Sunday, November 6, 2011

Under Pressure

My brother is always right about everything all of the time, mainly because he is so difficult to persuade otherwise that it is often easier to concede the argument than continue it.  But sometimes, if you have the wherewithal to endure, you might share an idea that gives him pause.  He may not admit defeat, but he will conclude that your point is worthy of consideration.  In these small victories, I find great pride.

One such victory occurred on a recent trip to Georgia for our sister's wedding.  At the rehearsal we observed the wedding planner bustling around, frazzled yet controlled, smiling yet glowering and Travis commented that he'd never want to be a wedding planner as the responsibility of making this one day (out of a lifetime of days) live up to a bride and groom's fantasy of a day was too much pressure.

To which I laughed. 

As teachers, Travis and I work under pressure each and everyday.  Pressure of AYP.  Pressure of NCLB.  Pressure of EOCT, MAP, AP, ACT, SAT.  Pressure of lesson plans. Pressure of differentiation.  Pressure of grading.  Pressure of stakeholders.  Pressure of parents.  Pressure of students.  And that's just the beginning.

Travis enjoys the added pressure of running the girls' basketball program for his school district.  As a former assistant coach myself, those are pressures I am thankful to no longer enjoy.

Add to local pressures placed on educators the pressures of a Nation who pinpoints failing education as a contributing cause of all our national woes.  Immigration, poverty, taxation, unemployment, violence, and welfare have all, at some point or another, been identified as a result of education's missteps.  When a problem arises and a scapegoat needed, education prevails, ready for blame.

The tears of a hysterical bridezilla pale when compared to those of Lady Liberty.  While I have no interest in planning weddings, in holding a bride's special day in my hand, it would be simpler than holding, as I do now, the Nation's future hopes of prosperity.  Constant scrutiny for little praise (and even less pay) would lead most to abandon the post altogether especially since all I do, according to the blame thrown at my feet, is futile at preserving and improving the station of our great Nation; yet I teach.

Good thing I work well under pressure.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Pain in the Nose on My Face

When I was a girl of quite an impressionable age and imagination, I learned that a swift, forceful blow to the nose can kill a person.  I am wholly aware that the probability of death from this action is remote, that the force and angle of such a blow must be precise for the nasal bone to penetrate the brain, and that I should not worry about this impending doom; yet this knowledge has developed over time into a phobia that is equally hindering and laughable.  (A fear further complicated by the fact that my mom describes my nose as perfect, making me even more protective of my this, most promising physical feature.)

Because of my nose issues, I don't like sudden movements toward my face.  Games with balls make me nervous.  Braden and I do play catch, but I prefer baseball, where the glove serves as a barrier, to football, where a spiral pass could be fatal.  Of course, my athletic prowess ends at catch, but if I were to play sports, I would enjoy soccer, mainly because headers are optional, but don't even think about placing me on the net in volleyball.  (I played volleyball in the seventh grade. Lack of skill was not the only reason I wasn't a starter.)  Tennis I hate for all together different reasons, but that green ball propelled at you by a grunt and a racket makes it the worst of all the ball sports.

Crowded rooms are also a danger zone.  No, I am not claustrophobic; it is the worry of a rogue elbow in my face, not the crowd itself, that sets me on edge.  For this reason, I like to keep at least an arm's length of personal space between me and other people when I can.  I have to know you well to be comfortable enough to receive a hug or a kiss and I usually close my eyes during both in order to relax enough to accept it.

I never request that someone "toss me" something; I walk over and get it myself.  During a cold read of "Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain" by Jessica Mitford with my AP Langsters last Spring, I got lightheaded at the descriptions of what happens to a corpse's face during embalming.  I abhor the 'I got your nose' game that some sadist created to entertain toddlers (and yes, I deprived Braden of the cognitive experience the game supposedly elicits).  Unaware of the specifics (and compelled by a gift certificate), I once had a facial; I escaped before the torture set me to hyperventilating.

