Off Duty Mom

Thoughts from an exhausted mom who is NEVER really "off duty"

Archive for the category “Ugh. Life.”

On “Saving the Children”

What do we even want from kids?

What is the end goal of parenting and schooling and churning out adult humans…like…at ALL?

“If the answer were simply to push more and more kids into college, the United States would be entering its democratic prime,” writes George Packer for The Atlantic on March 10, 2022. He asserts that the function of school in this country has shifted considerably throughout our history. He writes, “what is school for? This is the kind of foundational question that arises when a crisis shakes the public’s faith in an essential institution. ‘The original thinkers about public education were concerned almost to a point of paranoia about creating self-governing citizens,’ Robert Pondiscio, a former fifth-grade teacher in the South Bronx and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told [him]. ‘Horace Mann went to his grave having never once uttered the phrase college- and career-ready. We’ve become more accustomed to thinking about the private ends of education. We’ve completely lost the habit of thinking about education as citizen-making.’”

Photo by Emily Ranquist on Pexels.com

So, sincerely, what is it that we are doing as parents and teachers and…adults? What’s the point of educating young people?

It’s been reported widely that attitudes about how much community members and other non-educators ought to have a “say” in how and what schools teach. Rather famously, a school board in Tennessee banned the inclusion of the World War II graphic novel, Maus, due to NUDITY, of all things, though the book is about the goddamn Holocaust and depicts the true realities of what millions of human beings experienced. The book doesn’t depict any of this as GOOD, mind you. In fact, it recognizes the atrocities of the historical events, yet that context didn’t seem to matter to a 10-person school board in McMinn County who voted unanimously to remove this “offensive” book from its school’s shelves.

WHY?

A great framing of the incident is that “people with the power to shape the education of kids looked at content without context and made a decision rooted in anti-intellectualism and ignorance. Education isn’t about shielding kids from painful truths,” writer Ryan Britt claimed in an article at Fatherly.com. “It’s about helping contextualize those truths. Maus is one of the best examples of how horrible moments from history can be sublimated into profound, life-changing art. And, decision-makers who feel otherwise are edging toward the horrible book-burnings of the Nazis themselves.”

So, I ask again: WHAT IS THE GOAL HERE?

Photo of Birkenau gate by Frederick Wallace on Unsplash

I guess I can at least accept that “protecting kids from scary or grown-up stuff” is AN answer to the question of “why did you perform an Orwellian action of dictating what young people should and shouldn’t know about actual, real history?” But, in the long run, when these young people become older people, what is the hope of who those people will BE? Do we WANT folks who do not have any context for what happened to close to 10 million human beings, 6 million of whom were tossed in the air as infants and shot or sent to die choking, bleeding deaths in gas chambers because of their positions on how to recognize and worship a deity? Like, are we HOPING to create a populace who is “protected” from history to the point that they are not aware of it? British statesman Winston Churchill wrote, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” And, ya know, he was THERE for World War II, so maybe he knows things or something? Or, like he did know things. He was born in the 1870’s, so he’s not around anymore, but you get the idea.

Packer’s article in The Atlantic continues to assert that “education is a public interest, which explains why parents shouldn’t get to veto any book they think might upset their child, whether it’s To Kill a Mockingbird or Beloved. Public education is meant not to mirror the unexamined values of a particular family or community, but to expose children to ways that other people, some of them long dead, think.” So why in the name of all things big and small would anyone be so arrogant as to contend that THEIR PERSONAL feelings about nudity in a freaking Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the planet’s most horrific war should be taken into account, especially when those arrogant people are not, themselves, educators?

If you have ever been an elementary school teacher, you know that even the youngest of kids can learn to get along with others. Elementary school teachers, in fact, demand that as a fundamental rule in their classrooms. So, it is possible for human beings to coexist peacefully. Just ask your average 5-year old. Peaceful coexistence does not happen without some effort, though, and whether you’re trying to cooperate to complete a morning routine at the kindergarten daily calendar or discuss the merits of a certain political system in a college classroom, such collaboration can only be found through mutual respect, common ground, and a desire to behave like civilized human beings.

The banning of books and the takeover of American schools by ignorant and ill-informed, power-driven non-educators is a cyclical nightmare. The less and less people read, discuss, debate, and think, the more and more they will find literature, discourse, disagreement, and contemplation “dangerous” or undesirable. And, in turn, the less and less people will read, discuss, debate, and think.

Perhaps this is the English teacher in me coming out, but as far as I am concerned, reading is one of the most important activities for the human mind and reading about ideas different from your current ones is paramount to building better citizens of humanity.

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Reading is different, perhaps, for those skilled in the art of doing in than it is for laypeople. As a long-time English teacher, I get that. I know that I see things in literature that kids don’t see at first. One of my favorite tools is a book called How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster. In it, he actually discusses what the purpose of both sex and violence are in books. One of my favorite quotes of his from that book is: “When they’re writing about other things, they really mean sex, and when they write about sex, they really mean something else.  If they write about sex and mean strictly sex, we have a word for that.  Pornography.” This is where the breakdown happens, I think. Maus is NOT pornography. If it were, it would deserve to be banned. But, a NAKED CARTOON MOUSE is NOT pornography and now here we are: a book banned in a backwards school district for what is, really, no good reason whatsoever.

In fact, the delineation between what is LITERATURE and what is a BOOK lies in this differentiation between sex (or violence or nudity or journeys or wars or relationships or meals or rain or marriages or…well…you get the idea) and that which sex (or violence or nudity or journeys or wars or relationships or meals or rain or marriages or…well…you get the idea) represents. I created a lesson on this very idea some time ago and I phrased it well then, so I am not going to reinvent the wheel here, but rather quote myself, I guess: “Thomas C. Foster explains, ‘Violence is one of the most personal and even intimate acts between human beings, but it can also be cultural and societal in its implications.’  Think of Macbeth ‘unseaming’ the traitor in Act I of Macbeth.  He must get very close to him.  He can undoubtedly smell the blood.  He’ll get plenty of blood and bone on his own body.  Organs will burst.  He’ll watch life drain from his eyes.  This is personal.  It says something about the kind of man Macbeth is and the kind of patriotism he had — the loyalty he had to his king — before meeting those witches.” So, while some non-educators might attempt to protect teenagers’ virginal eyes and pure minds from the scaries one might find in Shakespeare or Spiegelman or Lee or Huxley or Rowling or Steinbeck or Walker or Morrison or Fitzgerald or Angelou, what they’re protecting those kids from is LEARNING.

Whether it is fiction or nonfiction, literary works — even the “mature” ones — have a deeply important place in schools that hope to build better thinkers, better debaters, better collaborators, better citizens, and better humans. It is only if you are NOT trying to build those things that it makes sense to keep kids from reading To Kill a Mockingbird or Of Mice and Men or The Color Purple. A 2019 survey by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation demonstrated “why a greater emphasis on American history learning is essential to the nation. The Foundation found that in the highest-performing state, only 53 percent of the people were able to earn a passing grade for U.S. history. People in every other state failed; in the lowest-performing state, only 27 percent were able to pass” (Source: Woodrow Wilson Foundation Finds Only One State Can Pass U.S. Citizenship Exam) In Tennessee, where that ban on Maus was, the study found that 62% of people earned a 59% or lower (a failing grade) on that citizenship exam. Only 3% of testers in that state earned an “A.”

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“Amid the GOP’s national campaign to purge ‘leftist ideology’ from public schools, local officials across the nation are now banning certain books that deal with race, sex, and gender, from school shelves, writes Jon Skolnik for The Salon in a January 2022 article. In addition to the well-publicized ban on Maus in Tennessee, Missouri and Mississippi have ramped up their book-banning of late. That citizenship test I mentioned before? Nearly 70% of Mississippians failed that. The folks of Missouri fared better but still 61% of them failed. Do we need kids in these places to be learning LESS?

The Humanities (literature, history, art) have a place in society-building. Packer’s The Atlantic article goes on to assert that “the best way to interest young people in literature is to have them read good literature, and not just books that focus with grim piety on the contemporary social and psychological problems of teenagers. We sell them insultingly short in thinking that they won’t read unless the subject is themselves. Mirrors are ultimately isolating; young readers also need windows, even if the view is unfamiliar, even if it’s disturbing. The ability to enter a world that’s far away in time or place; to grapple with characters whose stories might initially seem to have nothing to do with your life; to gradually sense that their emotions, troubles, revelations are also yours—this connection through language to universal human experience and thought is the reward of great literature, a source of empathy and wisdom.”

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are, of course, incredibly important for young people to have access to in education. These areas are where we, as a society, build DOERS. These STEM subjects create problem-solvers, and critical thinkers. But, the Humanities are where empathy, understanding, communication, diplomacy, maturity, and wisdom are built. And, BOTH areas — those appealing to the left-brained AND the right — are responsible for helping folks test ideas, support claims, evaluate thoughts, and draw meaningful conclusions.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

So, again, at the risk of being a bit of a broken record here, I ask: WHAT DO WE WANT FOR OUR KIDS? What is the goal of education? Despite my rant in my tiny corner of the internet, “well-meaning” (mostly white, cisgendered, straight, “Christian” adults) will continue to rail against naked mice, schools of witchcraft and wizardry, and learning that American history is –whether you want to talk about it or not–built on a fundamental foundation of white supremacy. I don’t imagine that Arkansas, Louisiana, and Kentucky (the three worst-performing states on that US Citizenship Exam which, by the way, demonstrated that a huge number of Americans don’t know what a Constitutional Amendment is) are going to start to suddenly embrace Walk Two Moons and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, but they should.

It can start with you, though. Consider buying or borrowing one of these books. Read them with your child. Talk. Think. Share ideas.

