Sunday, January 5, 2014

Abundance


So it's been forever since I posted here. I don't know exactly why I'm posting now--I'm not hoping for any comments--and I don't have any expectations that I'll keep posting. When school is in session, when my day is over, I'm lucky to stay conscious long enough to read blogs, let alone write one. And too often, when I'm on break, I'm too lazy to write.

But now, on the night before I have to go back to work, I feel like writing about #myoneword I've chosen for this year. If for no one else, then for my own benefit. (See myoneword.org for more words and stories.)

My one word is abundance.

For a long time--maybe for my whole life--I've had what I call a "scarcity mentality." I don't know where I heard that phrase, but it's apt. I remember as a kid scarfing down food I liked, keeping an eye on the platter in case someone else claimed the second helping I wanted. And we weren't poor--I never went without, yet for some reason I feared that I wouldn't have enough of what I wanted and needed. Also, I robbed myself of enjoying my first serving by fearing I wouldn't get a second one. I've been doing it ever since.

A few months ago I realized that my chronic anxiety comes from this place of feeling that I don't have enough to meet my needs, to deal with my challenges, to teach my students, to parent my children, and to partner with my husband. That I, in myself, am not good enough. I told a friend, "I'm spread thin in so many areas that I feel I'm just mediocre in all of them." And if you know me, mediocre has never been okay with me. Result: anxiety, because I know I can't meet the standards I've set for myself. (No, really, I can't. As a high school teacher, if you feel you've failed because some of your students refuse to finish and turn in their work and therefore fail, then your marker for measuring success is ridiculous. I know this. And yet.)

I wasn't planning to have a word for the year. I thought it was a cool idea, but I don't do resolutions anymore (see: above paragraph on feeling not good enough; I've been in survival mode for more than a year) and I didn't have any ideas for a word. Then today in church, during praise and worship time, I suddenly thought, "I need a word for the year! I can say it when I start to feel anxious, to remind me to stay focused on the good things in my life instead of the exhausting or potentially bad ones."

The song we were singing had the word "whole" in it, so I thought that might be it. I do want to be whole, and so many times in my life I have felt broken. (My blog title/Twitter handle, although I chose it by picking up a book of poems and opening to a random page, seems apropos--I've long felt the hairline fracture running through my brain, and sometimes it splits open, and then my head is not a good place to be.) However, I thought about my realization that the brokenness is so centered around feeling inadequate, and I thought of a phrase from another song: "more than enough." I like that. I could imagine myself saying, when worried about money: "God has more than enough to meet our needs." When stressed for time: "I have more than enough time to do what's really important." When exhausted: "He has more than enough strength for me. His strength is made perfect in my weakness."

Being a stickler for "rules," however, I wanted ONE word to express this idea of having, not just barely enough, not subsistence living, but more than enough. I'm not talking about having lots of money, although I wouldn't say no to a better income! I mean enjoying life more, finding the ordinary miracles, the everyday blessings God has loaded me with. And there really are so many things to be thankful for. So I chose the word "abundance," and my husband likes the idea, too.

Before we were invited to friends' house for New Year's Eve, I bought a bottle of sparkling apple cider because we like to toast the New Year. We ended up toasting with the same kind of juice at their house, so our bottle went unopened until tonight. The 11-year-old thought we were toasting because the 10th Doctor didn't become the 11th doctor and instead healed himself (and then his hand and Donna created the first human-time lord whatchamacallit so there was another version of himself). The 11-year-old LOVES David Tennant and so do I, so we are dreading saying goodbye to him. It was a nice fake-out by the show and a good enough reason to toast. The 7-year-old just wanted to beat everyone by gulping his cider down first. Even though they don't fully understand, Justin and I knew what we meant when we said, "To a year of abundance."

Here's to a year of more than enough. Here's to a year of celebrating the blessings I already have, and of receiving what I need to face the challenges that come my way. Here's to a year of drawing boundaries to protect what's really important and not letting my job define me and drain me. Here's to a year of abundance.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sunday Night Shopping

I finally hauled myself off the couch and went grocery shopping. I was too busy yesterday and really didn't want to go tonight but we were down to a third of a loaf of bread, half a bag of clementines and two blueberry toaster strudels, and toaster strudels are the only thing that motivates my children to wake up in the mornings. Even though they probably would have been on board with my idea to eat Girl Scout cookies instead.