In addition to all the mental implications of my phobia (and the anecdotes above sadly only scratch the surface), it also impacts my corporeal health.  When I have a cold or sinus infection, I am physically unable to use nasal spray or a Neti Pot even though I know that both could ease my pain and save me the $20.00 doctor copay.  Merely thinking of shooting those liquids in my nose turns my stomach.  Instead, I invest in Puffs with Aloe and demand a prescription for Amoxicillin.  (My last doctor wanted to give me a steroid shot in the nose to ease my suffering.  She is no longer my doctor.)

Mine is not a phobia so debilitating that it prevents me from living life, but it obviously upsets some ease of existence.  Some people are irrationally afraid of speaking in public; I am just like them when it comes to irrational fear of being killed by my own nose.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chivalry was Killed by the Women's Rights Movement

Each year I ask my Senior students to consider the following question: Is Chivalry dead in American teenage culture?

Typically, even after a two week unit on Chaucer and other Medieval literature, during which we address the concept of Chivalry and all its elements--Justice, Faith, Largesse, Humility, Loyalty, Courage, Franchise, Prowess, Defense, and Nobility--the majority of them are only able to muster: Chivalry is dead for some teenagers, but not for others.  These students then highlight how some teenagers hold doors or volunteer to be chivalric, but that those who are rude to teachers (or other elders) do not behave chivalrically.  (In my class, Chivalry also functions as an adverb.) Essays by these students revolve solely around the element of loyalty (or kindness in their modern perspective), and for that reason are quiet flat to read.  (And yes, they butcher the pronoun 'some' in the writing, making the essay vague as well as unoriginal.)

Occasionally a student successfully identifies possible reasons why American teenagers seem void of chivalric understanding and capability.  An eloquent commentary about Chivalry as a learned behavior that identifies a cultural shift away from serving a greater good and toward individual dominance transpires to show the student's awareness that the world just isn't what it used to be.  These essays stand above the previous example, but because they usually end with a trite claim that 'the world would be a better place if we all were a little nicer,' the cliche' squelches the argument.

And then there's the student whose perspective completely blows me away; a student whose depth of thought and understanding of culture far surpasses that of his or her peers; a student whose argument about the death of Chivalry compels me to question my own position on the topic.

This year a student presented such a claim.  The student--let's call him Dan--asserts that "Chivalry has become a concept absent in today's teenage culture and women are to blame....Whatever causes the increased promiscuity of females has made men lower their ideals of how to treat women.  Whether is it the media or just social pressure to accept the new 'norm,' when women lower standards of lady-like behavior, men will follow...If ladies refuse the lifestyle of loose dating and actually require guys to treat them right, they will get what they want.  What women fail to realize is that they hold the key to chivalry being reinstated in society."

Being a liberally minded, 'I am woman, hear me roar' kind of gal, my first response to Dan's position was that of annoyance.  How dare he place the blame for this problem on solely women when men hold equal responsibility in dating and relationships.  And then I reread the essay again and again and even again; the more I read it, the more logical it sounded.

Promiscuity and equality are not synonymous or contingent; having one does not mean accepting the other.  The Women's Rights Movement was founded on the principles of equality for women in regard to taxation, employment, property ownership, legal rights and responsibilities and other politically and professionally driven desires. (Want to know more about Women's Rights? Read The Declaration of Sentiments.)  Nothing in the historical documents indicates a correlation between these rights and the practice of Chivalry; yet many women, myself included from time to time, confuse gentlemanly behavior with domination and control, assuming that allowing (and even expecting) a man to treat a woman according to the fairness of her sex negates the progress made for women in the past 150 years when in fact, if what Dan declares is true, women hold the key to Chivalry in society.

If only all women could agree that females set the tone for equality and Chivalry; in that prospect lies great power--a manner of power that could change American culture in ways more profound the the Women's Rights Movement ever imagined.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ghosts of Halloweens Past

If I were to pin-point when the enchantment of Halloween evaporated for me, I would readily be drawn to the year my sister was born, the year I went Trick-or-Treating as Strawberry Shortcake, the year of my first store-bought costume--the year I was seven.

