Saturday, December 30, 2006

New Year's Resolutions

Just a side note before I get to the point:

It's no secret that I love Ayn Rand's novels and (very generally speaking) the philosophy that her work embodies. A couple of years ago, I had to do a research paper on a well-known author and I chose her. As part of the paper, I sent away for some literature from the Ayn Rand Institute and signed up for emails. I typically don't get all the way through reading the emails before becoming irritated. It seems the authors of the articles take individual rights to such an extreme because of their word choices that it is actually hard to read. I enjoy well-supported view points, and I can't say that I theoretically disagree with the articles, but when the attitude the author takes is so absolute that I find myself trying to find some flaw in their logic just so I can argue, I have to walk away. Last night, I decided to read one and I actually loved it, so I am going to share.

I didn't make any New Year's resolutions last year and I wasn't planning to this year because it's become such a routine thing that no one ever seems to stick to, so what's the point? But, this article was rather motivating and I will dig deep and come up with something meaningful to resolve myself to and get back to you.

Anyhow, here's the article:

The Meaning of New Year's Resolutions
By Alex Epstein

Every New Year's Eve millions of Americans make New Year's resolutions. Whether the resolution is to get out of debt, to spend more time with loved ones, or to quit smoking, these resolutions have one thing in common: they are goals to make our lives better.

Unfortunately, this ritual commitment to self-improvement is widely viewed as something of a joke--in part because New Year's resolutions go so notoriously unmet. After years of watching others--or themselves--excitedly commit to a new goal, only to abandon the quest by March, many come to conclude that New Year's resolutions are an exercise in futility that should not be taken seriously. "The silly season is upon us," writes a columnist for the Washington Post, "when people feel compelled to remake themselves with new year's resolutions."

But such a cynical attitude is false and self-destructive. Making New Year's resolutions does not have to be futile--and to make them is not silly; done seriously, it is an act of profound moral significance that embodies the essence of a life well-lived.

Consider what we do when we make a New Year's resolution: we look at where we are in some area of life, think about where we want to be, and then set ourselves a goal to get there. We are tired of feeling chubby and lethargic, say, and want the improved appearance and greater energy level that comes with greater fitness. So we resolve to take up a fun athletic activity--like tennis or a martial art--and plan to do it three times a week.

Is this a laughable act of self-delusion? Hardly. If it were, then how would anyone ever achieve anything in life? In fact, to make a New Year's resolution is to recognize the undeniable reality that successful goal-pursuit is possible--the reality that everyone at one time or another has set and achieved long-range goals, and profited from doing so. Indeed, not only is it possible to achieve long-range goals, it is necessary for success in life. To make a New Year's resolution is also to recognize the undeniable reality that rewarding careers and romances do not just happen automatically--that to get what we want in our lives, we must consciously choose and achieve the right goals. We must be goal-directed.

Unfortunately, a goal-directed orientation is missing to a large extent in too many lives. It is all too easy to live life passively, acting without carefully deciding what one is doing with one's life and why. How many people do you know who are in the career they fell into out of school, even if it is not very satisfying--or who have children at a certain age because that's what is expected, even if it's not what they really want--or who spend endless hours of "free time" in front of the TV, since that's the most readily available form of relaxation--or who follow a life routine that they never really chose and don't truly enjoy, but which has the force of habit?

Too often, the goal-directedness embodied by New Year's resolutions is the exception in lives ruled by passively accepted forces--unexamined routine, short-range desires, or alleged duties. It is the passive approach to happiness that makes so many resolutions peter out, lost in the shuffle of life or abandoned due to lost motivation. More broadly than its impact on New Year's resolutions, the passive approach to happiness is the reason that so many go through life without ever getting--or even knowing--what they really want.

It is a sad irony that those who write off New Year's resolutions because so many fail reinforces the passive approach to life that causes so many resolutions--and so many other dreams--to fail. The solution to failed New Year's resolutions is not to abandon the practice, but to supplement it with a broader resolution--a commitment to a goal-directed life.

This New Year's, resolve to think about how to make your life better, not just once a year, but every day. Resolve to set goals, not just in one or two aspects of life, but in every important aspect and in your life as a whole. Resolve to pursue the goals that will make you successful and happy, not as the exception in a life of passivity, but as the rule that becomes second-nature.

If you do this, you will be resolving to do the most important thing of all: to take your happiness seriously.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

iStuff Has Officially Taken Over the World!

I intensely dislike the stronghold iTunes, iPod, and all of the iStuff that goes with it has over the whole music enjoyment process. I give you some background:

A couple (maybe a few) of years ago, I asked for nothing but Target giftcards as gifts for my birthday and Christmas. As they are so close together, I tend to get alot of stuff at the end of the year. On this particular year, I had wanted to purchase an iPod.

I received ample giftcards to purchase my iPod, but iPods were scarce that year. Target (including online) had no idea when they would be restocked. It was into January when I decided to research other brands.

I found one I liked online that had triple the features of the iPod I planned to buy for the same price. The only problem was that it was an off brand, something I'd never heard of. I bought it anyway.

I was so excited to get my MP3 player, but still had alot to learn. As it happened, I had no idea that iTunes was only friendly to an iPod and that their music wouldn't play on anything else. I had purchased iTunes cards with my remaining giftcard money and they were useless. Until I found Hymn Project.

I downloaded some software, rather tentatively, that would convert my iTunes protected files into unprotected files that I could put on my player AND they would work. The software runs in the background and automatically deposits the unprotected files into a folder each time I downloaded something from iTunes.

But, it was too late. I had already developed my intense dislike for all that is iStuff. It was taking over the world. After I used up my iTunes credit, I vowed to never use iTunes again. I later discovered that most online music services have the protected files (and now I understand why), but, for the most part, the other files could be played on my player. But not iTunes. No, iTunes only works with iPod.

Back to now. A few months ago, my off brand gave up on me and would no longer work. I set out to buy a new one and this time iPods were in excess everywhere. But, I sure as hell wasn't going to buy an iPod after I had developed such a strong dislike for iStuff. By the way, the MP3 player I bought is awesome and way better than an iPod, I'm sure of it.

