Monday, June 25, 2018

We Go High

There's been so much I've debated writing about over the past few weeks. I've gone back and forth on whether or not I should even address what's been splattered across the news. There's certainly no shortage of issues to be outraged about. That seems to be one of the key pillars of the Trump Administration; bombard the public with so many news items that it's imporssible to devote an adequate amount of time to look into any one of them (let alone all of them).

It's classic misdirection. Get the public fired up about misspelled, moronic tweets and the peaceful, lawful protests of professional athletes and maybe the public will forget that a large portion of Puerto Rico is still without power. If everyone is busy talking about some ugly, cheap-ass jacket Melania was wearing (despite the sweltering Texas heat), or the restaurant that wouldn't serve a member of Trump's staff, maybe they won't notice when Trump mentions how he'd like to violate the Constitution and eliminate due process.

Of course it doesn't help that the majority of the population is only interested in the headline or the soundbyte. Instead of reading the entire story and consulting multiple sources to ensure we get all the facts, many people believe whatever they see. And I'm not solely referring to Trump supporters when I say this. People from all walks of life, all political viewpoints (myself included), are guilty of reacting before getting all the facts. We're also guilty of not checking our sources. It's all too easy to click on a story without realizing it's not from a reputable, neutral source. Garbage sites spewing so-called "news" exist on both sides of the aisle. If you haven't consulted a Media Bias Chart and see where your preferred news source falls. I've grown increasingly fond of The Washington Post and NPR over the past few years and definitely recommend both as credible news sources.

At first I considered not blogging about any of this. It's exhausting. Social media feeds are full of a combination of troubling stories by the dozen and people expressing that they "don't get on Facebook to see politics." It's much easier to ignore. The temptation to take a page from this man's playbook and isolate yourself from everything.

But isn't that its own brand of privilege? The more I thought about it, the more I considered how much the African American community would rather opt out of reading articles about black men being mistreated, injured, and killed by the authorities. And any immigrant, legal or otherwise, would rather not listen to the cries of children who have been separated from their parents at the border. But they can't ignore those stories, because they have a direct impact on their lives. As a responsible citizen, a Christian, and (I'd like to think) decent human being, I can't ignore it either. I have to stay informed and make my voice heard.

I encourage you to resist that temptation to just give up. When I feel overwhelmed by it all and consider just staying quiet, I remember one of my favorite quotes: All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. While painting my bathroom this weekend, a line from the Hamilton soundtrack rang true: History has its eyes on you. I may not be as important as George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, or Lin Manuel Miranda, but when this is all over and we look back on what is shaping up to be one of the darker periods in our recent history, I want to know that I was on the right side of things. We need to keep speaking out and focusing on the important issues.

The phrase important issues leads me to my second point. Focus on what truly matters and learn to identify the stories this administration loves to use as bait. Kanye West suddenly being pro-Trump. Melania's jacket. Sarah Huckabee Sanders being asked to leave The Red Hen. Don't get hooked. In the grand scheme of things, those items are barely even blips on the radar. They are of no real consequence when you compare them to the actual policies being used (or eliminated) by the current powers that be. I'll be the first to admit, that's a tall order to fill. The desire to voice our opinion over everything that crosses our path is almost in our nature. But before we do, we have to ask ourselves: Is this the most important issue on the table? Do I have all the facts? Did I get this from a credible source? Don't miss the forest for the trees.

I've been mulling over this post for a few days, and my final thought came when I read about Sarah Huckabee-Sanders being asked to leave The Red Hen. As a self-professed bleeding-heart Liberal, my first thought was, "Good. I wouldn't want her in my restaurant either." The whole refusal of service issue door flew wide open when the Supreme Court upheld an Indiana bakery's right to refuse to bake a cake for a gay couple's wedding. And it is, after all, a two-way street. So it serves them right. But then I thought about it some more.