Most frequently banned books for elementary-aged kids:

  1. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  3. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  4. I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
  5. The Captain Underpants Series by Dav Pilkey
  6. New Kid by Jerry Craft

Most frequently banned books for middle-school kids:

  1. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
  2. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  3. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
  4. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  5. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  6. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  7. Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Most frequently banned books for high school kids:

  1. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  2. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  3. Native Son by Richard Wright (one of my personal favorite books ever!)
  4. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  5. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  6. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  7. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  8. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Or, if you’re interested, check out these book-ban lists and information about what some states are currently working on:

  1. TEXAS
  2. MISSISSIPPI
  3. OHIO
  4. ALABAMA
  5. GEORGIA
  6. OKLAHOMA
  7. ARKANSAS
  8. SOUTH CAROLINA
  9. FLORIDA
  10. NORTH CAROLINA
  11. UTAH
  12. ARIZONA

What am I supposed to do now?

Social media is an interesting beast.

On one social media site, I am a part of a “group” of folks who are now trying or have recently tried to leave the teaching profession. There are a TON of such groups all over the interwebs and mostly they are comprised of people who are exhausted, terrified, sad, and traumatized and they’re generally trying to support one another as they transition out of the only job they’ve ever wanted to have. Their stories are eye-opening and important and I’d like to give some more public voice to their plights here.

If you talk to teachers about what their biggest problems are in their schools all across America, very few have the same “talking points” as the media has presently. They don’t lament the lack of public school funding or the “learning loss” of kids post-pandemic. They don’t habitually complain about low pay, though they acknowledge that dealing with what they’re dealing with might be more reasonable if they were paid a fairer wage. They don’t gripe about being low-staffed. In fact, most are happy for their colleagues who “get out” of what they refer to as a toxic system. Their complaints, almost exclusively, revolve around poor leadership and a sense of entitlement from both students and parents within the system.

What follows in red is written ENTIRELY from the words of current and former teachers since COVID changed their lives. These are the words of educators in an online group of nearly 15,000 members from all over the world, but our focus here is on the US education system. These are their words. These are their stories. >insert Law & Order sound DUN-DUN here<

“I am at my breaking point.”
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I am at my breaking point. One of the biggest issues is that we are having kids with more and more issues and we are getting no help with that . We are seeing kids with serious psychiatric issues yet there are NO new classes, professionals, etc. to help with this even though it’s increasing every year. There is very little support from anyone in a position of authority whatsoever. Violence is not merely tolerated, but it is, at times, rewarded. In the name of “PBIS” (an edu-babble term that stands for “Positive Behavioral Intervention System), students actually get rewards like lollipops and stickers after they’ve struck a teacher or a fellow student. In an effort to teach them that those behaviors are wrong, they go to a “safe room” after a violent outburst, acknowledge that violence is “bad” and are thus given a treat for that grand revelation. It happens all the time. This is kindergarten through high school seniors, by the way.

I don’t feel I have support when it comes to inappropriate and disruptive or disrespectful behaviors. The kids are given all the power. Parents are the worst part of the equation. Coupled with administration that have no backbone and are terrified of parental lawsuits – the students are allowed to run the show! There is no support for teachers! None! Administrators refuse to treat teachers as professionals and are demeaning, insulting, and completely lacking in empathy or care for us as human beings; they are bullies who retaliate against us when we try to stand up for what’s right; they play favorites with their buddies on staff. There are so, so many reasons just from the admin angle that make me want to get out. That’s not even touching the surface of parent and student issues, workload issues, fair pay and retirement issues.

If I had a nickel for every time I got one of these from a kid…
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[Since the pandemic began], the biggest shift I’ve seen is the developing culture of disrespect and sense of entitlement. I’m tired of being yelled at, ignored, and undervalued [by administrators]. Schools do not discipline kids anymore. Behavior is out of control and we are supposed to teach the willing-to-learn kids while the others misbehave and disrupt learning for all. There was such a huge push for an end to the school-to-prison pipeline that the pendulum swung so far in the other direction that there is not just no more “policing” of student behavior, there is no attempt to address the behavior AT ALL. So, kids who were violent, disrespectful, abusive, or otherwise out of control five years ago did so and were suspended or expelled or dealt with. Kids do the exact same things today but are just sent back to class. Kids have literally physically assaulted teachers and classmates and they just…go back to class like nothing happened…because everyone is afraid we’ll be called out for “over-policing” kids. No matter what I do or say they carry on [because] there is no punishment. They are allowed to behave this way and we just have to take it.

[I want out because] teachers [are] being forced to retest failing students until they pass [which] seems like setting children up for real world failure. As a parent, I do not want my kids given multiple chances. We LEARN from failures. Not allowing someone to fail, in my opinion, is stunting that person’s growth and development as a human being. [There is a real] lack of support from colleagues, bullying from admins, and children passing regardless of their competency and ability to actually complete the work. A woman told me recently that her daughter just graduated from high school and only after that did she realize that her daughter couldn’t read. And, she went the whole way through the system – passing year in and year out.

I’m finishing the school year and never looking back. The combination of abysmally poor leadership and the fact that parents and kids run the schools these days has created a work environment that is inhospitable. This is a change that I’ve watched happen over the past 3-5 years. It started before the pandemic, but that trying time absolutely sped it up and exacerbated it. I can’t take it anymore.

As I compiled the words of the nearly 50 teachers who responded to my request for their thoughts, I was interested in seeing where the trends were in their responses. I found that a few concepts were repeated more than any others. The single most common word I saw was the word “bullying,” though. But, that term was not used in reference to how the kids interact with one another, but was in reference to how their bosses treat teachers.

If you don’t work in education, you might be surprised to hear about how the hierarchy works there and how, historically, teachers are not treated as professionals by their administrators, nearly all of whom were once teachers themselves. It operates in many places like a fraternity where the teachers are the freshman pledges and administrators are the seniors who haze them.

Of course, low pay (in some parts of the country, the starting salary for the 2021-2022 school year was under $20,000 a year), job insecurity (again, in some parts of the country, teachers are on year-to-year contracts where administrators can decide to renew — or not — at any time), standardized testing, and teacher shortages (I spoke to one teacher who had FOUR coworkers all quit last week from a single high school building) are all problems. But, as the saying goes, people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses. So, the epidemic of this teacher exodus is largely related to just not getting what they need from their leaders. Teachers are not well-respected, not treated with compassion, and are not physically or emotionally safe in their workplaces. This is a nationwide epidemic, mind you. Current statistics say that nearly 60% of teachers in this country will leave the profession by the end of this June if they can.

Something has to give.
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What’s tragic about this is that every single one of these folks I spoke with is devastated by the idea of leaving. Not a single one of them got into teaching for any other reason than being called to it. The overwhelming concern for them all is: What do I do now? as they all evaluate their options. Most of them feel trapped, unqualified for any job other than teaching, and are terrified about what walking away from a lifetime dream and calling will mean for them. This is traumatic.

It’s an abusive relationship. These folks, mostly women, have loved their students, their subject areas, their coworkers. All they’ve ever wanted to do was share wisdom and guide young people and change the world. And the head of the household (so to speak) keeps berating them, gaslighting them, and generally treating them like absolute shit.

I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how to fix any of this. I don’t know what to say or what to do or where to go. But, this is big, people. We have to start doing better by the people who care for our kids on the daily.

Before there aren’t any left.

Mid-Life: Cry, Sis

At what point is it reasonable to ask yourself whether you have, for certain, lived already longer than you will yet live?

Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels.com

Heavy stuff.

I’m about to be 45. I’m in my last days of 44-ness, actually. So, I’ll have to live beyond 90 in order to be looking right now at having more life ahead of me than I have behind. Statistically, I’m not sure this is possible. So, that’s kind of a bummer.

Psychology Today argues that “midlife” is age 40-65, but I don’t see a whole lot of 130-year olds out there who agree. An economist at the National Bureau of Economic Research claims that the age of 47 is generally the unhappiest year of a person’s life, according to data collected among participants in over 130 countries. So, great…I have that to look forward to.

But, it appears that researchers and doctors and expert-types of all shapes and sizes have looked into this un-happiness “curve,” as they call it, where folks are at their highest lowness before finding happiness again as they take their long march toward death.

Apparently, though, if you’re in “midlife” like I apparently am, and you enjoy emotional self-torture, there is no scarcity of information on the World Wide Web to help you wallow in your despair. Luckily, there are a few people out there trying to help us see the “bright side,” though, so I will share some of that here in case you find that sort of thing interesting.

  1. A publication released in 1999 found that “people at midlife score higher on almost every measure of cognitive functioning than they did when they were 25.” Source
  2. Though Brett Arends at Market Watch wrote, “And here was me, thinking the midlife slump was the result of being Generation X, sandwiched between a bunch of boomers who won’t get off the stage and millennials who can’t wait to run us over,” it turns out that dissatisfaction with one’s life at our age coincides with events that just tend to happen at this age such as loss of a spouse or job. So, I mean, if you DON’T have a spouse die, then I guess you’ll be cool.
  3. A 2011 study conducted through Stanford University busted the myth that one’s youth is the “prime of life.” In fact, The Guardian reported on this a few years ago, asserting that “contrary to the popular view that youth is the best time in life, the present findings suggest that the peak of emotional life may not occur until well into the seventh decade.” Read more feel-good stuff from that article here.
  4. AARP, the authority on old people, published just in January of this year, an article that will let you know that what was always laughed at as the time in one’s life to divorce your wife and date your 25-year old secretary is not really like that at all. In fact, for most people, they claim, this is the point in life at which folks tend to reevaluate their lives and Get. Shit. Done.
  5. And finally if the bro-dom of GQ is your thing, you can check out this article on how midlife is a great time to get tattoos, smoke weed, and become awesome. All joking aside, the article nicely demonstrates how as we age, we become less concerned with pleasing others and more interested in being ourselves which is, indeed, pretty awesome.
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I’ll continue to surf the web in my attempt to embrace my aging-soul and become my “best self” or whatever Oprah shit I can find out there. But, the truth is that it is hard when you think about what is behind you. If you are one of those 50-year olds who started working out in midlife, what is behind you is maybe a really sweet ass, but for most of us, we just sort of think about how we used to be fun and now go to bed at 9:00.

