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)...you 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.

Love,
LJ

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.

Sincerely,
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.

*********************************************

Later:
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.

Monday, September 21, 2015

I came across this old post on dating from a little over two years ago, and I have no idea who it's even about. Like not a clue who I could have possibly been out with that night. I hope we ate our Hip City in Rittenhouse. Also, this was clearly back when I was in a phase where I blogged about everything I ate because I thought it would hold me accountable. What a boring bunch of shit that turned out to be. I apologize if you read this blog then. Sheesh.

Here's the thing, though. I'm still kind of scared. The bad man mentioned in that post was in my life for a total of three weeks. Three. Weeks. That's all it took to shake me up long term. He's the reason I stopped trying to date men I met on dating apps.

Which is not to say that I stopped hooking up with men I met on dating apps, because I didn't. Up until just a few months ago, I was having a whole lot of casual sex, and it was mostly much fun. But also kind of empty. I had some great sex, some really great sex, and mmm, some really really great sex, but mostly, it was boring and I ended up wondering why I'd even bothered. Thankfully, I never had any nights in which I feared for my safety, but there was one night that ended with puppy shit on my bathroom floor, a cab ride to the 24 hour CVS for the morning after pill, and a very unsatisfied, and therefore very pissed off, LJ.

The whole thing--the apps, the drama, the going to bed with people who didn't actually care about me--finally seemed so ridiculous that in that moment, I took my dating profiles down and stopped having casual sex. The next week, I had my annual gyne appointment and had all the tests for all the STIs. Clean bill of health and now months later, I'm remaining abstinent until I find someone I actually like who actually likes me, someone I meet in some kind of cute old-fashioned way, you know, like through friends. (Seriously, if you actually know me and know someone who you think I'd hit it off with, tell me. And if you've been meaning to ask me out, you probably should.)

Oh, and a few words about the three things I listed as important to me two years ago--"educated, employed, creative"--that was my top three? That's it? I mean a love of learning, a career you're passionate about, and creativity are all sexy as fuck, but I need so much more than that. I need compassion and progressive ideals and intelligent conversation, but I also need you to love cuddling & kissing & sexing as much as I love cuddling & kissing & sexing. I need patience and good communication (and I need you to know that I'm working on the good communication thing myself, so I need you to be OK with me sometimes being awkward and writing you letters to express things that are really real). I need owning your weirdness as much as I own mine because I have a whole lot of weird that took me years to grow into. I need mutual friends who can vouch for you because it makes you less scary. And I need to always be able to be myself with you. I don't think that's too much to ask.

So I guess this means that I'm overcoming some fears and that I'd actually like to be dating someone now. A lot can change in two years. And that bold part above, I really mean it. Really. Talk to me.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

When I lived in Miami Beach, I was mostly naked (at home and at Haulover). Everywhere else, I wore sundresses, flowy yoga pants with tank tops, bikinis, & flip flops. That was my wardrobe. And it was pretty minimal. I didn't have a lot of anything. I was a South Beach Hippie. Yeah, it's a thing. A thing with dirty feet and sandy hair and a thriving yoga practice.

I moved to Philly in December 2012. I keep doing math in my head. Am I really coming up on my 4th winter back in the northeast after 14 years away (including the last 11 in Miami)? Finding my Philly style took some time and building an appropriate winter wardrobe in that style after being gone for so long took even more time. But I finally think I'm ready, that I have all of my bases covered (just as an example, I had one coat my first winter back, now I have five, if you include my spring & fall jackets too).

On Monday, I woke up in a panic. It was in the 60s & I realized it's coming. So in my frenzy, I took stock of my closet full of vintage dresses, and then I ordered two new pairs of leggings, two new pairs of tights, two new pairs of socks, and a short vegan leather jacket (included in the count above!). I reorganized my closet (and have a bag full of donations) and tried on almost all of my long sleeve tops with a pencil skirt and spammed one of my besties for his approval. Then I found one more vintage dress for winter, and I can tell you already that it's that magical favorite dress that I'm going to wear all the freaking time.

And now I think I'm done shopping. And I think I'm ready for winter LJ style. I finally relearned successful layering and I think I'll be warm enough, and once I get used to the fact that my winter look is a little dressier than my summer look, I think I'll be really comfortable.

So bring it on, winter. I'm not freaking out this year. In fact, for the first time, instead of abject terror of the impending cold temperatures, I'm actually excited for the change of seasons. (But don't be shocked when I start whining and complaining in February.)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Enjoy this deliberately vague and not at all passive aggressive post because I would not have posted it if I was not certain that the person in question had no idea that I even write a blog.

There's a person who I've been actively hating and just now, this minute, I realized how stupid it is to be wasting time and energy on them. This person is a passive aggressive know-it-all who talks down to everyone they meet, they kiss your ass to your face, talk shit about you behind your back, and they don't take responsibility for their actions. This is not a person I want in my life, but I don't have a choice at the moment.

