Friday, September 30, 2011

Just A Small Town Girl

I grew up in a small town in Maine. A very small town. As a result, I went to school with many of the same people from preschool through high school, and in one memorable case, all the way through to graduate school.

Imagining my life without these people -- well, it's sort of like imagining myself without a right  arm. I can kind of picture what that would be like, but at the same time, it seems like it would be difficult, if not impossible, to learn how to function properly. Whether I see them regularly (and I do see some of them regularly) or not, I think we remain in each other's consciousness.

We're a tribe, you see.

I didn't realize that this was special, our little community.  I thought it was kind of normal, that everyone got to have a band of people with whom they would learn to navigate the world. I didn't know I was lucky. Sometimes, in fact, I felt like all I wanted to do was escape -- maybe other people felt that way too, I don't know -- and run away to a place where I could be someone else, someone who was unknown and who could have a new history with new people.  Because despite all of the belonging, there were and are times when I have felt outside and separate, both a part of the tribe and an observer of the tribe. When I was younger, I thought it had something to do with my friends. Now I know it's not them at all, that the person who most frequently keeps myself outside is ... me.

As soon as I was able, I fled to college, where I wouldn't know anyone.

A year later, I came back. It became a pattern with me -- go, come back, go, come back. And every time -- every time! --  I am blessed to have people who see me and who know me, and who make room for me to come back when I am ready. They know, you see, that this is just the way I am. I don't have to explain it, and I don't have to justify it. They let me go and they take me back in.

They're family. The town we come from may be small, but the blessing of having these kinds of friends? Huge.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


As I get older and (theoretically) wiser, I find that my ... let's say capacity ... for going completely, off the charts, ridiculously bananas angry has been lessened. Not because people don't do things that make me mad -- trust me, they do, with alarming regularity -- but because I find that channelling my energy into rage is not productive, makes me tired, and, to be honest, is completely useless. Being mad at someone never really impacts the person you're mad at... it just impacts you as the holder of the rage, draining your spirit and your focus until you're a dried out husk of a human being, while the person who has caused the anger is merrily dancing through her day. Useless. Also? Sad.


Don't let the above fool you into believing that I am not capable of the occasional bout of complete, batshit crazy anger. I am. It just takes a lot to get me there.

I got there yesterday.

It wasn't pretty.

One of the many benefits to working from home is this: if you completely lose your shit, there is -- thank the Lord -- no one to SEE it. And my oh my, but did I lose it. There may have been cursing. There may have been dramatic hand gestures and stomping about. There was very nearly crying. There may have been phone calls to decry the nonsense that made me angry in the first place, text messages for sympathy and supportive co-rage from friends, a cup of coffee gulped down in anger (which I don't recommend, as I may also have seared off the roof of my mouth while hypothetically chugging the molten  lava coffee).

Afterwards, spent and with the roof of my mouth blistered, I realized that as cathartic as my little (and mostly private) tantrum was, NOTHING WAS DIFFERENT. Except me. I was tired and burned. Everything else was the same.

I sat on the couch and stared out the window, watching the clouds blow by in silence and realized:

I was being an idiot.

This comes to me with some regularity -- I frequently catch myself being an idiot -- so allow me to be more specific.

Being angry is acceptable. Getting mad is fine. Acting like a spoiled child is NOT.

However, making an honest effort to change or FIX what is making you angry and what has set you off in the first place?

That, my friend, is a plan.

Look -- we all have things that will make us angry. We have the right to our anger when we experience it, and we have the right to act on it in whatever way works for us. I'm just saying that raging tantrums no longer work for me. What will work for me is trying to make a positive impact and working to fix whatever it is that is making me angry or unhappy. And maybe I won't be able to do so. Maybe sometimes the way to fix something is to walk away from it. If so, that's okay, but at least instead of wearing myself out, I'll know that I did something.

Something other than walking around t-rex style, roaring and gnashing my teeth, as amusing as that might be to onlookers.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

All Soul's Food

I have two overriding memories of Halloween from my youth:

1. I grew up in Maine, where October can -- and sometimes should -- be considered winter lite so no matter what your costume was, you were sort of going to look like the Stay-Puft Marshmellow Man once you put your parka on over the costume... and the parka was ABSOLUTELY necessary due to the cold. Good times.

2. Once I got egged. In the head/face. While my sister and cousins pointed and laughed ... which, actually, is sort of what always happened when my sister and I hung out with my cousins... which might explain why I liked to stay inside and read more than I liked going outside to play. (It's a funny story, but not for right now.)

Despite those two ... inconveniences ... I love Halloween for the same reason I love theatre. I love a costume. I love the "Look, now I'm someone else! Someone different! Maybe someone cooler, prettier, less likely to get egged in the noggin or mocked by her cousins!"* I LOVE dressing up.

I love it, but I haven't done it in YEARS.

I have to confess, whenever I catch myself saying something like that, something along the lines of "Oh I love that and I haven't done it in forever," I am forced to wonder: What am I waiting for?  Why do I -- why do any of us -- forget that it's important to play, to do the things that we enjoy and that make us laugh? Why do the things that we love get shot so far down the list of important stuff to do that we just stop doing them?

I'm not suggesting that the other stuff -- the less fun stuff -- on the list isn't important. It is. I'm just also suggesting that the things that you love -- the things that make you happy, that bring you joy -- shouldn't be dismissed as unimportant, or pushed out of your life because, you know, there's work and dishes to do and soccer games to go to and homework to finish. Those things are important. So too is making the time to do something you love, whether that's going to the movies or taking a hike or putting together a Halloween costume.

Doing things that you love? Feeds your soul, which is every bit as important as feeding your stomach. Try to make some time for it. And so this year, I am silly with the costume fun. I'm not going to tell you what I'm going to be, but I will say: It's involved. It's over the top in terms of investment. And oh my, I am excited.

