Tuesday, August 31, 2004


I skipped the fifth thought. I can't count. So what? Wanna make something of it?

Almost forgot

Almost forgot - I wanted to link to a few things in my last post.

Tom Beaudoin's book Virtual Faith.

The cleaning stuff I used in the kitchen and bathroom.

And I just saw this in another blog and had to add it.

You are a RAVENCLAW!

As a Ravenclaw and as an NFP, you are imaginative,
idea-oriented, and value intelligence. You may
be a non-conformist, and are probably good at
seeing new ways of doing things. You are
insightful and perceptive, as an empathic
person who highly values harmony, you usually
try to avoid conflict. Of course, you may
enjoy participating in heated debates - but
only as long as they remain on an intellectual
level and not a personal level. In general,
you are open-minded and curious, and set high
standards for yourself.

Hogwarts Sorting Hat: Based on Myers-Briggs Personality Typing
brought to you by Quizilla

First time I did it I was a Gryffindor. I think I make a better Ravenclaw though, truth be told (oh - I am an INFP, if anyone cares).

Thoughts - Many and Varied

Thought the First

I was just watching Trading Spouses on Fox (guilty pleasure, I admit it). That show intrigues me. I love watching people who have money (or vice versa) getting to see how the other half lives. People truly can't conceive that for some people, $200 for a dishwasher is an extravagence they can't afford. And people who are poor - but happy - can't understand the fast pace lifestyle and obsession with things that people who have mone have.

Needless to say - considering I am driving a car with no insurance and bad brakes - I fall into that latter category. We were talking about weddings at work the other day (my supervisor's daughter is getting married - for the very reasonable price of $6500), and I mentioned that I just don't understand how people can spend upwards of $15000 on a wedding. If I ever get married, I want a morning wedding with a luch reception in the church hall and a cake from Albertson's and that's it. I don't want a fancy dress, or a DJ, or videotaping, or any of that junk. What's really important - the party or the marriage?

On the show tonight, a Georgia country father switched places with a New York City attorney. The attorney's son was preparing for his bar mitzvah, and the mother mentioned wanting to spend the $50,000 they were awarded for participating on the party. She even commented that it should cost about the same as a typical wedding (and I can guarantee she wasn't thinking of the $6500 variety) She was absolutley livid that the country guy - who got to determine how their money was spent - chose to spend the money on things designed to bring the family closer together and slow down the pace of their lives.

I couldn't have been happier with his choice. Is a bar mitzvah - or any religious ceremony for that matter - really about impressing people with an extravagant party? Isn't there another reason we do these things?

Yet another part of my current spiritual crisis.

Thought the Second

I'm thinking about going to services at the Lutheran Church down the street this Sunday. I went to mass this weekend (I really am trying), but I am feeling a really significant disconnect. I can't seem to find a place where I fit and feel like I am being nourished. I don't think going to mass is supposed to make you tense and angry, but that's how I felt this weekend.

So, if the faith of my father's isn't currently working, I may as well try the faith of my mother's. I may even try the Episcopal church. There's a little one not too far away that looks inviting.

I've picked up Tom Beaudoin's book Virtual Faith again. It looks at the spirituality of Gen-X. It's interesting reading. I never got around to finishing it (got busy with stuff at St. Al's CCC), but I came across it on my cleaning frenzy last night and I'm looking forward to finishing. When I do, I'll write more.

Thought the Third

My cleaning frenzy. Last night, for some unknown reason, I got the urge to clean. I cleaned out the drawers in my bedroom, the entire kitchen, and everything in the living room I didn't have to move to clean. Where did the urge come from? Who knows. But the cleaning stuff smells really good and works really well for an environmentally safe product. This weekend, I'm going to do the bathroom (that stuff smells even better).

Thought the Fourth

I was going to write this this weekend but I got distracted.

I was thinking about jealousy this weekend. If you were like me, you learned in seventh grade that jealousy (well, envy) is one of the seven deadly (or - in the kinder, gentler Catholic Church - capital) sins. (As an aside, up until 7th grade, our religion classes consisted of, "God loves you." and not much else. In 7th grade, they became, "God loves you, but you're going to burn in love anyway."). But I was thinking this weekend, is there such a thing as righteous jealousy?