(Seriously, what is it about those cookies? Are they so delicious because we can only get them part of the year, or do they bake crack in with the batter? All I know is it was a blessing and a curse when Miss Pink became a Girl Scout. I have a trunk full of cookies and that is a dangerous thing.)

Anyway, I have some thoughts to share about the Mall of Warts, as I call Sam Walton's brainchild.

1. First of all, the Wart-Mall and I have a love-hate relationship. It's the closest store to my house and also the cheapest. On everything. If I go to any other store I inevitably end up complaining about the prices. W-M also price matches any item that another store is offering for a lower price, so I save quite a few dollars that way. IF W-M actually has the item. Things are often out of stock there, or else shelved in some wacky place where it wasn't located last week. This week they didn't have avocados. In Texas. How do they expect us to manage without our guacamole? So occasionally I have to go to HEB or Aldi, which is a nice change but I always come crawling back to W-M.

Wart-Mall, I wish I could quit you.

2. I am an impatient person. I wish it weren't so, but I am. I can't stand to be behind someone who is barely moving down the aisles. I try to remember that most of them can't help it, but really, people, if you are that slow, the polite thing to do is scoot over to the far side of the aisle and let the rest of us pass you. Yet some people block the aisles while they locate the perfect can of beans and act like they don't even notice the line of carts backing up into the frozen foods. I bet they are the same people who drive my husband crazy by going 40 miles per hour in the fast lane.

3. W-M should give a raise to the cashier who checked me out tonight. Not only was she efficient and fast, she was also friendly and hilarious. She told me about her 99-year-old great-grandmother who has been married 80 years. I told her that was the longest I had ever heard of anyone being married.The cashier's great-grandfather is barely hanging on, and her great-grandma says he needs to go ahead and die.

"Ohhh, does she hate to see him suffer?" I asked sympathetically.

"No," she said. "She's eyeballing other men." We laughed. "She's a mess."

 99 years old and looking for her second husband. That just made my night, even if I never did get any avocados.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Literary meme, part the second

Here's the second part of the literary meme. Part the first is here.

12. Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
I can't remember a dream involving any of these things. Isn't that strange? I read so much, and I can definitely be put in A Dark Mood by a book that results in disturbing dreams, but none that I can remember involve the actual writers or characters of a book. 

13. What is the most lowbrow book you’ve read as an adult?
Wow. I just...I don't want to sound snobby, but I can't read truly lowbrow books. I mean that literally. My brain will not keep processing the words. I like genre fiction, but it has to be competently written. Okay, I thought of something! I read the Twilight books. I could tell they weren't well written and I kept on reading through all the cliched gushing about Edward's perfect ice-cold...chest (that did not sound appealing at all to me, by the way). Stephenie Meyer may not be a great writer, but she's a genius as far as I'm concerned. How did she turn off my inner literary snob switch?

14. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
Ulysses by James Joyce. I wasn't even forced to read it but I had a summer off before I went to graduate school and so I checked out a book to help explain the zillion allusions and I read it so I could feel like I belonged in grad school. (I am SUCH a nerd). It was hard going, but parts of it were actually pretty great when you understood what Joyce was doing.

15. What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you’ve seen?
I haven't seen any Shakespeare plays I'd consider obscure. Of the ones I've seen, Richard III was the one least performed, I think. Sir Ian McKellan played Richard and he was amazing.

16. Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
The Russians, based on how many books I've read by Russian authors versus French ones. I suppose the Russians fit my naturally gloomy worldview better than the French.

17. Roth or Updike?
I've read more Updike, although neither is my cup of tea, really.

18. David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?
Sedaris. Funnier and more disciplined in his craft.

19. Shakespeare, Milton or Chaucer?
Shakespeare, hands down. Paradise Lost is one of the major texts I can't believe I wasn't forced to read and that I refuse to read on my own (Moby Dick is the other). Hey, I was raised on the King James Version--I don't need to read Milton's version. As for Chaucer--I've never read all of The Canterbury Tales and of course only in translation. I just found out we are going to read part of Canterbury with the seniors after all and I am wondering how to keep them interested in it. Probably by pointing out that the Wife of Bath is bawdy and letting them figure out the risque parts for themselves.