 (Don't worry. Pictures will be posted).

*Not that I'm holding on to that. Clearly.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

If Wishes Were Horses -- I'd Have a Bunch of Horses I Don't Want

I was sitting in my office, thinking about something I'd like to have happen in my life, when it was like Captain Obvious walked up to me and punched me in the face with a fistfull of reality:

Things don't just "happen". You have to DO SOMETHING.

This may strike you as a no brainer, which makes me think you're remarkably more astute than I am. However, as logical as it is, I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only one who falls into the "I wish..." trap, where we desire something without wanting to do any work whatsoever to get it.

For example (and disclaimer: the below do NOT reflect the things I am wishing for. Except for #3. Because, really.):

1. "I wish I was thinner," frequently means: "I wish that I could magically lose weight through the power of my mind, without having to do any exercise and while snarfing down these Doritos."

2. "I wish I was in a relationship" frequently means: "Despite the fact that I rarely, if ever, make any kind of effort to meet anyone and often discuss how much people bug me, I wish George Clooney would show up, knock on my door, and declare his undying devotion to my sweatpant-clad self."

3. "I wish my eyebrows didn't look so unruly right now" means "I have no desire to groom these hairy caterpiller brows that are crawling across my forehead, so instead of sucking it up, I'm just going to wish for less unruly-ness."

But wishing for anything -- a smaller ass, a partner, or groomed eyebrows that look perfect when raised in an expression of incredulity -- doesn't make the thing materialize.

You have to do something. Go for walk. Meet people. Get out the tweezers. SOMETHING. Because the power to make your wishes into reality is completely your own.  It's not like the Wish Fairy is just handing this stuff out -- "Oh look, she is nice to puppies! Get the magic weight loss wand!" --  she wants to know you're holding up your end of the bargain by makng an effort. (Plus, it's easy to be nice to puppies. It's harder to do that extra rep of sit ups. Only one of those is going to result in a thinner body.)

I'm okay with the fact that I can't have everything I want in life. I get that.

I'm no longer okay with the fact that I could totally have some of the things I'd like, and only don't have them because, essentially, I'm too lazy to do anything about GETTING them.

Which is why, among other things, I now have a date with some tweezers.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Out of Contexts

I'm sorry if you hate these posts, but a) they make me giggle and b) they are  perfect for Mondays, so I think they need to be a regular feature.


"You should empty the dishwasher." "Why? The dishes just moved in and they're so happy there."


"Could I get a large chai?" "The large is ... excessively large." "Then could I have an excessively large chai?"


"You don't need a neti pot. You need a mouthful of wasabi. Same effect, a little more pain, but without the sensation that you might drown."


"You bought RAMEN?" "The cheap food content in my blood was low. It was that or Taco Bell."


"If we're going to do to the full on breakdown of the emotional crisis, I'm going to need at least one pint of Ben & Jerry's."


"Let's review: Who's the boss of you?" "You are?" pause "Okay, yes, but who else?" "Um ... Me?"


"You keep using that word.  I do not think--" "If you quote Princess Bride right now I will hurt you. Dramatically."


"The people demand Diet Coke!" "They only have Pepsi." "The people. They are sorely disappointed."


"Halloween is better than Thankgiving. Because there are costumes. And festivities. And the likelihood that you might stab someone with a meat fork is lower."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Just Saying No

So yesterday, someone who I normally enjoy and care for deeply posted something on his facebook wall that I found both racist and offensive. I'm not going to repost it here, but let's say this:

1) In terms of offensiveness, it wasn't off the charts. However, it was offensive enough that my first reaction was one of "That's so not cool."

2) I didn't quite know what to do about it.

I once saw an interview with Maya Angelou in which she said that if she has guests, and one of them tells a racist/sexist/ offensive joke, she asks them to leave (and to be honest, I can't imagine that this happens very often. Who would go to MAYA ANGELOU'S house and tell an offensive joke? Can you imagine?), because she cannot condone that sort of speech under her roof. I applaud the sentiment, but I'm not that bold.

I don't think I am, anyway.

Also, I should say that I think the terms racist/ homophobic/ sexist are interchangable in some ways because they all boil down to the same thing: hatred. Hatred, intolerance, and ignorance.

So there I am, at my computer. Staring at the feed upon which has appeared this little smidgen of ickyness, and wondering: Do I BLOCK the posts from this person? Is that the facebook equivalent of kicking someone out of your house? Is that even warranted here?

Do I say something? Do I NOT say something? I don't want to alienate my friend. But I also don't want him to think that what he's posted is okay with me, because it's not in any way okay.

I looked at the screen. And then I hesitantly typed  into the comment box that I found his post offensive.

Listen --  I don't think my friend is a racist/homophobic/hateful jerk.


I also think we let things go ALL of the time, things that could be hurtful but that, you know, are on the edge of the line. They haven't crossed the line, exactly, but they're standing on it.

And then I think of Jamey Rodemeyer, a kid who was bullied until he killed himself and I think, it all starts somewhere. With something that is not HORRIBLE, but iffy. Someone throws something out there and waits to see if anyone will step up and say "this is not okay." And when no one does, the speaker -- and his audience -- can become more bold ... and more bold ... and more hurtful ... until finally, some well meaning people saying that it gets better isn't enough to get someone through another day.

Again, my friend, who posted this thing on facebook? Isn't hateful or horrible. He's actually nice, funny, and kind. I just felt like -- we have to draw the line. We have to say when we're not okay with something. We have to tell someone "I expect more from you."

So I did. Because -- maybe THIS is how change happens. One person at a time. Just saying no. No, I won't listen to you saying these things. No, I won't sit silently while you do. No, I won't condone this speech. No, I will not let you sink to this level. 