But, I’ll try, ok? Maybe I should think about all of the cool people who were just STARTING their amazing journeys in “middle age”: Steve Carrell didn’t get his break on The Office until he was 43. Harrison Ford was a carpenter until he was 35 and was cast in Star Wars. Bryan Cranston didn’t hit is breakout role (Malcolm in the Middle) until he was 44. Lucille Ball was 40 when I Love Lucy started. Leslie Jones didn’t get into the SNL cast until she was 47. Ang Lee was a stay-at-home-dad until he was 38 and directed his first big film, Brokeback Mountain. In 1982, Martha Stewart published her breakout-book, Entertaining at age 41, subsequently launching her career in the business. And, finally, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Betty White. She was 51 years old when she first got the role that allowed her career to skyrocket: Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Anything that is good enough for Betty Freakin’ White is good enough for me.

Bleeding Out

When I decided to go by “Off Duty Mom,” it was through inspiration from my own mom who, in the evenings of my childhood, would sometimes pick up a book and lie in bed in an attempt to have just a bit of time to herself, declaring that she was “off duty.” As an adult, once I had children of my own, I realized the importance for moms to go “off duty” every now and then.

When not on duty as a mom, I’ve spent a few decades as a high school English teacher. There were days when I didn’t know which job — mom or teacher — was more rewarding, exhausting, frustrating, illuminating, and/or indicative of my very identity. Both jobs have had their ups and downs.

You may have heard through sources such as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Washington Post, and, you know, everyone you personally know in education right now, that teachers are quitting in astronomical numbers. And, they’re not just quitting their jobs, but they’re quitting the entire profession and giving up on years of training, years of dreaming, and years of just KNOWING that being an educator was their “calling.” Something is happening and it is bad, people.

I first realized that my own mental health was in decline just before the pandemic forced me out of my classroom. I remember a conversation I had with an assistant principal where she and I talked off-the-record about morale being low in our building. This is something that can just “happen” from time to time, though, so at this point, the very fact that she just sort of listened to me, heard my concerns about general dissatisfaction, and tried to be supportive was enough for me. But then a dear friend and colleague of mine quit — perhaps not suddenly, but it did unfold fairly quickly — and on that very last day of his, my administrators came over our PA system to let us know that we ought to take our work home with us over the weekend of March 14, 2020 since schools would be closed come Monday.

As schools closed that spring, many districts across the country took vastly different approaches to how they’d handle serving their communities. “Fairness” was an issue of particular concern for a whole lot of schools all over, especially when it came to taking care of the needs of Special Education students. Some schools realized that Zoom-learning wouldn’t really allow for Individualized Education Programs to be met fully which can violate federal law, so that was pretty bad. In order to have “equity” or “fairness” for all students, some schools chose to push through and go all “CDC-be-damned” and stuff to stay open despite, like, several million people dying. Others decided to educate NOBODY because that, too, was “fair” in that everyone was being equally shafted.

During the multiple months that followed, this “fairness” and “equity” remained pretty buzzy. It isn’t for no reason, either. Teachers had a glimpse into students’ home lives and realized that tons of stuff we never even realized was happening behind those closed doors was causing barriers to student learning. Some kids showed up to classes online with their younger siblings on their laps, being primary caregivers AND full time students at once. Some teachers saw a variety of conditions of homes, relationships, boundaries (or lack thereof), supplies, wi-fi reliability, noise levels, and all kinds of trauma-in-the-making. Some kids went fully MIA for the entirety of the time of remote learning. One parent came to an online meeting regarding her son’s pending failure of a course that was a graduation requirement for him while she was actively moving a table from one room of her house to another — huffing and puffing and screaming at her family members while (sort of) talking with me about whether her child was going to get a diploma or not.

The truth was that kids were dealing with all kinds of shit and teachers had a front-row seat. Of course, teachers themselves also had more than they’d signed up for on their own plates. We had to reinvent our entire profession from scratch, learn technology new to most of us, and figure out how to do the non-academic parts of our job with pretty much no help from anyone. Who could even help if they wanted to, anyway?

Things were NOT “equitable” for kids. They had all kinds of levels of support, love, affection, kindness, peace, responsibility, expectation, money, and ability. We always knew this, but it was another thing to witness it.

What happened was that expectations for school systems rose and accountability for students fell. The general consensus was that kids’ differences in preparedness for school wasn’t their “fault” (and it, indeed was not), so we, as a system, had to level the playing field for them. Makes sense on paper. But, of course, the root issues causing these unfair circumstances weren’t going to change for the better and we weren’t attempting to (or able to) fix any of that, anyway. The only thing we could do was “do better” for kids.

I do NOT disagree that “doing better for kids” is both warranted and vital. But, it certainly is stressful.

Art installation titled “Can’t Help Myself” by Chinese artists, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu

Have you ever seen that art installation of the dying robot? Well, there was this robot that constantly leaked hydraulic fluid and was programmed to sweep it up to return to its own system. At first, as the story goes, the fluid leaked at a rate that was manageable for it to contain and return to itself. Over time, though, the moments of “rest” for the robot became fewer and farther between and it was eventually in a situation where it did nothing but clean up this leak literally at all times. The leak was never fixed. It just kept cleaning up, over and over, never able to stop the root cause but instead just in a perpetual cycle of futile efforts to save its own life.

That robot “died” after the spills and loss of fluid became greater than its physical ability to clean up the mess and carry on. I had heard later that the irony of it all was that it wasn’t even a hydraulically-powered machine. Though it was programmed to “believe” that it had to perform this task to save itself, it actually never needed the leaking fluid in the first place. And yet, it died anyway.

Such is the state of education.

When does stress just become unbearable?

I’ve heard the saying, of course, that you “can’t pour from an empty cup” and so, I’ve decided to take a brief hiatus from teaching. Attempting to sweep up all of my leaking hydraulic fluid has left me exhausted and physically unwell. I’ve had heart palpitations. Depression. Anxiety. Stomach all tied up in knots. Sleeping too much. Trouble sleeping at all. I’m on 6 different medications a day like an old lady and half of them are for issues related to stress. So, I get it. That mass exodus of teachers: I get it.

The system is bleeding out. Hemorrhaging, even. And, there are underpaid, undervalued people who are working to stanch that flow every day. In return for their efforts, they are asked to do more: improve test scores, attend more meetings that could have been emails, close the racial performance gap, provide trauma support, get yelled at by parents, have the public refer to them as “glorified babysitters,” shift effortlessly between online learning and in-person as needed, wear masks, get tested, get vaccinated, break up violent fights, prepare for a mass shooting at their workplace, differentiate instruction so that each individual student gets a unique and tailored educational experience, do paperwork nobody reads, give standardized tests, and, well, you know, I am just tired of listing things so I have to stop.

I might add, though, that to the other teacher-moms out there: I know that being a mother is also unforgiving, thankless, and just damn hard, too. And it is hard in ways nobody ever told you about. I mean, we all knew there’d be diapers. But, when you have to deal with bullying, or mental health problems in your kids, or talking about sex and consent, or online predators — well, that was just not what I was thinking about when I was pregnant and people were all, “It’s hard but you’ll love it!” I do NOT enjoy worrying about an adult pretending to be a 13-year old girl to get a kid to meet him “IRL.” Give me a thousand diapers instead, actually.

What’s the moral to the story here? Hell if I know. I wish I had a perky call-to-action to end this rant. Or, a positive “however” statement to make here. I do not.

How many more empty teacher desks will it take before crisis truly sets in?

The world is changing. I guess that’s all there is to it.

If you’d like to read more about this nationwide teacher crisis, here are a few articles you might want to check out:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/magazine/2021/10/18/teachers-resign-pandemic/

https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/teachers-are-not-ok-even-though-we-need-them-to-be/2021/09

https://www.forbes.com/sites/markcperna/2022/01/04/why-education-is-about-to-reach-a-crisis-of-epic-proportions/?sh=fcd302178c7b

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/newsletters/2022-01-06/more-teachers-than-ever-are-considering-leaving-the-profession

https://www.wsj.com/articles/teachers-are-quitting-and-companies-are-hot-to-hire-them-11643634181

https://www.forbes.com/sites/petergreene/2019/09/05/we-need-to-stop-talking-about-the-teacher-shortage/?sh=472c6924494c

https://thejournal.com/articles/2022/01/19/survey-finds-teacher-shortage-exacerbated-by-bans-on-classroom-discussions-of-race-and-gender.aspx

The Road About To Be Taken

There is no real way to know the path you ought to take. “Two roads” may “diverge in a yellow wood” and you might notice that they are similarly untrodden, leaving no clear indication of which to take. You may *want* to take the one “less traveled by” but first of all, WHY? And, second of all, how do you know which it is if neither path is “trodden black” with footprints and markings?

I’m an English nerd and do loves me some Robert Frost and stuff. But, seriously, the question really does weigh on my mind: if I am at a crossroads in life and I look to my options, but obviously have no way of knowing where these options may lead, how am I ever supposed to know what the “right” thing to do is? How does ANYONE EVER know what the “right” thing to do is, for, like anything, ever?

I am about to turn 45 and my life is one giant crossroads right now. I’m dissatisfied at work, but feel too old to start over. My kids are school-aged, but don’t need me all of the time anymore. I feel my mortality as I crunch the numbers and realized I’ve likely lived more years than I have yet to live. I know I have neglected my health, both mental and physical, for ages. So, what now? What path do I go down? What paths are even available to me?

