Dec 4 2013

I Don’t Have a Sister. But I Wish I Did.

Last night I went to a birthday party-meets-show where my boyfriend was playing bass in the guest of honor’s ensemble band.

Bonesaw generally plays lead guitar in his own band, and he writes (or collaborates on) much of the music they play.  I’ve seen him play other people’s music only a few times, and it’s always a bit uncomfortable.  He comes alive when he plays his own material, whereas when he steps in on covers he appears anxious and reserved.  Add to that the fact that he wasn’t playing his primary instrument, and last night was a perfect example of this distress.

But then his brother played drums for a song, and Bonesaw visibly relaxed.

Hoag and Bonesaw are as close to being twins as possible…without actually being twins.  They live and work together; they fight like crazy and the next day they’re over it; they create fantastic music together; the play sports together; tour together in a cramped van.  They’ve spent the majority of their lives connected in one way or another.  They’re different, and they disagree all the time, and they don’t always want to be around each other.  But the love between them is palpable.

So when Hoag sat down at the drum kit, the tension in Bonesaw’s shoulders and face disappeared.  He grinned and made eye contact with his brother.  He began to groove comfortably with the music, looking more like the on-stage Bonesaw that I’ve come to know.  It was touching and sweet, and I envied them a little bit.

It’s moments like that when I wish that I had a sister.

I have two incredible brothers who are loving and fun, and we’re as close as we are different.  I adore them.  But it’s no secret that it’s not the same as having a same-sex sibling.  I don’t have a girl to share and trade clothes with; no sister who grew up next to me and fawned over the same boys; no sister sibling to fight with and go out with and watch chick flicks.  When my family vacationed, I often brought a friend with me, because let’s be honest – my brothers and I didn’t always want to do the same things and play the same way.

Sometimes when Hoag and Bonesaw fight, I get nervous, like their relationship is this fragile thing that could shatter with one harsh word.  I’m still learning that it’s far more durable and secure than that.  I just don’t know, because I’ve never had that type of un-changing closeness.

But I’ve also been lucky, because I have a host of adopted sisters that I never could have anticipated.  As an athlete, I’ve played on countless sports teams, acquiring a substantial crew of close friends.  Sometimes they drive me crazy, and I’ve wondered many times whether I’d be friends with some of them had we not been placed on a roster together.   But more than once I’ve grown to love those same girls by my side on the bus, the plane, the hotel room, the field.  Because, much like families, we’re stuck with each other.  We bond over shared struggle and mutual goals.  It isn’t easy, but it’s powerful.

I’ve lived with these girls.  Cooked with them, cried with them, argued with them.  I’ve sat in airports all over the country, sore and sweaty, my head resting in a teammate’s lap.  We’ve chowed on carbs, iced broken ankles, driven each other to the hospital for ACL reconstruction.  It’s a particular relationship, being teammates, and it isn’t always symbiotiSisters at Regionalsc.

But if I can’t have a sister, I’ll happily and gratefully take a teammate.


Oct 24 2013

Roommates and Writers

My roommate has been writing a lot.

Jeff and I first connected through Ultimate, when I guilted him into helping me coach the team at the middle school where we were both English teachers.  We became friends when we decided to critique each others’ writing.  We grew closer still when we went through simultaneous divorces, and our friendship was fully realized by a serendipitous lease in Austin’s Zilker neighborhood.

As I begrudgingly weeded our front yard the other night, Jeff made his way to the coffee shop down the street, laptop tucked under his arm.  He finished his latest work-in-progress this summer, and he’s been hard at work revising and marketing the first manuscript that he shared with me several years ago.

I wake at 6:00am every day to the smell of Jeff’s coffee brewing on the stove, and I know that when I take my dog out he’ll be cuddled up under a blanket, his face illuminated by the comforting glow of his computer screen.  He spent the better part of these last two summers pouring over his WIPs in our tiny kitchen, poised next to our driveway’s shaded window.

I admire Jeff’s talent; his diligence; his work ethic and discipline.  I respect (and sometimes envy) his whole-hearted commitment and naked desire.

Sometimes I feel guilty; mildly dwarfed by his determination; ashamed of my own writerly neglect.  I feel inclined to justify my scattered mind and my busy schedule.

And so it is that I’m forced to consider what I want.  I mean…What I really want.