Anyhow, there are very few shows on TV that I HAVE to watch. One of these is "The Office." I don't watch shows as they are scheduled, I DVR them and watch them at my convenience.

Last night, I was sitting down to watch TV and realized that I hadn't watched the special-one-hour-Christmas-party-episode-of-the-office. Before starting it, I began deleting the many episodes of "Full House" and "Sabrina, the Teen-aged Witch" that my daughter wants me to record, but rarely watches. I think you see it coming. I got so "delete" happy, that I accidentally deleted "The Office." *GASP*

After spending time trying to find it on the internet, I realized that the only way I was going to get it was to download it from iTunes. It was certainly worth the $1.99, but was it worth using iTunes?

I regret to inform you that I broke my 2-year long iTunes abstinence.

And that is why iStuff has officially taken over the world.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Single Moms v. Single Dads

I stress ahead of time that the following did not bother me in the least, it's just a general observation on one of the disparities between men and women... for now.

When I was out last night, I struck up some excellent conversation with one of my male classmates (not Simon, Lori, although he was much more fun than I would have ever expected). After a while, the excellent conversation evolved into one of those martini-induced warm and fuzzy feelings one gets when one discovers they are being flirted with. Not everyone gets these warm and fuzzy feelings just from being flirted with, but yours truly certainly does as it has been a long time since I have felt "attractive" in this way.

Now, this male classmate is not even close to my "type." He's very muscular, in fact, he's a bouncer. There is nothing that will turn me off faster than huge muscles. But, while I wasn't attracted to him, I will admit that he was attractive. Naturally, it's pleasant to find an attractive person who can hold a good conversation and also have some good, harmless flirtation going on.

Since I had never talked to this person before- he's quiet, I'm antisocial- and most everyone else there knows me, eventually those of us who have children wound up discussing said children.


The nearly imperceptible noise of previously mentioned male classmate's reaction to the fact that the object of his alcohol-induced affection is not as young as he is, and, what's worse, has children.

"How old are you? You don't seem old enough to have kids!"

I assure you, I am. This is all strictly inferential, but it turns out that said classmate is only 26, and while he would normally be very up for whatever with a woman 5 years his senior, this would not apply if that woman is a mama.

Throughout the night, he had been edging closer and closer to me. Suddenly, he found a much more comfortable seat at the other end of the table. It was quite funny, actually.

This may have been a problem for me had I actually been attempting to "go somewhere" with the whole flirting thing. But, I wasn't, I was just being reminded of how awesome it is to be female.

However, an interesting question is raised. When I do decide to date, how will my status as a mother affect my options? Now that I'm so determined to be more selective, do I actually have the luxury of being selective? And, if I were a man, would this be a moot point? Aren't single dads way more sexy than single moms?

School's Out, School's Out...

It's midnight and I'm rather content to come home tonight. I went out for drinks with some classmates and a couple of teachers and it was fun. That's a big step for me, people, I don't normally go out for drinks and I certainly don't normally have fun.

Treasure had fun. Just ask her. She won't remember, that's how you'll know she had fun.

I'm guilty of being a procrastinator to a nauseating degree. Thus, I have been awake for the past few days for more hours than I care to count. There were many papers to write, thematic units to finish. My online class has another week, but it's nothing. I carried 22 credit hours in 10 weeks, and I got through it with all "A" grades... and one "B" (although we'll probably have to add another "B" to the mix at the conclusion of my online class). It was the most challenging quarter of my very long career as a professional student. I'm tired.

Yet, it's only midnight. Much earlier than I've been going to bed lately. I don't want to sleep this early because Todd took the kids tonight and I want to sleep in tomorrow morning.

That makes absolutely no sense. I want to stay up late so I can sleep in. Wouldn't I get the same amount of sleep if I went to bed now and got up at the normal time?

The point is, what am I going to do for the next 4 weeks until I'm back to the next 22 credit hours? Study for my certification test in April, which won't exactly fill up my time the way school does.

I need school (or work... work will be good). It makes me function correctly. To be a stay at home mom for the next 4 weeks is damn scary. I always have to do that in between and it's rough.

I know, I sound like I'm whining and all of my friends out there who have tedious, full time jobs are saying "I'd like to have her life for a week... she doesn't know what the fuck she's talking about." I'll have you know that I do know what the fuck I'm talking about.

Everyone kept saying "fuck" tonight and it's catchy. It's going to take me a couple of days to get back into the habit of saying "eff" again.

As I was saying, it is draining to be around two children everyday, no less for four weeks straight. In January, it's Silverstick season, which means that Todd will go almost 4 weeks without picking the kids up. So, really, I have the next four weeks off of school, but he'll have them for 2 weekends of that, and then I have them for 4 weeks with no help from him when I'm back to school. But, he'll have them for 2 weekends in a row in February (1 because it's his weekend and the other because I'm going to The Tragically Hip and he's most generously taking them for the weekend so he can make up for January... on what planet does taking them for 2 weekENDS in a row make up for not having them at all for 4 WEEKS? I'm not bitter because it's about me, I'm bitter because it's about the kids).

Do you all see what just happened here? I was content when I came home because a very stressful quarter just finished up and I don't have to go back to school for 4 weeks. Now I'm bummed that I don't have school for 4 weeks and bitter about something that hasn't even happened yet.

Quintessential woman.

I'm rambling. I'm tired.

Good night.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

On Being a Sissy Girl

The holidays are here, bringing with them nagging reminders of what a girl I am. But, it's worse than that, really, because I'm even worse than the average girl. In fact, I do believe that I just may give the average girl a bad name. I'm a big sissy... and I'm not proud of it.

A few weeks ago, I told one of my uncles I was going to host a tree-trimming party and make everyone dinner. But, I told him that I don't really need help trimming my tree, I just wanted him to hang my Christmas lights for me and feeding him would make me feel less... I'm not sure... less wimpy, I suppose... about it. He said, "no problem, just give me a staple gun and I'll have them up in no time."

I have a very supportive family. My uncles especially will have something done for me before I even finish commenting about what I need to be done. It's always been this way, even when Todd was here. Because of this, I began to alter my plans to go fetch a Christmas tree.