Many thanks to Unsplash for really cool photos that are just perfect, like this one.

I hope to explore this in the coming days and weeks in the hopes that first (and really most importantly because I know me and I don’t know you) I figure my damn life out, but also second, so that perhaps my journey might speak to someone else’s out there. I encourage you to reach out with advice, thoughts, experiences, and/or reactions you might have and hope you’ll pass this all along to anyone you know who might be experiencing a similar dilemma.

Let’s trek boldly into the Midlife Crisis now and see where this woody path leads.

Well, This is Awkward…

When a minimally-relevant blogger goes M.I.A. for, like two years, and then is all, “Oh right, I have a blog” and suddenly shows back up again…

awkward 1Right.

So, I once loved to write.  Still do, really.  But, life has gotten in the way.  It’s funny, too, because the whole point of this blog was (and is) to talk about the absurdity of growing older and the drama/trauma of being exhausted by work and life.

And, this is all pretty much the least awkward thing about me.  I’m super-awkward.  In fact, the first time I typed that prior sentence, I spelled it “awkard” because I’m so awkward that I can’t even keep all my letters right.

awkward 2People are not really my cup of tea.  Small talk is excruciating.  I’m always saying something stupid.

But, really, that’s in my head, I know.

From the outside looking in, I don’t think anyone things I’m as awkward as I think I am.  Words that have been used to describe me are “poised,” “articulate,” “organized.”  Holy shit that last one is funny.  My desk at work always looks like a bunch of Huns just got done pillaging it. But, I do use color-coded folders in Google Drive, so I’ve got that going for me.

But, what I am realizing is that there is no reason to listen to that dumb-ass in your head who talks to you and tells you how much you suck.  That voice isn’t even REAL.  It’s not a person.  It’s the manifestation of your fears.  It’s the coward of your psyche that lives in a world made exclusively of “what ifs,” and tears you forgot to cry, and memories of mistakes you never actually made and if you did everyone forgot about them anyway.

I wish I had known this at 13.  Or at 19.  Or at 30.  Or yesterday.

But, I suppose I can know them today.  I can start reveling in my badassery.  I can look at my body and be proud that it produced two beautiful children (one delivered naturally with NO drugs — though that hadn’t been the plan).  When I had my first son, an hour afterward, I thought I could do fucking ANYTHING.  I could probably leap buildings in a single bound.  I invented a human being and survived primal torture — torture, I say! — to get him from inside my body to the outside world that June day ten years ago.  I can look at the 85 pounds I cleaned-and-jerked at my CrossFit class not as an embarrassment because I hit that personal best of mine while standing next to a 24-year old who was lifting 120 lbs, but as a goddamn achievement to be celebrated because, not long ago, I could barely lift a fraction of that.  I can look at my desk and be like, “look what a creative MIND I must have!”

So, people, my snark and grumpiness is still inside me because it is frickin’ fabulous and delightful.  But, maybe, if you check back again soon, there will be more positivity here at Off Duty Mom.

Have a great day.

No.  Really…

The Gym, the Guilt and the Undying Search for Balance

10257789_685963581450789_99859160733615273_nThe guilt is overwhelming sometimes.  Most of the time.

It doesn’t help that the little guys in my life HATE coming with me to the gym.  Or that they ask, “why do you ALWAYS have to go to that gymmmmmm?”

I am insanely fortunate to have found a phenomenal CrossFit gym with a supportive and encouraging coach who allows me to let my children play on their tablets and do their homework while I work out.  But, I still feel incredibly awful dragging them to sit there so I can do something that is solely and completely just for me.

All the self-help people and women’s magazines tell us that we just simply must make the time to do something for ourselves.  It is essential that we take care and have something to call our own.  But I am not sure what the point is at which I am taking too much for myself.

mom-me-time_iwqi70I already work outside of the home as a teacher.  So, that’s “mine.”  I work out somewhat faithfully twice a week.  I get my nails done every two weeks or so.  I see a chiropractor semi-regularly.  I get my hair highlighted and cut every six to eight weeks.  If I wanted to add a third gym day in or see a physical therapist to figure out why I always have to pee when I jump rope, I feel as though that is just going to far.

And, I have to admit that I don’t know who I am more afraid will judge me:  my kids, my husband, society at large or ME.

6e1f525658ca73c44d018f7598768963So, I work out two days a week and while that is wonderful, I am not progressing that quickly.  I’d love to be able to tell you that I can do real pull-ups and bench-press 250 lbs., but those would both be lies.  Since starting at my gym 14 months ago, I have not managed to squeeze out one single actual real pull-up.  Or push-up.  Or unbroken 400-meter run.

The former, couch-potato me would say, “but you’re out there and you’re doing something and you’re sweating and doing something amazing for your body.”

Yep.  I am.

But, can I justify it?

What is a mother supposed to do?  No, really.  What am I supposed to do?  What percentage of “me” time is acceptable?  How many gym days can I have without being a “bad mother”?  If I drag the kids with me tomorrow so I can pick out new frames for my glasses, do I have to counterbalance that which was done solely for my (and not their direct) benefit with ice cream or trips to the park or other bribery/rewards/”quality time with the kids”?

Today, during my front squat, my coach told me I had to take weight off of the bar.  That’s demoralizing.  While I was thankful for the lighter load to bear, I also wondered about whether that made me weak.  But, his cue to me let me know that in that moment I was taking on too much.  I needed to scale back.  I wish I had a better system in place to help cue me as to when I have taken on an improper balance of time dedicated to the different elements of my own life.

Be better

FUCKING MILLENNIALS.

I swear to all that is good an holy that if I have to listen to one more twenty-something complain about bills and college and, you know, LIFE, I am going to lose my damn mind.

I’m an ageist.  I admit to totally being completely and unabashedly discriminatory against the under 30 set.  And, I admit to hating this generalized demographic even while having many friends, colleagues and other people I generally respect, fall into this category.

It is absolutely not that I am out of touch.  I get it.  I’ve taught for long enough that the first few graduating classes of seniors I worked with are now squarely in their 30’s.  So, while this makes me super old, it also means that I have watched teenagers grapple with the educational system since the 90’s.  I understand that everyone tells you that you HAVE to go to college, then you go broke once you do the thing that everyone insisted you do, but weren’t sure you really wanted to do in the first place.  But, you marched along with the other lemmings and filled out your FAFSA and got your degree in French Literature and now you fold sweatshop clothes at the strip mall.  I know.  We all know because you have told us about a million times on Twitter, but perhaps you may have forgotten to take responsibility for your own actions, decisions and life.

My 9th graders are working on a research project right now in class.  I would estimate that only about 30% of them have accepted this challenge by digging in and really pouring through resources.  That 30% is going to the library, using databases to find periodicals, and utilizing scholarly websites and journals to find high-quality information for their writing.

The other 70% says something like, “can you help me?”.  Now, it is totally my job to help kids.  But, when I would come over to the desk of one of these 70%’ers, I would usually say, “What can I help you do?”.  This is usually met with blank stares.  Or, with a generic, “I don’t know how to start?”  or just “I don’t understand.”  If pressed  with, “what don’t you understand?”, I either get “all of it” or a shoulder shrug and more blank staring.

See, the thing is that for years and years, we’ve tried to protect our children from failure, doubt, mistakes and disappointment.  And, as a teacher who has seen a generation of kids who cannot struggle in a healthy way terrifies me.  There are millions of young people who are incapable of dealing with heartache, with rejection and with broken promises.

Is college too expensive?  Yes.  But so is just about everything that we actually want.  When we told all the kids that they needed college, they listened.  The demand went up.  It got more expensive.  This is how things work.

Are there too few jobs out there and is the majority being suffocated by the so-called “1%”?  I dunno.  Maybe?  But, so the fuck what?  Do something about it.  Change your world.  Change yourself.  Change your perspective.  Just don’t write a letter to your CEO about how you can’t afford your rent.  It’s not his problem.  It’s yours.  Figure something out.  Struggle.  Sweat.  Overcome.

I want my children at home to be independent.  I don’t want them just to make awesome independent decisions about getting mermaid hair or listening to 21 Pilots be Just. So. Avant-Garde.  (Look at us and how avant-garde we are!)  I want them to tell me, “It’s okay mom.  I can do it myself” when I offer to button a shirt or cut a banana.  I’ll cry that my babies are all grown up, but I do not want to raise boys who cannot or will not try something that is hard, maybe even do it wrong or just shitty or even get a little bumped and bruised in the process, but the come out on the other side with a product that they can own entirely themselves.

In the words of one of my favorite fashion gurus, “Make it work,” people.

The Whole Life Challenge: Am I Still Doing This?

I love potatoes and naps.

I don’t get much of either — the latter due to, you know… life, and the former because of the tyranny that is the Whole Life Challenge that I paid and signed up for totally willingly.

We’re in something like week 6ish now.  It is ok.  I have lost a few pounds, but not enough to make me feel all that excited about it.  I lost far more weight on Weight Watchers a few years back, though, admittedly, everyone one of those pounds came back and brought a few friends.

Perhaps getting older just sucks at its core.  I suppose that is true just anyway, but it seems of particular significance when one is trying to get one’s butt off of the couch and turn one’s life into the stuff of health and wellness.

Rather than this being a complaint, I do truly have a question:  Why is this so hard?  Many  of us complain of this frequently, but honestly, why is it so hard just to live a decent life?  Is it a fat-American thing?  Why are so many of us working so fucking hard just to reach a baseline level of health?  Why is the norm ruinous?  It is like so many of us start in the negative and have to work damn hard just to get closer to zero.

CrossFit is changing me.  I wanted it to change my mind more than I wanted it to change my body and I am finding that, so I can put most of my complaints aside.

