Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Risk of Dirty Roses

It's amazing how something that lasts only about three minutes can make me feel so dirty. One bad decision before 8 a.m. and for the rest of the day I'm wishing I could take another shower. You would think that feeling this way just once would be enough to teach me a lesson, but I'm ashamed to say that I continue to go back for more.

The temptation begins around 7:20 a.m. when I consider my arrival time in the parking lot at work. I know I'll be there before 7:40, but will it be 7:30 or 7:39? Those few minutes make all the difference. I'm not so far gone that I'm willing to wait for 10 minutes, but a minute or two is a different story. If the timing is right, I wait. The regret will come just minutes later.
I blame one of Rob's coworkers for turning me on to this cheap thrill.  He once told me his daughter is obsessed with War of the Roses on MIX 106.1 FM. It airs at 7:40 a.m. The premise is simple. An insecure man or woman has suspicions about their significant other. Rather than speak with the individual whom they purportedly love, they call a radio station to air their concerns. The morning show host Chio involves "Marie from Accounting" who calls the presumably unfaithful, pretending to be from a flower shop. Said flower shop is giving that individual a dozen long stemmed roses, the only hitch is that said individual cannot accept them him/herself, but rather must send them to someone special. If that someone special is not the suspicious partner listening online, well then Houston we have a problem. What follows is ugly. Screaming, crying, general nastiness, and most recently threats of bodily harm when a guy played this game to see if another guy was into his girl, which naturally he was, otherwise they wouldn't have bothered airing it.

I've learned a lot listening to this program:
  1. There are entirely too many people in this world happy to air their dirty laundry for a couple minutes in the spotlight.
  2. There are bunches of people who should not marry, and most definitely should not procreate.
  3. There's something seriously wrong with those who listen to this shit. 
  4. This is a great example of what happens when you hang out in the wrong neighborhood.
Just like the wrong crowd can lead you astray, apparently, so can the wrong radio station. Not only have I heard stories that involve cheap whore earrings and lip gloss found in the husband's toolbox, but I now know that Kim Kardashian and Amber Rose had a huge blow up on Twitter. Thank God for Mario Lopez or I'd never stay up to date with this stuff. And, did you know that this past weekend more than a dozen teenage Sudanese boys were kidnapped by a militant group while studying for school exams? It's obviously not that important because Mario didn't mention it. I stumbled upon this bit of news while skimming the paper. It was only a short paragraph in small type in the back of the national/international news section, so don't feel bad if you missed it. 

I confess that prior to this fall from grace, I'd felt pretty damn superior to the rest of America. I read "real" literature, I watch independent films, and my television program choices are, for the most part, respectable. (Although I watch America's Next Top Model, I do fast forward through the tawdry portions.)

So why this, why now? Perhaps it's nothing more than the same sick need we have to look at car wrecks, in which case God is responsible for messing up our hard wiring. Or maybe I listen to that relationship absurdity to feel downright giddy about the blissful state of my marriage. Whatever the cause, I know it's a habit I must break if I ever want to regain my place of superiority in our great nation of fools.

If you've personally experienced an unhealthy addiction such as this, please share your story. I hope it will be more disturbing than mine. That way I'll feel better about myself. But I promise I won't judge.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Imagining a Temporary Reprieve from Adulthood

Today's one of those days when I don't want to be a grown up. I don't want to deal with those fairly
Real life. Look crappy. Cat ignores me.
mundane adult issues that are commonplace to us working parents of teenagers and pets. Stuff like:

  • Arranging for a tile pick up so the contractor can finish the kitchen. 
  • Picking up Lily from her meet and greet at the Barker Lounge, a doggie daycare facility where I can take her when the cleaners are at the house and board her when we go out of town.
  • Going out of town this weekend for our annual church retreat. Ian wants to stay home to work instead. Old enough to stay home alone? Sure. Do I trust him. Absolutely. Do I trust everyone he knows not to show up at the door with illegal goods in hand? No. Call neighbor, recent college grad now living at home. He'll hang with Ian and Lily, One problem solved.
  • Figuring out when to schedule Lily for dog training. I'll be in Italy with the Silvertones for two of the six Saturday classes. Can Rob take her on those days, or will Phillies' games be an issue? It's that time already...
  • Having that damn gum ball tree removed. It's the only tree left in the front yard and it's the one I've always hated the most. There goes another grand.
  • Deciding if we want to take in an 18-year-old refugee whose father and brother were killed by the Taliban. My parents think I should give up the dog because she's causing too much stress; imagine if I bring someone into our home who doesn't speak English. Hard to explain why the things that cause stress and major adjustments to our lives can also be the greatest gifts. 
  • Learning to vent elsewhere.
  • Managing the gender issues that frustrate me in the workplace.
  • Ian's first tutoring session and the college search process. Hoping we can get those SAT scores up just a couple hundred points. May make all the difference where merit scholarships are concerned. Villanova may not be the obvious choice after all. What fun these next 12 months will bring.
  • Working out? Don't see fitting it in tonight. That's three nights in a row. I really should work out on the weekends, but I think of that as my vacation time. And since working out isn't something I want to do, I'm definitely not doing it on vacation. 
  • Making dinner.
  • Doing laundry.
  • Figuring out how to get a crap load of work done before March 27, especially when all I want to do is cry, sleep, and write about my issues.

Goofy college girls. Not a care in the world.
So, I'd like to give up being a grown up for a few hours. Maybe days. Oh, who am I kidding? I'd like to be college-age again for at least a week, month, maybe a year.  Let's imagine I'm 19 and a sophomore at some competitive private liberal arts college in the South. One that turns out great writers.

8:00 a.m.: I've just woken from a recurring nightmare in which I'm late for a final exam, for a class that I forgot to attend for the entire semester.

I don't bother with my hair; a baseball cap will suffice. I pull on yoga pants and I don't iron my wrinkled shirt. Do I even own an iron?

Given that breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, I hit the cafeteria and make myself a Belgium waffle, top it with fresh strawberries, maybe a dollop of whipped cream. No longer a freshman, no longer fearing the freshmen 15.

9:30 a.m.: Dramatic liturgy class. Looking forward to tonight's rehearsal for the musical. Surprised and delighted with my leading role!

11:00 a.m. Photography class. My digital skills are really developing (no pun intended). Definitely going to enter that photo contest.

Noon: Cheeseburger, fries, vanilla shake. I'll pay for it later. Someday I'll probably learn that I'm lactose intolerant.

1:00 p.m. Catch up on DVRd episodes of American Idol. I can't figure out why everyone disses this show. First, it's the only talent competition that's created bona fide stars, and second, Harry Connick Jr. is the man. So funny, charming, smart and talented. Not hard on the eyes, either. Actually, I'm dating this guy named Rob who has a lot of the same qualities. He could be a keeper. Rob, not Harry. I think Harry's taken.

2:00 p.m. A nap. A quick nap. I always say that, but it's always at least an hour or two.

4:00 p.m. Writing for publication class. I like that this course covers publishing for old fashioned print media, as well as social media. Still psyched that my piece about Greek Rush was picked up by the Huffington Post. Now if only National Geographic would consider the photos and article I wrote about my experience in Ghana with my friend Ann. She's going to be a great doctor someday, I just know it.

5:30 p.m. Leftover pizza. Should probably start refrigerating the leftovers, rather than leaving them on the counter for days. But hey, hasn't killed me yet.

6:00 p.m. Rehearsal starts, only going till 9. An early night. Looking forward to meeting up with the girls later.

9:00 p.m. A quick glass of Boone's Farm with Kathie & Cathie, Lisa, Amy, the Karens, and Kim and Theresa. GDIs, all of us. Love these girls. I hope we're friends well into old age. Can't imagine getting old. Hard to imagine life much past this year. Can't believe one day soon I'll have a full-time job, I'll get married. Probably have kids. Definitely want a dog and a cat. And a shore house. Would love a shore house.

Can't wait till tomorrow. Same shit, different day. Lots of new stuff to learn. Ideas to share. Fun to be had. Talents to engage. Love this life.

