Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Twenty-fourth Christmas

It's a strange thing, being born on Christmas Day. My birthday is a day of incredible happiness for many people, and a day of incredible sadness for others, and for some, it's just a day. For me, it's Christmas; it's a day to spend with my family, a day to open presents and laugh and eat too much and watch A Christmas Story and/or The Muppet Christmas Carol at least once and nap after lunch. Lucky for me, it's also the day that I blow out candles on my birthday cake. It makes it extra special somehow. It's a day where I practically roll around in what makes me so fortunate the way Bond villains roll around in dollar bills.

It's not usually a day where I think. Generally, I do that in the days afterwards. I was born a week before the end of the old year and the beginning of the new one. Which means, my age and the year go together so closely that "The year 2008" and "The year I was twenty-three years old" coincide almost perfectly. It's a double-dose; I reflect on being a year older, and I reflect on the exchange of an old year for a new one all at once.

And so, just after my twenty-fourth Christmas, my mind is scattered out over my twenty-third year, over the year 2008. Everyone will remember that the year 2008 was the year the economy tanked, the year Sarah Palin became the most popular Halloween costume, the year Barack Obama made history with his sense of hope for the future. I will remember these things about 2008. But I will also remember what happened in my small life this year, and how I have changed.

In many ways, I'll remember 2008 as my first year as a grown-up. In 2008, I completed a year of teaching high-school English, and a year of being gainfully employed and paying my own bills and cooking my own food. It's still strange to think of myself as an adult.

I'll remember it as the year of live music. I saw more live music this year than I ever have before in a year, partially because I discovered that I love it. I also discovered that I love roller coasters, after having been scared of them since I was ten.

I'll remember it as the year I spent feeling as though my life is unstable. I think being in your twenties, being unsure of where you'll be or who you'll be with in the coming years, is hard for people like me. I don't like transition. I don't like it when I have to start over, I don't like it when I have to move, I don't like change, because it takes me too long to get used to it. Once I'm settled, once I know what direction things are moving, then I can start to be happy. But I know that I won't always work where I work, and I know that I won't always live where I live, and that bothers me. Not because I'm extremely happy either place, but because I don't know where I'll be in a year.

I'll remember it as the year of moving. This past summer, my parents moved out of the house where I grew up, a house that has housed five generations of my family, and I moved out of Chapel Hill to an apartment in Burlington to be closer to work. I miss the mountains, I miss living in a college town, I miss my old house...this was the first Christmas, the first birthday, that I've ever spent away from that house since my first Christmas ever, which also happened to be my first day ever.

I'll remember it as a year of funerals. This past fall, we had two deaths in the family: my great-aunt and my grandfather. Two more transitions. My great-aunt was really an extra grandmother; she spent Christmas with us. This was my first Christmas without her cackling at my brother when he teases her for being short. It was my first Christmas without my grandfather laughing his rumbly laugh in his chair with a glass of bourbon in his hand and a dog in his lap.

I'll remember it as bittersweet. I was in the room when my grandfather died. He was ninety-two, and died the way people should die but rarely do: at the time and place of his choosing, and surrounded by people who loved him. It got me thinking about how I want my life to turn out. Perhpas not like my grandfather's, but not necessarily unlike it, either. If the attendance at one's funeral is any indication of how well-loved a person was, my grandfather was recieving love from so many directions he must have been inhaling bushels of it with every breath. I would like to give so much love in my life. I would like to be as full of love.

The year 2008 was a year where I discovered that I am lucky, and that I am humbled by how lucky I am and how easy my life is.

I hope, in this coming year, I find my feet. I hope I break in these changes until they are comfortable enough for me to walk through the next set. I hope I see the direction in which I'm supposed to move next, and I hope to be happy. I hope to love as much as I am loved.

I'm grateful for the year 2008. I'm grateful for the lessons I learned, for the lessons I taught, for the miles that I've walked.

Friday, April 11, 2008

God Moment

I may be a little bit in love with my life right this second.

Yeah, we should be in love with our lives all the time, but who the fuck actually is? Potheads, maybe… you never see an angry pothead…

Well. Right now, right this second, it’s actually true.

I am sitting on my front porch. It is 75+ degrees outside. There is a beautiful breeze, and everything around me is green. I have counted four different types of flowers growing in my yard: wisteria (maybe lilac, I can’t really tell them apart), daffodils, baby’s breath, and my favorite – azaleas. I love azaleas; they are sturdy, they are consistent, they are beautiful, and they are totally, one hundred percent unapologetic. What other North American flower can pull off being gloriously, unabashedly, riotously hot pink? If an azalea were a person, I think it would be the punk chick with a hot pink Mohawk who works at a record store wearing a vintage Ramones t-shirt and secretly reading Jane Austen novels behind the counter. I love azaleas so much I sometimes consider naming my first child Azalea. Or…well…maybe a dog. Kids freak me out.