But, I would love to hear from you.  Why is staying healthy (not even being skinny or competitively athletic or fearsome) so laborious?

 

Day 7 of the Whole Life Challenge, or What I am Proud of

This still sucks.  Honestly.  Everyone said it would get better.  Now, I am not technically crying anymore, but nevertheless, I still fricking hate this.

I am staring at a chocolate bar.  There is longing in my heart.  I yearn.

I am hungry.  I have decided that I hate water.

I am NOT proud of my willpower.  I do have some kick-ass willpower, though.  But, I don’t feel an emotion that cancels out all of the other negativity that emanates from my belly.

So, in an attempt not to bring everyone down, I will list for you instead things I AM proud of.

rem

  1.  I know all of the words to “It’s the End of the World as We Know it” by REM.  I break this out at, you know, parties and other social gatherings where I am high on life (or vodka).  This one shows my age, just like the realization that internet research didn’t really exist until after I had graduated from college.  I had to read BOOKS.
  2. I can do “The Carlton.”  This one shows my age, too.  carltonNo, I do not perform this sacred dance on command.  I gotsta be in the mooood for it.  But, I rock at it.  It is one of the many ways I am awesome. (Note:  Working out and eating right are not typically ways in which I am awesome, hence my loathing of this challenge.)
  3. skull I can Hamlet my ass off.  When kids leave my class, they lurv this play and I can’t blame them.  It’s the bomb-diggity.  Best work of literature ever.  And, I am magical at it.  I seem to have some sort of witchcraftery I can spin on unsuspecting young minds.  Follow me into the darkness and despair of Shakespearean tragedy, little ones…
  4. I am super good at embarrassing my kids.  That “Carlton” dance ain’t the only moves I got in the ol’ repertoire.  My oldest HATES to see me dance.  So, naturally, I do it as much as possible.  I get professional-grade eyerolls every time.  Bazinga!dancin
  5. I am a beast at Taboo.  Come at me, bro.  I will destroy you.  My husband and I make a fearsome team.  You do NOT want some of this.  We will embarrass you.  This actually makes us no fun to play with at all.  We’re crazy competitive and will trash talk you at this simple party game until you want to take back that hostess gift you brought and go the hell home.taboo

Feel free to comment and tell me what cool tricks and talents you have, too!  If you rock at the Whole Life Challenge, though, and think it is super easy and chocolate is not even that hard for you to avoid, you can keep that shit to yourself.

Day 6 of the Whole Life Challenge, or Maybe I Won’t Die

At the end of Day 5 of the Whole Life Challenge, I didn’t entirely feel like I hated absolutely everyone around me.  I still hated the kids in my classes who thought it was hilarious when Juliet cried at Romeo’s death.  Grow up, bastards.

But, this might not kill me and I suppose that is a good thing.  A few days ago I cried real tears over not having all of my favorite stuff.  Now, I am doing…ok.  I will call that a victory.

Let me tell you, though, about a few things I really miss that I didn’t think I would…

  1.  Soy Sauce — I mean, how freaking delicious is this salty, fermented additive?  I couldsoy

    drown my food in it.  I am allowed to have brown rice on this diet, but what good is that if I cannot smother it in brewed bean juice?

2.  Tortillas — For a long while I was tricked into thinking that foods that got wrapped in a tortilla were better for me.  Alongtortilla the way, I realized that I had fallen in love with these little flaps of goodness.  I’d like to wrap everything up in a cozy blanket of processed pseudo-Mexican fabulosity.

3.  Cheese — I know that many people have serious cravings for cheese.  I am not one of those people.  There are just so many things you cannot have because cheese is a part of it somewhere.  I normally top my steamed broccoli with a little grated parm.  I like eggs only in the form of a quiche that has tons of cheese in it.  Otherwise, eggs be yucky.CheeseAssortment

4.  Honey — I love it.  I use it in so many recipes to sweeten things up just a smidge and to get the health benefits of local honey.  I think that one reason that my detox has been so unpleasant is because I had really gotten very used to having this kind of sugar in my diet very regularly.  I do plan to go back to this when the challenge is over, though because I feel like it is still good for me, my environment and my local economy.honey

A big question for me is whether (or how much) of this challenge I will continue with after the 8-week game is over.  After spending all of this time ridding my system of the junk I had put in it, I wonder how much of it I will be putting right back in again.

I’d be lying if I said I don’t have dreams of Pringles and pizza.  And ranch dressing.  And chocolate truffles.  But, I am fairly sure that I can do this.  Since starting the challenge, this is the first time I can say that and actually think I might actually mean it.

We’ll see how I am tomorrow and, more importantly, at the end of 8  weeks.  I am constantly hungry, though, and I do not feel as though I am depriving myself of any quantities of food.  The pineapple and quiche (without cheese — boooooo) were of a totally normal if not large portion size.  And, I was hungry again 20 minutes later.

Your tips are welcome!

Day 5 of the Whole Life Challenge, or An Interview with Myself

Interviewer:  So, how is the Whole Life Challenge going?

Off Duty Mom:  I hate it.

Int.:  I bet it’s tough being so awesome at everything:  parenting, teaching, snark…

ODM:  It is.  That is exactly why the Whole Life Challenge is difficult for me.  I am so fucking fabulous at everything else.  It wouldn’t be fair to all of the un-awesome people if I dominated at this.

Int.:  How are your workouts going?  The Whole Life Challenge is all about a holistic approach to wellness, after all.

ODM:  I work out.  That is all I have to say.

Int.: What do you usually do after a workout?

ODM:  I fall over.  Usually.

Int.:  How do you recover?

ODM:  I’m supposed to recover?

Int.:  Right.  Yes.  What do you do to help your body get rid of lactic acid and retain the benefits of your workout?

ODM:  After the gym, I normally like to eat junk food and drink beer, but the Whole Life Challenge is kinda effing that up for me.

Int.:  Aren’t you proud of yourself for taking on this fabulous challenge?

ODM:  No.

Int.:  But, seriously, it has to feel good to know you are doing such good things for your body.

ODM:  Is that a question?

Int.:  Fine.  Aren’t you pleased with yourself to know you’re improving your health?

ODM:  I’d be more pleased if by “improving your health” you meant “eating french fries.”

Int.:  It’s Day 5, how do you feel?

ODM:  Like a truck hit me.  I am tired and sore from a workout two days ago.  I feel worse instead of better.

Int.:  I hear that if you stick it out, you will feel fabulous.  Can you stick with it?

ODM:  Look — I have the willpower.  That isn’t the issue.  I just hate everyone and everything right now.  The question is whether the people around me can stick with me while I detox from caffeine and sugar.

Int.:  Well, thanks for your time.

ODM:  I hate you.  And, you’re welcome.

Day 4 of the Whole Life Challenge, or Please Make it Stop

I actually kind of fucking hate this challenge.

For those of you who do not know, the Whole Life Challenge is an 8-week fitness, health and wellness program that challenges you to treat your body well.  You are encouraged to eat right, get good sleep, drink lots of water, stretch, work out and be well.  There is a list of foods you can and cannot eat.  Let me break it down for you:  you can eat, like, celery.  You cannot eat any of the things that make you happy (dairy, soy, gluten, sugar, alcohol, soda, chocolate, etc.).

Today I am especially grumpy and I really want to quit.  Like, a whole lot.  But, I won’t, even though water tastes like unhappiness.  Yes, I have tried “detox waters” and I have put lemon in my bottle and, no, it doesn’t fucking help.  If it isn’t Diet Coke or beer, I don’t really want it.  While I am allowed one glass of wine per week, that doesn’t do much to make me feel better.  I haven’t partaken in this for the first week yet because I am afraid to waste it, should a day arise where I need that small glass of comfort later in the week.  But, nevertheless, it is not Diet Coke, nor is it beer, so it will only be a small comfort.

Look — I am terribly overweight and I need to take better care of my children’s mother.  For far too long I have sought asylum within the beautiful confines of junk food and chemical additives.  It is no good at all.  But, I wonder if this is any way to live.  A long life without chocolate is not necessarily a better life, amirite?

Everyone keeps telling me that it will get better.  But, my muscles hurt from my workout, my tastebuds are mad at me and I am tired despite getting enough sleep.  I want to curl up in a ball and feel sorry for myself.

So, there is your little ray of sunshine from me today!  Please comment and tell me something happy in your life so I can live vicariously through you.  Or comment with a picture of french fries or with a story of how fit and healthy you are so I can be happy for/hate  you…

 

Day 3 of the Whole Life Challenge, or Stevia is NOT Sugar

I want to kill people less today.

I don’t have much else to report. But, I am sick of cooking so much. There is nothing Paleo at McDonalds. Why do I have to cooooooooook everything from scratch?

On another note, I went to CrossFit today and I can’t move my legs. So, standing over a stove has been unfun.

Tomorrow is a new day, right?

Day 2: Whole Life Challenge, or I Already Want to Murder People

Going “cold turkey” off of Diet Coke was a terrible idea.

And, after only two days, I want to quit and, really, the diet is not that hard. I mean, you get to eat bacon.

It’s an awful mental challenge. I haven’t had cheesecake in like a year. But, now that you TELL me I can’t have it, I obsessively want it. I feel like I’d push old people out of the way if cheesecake were within ten feet of me and grannies were in the way. I’d push ’em hard. I don’t care.

I feel sluggish and my head hurts  and everyone around me is annoying to me.

I want to quit but I am not going to.

I cried a little today when I reflected on how much weight I have gained since having kids and how I am pretty much the fattest woman at my gym.  And I cried when I realized my hands were shaking a little from caffeine withdrawal.

I remembered from those early days as a new mom that hot showers could cure some of the worst feelings.  So, I took my dog for a walk, stretched while listening to Portishead and then took a hot shower that wasted tons of water, I’m sure.