It wasn’t so long ago that I resigned from my teaching job specifically to write full-time, only to step right back into a new position at a new school.  I was self-conscious then, too.  A bit reluctant to take what felt like a step backward – like I’d chickened out; copped out; failed before I’d even really tried.

I’m surrounded by die-hard, all-out, whatever-it-takes artists, and I’m awed by their loyalty their craft.  But I’m realizing that’s not who I am.  The cold, hard truth is that I don’t have the stomach or the discipline for constant struggle.  I’d make a crummy starving artist.  I don’t have extravagant tastes, but I do like the routine of a steady job and the reliability of a paycheck.  I use – and appreciate – health benefits and collegial community.

And perhaps most importantly, I’ve realized that writing is just one of the many puzzle pieces that I carefully fit into place in my life.  It fills a very significant need in me.  Would I love to get published?  Has that always been a dream of mine?  Of course.  But I don’t need that bullet on my resume to feel like a writer.  Every time someone tells me that they read my blog, I’m struck by surprise and joy.  Because I write for myself, and I forget that it’s public.  For better or for worse, I write for the love.  And for me it isn’t about how many people I reach, it’s about reaching anyone at all.

So while I’m inspired by Jeff’s surge in productivity, and I’m happy for him that he’s found such a palpable groove, he and I are different people.  We’re different writers.

And for me, right now, THIS is enough.


Oct 3 2013

Guest Post: The Boysaw’s Double Rainbow

I’m guest blogging (“Glogging”? “Gulogging”?) on my girl Colleen’s website because I have discovered a truth about her so groundbreaking that I felt the need to share it with the world with a particular nod to those who have known and loved her best throughout her life and perhaps those in her future she has yet to meet. Colleen validated my hunch that this discovery was, indeed, revelatory enough to merit a “glog” by me (her boyfriend) with the mere speed and ease with which she agreed to let me write about it! So to her mother and father, her brothers, her friends and teammates, her counselor and co-workers and even her ex-boyfriends thru the years, I want to tell you:

I have discovered the instantaneous, fool-proof formula for breaking CoCo out of a bad mood (and even an extended funk)!

… (take a second to digest this information; the knowledge that such a remedy does exist). . .

It happened last Friday, September 27th. Colleen may not have blogged about it much, but she has been in a pretty extended era of emotional uncertainty and imbalance. A good amount of high, but also a lot of lows and neither one with much staying power. It’s been the kind of lows that don’t seem to have a certain cause or solution yet are ever present close under the skin, ready to pull a good mood down the spiral. I know it’s been a frustrating few months as a result for her and I am likely a contributing factor to the slump (hey… cut us both some slack ye reader of this glog!  Life is hard! We’ve both been traveling a ton, the school season started, there’s been some illness in the family, stuff that everyone deals with but is still tough!).

So the solution, however, came as the spiral was continuing to spin lower. I had asked if she wanted to meet after school Friday to kick off the weekend with a little workout together at the park followed by dinner and whatever else. She agreed immediately… I’d bike to her house, we’d bike to the park, I’d lead us thru the workout because, well, who isn’t lacking motivation and direction after teaching middle kids for a full week?

When we got to the park and started the workout, however, we both felt testy and aggravated. Phase one of the workout – some body weight stuff – was twinging her sore calf muscles and so she wasn’t following the routine, which of course bummed me out so I suggested she just do her own exercises. That didn’t go over well. The point was to work out TOGETHER. My bad. So we moved on to the next phase even as we could see a rain storm approaching. We were at Butler Park here in Austin and there’s a short, steep hill in the middle (“Doug Sahm Hill”) and we’d run up to top and back down in a zig-zag pattern touching all the light poles that ring the hill until we were back to the start. She, of course, protested that “we’re not running together, are we?” which, of course, was my plan. I would run a little slower and she’d have to run a little faster – a good workout for both of us! But alas, she also doesn’t like pity (who does) and hates not being as fast. I try to point out that she is the former D-1 all-conference athlete, not me, but oh well. Slightly deeper spiral. I wanted to work-out out TOGETHER! So I forced her to run with me, hoping it might pull her out of the funk.

We made it about ¾ of the way thru the hill and it was NOT going well. She had that straight-lipped, makes-her-mouth-as-small-as-it-can-be look that she gets when her brain equation is “over-tired + overworked + racing mind + nagging boyfriend =  super pissed!” I felt equally frustrated. My mental equation was “confused + searching for a solution + borderline angry = testy boyfriend.” We were headed for a breakdown right there on the hill.