What brought this on, you ask? A phone call from the student loan people. They can't seem to get it through their heads that not only do I not have any money to give them, I don't have any family I can ask for money to give them. They seem to think that I like being poor, and that I'm faking it. Yeah. I like barely being able to scrape my rent together, playing shut-off notice roulette, and driving an uninsured car with bad brakes. I like living on ramen noodles, mashed potatoes, and, as a treat, tuna. This is how I always envisioned my life would be at 33.

Anyway, I found myself feeling really jealous of people who can ask their parents or siblings for a loan to get them over a tight spot. I have never had that as an adult. I've had to make, or not make, my way on my own. I suppose in some ways that's good, but in many other ways it just plain sucks (pardon my crudeness).

Is it wrong to be jealous of their families? I mean, I would never begrudge them what they have, or hurt them because of it, but I would like to have that, too. I really miss my parents. I wish they were still here. And not for financial reasons. I just miss their advice, and their laughter, and their calming presence in my life. I miss them encouraging me, and kicking my butt when need be. I really just want some family in my life. I used to think that maybe I could find that in a church community, but not any more.

Thought the Sixth (I think)

Even thought I just complained about it, I really like having mashed potatoes for dinner. They are yummy, and you don't have to think to eat them. Not that eating other things requires a lot of mental effort, but there you go.

Thought the Seventh

They just said something about the elections on TV. I don't want to vote for Kerry or Bush, and Nader isn't on the ticket in Louisiana. I'm thinking about writing in a vote for someone totally off the wall, like David Letterman or Jon Stewart or William Forman (my US History teacher in high school). Yeah, it would be a wasted vote, but at least it would be a vote. I wish the democrats would put forward a candidate I can respect.

Thought the Eighth

You know you are getting old when you are irritated by college students just acting like college students. It really gets under my skin when the kids in my complex get all loud and goofy after 10 at night on weekdays. And football season is starting Saturday. It's only going to get worse.

Thought the Ninth

It amuses me to drive along the route of a Mardi Gras parade and see beads still hanging from trees months after the fact.

Thought the Tenth

Why so many random things tonight? I've made a committment to myself to spend at least an hour a day on my writing, and this was the only way I could do that today. Tomorrow I plan to write about my mom.

Friday, August 27, 2004

So...The Decision

Well, I guess I've put off writing about this long enough.

Why, you may be asking (or not) did I not accept my dream job to continue scraping by on an office job I hate? And why am I not running off to throw myself off the Mississippi River Bridge right now?

Well, there is a simple answer and a complicated answer. The simple answer is that it just wasn't financially feasible for me to move to Connecticut right now, and there just wasn't time to get organized to go. The director of the school had to withdraw his offer of housing for a few months because his father is ill and needs the spare room in his house. Typical Connecticut apartments the size of mine (450 square feet) rent for about $900 a month, plus security deposit, plus last month's rent, plus utilities. Just to move into a place would cost me between $2,000 and $3,000. When you factor in the repairs I'd have to do to my car to get there safely, I just couldn't manage, despite the fact that the director offered to front me my first two month's salary so I could get settled, with the freedom to pay it back over the next two years.

Then, had I accepted, I would have had 8 days to get organized and move before the first inservice this morning. I would have had to have lesson plans ready for 6 classes by next Tuesday. It just wasn't going to happen.

Now for the complicated answer. Despite some forays into other areas, I've assumed since I was five years old that I was going to teach English. I've assumed it, my parents assumed it, my teachers, friends, and pretty much everyone I ever met assumed it. When I changed my major from biology/pre-med to English/sec. ed. after my freshman year, one of my friends actually said, "what took you so long?"

Now I do like teaching. And I am good at it. But it isn't something I can be passionate about. I can be passionate about the need for quality education for all children, not just those whose parents can afford it (in one way or another). I can be passionate about quality literature. I can be passionate about the decline in young people's writing skills and the need to improve writing instruction at all levels. But classroom teaching? Not so much.