And, now I don’t want to kill EVERYONE, so there’s that.

I will blog again tomorrow and hopefully feel a little better.

Fingers crossed…

 

Whole Life Challenge, or This Might Suck

In an effort not to be Forty and Fat, I joined a CrossFit gym about half a year ago. I am not a worker outer, so I was terrified and fairly certain I’d fail at it.

At this particular gym, though, the environment is supportive and the energy is powerful. We cheer for each other. People are genuinely happy when they see each other reach goals. And not once has someone screamed at me a la Jillian Michaels.

So, when the gymsters were all “let’s do a wellness challenge,” my initial reaction was, “fuck you. I love potato chips and beer and naps.”

Then I remembered not wanting to be Forty and Fat. And I’m knocking on 39’s door. So, game on.

Four hours into day one, I had peed five times.  And, the cafe I went to for lunch had not one single thing on it that I was allowed to eat.

It’s dinner time on day 1 now and I hate this mother-bitching challenge.  I want mozzarella sticks.

But I am hanging in there anyway and I will be blogging my whole first week.

Join me here again tomorrow to hear of my suffering.

 

 

Grrrrrrrr…

Today I hate people.

Admittedly, most days I hate people.  I’m an introvert and I like quiet.  And, you know, NOT being around…people.

And, if this is your first time visiting this blog you might be surprised to know, given my general distaste for humanity, that I am a teacher.  Of teenagers.  Pretty much the worst people of all people.

I actually really seriously dislike children.  I mean, mine are cool, but yours suck.  No offense.

I kid only sort of.

On a serious note (for once), I actually tremendously love working with high school students.  I like talking with them.  I like helping them with their ridiculous dramatic bullshit.  I like talking to them about Star Wars.  I like watching them “get it” for the first time.  I seriously fucking love my job.  I am truly an introvert and I prefer quiet to parties, but my favorite thing of all of the things is discussing Hamlet with a group of hungry AP English Literature students.

But, today, I had to cover a 7th grade Math class.  Just let that sink in:  I hate numbers more than I hate people.  And, remember I hate children, but not teenagers.  Seventh graders are CHILDREN.  Don’t talk to me until you’ve made it at least one full day past your 14th birthday.  Even then, I don’t really want to talk to you for very long periods of time until about halfway through your freshman year of high school.

Seniors?  Give me all of the seniors all of the days.  Love ’em.  Lazy sons-a-bitches.  Those kids are my jaaaaam.

Sure, my piss-poor attitude today is colored by the fact that by 8:00 this morning, I had dealt with two students who were ethnically intimidating a Middle-Eastern refugee student and one student who told another to “eat balls.”  This week, I have been trying to stop a small group of boys in their attempt to mercilessly and evilly bully a weaker kid.  I’ve been failing at this miserably since the bullied kid is so bullied that he is too terrified to admit to the bullying so we can proceed with assistance for him.  I’m trying desperately to get a student scheduled into all of her appropriate classes for her junior and senior years because her parents do not speak English and they cannot advocate for her at school here.  So I do.  I’m trying to encourage a kid I’ve been mentoring for four years to finish all of the credit recovery programming he’s been working on so he can have enough credits to graduate in June.  He probably won’t make it.  I’ll be devastated when/if he ultimately drops out of high school.

I’ll go home today to a car with only three working tires.  My kids will need help with their homework.  I will have to cook dinner — from scratch because I am trying desperately not to pour a bunch of food additives, processed garbage and sugar into my family’s bodies.  I’ll care for my aging dog who was diagnosed yesterday with cataracts.  I’ll probably not get to the gym though I consider this a “gym day.” I’m not trying to get into a bikini or impress anyone, but I am trying to get stronger and healthier and today that will have to wait.

It is hard to be a working mom.

That’s it.  This is hard.  And I hate people.  And I’m tired.  And this is hard.  And I love it.  And hate it.  And…this is hard.

 

Generation Zombie

Because Google completely failed me recently, I feel inclined to rant.

Here’s what happened:

1. I am a teacher.  I freaking love my job.  It is rewarding as hell and I don’t care that it makes me poor.  I love working with young people and helping them better understand our world.

2. No amount of love for young minds changes the fact that kids can be little shits sometimes.  I happen to have well over 30 students of this particular variety all in one classroom.  For 80 minutes.

3. In an effort to figure out how to better manage them and keep them from doing the following…

–eating Hot Cheetos in class even though I have asked them not to eat anything in the room on about a million occasions

–talking incessantly with other students far and near even though I constantly move around, ask them repeatedly to quiet down and have moved seats over and over again

–saying the following (and this is not an exhaustive list):  suck my dick, shut the hell up, fuck you, go to Hell, oh shit, rape is funny, titties (I could go on and on)

–staring at me when I have told them to write notes

–forgetting pencils, papers, laptops, chargers, pens, notebooks, folders, etc.

–getting up and walking around the room freely

…I have been searching online for strategies to help me “up” my teacher game.

4. I have taken to Google (and, frankly, a number of sites associated with professional development for educators) to try to learn what other teachers might already know about wrangling 9th graders.

5.  I came up with squat.  Most educational resources out there are focused on little kids.  All of the suggestions do not relate to someone who has 30-40 students in a room in a major public high school, cannot punish anyone with a loss of recess time, and has students big enough to kick her ass.

 

So, now, here I am.

 

No one on the internet can tell me a goddamn thing about how to manage these hooligans.  I am a 15-year veteran teacher.  I have taught some of the absolute toughest kids on the planet.  Criminals, even.  If there were a yearbook of my former students you would find in it a convicted child molester, a murderer, several drug-dealers, a kid who was lucky to have been tried as a juvenile after he slit another kid’s throat (the victim lived, by the way), two assholes who got into a hallway fight that was so bloody, there was red sprayed up on the ceiling, and at least three strippers who may or may not take “extra” cash for “extra” services at their places of employment.

I am no stranger to tough kids.  But, this is something different I haven’t seen before.  This is just total disregard for other humans.  They are completely apathetic.  They don’t fear their parents; they don’t fear detentions, suspensions or tongue-lashings from a principal; they don’t care if they pass the class; they don’t have any interest in gaining new knowledge; and they certainly don’t care about anything I do or say.  I am at a loss.  They just don’t fucking care.  I am flabbergasted.  I have not seen a group of people care so little about anything.  I have tried rewards, positive behavioral reinforcement, a variety of punishments and consequences, changing seats, giving them ownership of their own learning, empowering them to make decisions about the class, offering incentives.  I have tried just about every traditional teacher trick.

They all fail me.

And, of course, this makes me feel like a complete failure myself.

As I mentioned, I am not weak.  I can handle shitheads.  But these kids are their own kind of craptastic.  They are just vapid.  They openly choose nothing over something.  When I asked a student who sat empty-handed with a blank stare today if he was opting to take a “0” for his work, he said, “I forgot my backpack today.”  This was the 4th day in a row he forgot a backpack.  He didn’t care to borrow a pencil, ask a classmate for some paper or write in marker on the back of his fucking hand.  He just figured he’d sit for 80 minutes and stare.  If I gave him a “0” for today’s assignment, that was okay.  I guess.  Eeyore.

This is no “Dangerous Minds” shit.  These kids are GOOD kids.  At least that is what we call them nowadays because they don’t do drugs, they don’t get into fights and they don’t join gangs.  They manage in some classes to get adequate grades.  Some of their parents care a little.  Most of their parents actually care a ton.  Most of their parents have good jobs and they live in the nicer parts of town.  Our school is known for good test scores and great teaching.  But, this one class of students just seems to have so much apathy and I truly fear that there is a serious generational shift I am witnessing.

Everyone hated Gen X because we were supposedly so lazy and apathetic.  This makes the graduating class of 1991 look like motherfucking rocket scientists.  The kids I see each day are empty.  And they do not wish to be filled.

I am certain that I can work to fix this if only I could build a personal relationship and rapport with each of them individually.  You work hard and behave well for people you trust, respect and connect with.  But, by the time I do that with this many kids, it will be time for them to move on and be zombies for some other unsuspecting teacher.

As parents, I don’t know what we ought to be doing, but we need to be doing SOMETHING to make our children care about anything.  One kid today in my class shaded an entire notebook sheet dark gray with pencil.  Meticulously.  Then he “wrote” his name by erasing some of the scribble.  Another young lady had to be asked to return to her seat 9 times.  9 TIMES!  What was she doing all of those times?  Just seeing what other kids in the room were up to.  I was lecturing at the time.

Please join with me to build a better generation.  I don’t know what we must do, but we must do something here.  Your suggestions are more than welcome.

A Shout-Out to my Homies Rockin’ it on a 19th-Century Farm

This morning, while watching the news, I was struck with a thought:  What the hell is happening to this generation?

Y’all know I’m a mom.  And, I am a high school teacher.  In my tenure in both of these important jobs, I have seen some sees.

But, lemme just tell you that what made me wonder about current culture wasn’t the fatal shooting I heard about that happened within the city limits of the school district where I worked for a decade before taking my current job.  It wasn’t the entertainment news that seemed to make it everyone’s business to care whether Beyonce is pregnant or not.

It was a car commercial.

This commercial was for a vehicle that boasted that it had “125 horses.”

It irked me for a number of reasons.

I shall list them for you not so much because I feel as though you have been waiting on the edge of your seat since July for me to post something fabulous, but rather because I loves me a good list.

1. Why “horses” and not “horsepower”?  Is this a sign of our getitdonenow times that signifies we are now just too George Jetson to be bothered with saying two extra syllables?  Is this a sign that the Orwell-ocalypse is upon us and we are paring down our already paltry American vocabulary?  Are Big Motor companies just going to start calling things “double-plus good” from now on?