20. Austen or Eliot?
Austen.

21. What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
See #19 above.

22. What is your favorite novel?
Mad wrote, "It’s really hard to choose just one, don’t you think?" Yes! It really is like being asked to choose a favorite child. I do love Pride and Prejudice. At one time it was tied with The Great Gatsby but I'm worried that teaching Gatsby is making me love it a little less.

23. Play?
Hmmm. I really like The Crucible. Even after teaching it (coming up after the break, too.) "Because it is my NAME!"

24. Poem?
"The Second Coming," by Yeats. It seems like it speaks of our times:
      "The best lack all conviction, while the worst
      Are filled with passionate intensity."
It was published in 1921.

25. Essay?
 Nothing's coming to mind. I could probably list something by C.S. Lewis here and it wouldn't be too far off.

26. Short story?
SOOOOO hard! I'll go with "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor. It's hard to beat a Flannery O'Connor short story. When I was trying to write fiction, she was my idol.

27. Work of nonfiction?
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.

28. Who is your favorite writer?
Well, let's say Jane Austen. And Flannery O'Connor, although I don't read her very often because she's so fierce.

29. Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
I'm going to agree with Jennifer Weiner and say Jonathan Franzen. I've read several of his books and short stories when I subscribed to The New Yorker (although I haven't read his most recent novel,  Freedom) and I basically thought, "Meh" after each one.

30. What is your desert island book?
I'm going to cheat and assume we can take an author's collected works. It may sound cliched, but I really would take the complete works of Shakespeare. Comedy, tragedy, romance--how many writers can do all of them? Plus I only understand Shakespeare when I'm reading it out loud, and if I were on a deserted island, I'm sure I'd act all the parts out as well, to entertain myself.

31. And…what are you reading right now?
I'm actually between books. I just finished The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, which I didn't love, and I think I'll probably read a book I got from work next (we do a book exchange for Christmas since we are English teachers). It's called Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. I'm ordering a Kindle tomorrow with my Christmas money and can't wait!

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

After-Christmas Thoughts

Today has been a lazy day. As if I haven't been lazy almost every day since the holidays began! I am spending most days in my sweatpants, and dread putting on real pants, as the waistbands insist on reminding me that I've been eating too many goodies.

But never mind--in this week between Christmas and New Year's, anything seems possible in the near future: eating healthier, getting up earlier to exercise, getting the house organized with the piles of new toys...

I often start getting anxious when we are home with--not nothing to do; there is always plenty I could be doing (see list above for ideas) but nothing concrete. Give me an appointment and I'm fine. I know it makes no sense. My therapist used to call it "free-floating anxiety." Meaning, I suppose, that if I am too free to float, I get anxious. So I am alternating being lazy with actual useful tasks like laundry, making a grocery list--short, manageable tasks that don't make me feel overwhelmed.

We drove back yesterday from visiting Justin's family in South Louisiana. It's a 6 1/2 hour drive without stopping much, and the kids were real troupers, even without a portable DVD player (long story--we had to borrow a truck to bring tools). We also learned that our dog, Gidget, gets carsick. Thankfully, she was in her kennel and we could change out the towel in there--and she only threw up once on the way back. If it didn't cost so much to board animals....

I was happier to find out that my idea to listen to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe on audiobook interested Miss Pink more than reading it with me. I don't know if she's ever going to love Narnia as much as I do, but at least she got interested and wants to listen to the next book whenever we have a trip longer than across town. Success!

Speaking of success, the kids were happy with the presents they received. SO glad I am raising kids who seem to be easy to please and thankful. Someone in my Twitter stream linked to a Twitter account called @fart whose owner compiled all the tweets of teenagers who were furious because they didn't get either an iPad, iPhone (or the right color of iPhone, OMG) or a CAR for Christmas. After reading those for a while I didn't want to live on this planet anymore. I also wanted to yell at my kids, "Don't you EVER act like this or I am not responsible for my actions!" Miss P's biggest present was an iPod Shuffle and Mr. Blue got a Lego space station. They also got cool stuff from both grandparents, and a few aunts and uncles, so they are very lucky children. My job is to make sure they understand that none of these things are a given, nor are we entitled to them.

