Feeling disorganized

When I was a kid, there were times you could barely walk into my bedroom. Strewn across the floor were dirty clothes, baskets full of clean clothes I hadn’t put away, Barbies and their accessories, a variety of chapter books and glossy paged encyclopedias (mythology, mammals, and dinosaurs come to mind), and a variety of other toys that hadn’t made their way back into my closet. It drove my hyper-organized mom crazy. But unlike the moms of other kids I knew, my mom straight up refused to clean my room for me, at least not without a price: “If I have to pick it up, it’s getting thrown away.”

I can’t recall the number of times I retorted, “Why does it matter? It’s MY room!”  Whether my mom had a response to this escapes me, but her persistent nagging about my bedroom has stuck with me despite my resistance. This is not to say that I magically became a clean freak when I grew up. I still often toss my clothes from the day onto the dresser (better than the floor, right mom?) in case I decide they’re clean enough to be worn again before washing, I wait too long between vacuuming, and I’m downright terrible about hanging up my clean laundry. I seriously could live out of a laundry basket for weeks. Sometimes I even have to rewash my clean clothes since the cat seems to think the laundry basket is his bed and personal grooming station.

Of course when my mom comes to visit, I spend the better part of a day DEEP CLEANING like a crazy lady. Ultimately, she finds the one spot I missed and starts cleaning within a few hours of her stay (“Do you have something to clean the microwave?” her lips pursed in disgust. “You don’t need to clean the microwave, Mom. I’ll do it later.” “No, I WANT to clean it.”). Or worse, she’ll start cleaning something I just cleaned (apparently my vacuuming was not thorough enough). But I digress.

Whether I picked it up from my mom’s persistence or simply carry her clean gene (believe me, it did not come from my father), I have become more and more organized the older I get. Frankly, I probably shouldn’t give all the credit to my mom. It’s incredible what living with roommates dirtier (sticky, dried spilled soda on my coffee table) and more careless (metal utensils with teflon pans, liquid dish soap in the dishwasher) than you are can do to your psyche.

I have become an avid list maker and I find it enjoyable, yes enjoyable, to catalog and sort things. My movies are in alphabetic order, the books on my shelves are organized by genre, the shirts in my closet (once I actually do hang them up) are sorted by sleeve length and dressiness and then by color, and my jeans are folded into separate piles that go from work jeans to dress up skinnies. And I won’t even get into the many hours of my neurotic playlist sorting on Spotify. My brain only finds peace when everything is neatly filed and prioritized.

Occasionally though, it feels like a four-year old has taken my neatly organized file cabinet that is my mind and dumped it all over the ground. That’s a little what this last week has been like. I have a dozen things to do without any sense of what to do first and as I procrastinate on sorting it all out, the hours and days slip away until I have no time to do any of it.

I have no great conclusion to all of this, and writing all of this down has not made me reach some kind of deep moral resolution. The obvious solution is to stop blogging, drink some more coffee, and then start doing something productive. I’m headed to Iowa tomorrow to visit my best friend, so I kind of need to get stuff done and get my brain in order now. Like right now…


Monday photos

To make up for all the springtime photos I didn’t post last week…

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Grad school round 2…

Sigh of relief… I’m officially a Zag. Acceptance letter received, student ID number given, tuition deposit paid, the works. Phew. Now I just need to magically come into some money.

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Cricket at the beach

I almost forgot to post my second spring photo. Yesterday Cricket and I went for a walk on the beach. It was definitely therapeutic, and it turns out that Cricket has a keen eye for stray golf balls.

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The tractors have begun to rumble through the fields, harrowing and cultivating and fertilizing, waking the earth up as the morning frosts become thinner and thinner. Branches are budding, the grass is beginning to green, and the sun has shaken its heavy grey coat. 

As much as I complain about the slow change of temperature, even I can’t help but be affected by the freshness in the air. I can almost forget the virus that I can’t seem to shake because something about the outdoors feels healthy and brisk. It’s this briskness that initiates the “spring cleaning” bug in me and makes me anxious for organization and productivity. This year, I’m focusing on organizing my files and paperwork in hopes that I’ll also be organizing my brain a little before going back to school this summer.