Todd and I always have cut our tree, we both have always loved the real thing and detested the thought of a fake tree in our home. I like oversized, fat, ugly trees (enough, people), he likes narrow, perfect trees. We solved our dilemna by alternating who got to pick out the tree each year. This was (and now definitely is and always will be) my year to pick out the tree. I have been excited about this since February when we moved into this house. For the first time in my life, I have tall ceilings and a large space where the tree will be. The oversized, fat, ugly tree.

Then I realized that I didn't have anyone to cut down the tree. *GASP*

Todd agreed to go with me and cut the tree and put it up for me- 2 weekends from now. There are 2 problems with that. 1) I'm not sold yet on whether or not it is healthy for our children to continue these traditions "as a family," and 2) I want my damned tree NOW!

My first thought was, "No problem, I'll just call my uncle. He'll be happy to cut the tree." Then, my uncle asked me to babysit my cousin (she's 6) for the weekend as he has a job out-of-state. Fuck.

(By the way, I'm in one of my swearing-like-a-sailor moods currently.)

I thought, "No problem, I'll call one of my other uncles." Then I decided to ask my brother instead because I rarely ask him to help me with things like that. In asking my brother, I really asked Treasure, because she's the one who can make him do stuff. She said he would.

I told my aunt all of this today and, her boys being in their early 20's and not caring much about Christmas anymore, she kind of missing it all, she told me she would come with me to cut the tree. "Between the 2 of us, we should be able to cut down a tree, right?"

WHAT ON EARTH IS SHE TALKING ABOUT? Me, cut down my own tree? I reminded her, while providing a simultaneous visual, that I have absolutely no muscle tone in my arms. I'm a girl. A really weak girl.

I would like to go into how, while there are certain rights for women that I am fully on board with, I am very much a femi-nazi-nazi. This means that there are certain things I want a man to do for me. I don't exactly want to be some submissive wife, but I do like the man of the house to be the leader. Todd let me walk all over him. But, he still cut down the tree.

Now, I am going to try to turn over a new leaf. Here comes the sailor. If Christmas lights show up on my house, it's going to be because I got my ass out on the roof and put the effers up myself. I'm going to take my aunt up on her offer. I will saw no less than 25% of the trunk of that tree, allowing her to saw the remaining 75%. My arms will burn like a mother Sunday. Will it be good? Maybe. Until I'm in a relationship again and have a man to do it for me.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What I'm Thankful For

I do apologize in advance for any unnecessary cheesiness. You should know that it is a direct result of my happy state of mind over the past couple of days, which, in turn, is probably a direct result of the meds :) With Thanksgiving tomorrow, I thought I'd talk about what I'm thankful for. Aside from #1, these are in no particular order.

1) My kids. They are the best in the world, of that I'm certain. They have it all. I feel lucky. If I hadn't "accidentally" got pregnant with Jenna, I may never have had kids. I never had an ounce of maternal instinct in me, never felt "touched" in the presence of babies. Until I had my own. I am convinced that if I never had children, I would have been happy because I wouldn't have known what I was missing. But, I did have children, and they make me feel things that I would have been missing, I just would have been too ignorant to know better. I recently had this discussion with a couple of different people. Because I have no instinct to have any more children, and I'm perfectly content with the two I have, I usually think that some type of permanent birth control is in order. But, I know that if I meet someone that I'm crazy about, I could be convinced to have another if it was important to him. This is why: both times I was pregnant, while I LOVED being pregnant, I didn't have any urge to have babies (Jenna) or another baby (Alex). But the moment they were born... I never loved anything more fiercely. It would be the same if I had another baby.

2) Lori. Gosh darn it, Lori, I'm thankful for you! You are the best friend anyone could ever ask for and I am so grateful that you have been in my life for so many years. You are an amazing woman and I count myself blessed having grown up with you.

3) Second chances

3a) Life. It's a good thing, in our society, that we have choice and freedom to change our minds. Otherwise, I'd be an accountant right now, hating every minute of it. Instead, I have the opportunity to share my passion with others, and hopefully to spark passion in others.

3b) Love. In the movie You've Got Mail, when Meg Ryan's and Greg Kinnear's characters mutually break up, he asks her if there's someone else. She responds with (this is from memory and may not be accurate), "There's the promise of someone else." That about says it. I'm glad for this second chance.

4) My family. Despite the addictions, the jail-time, and general white-trash qualities that run in my family, they are here for me, will always be here for me, and I wouldn't trade a single member of my family for anyone. This is especially true of my siblings (except for the addictions, jail-time, and white-trash thing), they get me and we've grown to really appreciate the things we have to offer each other. I am very thankful for my mother(s) and my siblings.

Oh, I almost forgot:

5) My laptop.

Oh, yeah, and:

6) My Tragically Hip tickets.

Monday, November 20, 2006


I finished up my observations for my Literacy Accross the Content Areas class last week. However, the teacher I was observing allowed me to sit in on conferences today. Half, literally half, of her (3) 8th grade ELA students received an "E". Remember, this is an "at risk" school, and in our district (possibly in the State of Michigan, though I'm not sure), students in middle school do not get held back except upon the absolute insistence of their parents. At this school, most parents are not involved and the students know they're going to move up to the next grade no matter what, so why try?

Anyway, I went into the conferences thinking that the parents that would show up would be the ones with the "A" students, and the parents that we would have liked to see (the "E" students) would not show up. I was pleasantly surprised.

About 8 parents came during the 3 hours I was there: 2 had "A" students and the rest had "D" and "E" students. Of these, one of the students was a former special-ed now mainstreamed student. Other than that, only one parent came that fit into my preconceived mold of a parent that could care less- he just showed up to go through the motions. He actually laughed and smiled through the whole thing.

The other parents seemed to really care and be distressed about their children. A couple seemed to be at the end of their rope, they just didn't know what to do. Otherwise, based on the type of parenting I saw exhibited, I was rather surprised at the fact that the students failed the marking period.

I have been of the thinking, generally speaking, that if a parent is involved in their child's life and education, the child will succeed in school. Today, that was really challenged. There are a whole breadth of circumstances that I have yet to learn about (and probably won't learn until I have my own classroom) that make kids not understand the importance of school that is beyond a parent's locus of control.