And now I kind of want to remind myself of all of that, since I have a new iPhone and am about to use my Christmas money to buy myself a Kindle, but then I also want flat-heeled brown boots and new jeans and in fact an entire new winter casual wardrobe since I am officially sick of all my clothes....See how hard it is not to get the wants?

My family is safe, warm, healthy, well-fed (REALLY well-fed), and together.I am thankful.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some laundry to fold.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Literature Meme part the first

School's out--it's time for me to blog again! And because I don't yet have the mental energy to write about what's actually going on around here (at the moment my children are wrestling on the living room floor while I do my best to ignore them), I'm going to do this literature meme which I got from Madhousewife. Like her, I bet I will do it in two parts because: see above for lack of mental energy. But I do feel like writing something, so here goes.


1. What author do you own the most books by?
I do not feel like getting up to count, but it's either Alice Munro or C.S. Lewis. Quite different from each other, but I obviously loved both of them enough to buy a lot of their books.

2. What book do you own the most copies of?
Other than the Bible? I don't think I own multiple copies of any book. At one time I had two copies of Mere Christianity (Lewis again). Oh, never mind, I do have two copies of Pride and Prejudice.


3. Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?
Not at all. I think that's a false rule. I love the person who wrote, "That is something up with which I will not put" to show how awkward it is to always avoid ending a sentence with a preposition.

4. What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Hmmm. Like a lot of women who read, Mr. Darcy comes to mind, although I have to admit that is influenced by Colin Firth's portrayal of him. I had to fan myself quite often when reading Outlander; that Jamie Fraser is something else. But I don't think that was love.


5. What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children, i.e. Goodnight Moon does not count)?
Probably The Great Gatsby, since I'd read it a bunch of times already and I read it six times last year (once with each class of juniors).


6. What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
  The Chronicles of Narnia. Yes, that's a series. No, I can't figure out how to turn italics off for this entry.


7. What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
Let me check Goodreads. Okay, I'm back. The worst one I finished (and some of the books I didn't finish weren't the worst, I just couldn't get into them at the time) is called The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly. I quoted another reviewer in my review, which I will quote again here (how meta!)

"Stereotypical characters. Predictable, illogical plotlines. Full of cliches." Ugh. I skimmed it to finish but shouldn't have wasted my time--it ended exactly as I was predicting.


8. If you could force everyone to read one book, what would it be?
I think I would force them to REread To Kill a Mockingbird. I think most ninth graders are not thoughtful enough to get more than the most basic message ("Racism is bad!") from that book, and they would get more out of it when they are more mature.


9. Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?
I don’t know. I don’t pay attention to that stuff.

10. What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
As Mad said, "Most of the books I would like to see made into movies have already been made into movies. Bad ones." I used to want another version of Gatsby and now they're making it (is it done yet?) I desperately wanted the Narnia books to be movies and now they're kind of disappointing. I have a T shirt that says, "Movies: Ruining the book since 1920." Although I am interested to see what they've done with The Hunger Games.

11. What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
I don’t know. Ulysses, I guess. I don't think anyone's likely to try to film that, thank goodness.



More tomorrow!

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving

 I hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving if you celebrate Thanksgiving, and if not, a wonderful Thursday and subsequent weekend! As for us, it was our year to visit my dad's side of the family in Arkansas, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time with them. I have four cousins and two of them have kids now (and the third has one due in six weeks), and it's awesome how much the kids enjoy playing with each other. It helps now that they remember each other even though we have to go at least six months without seeing them! Miss Pink and my oldest cousin K's daughter are both 8, and they remind us so much of us at their age. Mr. Blue and A's son, also 5, played football and kickball and basically any sport played with a ball every waking moment. K also has a 5 year old girl who flitted around with whatever group she wanted to join, and A's almost-two-year-old little boy stole all our hearts. A also has a 10-week-old baby girl, who was in much demand for snuggles.

