Tag Archives: fear

It’s day 9 and Christmas is coming!

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This blog today has been a hard one to process.  I have to be honest, reader, I am writing without planning.  That is a no-no according to your local high school Language Arts teacher (wait, that’s me!).  One should always brainstorm, outline, write in complete sentences, and make sure the reader NEVER is confused or you will loose them in the fray of your work.  The work should always be focused, well researched, and without emotion so that the reader will feel that you are unbiased. Well reader, I am ignoring all those conventions this month.  I have committed to wearing a dress daily, raising awareness for IJM and the modern human slavery epidemic, help get donations for the cause, and personally writing about it.  Writing daily has been difficult in and of itself. But I have managed to do it and I have actually grown my blog and twitter following by doing so.  This isn’t a popularity contest but people are following me WHILE I am posting almost exclusively about this world crisis called slavery.  That makes me feel like I may be making a little drop of a difference in the big bucket of the world’s problems.

SO…. for tonight’s topic….

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I wrote a little today in my journal while I was at school as suggested by my lovely daughter but what I processed tonight while I was out shopping is a little more pressing.

Shopping is not my most favorite thing to do.  But, alas, it is a necessary evil.  I needed to get an outfit for a wedding and for my grandmother’s 90th birthday later this month, so a shopping I went.  I bribed my lovely husband to go with me.  As I was out I began to think about what I needed to write about for my blog post.  After shopping my husband and I went out on a little date. In the car on the way to eat we heard an NPR post about an Irish writer who came to the US and her first visuals of all the strip clubs (there is more to the article but that is what stuck out to me). This made me realize that I needed to post about commodities.

We live in a society that is driven by commodities.  We “need” things daily.  There is apparently NEVER any food in my house, ask my two boys.  I always “need” to go to the store and buy new (FILL IN THE BLANK)__________. Commodities.  They are what drive us daily.

We always look for a deal.  We want the cheaper version of the same thing somewhere else.  I confess I am this way too.  See the tag in the lower right of the picture?  Yep, I bought that marked down dress! I didn’t really NEED another dress (I have more than I need, I am realizing that this month) but (enter invalid justification here) _________.

When I went to purchase the dress (yes you will see it later this month) the lady at the counter asked if I had any coupons.

I said, “no.”

“What about retailmenot?”

“I don’t subscribe to those because they made me want to shop more because I would be ‘saving’ money.”

“You are a wise woman.”

I looked at my husband and said, “I like to keep him around so we watch what we spend.”

She smiled wider and said, “Yep, you are very wise indeed!”

With the dress purchased we were off to the next store, my husband “needs” new running shoes.  We are visually stimulated to buy. So we look for that section of clearance priced shoes in the back.  However, if you are a savvy shopper you know to look for the real clearance section on the rack in the middle.  Here are the questions that ran through my head as I looked at ALL the clearance items, “Did the workers who made these get paid? How much did they get paid? It is a living wage fore the economy they live in?” We walked out of the shoe store without shoes, he didn’t need them that bad, he said.

The next store we went in was a barrage of images.  Images that hyper-sexualize the clothing, not to mention the people in the clothing.  They are really what’s for sale.  I know that our culture doesn’t think of it that way but it is true.  We wouldn’t buy that man’s shirt it it didn’t “read” well on a model.  We don’t want to purchase something that might make us “look” bad.  Walk past a V.S. or any other store that sells lingerie and you will see that particular brand of salesmanship.  It may not be the literal trading of humans but it is just that in so many ways. Now, think of those images with sale signs on them it is a crippling though.  What, exactly, are they selling?  It is difficult to decipher.  A lifestyle? A body image? A particular type of skin and hair color? The actual product? What is the commodity? (This reminds me of an art exhibit my daughter did in her book store a few months ago but I’ll talk about that in another post.)

What does this have to do with Dressember?  Well, quite a lot actually.  Images of hyper-sexualized females and males promote the issue that Dresssember is working hard to fight alongside IJM and their work freeing people from sexual slavery and slavery in general.  Slaves make many of the commodities we use. I know that if we carefully select the products we use we can get away from slave made products but it usually means we spend more money and cannot shop the deals (that is a huge and hard sacrifice!). It means we buy from retailers who care about the same issues we care about.  It means we talk with them about the hard issues.