Prior to that year, my mom elicited the aide of her Singer sewing machine to stitch for me traditional princess, witch, and clown costumes.  But none of these impressed me as much as the authentic Native American Indian attire she crafted with precision and care for both me and my younger brother.  Suede pieces latticed together with leather rope.  Beaded detailing on the smock of my dress and on the front plate of Travis's shirt.  My long, blond braids entwined with leather and feathers; his fine hair set away from his face with a simple, yet authentically inspired, headdress.  If not for the betrayal of our Irish, freckled complexions, we looked authentic.  Our mom's love was rewarded a thousand-fold with the compliments from strangers as we wandered the streets in search of treats (being far too scared of tricks).

Store-bought costumes (as manufactured in the early 80s) just didn't cut it.  The plastic, front only masks, held on by a length of elastic that, in a feat of gravity would twist itself around your hair like a python on a man, ripping it out in clods, were a flimsy rendering of the character's features.  The costumes themselves choked at the neck, rose in the crotch, and anticipated a flood at the ankle.  Instead of embodying believable characters, the costumes bred laughter, and, as a result, my discontent.  And thus, I abandoned Halloween as a magical time of year (and sought that magic in literature and movies--and, much further down the line, in parenting--instead).

As a mom, I understand the mystery and wonder that Halloween holds for children.  I enter each witching season intent on building for Braden an experience similar to the ones my mom crafted for me, to brainstorm homemade costumes for him to wear Trick-or-Treating.  For his first official Halloween, he was set to go as Winnie the Pooh, a hand-me-down plush costume (not homemade), but when he saw the factory manufactured bee costume I had donned, he 'buzzed' after me until I let him wear it. That year started an eight-year tradition of purchasing Halloween costumes for Braden instead of making them, a tradition much less festive, yet much easier, than concocting something original on my own. 

The closest I came to original costuming was the year he went as a ghost, but you don't really have to be crafty or innovative to cut up a sheet.  Sadly, before that night was over, the ghost costume had to be hung like a toga. It seems five year old boys don't glide as gracefully as Casper, and after the fifth or sixth face-plant, a college frat boy seemed safer than a friendly ghost.

In defense of store bought costumes, the frightening skeleton he paraded as when he was five and ominous zombie skateboard punk he embodied last year were both much cooler than anything I could have imagined; yet I wonder if, as his mother, I should demand more from myself for All Hallows Eve.

And these are my mommy-fueled fears:  Does Braden enjoy the rituals of childhood in a manner as memorable as I had the fortune to experience as a girl?  Should I gauge his experiences by my own past or by a barometer we set for ourselves?  Do I allow the ghost of Halloweens past to haunt the present or do I exercise them while Braden still shivers at things that go bump in the night?

Monday, October 17, 2011

13 Nights of Halloween, Saucy Wench Style

Each year, ABC Family heralds Halloween by airing its annual "13 Nights of Halloween" programming, which includes a litany of spooky movie must-sees such as Beetlejuice, Hocus Pocus, and The Adams Family.  The standard scares, mixed with a new ABC Family Feature movie and a few frightening tales from some of the ABC Family series, provide thematic showings guaranteed to raise the haunted spirits of even a Halloween Scrooge such as myself.

In homage to ghosts and ghouls, shivers down your spine, shadows on the wall, things that go bump in the night, and monsters under the bed, I bring you "13 Blogs of Halloween," a series of posts dedicated to frightening topics in the world of the Saucy Wench.  Like ABC Family's "13 Nights of Halloween," it promises to be spookily entertaining.

Come for more tomorrow...if you dare...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

It's All About Perception

Yesterday, Braden capped out his detailing of the events of his fifth day of 4th grade with the statement, "And tomorrow Ms. Allen expects us to read literature and I just don't think I'm going to like it."

Alarmed by his sudden dislike of reading, I inquired further.  "But you read literature all of the time.  Why don't you think you're going to like it?"

"Mom, I read fantasy and adventure and magazines about skateboarding and "National Geographic" and "Boys Life."  I have never read literature and I don't know why Ms. Allen wants to change that."