And yes, my friend, I DO expect more from you.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Once Upon a Time, The End.

The 10th Doctor once said: ""People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly... timey-wimey... stuff."*

However, until Time Travel becomes widely available, for our intents and purposes, Time is linear.**

Which means that all things have both a beginning and ... an end. 

Everyone loves a beginning, especially a good one. No one, I don't think, loves an end, as inevitable as they are, and messy endings are held in particularly low regard.

This summer had some messy endings. Threads, shall we say, were not neatly snipped. They were sort of frayed beyond recognition, until they finally let go.

I'm okay with it. I have to be. I can't reverse the flow of time and change anything (sadly lacking a TARDIS), so I have to learn to live with what's happened -- a task that, as I get older, I find easier and easier. Perhaps because I have learned that LIFE is like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff that you get to look at, take apart, put back together, and learn from.

The learning is important. So too, I've finally figured out, is then releasing whatever came with the ending. It might be joy or laughter -- if so, good for you! Some endings are happy ones. Releasing that into the world is a wonderful thing, good for everyone around you. It might be stress or resentment or anger or sorrow. Let that go, too -- holding onto the weight of that can't be good for you. Putting those burdens down frees your arms to pick something else back up.

Because things end.  They have to.  And once they have, something else can begin. Time may be linear, but possibility reaches out to infinity.

*Oh yeah, I just quoted Dr Who. Because I am a dork.

**With the exception of Sunday afternoons, which stretch out into etermity in all directions. They're a special case.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What's In a Name?

When your name is Danielle, you have to get used to people wanting to call you "Dani" because they think it's sassy and fun and cute.

While I FREELY admit to being all of those things,* I need to be very upfront about this: I am NOT a Dani.

But that doesn't keep people from trying to make me into one. Actual conversation on the phone, with a previous co-worker: "Heyyyyyyy Dani!" (pause) "Do people call you Dani?"

"Not people who want to live," I said, sweetly.

He got the hint.

Here's the thing: my dad? Is named Daniel. Often shortened to Danny. So if HE was Danny and I was Dani -- well, how freaking confusing would that be? It would be RIDICULOUS.

Plus, "Dani" strikes me as a name for a person wholly different from myself. Dani Hayes Balentine would have dotted her i's with little hearts. She would have figured out the weight thing when she was a little girl. She would be nicer, less acerbic. She would have taken dance classes and gymnastics and learned to do a proper cartwheel.

She would have gone to business school, I think. She'd wear suits to work, carry a briefcase, drive a BMW. She would be married and have two kids. And a dog. She wouldn't be afraid of horses and would collect antiques and would have a family portrait that was taken at the Cape tastefully framed and hanging above the fireplace in her large, artfully decorated home.**

All of which sound like a nice life, to be honest. But it's not MY life.

I'm not a Dani.

I'm a Danielle. I'm sometimes a Dee. My mother HATES that nickname, but I like it, if only because it's much easier to sign things "Dee Balentine" than it is to get Danielle Balentine to fit on a signature for ANYTHING. I mean, really. It's a long assed name.

I'm also frequently a Yellie. It's a little weird to me if someone I've only just met hears someone call me Yellie and then jumps on the Yellie bandwagon, because it's really a name that old friends and family use, and I kind of feel like you have to EARN the right to call me Yellie. (Also? It's always Yellie, never Yelly. Why? I don't know why. That's just how it is.)

Why am I talking about this?

Because I am considering changing my name.

Before you start thinking I've gone off the deep end, let me explain: I'm thinking about changing my LAST name, because it's my married name and I'm not married anymore. I intended to do it a while ago, but what with frequent flying and the ridiculousness of paperwork and the fact that I'm known professionally with my current name, it's been a big old pain in the tochas and I haven't done it.

Plus, I think it's a nice, solid name. Despite the fact that it's ridiculously long, it has weight and character. I've been through a lot as Danielle Hayes Balentine, and I think I've earned the right to have whatever name I want.

And I think maybe ... maybe I want my old name back.

But I still don't want anyone to call me Dani.

*She said, modestly

**This is the kind of narrative I dream up on not enough sleep and waaaaay too much diet coke

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


My doctor once told me that she wasn't sure if I had anxiety because I was depressed, or if I was depressed because of the anxiety. Then she decided it didn't matter, because either way, I was depressed and prone to panic attacks, so she prescribed some meds and off I went.

For the record? The meds worked very well.

And then I was NOT on the meds, because my health insurance was suddenly and abruptly discontinued (fun with divorcing) and I couldn't afford them.* And then I moved and just sort of ... never went back on them.

For the past several months, I've been having  -- what's the word -- episodes. Which is a understated way of saying that for the past few months I've been having the worst panic attacks EVER in which I find myself sort of ... forgetting to breathe? Which is kind of awkward because you know, breathing. Important. Or getting caught in ocdish anxiety loops which are ... well, if you've ever had one, you know. If you haven't, imagine putting a cd on repeat for one single song and then leaving it that way for two or three days and just having to listen to the same song, over and over. You don't have the option of listening to something else. No other music actually exists for you. All you've got is that one song. Now imagine doing that with an issue in your life -- it's all you've got. It's all consuming.  You have nothing else.

Not. Enjoyable.

Exhausting, actually.

So I finally decided that I wanted to be done with it... but I wanted to see if I could try something behavioral rather than something chemical. Not because I don't like being on meds ... I don't mind it, and they're SO helpful ... but because I don't want to PAY for the meds.

After some research and lessons on meditation, etc, I have discovered that I can get myself unstuck when I start to spiral by giving myself a key phrase.