I ate enough to make me change into my stretchy pants as soon as decently possible after dinner, but I was a little disappointed that there were only about three tablespoons of dressing left over. My aunt told my mom to make only one pan since there had been too much left over when we had two pans last time. Oh well, we made up for our lack of extra dressing by having lots of extra desserts. I had offered to make chocolate-chip pumpkin bread and chocolate-chip cookies (shut up, chocolate is important to me) because I only knew about a pumpkin pie (which I don't like) and a "Death By Chocolate" thing with brownies and chocolate mousse and whipped cream and crushed Heath bars. Which, YES PLEASE, but to me the important thing about Thanksgiving desserts is that there be MANY of them so you can get a sliver of each one and alternate bites of them, going around and around the plate until you collapse into a diabetic coma...and then do it all over again that night. My aunt and cousins did not disappoint me. There was also a coconut cake and a peach cobbler and a pecan pie. So six desserts if you don't count the pumpkin bread, which you shouldn't because we only ate that for a SNACK.

Speaking of food, my uncle and cousin W have become vegetarians since the last holiday we spent together. My youngest cousin, whose name also starts with K, and I were discussing if we could ever be vegetarians and he said, "I don't think I could ever give up bacon." And I agreed. So I suggested a new lifestyle choice: baconarians. Baconarians eat vegetables, fruit...and bacon. Think about it. What isn't made more delicious by bacon? I think we're onto something here.

So now that Thanksgiving is gone, I can finally start to get in the Christmas spirit. (Not by shopping on Black Friday--there is not enough anti-anxiety medication in the world!) Miss Pink's 9th birthday is in two weeks and then Christmas is upon us. Here's to a great Christmas in 2011!

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Made of Awesome

It has come to my attention that I only post when school's not in session (and then not very often). Well, that's just the way it is, I guess. I miss blogging, I still read plenty of blogs, and I even think about posting something that's too long to go on Twitter but my brain just doesn't seem able to put coherent thoughts together after I get done with everything else I need to do. But today was the first day of my Thanksgiving break and I spent it sleeping, watching TV, reading, and eating or providing food for the kids. It was awesome. It was so great to have a weekend day when I didn't have to do anything that day because I wouldn't have the time or energy to do it come Monday. And also, having older kids is wonderful. I have been dreaming of the day when they would let me sleep in (well, 7:30's not too bad) and could pour their own cereal, which they did today with some "encouragement" from me and Justin. Although Mr. Blue kept asking me to get up and make the blueberry muffins until I finally did. And THEN I went back to sleep. 

Justin finally has time to work on the remodel of the master bathroom. He already did the shower earlier this year and it is so nice. Today he took out the old vanity and redid the plumbing so the new sink will be in the middle (the next best thing to having two sinks) and also put in some sheetrock so there will be a pocket door giving us some privacy between the bedroom and the sink/closet area. He was the very opposite of lazy today, and he is nice enough not to even comment that I was a total slug.

Last night the first Twilight movie was on TV and we finally watched it. I read all the books but I had deliberately resisted watching the movies. (I do this a lot; I hold out against a trend and then finally cave when it's no longer cool to jump on the bandwagon. Examples: knee-high boots, Facebook, and now Twilight.) And it was just like the books: I could tell how ridiculous so much of it is, but I was powerless to resist watching it. Like crack for the female brain. I kept snorting derisively but didn't change the channel, and I even checked to see if the next two movies were coming on, which they were not, except on Showtime, which we don't have. For some reason they aren't even available to rent from U-verse, which is
not even right, since they have been out for a long time. How am I supposed to get my Twilight fix now? I've found that it's like a fever: best to let it run its course.

(YA fiction sidenote: I'm not even waiting to watch The Hunger Games movie when it comes out. I won't be at the premiere or maybe even get to the theater to watch it, but I won't wait several years, either. Today I read most of the book Divergent, which I'm betting will become a movie, too, and that should be good too. Both of those heroines are at least stronger than Bella.)

When the movie was over, Justin said, "I know why Edward had to have all that hair. If he was bald like me, his head would sparkle so much everyone would know he was a vampire." And then right before we fell asleep, he busts out with, "I can't stop fantasizing about how beautifully my head would sparkle in the sunlight." We laughed until our stomachs hurt.

Now that is true love. Awesome.

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