The more I thought about it, the more I wished they'd just left her alone. And it's not because I have any sympathy for a woman I feel is paid to lie to the American people on a daily basis. And it's not because of the backlash the restaurant is now receiving from the pro-Trump community. It's because fighting fire with fire is not always the answer. As Gandhi once said, An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. I believe that in order to accurately highlight the ridiculousness of this administration and all it stands for, we (those who oppose it) must behave above reproach. Let's not give them any ammunition to say we're just as bad as they are, we started it, or any other schoolyard accusation. If that's what it takes, let's turn the proverbial cheek until we're so dizzy we have to pop a Dramamine. That's the only way we'll come out on top.

As Michelle Obama said at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, "When they go low, we go high." Let's go high.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Late Night Thoughts: The Babysitters Club

My childhood's most memorable smell.
For some reason, after I took my dogs out around 2 a.m. my brain decided to alternate between coming up with ideas for work projects and reminiscing about products from my childhood. One part of my brain would have an epiphany about the Title I Handbook and then another part would say, Hey, remember the smell from the Creepy Crawlers machine? That sure was a specific smell.

Eventually I landed on The Babysitters Club. Like many millenial girls I devoured every BSC novel. All I wanted was to move to Stoneybrook and start attending meetings. Unfortunately for me, Stoneybrook was fictional and I actually wasn't that into babysitting. Real life babysitting shenanigans are far less glamorous and delightful than those dreamt up by Ann M. Martin.

I, too, pined for the
perfect boy.
Everybody had a favorite babysitter. And mine was Claudia. We were both artists with a Clarissa Explains It All fashion-sense. We both enjoyed Nancy Drew and junk food. Clearly, same person. I've even tried my hand at solving a mystery of my own and I feel as though my love of junk food and sugar goes without saying. Plus, Claudia was Japanese and that dove-tailed nicely with my childhood desire to be Asian.

Yes you read that correctly. Oh, has that particular goal never presented itself on this blog? Goal is a strong word. But when I was in early elementary school my best friend was Chinese-American and I thought that was the coolest thing ever. At some point, I realized this could never be.

Anyway, I'd like to thank 2 a.m. for this little stroll down memory lane and BuzzFeed for this delightful list of BSC Factoids.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Holy Shiplap

Am I the only one who lays awake at night wondering what percentage of living rooms in Waco, Texas are painted a cool gray with at least one wall covered in shiplap? How many farm sinks sit in gigantic kitchen islands with cool pendant lights hovering above? How many gallons of white paint have been drained in covering up traditional brick?

If you don't know what I'm talking about, your remote never finds its way over to HGTV. I'm talking about a little show called Fixer Upper. Fixer Upper is to HGTV what the Law & Order franchise is to USA and TNT; at any given time, you have a 37.4% chance of turning on HGTV and being greeted by Chip and Joanna Gaines. Full disclosure: I love this show. I'm watching it on Hulu right now. But as is the case with most things I love, I have no problem making fun of it.

I had every intention of writing a post about the Magnolia Mafia and their not-so-hostile takeover of central (is it central? I don't know. I don't do maps.) Texas. However, I'm not the only person with strong feelings and a strange relationship with this show. I stumbled across a great post from Jezebel, My Tortured Relationship with the HGTV Show Fixer Upper, that already stated some of what I had been thinking. And if you haven't watched Whoa Susannah's hilarious vlog, The Only Woman to Never Have Seen Fixer Upper, what have you been doing with your life?