That phrase is: "I don't have to worry about this right now." And then I have to find something else to do so that I actually CAN'T get started with the fretting.

It works because not only do I commit to finding myself a distraction (often, cleaning something) but I also am giving myself permission to worry about whatever it is LATER if I need to. By telling myself that I don't have to worry right now, I have acknowledged that a) it's okay to worry, if worry is merited, and b) that feeling anxious is permissible sometimes and doesn't have to be a negative thing.

Does it work all of the time? No. But it works MOST of the time... which, frankly, is good enough for me.  I don't need perfection -- I just need to get through each day, one at a time, as best as I can.  And for the days it doesn't work?

I don't have to worry about those right now.

*NEVER EVER go cold turkey off depression meds, by the way. Potentially fatal. And quite uncomfortable as your heart tries to remember what it's supposed to be doing -- "Oh right ... BEATING ... that's my job ... "

Monday, September 19, 2011

Conversations from Last Weekend, Taken Out of Context

Some of these are things I said. Some of these were said by others. Either way? It was a delightfully silly weekend.


"This is a song about a bad breakup." (audience cheers) "It's weird to me when y'all cheer for sad songs. Depression! Yaaaaaaaay!"


"I thought we had broken up, but it turns out I was just being melodramatic."


"This is JUST like high school." (pause) "Only, you know, way better. Because now I don't have a curfew."


"Whenever I drink bourbon, my taste buds get pissed off."


"Because, you know, I like my job, but it's not, like, I'm volunteering there, so getting paid is nice."


"Remember the last time we came here?" "Yeah, my husband left me the next day." "Ooooooh. Do you want to go someplace else?" "No, it's cool. Since we're divorced, he can't leave me AGAIN. And plus, sushi."


"No one should look that good in a jeans and a tshirt. I'm pretty sure that's not legal." "Yeah, Massachusetts has some weird laws."


"Dancing is mandatory, not optional. How do people not KNOW that?"


"Eel. Even the word feels slimy. Just say it: Eeeeeeeeeelllllll."


"Is that caviar?" "Yeah, I pretend I don't see it."


"Who loves you more than Auntie? NO ONE!" (whispers) "Other people will say that they do. They are TOTALLY lying."


"Look!!! Old People!" "Hahaha, funny." "I like it when old people are cool. We're going to be cool when we're old." "Yeah." "Wait, are we cool now? We are, right?"


"Furniture is NOT a jungle gym. Furniture is not for jumping on." "But what if the floor is made of lava?!" "Yeah, kids today don't play that game." GASP. "But ... that's ... sad." "Yeah, well, not if it means no one is jumping on the couch."


"I just bought coffee and gargoyles. But I'm not going to give the coffee TO the gargoyles." (completely serious) "That would be weird."


"I feel like if I knew her, we'd be friends. Because she's mental. Like me!"


"If it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, then it's ... well, it's not a squid."


 "It's like all of their music is stripper music." (Singer, from the stage:"I'm not singing this next song until I see some clothes coming off!") Shrug "Well, apparently they are aware of that."


"That drummer looks like Nic Cage." "Well, he did need a backup job."


"Of COURSE you like him. He's age inappropriate. You only like guys who are eligible for AARP. But I love that about you."


"We should invent a board game." "We should. Because you know what will happen? Someone else will totally steal that idea and make a million dollars." "And then we'll be sad." "We'll be SO sad."


"It kind of sucks that I'm wearing shoes right now."


"I'm easily distracted by shiny things. I should probably have a tshirt that says that. So people are warned."


"Hey -- DON'T put this in your blog."


Friday, September 16, 2011


I think of writing a blog as the electronic equivalent of scribbing a message on a piece of paper, putting that into a bottle, and tossing it into the ocean. Maybe the post will wash up on someone's screen. Maybe it won't. You hope it will be read, but you don't know. Sometimes, if the post is personal and emotional to you, it's a war between "Will anyone read this?" and "Dear God, I hope no one reads this"

Yesterday's post was one of those. It's easy to come up with a list of random things to make people laugh, but hard to put a part of your heart on display. But I do it -- so many of us do -- because it's the heart that makes us human, and those little pockets of vulnerability are where we're able to connect with each other. And yet -- it's not always comfortable to turn out those pockets and show people what's inside.

At least, it's not comfortable at first. But then sometimes you receive the most astonishing and warm outpouring of love. Which is what happened with yesterday's post, and which is why I postponed today's scheduled post because I wanted to say some additional things:

1. The school where I worked is a place where magical, extraordinary things happen in the classroom on a regular basis. Much of the administration that was there at the time that I left has also moved on. I didn't intend the post as an indictment of the entire system, or to point at the school and say that it was a bad place, or a place you shouldn't send your children. I am a FIRM believer in the public school system, and have always been very supportive of this school. I will say that in this particular instance, the system failed, and it failed significantly. But the teachers at that school? Phenomenal.

2. I said several times yesterday, and will say again, that in hindsight, while the system failed, I also believe that I failed. I could -- and should -- have stayed and fought, and I did not. I could have used what happened to me as a platform for making the system better and safer for the entire community, and I failed to do so. Change does not happen through silence and submission, and I deeply regret that I didn't fight back so that, in the future, anyone who found herself in that lobby, facing down that student, would have the tools and the support that she needed. That I didn't do so is on me. I need to own that.

3. The responses that I have received from other teachers and former students have -- how can I say it? You have changed my perspective. I sometimes think that I was not effective in the classroom, and that as much as I loved teaching, that I didn't make much of an impact. The messages I have received from students since yesterday have been a gift, and I can't thank ANY of you enough. You are a wonderful group, and you hold the whole world in your hands. It's yours -- go get it.