I never liked the paperwork involved in teaching that took me away from reading and writing. I never liked taking time away from instruction to enforce silly rules about how high students' socks were and whether or not they were wearing make-up. I never like the way that I felt I had to relax my standards because students weren't taught well on lower levels. I didn't like grading tests (or giving them for that matter), and I didn't like faculty meetings. And I most definitely didn't like dealing with whiny parents or overbearing administrators.

So what did I like? I liked the interaction with the kids. I liked the rare opportunities that allowed me to be creative. I liked encourgaging the kids to unleash their creativity (although I hated it when other teachers squashed that). I liked it when monotony got put to the side, even if only for a little while, and variety and independence reigned. I liked my desk chair until the back fell off.

Even though the job in Connecticut would have been more of what I liked and less of what I didn't, I still would have had to lesson plans and paper work, and go to meetings. I still would have had to remediate the failings of teachers on lower levels. And I still would have had to deal with the monotony, which is like death for me.

So bottom line, I didn't take the dream job because maybe it isn't such a dream any more. I think I've spent enough time doing what other people have envisioned for me, and trying to live the dream of a five year old. It's time for me now to live out my own dreams, to find my own place in the world.

Whatever that is...any ideas?

Sunday, August 22, 2004

The plan was...

...to go to bed an hour ago. Oh well.

I turned down the dream job. But I'm surprisingly sanguine about that. I'll write more about that later...maybe tomorrow.

I've spent this weekend thinking about my dad. No special reason - no birthday, anniversary, holiday, or special occassion. He was just on my mind a lot. And looking over the Jackson Pollock painting that is my life, I realized something. My dad always assumed that, one way or another, I would be a writer.

I remember writing a "book" when I was seven or eight called "First Poems of Life." I got the directions for making a book from my Girl Scout handbook, and I wrote some horrible poems about stupid things. Here are two of the ones I remember off by heart:

Spiders are ugly,
A lot of chuggly.
They are creepy
And make me weepy.

Ah yes - can you stand to be in the brilliance my sheer talent gives off? I had just learned about nonsence words from reading "Jabberwocky," also in my Girl Scout handbook (those Girl Scouts - renaissance women every one). If you are stunned by that work of genius, hold on to your hat for this one:

I'd like to live at the zoo.
There would be lots to do.
I could see the view.

Can you stand it?

Anyhow, I wrote about seven or eight poems along these same lines in my book, and even illustrated it with drawings that radiated even more putresence than the poetry. Do you know that my dad was so proud of that book, that he took it to work with him and told anyone who would listen that his daughter was going to be a writer? He even kept it with his important papers all throughout his life.

Then, when I wrote a poem in fifth grade about snow (which was also not that great), he bragged about it to anyone who would listen, even showing it to his passengers, who included some of the most powerful business people in Pittsburgh.

In seventh grade, I wrote a short story at Banksville called,"The Magic Pencil." Basically, the story was about two seventh grade girls who find a talking pencil when walking home from basketball practice. The pencil helps them with their math homework and leads them on exciting mysteries, the first of which was the search for jewel theives who were hiding out in a trailer in the woods. The find them because they painted the jewels with glow in the dark paint and then set them out in a path from the trailer to the main road. Yeah. Can you stand the excitement? Believe it or not, that story won an award among creative writing IEP students. My dad again carried it around with him, showed it to everyone, and told people to remember my name because I was going to be a famous novelist someday.

In high school, I won a scholarship to a workshop for young writers at Pitt. The workshop lasted all summer, and at the end of it various works were chosen to be published in an anthology. I had two short stories and a poem selected. We got copies of the anthology at a publication party. My mom usually went to those kind of events with me, but it was on a Sunday and she had to work. My dad would normally work Sundays too, but he took off that day to go with me. This time, he was so proud that he made copies of the works I had published and handed them out to everyone. I mean everyone. There are a few professional baseball players who are now proud owners of the stories, "His Father" and "The Back Porch," and the poem, "A Dream Inferred." I'm sure they found their way into the trash at Three Rivers Stadium about a minute after they got out of his cab, but nonetheless.