It’s hard to believe that I’m going back to school yet again. This time it’s a little more stressful since I have to actually pay for it. I thought the stress would evaporate once I knew that I had gotten in and when I would be starting. Instead, I’m waiting anxiously for some sort of FAFSA information as well as an official written document that says I got in (a phone call right away was awesome, but I’m starting to think that I imagined it). The end of June feels both decades and mere moments away, and the contradiction of this is part of what is setting me on edge. In the mean time, between checking the mail more routinely than I ever have in the past, I’m getting all my teaching documents in order, trying to budget my money, and get some valuable pedagogy reading in–all while also trying to look ahead to my mom’s and my trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos in December (what kind of wetsuit should I buy? where do we want to spend the first week? highlands or Amazon? Should I get new hiking shoes?). Clearly, what I really need is some fresh air.

So I’m making a goal: post at least one “spring” photo per day for the next four days (until spring break is over and I go back to subbing). Hopefully this will help take my mind off of some of the other stuff.

First, a beautiful profile picture of Gladys, the tamest (or maybe the dumbest–she’s always trying to get out even when the dog is right outside the gate) of my lovely ladies. Image

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raspberries in the summer

old book smell

new book smell

wayfarer sunglasses

rain hitting a metal roof

sourdough bread

accelerating

paddling alone on the lake

acoustic music

classic novels

gold leaf pages

shadows

remembered dreams

globes

cracking a book’s spine for the first time

chocolate milkshakes

saved ticket stubs

freckles

waist-high wheat

fresh picked strawberries

cotton t-shirts

hot coffee

hikes to nowhere

vitamin D

dead end roads

drives with the windows down

cuddling when it’s raining

silence

a blank notebook

Nora Ephron chick flicks

Nora Ephron essays

dancing

smell of ripening wheat and freshly fallen rain

cabernet sauvignon

swimming underwater

a soy London fog

thunderstorms

homemade cherry pie

inspiration and typewriters and a pen full of ink

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Fitting in: my most cliche post ever

When it comes to DNA, we are all 99.9 percent the same. But what a relief that .1 percent is. Each of us is unique, possessing our own little quirks and committing our own peculiar peccadillos on a daily basis. We’re all acutely aware of our differences, and perhaps that’s why we strive to “fit in” and to cling to our similarities. And there’s power and safety in that instinct. But sometimes I think we forget to celebrate our differences.

Today one of my students asked me, “How are you so skinny?” This student is a thirteen-year-old girl and she’s beautiful, even if she’s not a size two. But more important than her being a pretty girl, I think she could probably be good at school and interesting if she wasn’t constantly obsessing over her appearance and how others perceived her. Not wanting to say, “good genetics,” I instead refocused the attention on her and told her that she was beautiful because maybe she doesn’t get told enough. And I know from experience as a young girl that being told you’re beautiful is what sticks. In junior high, I didn’t care when people told me I was smart, at least not as much as I cared when people told me I was pretty. I didn’t want an academic award; I wanted boobs.

People say after high school what a blessing it was to not be popular because they had to actually develop a personality. I completely relate to that even though my school was so small that cliques were basically non-existant. The girl who asked me about being skinny has the opposite problem I had in junior high. She’s getting attention from the boys, and she’s already developing a reputation because of it. And all I want to do is spend a year teaching her and figure out what she’s good at, what her strengths are, so I can insist she develops that personality we misfits found by being flat-chested or fat or just plain socially awkward. And maybe I’ll get that opportunity.

What is it about being a teenager that makes us so self-conscious? So concerned about the ways that we’re different from each other? Why does it take so long to recognize that there is no “normal” and that being different and confident about those differences is what makes us cool?

I have weird toes, and I have spent a lifetime trying to wear closed-toe heels. And narrow flats, and wedges.. cute shoes fucking hurt my feet. Then, occasionally, I’ll find shoes that are cute and comfortable and actually seem to work with my weirdo toes. And then I wonder, why in the world did I spend so long trying to squeeze into so many awful shoes clearly not meant for me?

This analogy is stupid. Here’s the deal, when parents and teachers are super annoying and cliche, telling you to be yourself, they’re actually freaking right. And it’s sad that it takes us becoming teachers and parents (or just plain adults) to figure that out.


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