Friday, January 27, 2017

Barriers to Writing

Well, it's been tough to start typing, both here and on my fiction writing project. The fiction writing project (okay, let's just start calling it a book, but not The Book, and most definitely not My Stupid BookTM). Anyway, as it currently stands, it's off in my writing teacher's hands for a complete read-through.

I had to send her the revised chapters in the same week as my report card comments were due because, oh my god, poor planning.

Anyway, it's been hard to type anything because:

1. I'm obsessed by the news of our unhinged president. It's much worse than I imagined, as he's actually driven by only narcissism and revenge. I can't stop reading the papers. It seems like the only thing TO do.  I mean, besides march and do my weekly resistance items. And, I guess, pray.

2. The report card comment cycle. After they go out, I inevitably contact and am contacted by families who want to follow up. That's good and normal.

3. I got sick. There's a respiratory pestilence floating around, and despite my fervent protests, I contracted it. I had to stay home from school on Wednesday, which is a pain and which I hate, and now my face has a massive psoriasis outbreak. Because did you know that respiratory infection is a well-documented psoriasis trigger? I mean, really. Teaching with a facial rash is one of my least favorite states in which to teach. I'd rather teach with a stain on my shirt or even my fly down than with red blotches all over my face. I would, however, choose the facial rash over a third pregnancy. Pregnancy is a terrible state in which to teach. Anyway, the only thing to do is acknowledge that I have a facial rash and watch the students study it openly in response to this confirmation.

Get Over It in 3 Acts

It's Still Not Friday (but today it actually is)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

What I Learned from My Sankalpa

sankalpa, open-heartedness, 2017

I'm calling it a day on Sankalpa 2017. When we first started writing about Sankalpa in 2013 (When I say "we," I mean Lee, as I didn't start writing about Sankalpa until 2014), it was determined that we'd do so for 24 days. That seems about perfect, and then it becomes time to write about other things. Here are some thoughts about my 2017 Sankalpa, which was, "I am open-hearted."

I am generally open-hearted (and optimistic) by nature.

It's my natural tendency to be curious about people and relationships. I'm generally accepting, and I'm open to twists and turns. I really like these traits in myself, which is what led me to this year's Sankalpa. 

Sometimes when you're an open-hearted person, you're also the kind of person who can have her feelings hurt pretty easily. This leads to guardedness. But, I think a defensive stance can cloud my spirit. OMG, look how emo I'm being! New-agey! Sankalpa!

Anyway, the January Sankalpa reminded me to be open until it was time to be guarded. Does that make sense? It's like when Shef was going to race some super fast kids in cross country, and he wasn't sure if he could finish first. My advice: "Put yourself in the race, and just see.  You might have to drop back," I told him, "but go out with the leaders and give yourself a shot." He did that.  In the end, he didn't win the race, but he did finish 3rd. Out of like 200-some kids! So, pretty good. 

If you decide first that something is going to be painful or uncomfortable or just not worth it - if you decide before you even try it - you might miss out on some amazingness. I think that's pretty true.

Open-Heartedness is not the same as saying yes to everything.

It's easy to confuse being open-hearted with clogging up your calendar. It's important to be curious and accepting, but smart to decline some opportunities. This year, I articulated something about my work life that I've known for a long time, but haven't made a rule. It's this: No school-night social engagements (concerts, plays, dinners) during the months of September, October, January, February, or May. That's a rule now.

People think that a teaching schedule is really wonderful with lots of free time. That's true, but the free time isn't at all flexible; and in the months I mentioned above, I'm underwater with work. I can't be open to any distractions, or else I start to lose it. You can't be open-hearted when you're losing your mind.

Sankalpa 2017! I'm adding this one to my arsenal, just like "I am intentional," and "I am a creative risk-taker." It's all good.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Sankalpa Status Report: Hmmm

poop, potatoes, middle school

Did you know potatoes could look like this? Like poop, I mean? I was surprised to find them in the bag of little potatoes I was roasting for dinner last night, as I've never seen potatoes in quite this shape before. But(t) per my Sankalpa ("I am open-hearted," remember?), I chopped them on the diagonal and tossed them with olive oil. Not bad, as it turns out. The lesson here is, "Looking like poop doesn't necessarily equate tasting like poop." Whoo!

In other news, I've finished my report card comments. Just now, I spot-checked a few so I could provide an accurate report to you. Sure enough, I carefully considered each child and wrote both what I admire about her or him, and what might be done if they'd like to earn a higher grade. I'm sure you're relieved to hear that I've executed one of the required functions of my employment.

A third tidbit on my Sankalpa: I've been open-hearted to slovenliness. As I sank into report card writing, there was no time left over for exercising. So, I didn't do it. The calendar looks clear tonight, so it's possible I'll take in some yoga. I'm open to it, as it turns out.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Sankalpa: Open-Hearted to Work Management

work management, time management, open-heartedness

Sankalpa comes in January, right when I'm doing one of the hardest, most labor-intensive things I do in my job. It's writing report card comments. It takes me forever to write the 250 words on each kid, telling each individual how much and why I value them and what exactly they could do to perform even better in English or Humanities class. I could do it faster, but then I'd do it worse; and that's totally not my way.

I like writing comments best when I spread the job out over a week. I write a quota each day, and then by the due date, I'm finished with no sweaty mad-rush panic. That was my plan this time around, and I was going to write 7 comments a day beginning on Monday. That would leave a bit of a log-jam for the weekend and MLK day, but nothing I couldn't handle with deep breathing and logic.