Sadly, there was one parent of an "A" student who was borderline berating her daughter for not getting an "A+". Luckily, the girl had a good head on her shoulders and seemed to know how to handle the mom and not let it get to her.

Ultimately, my views were challenged today. But, instead of frustrating me, I must admit to being a bit inspired by the experience.

I can't wait to have my own classroom.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Well, I have started to clean up the boxes under the stairs and also the ones in the garage I didn't mention previously. One box had some stuff from my school years and also from my early 20s. (By the way, when did my early 20s become early 30s anyhow?) I used to think that I remembered my teenage years and "pre-Jenna" years quite well, but now I see that is not the case.

The boxes mentioned above had all of my yearbooks, a scrapbook, and many letters- mostly from Lori and Todd. It's the letters that really put things in perspective.

There was a large bundle of the tissue-like letters written on air mail paper from Lori's year in Germany. Of course, to help her with German, and to help me with my German, entirely too much of the content of these letters were written auf Deutsch. But I had to laugh at some of the things that weren't. Ah... teenage angst. It's funny how all of the "noteworthy" events and people (some of whom I don't remember) are so miniscule in the grand scheme of things. There was one letter where I think Lori might have feared losing touch as she gently reprimanded me for not writing for too long a lapse of time. She insisted that every small detail of every small day be reported. It kind of made me sad.

The next bundle of letters kind of made me happy. They included all of the letters and cards Todd wrote during our first few years together. Reading them again was an enormously vindicating experience. For the past two months, I have been dwelling on whether there was something between us that was ever worth saving and at what point should I have recognized the need for saving it. See, I have been thinking, rather guiltily, that (children aside, of course) we never should have made it far past high-school, if ever past friends in the first place. I've been feeling like I tried too hard to gloss over our incompatibilities because I didn't want to fail. But there must have been something between us, right?

Yes! Reading the letters reminded me that there was, once, something special between us. We were quite crazy about one another, and I had forgotten all about it amidst so many years of trouble. In the letters, I saw a glimpse of the man I thought Todd would become. But he didn't. He was very devoted and invested in me at one time, and I was able to see when that started tapering off. Perhaps it was around the same time that he started to see that I wasn't becoming the woman he thought I would. It doesn't really matter.

Right now, I just feel good knowing that we had something at one time and that I didn't make any mistakes either in staying with him as long as I did or in separating when we did. As a young woman, I had a different vision of my future with him than reality held. I'm lucky I'm still young and have time to experience another future.

So, the letters serve as documentation of the two most important relationships I've had in my life. It's kind of hard to put into words, but where one relationship was destined to fail, I am assured that the other will be around... well, forever.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Trouble With Being Atheist

In my Survey of Brit Lit class (which I eat, sleep, and breathe), we are studying the Victorian era. One thing that really stands out for me are the conflicts arising due to turmoil in religion during the time. Basically, this era saw a rapid departure from an economy of land ownership (farming) to an economy focused on technology (industry). In all of the buzz, great distinctions in class became very apparent. The rich got richer, the poor moved to London to find work, got poorer, and multiplied in number so quickly that the poor population increased despite a spiraling deathrate.

All of this brought about a schism regarding the place of religion. With pressure from economical and political changes, Communism, Scientific theories, even geology, many departed from their religion, instead focusing on defining ethics and becoming impossibly moral.

Studying this today is one of those timing things that is a bit perplexing. Prior to beginning my readings, I was thinking about my lack of spirituality and how it may be to my detriment, yet it's also not in my composition to believe in a higher power.

It's a bit of a conflict today. I was thinking about how the average person prays for things that they want/ need, or wish for (regardless of whether the wish is personal). When I want/need or wish, I have this instinct to "pray" to a higher power. But I don't believe that a higher power exists, nor do I really want to believe that a higher power exists. So where does the instinct to pray come from?

Is it that I should just accept the possibility of a higher power, to admit that I just don't know? I find this hard to do. My instincts are always to "follow my heart." But I rarely act on my "heart". I need to rationalize. To me, the possibility of a higher power is not a possibility at all.

I wish I could reconcile my instinct to "pray" to be consistent with my beliefs. Praying seems like such a silly concept when thinking of it. A person prays. If what they pray for happens, they thank God. If it doesn't, they say that it wasn't in God's plan. To me the whole concept is ridiculous.

I truly feel that way, think that way. So why the instinct to pray?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Middle School Life

Today at a local middle school, I was accompanying the 8th grade class I'm observing to the computer lab. I was bringing up the rear (not just a shot at my... um... "shapely" ass) when one of the male students approached me with a science question. Below follows a rendition of our conversation:

Boy: Miss Taylor, [Is 30 too old to be called "Miss?" Whatever, I'll take it] I have a science question.

Melissa (a.k.a. Miss Taylor): Then you are probably asking the wrong person, but ask me anyway.

Boy: If you have two magnets and you swirl them around a coil of wire, can you create electricity?

Melissa: Science is not my cup of tea, but I have to tell you that you are probably not going to make electricity that way.

Boy: Oh, because I think you can. I'm going to make a taser at home like that.

Melissa: I don't think you are going to be successful with the method you described. But in the case that you are eventually successful, I hope you don't plan on bringing your experiment to school.

Boy: No, I'm not going to bring it to school. But, I'm going to make 3 of them. One for small problems, like if someone says something messed up to me. One will be for if someone tries to mess with my friends. The big one will be for if people try to push me around, I'll use that one on their eyelids.

At this point, I began to ignore him, I've noticed that this is the method most often employed by teachers when students start rambling about anything other than the topic at hand. This is an at-risk school and the kids are pretty much out of control as far as behavior goes, so the teachers have a tendency to ignore them when they are off task or topic because nothing seems to work as far as modification or redirection.

But I have to say that it bothered me. He was talking like he gets bullied, but as I was observing him amongst his classmates, he really blended in with them. I never had the chance to talk to my supervising teacher about it. I wonder what my responsibility is in a situation like that. It's not like it was a bomb threat, but I felt like ignoring him was the wrong thing to do.