Then the sun came out blazing just as rain started pouring down. I mean POURING. Half-way up the hill we stopped and I put my arm around her sagging, sopping wet shoulders and pointed. To our left, drenched kids kicked and danced in the splash fountains below their feet as the warm rain showered them from above thru the sunshine. I pointed to the odd girl in ‘80’s get up who was dancing “Sixteen Candles” style (pink hair and leotard, even!) under the oak tree (it is Austin weird, after all). Turning our gaze to the right as we moved to the top of the hill was the kicker. A massive, complete rainbow that seemingly started right in front of us (if I was looking for the pot of gold it would have DEFINITELY been under the port-a-potty in front of us) and arched over the entire skyline of Austin, finishing somewhere off in the distance to our right. Sun glistened off the windows of the buildings in the horizontal evening light as the rainbow got sharper and brighter with each second. I looked at her then, hair dripping, eye shadow running, still tight-lipped and, in a semi-raised voice said:

“Come ON Coco! What more do you need?! Look at those kids playing in the fountain! And that odd 80’s chic headbanging! And all these other healthy people enjoying the afternoon! And this insane rain sun shower! And that GIANT FUCKING RAINBOW over the city?! Come on it’s just life CoCo, can’t we just enjoy each other and this beautiful place?!”

And then she took one more second to look around and then cracked the biggest, brightest, exhausted and wet, glowing and happy smile!

“Actually, it’s a double rainbow… look.

Sure enough, it was a double rainbow.

And that’s it. The rain stopped almost immediately. The rainbow vanished. The humidity exploded as the sun intensified. Time had stopped there for a second as everything else was happening, and as everything stopped and time started again, CoCo was different. I was different. The tension was gone and we were both happy. We finished the workout and biked home. We ate a wonderful dinner. We enjoyed a relaxing evening.

So there you go. Here’s the formula. I didn’t say the ingredients were easy to gather, but if you can get them, this formula WILL get CoCo out of a bad mood:

Frolicking children in a fountain + sun shower + workout + double-rainbow-over-the-skyline + dancing 80’s chic + a hug from me (I hope that’s an ingredient and not just circumstantial) = happy CoCo!

Austin Double Rainbow

Bonesaw did manage to capture a picture before the rainbows dissolved. They aren’t quite as bright here as when we first spotted them, but it’s a pretty fabulous image nonetheless.

(Rarer than a unicorn, but at least we know that the prescription exists!)

For my next mission I will try something a little easier. . . fountain of youth or viable renewable energy perhaps?!

Love, BONESAW


Sep 19 2013

Falling Into Step

In efforts to playIn the winter of 2005, I found myself in the bathroom stall of a bar somewhere in the French Alps.  In between hysterical sobs, an old friend braced my shoulders and looked me in the eye.

“This is NOT you!” she hollered.  “YOU ARE COLLEEN!  YOU ARE NOT THIS GIRL!  PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER!”

When I first met Kelly on the field hockey field at Holy Cross in 1998, I found her abrasive, stubborn to a fault, and mildly offensive.

And I wasn’t entirely wrong about those qualities.

But here we are, fifteen years later.  On a running trail in Austin, TX with my musician boyfriend and not nearly enough water.  Talking our way through a brisk workout.  She lives in Hawaii now, and I’ve been in Texas for ten years.  We missed each others’ respective weddings due to distance (though she still counseled me during my subsequent divorce).  It’s been five years since our last meeting, but we’ve fallen right back into step.

Kelly Visit

Kelly gave me this card when I moved to Austin in the summer of 2003.  The caption reads, “A friendship with two viewpoints is twice as strong.”  Inside, Kelly sent me off with words about our differing opinions, our heated discussions, and the strength of our relationship.  My staunch-republican friend and I even had the confidence to watch the 2000 election together … A decision that could have ended in bloodshed.  But every time we challenged each other – every time we pushed and pulled at each other  – we grew closer.

And the same can be said of our three years together on the field hockey field.  As with all of my teammates, every competition made us more like sisters.  Every shared loss, every struggle, every hard sweat and snowy play-off game, every overtime win and every penalty stroke failure tightened the familial bonds between us.  Naturally, when we see each other now, we want to run and play again (no matter how much more it hurts our older joints).