My wind chimes are making music this afternoon. The little lotus bell from Japan is chiming sweetly and my bamboo pipes sound like moored boats at a dock, knocking against each other in gentle waves. There are two big monarch butterflies hopping from blossom to blossom on the azalea bushes three feet away from me. There’s a wooly worm crawling on the arm of my chair, and the birds are fussing at each other everywhere around me.

I’m having what I used to call a God moment.

I might still call it a God moment, if for nothing else but for lack of a better word.

All the time, I hear people standing on mountain tops or in wooded trails or staring at beautiful sunsets making the same comment. They always say something along the lines of, “How can someone see all this and not believe in a God?”

You know, I have a love/hate relationship with such people. I love them because when I’m having moments like this, I completely agree. This Earth, in all of its beauty, is part of what God is to me. The hate part comes in for a variety of reasons. They are, as follows:

1. That person is infringing on my God moment.

2. That person is making the statement that they are much more appreciative of nature and the Earth and mountains and whatever because they believe that a higher power created it. Not just a higher power, but THEIR higher power. As if everybody else in the world doesn’t appreciate beauty on earth because THEY don’t believe that GOD, specifically, created it. I think everybody appreciates it. Everybody finds something higher, something greater than themselves when they see it, whether that higher power is “God” or not.

3. Not all of God is external. At least not in my head, anyway. God is sort of half and half: half outside of us, and half inside of us. There is a piece of God in me, and that piece contributes as much to a God moment as the outside piece. When I have a God moment, I’m selfish a bit, I suppose. The outside part of God helps me find the inside part of God. I am content, thrilled and overjoyed even, to be me. I am finding something divine about me, about my life, about my existence. If love is the meaning of life, then surely loving yourself, and finding divinity in yourself, is part of the purpose of life, too.

I tend to collect quotes and phrases and song lyrics that sort of define what I think life should be. Sometimes I even write my own. This time I can’t claim credit. The two quotes that best sum up how I am thinking this afternoon come from Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (although the first one was the word of a philosopher that she quoted, I just thought it was great):

To the person who wonders about people who see beauty in the world and don’t believe in God, I would like to say what the stoic Epictetus said: “You bear God within you, poor wretch, and know it not.”

To everyone else who is NOT having a God moment, I would like to say this:

“You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight.”

Sunday, April 6, 2008

My Right Foot

Hmph. I hate being injured.

I have managed, ever so gracefully, to bust my ass. Or, well, more accurately, my ankle. It's quite purple and puffy and now because of all the blood pooling down there half of my foot, even the uninjured part, is also turning bluish purple. Bah.

For about the last thirty six hours, I have been watching movies, eating, and rotating a heating pad and a bag of frozen peas over my blasted ankle. I really want to get out of the house, I'm not sure if I can drive at all, and every time I so much as hobble to the laundry room and stand up for more than fifteen minutes, I start to hurt. Alot.

I REALLY don't do this injured thing well.

Which made me think about people who are in bed all the time for various illnesses and injuries. HOW CAN PEOPLE SURVIVE THIS WAY FOR EXTENDED PERIODS OF TIME? I haven't even been like this for two days and I'm already frustrated and pissed off and starting to lose some of my mental clarity.

...although it was AWFULLY nice to have such great nursemaids/friends/general company keepers around for the weekend. They brightened things up considerably.

Just needed to rant a minute to get this out of my system. May you all avoid tree branches that would incapacitate you for a whole weekend.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Spring Itch

Every year, I go through this thing.

Toward the end of winter, I am absolutely dying for warmer weather. I end up writing down all the the things I miss about summer and spring, and until it gets here, I'm just sort of itching for it.

To name a few of the things that are ALWAYS on the list: flip flops, cold beer (it just tastes better when it's warm outside) , skirts, watermelon, blueberries, mild sunburn, summer blockbusters, late-night ice-cream runs, air-headed-but-catchy summer pop-songs, sunscreen, sleeping with the windows open, and playing in water (water guns especially).

So right now, when it's freezing early in the morning and at night but gorgeously warm all afternoon, I feel like we're standing on the edge of spring but not quite there yet. I'm like a hyper puppy on a leash that KNOWS it'll be able to get out of the car and run soon, but we're still five minutes from the dog park. I'm excited and it just can't seem to get here fast enough.