"Braden, all of the things you mentioned are literature.  Harry Potter.  Greek Mythology.  Magazines.  It's all literature.  All written word is literature, even the ones you don't enjoy reading."

Silence flooded the backseat of the car.  And after a pregnant pause, Braden grumbled "well I don't know why Ms. Allen has to be so fancy.  She nearly ruined reading for me forever."

Braden (who obviously gets his flare for the dramatic from his Aunt Tessa) reminded me of something we educators--or people in general for that matter--often forget:  A perception of a thing is often more powerful than the thing itself.

Braden is no stranger to literary discourse.  Currently on book six of the Harry Potter series, he constantly reviews chapters with me, applauding Rowling's ability to set life to his imagination.  He questions me about my current reads and knows that I read for both pleasure and academic enrichment.  Books are part of my core; books are part of his core.  Yet one word--and his perception and his teacher's presumption--caused him to momentarily amend that core.

How many times during my fourteen years in the classroom have I done the same thing?  Have I ever, unknowingly, shaped a student's perception of literature in a negative manner?  And if I have, did he have someone at home with whom he could he discuss his concerns--someone who would reassure him that his perception was okay?  Or did he have the courage to come to me, his teacher, and seek further clarification about my meaning and intent?

Thanks to Braden and Ms. Allen, I have a new perception of perceptions.  And so today, and tomorrow, and every day to come in the classroom, I will create an environment where perceptions elicit positivity.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Say Good-bye to Rationality

Rationally minded people do not live life in fear that they will be the victim of a crime.  This is not to assert that they live recklessly—rationality, after all, implies a modicum of caution—but they do not allow fear to impede living.  While those more brazen may find rationalists boring, rationalists do, in fact, live life.

I have never feared living life.  I make the appropriate concessions to my safety by locking doors to the house and car, leaving my name unpublished in the local phone book, avoiding interactions with suspect people, traveling down well-lit streets as opposed to dark alley-ways.  But I have never feared living life.

The possibility of failure and isolation from all that was familiar did not stay me from moving to Georgia and building a life for myself (and then Braden) even though many—early on—questioned my decision.  The attacks that darkened America on September 11 did not temper me from boarding a plane for a friend’s wedding nine mournful days later even though many were—and still are—grounded by that terror.  The homeless man who forcefully attempted to enter my car when I pulled up to his intersection one afternoon did not chill me against homeless men at intersections even though many—shamefully—are wary of homeless men all the time.  As a rationally minded person, I approached these unnerving experiences—and others too tedious to address—as moments to live with caution and awareness, but never with fear.

And then I was the victim of a crime.  And now I am afraid.

In the scope of life, the crime committed was menial; no physical harm came upon Braden or myself, a blessing for which we are truly thankful.  A selfish punk (or two) broke into my car and freed from its securely locked trunk two suitcases containing ten days worth of vacation clothing, a camera holding record of a 9th birthday celebration less than two weeks passed, and a blossoming wizard’s collection of Harry Potter movies, years one through seven.  The car was parked, upon urging of my rationality, beneath the window at the front of Marriott hotel at which we were staying—a hotel I selected because of its seemingly safe location in a suburb of Kansas City.  (A location we had frequented one other time without reservation.)  Three days after the crime, all of the clothing items (short one pair of sandals), were discovered in a trashed room on the very floor of the hotel in which we had stayed.  The criminals rolled our full suitcases in through the front door of the hotel on Friday evening, rummaged through the contents, discarded what they did not want, and rolled our practically empty suitcases (now holding only stolen electronics) out through the very same doors on Monday morning.

The return of our clothing does not erase the pain of the violation or subsequent fear that has followed.  Caution has been replaced by incessant worry.  Worry that I left the car or front door to the house unlocked.  Worry that I left the garage door wide open.  Worry that even with the doors locked, someone will again break in and steal from us.  Worry that the thief will come to the address on the luggage tag, and carry his violation into our home.