Kelly’s brief visit in Austin invigorates me.  She reminds me that real friends are with you through the hard times.  They support you, they love you, and they stand beside you when you need an ally.  But they also snap you out of it when you’re being a tool.  They know you – really know you – and they embrace the bad with the good.  Kelly makes me feel like the best version of myself.  Even when I’m a sloppy mess in a foreign bathroom.

Sure, my old friend and teammate is still abrasive and bossy.  (Just as I’m still overly-sensitive and neurotic.)  But she’s also smart, and funny, and honest.  She doesn’t sugar-coat things, and she knows who she is.  She’s the friend who met me in Europe for an ill-advised roadtrip; who took me out to party when I was injured at an Ultimate tournament in Chicago; who called me when she had one single afternoon in my (still somewhat new) city.  She’s a friend I know will be around in another fifteen years, and fifteen more after that.

…Especially if I can convince her to move to Austin.

I’m working on it.


Sep 3 2013

Gift Card Gratitude

Sheila Gift CardOne of my teacher friends recently received this card from a parent.  Naturally, the gift was to a restaurant/bar, and I’m confident that she used it happily and gratefully.

Teaching is not without its built-in rewards.  I’ve been doing this job long enough to have students come back and visit me; send me Facebook messages from college thanking me for what I do (and what I did when they were in my class as seventh graders); tell me out loud, directly to my face how much they enjoyed having me as their teacher.  I’ve worked with a myriad of complex, diverse, incredible kids, and many of them have open hearts and a willingness to say thanks…even if it’s a few years later.  Their parents are often the same way:  Thankful, kind, supportive, and appreciative.

And let’s not forget the thrill of seeing a struggling student pass the state-mandated test; go on to do something important and special in their lives; demonstrate growth or understanding of a difficult concept; wave excitedly when they see me in the grocery store.

I mean, let’s be realistic:  Teachers don’t do this job for the incredible salary, or the benefits, or the retirement plan.  We don’t do it for the vacations or the job security (which are both growing less and less guaranteed with each passing year anyway).  We teach for the connections and the experience; the playfulness and the fun; the creativity and the love.  (And okay, maybe sometimes for the karma.)  But we don’t do it for the pay.

However…

Occasionally parents and students show their appreciation in concrete ways.  And every single time I get a thank you card, or a book, or a mug, I’m surprised and jubilant.  (I actually collect mugs.  I’m not kidding.)  And then there are the gift cards.

I don’t have expensive tastes.  (I’d better not.  I’m a teacher, after all.)  And I sincerely love a thoughtful note as much as I do any other gift.  I would never treat a student differently if they gave me something, or a particular something for that matter.  I don’t remember them differently, or think of them more favorably.  And I would never expect anything from any of my students or their parents.

But teaching is also very stressful.  And time-consuming.  And exhausting.

So the beauty of the gift card isn’t that it’s expected or needed.  But on those Tuesday nights when I’m working late grading papers; or when I’ve been coaching in the spring and working solid 6-day weeks and I’ve lost my voice for all of the instruction and the talking on the sideline at Ultimate games; or when it’s the end of the month and my bank account is veritably empty…Well, having $10 to spend at my favorite taco place in town is like a fairy godmother.  It means a few quiet moments with my boyfriend, when we don’t have to worry about the cost of our meal.  It means not having to cook.  It means getting off my aching feet and treating myself to some relaxation and reward, without any strings attached or need for justification.  It isn’t about the money or the “present,” it’s about the emotional support and the relief.

…Which is why I store away these little treats like I’m a squirrel.  I know that when those days creep up on me (which they’re sure to do), I’ll have some respite.  And in fact, when I find that Alamo Drafthouse coupon, I’m reminded how thankful I am to be a teacher, and to have that rapport with my students and their parents.  So the stress and the pressure fall away while I crunch away at my popcorn and watch Ryan Gosling on the big screen.

And sure, maybe I’m exaggerating.  But last night Jeff and I celebrated the return to school with a Roommate Dinner, and I used a Central Market gift card for ingredients typically outside my teacher budget.  While we were toasting our new classes and discussing lesson plans over bacon-wrapped scallops, I was also thinking that in some ways the gift card had come full-circle.  That dinner – and the items afforded by the gift – reminded me how very lucky I am.  I’d love my job regardless of these little “thank you” presents.  But they certainly don’t hurt.