Friday, January 23, 2015

It's Greek Season. Rush. (Away)

Wow. It's been a whole month since I last wrote. It's nothing personal, I just haven't had much to say. And I've been whinier than usual, so I've done you a favor by not posting. Today, however, I have something "stuck in my craw" that I need to put out there, even at the risk of "wrankling" my Greek readers. And by Greek, I don't mean those whose last names end in "opolis." In this case I'm referring to those of you who were/are members of sororities or fraternities. I expect this post will be even less popular than the one in which I unintentionally offended women from the South.

For years I've considered writing on the topic of Greek life, but I just haven't taken the plunge. Yesterday, however, I read a piece in the Villanovan (the University student newspaper) that demands my response; even at the risk of wrankling some of you. The article "Sorority recruitment does not end in smiles for everyone" was written by a freshman who's been a sorority sister for all of one week. With memories of recruitment/rush still fresh in her mind, Deanna details a process she calls both "horrifying and exciting." She explains that rush requires every girl to attend nine 20-minute "rounds," one with each of the University's sororities--and then she describes the experience:
Lines of girls stood outside rooms of screaming sorority girls chanting songs about their chapters, wondering how they would be assessed once in the room and how they should act, if any different from themselves.
The rounds were exhausting, as I’m positive they were for the sororities as well. I like to consider myself a fairly social person, but I've never experienced a situation that called for so much social energy and effort in my life.
On the first day we all met two or three girls from each chapter and were expected to hold a conversation with them, about literally anything, for the full allotted time, without awkward silences. During each of these meetings all I could think about was “how is she judging me right now? The way I talk? My eye contact?” I’m still not sure I know.
By my final round I felt like a robot programmed for small talk and smiling—I was exhausted. And while that seemed like a lot of complaining, I did somehow have fun with many of the girls I met and I was happy to be able to meet so many of the faces I pass on campus every day. I didn't really know what to think when I “went to sleep” (stayed up all night re-living each conversation) on day one.
The writer goes on to report that she received a text the following morning at 4:30 a.m. telling her her schedule for day two. This is when you learn which chapters "dropped you." Deanna says, "If you thought your conversations went well, it’s difficult to not take the rejections personally." At the beginning of day two, she recalls the number of women she saw crying. By the end of that day, she was "seriously starting to wonder if recruitment was worth the social and emotional exhaustion." She continues:
I have to say, my wake-up text on the third day of rush was one of the worst rejections I’d ever felt. I now know that it was a blessing to have been dropped by the sororities that I was, but at the time I had no perspective, and I really just felt worthless. I know this isn't the intention of the sororities, and they “don’t want to drop any girl” but the reality is awful. And I didn't just feel sorry for myself. I felt horrible for my friends and even for strangers too. 
No woman should have to feel unwanted, but at the same time, how else would sorority recruitment work? 
Our writer says she couldn't be happier with where she ended up and she's glad that things worked out the way they did. She concludes, however, "I still look back on recruitment with negative memories, and I wish there was another way to do it. I think it may just be a necessary evil that some women won’t escape from with a smiling face. I know so many great women that fell through the cracks and I wish I could convince the sisters to go back on their decisions."

Wow. Where do I start?

My feelings about the Greek system have been firmly in place for 25 years, since I was a wee freshman myself. Deanna's honest evaluation of the sorority rush experience only adds to my conviction that this system is at best ludicrous, and at worst, cruel. Why any bright, personable college student would put themself through it is beyond my comprehension. And yet I have several friends who have nothing but great memories of their Greek experience. Even my husband is a former fraternity boy (though I'm not sure "former" ever applies to frat brothers).

I could go through Deanna's article line by line and comment on what I perceive to be madness, but I think I can sum it up by saying no one should voluntarily put themself in a position of being assessed/judged/evaluated unless there's a career move on the line. Don't we tell our kids, especially sensitive teenagers, to not let others determine their worth, to not let what others think or say bother them? I know that's a message I hope my kids hear, and yet, in just a few short years they may actually choose to have that very experience. And if selling yourself with fashion, a smile and small talk isn't enough, many of these groups will ask you to humiliate yourself and even risk your life to prove you have what it takes to be one of them. My husband would say it's about creating a bond, but I would say, "No thanks."