I've been really into my hatred of this person, like I've been enjoying the hating, and talking about them to whoever will listen (read: stooping to their level). It's kind of disgusting. I mean they're clearly an awful person, but I really need to let that shit go.

I actually spent time scrolling through their social media looking for more reasons to hate them (I found reasons, they're a Trump supporter, for fucks sake!). And then tonight, I actually wondered if a post was passive aggressively directed toward me and I actually thought of passive aggressively responding!

Really? REALLY?! Aren't there better things I could be doing with my time? Working? Writing? Reading? Going for a walk? Anything? ANYTHING?

So I'm going to try to let it go. I have a post-it on my door that I see every time I leave the apartment: it says "Be Kind to EVERYONE." It's a good reminder when I go out into the world. It's a good reminder right now. I don't know what they're going through, I don't know their personal dramas. Perhaps the people who trigger us the most are the ones who deserve our kindness the most.

And hatred is a waste of time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Continuing some of the thoughts I had yesterday with a little bit of late night reflecting on friendship. I'm feeling very lucky with the community of women I have surrounded myself with.When I first moved to Philly, I talked about how much I prefer the gritty realness here to the shiny falsity of my life in Miami. I still feel that.

My last few years in Miami Beach, even when hosting a party in my own home, I always felt like I was on the outside looking in, that I was this stranger who didn't belong. But here in Philly, I fit in. I can totally be myself, uncensored, and even if I'm not surrounded by completely like-minded people, they're usually at least partly like-minded, and no matter what nonsense I'm spewing, nobody is judging me.

I just got home from a Vegan Lady Gang dinner party at Miss Rachel's Pantry. Truly, one of my favorite nights of the month, and to be completely honest, I'm feeling really emotional, like actually on the verge of tears. What started out as a plan for a couple of dinners turned into a facebook group and then turned into so much more. I didn't know how badly we needed this group, how badly I needed this group, but just a couple months since forming the Vegan Lady Gang, it feels life-changing, it feels like we're part of something very big and very special.

So thank you to my ladybros, thank you to my community, thank you to Philly. I'm feeling so good about my life and truly, it's because of all of you.

xo

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Today I'm feeling a lot of gratitude for my ladybros, and for some of my ladybros' moms (and aunts and grandmothers) who treat me like their own.

You see, I have a terrible relationship with my mother. I have tried, over and over again, to work on this, to communicate with her, to build a real relationship. But I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that I'm pretty sure that my mother hates me, or at least hates everything that I stand for. Maybe she's jealous that I'm a strong independent woman who lives her truth. Who knows. What I do know is that she's super critical of anyone who does anything outside the mainstream, and I'm a tattooed, pink-haired, feminist vegan who happily lives in a tiny studio apartment and is a lead instructor in an online school, so clearly, I'm the worst! So I built a wall to protect myself from her hyper-criticism.

Anyway, I've been in and out of therapy for years, and I know it's a cop out to blame all of my problems on my parents, but I think the root of some of my issues, especially in romantic relationships, come from my mom being a big meanie and my dad being a well-meaning square (do people still use "square" as slang? is it weird that I'm bringing back slang from the 60s?). But I've been doing a lot of work on myself, and I'm confident and successful and [usually] good at communicating and for the most part, I'm really happy. I'm in a good place and maybe ready to try being in some kind of a relationship again.

Whoa. This was supposed to be a rant about my mom and it turned into me wanting to talk about dating? No, not now. That's a post for another day.

I also have been thinking about friends of mine who have lost their moms, specifically a conversation with a new acquaintance who lost her mom a couple years ago. She had a similarly turbulent relationship with her mother (sometimes I wonder if it's a Jewish mother-daughter dynamic, but my non-Jewish friends have similar issues). Thoughts like this make me want to try again to work on things with her. Sometimes, I feel like if I lose her, I'll have regrets. But mostly, I think the situation is beyond repair. And that's kind of an awful thought. But here I am.

Back to the premise I started with. My ladybros. Women being there for women, uplifting, supporting, caring for other women. It's important. Really important. Because of the volatility of this relationship with the primary woman in my life, it took me a long time to realize that part of my feminism is not shit-talking other women, not saying crap like "I'm one of the guys because other girls bring drama." And the friendships I have with all of these amazing, strong women in my life who love me help to quiet the inner negative self talk that sounds just like you-know-who.

Monday, September 14, 2015

I keep meaning to write. I want to write. I need to write. I haven't blogged in almost a year, and I feel like I have something to say, but I'm not even sure what it is. So maybe, just maybe, I sit down and write and see what comes? A lot of good stuff in my life right now...evolving friendships with amazing women, finances coming together, finding mental and emotional strength as I develop physical strength now that I'm [obsessed with] weightlifting, a potentially amazing long term project with my sister-in-law, great happiness at work, a renewed interest in and knowledge of politics and intersectionality, and an exciting yet complicated crush. It's good. I'm happy. And I want to write more than in my journal. I like having people read my words. I guess this is a good start.