Jun 28 2013

The Leslie Knope Standard

Last night the Boysaw and I saw World War Z on a bit of a whim.  It’s summertime, I didn’t have to get up early, and the timing was right after our taco dinner.  We scurried off to catch the 8:15 in 3-D (which, when all is said and done, was a bit unnecessary…but that’s beside the point).  We liked it a lot.  I was captivated, my fists clenched almost the entire time.  At one point, the BF was so overcome with anxiety that he actually gagged and thought he was going to throw up.  (I have to say that I laughed at him a little bit.  As deserved.)

So it stood to reason that we needed a palette-cleanser after such an intense flick.  We agreed to put on a carefree, laugh-out-loud sitcom when we got home, just to flush the nightmarish visions of knashing rotten teeth, decaying flesh, and bloodshot eyes from our minds.

Enter Parks and Recreation.

We snuggled in, iPhone in hand, Netflix streaming cued up on our personal electronic device.

I was a latecomer to the Parks and Recreation Fan Club, but now I’ve been fully, whole-heartedly initiated.  When I first saw glimpses of the show, I assumed that its main character, Leslie Knope, was a female incarnation of The Office’s Michael Scott.  Awkward, cringe-inducing, socially inappropriate, and barely likeable.  Barely.  And she is almost those things.

But Leslie brings more to the table than that.  People don’t only begrudgingly like her.  They genuinely love her; respect her; stand up for her.  Sure, she has some of Michael Scott’s quirky naivete, but she also has a sense of integrity and selflessness often missing in Scott’s character.  She possesses a sensitivity and a moral compass that he lacks.

Leslie is infectiously honest, smart, and driven.  She’s a waffle-loving hot mess at times, but she does it with leadership.  Sure, her colleagues’ good intentions to support her are frequently bumbling and riddled with missteps.  But Leslie still manages to motivate an otherwise mismatched, lazy bunch of townies to actually care about what they do, about town politics, and about each other.  She sees the best in her friends and co-workers, and she believes in them despite their often un-likeable, un-relatable qualities.  And if she doesn’t like you?  If you’ve given her a reason to peg you as the enemy?  Well, you’d better get your guard up.  And fast.

This girl knows who she is.  She’s unapologetically genuine and starry-eyed.  She truly believes that miracles and grand gestures happen every day.  (Largely because she makes them happen.)  She will not be stymied by the rival town’s snobbery or superior funding; she will stop at nothing to advocate for her causes (even if it means digging through rubble during her own bachelorette party in the dark).   She’s silly and childlike at the same time that she’s socially aware, political, and respectful.  She maintains a moral integrity often remiss in public officials.

Like every good hero, though, Leslie is also flawed.  Her single-minded good-doing is sometimes her Achilles Heel.  Take, for example, when she plants Indian artifacts in the aforementioned rubble in order to stop the construction of a fast-food restaurant on a plot of would-be park land.  Of course, eventually she can’t manage to follow through on the poor decision.  She owns up to her (admittedly horrific) error in judgment, without excuses or justification.  She owns it, and makes good on her commitment to integrity.  And we still root against the fast-food giant and for Leslie…misfired ethics and all.

Leslie’s feminism reveals itself in surprising ways.  She posts photos of female political leaders – her role models – on the shelves in her office.  She chooses partners who know and embrace her flaws as well as her strengths, and describes her ideal man as “George Clooney’s mind with Joe Biden’s body”.  She loves relentlessly, but she doesn’t compromise who she is for anyone.  She’s sassy and dependable, playful and driven, proud and humble, all at the same time.

I recently shared this article by Linda Holmes on my Facebook page, feeling especially discouraged by the extreme lack of women in this summer’s movie line-up.   (If you haven’t already, it’s well worth the read.  Check it out.)

And I know that one character doesn’t change the face of American pop culture.  Katniss doesn’t mean that people will now see (or look for) just as many heroines as heroes.  Bridesmaids doesn’t mean that people now believe the truth that women can be funny.  These examples are easily dismissed as outliers; the exceptions that prove the rule.  But the more Leslie Knopes that we see out there, that we create and consume, the more we have a fighting chance of presenting female role models to our young girls; of equalizing the number of male and female characters in our books, movies, and TV shows; of reminding the American public that, despite what they are consuming in unbelievable quantities, girls can be powerful and heroic and smart and funny.  And everything other quality that makes for an interesting, unique, memorable character.