At that point in my life, I had given up on the idea of being a writer or an English teacher and I was going to be either a physician or a researcher (HA HA HA!!!). Despite that, my dad had decided that after I graduated from college and medical school or graduate school, I would help him to write his memoirs as a cab driver. He was convinced that I was going to write and that I was going to be brilliant.

Well, I never got to ghostwrite those memoirs. And I regret that. My dad (and my mom - in her way) was the one person who never told me I couldn't. It didn't matter what we were talking about - he believed I could do anything. But he knew - somehow, someway - that I was destined to write.

I wonder now if I am where I am now as an opportunity. I wonder if this is God's - or the universe's, or destiny's - way of telling me that now is the time. I find it interesting that I am perfectly calm about having to turn down a job I dreamed of having, and that I have a general sense of peace right now. Is it coincidence that these (and other) memories of my father came flooding back to me this week? I don't think so.

I don't know if I will ever have a book published. I don't know if I really have the talent for it, even though completely objective people and total strangers seem to think I do (well, except for some folks at St. Al's CCC - but we won't go there). But if you do ever go to your friendly neighborhood Barnes and Noble and see my name on a dust jacket, open up to the dedication page and you will see something like this:

To my daddy, who always said I would.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Have I mentioned lately that I hate myself?

No? Only because I haven't written in a month. And what a month it has been.

Last night, the guy in CT offered me the job, and now I'm not sure I want it. I was supposed to call him by noon today, but I haven't yet because I just can't face up to the fact that I'm about 90% sure I don't. The problem is that I just can't trust my own judgment, since I have such a wonderful track record in the decisions I've made.

So here are the pros:

  • I could be making a real difference in the lives of some kids who need someone to make a difference.
  • I would have control over what I teach (long term pro...short term con - more in a moment).
  • I would be teaching.
  • I'd have benefits.
  • Connecticut is really beautiful.

And here are the cons:

  • I would have 9 days to pack my life and move.
  • I'd have to start completely over for the second time in two years.
  • My car needs brake work and I'm currently driving without insurance (shh...don't tell).
  • The cost of living in lovely Connecticut is absolutely insanely high.
  • I would have control over what I teach (and considering I would have about two weeks from today to have first quarter planned out for 5 different classes, that is a con).
  • I'm not sure I'm in the proper emotional/psychological state to be dealing with emotionally fragile kids - would frustration push me deeper into depression?
  • The school is basically a start-up company. It's been in existance for a year, and it doesn't have state approval yet. How do I know I won't be out of work and alone again in two years?
  • I'd have to have a roommate if I moved there. I haven't lived with anyone since college, and I really don't fancy living with someone I don't know.
  • Something I can't name, something deep inside, is telling me that accepting this job would be a Bad Thing. Complete with the capital letters. I just feel like if I accept this job I will lose myself. Do I sound like enough of a drama queen?

So there's the list. You would think that it would be pretty obvious from that what my decision should be, huh? The problem is that I just don't trust myself right now. And that is a big problem. If I can't make a decision like this, what about other things? I've been agonizing over this for two days now. Of course, I've also been agonizing over what I should have for dinner, what I should read, and what I should watch on TV.

In an e-mail to a friend yesterday, I said that it's times like ths that I hate the fact that my parents are no longer around. Granted, they'd tell me it's my decision, but they would support me no matter what I decided. The would also tell me if I was being foolish, or if my concerns were valid. I even told my friend that at times like this I resent people who do have their parents to rely on. I don't begrudge them their parents, but I resent the fact that they have them and I don't. Is that stupid considering I'm 33 years old? I just never had my parents around as an adult. I never got to discuss things with them as one adult to another. Instead, I had to have medical and financial power of attorney for my mother right after I graduated college and I got to make funeral arrangements all by myself. God, I was just too young for that. I never got to be a carefree twenty-something.

And people wonder why I'm bitter sometimes.