What makes a quality Fixer Upper episode? There are a few things you are guaranteed to see every time. And if you're like me and Amy Jo, odds are you'll love them almost every time.
Here are my top five Fixer Upper components:
  1. Chip acting a fool. Chip is goofy, silly, and loves attention. Whether he's eating a bug or throwing himself through the drywall on demo day, Chip will do at least one ridiculous thing every episode. He will also make a big deal about Demo Day. He treats an aspect of his career like most of us treat our birthday or Christmas. At first glance it seems silly, but the more I think about it the more I admire that enthusiasm.
  2. A visit to a local thrift store and/or craftsman. Whether it's custom carpentry by Clint, some unique metalwork by Jimmy Don, or a trip to the Cedar Chest Antique Mall, Team Gaines believes in buying local and I'm all about that.
  3. Delicious treats that no one eats. These may or may not be on display in the home during the reveal, but you can bet Joanna will have some beverages (in mason jars) out and a plate of gigantic pastries when the homeowner(s) come over to see her design plans. These items are rarely touched. I can think of one episode where a man took a cookie, after Joanna told him to. Am I alone in thinking I wouldn't be able to focus on the design if that deliciousness was anywhere in my periphery? (Oh yea, removing a wall would open up that space...I'm sorry, are those cookies?)
  4. The largest kitchen island you've ever seen in your life. Joanna loves a big kitchen...who doesn't? And these freaking islands are something else. They may actually qualify as literal islands, I'm not sure what the square footage requirements are for islands but these ones are huge! You know how places like the Philippines appear on a globe or map? Well that's what the greater Waco area looks like from space. 
  5. You will hear the following terms: farmhouse, shiplap, open concept, recessed lighting, updated fireplace, corbels, french doors, demo day, baton, white-washed, reclaimed wood, antique [barn] doors, barn doors...
Speaking of shiplap. I'm fairly ambivalent on it myself, but I do love watching people get extremely excited about it. I still haven't figured out how it's different than plain ol' wood, but whatever. They lose their minds; look, it's shiplap! Joanna Gaines has single-handedly done for shiplap what De Beers did for diamonds. 

The Magnolia Mafia has taken over Waco. They have the renovation and design business, the Silos shop and bakery, a bed and breakfast, and most recently a restaurant. And it's turned into a vacation destination for hundreds of people. It's kind of unbelievable, but great news for a town formerly known for the Branch Davidians.

I do wonder how many people in Waco aren't fans of the show, the design style, the whole shebang? I like to think there are some rebel citizens who've decorated their homes with a defiantly modern style or something. Keep fighting the good fight, y'all. 

As previously implied, I tease because I love. I enjoy the show, the people, everything about it. If it's on, I'll watch...even if I do laugh a little.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Looking Back Before Looking Forward

For the past few months I've been itching to write again. But I haven't had the slightest clue what to write about. Everything about my life seems so different than when I started this blog 10 years ago (what?!). I feel compeled to move forward, but first I have to look back.

Back in Black began in July 2008. Recently fired from a mere 8 weeks at my one and only grown-up job I found myself back at Kroger, still living at home, and yet to go on my first date despite being 23 years old. I certainly felt like a failure, nothing was going like it was supposed to. However, by the end of the year I'd decided to go back to school for a Masters in Education and become a Spanish teacher.

2009 was a blur. Everything listed above was still true, but now I was a full-time student again. I completed a two-year Masters program in 11 months and landed my first interview to be a teacher. I was fortunate enough to be hired as a Spanish teacher at my alma mater, Lafayette High School, (inspite of rocking a decent cold sore at the interview) and my new career would begin when classes resumed after winter break.

When I began teaching in January 2010, I'd clearly found my calling. My purpose. I was in love. Sure there were hard days and frustrations, but I loved it. I loved the kids and I loved what I did. I spent almost every waking hour either teaching, grading, or working on lesson plans. And that was life. Throw in some thrills like a successful run with Nutrisystem (I like to mark my life by weight loss accomplishments, rare and fleeting as they are), exciting food allergy discoveries, and getting my sweet puppy Lola and it seemed as though everything was coming together. Life went on like this until late spring 2012.

Then I got pink slipped. My first (spoiler alert) pink slip. To quote Ron Burgendy, I was in a glass case of emotion. Anger. Sadness. Frustration. About a month later I self medicated at my best friend's wedding by getting drunker than I'd been since my college days. Always a solid idea. I spent the summer going on my first mission trip to Honduras, eating any feelings regarding unemployment, and applying to countless jobs. The end of the summer was fast approaching and I was soon #blessed to be hired at Squires Elementary School (despite my fly being down during the interview).

Teaching elementary school was hands-down my favorite teaching experience (no offense to my high school students, y'all were great too...but those little one, aww). I was thriving. And by December 2012 (after countless misadventures in online dating) I not only went on my first date (finally, at 27) but began a relationship that is going strong to this day.

A lot of things happened between 2012 and 2014. I fell in love. I spent 3 weeks teaching English in China. I started my Educational Specialist degree. I got engaged. There were so many great things happening, I suppose life had to balance things out. Enter pink slip number 2. That one hurt. I actually didn't even write about it. Looks like I was in for another summer of managing emotions and applying for jobs...oh, and planning a wedding.