I understand that your first year in college is difficult. I know that making new friends isn't easy, and that there's something appealing about the idea of having a ready-made group of sisters or brothers to help you adjust. But no matter how hard I try, I just can't imagine allowing myself to be evaluated by my peers and waiting to hear whether I've impressed them enough that they want me to join them. Everyday in real life we're judged in some form or another; do I want to volunteer for a formalized version wherein I may be rejected not by one mean girl in high school, but by a couple dozen from different sisterhoods who are kind enough to turn me away by text message? I don't get it.

If all of that doesn't have you "rushing" for the hills, consider this:
Screaming sorority girls chanting songs about their chapters.
Enough said.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Pup Came Home for Christmas

By now, those of you who are my Facebook friends are aware that I lost my mind a few weeks ago and adopted a puppy. We'd been talking about getting a dog for several months; the kids so kindly reminding me that I could take drugs for my pet allergies. After spending countless hours on PetFinders and visiting the SPCA, I decided to take the kids to a Meet and Greet with Home at Last Pet Rescue. Given that it was 30 minutes away in Blue Bell, it was clear that we were being fairly serious about this. The caveats were clear, however, no puppies and we're not bringing one home today.

So we met Lily, a puppy, and took her home with us that very day. I obviously have exceptionally strong willpower.

Thus far I'm glad to report that Lily has brought more happiness than regret, though I have to confess that in those first few days I was convinced she needed to be returned. The tension at home was reaching dangerously high levels as everyone claimed it was someone else's job to have been watching her when she stopped to pee on the floor. Now, however, the potty accidents have dropped off considerably and all we're dealing with is a sweet puppy who occasionally transforms, Gremlin-like into a lunging, teeth-baring monster.

Still, we all love her. Except Scout. The cat. Scout's about seven or eight. She was here during the Maddie years (Maddie was a nine-year-old yellow lab we adopted who lived until she was 12.) Scout's about as excited to have Lily in our lives as she was to have Maddie. When we brought the puppy home I'm pretty sure I heard her say "What the hell were you thinking? Are you trying to take several years off my life?" She then went away somewhere for several hours to contemplate her next move, which included puffing up to twice her size and hissing menacingly from places where Lily couldn't reach. I keep hoping one day I'll find them curled up together, giving each other baths, but it's not looking good. In fact, from her perch high above the refrigerator, Scout looked down on Lily and made it perfectly clear how she feels about our newest family member.

The following transcript has been translated from the original Felinese:

"Listen up you stupid mutt:

  1. You think they like you? Think again. You're sleeping in a crate. What self-respecting animal does that? What do you think their bed is for? 
  2. I would NEVER eat your poop. That's just stupid. Have you checked your breath lately? Damn, you nasty!
  3. This year we have a lame ass little Christmas tree sitting in the front window. Why? Because you can't be trusted not to put every single thing in your mouth, including pine branches and ornaments. I loved laying under the Christmas tree. You've ruined that. Someday you'll pay.
  4. What's with the big-to-do every time one of the humans comes home? You're making a fool of yourself. And making me look bad. 
  5. If you think that when you get bigger you're going to mess with me, you're sadly mistaken. I will always be able to look down on you from high above, and I look forward to smacking you on the head with my paw. You're going down.
  6. You're not supposed to eat the Christmas wrapping paper. You're supposed to wait till they're trying to use it and then lay on it so they can't get anything done. 
  7. Similarly, you don't beg for the humans to hold you when they're working on the computer. You just jump up on the desk and lay on the keyboard. Are you detecting a theme here, numb skull? 
  8. When I kill stuff and leave it outside, it's because it's gross. You eating it makes you nasty, baby.
  9. A leash? Really? Have you no pride?
  10. You go to bed the same time as our people? Loser. Night time is the right time to play, lady! You'll never be top dog in this joint. Sleep with your eyes open, pup, cause I'm watchin' you...

Here's hoping your holiday is harmonious and that you feel the love of family and friends! 