Monday, February 11, 2008


Questions I am currently sending into the void:

1. Why is South Park so funny? It's a cartoon about eight-year-olds doing and seeing every sick thing that can possibly be imagined. By all rights, it should be repulsive. But, every time I watch it, I find myself laughing guiltily. Why is that?

2. Why isn't it Friday?

3. How is it that names come and go in trends and there are names that mark entire generations? Names like "Barbara" or "Bill" -- people don't name their kids Barbara anymore -- or "Brittany" and "Jason" for our generation, and now our generation is naming their kids "Destiny" and "Chastity." Don't get it.

4. What the hell kind of sadistic person names their daughter Chastity? Don't they know what it means? Are they going to name her little sisters "Virgin" and "Celibacy" and "Nun?"

5. What IS America's fascination with Hannah-Fucking-Montana????

6. Why isn't it Friday?

7. How come getting up the gumption to go and exercise is sooooo bloody hard?

8. Now. I know I'm not the first person to ask this, but why can't weekends be at least one day longer? Would the world and the economy really just explode if people worked for four days a week instead of five? I suppose it might... I mean, it's possible... ugh. I hate it when I answer my own rhetorical questions.

9. Why does reading Bridget Jones's Diary make one speak in incomplete sentences?

10. Have I mentioned why isn't it Friday?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Almost Monday

It's 11:17 on Sunday night. That means, damnitall, it's almost Monday.

The kids are interesting this semester. I have two classes of remedial sophomores, which means they hate English and have NEVER done well in it and I will be pulling teeth to get them to do anything at all, and one class of college-bound seniors who also hate English but are willing to work hard to pass because they don't want to be stuck in Caswell county forever.

One of my students said something Thursday that hit me in the head like a sledgehammer.

Last class of the day. I'd spent the entire day introducing myself to my students and getting them to introduce themselves to me. We played that toilet paper game -- the one where you have to take some toilet paper and then tell a fact about yourself for every single-ply sheet you have wadded up on your desk. I always have one smartass that takes off half the roll and then, when he realizes the catch in the game, stuffs the whole wad (with the exception of one sheet) in his pocket or backpack. But that's beside the point.

I always go last. I let the kids go first, so I can get an idea about what they're like, how they spend their time, whether or not they have any aptitude for English at all, etc.... so I go last. I always tear off an average of seven sheets, and my staple facts are always something along the lines of "I was born on Christmas Day" or "I gradutated from Appalachian State University" or "I spent two and a half weeks in Japan this past summer."

As usual, I went through the staple "interesting facts" about myself, stopping on that last one about Japan.

A kid in the back, who looked like he should have been a senior, a tall "good-ol-boy" type in hunter camouflage and a Carhart jacket, made this confused and disgusted face (yeah, disgusted -- like he'd just found a brand-new, unfamiliar turd that had come from some strange and unknown animal) and said, "Why would anybody want to go to Japan?"

I, not thinking, replied, "Why not? Do you want to stay in this county the rest of your life?"

He laughed with his buddies and said, "Well, yeah, I plan on bummin' off my parents as long as I can!"

I nearly had to leave the room to throw up.

After thinking about it for a long time, I have several theories as to why he made this response: 1.) He really is the product of a small-minded, isolationist, and bigoted culture or 2.) He's just scared of what's outside of this weird county because it's home or 3.) He's intimdated by somebody with more education, more life experience and obviously enough money to make trips to Japan.

Not that I'm Daddy Warbucks, but comparing me in high school with this kid, I probably do have a pretty significant financial advantage.

I have my work cut out for me.
Ugh, it's gonna be a hell of a semester.

Monday, January 14, 2008

New Shoes

I think....I think I'm in a slightly unstable period in my life.

I'm not settling down any time soon, so everything is possible and impossible at the same time. I can do what ever I want and yet nothing that I want. Does that make sense?

Hmm...let me rephrase. Or explain. Or whatever.

This is just one of those transition periods. The first year of high school was a transition year. The first year of college was a transition year. Each year I spent sad and uncomfortable, until my new shoes finally formed to my feet, and I wore them until they fell apart. Once I get comfortable, I'm so comfortable I don't want to leave until I have to (for those who didn't get the shoe metaphor).

Thus, what I'm trying to say is that I'm in the process of breaking in my new shoes. I'm in the process of carving my newest niche. God knows this year is not quite as bad as some of those previous ones, a few of which I spent utterly miserable. I'm hoping that means that the shoes, once broken in, will be the most comfortable yet, because I had a head start on breaking them in. I guess. My logic is twisted, I know...if you could call it logic...

So here's to new shoes, to breaking in new shoes, and to old shoes that are great to drag out of the closet every now and again.