It's not even 10 p.m. and I'm exhausted and sore. I'd like to take a hot bath, but I'd probably fall asleep and drown. All I can think about is these kids, their horrible behavior, and what would make a kid feel like he had to invent a homemade taser.

Friday, October 6, 2006


I can officially count myself among the population of the Medicated. This was a little difficult to accept at first because it seems like people just take a pill for anything to modify everything and I didn't want to be like that. But, if it helps...

I've been told by my doctor to keep a journal to record not only my mental shit (I have got to stop swearing like a sailor, by the way), but any physical symptoms as well to better weigh pros and cons in evaluating the drug's effectiveness. As I've been journaling, I've noticed a lot of stress coming from my kids. I get so irritated so quickly and I control it externally, but it really bothers me that I get irritated in the first place. My kids are so great- they are well behaved, they have loads of personality, and it's not just me being a mom that allows me to say this, but I think there aren't a whole lot of people that wouldn't be proud to call them their own.

I've been so disturbed that I get so stressed out at the end of the day because of them, and even more disturbed that they should be a source of stress when it's not even close to being their fault. Sometimes I think they deserve so much better (although for the most part, I think they're just as lucky to have me for their mother as I am to have them for my children).

The weekend is here and it's Todd's weekend. I was so happy to get this time by myself, because my stress level was getting to the point of breaking and I fear that I won't be able to control it externally as well as I have. I hate that I yell at them so unnecessarily when I get to that breaking point.

When Todd came to pick them up, I watched them walk away with thier mini suitcases rolling behind them. I am grateful to have a weekend to myself (don't even get me started on how much homework I have to do), but it kind of broke my heart watching them go. I'm a mother that values my time away from the kids, so it's not that I feel incomplete when they are not at home. But watching them walk away, I became a bit overcome by so much at once: pride, loneliness, fear, and pure, unconditional love.

What I am trying to express is this: I hope that the medication helps alieve some of the stress and sadness; however, let it never take away the moment I experience when watching my children walk away.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Boxes Under the Stairs

So, to most who know me, I've had an eventful couple of weeks.

I have been making so many to-do lists- and sticking to them- to try to steam out the wrinkles that have become my future. I have gotten so much accomplished in the past two weeks that I amaze myself. Anything that has yet to be accomplished has an appointment made to get it accomplished. I am living out of my planner. I even got a job (I will blog on my new crazy schedule very soon).

It feels amazing to have a bit of the haze clear and catch hopeful glimpses of the wonderful things to come.

Yet... I find myself, in spite of all of my optimism, clinging to my old habits. Follow me through a small piece of my day which is quite a fitting metaphor for my current mindset.

Today I have been getting ready to take the kids camping (Todd came over to help me through the process of putting up the tent, which I had refused to learn over all these years because, of course, I'd always have him to do it for me). As I've been hunting and gathering throughout the house, I've come accross boxes yet to be unpacked.

We moved into this house in February. I have about 6 stubborn boxes stored inconveniently in the closet under the stairs that refuse to put themselves away. They are full of things that have no place in this house. This house is bigger than the old one, but these pesky items simply don't belong here. So, I put off dealing with them. Some of them are things that I don't need, things people have bought me because I once collected them, and some are just things that remind me of who I used to be... rather, still am, but am actively trying not to be.

"Today," I told myself, "in the midst of all of the hunting and gathering, I will deal with these things." And it was too hard. It's not that I don't think I'm capable of making the decision of where the things should go (trash, into the house, future garage sale box), it's that I can't bring myself to make the decisions.

Then came an "AHA!" moment. I have so been defining myself on my lack of interest in making new friends, in being alone whenever possible, in my ability to be separate from all of my other commitments and honor a commitment to myself that I have actually gone and become lonely. While being an individual is still important to me, I think I have come to a crossroads where I need to train myself to welcome human contact.

I've been so sad lately and I do believe I may be stumbling upon some answers. The dissolution of my marraige is actually going to teach me something. While the separation is a good thing on so many levels, Todd not being here anymore is making me see how close I was getting to be to being utterly alone. Of course, that would never be truly so because of my children, but one needs more than just their children and their spouse to be whole.

There is no lack of people who would be here in a heartbeat if I need them to be. But the point is that I need to branch out. I have alot to offer, and I think I may be discrediting people in general by assuming that they have nothing to offer me.

And it comes back to the boxes under the stairs. I know what must be done, but I question my ability to do it.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006


I have been thinking quite a bit about honor. Chiefly, I have been thinking about honor as it relates to commitments in ones relationships with others. No, this is not about the phrase "honor your commitments," although it fits. However, the aforementioned phrase is not what got me started on this rant.

Really, my thoughts here are about relationships between people. All relationships: marriages, partnerships, friendships, familial ties. I am contemplating the responsibility we have to other people when we make commitments to them.

For example, I have big commitments and little ones. I vowed to be faithful when I married my husband; I promised my daughter a trip to the new ice cream store by the beach when she had completed the first section of her summer workbook. I wonder if there is any difference in what kind of person I am when I do not honor a commitment regardless of whether it is a major or minor one. In the above examples, I am betraying my word in both cases. Perhaps the promise I made to my daughter seems minor in comparison to my wedding vows, but is it? I am still defacing the value of my word, my honor.

Being honorable is quite possibly the biggest virtue one can boast. When thinking of relationships, we always think of things like trust and honesty and communication and compatibility as paramount to success. Really it all comes down to honor. How crushing it must be to have honored someone for any length of time (though particularly a longer length of time)- be it blindly or with proper cause- and to find out that you (or me, or anyone) have not been treated with honor in return. Having to recall all of the times when you could have broken your word, when it would have been so easy, but did not, only to discover that it did not mean anything must be so belittling. Sure, you have your personal integrity. Still, there is a moment when a person must feel so naked to discover that something they value was contrary to what a person they care about values.