But I survived. And why shouldn't I? People have been through much worse. Anyway, I was hired at East Jessamine High School and things were good. We got married. I moved to a teeny house in Frankfort. There was a lot of adjustment...but life was going good. So good that I didn't blog a damn thing.

2016 hit me like a ton of bricks. I was in my second year at EJHS but the new administration was changing everything I loved about the school. It wasn't the same. I had a feeling I wouldn't be returning for the next school year.

And then the shit hit the fan like never before in my life. I lost my baby girl, Lola. After about a week of being sick, an x-ray showed us that she had ingested some sort of small metal object (perhaps a needle?) and required surgery. Around 11 pm January 8, 2016 we received a call from the surgeon. There was too much damage and she recommended that we put her down. We drove to Lexington, called my mom who met us at the animal hospital, and together we said goodbye to my little girl. I took off work and I sobbed. Honestly, I'm sobbing as I write this. I received so much love and support from my family, friends, and students, but nothing made me feel better. On a good day, I was numb. On a bad day, I was blaming myself for everything. She must've gotten ahold of a pin or needle I used for cross-stitching or sewing, meaning I'd killed her. Why didn't I follow through with my plan to go by the hospital and visit her before her surgery instead of telling myself that I shouldn't get her worked up because she'd be home soon? It's been over two years and I still struggle with those thoughts from time to time. On an in-between day I wondered what I could do to myself to be able to feel again.

Slowly I began to feel normal again. We decided to get a puppy. Another Morkie, from the same breeder that I bought Lola from. It didn't feel too soon. My heart was literally broken, and this seemed like something to help me heal.

And that's when I got my third (and final) pink slip. Sure, I'd already been looking for other jobs, but that was on my terms. This wasn't. But, if the beginning of 2016 had taught me anything it was the fact that shit happens. Well technically, Forrest Gump taught me that. I went on more interviews than ever before. Applied for more jobs than ever before...including at middle schools (EEK!).
Sidebar - I was interviewing at a middle school and someone on the panel asked where I lived. Since we were in Frankfort, I responded "here" and one of the interviewers asked, "Frankfort?" Ever the comedian, I automatically smiled and joked, "No, the school." What? Who does that? Who thinks that's a good idea during an interview? Answer: Me, aka the person who was not hired at that school.
I swear, not every interview was like that. I actually had some sense in most of them (I think). But there were no jobs to be had. The school year began, without me. For the first time in my teaching career, I wasn't teaching. I decided to serve as a long-term sub for a friend going on maternity leave. She taught AP Psychology and AP Government, but I know all the lyrics to Hamilton so I was basically an expert.
Did I mention that all of this coincided with our house selling? We'd literally just had a conversation about taking it off the market until I had a job and we got an offer that we couldn't pass up. Funny how life works, isn't it?

I interviewed for everything an anything under the sun. I accepted a state job with The Office of Vital Statistics and between my sub job ending and starting that job, I got a better offer from the Department of Education.

And that's where I've been since November 2016. While I enjoy my job, not teaching has been a huge adjustment. I find myself unsure of what to do with my free time. For the first time since 2010, my evenings and weekends are my own. I'm not constantly grading and planning. I'm not spending my own money on classroom supplies, decorations, and special treats for students. I miss teaching, specifically teaching elementary school. I struggle with feeling that I'm not making a difference. It's hard to match the heartwarming feeling you get from teaching. Now I have job security. No more struggling towards tenure only to have it yanked from my grasp. And when we decide to start a family, I'll spend my off the clock hours with them instead of on paperwork.

I started this post with not only a declaration of my desire to return to writing but also an admission of fear and uncertainty in doing so. For weeks (months?) I've asked myself tons of questions: Where do I start? Do I still have it in me? Is my gift for writing and story-telling still there? What do I even have to write about?

Although I can tell my writing skills are rusty, I can also tell that they're still there. I think I needed this cathartic word vomit of how my life has changed to get me going. Now I can return to my special brand of stream of consciousness riddled with extremely specific pop culture deep cuts.