Saturday, November 7, 2015

Do you know about the Day Zero Project? It's a goal-setting website that I've been obsessed with since June 2011. Basically, it helps you track 101 goals in a time limit of 1001 days. You can use it for huge bucket list items (Meet Tom Robbins, Visit Amsterdam, Paris, & London), goals you'd like to become habits (floss every day), baby steps (go one week without a cigarette, go one month without a cigarette, go three months without a cigarette), personal growth stuff (write a letter to yourself to open on the 1001st day) get the idea.

One of my Day Zero goals is to read 50 new-to-me books in 2015. I realize now, when it's November 7th and I've only read 28 (and reread two favorites), that goal might have been a little unrealistic. I'm in the middle of two books right now and I always have a long queue of ebooks on the Philadelphia Free Library site, so it's possible I could get to 35, but even if I only  get to 30, that's 2 & 1/2 books a month! I'm considering the goal reached, because that's a lot of books!  I love reading!

I love reading. And I love writing. Right now, I'm reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It's non-fiction, it's "some instructions on writing and life." Though I'm really enjoying it, I can't relate to some of it because it's geared more toward fiction writers. Still, it's inspiring me. It's reminding me why I write and it's encouraging me to write more.

As I was writing this blog post, I had an idea. An idea that proves Lamott's point that when you start writing, you never know where you're going to end up. I have a new Day Zero goal! (The beauty of the Day Zero List is that it's fluid--you can always delete goals that are no longer meaningful to you, edit goals, add new ones.) So my idea was that I should write every day in 2016 and the train of thought (and google) took me here: 365 Days of Writing Prompts.

I started to check out the prompts, but then I decided to let myself be surprised by not looking too far ahead. I'm doing it. Every morning. I'm going to start each day in 2016 writing. Who wants to join me?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Dear Lia,

Remember, before I knew you in real life and I only knew you on Yelp and Twitter, and I thought you were this super epic vegan activist who was so incredibly cool and way out of my friend league? Well, I was partially right. You ARE a super epic vegan activist who is so incredibly cool, but you are also a totally goofy weirdo just like me, and my new year's resolution 10 months ago to spend more time with you was clearly one of the best life decisions I've ever made.

You do so much for animals and so much for people, raising so much money and so much awareness, doing everything with so much kindness and love. Other activists could take a lesson from you, but that's a post for another day. Yes, you're clearly one of my greatest vegan heroes, but right now, instead of talking about what you do for the vegan community, I want to talk about what you're doing for me today.

Tom Robbins' novels, as cliche as it sounds, changed my life. Since I first picked up Another Roadside Attraction almost 25 years ago, I've read all of his books more than once, usually in order of publication date, but the oldest five, many, many more times, and I can't even count how many times I've read Still Life with Woodpecker. Tom Robbins has opened my eyes to the politics and philosophy that have helped make me the strong independent badass intersectional feminist that I am today. And his gifts for wordplay and utter nonsense among such deep themes have helped keep me forever light-hearted and silly.

Meeting Tom Robbins was something that I had accepted would never happen for me in this life. He rarely makes public appearances, he lives so far away in Seattle, it was not something that I ever even considered was possible. When I found out he would be doing a reading from his memoir, a Q&A session, and a book signing in Virginia, I immediately signed up. I hate driving, so I had no idea how I was going to get there. I would have even rented a car and driven myself if I'd had to. That's how important this is to me. This is bucket-list level stuff here. And now Lia, you're part of it. Not only are you driving, because you know how I feel about getting behind the wheel, but you're going to be right there with me through the whole thing. I really want you to know how much this means to me.

I know that everyone else who will be in that room tonight thinks they're his biggest fan as much as I think I'm his biggest fan, that his books have changed their lives as much as they have changed mine. I know that wherever we sit in that auditorium, I'll be able to hear and see him. I know that however long I have to wait in line for the book signing, I'm going to meet him. These are the things I have to tell myself so that I don't completely freak out with excitement. Lia, I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am that you're the one who will be sharing this with me.

You're on your way to my apartment right now to pick me up and I love that we're starting our road trip at Grindcore House, though obviously I also have a huge bag of snacks for us for the road. And just so you know, I will probably never stop thanking you for this, and I'll start thanking you with a dinner at Vedge--we need to make those reservations. You are the best person I know, and I love you. My hero taking me to meet my hero. It really doesn't get much better than this.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Dear Parents of Elementary through High School Age Children:

You are not helping your kids by being helicopter parents, by believing your kids over their teachers, by blaming teachers for your own kids' failings. You are not helping your kids by not keeping score, by giving everyone trophies, or by letting them all be winners! In fact, you're creating a generation of whiny, enabled, entitled brats, and I'm sick of it!