I feel as though, with being treated honorably as so important to me, I need to really examine my commitments with those that I care for, or respect, or admire and make sure that I have treated others likewise.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Home From Vacation

I just got home from vacation. We went camping for 2 night in Traverse City. Whenever I go to T.C., which has only been 4 times ever, I realize how beautiful Michigan is. On the southeastern side of the state, it's really only about squeezing the maximum amount of subdivisions possible into as little space as possible. But on the western and northern side of the state, it's quite breathtaking.

My husband wasn't able to get the time off work, so it was just me, the kids, and my in-laws (mother, sisters, brother, nieces). I am so lucky to have in-laws that I get along with so that I feel just as comfortable with them as with my own family.

After camping we went up to Mackinaw City for 2 nights, spending a day on Mackinac Island. It may have been too hot a day for my first trip ever to the island. It was beautiful to look at but not to smell. For those who don't know (and I'm relatively certain I was the only one to not know), there are no automobiles on the island. One can only get around by bike or horse. Thus, on a hot day, the pungent odor of manure is all about.

The best part of the vacation for me was Jenna's complete fascination for Fort Michilimackinac. It's good to see her interested in history at such a young age. My interest in history didn't develop until fairly recently, so a trip to Fort Michilimackinac at Jenna's age would have been torture. Actually, it was great to see my recently acquired knowledge of Michigan history cemented in Mackinaw City and on Mackinac Island. I actually have a great deal of appreciation for Michigan right now.

As always, it's good to be home.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Catch-22. Not a book review. Yet.

When my book group started almost two weeks ago, I had just started reading Catch 22. But The Great Gatsby was up for discussion first, so I stopped reading Catch 22 to re-read TGG. Now I'm back on Catch 22 and I'm struggling. I just finished Chapter 4 and the chapters are short. I can't put my finger on why I can't get through it. I find it to be hilarious. It jumps around alot, but that's not been a problem for me in the past. You know how sometimes you have to read a paragraph multiple times because you keep dazing off? That's what is happening. Unlike normally, however, each time I re-read a paragraph, it's still brand new to me. I don't remember a single word of the previous time(s) I read it. It's frustrating. I still have 3 weeks before my group starts on it, but I hate that it is taking me so long!

By the way, I wasn't as crazy about TGG as I remember being in high school.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Ho-lympics

I got a good enough laugh out of this that I felt obligated to share:

The Ho-lympics trailer

Monday, July 10, 2006

Book Review: Lady Chatterley's Lover

It was fascinating to read about the thought process a woman who is married and has an affair has when deciding whether to leave her husband. The problem is that it was written by a man, so its hard to determine how accurate that thought process was. It was somewhat autobiographical, so if (in reality) D.H. Lawrence and his wife split on better terms than the characters in the book its possible that she was able to give him some insight.


The plot is basically about a man who was paralyzed from the waist down in war and can no longer have sex with his wife, while relying on her to become his nurse to a point. She then has an affair with their estates gamekeeper and becomes pregnant and leaves her husband. This actually happened to D.H. Lawrence.

Anyhow, the woman in the book had had sexual relationships prior to getting married, and enjoyed them, but not to the extent she had with the gamekeeper. After not having sex with her husband (and they were only married for about a month before his injury) and then having this sort of sexual awakening, she begins to hate her life. As the couple were of a high class in England (he a Lord, she a Lady), the book provides an excellent glimpse of class structure and how that would affect her if she left her husband.

The book was ruled pornographic when it was published and was banned. I can see why this would raise some eyebrows during the early 1900s. It did have some graphic depictions of sex and used language such as *gasp* penis and cunt. While the scenes were somewhat erotic at times, the fact that the gamekeeper, who was educated and spoke English well, would revert to his class broad vernacular language during the sexual encounters was quite a turnoff (not to Lady Chatterley, I assure you). But the descriptive scenes were necessary to make one understand the conflicts involved.

I enjoyed reading this book, for the most part- I am not sure if I feel like it was not a waste of time though. I hope that discussing it in one of the 3 B & N book groups Im in will provide some insight. I do tend to find books written about English class and society to be brain candy because of the language used; it puts me into another time.

This book did not make the Modern Libraries Best 100 for the boards or readers picks.

Im such a geek. Im so excited that my book groups are finally starting!!!

The Devaluation of Education

In the spirit of Duncan, blog-whore and blog-pimp extraordinaire , I'm posting a link to a blog entry I enjoyed reading about how men (not all men) tend to devalue intelligence in lieu of attaining arm candy. Somehow, arm candy is not as tasty when there is a brain attached.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

Okay, I'm not going to provide any kind of synopsis as nearly everyone who has a high-school degree has read this book. I'm only going to tell you what I got out of the re-read.
This time around, I viewed this from a parents perspective. As such, I can only hope that I am half the parent that Atticus Finch is to Jem and Scout. They are the epitome of everything I want for my children. They have all of the "i's": they are intelligent, inquisitive, and imaginative.

Where in high school, I read this book as a requirement and only took so much out of it, this time I realized what a wonderful story it is. Definitely not a waste of my time. But brain candy it was not. I certainly did not have to "dumb down" to reread it, but I didn't need to think, either. Which makes me wonder why it is a staple of high school reading lists. It conveys a moral message, but I wonder if it is too late for it to hit home in a high schooler. They've pretty much already made up their minds (or had it made up for them) about where they stand on racial issues.

So what is the right age to share this great piece of literature? I would actually love to read it to/with my daughter, whom is Scout's age. I think she's at the perfect age to process and contemplate the issues. Except for the whole rape thing. I doubt I will end up sharing this book with her (yet) because I'm not prepared to have our first conversation about sex be of rape. I'm definitely not ready to have a conversation about sex at all. She's only turning 8. Of course, Scout's first encounter with the topic was the rape, but, keeping it all in perspective, Scout is fictional.

If anyone reads this, thoughts, please. Would you read To Kill a Mockingbird to your 8 year old?

The Modern Library's Best 100: Not on the board's list, #5 on the reader's list

FYI: My local library was out of the next two books I intended to read for my summer online book club (Catch 22 and The Great Gatsby, I put them on order, but in the meantime, I will be reading Lady Chatterley's Lover for another online club I joined. It's a good thing I took the summer off from school... and that I love reading.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Book Review: Brave New World

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

I finally finished the first of four books that I need to read by July 10 for my Barnes and Noble reading group. I don't normally read so slow, but children tend to put a huge dent in one's free reading time (for the better, normally!).