2.  Why are we even referencing horsepower at all anymore?  Is there anyone on the non-Amish parts of the planet that can even identify the physics of the power of a single horse, thereby being able to fathom the force that can be generated when this energy is multiplied to represent 125 horses?  How relevant is this as a reference and what does it even mean.  I defy even ONE carbuyer to explain to me, plainly, what horsepower is in basic terms of force.

3.  Who really cares about horsepower, anyway, unless you are currently somehow living in 19th-century West Virginia and are tending to your crops?  When you know that a vehicle’s weight, the amount of friction that can occur, and basic torque are other (and perhaps better?) factors on which to judge how well a vehicle pulls, what is even the difference?  I get that some of you gun-rackers need them horsies to haul home your kill of buck for yer kin, but realistically, how much does horsepower even factor in to the average buyers’ concerns?

4.  Marketing sucks.  Big donkey balls.  Tricky wordsmithery, flashy bullshittitude, empty language, meaningless boasts:  I can’t even figure out if I really want a Diet Coke anymore or if the evil elves at Fancy Pants DoubleTalk Advertising Agency, Inc. have crept into my subconscious psyche and have fooled me.  “125 horses?” Bah.  I shant be swayed by your reference to the earth’s most majestic creatures.  (But, if it had “125-unicorn power” I might be sold.)

5.  Finally, Big Car Company:  you’re not cool.  The cool kids are all abbreviating their words so that shit is barely recognizable anymore.  Things are “totes adorbs,” and if you don’t get it, you’re probably just “jelly” of those of us who do, aight?  But, srsly, you, BCC, are comprised of a boardroom full of fat white men with whitish, thinning hair, blah-colored suits and eyeglasses.  Y’all ain’t turnt up and popular.  Stop acting a fool and use regs words, else I keep throwin’ shade at y’all.

 

Now that I have gotten that all out in the open, I do feel a tad better.   I mean, not about the world in which I am raising my children, but just better because I got to rant for a bit.  Thanks for the indulgence.

 

Feminism and I Don’t Care that You’re Different

I’ve been swept up in the #YesAllWomen whirlwind.  I actually heard about this before I heard about the incident that helped push this hashtag activism to the top of the Twitter trends.  As a busy mom, sometimes I get a little behind in my news.

Since I was a teenager and first heard of the Riot Grrrls, I was secretly hooked on feminism.  I loved punk already and this next step was inspiring.  But, because I was a follower who so very much wanted to fit in, I left my brooding and my secret love of Liz Phair for my private time and shopped at the Gap and wore my boat shoes with those little culry-cue tied laces in my public life.

At college, I was raped, but that wasn’t the most important thing that happened to me during my time there.  I met the man who would be my husband there and this has proven to be far more significant to my life.  However, I also remember being dumb-struck when I looked out of the window of my freshman dorm to find a mini-mock-cemetery erected to “show respect” to the “babies” who had “died” from abortion.  I was sickened.  And, my festering feminism grew.

I had always been self-conscious and bordered on a having a bit of an eating disorder until my adulthood.  Yet, there were always men who ogled, cat-called, or bought me drinks.  No, I didn’t find any of it flattering.  It all scared me in a way I couldn’t quite define then, even if I made jokes about it.  In fact, anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that sarcasm is my defense mechanism.  When I’m cornered, I crack jokes.

Still today, when I walk alone, I am always acutely aware of when there are men around.  I hold my purse tighter.  I listen to the pace of their footsteps behind me to gauge whether they are “gaining on me.”  I check my rear-view mirror often to make sure I am not being followed in my car.  Once, I am certain that I was followed.  I was about 19 and pulled into the completely empty parking lot of the tanning salon where I worked as a cleaner on Sunday mornings.  No other businesses were open in the shopping center.  The car that followed me into the lot couldn’t have been an innocent shopper.  I high-tailed it out of there before putting my car in “park.”

A few years back, as a precaution, I was asked to have a breast ultrasound as a semi-routine part of my women’s health check-up.  The technician found an unusual clump of fibers that turned out to be nothing at all.  But, she needed to call in the doctor on staff to double-check her work.  I am pretty sure that as he moved the ultrasound wand over my breast, he let his pinkie finger rest along side of it, rather than on top of it with the rest of his hand.  This allowed his little finger to stroke my breast and linger over my nipple while he worked.  I wasn’t sure if I was just imagining things or if I would be overreacting to a medical professional just doing his job.  So, I said nothing.  I still feel like this was wrong today.  I am angry that I didn’t say anything.

I never hold the elevator for anyone if I am alone.

I carry my keys between my fingers if I am in a parking lot by myself, regardless of who is around.  I never enter my car without checking the back seat.  In parking garages, I check under the car before approaching it.

I am shocked by how much fear I live in and I never thought about it until the hashtag revolution of All Women.

And, I am shocked as I look back on my life and realize how much I wanted to be a feminist, but how afraid I was to be a “feminist.”  I am sad that I still avoid using the word “too much” because it might make me seem like a “man-hater” or a “feminazi.”

What made me solidify the idea that I was finally (after, like a quarter of a century) ready to embrace my feminism came when I realized that the “other” people I was looking to shelter from the harshness of my equity search just didn’t have a say anymore in my politics.

You’re different?  Great.  You’re a man who doesn’t rape, oppress, kidnap, assault, attack, belittle, misjudge or objectify women.  I actually don’t fucking care.

I mean, that’s nice and all.  And, I totally know a ton of you guys.  Really, the vast majority of men I have come into contact with personally are of this category.  You’re not different.  I truly believe that you are the norm.

But, it so very sadly does not matter.  Or, does not matter enough.

One armed psychopath killing pretty girls because they don’t love him and killing innocent men because he’s jealous of their happiness is one too many.

One fucked-up Clevelander who held women hostage for over a decade in his home, repeatedly assaulting them is one too many.

One court judge who tells a woman she ought to forgive the husband who repeatedly drugged and raped her is one too many.

And, when we add in contraceptive tampering, domestic abuse, female genital mutilation, honor killings, sex slavery, forced prostitution, bride-buying, human trafficking, female infanticide, rape and the slew of other crimes that “some” (a few? a small number? a relatively small percentage?) of men commit world-wide, it makes me grab my handbag and remember what my 11th grade gym teacher taught me about popping somebody’s eyeballs out if I were ever attacked, even though 95% of my personal experiences with men have been positive (or at least neutral) so far.

You’re different.  Super.  You being different didn’t help any of the millions of women on this planet when they were beaten, enslaved, mutilated, raped, tortured, sold, murdered, held captive or made to live in fear.

It is not your fault.  You are not responsible for the men who ruin your sex.  I do not blame men as a unit for their part in the myriad of crimes against women daily.  Men as a unit have no part in the myriad of crimes against women daily.  Indeed, it is not *all* men who treat women like shit.

But, because even a very small few have, I don’t walk at night alone.  I don’t blame you for this, but it is something we should talk more about.

Feel free to leave me your comments.

 

 

 

Reality as a Geezer

There is no doubt I have lamented the aging process.  Having small children reminds me of how much energy I don’t have anymore.  And being a teacher of early high school students reminds me of how uncool I am.  These kids don’t even use the word “cool” anymore.

I am much nearer to 40 than I am to 20 (and to 30, for that matter).  I had never pictured myself at this age.  It’s kinda weird.

But, here are some realities I have come to understand about the aging process:

  • My body is older than my mind.  When I see a long hallway, I still want to do cartwheels all the way down.  I don’t, however, because I’d have to stretch for a half an hour beforehand and then take a bottle of Advil afterward.
  • My concept of time has shifted dramatically.  The concept of “a long time ago” has changed quite a bit.  I remember when Friends first came on the air.  It doesn’t seem that long ago.  It was 20 years ago, though.
  • My concept of “young” has shifted, too.  I once cried when I turned 24 because I felt so OLD.  Now, I work with people who have advanced degrees but are not old enough to remember the Challenger explosion.
  • I feel less grossed-out by plastic surgery.  I once wondered why people didn’t just “grow old gracefully.”  Now, I sit in front of a mirror and pull my face up manually and sigh as I wonder what it would cost for a nip and a tuck.
  • I actually care what I eat.  In high school, I came home almost every day and ate an entire family-sized back of potato chips (or an equivalently-sized snack of another type).  I wore a size 6 that my mother tailored smaller through the hips for me.  Now, I still love my potato chips, but each crunch comes with a side order of guilt, self-loathing and fourteen more pounds on the bathroom scale.
  • Nobody likes my music.  Two decades ago it wouldn’t have been hard to find someone who liked The Pixies, LL Cool J, Blondie, Nine Inch Nails, and who knew how to do “The Hustle” and understood that you were never supposed to “trust a big butt and a smile.”  Nowadays, we’re harder to locate.  Some of us came to enjoy modern music.  Some are stuck with the soundtrack to “Frozen” on repeat.  Some people switched over to “Adult Contemporary.”  Yeesh.
  • I’m okay (for now) with my glowing pale legs.  This time of year in my twenties, I was running to a tanning salon on rainy days and spending every damn minute outside to alter the color of my skin when it was sunny.  Nowadays, I don’t really have the time or the patience.  So, I just revel for now in the idea that I am staying away from skin cancer and/or wrinkles for one more day.
  • I don’t feel old.  This one is weird.  I don’t know what old is supposed to feel like.  I mean, I feel weaker and slower and fatter and more tired.  But, those things don’t alone signify an elderly status.  Are my knees supposed to ache when it rains?  Am I supposed to forget what day of the week it is?  Am I supposed to wear white button-down sweaters on 80 degree days?  I am not sure if I am doing this right.
  • I still feel like I am in high school — emotionally.  When all the stay-at-home moms gather to pick up their kids in their Lululemon or their Hunter rain boots and their big diamond earrings — and completely ignore the existence of those outside of their social circle, I remember feeling like this before:  for four straight years.