And now, instead of being a rationally cautious and aware woman in control of her world, I am a woman fearfully aware of her vulnerability in a world she cannot control.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A lifetime of firsts

Humans measure memorable milestones by their first occurrence.  First word.  First steps.  First tooth (both to come in and fall out).  First day of school (captured in film by emotional mothers for as many years as children will permit).  First crush.  First kiss, date, love (firsts certain to repeat themselves frequently in most lives).

Interestingly enough, we also account moments we most likely wish to forget in firsts.  First speeding ticket.  First fight (both physical and verbal).  First loss (of a job or loved one or a game).  First night of drinking till you puke.  First lie that caught up with you.

As a classroom teacher, I have experienced many firsts with my students.  Breaking up my first fight.  First time I made a student cry (as well as the first time a student made me cry).  First time teaching freshmen (and sophomores and juniors and seniors).  First student to faint in my class.  First student death.  First student to thank me for imparting wisdom and encouraging greatness.  These firsts, as well as others too numerous to list, line my memoirs with relationships and remembrances time cannot erase.  But some firsts--the first time a student cussed at me, the first time a student plagarized a paper, the first time (or any time) a student came to school drunk/stoned, the first time a student brought drugs to school, the first time I discovered students being overly affectionate--cause teachers, students, and parents alike to wonder what in the world would cause a student to make such a negative decision.

I recently experienced one such first*.  After the situation escalated and subsided, a student in class, who also witnessed the first, stated, "Welcome to our school.  This place is messed up."

I spent much time this week considering this first--trying to to blot it from my brain--as well as the observant student's claim that "this place" might possibly be to blame.  I refuse to blame the place for the student's actions.  Nothing about the place where I teach welcomes, encourages, or condones such behavior.  Assuming that the place has any culpability in that student's actions is absurd.

And in my opinion, it's equally absurd to assume his parents are to blame.  I know little about his family life so it is completely possible that he lacks parental guidance and support, leaving him primarily responsible for his moral behavior; however, it is equally possible that his parents are conscientious, caring people who have raised him firmly yet lovingly, only to find that at 17 he, like many teenagers, is straying from their teachings to discover his own way in life.

Whatever his reasons for his actions, he made a choice--a choice he made for himself regardless of his parental influence at home and the character education program at school.  A choice that was shocking to me and his classmates, but a choice where the blame lies solely with him.  Parents and teachers do what they can.  We model and prepare, but in the end, all we can do is set our children and our students out in to the world and hope they make the right decisions--decisions that will create a lifetime of memorable firsts instead of the forgettable ones.

*The details of the first are purposefully undisclosed as it is not the first that matters so much as what we learn from it.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


This morning a television commercial made me cry.  Was it for Hallmark?  Or Children's Hospital?  Or Jared? Or Folgers? (C'mon, you know you cry every time they air a new segment in the series about Peter.)  No.  None of these obviously saccharine advertisements evoked such emotion.  Instead, a commercial for the new Jeep Compass moved me.

Born of a deep-rooted family tree, but not content to merely live under it.  We all have a bloodline, but it takes a bold spirit to say "It's my turn; my destiny" and go out and prove it.

For the past eleven years, when people asked me why I moved to Georgia, I vaguely explained that I "just needed something else."  If Jeep had been around to speak for me, it might have moved my inquisitors to tears as their commercial did today because they eloquently summed what I have been unable to express on my own.  It was my turn.  It was my destiny.  I had to prove it.

Within Jeep's wistful discourse one also finds my reasoning for returning to Missouri:  connection to my bloodline, and more precisely, Braden's connection to his.

Of course, Braden knew his bloodline prior to our return to the Show-Me State, but most of our visits consisted of five day marathon sprints to squeeze in time with the members of three clans.  Breezing by blurred faces of loved-ones was no way for him to form roots.  And thus our return--or my return and his transplant--to the homeland.

That's it?  That's why I cried?  If only it were that simple....