Huxley creates a futuristic world where technology has taken the place of the natural in terms of reproduction. Babies are no longer born to parents (in fact the terms "mother" and "father" are taboo and embarassing). Babies are created by "artificial" means, women give an ovary out of a sense of social responsibility- and for a big paycheck. The actual reproduction process is generally recreated quite well, the fetuses live in a simulated womb.

There is a caste system and the classes are separated by letters of the Greek alphabet: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon. The fetuses are conditioned according to which class they are predestined to become. Each class is happy because they have been given the physical and mental capacity only to fufill which role has been predestined to them. For example, the lower classes have been genetically engineered from eggs which have been split up to 96 times, producing up to 96 twins. The Alphas and Betas, however, are always of one egg and one sperm and are never twins. Another example of the "genetic engineering" that allows the lower classes to be perfectly happy in their lives is the injection of alcohol into their "blood surrogate" when they are fetuses to stunt their growth, physically and mentally. All diseases are wiped out through fetal injections as well.

After they are born (decanted), they are further conditioned while they are sleeping ("I'm so glad I'm a Beta... I love buying new clothes...") to be happy in their station, to be promiscuous, to take the civilized world's "happy drug", soma, and to encourage economic prosperity. This reminded me a great deal of Ayn Rand's Anthem, it's a world where no one thinks for themselves, it's all predestined, and the motto is "community, identity, stability."

The year is given as "A.F. 632." While it is never spelled out, I deduced that "A.F." stands for "After Ford." Henry Ford is their god- not like God or Jesus (they worship no such god), but as the best person who has ever lived. The people reproduce the letter "T" as the symbol of this "religion," in their jewelery (like crosses around the neck), in midair (forming a letter "T" instead of a cross), all as tribute to the Model T.

Throughout the world, in areas where the "civilized" men have determined the area to be inefficient to inhabitate, there are "savage reservations." These are places that are separated and fenced in where people live like they used to. It's when an Indian reservation is visited and a woman who was stranded and left there from the civilized world and her (gasp) son are found and brought back to civilization that the majority of the plot unfolds and we see what happens when an individual (the son, his mother dies) is brought into this type of world.

I enjoyed this book a great deal. The prose was excellent. I would give it a high recommendation as it passed my two main criteria: it wasn't a waste of my time and it provided brain candy.

Now, I will be re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird and hope to have it done by Wednesday.

NOTE: Once upon a time, when doing a research paper, I stumbled across The Modern Library's 100 Best Novels list. This list was compiled in 1998 and consists of what the board of The Modern Library considers the 100 best novels as well as what readers consider to be the 100 best novels.

The Modern Library is a subsidiary of Random House Publishings and the methods used for compiling this list as well as the motives for it are highly questionable. However, there are some pretty great works on the list, so when I found it, I decided to print it and highlight what I read or have read as I go. Then, if I'm at a loss for a book to read, I'll read something from the list.
That said (and I may refer to this in the future, but will never explain all of this again!) Brave New World is number 5 on the board's list and number 18 on the reader's list.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead occupy the top 2 spots on the reader's list, but are nowhere to be found on the board's list.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Things I've Taught My Mother-in-law

My mother-in-law is looking for a new job because after 24 years, there have been cuts at her job and her hours have been drastically reduced. Sometimes things like this happen to people as they get older, but in her case, that's not it. She was one of the only, if not the only, paid employee of our local minor hockey association. So, if the board was looking to cut payroll (although it would be safe to venture that some of the reasoning was political), she would be the only one to get cut.

So, I've been thinking of her alot lately and how unfair it is that this should happen to her a year and a half before my deceased father-in-law's death benefits will kick in. I started to think about how knowing me for 13 years has affected her or enriched her and I'm pretty sure that there are many ways as we get on much better than most mother-daughter-in-law relations do.

For the most part, I'm confident that I've brought alot of laughter to her life. I leave you with one example that is rather superficial, but I think the rest is too private to share.

Three vocabulary terms my mother-in-law would never have learned if not for me: Camel Toe, Moose Knuckle, and Circle Jerk.

There you have it. As you can surely see, there are many more ways to enrich someone's life than those that appear as very obvious.

Monday, June 5, 2006

Famous Quotes. Wait for it...I'll get there.

I have two Barnes & Noble University online reading groups starting in July. One is for the non-fiction Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. The other covers four contemporary "classics": The Great Gatsby, Catch 22, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Brave New World, the latter of which I have just started. Of these the only two I've not read previously are the one I'm reading now and Catch 22. I read Devil recently, so I won't be re-reading that, but the others I've not read in many years, so I plan to re-read them by the start of the group (I must get moving on that!).

The same way I can't let different foods touch on my dinner plate, I can't read two books at once. This in mind, I worked furiously to finsh a book of John Steinbeck short stories I had been reading so I could begin my summer reading. While reading Tortilla Flat, I found a quote that I love. I will share it at the end as I am just now getting to the point of this blog.

I intensely dislike the concept of famous quotes. There are actual books dedicated to recording things that people have said or written because they are famous or their book was a bestseller. Teachers in my past have made us find famous quotes we like and then write journal entries on them. I've always found this to be laborious. Recently, I had a chance to figure out why.

I am a member of the newly formed Teacher's Education Club at my college. I normally am not much of a joiner, but this gives me a chance to do some volunteer work that will beef up my resume. The club decided to order T-shirts and wanted to come up with a logo that would define us. The idea was to have everyone in the club think of a logo and submit it so we could then vote for what we liked best. Mine was "The future is in our hands." The club (read: the club's president) decided that not enough people submitted entries to make this idea (of inventing a "logo" for our club) a good one. I didn't care, I wasn't attached to my submission, I was just being a good little joiner.

But then someone in the meeting brought in a list of famous education related quotes so we could vote on those. Everyone generically chimed in with their "oohs" and "aahs". What a great idea! We can let some famous, tired quote define our club! Wow, why didn't I think of that.