It is absolutely true that many of the young people I come in contact with are better informed than I ever was at their age, and therefore already wonderful little progressive activists. I'm thankful for them, they give me hope for the future. (I often see "Social Justice Warrior" thrown around as a pejorative, but I'm taking that term back--these SJWs are making a huge difference in their communities and the world and I love them for it!)

But as an educator for the past 18 years, I don't think I'm even being hyperbolic when I say that I feel as if I'm witnessing the decline of civilization as we know it. Hold your kids accountable for their actions, set boundaries and stick to them, follow through with your consequences! PLEASE! And when your precious little angels' teachers hold your kids accountable, set boundaries and stick to them, and follow through with our consequences, don't doubt us, don't talk down to us, don't challenge us, because I promise you, we know what we're doing. We know pedagogy and we know kids, and to be honest, in many cases, we probably know better than you.

Wake up, parents! You are not doing your kids a favor by being their friend. If you want your children to grow up to become amazing, well-adjusted, successful adults who will make the world a better place, try actually parenting them. If you're not helping create good citizens and community members, then we are. Somebody has to.

A Very Concerned Teacher

Friday, October 2, 2015

I'm giggling at the conversation going on in my head right now.

It's First Friday...Old City, crowds, not something I usually do, though I am a liker of art. But tonight is special. There's a Crust Vegan Bakery Tasting at Conversion tonight and I don't want to miss it. Meagan and Shannon are awesome, I love supporting a vegan business, and I'm sure I'll see lots of people I know. Also, baked goods! I love baked goods! Especially baked goods from Crust!

But it's in the 50s and it's cloudy and windy and rainy. And I feel like it's my symbolic welcome to fall and impending winter. And it terrifies me.

(Remember last week when I told winter to bring it on because I feel ready and I love my clothes? Yeah, I'm pretty sure I was mostly lying.)

And now, as I sit here in my warm fuzzy pink robe, I'm telling myself that if I don't go, I'm giving into my weather related fears way too soon. It's October 2nd and it's in the 50s. It's October 2nd and it's in the 50s. That's nothing, I've handled way worse than this. If I stay home, it's like I'm setting myself up for failure; if I go, it foreshadows my ability to survive the next six months of my life. I'm going. I have to face my fears. Stop laughing! I'm totally serious! I'll fight you, Winter!

Also I'm wearing my new Alice in Wonderland leggings and my new Mother Fucker glitter socks (even though the font sucks) and my new vegan leather jacket and my new pink vintage hat with the bling and my Doc Martens for the first time in months and I'm going to feel fabulous despite the weather.

This is my 4th winter back. I got this.


I am so glad I went! First of all, my dinner tonight was nothing but baked goods: cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and s'mores. Yes, my dinner was entirely made up of chocolate. Because I'm a grownup and I do what I want. Crust consistently knocks my socks off, I seriously cannot recommend them enough. Also, I got to spend just a few minutes with one of my besties checking out a really cool store, and it was great for both of us to get out of our houses.

And even though it was cold and rainy, even though there were gusts of wind so strong they blew my umbrella inside-out, I had a really delightful walk. Not only did I go all the way to Old City, but then I had the idea that I wanted to go to Rittenhouse for dinner, so I ended up walking a total of five miles tonight!

My fear of the cold is real. I left Pennsylvania after I finished grad school in 1998 because of my hatred of winter, and I lived in much warmer climates for 14 years. So when I share how proud I am of myself for getting out in it, even though the season is only just beginning, know that it's a really big deal for me.

Once again, this is my 4th winter back. I got this.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

I'm getting ready to walk out the door to check out some Popeadelphia activities, take some pictures, perhaps do a periscope broadcast (my newest obsession), and work on filling in my slightly irreverent but not mean-spirited Pope Weekend Bingo Card (I've found 11/25 so far!). But before I go.

First of all, progressive for a Pope is not actually progressive. Yay for his stance on climate change and helping the poor. But the Catholic church is still terrible to women and LGBTQ people and still terrible in regards to covering up their own pedophilia, so in my mind, they're still pretty damn terrible.