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Year of Books in Review

I had a Frances moment at dinner the other night. I said something along the lines of "I do quite like green beans." Actually, that was probably a more Albert-like statement, but you remember Frances, don't you? She was one of my favorites:

As I warmly recalled Bread and Jam for Frances, I thought of the many other wonderful children's books that have remained with me since I first read them to Ian and Abby. Leo the Lightening Bug. A Bad Case of the Stripes. Wings. Owl Moon. Nate the Great.

I always thought that being an elementary school librarian would be awesome because of the delightful new books that you would have to read as part of your job. But then I remembered that you'd also have to interact with young kids. So much for that idea.

Consider this trip down memory lane an introduction to my annual Books in Review blog post. For those of you who are new to Freakin' Angels, at the end of the year I like to share my thoughts on the books, movies and sometimes television shows that caught my attention over the past 12 months. While the movies I review are generally from the current year, I must note that the books I've read rarely are new releases. It's too hard to find copies at the library and I'm too cheap to buy them.

Now, without further ado, here are my top 10 reads of 2014.

1. Middlemarch by George Eliot (the pen name of Mary Anne Evans). Like I said, 904 pages. I've been at it for four months, and because I'm reading it digitally, it feels like I'm making no progress whatsoever. I compare it to a big bowl of spaghetti that you swear you've been eating for an hour, and yet the bowl seems just as full as when you started. So what's keeping me going on this 1870's classic? Simply put: It's brilliant, especially considering when it was written. George Eliot's humorous and insightful look at society--particularly a woman's place in it--is priceless. And somehow she manages to continue advancing the story with every page. Then there's the magical way she puts words together. For example:
For my part, I am very sorry for him. It is an uneasy lot at best, to be what we call highly taught and yet not to enjoy: to be present at this great spectacle of life and never to be liberated from a small hungry shivering self.

2. American Rust by Philipp Meyer. One of two books that received 5-star ratings from me in 2014, and a most interesting writing style. Written from the perspectives of six different characters, mostly in streams of consciousness, the reader is the only one who knows everything that's happening. The writing reflects the characters' state of mind, moving from coherent, full sentences, to disconnected phrases with no punctuation. It felt so real, presenting such an accurate picture of life in a dying steel town, and human nature: good, bad, right, wrong, ethical, unethical, moral, immoral. Like I said, I loved it, but it wasn't popular with everyone. One of my Freakin' Angel friends abandoned it. You know who you are.

3. Absolutist by John Boyne. My second 5-star book this year. Nothing as stylistically unique in the writing, just a really strong and moving story with the historical elements that I particularly enjoy in my novels. Highly recommended.

4. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. If you're one of the 20 people in America who haven't read this book, you'll want to. An amazingly true story that convinces me we'd all learn so much more about history if it was taught through the stories of those who lived it.

5. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. If you're one of the 15 people in America who haven't read this yet, you should--even though chances are good that you'll hate it. Or at least hate the ending. Personally, I thought it was a wickedly fun read and the ending was perfect given what we were working with! I don't think I've ever read a more uniquely twisted story. And I thought the movie was really well done.

6. Naked by David Sedaris. This is the year I discovered David Sedaris. What a pity it took me so long! There's something about self-deprecating humor and naked honesty (pun intended) that I greatly appreciate and enjoy (and relate to). I have only one recommendation when it comes to Mr. Sedaris: Don't listen to him on audio when you have children in the car (he's a solid PG-13; or R-rated, depending on how protective you are).

7. Good Kings, Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum. This was the 2012-2013 One Book Villanova selection and I definitely recommend it. It's a great novel with painful parts nicely balanced with a good deal of humor. It deals with the lives of youth with developmental disabilities living in so-called care centers and homes. The only challenge in reading it (aside from the painful parts) is in keeping the characters straight (each chapter is told from a different perspective).

8. The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman. Read by my neighborhood book club and well-suited for generating discussion. Presents a great moral and ethical dilemma: Would you keep a baby that isn't yours if you wanted one more than anything and couldn't have your own?

9. Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones. As described on Goodreads.com: With the opening line of Silver Sparrow, “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist,” author Tayari Jones unveils a breathtaking story about a man’s deception, a family’s complicity, and the two teenage girls caught in the middle. Different than the books I typically read, I recommend it!

10. Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. Haven't read a book so quickly in a very long time. It's the kind of page-turner that you grab at a traffic light. It's not 5-star quality (I'm a tough critic), but if you're looking to be entertained with a fast-paced story, this will do the trick.

Since I didn't read an overwhelming number of books this year, here's a list of the remaining titles and the ratings I gave them on Goodreads.com:

  • The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. Definitely not my typical read.  Four stars.
  • Bright's Passage by Josh Ritter (the singer-songwriter). An angel speaks to the main character. Through his horse. Four stars.
  • An Available Man by Hilma Wolitzer. A sweet read about a widower finding love again. Three stars.
  • All You Could Ask For by Mark Greenberg (the ESPN talk show host). The sports guy talks about the relationship between three women at difficult points in their lives. Meh. Three stars.
  • Love at Absolute Zero by Christopher Meeks. It started out strong with quirky characters, an interesting premise (can science predict/find love), and a good deal of humor, but it ended up reading like a predictable cheesy romance novel. Two stars.
  • The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore. Villanova's One Book 2013-2014. Interesting. Three stars.
So that's it for me. Would love to hear what memorable books you read this year!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Miss Shimmer, um, about this rating..."

Last Friday I took a half day's vacation to judge a speech and debate competition at a South Philly charter school. Ian's coach was desperate for help (each competing school has to provide judges), and since I particularly enjoy critiquing others, I volunteered. This wasn't my first time judging at one of these events, but on previous occasions I judged Oral Interpretation, which is what I competed in during high school (OI is basically dramatic reading). At last week's meet, I was needed to judge two categories that were new to me: Public Forum and Lincoln-Douglas Debate. They're both debating contests, with the differences being that PF involves teams of two arguing pro or con on some predetermined topic (genetically modified foods, in this case), while LD has two individuals face off on a more values/ethics-based topic.

While I didn't particularly enjoy Public Forum (I kept wanting to interject), Lincoln-Douglas was especially difficult, mostly due to the two students I had to judge. On one side was a young man who seemed to be advocating for "the right to be forgotten," as in disappearing from social media if one so chooses. I say he seemed to be speaking on that subject because honestly, I wasn't entirely sure what he was trying to communicate. This was not an auspicious start for my first LD. Little did I know things were about to go from bad to worse. Or at least mediocre to bad.

The young lady, who seemed to be speaking for the public's right to know, presented an opening statement that was nearly incoherent. She stumbled while reading her notes verbatim, never making eye contact, and most of what she read hardly seemed relevant to the discussion.

The event became increasingly awkward when it was time for the students to challenge one another based on the statements they'd each made. The young lady referred to whatever notes she'd arrived with, and made points that were completely unrelated to what the young man had proposed. It was almost as if she hadn't listened or at least hadn't understood what he was saying. She looked either half asleep or under the influence of who knows what. It was painful to watch. She sealed her fate when, given six minutes for her concluding statement, she used only two. And of course, in those two minutes, she said nothing of any value.

My job was to rate them each on a scale that looked something like this (I may be off by a number or two):

26-30 - Excellent
21-25 - Good
18-20 - Fair
15-17 - Below average

The form noted that scores under 15 should be reserved for those who exhibited behavioral problems or issues with their conduct.

I should mention that prior to beginning the meet, the school host asked that we not judge too harshly as it is early in the year and we don't want to discourage students.

Talk about your quandaries.

I rated him a 21 and her a 16, provided lengthy comments and suggestions, and turned my paperwork in to the tabulation room.

As I walked away, I heard "Miss Shimmer (dear God, people, it's one "M," which makes it a long "I"), can you come here for a moment?"

You might guess where this is going. 

I was told, "We really don't want to give anyone less than a 20. Can you give her a 20 and him a 21?"

I replied, "There was considerably more than one point difference in their performances."

"Okay, then give him more points?"

Because I lack the cajones to stand my ground, I crossed out my 16 and gave the worst speaker I've ever seen/heard a 20. I bumped up mediocre man to a 25. And then I mentally began this blog post.