I still want to learn how to surf and speak a foreign language and read more books and run a 5k (no — actually RUN it this time — like, the whole time) and get a PhD. and a six-pack and a nose-piercing.

And I wonder if I will do any of those things.  Or even if I should

*Poop*

Why don’t people want to talk about diarrhea?

No one ever has diarrhea, you know?  I mean, people have “stomach problems,” but never just the shits.

I know that it’s gross and smelly and sometimes painful and embarrassing.  But, so was childbirth and every vagina-owner who has ever pushed a baby into the world wants to tell you the details:  vomiting, water breaking, perineal tearing, stretch marks, back labor…you name it, baby mamas wanna share it with you.

These same moms have been peed on, kicked, farted on, have strained peas thrown into their hair, and have cleaned up more bodily fluids (and not-so-fluids) than any HazMat worker will in a week.  But, still no one ever wants to admit to ever having the squirts.

I have seen some of my friends get blind-drunk and vomit all over themselves.  But, none of those people EVER had the green-apple-quick-step.  Supposedly.

Now, I am not necessarily proposing that we all come out of the shart closet and start sharing the details of these unpleasant experiences.  In real life, I am actually fairly modest and truly value my privacy.  There is a reason why I don’t share my real name when I blog.

But, I just find it really amusing that the only thing that is truly off limits in conversation (even among your better friends) is diarrhea.  Religion, politics, abortion, capital punishment, our diseases, our surgeries and our mental health issues are all far less taboo than this thing that occasionally happens to every human on the planet.  I mean, all kinds of yahoos want to espouse their so-called knowledge on the education/justice/healthcare/political/environmental/immigration systems in this country, but no one really wants to talk about something they actually KNOW.

 

Go figure.

Conversations with my Post-Baby Body Parts

 

This might help.

This might help.

1.  EYES —

Me:  Hey!  Let’s stay up on Friday night and watch Gravity on Blu-Ray.

Eyes:  Sounds great.  We’ll be done with our job by like 8:30, though, right?

Me:  Well, no.  I will need you until the movie is over.

Eyes:  We can’t promise that.

Me:  Come on.  8:30?

Eyes:  We’re already tired of this conversat—-

 

2.  BACK —

Back:  I hurt.

Me:  I know.  I am not gonna tell anyone, though, because they’ll think we’re old.

Back:  But you groan every time you stand up and you sigh ridiculously loudly every time you sit down.  Who do you think we’re fooling?

 

3.  SKIN —

Me:  Discoloration, zits AND wrinkles?

Skin:  Yeah, and the kids’ college funds have made us too poor for surgical solutions.  If only you could exchange sarcasm for collagen…

 

4.  HAIR —

Me:  I am sure glad I had 9 months of prenatal vitamins that made my hair glossy, thick and luxurious.  That was nice while it lasted.

Hair:  It is so fun when we all jump out of your scalp at once and then the poor schmucks we leave behind all start to turn gray!  Good times!

 

And, it just keeps getting worse.

And, it just keeps getting worse.

5.  BOOBS —

Me:  What the hell?!

Boobs:  Hey, look!  We’re still here!  No.  Down here.  Hello?

 

6.  BRAIN —

Me:  Ugh.

Brain:  Totally.  Hey, let’s worry every minute of every day forever now.  I am totes going to make you cry at greeting card commercials and shout like a lunatic when your kid scores his first soccer goal.  Don’t delay the anti-anxiety meds, lady.  Get me the good stuff, too.  I have a lot going on up here.

 

7.  UTERUS —

Me:  I hate periods.

Uterus:  I hate not having a baby in here.  It’s lonely.

Me:  Hey, um, I put two babies into ya.  That was good, right?

Uterus:  Fuck you.  I want more babies.  Give me more babies!  Every month you don’t give me a baby, I’m going to tear down these walls and make your life a living hell.  I am going to make it feel like there is a giant fist inside your gut grabbing and twisting your vital organs like you’re being juiced.

 

8.  KNEES —

Me:  Hey, what the hell?  You guys never hurt before.  Now all of a sudden I can tell when it is about to rain.  What’s up with that?

Knees:  You’re old.  And chubby.  It’s hard to carry you around.  Less chocolate.  More kale.

 

9.  LEGS —

Me:  Wow.  That’s ugly.

Legs:  So’s your face!  Ha!  Ha!

Me:  No, seriously, veins?  They’re everywhere.  I can’t possibly need that many transport lines for my blood.  Can’t we do some rerouting or something?

Legs:  They got doctors for that, you know.

Me:  I know.  But that shit hurts.  Why can’t you all just straighten up and fly right?

Legs:  Why can’t you embrace our newfound blue beauty?

 

This is what we have to look forward to, then?

This is what we have to look forward to, then?

10.  BUTT–

Me:  Holy shit.  I think I could put a can of soda under my ass cheek and hold it there against my thigh.  When did you get so droopy?

Butt:  I started heading South during Baby #1.  You were too busy designing a nursery motif to notice.  Ever hear of Prenatal Yoga?  Come on, now.

Me:  Sorry.

Butt:  You are sorry.  In about three more years you’re going to have to start getting your drawers at Sears.  SEARS!

Me:  Are you sure?

Butt:  And, they won’t be called “panties,” anymore.  They won’t make “panties” in your size.  They will be “underpants.”

Me:  That sounds awful.

Butt:  And, stop having kids.  With your constant expansion and refusal to do Kegels, you’re going to be a fatty who is also, charmingly, incontinent.  Then, you’ll be on to adult diapers.

Me:  That sucks.

Butt:  Yuppers.

If they fit, we should just get them in every color.

If they fit, we should just get them in every color.

11.  FEET —

Me:  Hey, guys.  My shoes hurt.  I don’t ever remember complaining about that before having a coupla babies.  What gives?

Feet:  Oh, so you thought we’d go back to “normal” size after your babies were born?  That’s cute.  Hey, Cankles, that sparkly boutique downtown called and said they had shoes in our size.  You know the place.  They also cater to guys like Larry who stocks lumber at the Home Depot by day, but who by night hosts a cabaret show under the name of Hillary Clit-Ton.  Sure, Larry’s alter ego’s typical footwear choices make Gaga look more like Amy Farrah Fowler, but whatevs.  They have your SIZE.

 

 

body

 

The Penis: Mightier Than the Sword

I feel as though we live in a culture of “I Want.”

Because “I” want, then I steal, I cheat, I antagonize, I rape, I fight, I bully, I kill, I throw a temper tantrum, I oppress, I hate, I flee, I yell, I abuse, disown, I hurt and I neglect.

Today, I decided that everyone pretty much sucks.

At work, we had a faculty meeting. Teachers totally love those. The only things we love more are professional development sessions and parents who claim that they pay our salaries.

At this meeting a colleague stood up and told a long story about how she had overheard some other teachers
talking badly in the hallway about a student, but, you know, “I’m not gonna name any names.”

Fuck you and your motherfucking passive aggressive bullshit. If you have a problem with an adult colleague, you act like an adult and approach that colleague as if you were an adult.

Also today, a parent demanded to meet with me so I could explain why his son was crying last night over his falling grade in my class. Dude, the fact that your son sleeps in class, refuses to do homework and actively opts out of all class work, indeed, might just be my fault. I mean, most things are. Totally. Let’s meet about it.

Also today, only 60% of my students (high school freshmen) came to class prepared to do the presentations they have been working on for 5 weeks. One even looked at me and said, “What are we supposed to do if we are not done yet?”

Please tell me how you would have answered that question. My own answer was sarcastic and a little pissy.

Also today, a core group of my colleagues were excused from our dreadful faculty meeting so they could meet privately about a course that was being mismanaged and has been, frankly, an embarrassment to our school. I was not permitted to leave this meeting to talk with our guidance counselor about devising a plan to provide homebound instruction for a student who is recovering from a virally-induced heart failure.

Next time I want special treatment, I will be sure to screw up at something first since apparently an acceptable excuse for leaving a meeting is “‘cuz I gotta clean up this shitstorm I caused.”

And finally, today, I found out that I got edged out for some professional perks I had been vying for by a teacher with less experience and who isn’t even fully qualified to receive these benefits.

Fuck me.

And there it is. That’s what I said to myself, “Fuck me.”

In that moment, everything shifted. My worldview cleared like those Claritin commercials.

Why is something that gets “fucked” a recipient, often of aggression or violence? To get “fucked” or even “fucked up” or “fucked over” is to be duped, shamed, victimized or beaten.

If Tupac says, “I fucked your bitch, you fat motherfucker,” it is an insult because it is supposed to be emasculating to the owner of the “bitch.” The woman in the scenario is just an object or receptacle to accept the “fuck.” Very rarely do you hear a woman say that she fucked a man, suggesting that she had asserted her dominance over him. Actually, I don’t know if I have ever heard that.

And here I am. I ponder what it means to be in the world of “I Want.”

“I want to dominate.”

“I want to degrade.”

“I want to show you I am better than you are.”

“I want to do whatever the hell I want.”

“I want to insult.”

“I want to have power– take power– assert power.”

“I want you to know you are beneath me and that I will fuck you, fuck you up, fuck you over, or fuck this shit until I prove it.”

If a penis (real or metaphorical) can do all of this, then indeed..

The penis: mightier than the sword.

Join the Off Duty Family

Please consider sharing your embarrassing stories for our Mother’s Day series.  Deadline for entry will be April 30.

What have you done that makes you want to shake your head at your former self?

For Mother’s Day this year, we are looking for stories you don’t want your mamma to know.  (We won’t tell her your story came from you!)

Let the fun begin!

Visit our submission page to send in your story.

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