Three weeks ago my sister Tessa moved to L.A.  Motivated by love, which to some may seem a silly reason to relocate 1800 miles, Tessa answered the calling of her spirit, boldly taking charge of her turn and her destiny, to see what more life may have in store for her.  In many ways, Tessa came to her decision to move with more clarity that I did mine eleven years ago.  She processed it for months and consulted with those nearest to her heart before jumping into the decision whereas I woke one morning with a plan and announced my intention without concern for the opinions or sorrows of others.  (Those who know me well know I am a planner, often to a fault, who cautiously considers every move before making it.  Yet with both moves--to Georgia then and back to Missouri now--I acted quickly--mainly as to not talk myself out of the decision because of fear.  Tessa, whom many assume--somewhat incorrectly--to be impulsive, considered every scenario and came to her decision with confidence and clarity.)  There were moments during her process when I wanted to beg, "Don't go.  I just moved back home. Stay and get to know me again."  (And I especially wanted to offer up the "your nephew needs you" ploy.)  But I did not.  Could not.  Mainly because I understood, possibly better than anyone else in our family, why she needed to go.

And this is why I cried.  Because I miss her like crazy.  But am proud beyond measure.

See the commercial in its entirety here:
Fast Fever 2011 Jeep Compass - "Bloodline" Commercial

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Delusions of athleticism, part two

I am not an athlete.  Not even remotely.  But even at eight, Braden is an athlete.  For Braden, athleticism comes naturally as part of a gene mutation he got from his dad (who is also naturally athletic).  Think I am too biased to proclaim that my son is athletic--you might be right; after all, it is very mommy-like to consider your child good at everything they do.  But as someone completely void of any athletic ability, I can identify such weakness in others from miles away and Braden, though a little clumsy at times, adapts to athletic situations with ease.

Braden tried team sports with three seasons of soccer and one season of basketball, but had little patience for sharing his team's success with the team.  He, even at 5 and 6, was a ball-hog and a show-boater--not very endearing behavior.  Upon some advice from a friend, I put him into swimming.  Swimming, a sport you play against yourself, is ideal for him.  So, Braden is a swimmer.  This proclamation makes my friends Stephanie and David, who have unsuccessfully attempted to persuade me into letting him loose on a football field for three years now, cringe. But for now---and secretly in the recesses of my heart forever--he swims.  Like a fish.  Like the next Michael Phelps.  Like no other 8 year-old boy on his team.

This season marks Braden's second in year-round swimming.  When he came into this season in August, he swam a 25 back in 23.55; 25 free in 31.06; 25 fly in 31.54; and he rarely swam the 25 breast without DQing.  Last weekend, he ended the short-course season with these times:  25 back in 18.20; 25 free in 16.28; 25 fly in 18.50; and 25 breast in 26.62.  In total, Braden shaved over 32 secs off this season and he can swim the breast without a DQ.

At districts here at Mizzou, he left with a first place medal in the back, 4th in the fly, 5th in IM relay, and 14th in free.  At State, he left with a 9th in back and a 15th in fly.  But the medals are only half of the accomplishment.  He's stronger.  He's more focused.  He's confident.  He's proud.  He's an athlete.

And I love watching him swim.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Delusions of athleticism, part one

I am not an athlete.  Not even remotely.  As a teenager I experienced delusions of athleticism, dabbling in both volleyball and basketball in middle school and early high school, but my two-handed shot and inability to spike were easily and quickly overshadowed by more skilled team mates.  I also took a spin around the track a few seasons in high school (and by spin I mean I did the high-jump and long-jump), but I did that for a boy so it never really matter to me to be good  My sport--though even I argue that my lack of talent decreases the likelihood that one can call it a sport--was cheerleading, primarily because cheerleaders at my high school were able to play in the band and band was a sport I could get behind.  (If cheerleading is a sport, so is band.  You march a trombone for a twelve minute field show and tell me how it's not more intense than sideline chants.)

No, I am not an athlete; however, I do admire athletes--the grace, the agility, the competition, the adrenaline.  It all appeals to something carnal and competitive in me.  I am definitely a fan of athletes. Sometimes, I find myself even a little envious of athletes.  But mostly I'm just a fan.  Of athletes--not sports, but athletes.  I can go months without seeing a sporting event, but when I do take in a game it's the athletes, not the sport, I watch.