4. Finally. Someone asked me if, knowing what I know now, I would step in front of that boy again. And to that I say, firmly, "Yes." Doing nothing was not an option. Someone needed to step in, not only to protect them from each other, but also to protect the other people in the lobby -- and that made it worth everything that happened after. Every single minute.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

September Mourn

"So, what do you do?" he asks, taking a sip of his drink.

"Oh," I said, hesitating. "Well, right now I manage a company. But I used to be a teacher."

I used to teach high school.

I don't know if this is the case for everyone who teaches, but for me, being a teacher was an essential part of my identity. I felt like it made me who I was. What am I? I am a teacher. What else?

I didn't quite know.

But I knew that I was a teacher.

This is the story of how I stopped being a teacher.

I am standing in the lobby of the high school with two other teachers. We are standing in front of the police office, which is empty -- unbeknownst to us, there is a meeting upstairs in the principal's office regarding a potential fight between two students -- and student traffic is moving through as usual. Not a big deal.

Then suddenly, it is a big deal. Two students face off and start swinging.

I look at one of the women and say, "Get help."

The teacher's handbook -- and teacher training, at least in my experience -- doesn't tell you what to do when two teenage boys, who are bigger than you, are fully engaged in battle. However, it is often stressed that student safety is vital and important. In the small section regarding fights, it does tell you to clearly identfy yourself as a teacher.

I think I did that. I knew both of the students, so I knew it was a moot point, but I think I remember saying "You need to stop! I'm a teacher!" before I stepped in.

I think.

When I step into the fray, the student in front of me looks me full in the face and smiles.  And then he swings. I take the blow in the side of my head. At the same time, the student behind me also swings. I take that punch in the kidneys. The pain is unbelievable.  I am knocked to the ground.

I reach out and catch the legs of the boy in front of me. I am being dragged across the floor. I get kicked, mid body and again, in the side of the head. Somehow, my glasses don't fall off.

The principals and police officer are meeting upstairs about THIS fight. They had advance warning of it, but we weren't notified.

The students involved had a grudge against each other, but they planned out where they would fight. They chose the lobby for exposure, I found out after. They WANTED to be seen. They wanted to be talked about.

I knew that to be the case the instant that the student who first punched me smiled at me, though.

One of my students is built like a wall. He wades in and catches the student in front of me, locking his arms behind his back. "That's enough!" he says, and it gets quiet in the lobby.

I manage to get up. The student who was behind me is corralled into an office. Brandon -- my current hero -- marches the other student into the police office.

I go into the cafeteria -- keeping an eye on the door of the police office -- to get more help. One of my coworkers sees me and says, "What happened?" I tell him and ask for assistance.

Then I start to cry.

The administration made me go to the nurse's office and then sent me home. I was a teacher who got sent home for being in a fight. It was very, very odd. The principal called to see how I was, but had to leave me a message.

I press charges, but am told that it is unlikely that anything will come of it. Two days later, I am in the dean's office, talking to the secretary. One of the deans -- a woman I considered a friend, who had been in my wedding -- comes to me and says, "Who have you been talking to?"


"What happened the other day is all over the community." She looks angry.

I have a moment of speechlessness. "It was in the LOBBY," I finally say slowly. "There were a lot of people there."

"You need to protect the school," she says, and walks away.

For the record, this is what happened when two students kicked my ass:

They were both suspended for five days, for fighting with each other. They would be back to school in a week.

No one told me.

I am walking up the stairs when the student who first punched me in the head appears. It is my prep period, and the corridors are mostly empty. He leans in -- way in -- and corners me at the landing. I have nowhere to go.

"You pressed charges," he says, "and it's jacking up my probation. And now I'm not going to graduate on time." He is in my space. I am leaning back against the railing and then I notice one of my students -- William -- standing watch from near the learning center. He is not doing anything but standing, and I know it's because he's worried.

I might say something to the student who is trying -- and succeeding -- to intimidate me, but I don't know what it is. I do call out to William, casually, conversationally, and then push away, careful not to touch the student who is in my face, so as not to be accused of anything later -- and walk over to where he is standing.

"I wouldn't let him hurt you," Will says.

That moment -- where a young man stood up for me when he didn't have to, because he wanted to make sure I was okay -- will always be one of the things I remember when I think about my teaching career. When a teenager took the time to make sure that I was safe.

And when the school that I worked for did not.

In the next few weeks, the student who smiled before he struck me, who cornered me at the top of the stairs, began hanging out in our classroom area, cutting through it between classes, always making sure that I saw him there. I reported it, and was told that he would be spoken to.

They might have spoken with him. I don't know. It didn't stop.

The other student didn't appear in my classroom, but instead sent his sister and his friends to complain to me that I was lying, that he hadn't struck me, that he had nothing to do with it. His sister told me that I should know better.

Better than what?

I am walking to my car after school when I see the student who's been stalking me in the teacher parking lot, just hanging out. He waves to me and says, "So THAT'S your car."

 I have finally had enough.

I turned in my resignation. I would not be finishing the year, but would leave permanently at April break. The principal asked me if this had anything to do with the fight.

I should have told the truth, but I lied. I lied because I thought I might want to teach somewhere else, and didn't want to be labeled a troublemaker. I lied because I was done. I was tired of being scared, I was tired, period, and I was worn down and wanted it to go away.

I'm not proud of it.

"No," I said. "I'm just looking for other opportunities."

He sat back in his chair. "Well, I'm glad," he said. As though it was perfectly normal for a teacher suddenly to quit mid-year. As though neither of us knew that I was lying through my teeth and that I would be looking over my shoulder every time I walked out of my classroom between that moment and my final day there.

It is my last day. My students and coworkers have thrown me a party. The kids know why I am leaving even though I have told them the same lie I told the principal, and have made me a book with kind, brilliant notes and well wishes. It is beautiful.