If you asked me about my religion, I'd tell you I'm kind of an atheist Jew. I don't believe in god or the bible or organized religion at all, but I will always have a cultural connection to my Judaism. Also, I do believe in a kind of spiritual energy, a unity, if you will. It must come from my years of yoga.

I feel like as long as you're a good person and you're not shoving your religion down my throat or trying to convert me, if organized religion is your thing, I'll never laugh at you or scoff at it. It might not be my thing, but I'll never judge or disrespect you. One of my best friend's moms posted on facebook today: "Just saw the Pope." And I knew just how much it meant to her, and in the moment I read it, I was overwhelmed with joy for her.

So I may be playing irreverent Bingo and I may not be that into Catholicism, but I get you, Catholics, enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

I've been thinking about something I said in that really vulnerable post a couple days ago about sex and dating. I said that "I have a whole lot of weird that took me years to grow into," and I don't think I've ever said truer more reflective words about myself.

When I reflect on my childhood and high school years, it's not really happy thoughts. I had my group of friends, but even within that group, I remember feeling like such a misfit, such an outcast...I wonder, though, did everyone feel that way? Is that what being a teenager is simply about? I wasn't even treated all that well by the person I considered my best friend, so it's no wonder I was insecure. I was told that I was so weird by people who were my friends back when I didn't know that weird was actually cool. Looking back at a few moments that stand out to me, I wonder if was bullied. I think I was. But now, years later, I feel like I'm better for it.

I'm going to just go ahead and say it: the "popular kids" at my suburban high school in the 80s were kind of dicks. They weren't friendly to people out of their clique, certainly not to anyone as awkward as I was. I don't understand how that made them "popular." Like what does popular even mean? It means well liked, right? I feel like I'm well liked now, am I finally one of the cool kids? But I'm nice and inclusive, am I doing it wrong? Or is adulthood just that different than the nightmare that is the teenage years? And why am I still overthinking this question like I'm still some kind of angsty teenager?

When I say that it took me years to grow into my weird, it might be a substitute for that tired old cliche, to "find myself." Or maybe it's just that I keep on searching and reflecting and growing and evolving. Or maybe it's the friendships I'm developing with people I finally feel comfortable being totally myself with. Or maybe that just happens with age. I don't know the why, but I like who I am now. I'm silly and friendly and smart and strong and creative and successful and talkative and kind and compassionate. I'm a good listener but not an unsolicited advice giver and I like bringing people together and building community. I have a lot of love to give and a lot of love to receive. And I'm happy. I'm a happy, healthy, well balanced, goofy weirdo.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

When I said that I'd let myself only write when I felt moved to write, I didn't realize I would be moved to write almost every day. It feels so good, like coming home and being all cozy and safe (even when I'm writing things that make me feel vulnerable). I didn't even realize just how much I was missing it until I started again.

Finally not giving a shit about a blog "theme" or crappy pictures or what the vegan or fitness or foodie or Philly blog people have to say really helps. I'm in my 40s and I'm in Philly, so the title still works, I suppose, but really, I'm just writing for me, about whatever I want. For the first time since I started writing publicly in 2009, I finally feel like I get it. I don't even feel like I'm blogging now; I feel like I'm just writing and the blog format is just a means to an end. I have no goals other than to write, and if you like reading what I write, that's rad, but it doesn't much matter. (Though I'd be lying if I said that getting published some day wouldn't be amazing. Am I even good enough? My best friend thinks I am. And she's been wanting me to write more since we were English majors together a million years ago.)

Yes, I was an English major, English writing to be specific, with a specialty in "creative non-fiction." I loved it. I suppose I consider myself a memoirist, because "write what you know" and what do I know better than me? But then I graduated, thought, "what now," and then headed off to grad school for a master's in education.

Education is absolutely one of my greatest loves. I love being an English teacher even more than I used to love playing school with my brother. If I could go back in time and do it all over, I'd make the same choices. Teaching kids to love reading and writing, surrounding myself with other lovers of reading and writing, it's been nothing short of beautiful. This is my 18th year in the profession, eight years in brick and mortar schools, 10 years online. The students I've connected with--the readers, the writers, the thinkers, the ones who have become life long friends...and the colleagues I've connected with who have become so much more than work buddies, it's all very, very special. But.

But. There is forever a part of me that would rather be living my life as a writer. That part of me should be making encouraging phone calls to students right now, but just needed to write because right now, the more I write, the more I need to write. Even if it's just to write about writing.