Sunday, June 15, 2014

When I Miss My Dad

Today is always a rough day for me. Luckily, it will probably be over by the time I post this. 

I'm a naturally positive person, so I automatically revert to optimism instead of wallowing in sadness or anger. However, I want to be pissed off for a few sentences. Like many of you, I hate death. I mean, how stupid is it that people--like your dad--can just die without getting to say a simple goodbye to your face right before it happens? It's really just the dumbest thing ever. It makes me shake my fist. Death can be very cruel. Very uncool.  
Instead of writing about what it was like when he died or the difficult months leading up to his death where we were all taking care of him and having lots of Important Talks, I'm going to write about the things that make me feel at ease when I'm missing him. 
1. When I miss my dad, I think about my family. 
 There is my mom (who is giving me away in this pic), my brother (who is also giving me away in this pic), my mom's boyfriend John (who is kindly holding the umbrella), these ladies...
the sisters, 
my half-siblings, Robert, Cathy, and Barbara. My half-brother Robert and his wife Beth are some of my favorite people. 

My family got bigger when I met Nate, which was great because our family was so small. 
I couldn't ask for a better extended family. 

2. When I miss my dad, I listen to music.
Sometimes I play music. I know how much he liked listening to his kids play the piano. 
My addiction to live music (like this Fitz and the Tantrums show from last month) is due to him. 

3. When I miss my dad, I do something active. 
My dad was pretty sick for most of my youth. An oxygen machine wasn't weird to me because it was always around. I want to be healthy, so I try my hardest to be active because he couldn't be. 
I didn't learn how to ride a bike until I was twelve. I'm making up for all of that lost time. And you thought I just liked riding my bike? It's much bigger than that. Muahaha.

4. When I miss my dad, I educate myself by reading or writing or learning something new.
Education was really important to him. 
The 'lil sis got her BA when I got my MA. He would have been super pumped about this. 
Now, would he agree with my view on all things social and political? Probably not, but I would love to have the chance to fight with him about all of it. 

and 5. When I miss my dad, I play my memories like a movie. 
I don't remember his voice anymore, but I remember his stories.
I remember his humor.
I remember when I asked him where we were going in the car how he's always say, "We're going craaaazy." 
I remember him conducting the Saginaw Symphony Orchestra during a Sousa march. 
I remember him tucking us into bed. 
I remember the countless times that I sat in the maroon chair on the other side of his desk. 
There are a lot more memories and I'm so grateful for that. 

Anyway, this Father's Day has been harder than the last few and I'm glad it's officially midnight and Not Father's Day. I don't know why I was especially introspective and sad-sack-esque this year-- things hit us differently at different times depending on the day or hour, right?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Earworm Wednesday: I Love Hannah the Dog

Over the last few months, our beloved Hannah (otherwise known as Hannah-Bear, Hanners, Hanney, Beepers, Sweet Pea, Honey Pie... etc) has been looking and acting old. Like, really old.
Hannah after we got her (and her sweater) in 2003.

I've started accepting that she is, like, really old. When we got Hannah, it was estimated that she was three of four years old. That was almost eleven years ago. According to the estimate, she's about fourteen or fifteen now. I've had family dogs, but Hanners is my first dog. She caught my eye as I wandered around the crates of rescue dogs because she was sitting back on her dog butt like a human and leaning her back against the back of the crate. I was intrigued.
Hannah the young pup begging for attention or food, as per usual. 

When I get home from work, she doesn't run up to the door anymore. In fact, I can stomp in with my loud walk, drop my bag on the ground, call her name-- she still won't get up. I can sneak up to her bed where she'll always be and she won't know I'm there until I rub her lumpy belly, which startles her awake and then she's happy to see me.
Hannah trying to fit into a cat bed because she's too cool for the floor. 

I love her so much that it's comical. I'm not going to speak for the Hubs, but I can bet that he feels the same way. Maybe it's ridiculous, but I don't care. I never thought I'd love a dog so much.
Just look at that face. 