This is a classic example of where we go wrong with youth today. We avoid critiquing them too harshly for fear of hurting their self-esteem. We sugarcoat everything in the hopes they'll believe they can do anything. What's wrong with judging them fairly, pointing out both their strengths and weaknesses so they have a realistic sense of self? What's wrong with suggesting they need to work harder if they want to be better? By never using red pens on homework assignments or tests, by giving everyone a trophy for participating, by telling them they're good, great, or awesome, we're setting them up for a serious shock when they enter the real world where there's no "pass go, collect $200" just for showing up.

And while we're busy patting the back of the below average, we diminish the accomplishments of the standout. Or, we over-inflate the mediocre to establish a reasonable distinction between them and the lesser student, athlete, or artist. My mediocre student didn't deserve a score that had him on the cusp of an excellent rating, but in order for him to justifiably believe that he significantly outperformed his competition, that's how I had to score his performance. Tell me this - why have a below average rating on the scale if we're not supposed to use it?

Believe it or not, I'm not advocating that we crush spirits and kill dreams. I'm merely suggesting that we be honest with kids, crediting them with resilience, which they possess in spades as compared to most adults. If we don't prepare them for honest evaluations and critiques now, at the first sign of criticism on the job, they're going to crumble.

I expect some of you will disagree with me on this and I welcome your feedback. Just try to be gentle. No red pens. No low scores. You know I don't handle criticism very well.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Back Burner for the Book

It’s been a while since I've had that whole “What am I doing with my life? Will my time on this earth have meant anything at all?” meltdown. I found myself in that miserable mental state a great deal during the last year or two in my previous job. I felt unsatisfied and unfulfilled and spent a lot of time wondering what I was supposed to do with whatever gifts I’d been given. Of course, being me, I also spent a good amount of time whining and feeling sorry for myself, which was considerably easier than actually putting on my big girl panties and dealing with it.

Miraculously, despite breaking every rule of job searching, two years ago I found myself in a new position at Villanova University and I haven’t had that empty feeling since. Until now.  It’s not the job, which I truly love, it’s more about the rest of my life, which somehow feels increasingly hollow.

Rob wants to know why I go to bed so damn early? It's so I can avoid the void. A woman can only watch so many episodes of The Gilmore Girls in one sitting before she realizes she’s pathetic. You know it’s time to make a change when you beg your daughter to put down her homework so you can watch television together.

I have some sense of what has caused this rather sudden mental and emotional nosedive: 
  1. The season. I tend to retreat into my head as the days grow shorter and darker. Sometimes I’m afraid I’ll drown given how much swimming is going on in my brain.
  2. My three-year sentence commitment as a church elder has come to an end, and I resigned from my committee work at the same time. What I failed to realize is that, while I bitched about it ad nauseam, serving actually gave me a sense of purpose.
  3. I lost my 10-hour a week consulting job. It wasn't much, but it was just enough to keep me busy in the evenings.
  4. My kids need me less and less, which I always thought would be heavenly, but now I’m discovering is actually kinda sad. The only things they want from me are dinner and rides to friends’ houses, neither which I’m particularly excited to offer.
I have determined that the main cause of my current funk, however, is book related. Nothing I've read, but rather the book I haven’t written. I've been down this road before, but at this very moment I know three friends/acquaintances who are enjoying publishing success. One has published his second children’s book and recently had a signing at a local store. A second is looking forward to the release of her first book in December. And a third is publishing her third book!

It goes without saying that my childishly competitive nature demands that I figuratively put pen to paper and write my own damn book. Not because I have a book burning inside of me, but rather because I hate when others succeed at something I always hoped I would do. Well, let me be the first to tell you that this is not the best approach to becoming a writer. Envy does not lead to success. Truth is, years ago I wrote the first paragraph of my novel. Trouble is, that’s all I've got. I have no idea where to go with it or how it would end. And I don’t want to write a mediocre book. I want to write a critically acclaimed book. 

I know what you're thinking: "Here comes the whining and excuses. All the reasons why Kim doesn't have the energy or the self-discipline to make it happen." But you're wrong! In fact, I have a solution for what ails me. Ready? 

Instead of writing a book, I'm going to become an actress!

Stay tuned...