is summer for if not for some erotica fluff reading? And, in my defense, I did read several books (and finish a magnificent manuscript courtesy of my friend Ali) that weren’t on my reading list.

Finish the first draft of my novel – I don’t want to talk about it. As per usual, I’m still nowhere near to finishing my novel. But, the summer wasn’t entirely a waste creatively. I did make some major headway on some transitions and parts of the story that I was really struggling with before. Slow and steady wins the race, folks.

Brush up on my French – Je parle français un petit peu.

Clear out the stack of magazines accumulating in my bedroom – Um, no. *slaps door shut*

Get caught up on my T.V. so I’m ready to go when the new seasons start – I’m not 100% caught up on everything, but again I’ve made significant progress here. I’m particularly happy that I was able to watch the entire first season of Revenge which has happily taken One Tree Hill‘s place as my guilty pleasure show. Fall T.V. can’t start soon enough!

While I didn’t accomplish everything on my list this summer, I do feel like I’ve had a successful Summer. The one thing that wasn’t on my list was spend mass amounts of quality time with my son. While my novel may not be complete and I still look like a magazine hoarder, I did spend many blissful days playing cars, trucks, etc. with Child, which makes me more than happy with the results of my Summer.

Here’s to another great school year!

Grasping at a Dream

2 Sep

Lately I’ve been having very intense, and very bizarre, dreams. I’ve been told by my fellow teachers that having panic-inducing dreams about the start of the school year is perfectly normal. But, the strange thing is that most of my dreams have nothing to do with school. Instead, they’re filled with phantom faces that I had forgotten existed and memories dusty from lack of recollection. They bring to mind ghosts of the past and some of the present that aren’t all terrifying, but leave me with that ache of nostalgia. A childhood park, bowling alleys, circus peanuts, hallways, basements, and the smell of Cucumber Melon lotion. Along with the images and smells are the sensations, ferocious in their depth. Two arms sharing an arm rest, painfully aware of their proximity to each other. The charged static of knowing who’s behind you and the ache of not turning around to meet their eyes.

I’ve never been one to examine the meaning behind dreams. I’ve had too many random, chaotic and utterly nonsensical ones to think that they’re anything but the scattered images of my subconscious. Still, it’s strange having so many of them leave me wanting to reach out and grasp…something. I’m far too blissfully happy in my own life to interpret the images of the past as something missing in my present. So instead I’ll take them for what they are: happy images of a wonderful childhood.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my novel (still a work in progress, but more on that later). It’s about a girl who’s roughly the age I was when I experienced most of these things that sleep has brought to the forefront of my mind. My hope is that what she experiences is as keenly real as what I felt growing up, and I thank my subconscious for reminding me what that’s like.

Colony Collapse

1 Sep

I have been told (by my computer) that I’m running out of space. Apparently I am a digital hoarder. In an attempt to clean out my computer’s hard drive, I’ve been going through the documents on my computer and deleting the ones that are expendable. As much as it pains me, I don’t think I still need the notes I took on my Mythology course in college seven years ago. Mixed in with all the rubble, I found a story that I had written some time ago for a flash fiction contest in the science fiction genre. It’s not my standard genre, there’s not an ounce of fact in this story, and it’s not the best I’ve ever written, so I’m not surprised that I didn’t win said contest. But all the same, I don’t think it’s terrible, which is why I’m sharing this almost-forgotten story with you all today.

The truth, if there was such a thing, was that she was responsible. But, then again, Truth had become subjective, if it existed at all.

It had started, as things often do, with the best of intentions.  They were trying to design an environmentally friendly pesticide.  Crazy, they called it; laughable in its absurdity.  There was no such thing as an environmentally friendly pesticide. 

Only there was. 

It was a genius idea, her idea, a pesticide designed to recognize the genetic makeup of the one insect it was designed to kill; a placebo to all other species.  Companies loved it.  The government loved it.  The world loved it.  It was rushed through testing and approval faster than any other pesticide in history, and for one blissful year, her life had been perfect.

Then the bees began to disappear.  At first it was just a colony here or there; mysterious, but not alarming.  But then the reports began in Belgium.  France.  Greece.  Portugal.  Ireland.  Taiwan.  It was the largest mass extinction since the dinosaurs.  When the bees were gone, the crops quickly followed.  Peaches, apples, pears, cherries, raspberries.  The list went on.  Fruit was now just a distant memory.  Her daughter, now seven, had never even tasted it.

Up until that point she had held on to the distant hope that they would rally, somehow.  Redesign fruit in the labs.  Artificially pollinate the crops.  The Farmer Rebellion had turned that dream to dust.  It played out like something in an apocalyptic novel.  Underground meetings.  A farmer’s wife encoding messages in her knitting like a modern-day Madame Defarge.  The capital never saw it coming.  They came in the night, in the thousands, with whatever they had.  The poverty-stricken, clutching homemade bombs and determination.  The larger farms had pooled their resources and invested in more advanced weaponry.

She told her daughter this, there, in the basement safe room of the lab because it was only a matter of time before They found her, and her daughter needed to know the truth.  If there was such a thing.