On Monday, I started, just as I planned, right after school. It was then that I remembered exactly how hard is is to start. The rhythm wasn't coming, and I remembered that in order to really do the job well, I had to look up work artifacts and discuss them specifically. Each comment was taking upwards of 15 minutes. After an hour (4 comments), I gave up for the day.

Not to worry! On Tuesday, I'd get back at it! Things would be easier! I'd cut the time per comment down to 12 minutes. Except on Tuesday, both of my co-teachers were absent and the spoken-word artist I'm hosting in 7th grade missed our class because she was stuck in traffic. I had two meetings, dinner to make, I had to wash my hair, and Shef had his choir concert.

I wrote zero report-card comments.

So, now I'm in the hole. The hole, however, is not that deep. I'm going to be open-hearted (It's a stretch, I know, to apply my Sankalpa to this situation) to the change in schedule. I'm going to take a deep breath and try again to get in the comment-writing zone.

You know what? This isn't that big of a deal. I think I can do it. I've done it before, and it was totally fine.

Looks like, every year at this time of year, I write about report-card comments.

Bragging as an inspirational work strategy. I'll try this today.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Sankalpa: Open-Hearted to Family Movie Night

crying, movies, family movie night, emotions

I'll admit that sometimes during family movie night, I'll stay busy on my computer while the rest of them watch a movie. In my defense, I do generally stay in the same room with the family. Also, they generally choose some superhero film I have no interest in watching for the sixth or seventh time.

But tonight, because I'm so flipping open-hearted per my Sankalpa, I stayed right there in the fray for Pete's Dragon, the 2016 version starring Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford.  As a bonus, this was our first time watching this fine film - Mac got it for Christmas from Uncle Kevin. This Pete turned out to be pretty much what I thought it would be: a predictable, heartwarming Disney story of motherless children, their heartbreak, and the families that heal their wounds.

And it was so sad and wonderful - and Robert Redford looked so scraggly, old-guy handsome - that I bawled my freaking eyes out.

The kids have been teasing Dan for months about his infamous tendency to cry during movies and television shows, and also to cry during some especially touching advertisements for laundry detergent and/or auto insurance. When anything remotely moving happens on screen, the kids are immediately studying their dad. "Are you crying?" they demand.  And then they laugh at him and sometimes hug him, too.

So, obviously, Dan was crying at the end of Pete's Dragon when Pete (Spoiler Alert for the most predictable movie ever!) lets his dragon go and decides to live with Bryce Dallas Howard's human family that can meet his basic needs, like for clothing. The kids were lasered on Dan's welling emotion, until Mac realized that I was also overcome.

"Dad!" Mac. "She's got DRIP TEARS!"

"It's sad," I blubbered.

And it was. See how open-hearted I am? I'm moved by fuzzy green CGI dragons. If Sankalpa were something to win, I'd be doing it.

A 9:30 bedtime keeps me from watching most TV.

When the brothers aren't making each other cry, they're conspirators.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Sankalpa: Open-Hearted to Opposition

open-heartedness, open-hearted, goals, resolutions

All, right - it's been a few days since I started my, "I am open-hearted" Sankalpa. It's going fine in that several times per day, I tell myself, "I am open-hearted." I've been doing this in tense moments, especially, and I think the intentionality helps me maintain my stance. Let's hope.

I'm expecting more tense moments today, as kids are going to start using glue guns for a project.

Glue guns?!

My co-teachers love projects. And of course, I do too. Right now we're working on an art installation designed to spark a community dialogue about the issue of immigration. What could be cooler than that?

It's just that we've reached the adhesive stage of the project. When we get to adhesives, the nausea kicks in. Last year, it was velcro and spray glue. Holy hell. The year before that it was duct tape and some other kind of glue. Not much better. In fact, I seem to have blocked the memory of the exact type of adhesive, but I know there were also stencils and black paint. Anyway, after fifteen minutes of gluing, I feel like I'm going to hurl. I get hot and twitchy, and I start to yearn for grammar worksheets and silence.

Luckily, I'm open-hearted, and every year I participate in planning a project that will be rewarding for students and our school community, and that will make me suffer.

See?! Sankalpa!

Project Land. This is the extended version of what I'm describing above.

I think Shef must hate projects, too. This is the story of his very first one at age four.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Sankalpa: Be Your Best Self

sankalpa, resolutions, open-heartedness

I love goals, to-do lists and resolutions. I also love this sankalpa thing I started doing because Lee was doing it in 2014. As I said last year"Sankalpa comes from yoga, with its origins all the way back in the Vedas, and it's about awakening your true nature."

So, instead of saying, for instance, "I resolve to be more open-hearted," you tell yourself (and the world) that you already have that wonderful quality within you. You're just practicing embodying it.  As it happens, My 2016 sankalpa is actually, "I am open-hearted."

The thing is, I usually do embody an open-heartedness, but in the past year, I've found myself feeling more guarded. Sometimes, I think guarded can be a smart stance, especially if you're doing something really scary or dangerous, like scaling a rock face without equipment. But, if you're always walking around preparing for an impact (as in a car crash or getting hit with a medicine ball), I think you might be missing out on some cool and fulfilling connections.  I've been working against the impulse to close up with the motto, "You can't do it if you don't try to do it." 

In the month of January, though, instead of talking myself into being vulnerable and open-hearted, I'm going to just be that. Be my true self. "That sounds really emo," my birth father told me when I explained it. It's true. But, personal change with staying power just is kind of emo. 

Also in 2017, besides being open-hearted, I'm also finishing my book. Just saying. That's a goal or a resolution. I'll probably achieve it by using my previous sankalpas, which were "I am intentional," and "I am a creative risk-taker." This is good.

The creative risks in addressing the symptoms of puberty

"Writing is easy and fun for me."