Watching a few episodes of Parks and Recreation restored a little bit of my faith in American popular culture, at the same time that it rocked me to sleep and swept away the nightmares of World War Z.  It isn’t revolutionary, but if we’re looking for female characters, Leslie Knope is a damn good standard.  It’s time we started holding ourselves to that bar.


Jun 20 2013

“Existential Scabs”

A friend recently observed that I’m drawn to stories that seek answers; that posit about life’s purpose and meaning; that present some glimmer of light in the darkness.

“You think a lot about that stuff,” he argued.  “Way more than I do.  Talking to you, I’ve started to do it as well.”

And I was surprised.  For one thing, it hadn’t ever occurred to me that other people might not think about proverbial ‘meaning of life’ as much as I do, or even at all in some cases.  And for another, I’d never really considered myself all that…existential.  I remember reading a line by Jon Krakauer from Into the Wild.  He said something about “picking unhappily at my existential scabs,” and I thought, “Oh man, what a pretentious load of bullshit.”  I swore never to write a turn of phrase like that myself.

Yet here I am.  Picking at my own scabs and scars and boogers like a little kid on a playground.

And that’s probably why the swell of a good musical theater ballad makes my chest tighten with adrenaline, and why my chin crumbles in the falling action of a good book.  It’s why I desperately cling to connection, and why I relentlessly look inward for purpose.

And sure, that’s why I’m comfortable arguing, here, that for me THE MEANING OF LIFE is love.  Cliched and predictable though it is, that’s my truth.  And no, I don’t necessarily mean romantic love (although that too).  I mean self-acceptance; holding a teammate’s hand on a sideline; resting a tired head on the shoulder of your father; being kissed by your seventh grade boyfriend or your 72-year-old wife; walking your dog; planting a slowly-growing plant and observing it gently wind up and around your garden gate; watching your baby sleep.  I mean relationships and community.  A world constructed by little moments of shared experience, strung together like popcorn on a Christmas tree and illuminated by softly-glowing twinkly lights.

So yeah, I guess do look for an explanation and a reason for life, for humanity, for – hell – waking up in the morning.  Absofuckinglutely I do.


Jun 11 2013

Bibles and Cockroaches

A student told me this year that she and her father share a joke.  They kid with each other that on post-apocalyptic planet earth, the only things left will be bibles and cockroaches.  “Those two things are always consistent,” she nodded at me.  “You can count on them.”

I live in Texas, so it’s hard to argue with either.

When I first moved to Austin, my then-boyfriend and I went to the grocery store to stock our kitchen for the first time.  “We’d better get some RAID or something,” he said.

“Why would we do that?” I questioned him.  “Have you seen any cockroaches in the condo?”

I’d never seen a cockroach in my life.  Growing up in rural Massachusetts, I suppose it was just too cold.  Or maybe I’d been lucky.  But Bryant was originally from Baton Rouge; he was a more seasoned traveler than I.  So I agreed.

And sure enough, later that night, our first cockroach appeared.  And I realized that while I’m calm around bees and hornets, and spiders don’t really freak me out, and I’ve held a 100-lb boa constrictor across my shoulders, cockroaches make my skin crawl.  Maybe it’s the fact that they run away from you when you try to ambush them, or the way their little antennae wiggle and shake.  Or it could be that moment when you step into the shower, get your hair all good and lathered up with shampoo, and then turn toward the wall to come face-to-face with one of their crunchy, scaly little bodies, just inches from your nose.

Either way, my transition to Texas was marked by the introduction of cockroaches into my life.

And as for the Bible?  I’d never seen billboards advertising God before.  I’d never heard a State Pledge of Allegiance – nor had I experienced the changing of said pledge to include the word “God”.  I’d never been part of a public school that had a Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  And here’s the thing – I’m not anti-religion, or anti-God, or anti-Christian.  But I still experienced a considerable level of religious culture shock here in my new home state.

I’m coming to grips – ever so very slowly – with the realization that life is full of these changes and transitions.  Some are big, like moving from a small town in Massachusetts to the capital of Texas.  And others are small, like the ending of a school-year and the start of summer.

And even when I’m conscious of the challenges that these changes present for me specifically, they still rattle me.  I always think that I’m eager for summer to begin, but then the last few days of school find me a little weepy, a little fragile, a little sad.  I’m fine while my touring-musician boyfriend is away, but when he returns it’s startling to re-integrate him into my life.  Two years ago I left my current school and began working at a new one, and I was so wrapped up in the newness that I didn’t realize just how much I was struggling with the new curriculum, student culture, and school processes.