She's getting those old dog lumps everywhere. Her hair is turning white. She takes more pills and vitamins in the morning than I do. Watching my first dog age is really hard and I hate it.
Our old, sweet Hannah basking in the sun few weeks ago.

I've been listening to this Suicide Machines song lately that I first heard in high school. When I heard it, I thought it was a love song. The first verse makes it seem that way, right? 

There's something with the way you walk

There's something there that lights a spark inside of me
And it makes me want to sing - Makes me forget everything
There's something there inside your eyes
Lets me know you'd never lie - You fill me up and I know what you need
Do you know what you mean to me?

Then you keep listening and it gets kind of weird if you still think it's a love song:

Well I watch you sleep sometimes and it feels like the first time
And you're always on my mind - Everyday is like the first day
And I talk to you sometimes even though you never talk back
And I buy you things sometimes 'cause I don't mind

There's something strange, I can't get mad
Even when you're being bad - just look at me, and I forget everything

I try but I can't be mean
You sit by me and I scratch your back
You lick my hands then I get a rash,
But that's okay - Because we, we are a team
You make a mess and then I clean

This song embodies everything I feel about Hannah the Dog. 
She's got it pretty good with us and she knows it. 

P.S. I love good ole' Nipsy the Dog too, but she's still bouncing around like a puppy and she's not making me want to listen to the the aforementioned Suicide Machines song over and over. ;)

Sunday, May 04, 2014

I'm Going to Write a Book...

...says every English teacher/former English teacher I've ever known, including me.
But really, I've been sitting on this book for more than ten years now. I've started it in my mind while walking the dogs countless times, but unfortunately, that doesn't count.

One of my 30b430 goals was to write at least one chapter of said book, which I did during National Novel Writing Month in 2012. However, I absolutely hated what I came up with. I can't even post it here. I can't even look at it right now.

Two years later, I have some inspiration. I think it's because I'm out of the classroom and done with my Master's and I need a new project. I was mostly inspired by NPR-- of course.

I wrote a micro story. From there, I've been organizing documents, doing research, and talking, talking, talking about it with friends and family (my apologies for not being able to talk about anything else). I've realized a few things from all of this pre-pre-writing:
1) I write better in vignettes and I need to stick with that.
2) I'm pretty good at research and I need to do something with that.
3) It's okay that it took this long to really start.
4) This is going to be hard.

I realize that it is irritating that I'm not saying what this book is about, but I'm not ready yet. In the next few months I'm hoping to...
1) Meet with an archivist who will help me figure out who to best transcribe documents, file, and organize them.
2) Transcribe documents, file, and organize them.
3) Write the prologue and first few chapters.
4) Complete a few interviews.

We'll see where this goes.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Earworm Wednesday: A Sexy Running Song

I never thought I'd like Katy Perry, but there is something about the song Dark Horse that I just love. I woke up last night with the song in my head and I didn't hate it. It's been coming on when I work out and the beat is just intoxicating. It's one of those songs that makes you feel sexy when you're running. You know what I mean--
What I feel like when I'm running to Dark Horse (or any sexy song with a good beat) vs Reality. [via]
Plus, the video is hilarious. 1) It's badass, 2) It's ridiculous, and 3) It makes me want to learn how to pole dance.
Enjoy. I'm going stir crazy over here and regretting my decision to not go to Ft. Myers this year. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Scale Betrayal

I've been working out like a fiend for the last few months. I've found over the last few years that it's the only thing that helps me beat the winter blues. Exercise equals endorphins, right?
I don't want to shoot anybody-- Legally Blonde is just proving my point. 

I feel better, my clothes fit better, I have more energy, and I'm an all around happier person. Plus, if I go to the gym fifty times within a six month period, my health insurance pays me. I've already gone forty-eight times and it's only been three months. Needless to say, I've been feeling really good about myself. I even weighed myself at home and the scale said I've lost six pounds. 