Walking away is one of the loneliest feelings I will ever have.

I still have the book. I look through it at the beginning of every September when I feel amiss, like there is something that I should be doing, when school supplies go on sale and my friends who are still in the classroom talk about prepping for the academic year.

It makes me proud -- of who I was, of who my students were and who they've become. It also makes me sad, because I feel like something was stolen from me, something I loved and that I can't get back.

So if you ask me what I do, I will tell you: I work from home. I manage a small company based out of Utah.

And I used to be a teacher.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I find myself swimming in a pool full of "I don't get it" today, so I thought I'd share some of what is making my brain hurt a little as I puzzle through.

1. It's all  Greek (yogurt) to me

So there's regular yogurt -- the kind I've been eating and not enjoying for years -- and now there's also Greek yogurt. (Which is probably not a new development in Greece, but it's fairly new to my local, decidedly not hip supermarket.)

People seem to love the Greek yogurt. A LOT. To the extent that every yogurt maker and his Uncle Kostos are now marketing Greek yogurt.

I don't like regular yogurt, but I admit, my curiosity was engaged by the way people rave about the deliciousness of the Greek version, so I tried it. Then, convinced I must be missing something vital, I tried several MORE brands. In several more flavours. And I have to say to all of the Greek Yogurt praising folk out there: People, I think you've been snowed. It's just as yucky as regular yogurt.

I don't get it.

2. Feeding your baby is a REALLY big deal

Okay, so obviously, despite the fact that I don't now and never have had a baby, I know you have to feed them. I'm not 100% comfortable around babies, but I'm not dumb.

I just didn't realize until so many of my friends started having babies what a minefield the "how and what you feed your infant" is.

Oh boy. It's a vicious, vile, weapons hurling, insult flinging, heaping helping of crazy. The militant breastfeeder people think that giving your child formula -- or even admitting the existence of formula -- is a crime against humanity and that a mom who is horrible enough to give her child formula is unfit and should probably lose custody of that child and then be stoned in public. Because -- the HORROR.

And the militant formula people NEVER want to see breastfeeding occuring. EVER. Please, mothers of infants, they ask, do not have the audacity to breastfeed in PUBLIC. Where innocent eyes might see -- a breast! Oh, the HUMANITY! Have you no SHAME?

 I don't get it. Babies need food. Breast milk is food. Formula? Is also food.  So maybe you, Crazy Breastfeeding Lady, don't want to give your baby formula. Fine with me. And maybe you, Crazy Formula Lady, don't want to watch someone breastfeed. It's called "LOOKING AWAY" -- give it a go. Either way, don't we all want the same things? Babies with full bellies? Babies who aren't hungry? Don't new moms have enough on their plate without also being made to feel ashamed of their choices regarding how to feed their babies?

3. Single White Female Seeking ... Sanity

I was talking about dating sites last night with a friend. I'm not currently using a dating site because my tangling with a very popular site went sideways. I won't name it directly, but it rhymes with ZCarmoney. Do with that what you will.


This dating site doesn't offer services to gay people. No matches for the gay people!

However, it did match me with several MARRIED people.

For this site, Gay = Bad. But ADULTEROUS = A-ok.

Is it me, or is that jacked beyond all recognition? I don't get it!

Sigh. The world. It is a confusing place.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Snippets of Letters I Will Never Send

Dear A --

I was thinking of you yesterday, and it actually made me smile. Apparently I've forgiven you, despite the fact that you seem determined to be an incredible asshat. Oops, maybe I haven't totally forgiven you. But still, I smiled. That's something, isn't it?

Dear B --

I know that I hurt you, and you know that I didn't mean to. We were just two people who were standing in the same station, but who were never meant to get on the same train. We're destined to be different places... but I'm glad to have been able to share those moments with you, as temporary as they were. You've made the trip more bearable.

Dear C --

What. The. Hell ?!?!!? No, really. WHAT THE HELL?

Dear D --

It's no secret that you don't like me. You've never liked me. The difference is that I've stopped caring.  I hope you have a truly marvelous life and find some sort of contentment; I'm going to go do my thing now. Good luck to you.

Dear E --

You saved my life. "Thank you" doesn't seem like enough, but since you keep refusing my efforts to give you a kidney or a first born or all of my money, it's going to have to do. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. (I'm holding the kidney in reserve, though. Keep me posted.)

Dear F --

I don't know how it is that you keep showing up -- either you're in my orbit or I'm in yours -- but every time you do, it reminds me that a) I am blessed and b) that love doesn't have to be complicated and showy and fancy. It can be as warm and comforting as an old, beloved sweater... is it weird that I just compared you to a sweater? Or are you laughing because you totally get it? I'm going for the latter ...

Dear G --

I refer to you as "Incredibly Sketchy G" among my friends, but there's something about you... I can't decide if that something is super annoying (it might be) or unbelievably attractive. FRUSTRATING. And also, why you get to be the Sketchmeister. I suspect that it's all part of your evil plan.

Dear H --

Thank you for being my family, for gently and quietly drawing me in until I felt included and loved, and for giving me someplace to escape to when I need a little more normal, and for making my usual brand of crazy just seem like a quirk and not like, you know, actual insanity. And also for being willing to read my run on sentences when they get a little out of control. And for being tolerant of my sentences that start with "and" because I can't seem to stop doing that.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Wait ... What?

This weekend generated some double-takes and random observations. Which of course I must share with you.
One:  while cleaning my kitchen I found that I am the proud owner of ... a cleaver.

I don't know where the cleaver came from. It appears to have arrived as part of a set, with the rest of my knives, but to be completely honest I can't remember where THOSE came from. I suspect that they may have been a wedding present, but it would have to have been from someone who doesn't know me very well because seriously? A CLEAVER? I have no business holding, attempting to utilize, or in any way touching a crazy sharp cleaver.