My opposition to famous quotes is this: In normal everyday conversation, people say some pretty remarkable things. But of course, it's not remarkable because they aren't famous. So we have this standard that it's only enlightening if someone famous already said it or wrote it and no one could ever hope to come up with something so wonderful. Blech.

But then, against my better judgement, I stumbled accross this in my Steinbeck book and now loathe myself for sharing it:
"Thus do the gods speak with tiny causes."

Now that I've shared my good quote, I will share the crap that one of which will be the Teacher Club's new slogan. Don't worry, people, I refrained from voting, and will likely refrain from sporting a T-shirt which bears this garbage. When I have more time, I just might post another blog ripping apart all that is evil about these quotes.

"A child is not a vessel to be filled, but a lamp to be lit." - Hebrew Proverb -

Teaching is an Art...And each child is a potential masterpiece. Unknown

I am not a teacher but an awakener. - Robert Frost

A teacher affects eternity: he can never tell where his influence stops. Henry Adams

The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should be given the wish to learn. John Lubbock

We cannot hold a torch to light another's path without brightening our own. Ben Sweetland

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.Albert Einstein

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. Wiliam Butler Yeats

Tell me and I'll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I'll understand. Native American Saying

Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~Author Unknown

Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater. ~Gail Godwin

A good teacher is like a candle - it consumes itself to light the way for others. ~Author Unknown

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. ~William Arthur Ward

Thursday, May 18, 2006

My Best Friend

Tomorrow I'm off to Chicago early in the morning to see my best friend graduate.

I've been thinking alot about her, mostly because I'm so proud of her, but also because I was wondering if there gets to be a point in life where I might be a little too old to use the term "my best friend." So here it is:

There are all kinds of things that bug me about people. I'm annoyed when people make stupid, obvious mistakes, I'm irritated when I see people follow their "heart" more often than their brain, I don't like insincerity, and just a whole mess of other things that pretty much everyone, myself included, does.

But when I can look at a person who does or has done all of the things that annoy me about other people and love her all the more for those things, I have no doubt that the term "my best friend" will never be antiquated.

This is all rather unnecessarily cheesy, I do apologize.

Thursday, May 4, 2006

Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest

I love to write. I'm not creative and could never write a book or anything, but if you give me a subject, I'll go to town. This is probably one of the things that has made me a professional student. As I get older, I love learning more than I did when I was in high school or my early twenties. But also, I love writing papers, I know it's the one thing that I'll for sure get an "A" on with little to no effort.

Ayn Rand's novels, which I read for the first time when I was 19, really identified a lot of who I am for me at a time when I couldn't really articulate it for myself. When I first read them, I wholeheartedly embraced every aspect of her philosophy. As I get older, there are pieces that I no longer agree with, but I still love to read her.

When I read Atlas Shrugged, Fransisco D'Anconia's money speech resonated so loudly with me, I still get chills- there's nothing else in the world that I've read (or heard) that is so true for me. This, despite the fact that I'm poor, and will never have a lot of excess money with the career I will enter in a couple of years. But, rich or poor is not the issue, the issue is respect for what money really is.

Anyway, there is an essay contest for students every year for Ayn Rand's novels. The Atlas Shrugged contest is for college students. Last year, one of the topics a student could choose from is Fransisco's money speech. I had to enter because that speech meant so much to me. Having my essay chosen, even as a semi-finalist, would have been the biggest honor in the world for me. But, it wasn't.

That was a huge disappointment to me because I worked so hard and it was so important to me. And it was good, really good. I decided not to enter this year because I don't want the let down. Yet that is contradictory to what I believe. I should be happy that I put forth my best effort and was proud of my work.

Now, I'm trying to talk myself into entering again. My biggest argument against would be my school. There's no way a 30-year-old student from a private college with absolutely no admissions standards whatsoever could have their essay chosen amongst essays submitted by students from "real" colleges that have "real" admissions standards. When you view the list of winners, there are only a couple from colleges like mine, every other college has it's fair share of prestige.

But then, ARI exists to further the work of Objectivism, and as such, rewards the best product (which obviously was not mine!).

Hmmm... me and my little problems.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Daniel Handler

I'm reading Adverbs by Daniel Handler right now.

I'm a total nerd because I have this tendency to latch on to bands or authors and I'm a loyal fan for life. An excellent example of this is Weezer. I have loved Weezer since they stumbled into the land of the "known." I have since rarely missed a concert near my town and am always in line the Tuesday morning that their new music comes out. This is ridiculous because I'm 30 years old, I'm a mom, I'm a wife, I'm supposed to be past all that. I am past all that, with a few exceptions: Weezer, Buffalo Tom, Harry Potter, and Daniel Handler (as well as his children's books, but I can use my daughter as an excuse for that).

I don't want to get off track because I want to talk about Daniel Handler. Like pretty much everyone else who has read one of his books (and for some reason I feel guilty about this, don't ask me to explain), I discovered him as Lemony Snicket. When I first came accross A Series of Unfortunate Events when looking at books for my daughter, I had to buy the first book. I really treasure wit, and when reading the back of The Bad Beginning, I said, "Holy Cow! Quality wit for children." By the way, I didn't really say "Holy Cow!" Anyway, I devoured Lemony Snicket, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

So, I became a loyal Snicket fan, and of course had to learn everything about him. Then I stumbled upon his true identity and I said, "Holy Cow! Quality wit for adults, a modern day Wilde." Once again, I didn't really say "Holy Cow!"

Anyway, I love Handler's books, all 2 of them, and was at the bookstore early last Tuesday morning to get my hands on the 3rd, Adverbs. Normally in my B.C. period (Before Children), I would have finished it by now. But, as it is A.C., I am only allowed to read in the bathtub.

So, now I officially recommend Daniel Handler to the one person who will sadly stumble accross this blog and would like some solid, witty contemporary literature to read. I am not in a position to rate Adverbs yet, but of his other 2 books, The Basic 8 and Watch Your Mouth, the former is my favorite. It most likely can only be found in a library as it is out of print and therefore hideously expensive on Amazon.

Edited to add:
The Basic 8 has been released on paperback as of today! Now the poor soul who happens to read this has no excuse not to buy it!!!