After all, sports would be nothing if not for the athletes.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wherefore art thou?

Procrastination is not to blame for my nearly 6 week absence from these words.  On the contrary, I've been busy as hell--drowning in grading and planning like a first year teacher.  Sadly, I feel as floundery as a first year teacher, too.  (Yes, floundery not floundering.  I don't care if it's not a word.  Just consider me like Shakespeare--or better yet, Chaucer.)

No, procrastination is not to blame.  Instead, my floundery classroom esteem keeps me encumbered, preoccupying my thoughts and my words, stealing my prose, and thusly my confidence.  Leaving me to wonder: have I climaxed?  have I experienced everything that a profession in public education has to offer me?  is it time to move on what....collegiate....private of crime?

Loyal readers of the teaching profession, I seek your advice about this current woebegone phase of my career.  Please share your tales of triumph or tragedy.  (Though I prefer triumph.  As I am not well suited for a life of crime, I hope to learn that feeling floundery is normal, even in the 13th year.)

Til it be morrow...

Monday, January 31, 2011

Mother Nature Misnomer

As a literature teacher, I fully understand the symbolism behind Mother Nature, named such because of the parallels of fertility, fecundity, and over-all nurturing bounty between the two.  (And even if I weren't a literature teacher, the connection between the two life-bearing entities would still be obvious.  It's one of those things you just know.)

Four hours in to what meteorologists across the world purport to be unlike any winter weather system to hit Missouri in years, I can confidently assert that Mother Nature is neither a stay-at-home mom or a single mother.  Think about it.  If Mother Nature was sole entertainment provider for her children during severe weather systems, she would be more sympathetic to mothers.  But no, she's too busy climbing the ladder and leaving her mark on the world to think about the middle woman--the actual mothers of the world.

Drive on roads covered by .5 inches of ice to pick her child up from school...not Mother Nature; purchase groceries for a potential three (if not more) days isolated to the house...not Mother Nature; shovel the driveway while her son begs her to build a snowman...not Mother Nature; explain to her son that just because there's no school tomorrow doesn't mean he can stay up as long as he wishes...not Mother Nature; watch countless episodes of "Johnny Test" as well as sequels of movies that shouldn't have even produced in first runs...not Mother Nature; play Scrabble and Sorry and Battleship and Uno and Monopoly until she's numb...not Mother Nature; hum the background music to Mario Bros in your sleep...not Mother Nature; lose personal mental capacity to such severity that you YouTube search the "Mario Bros" music and find this:  Big Band performs "Mario Bros" theme...not Mother Nature.

Nope.  Mother Nature lacks the compassion and heart of a real Mother.  Because I wasted thirty minutes of my intelligence today looking at Mario Bros YouTube videos, I have no other suggestions of names.  For lack of something better, I'm just going to call it nature.

Mother, my ass....

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Put a little math in your love

While I know Braden comes up often in my musings, I consciously attempt to keep my Braden blabber to a minimum when I write.  I do not intend for this personal preference to offend anyone; if it does, I am sorry.  I see nothing wrong with blogging about your children (and if you want to read a blog that carefully, whimsically, and poignantly chronicles 'baby' adventures, check out my friend Amy and her family at Herman Nation).  But I feel that I started blogging a little late in Braden's life to journal about it for prosperity.  (Seeing as how he's only 8, it's funny to think of it as 'late in his life', but I had no other words.)

This evening, however, I abandon this resolve to impart a story to you.

Braden's bedtime routine begins with a shower around 7:30, after which we snuggle on the couch until 8:30.  A small fight over oral hygiene segues to tucking and kissing good-night.  Then we play a friendly game of "I love you more than ____________", a game most often played by trumping the other in the grossest manner imaginable.  (For example:  I love you more than a snotty nose.  I love you more than puppy poop.  etc.  Disgusting--absolutely--but it's a game suited for an eight-year old boy with a vivid imagination.)  Finally comes the "I love you" exchange, yet another opportunity for one-upping the 'opponent'.  Tonight's exchange went as follows:

Me:  I love you multiplied by two.  It's huge.  Beyond infinity.