Because it's all heavy and slice-y. And I'm all accident prone and cuttable.

Plus, having a cleaver in my kitchen seems like an invitation for something horror movie-ish to take place. Not that the house is big enough for me not to SEE the psycho in the kitchen with the cleaver -- it is -- but still.

The cleaver might have to go.

Two: I am also the proud owner of an electric heating pad.

So this is what happened: I am a klutz.

I was in my friend's car, driving back from a soccer game (more on that in a moment) and she was all "Let's stop and get a soda" and I was super thirsty so I was in agreement, but my purse was in the back seat so I twisted around and reached. And reaaaaached. Apparently, I like to ... "forget" ... that one of my shoulders is totally held together with duct tape and wishes. (Well, not true. It's held together with screws and prayers) and was like, no no, I'm really SUPER BENDY!

I am not super bendy.

I pulled every muscle between shoulder of doom and my left ear. I also may have conked SOD right out of commission.


And also?


The only way to apologize to the muscles for being all "Whee I'm Plastic Woman" was muscle relaxing drugs and heat. But I didn't have an electric heating pad, I only had one of the ones you microwave -- which is awesome, but not handy -- so I had to go buy one.

I felt like I was 100000 years old when I creaked my way into the Wallyworld and picked one up.

But laying on the toasty warm goodness later? PURE heaven.

Three: There's ticks in them there fields

As a person who got an extra sprinkling of obssessive compulsive dust, I have a laundry list of things that I really ... REALLY ... don't enjoy.

One of them is ticks. You might be thinking to yourself, okay, no one ENJOYS the ticks, so -- what's the big deal.

You would be missing the bigger freak out.

Here's what would happen if I found a tick on me: First, I would probably pass out. Because -- TICK. AERRRRRGGGHHHH TICK GETITOFFGETITOFFGETITOFF hyperventilation would be occuring, and lack of oxygen has been known to result in unconsciousness.

Second, I would probably have to be tranq'd.

Third -- I suspect an emergency room would be next. Or a straightjacket. Or ... both. Both seems likely.

Because of the tick thing, I also don't do ... lawns/playingfields/ grass of any kind. I don't walk barefoot on it, I don't sit on it, I don't enjoy the grass.

But on Saturday -- I don't know what happened. I was at a soccer game, watching a bunch of 11 year old girls play soccer and all of a sudden I was SITTING ON THE GRASS. And kind of enjoying it. And not freaking out. (well, a little bit freaking out when I realized that a tick could potentially climb down my pants. But I somehow got over it)

I still don't know what to make of it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

I and Love and You

I'm trying to think of a good way to launch into this post, but perhaps there isn't one. So instead of trying to be crafty, I'll be blunt.

My friend's baby has cancer.

I have rewritten this follow up sentence about 10 times, and keep deleting what I have typed because none of them convey anything that carries any meaning. Nothing that I can say next matters, I don't think, except that her baby is sick, her world is crumbling, and she is fighting in ways that I cannot comprehend or express.

I will not tell her story here, as it is hers to tell and not mine. My story, in connection to this, is a sense of helplessness. I would so, so like to find a way to put my shoulder under a corner of the load she is carrying and lift some of it for her.

Because when you love someone, that's what you do. You try to help. In big ways, and in small ones. You listen and you encourage and you lend a hand and you give a hug and you make sure that no one is alone who doesn't want to be, and you keep doing it for as long as it takes, whenever it takes.

Sometimes, that's all there is... and it's the best there is.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Last One about 9/11

This is the last 9/11 related post I will write. Not that I've devoted so much time to it, mind you, but so many people have so many more interesting things to say about that day, and much more effective ways of expressing it, that I feel like anything I might say is weak in comparison.

So this is it.

And it's about a woman who is sort of my hero.

Her name is Lauren Manning.

If you've never heard of her, here's a little bit of her story.On September 11th, she was walking into One World Trade Center just as the plane hit.  A fireball went down the elevator bank and shot into the lobby. She was engulfed in flame -- burned over 80% of her body. She ran out of the building -- ON FIRE -- and was able to get help.

She says she made a choice. She decided to live. For herself, for her husband, for her 10 month old baby. She wasn't going to give up. She was going to fight.

And she did. She fought through rehab and surgery and years of physical therapy, and she's still here, despite ridiculous odds.

I've never met Lauren Manning, and I probably never will, but she is one of my heroes. Because she chose to fight when it would have been easy to surrender. Because she decided that she wouldn't quit, no matter how much it hurt or how hard it was.

I think that we all took different lessons from 9/11/2001. This is the one I've carried with me: you can never quit. In the face of adversity, you need to be willing to fight. And you have the strength to succeed, at whatever it is. Nothing is as strong as your will to triumph.

I don't know what the terrorists wanted to teach us and, frankly, I don't care. I know what I have learned from Lauren Manning -- and hers is the far more important lesson.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Out of Office

So on Friday I have to go to meet with a client.

On the one hand: Yay! I get to leave the office!

On the other hand: OMG! I have to leave the office!

I've been working from home for the past four years. As I've mentioned in a few places, the dress code in my home office is VERRRRRRRRY relaxed and includes some things that I should really reconsider leaving the house in. For example, today I'm wearing my favorite jeans, which have glow in the dark gel from light sticks permanently smeared into the cuffs because I wore them to Neon Night with 30 Seconds to Mars, a black t shirt with a skull made up of hot pink reflective dots printed on the front of it, and no shoes (which lets me admire my recently manicured, painted black toenails). Oh and my hot pink, chunky g-shock. 

Pros: I'm comfy. And I actually match.