Or did I? 

I thought our scale was broken because it's old and the one never shows up on the screen, so I've been weighing myself on it over the last few months and just ignoring that it was "broken." Then, the Hubs texted me last week to let me know that the one on our scale hasn't been broken this whole time. Here's an excerpt from our rage-ful texts:
Hubs: I just realized our scale got set to kg instead of lbs... I was assuming the "1" was broken. AHHHHH
Me: NOOOOOOOO. My day just went from phat to fat.
 Stupid scale.
I hate you, scale.
F U, scale. 

I've written about my struggles with weight before. I'm up from where I was after my first season of triathlons. From the job change in 2013, to the stressful summer job of 2013, to eating my feelings due to other stresses, to this other job switch, I'm not where I want to be, but I felt like I was getting there before the stupid scale betrayed me. 

Then I asked myself, "Why do I CARE about this?"
At the beginning of this post, I said I've been working out like a fiend, I feel better, my clothes fit better, I have more energy, and I'm an all around happier person.
So, seriously, why do I put so much worth into the scale? 
Yeah, that's right you stupid scale. This is what I've been doing while you've been making me feel bad about myself:
Lifting weights and getting stronger.
Push-ups-- I can do those now.
Strengthening my core. Yeah, you stupid scale. I can do planks without crying now.
Swimming like a boss. I'm faster than last season.
Training for a 10k. Yeah, you dumb scale. I'm not the best runner, but I've been running outside while other people haven't been. In yo' FACE.
Yoga. I'm better at downdogs than you are.
Dance. Yeah, that's right you stupid scale. I've been shakin' my curvy self at the dance studio.
Going to hour long spin class twice a week and killin' it.
I'm done weighing myself for awhile. I'm just going to let my jeans fit better without the side of depression because the numbers don't match my body. I'm going to focus on eating foods that make me feel good instead of not eating anything to look good.

Peace out, scale. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Earworm Wednesday: Old Timey Tunes

I absolutely LOVE covers that are done in fun, quirky, and interesting ways. If I had a cover band, I'd take 90s rap and make it sound like folk songs. That's why this Wednesday's post is dedicated to Scott Bradlee & Postmodern Jukebox. I am obsessed. I've been listening to the album Twist is the New Twerk for the last three days. Is it cheesy? I don't give an eff. It's beautiful to me. It's a throwback to times when I didn't exist and wish I did. It makes me want to dance.

My top covers from the album:
1. We Can't Stop
The back-up singers swagger. The ability to make a song I hated sound amazing. 

2. Sweet Child O'Mine
The lead singer. The clarinet Slash solo cover. The lead singer. The "where do we go" part. 

3. Young and Beautiful 
The banjo. The mutes on the horns. Everyone's chill, badass attitude. 

I even like this cover of Royals...
...even though (1) I rank the original on my list of annoying songs. It's up there with Radioactive by Imagine Dragons and anything by Muse and (2) Puddles the Clown is too grim and sad and freaky and (3) I've of the "being scared of clowns" generation, mostly due to this movie:
Ew. Contemplating taking this pic off of this post because I can't stand it that much. It's ruining my vibe.
Can we just all get dressed up in some vintage threads, learn some synchronized dance moves, and go to a party with Scott Bradlee & Postmodern Jukebox playing live? I mean, PLEASE?! Let's drink cocktails from every era and smoke cigarettes from a variety of holders that reflect the times when people thought smoking was a health benefit. 

Let's dance like the days when there were dances that went with every song that weren't like this:
But more like this:
I mean, we won't all look like this, but let's use our imaginations! 