Braden:  I love you, too, mom.  Good night.  (Obviously, based on his commonplace reply, I won the "I love you" exchange.)

Braden (from up in his room, several commercial breaks later):  "Mom, I figured out the solution to your love multiplication problem.  It's 'I love you I love you'.

Me:  Really, how do you know?

Braden:  Well, two multiplied by two repeats and so does four multiplied by two and so on.  I love you multiplied by two must be 'I love you I love you'.

Me:  So how would you add I love you plus two?

Braden:  It would be 'I love, love, love you'.  Just like addition.  It's really simple math when you think about it.  Plus, love is better multiplied.  You have more when you multiply than when you add and what's better than more love?

I'm not much of a math person, but it sounds pretty logical to me.

And so I ask you, dear reader: what's better than more love?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Song of Myself....kinda...

Thursday, after a 36-day struggle, I severed Procrastination's vice-grip from my soul.  That sneaky bastard approached me somewhat seductively, whispering sweetly, "you deserve a break" or "there's no crime in taking time for yourself" or "papers can be graded after you watch all five seasons of Psych."  He had me at Psych and I accepted that tripe like girl in a Harlequin paperback (or Jerry Maguire).

But no longer. 

Days of sitting and waiting and wishing and putting of until tomorrow what can be done today are no more.

I will be efficient and effective.  I will be productive and positive.  I will be less encumbered and more gratified.  I will be less like her and more like me.

And it will be awesome!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Best of 2010

I know.  Trite.  But I think the new year serves as the perfect moment to revisit the best moments of the previous year.  After all, reflection is a crucial component of progression.  The latter half of 2010, the year of the pilgrimage, has been frequently chronicled in this blog.  I strive to make this list concise and non-redundant but apologize in advance for the repetition.

My 35th birthday.  Mom, Aunt Melanie, Aunt Debbie, Tessa, Nicole, Meggan, Catherine, and Amanda came to Georgia from Missouri to celebrate--the first and last shindig all of them would attend at my Georgia home.  Stephanie and Sabrina, my best Georgia gal pals (as well as Sabrina's sister, Robin) also attended.  A limo.  Libations.  Dueling pianos.  Singing.  Dancing.  Laughing.  Girls' Night at its finest.

April Fool's Day.  On this day, I got my acceptance letter for the NEH course of study at Yale.  "Over the moon" mildly describes my reaction.  When I texted the news to my family, both of my brothers and two cousins thought it part of some elaborate AFD joke.  Joke was on them.

Accepting a job in Missouri.  If you know me well, you know the soul searching that went into my decision to return to the state of my youth.  While I have not completely acclimated to the changes--and being a creature of strongly ingrained habit and ritual, the sense of home will come slowly--the job with Jefferson City Public Schools sinews me to this place.

Yale.  Sorry, reader, to bore you yet again with this topic, but it goes without saying that my six weeks at Yale were the highlight of 2010.  For reasons too numerous discuss, especially since I have discussed them ad nauseum in the past several months, Yale exceeded my expectations in every possible way (except for the food; the food was insanely expensive).  Above all else, Yale taught me that I have the mental fortitude for a doctoral program.  Now I have to find the time to actually pursue one...

Saucy Wench's Words.  When I find the time to pursue a doctorate, I also want time to blog (or some other form of writing) more frequently.  I find blogging cathartic (even though the perfectionist in me reviews and rewrites each sentence tediously and meticulously, meaning it's very time consuming).  I truly enjoy writing, though I sometimes feel like the words are whispers in the wind.  While I write for myself--as a public dialogue of personal ideas so to say--, I get giddy when you leave a comment.  Are you familiar with the Love Languages?  My love language--words of affirmation (aka: your comments)--lets me know the blog touched you in some manner.  So I implore you, faithful reader, to leave a comment when the fancy strikes.

Braden.  He's my favorite thing of every year.  Enough said...

What are your favorite moments from 2010?  (Like how I tricked you into commenting?)