Cons: this is pretty much how I dress every day. And I absolutely can't meet a client like this.

Oh, and did I mention? I dyed my hair purple. Not ALL purple, mind you. And not Cosplay plastic wig purple (that reference may not make sense to you. If it does, you just got a amusing picture in your mind of anime-esque violet hair. That's not what my hair looks like), but purple nontheless. With of course, the reasoning that I work from home. I never have to meet clients!


In addition to dying my hair purple, I also cut it super short. Which means that the tat on the back of my neck is MUCH more visible. Which is super fun, but which also -- well, let's say this. There are industries that fully support this look. Unfortunately, I don't work in one of them.

I work with banks.

As I was putting my Converse on this morning so I could go to the dumpster, I wondered how this transition came about. Once upon the time, you see, I was a high school teacher. A well dressed one, who wore heels every day and had long, "normal" hair.  Nine years later, I have traded in my professional adult clothes for tshirts and hoodies.

But are you happy now? I asked myself as I trudged through the rain. Were you happy then?

I am happy. I tend to look like a delinquent college student -- I get carded more and more often, as though I'm aging in reverse -- but I'm happy. Disheveled and probably inappropriate, but pretty damn content.

Except for when I have to meet a client.

It'll be fine. I'm sure I have a dress, somewhere, that I can pair with a suit jacket-y thing. And some heels. In fact, I know that I do.

And it's got some purple in it. Which should just match my hair.

This should be interesting.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Thoughts for a Tuesday

I think it was John Lennon who said "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans."*

Right now, any plans I had for the future -- including the plans I had for this evening -- have been shot directly out of the window. Because it turns out that Mr Lennon** was correct. Life happens.

And not always the way that you want it to. Sometimes, in twisty, tricky ways that have you asking, "Whaaaaaaat?"

(In case you were wondering, I'm suffering from residual August icky-ness. I still TRULY believe that September is going to turn it all around once the August holdout stuff gets resolved)


I'm broke. (Not an exaggeration. I didn't get paid on the last pay period -- August ickyness! -- and so have exactly $80 until I actually get paid, which -- well, I don't know when that will be, actually. Could be today. Could be ... later this week? Will hopefully be before the 15th, at any rate.)

I'm tired.

And I have a zillion and twelve things to do.

I should be upset about it, probably. It would be easy to be upset. There were things I was expecting to do that I can't do. There are bills that need to be paid that are going to have to wait. I should be completely stressed out. Normally I would be.

But I'm not, because I have realized something.

This is LIFE. This is what happens. You can plan all you want. Stuff goes wrong ANYWAY. That's how it works. Which isn't to say that you shouldn't plan -- Lord knows I love a plan -- but you should be able to chuck the plan when you need to. Doing so allows you to deal with the unexpected, both the yucky stuff  and the amazing stuff. You need to make sure that you have enough room in your days -- and in your heart -- for both, I think.

And your reactions to things should serve you. How would stressing myself into the fetal position serve me? It wouldn't help me financially. It wouldn't let me finish the things I need to finish. It won't bring me anything positive, make me feel better, or lighten the load.

So I won't do it. It's become as simple as that, I think. If it's not going to help, I'm not doing it. Why put time and energy into a hugely unentertaining waste of time?

Instead, I'll focus on positive things I can do -- I can work to resolve the situations. I can chip away at my to do list until it's done. I can think about how I can try to reconfigure my expenses so that, if this happens again, I won't be as off guard and unprepared.

I can look for the lesson and the opportunities I'm being offered in the midst of all the messiness, because I know that both exist... and  I can continue to live my life instead of fighting it.

So I will.

Yes, I could google it and be sure. So could you. Let me know if I got it wrong.

** Or, you know, whoever

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Randoms

1. I got a surprise yesterday. A good one. Further proof that September (Nay, the rest of the year!) is going to be lovely.

2. Have you seen this? It's awesome. (Blogger no longer wishes to let me embed videos. SO ANNOYING! So you'll have to follow the link. Please do. It's really worth it.)

3. I have put a lot of time, as of late, into making some decisions. Now they're made. Yahooo! Which means -- more FUN blogs! And less ponderous ones. (Sorry about the ponderousness. August was VERY good for philosophical thought, what can I say?)

4. LONG WEEKEND! WHOOOOO! So yeah, about that. I'll be back here on TUESDAY. Because Monday is Labor Day. And so I shall ... not be laboring at all.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

August and Everything After

I was unbelievably relieved to see August draw to a close. Of course, it couldn't leave without kicking my ass one more time, but to be honest, I sort of expected it -- the entire month had been so difficult that I didn't think it was possible for it to go without having one final, last word.

A lot changed in August. The way I view my financial reality is changing, my work has changed and altered, and friendships have changed and, in some cases, ended.

I'm not going to lie to you -- August messed with me. It was a hard month.

The thing about going through hard times, though, is that they force you to see who you really are. It's easy to be content with who you are when you're happy and things are going well. I think you learn more about your character when things kind of suck and you're a little bit miserable; the way in which you buckle down (or don't), the choices you make, the way you react... if you're contained in your own unhappiness or if you can see through it and still care for and help other people, who might also be taking a trip aboard the USS Suckitude -- those are the things that show who you are.

I know that I'm not the only person who struggled through August. I know that I'm not the only one who's happy to see the back of it, and who is looking forward into September with both hope and the resolve to be a better person than the one who fell into bitterness and anger. (Which isn't to say that one should never be bitter or angry because those feelings have a place in everyone's emotional geography, but it doesn't generally serve one to LIVE in either bitter or angry, which I may have done a time or five through this ridiculous month), and instead be the one who found the light at the end of the tunnel and then danced around in it. 

Because dancing in the clear light of September? Doesn't suck at all.