Happy Wednesday. Do you have any quirky covers to send my way? Do it! 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

I'm Not the Freedom Writers Teacher

My new work office is on a college campus. Last week, I ran into one of my old students in the hallway of my building. She immediately grabbed a few of her friends and dragged them over.
"Do you see this teacher?!" she exclaimed, "she was like the Freedom Writers teacher! She taught us so much!" We hugged, and caught up, and parted, but I was feeling something I haven't felt in awhile. Seeing her and her excitement gave me the warm fuzzies, but her comparison of me to the Freedom Writers teacher, Erin Gruwell, made me cringe on the inside:
My gut did this when she made the comparison. [via]
When the Freedom Writers movie came out in 2007, I found myself getting compared to Erin Gruwell's self-sacrificing and savior figure teacher quite often. My students were really into the movie and saw themselves reflected in the characters. They saw me reflected in the teacher. I found in conversation with pre-service English teachers that the movie and book was--sometimes-- what brought them into wanting to teach English to urban school kids in the first place. I had to see what the fuss was about. So I watched it. And then I read the book over Spring Break. When it was all over, I was irate. Really? I mean, really? Did my students really think that I was similar to the Freedom Writers lady?
Me, the Nice White Biracial Lady [via]
I kept this feeling inside and took a look at my language and attitude towards my students. Did I act like that about my students? I didn't voice my distaste until a few years later. I was at a big English teacher conference and Erin Gruwell was the keynote speaker. It was ridiculous. I'm not quoting word for word and this was five years ago, but part of her speech went something like this:
"At a time when my student Sally should have been enjoying her childhood and eating popsicles with her friends, she was watching blood the color of red popsicles running down the street in rivers because of gang violence in her neighborhood. I gave her a notebook and a pen and a way to get it all out." 
A people around me were crying and nodding. I could almost read their minds: "Yes. That's why I became a teacher. Uh huh. These kids need saving."
Was she fer reals? [via]
I started thinking about how dangerous it is for teachers--especially white female teachers working in urban schools--to use movie characters (and caricatures) like the Freedom Writers teacher as a reason to become an English teacher. 
It's not real. It's not healthy. It's not good for your relationships, bank account, or personal health. It's not a good way to go into a job. It's not a good way to view your students. No teacher is an island. No teacher is a savior and viewing yourself in that light isn't a good idea. When I started teaching a college course on school and society this year, I found that in the beginning, some of the pre-service English teachers cited the movie as a reason why they wanted to become a teacher. In 2014. 
I was like, "No." [via]
I did an exercise with my college students that I used when I taught a film class and a senior English class. I've used this with adults during presentations as well. It's one of my favorite discussion starters on what it means to view texts through different lenses. I often use media clips and then "counter" media clips to teach my kids about viewing texts differently. These texts and counter-texts are all over the place. Try it...

We watch the trailer for Freedom Writers:
Then I ask for a literal description of the trailer, which helps students practice summarization, which is a common core skill, if anyone asks why you're watching media clips. 

From there, I asked them questions rooted in Critical Race Theory. I've used these questions with kids and adults of all ages. Here are two of them:
How does the text portray people of color? 
What conclusions does it seem to make about people of color? 

THEN, it's time for the counter media clip. This is probably my favorite Youtube video of all time:
My favorite part:
NWL: (Slams hands on the desk) WHY WON'T YOU LET ME TEACH YOU? 
Student: 'Cuz you a white lady. You don't KNOW me. Look at you, in that sweater vest you wearing and that ADORABLE patterned blouse. What you think is gonna happen here? You think you gonna inspire me? You think you gonna break through my tough girl act and teach me the beauty that's inside? You think you gonna make me do and feel things that I never have, never had before? All because you a non-threatening, kind-hearted, beautiful white lady? Is that what you think? Well you wrong. We fightin' for our LIVES in these streets. 
NWL: (Hands her a notebook) Write that down.

Then the good discussion starts. It can get awkward-- in a good way. Like anytime we use texts and counter-texts it ends with people saying that I ruined the original and now they don't know what to do with what they thought before:
Teacher Jen: Messin' with your world view since 2005. 

Last year, one of former students Facebook messaged me, telling me that I definitely wasn't the Freedom Writers teacher. I was more like the teacher from Disney's Recess, Miss Grotke:
That's better.

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