I try to head these adjustments off at the pass – prepare myself mentally and emotionally, set up systems to better adapt – but they still sneak up on me.  They still give me trouble and pause.  I still cry a little more than usual, and feel even more sensitive than I’d like.  My emotions are closer to the surface, and I’m quicker to argue with the people I’m closest to.

So while Bibles and Cockroaches might be consistent, they weren’t always a part of my life.  One person’s rock might be another’s wave: ever-changing, ever morphing into something new, ever arriving and then arriving again.

This weekend I started my summer with a writing retreat.  While I had to scramble to finish my year and hit the road for the Texas hill country in a flourish, the immersion set the tone for my next few months.  Surrounded by laptops and journals and other writers, I dug back into works in progress I’d let percolate for all too long.  And I started a few new things, too:  Ideas that had been brewing in my mind and my spirit for a long time.  It brought me back to some of my goals, and gave me a renewed sense of purpose and belief in myself.  In short, I’m transitioning from teacher to writer this weekend.  And in August, I’ll transition back again.  And the cycle will start once more next year.

Bibles and cockroaches.


Apr 8 2013

Spring Break

Morning light on my face, a book in my hand, laundry swaying placidly on the line.  Wrapped in an Amherst throw blanket, perched on a quirky, comfy chair, my dachshund resting warmly on my lap.  No music but the birds, my toes dangling off the front edge of the porch.  Quiet, peaceful togetherness.  His laptop, my coffee, a newly-cleared backyard.

And then his hands on my shoulders with a reassuring squeeze, and his breath at my ear.  A kiss on the cheek.  A few hushed words, exhaling affection.

Shortly I’ll go to my doctor’s appointment, and he’ll go play tennis.  We’ll meet again this afternoon when the sun is high and the rest of the world has woken up to join us, teeming with life and alertness.

But the Right Now is ours.  And it’s my favorite.

 

 


Mar 13 2013

“There is Nothing Ironic About Show Choir!”

Has anyone else noticed?

About a season or two ago, Glee got a little carried away.  And that’s saying a lot for a show about high school kids in an underdog show choir.  But sometime between Santana’s lesbian “this is why she’s a bitch” plot line, Sam’s foray into stripping to feed his family, and this year’s rotating romantic spiderweb, it lost its way.  I continued watching, but with a sense of mild distaste and boredom.  I was starting to feel like the writing was merely a vehicle for the music.

But, in all honesty, that’s why I kept going back anyway.  For every poorly-developed character there was also a rousing rendition of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (gush).  And before you call me out for thinking way too deeply about an adolescent teen drama, let me just say, yes – I know that I’m giving this too much of my precious time.  But for a musical theater/pop culture junkie like me, it really isn’t that strange.

And also, in my recent musings on the subject, a bit of truth occurred to me:

Yes, it was a bit arbitrary when Santana came out (or was outed, depending on perspective).  And true, we stopped caring about Sue Sylvester when she got a heart, long before she decided to have a late-in-life baby as a single mom.  And YES, it’s bizarre that Tina is now apparently in love with Blaine.  (Although it’s hard for us to believe that someone Blaine’s age is even in high school anymore…So maybe we should just suspend our disbelief to begin with.)  And now – spoiler alert – Ms. Pillsbury and Finn?!  COME ON.

But then again, this is high school.  Romances bud and end in an instant.  You date your friends’ exes, because let’s be honest:  You just don’t know that many people.  By second semester sophomore year, you’ve forgotten that you even had friends as a freshman.  You swoon over your teachers, you flirt with whoever makes you feel comfortable, and you “accidentally” make out with ill-advised partners.  You wonder about your sexuality.  You experiment with your fashion sense, your taste in music, your reading material, your hair.  You take your family for granted.  You fall in love a hundred times…and then a hundred times more.

It’s all very dramatic.  And to the outside world – i.e. adults – it probably seems trivial and ridiculous.  But it’s yours.  And with all of the hormones, and the newness of every experience, and the microcosm that is high school, it’s natural.  It’s normal.  It’s to be expected.

So maybe I’ve been too hard on the Glee writers.  I still cringe – a lot – watching the characters fumble around so much.  And I admit that a lot of it still seems implausible and annoying to me.

But then again, so does adolescence.