As I there yet? I am working on it.  It will take time and a concerted effort on my part. But now that I am aware, I am working harder to do my part in the economic arena.

And now for the real reason you read this blog…. 😉

Yes, this is a real dressing room selfie! At least I looked at the mirror and not that phone.

Yes, this is a real dressing room selfie! At least I looked at the mirror and not that phone.

Monday #2!

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I had an epiphany today at work.

The announcements for the day ahead came on at 7:32 right after the pledge of allegiance and moment of silence.  One of them was about a collection for donations to the local animal shelter and, if memory serves, it said “bring in warm soft blankets for poor puppies and kitties at the shelter so they can have a safe and warm holiday.”  Do dogs celebrate holidays?  Do cats? How do you wish an animal happy holiday and what is that holiday called? What kind of traditions are included in these holidays? How do the blankets make the animals in the shelter safe?

Ok before I continue, I feel I must say these two things so you don’t think I am heartless towards animals who have no voice….

I honor the school club that is taking donations for the animal shelter.  I think it is a good thing to take care of animals we have deemed domesticated in our US culture. I am glad it is something the students can buy into and feel a sense of philanthropy.  It is a good thing to collect these blankets.

I have two cats who rule the house.  The kitties were found and rescued from New Orleans after Katrina hit. I love them.  They are very important to me. Their desire to sit on my lap or the keyboard of the computer while I am working is very endearing.  I have a neighbor who has dogs and they are the sweetest things ever!  I grew up with a cute little black cocker spaniel and then when I was in college my parents got a dalmatian that helped teach my kids to walk (not really but she treated them like they were her puppies). I think animals love their humans.  Who else always greets us at the door no matter how long we have been gone from home?  Who isn’t afraid of us when we have the flu and will sleep curled up even when we are so ill we can’t reciprocate? Their love knows no bounds. They are important to our way of life.  We, as people living in the US, find them necessary and often as important as humans.  What other culture has cards for “grandcats” or “granddogs” (the pets of your children who may or may not have children)? Just saying.

As I was saying, before I got distracted, we were in school this morning…..

My first period was taking a test so I had some time to muse.

In second period I had to teach but luckily we were talking about The Canterbury Tales. I love Chaucer! I began to think back to the satire presented in many of the characterizations and one in particular, the Nun’s characterization. He like this character but finds some of her choices to be a bit odd for her profession.

I don’t want to go into detail or bore you with a lecture about the nun but, the short version is – Chaucer was pointing out that she loved animals so much that she fed her doggies fancy foods and became distraught when mice (who carried many diseases) were ensnared in a trap.  Her job as a nun in the 1300’s was to care for the poor, ill, widowed, orphans, among other disenfranchised people of the time. She doesn’t seem to be good at her job as Chaucer never mentions her taking care of humans at all.

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Excerpt from The Prologue of The Canterbury Tales The characterization of the nun

 

As I was reading and considering this passage I began to think about our US culture.  Most of us aren’t nuns so maybe it isn’t our “job” to care for the disenfranchised. Maybe that’s why it seems that we care for animals so much but have a hard time believing that there are 29.8 million people held in slavery today. The staggering number of people that are held with out their consent is mind numbing, and it is so much easier to ignore it than it is to face.  So instead of talking about how to solve human suffering we talk about how to help animals in need.

This month I am wearing dresses every day, all day to bring awareness to human trafficking in the world.  I realize I am blessed to live in a country where I can choose what to wear, who to worship, to work outside the home or inside, to go out with ma honks on a Friday night , & so many other freedoms that are taken for granted every day.  I do not like to wear dresses. But every day I am considering the freedom more and more, to be able to choose whether I like wearing a dress or not.  This adventure is so much more than just a dress even after just 8 days of participation.  It is an awakening to a world that is in need.  It is an awakening I needed.

Will you help?  Here is a link to my donation site. If you are unable to give check out the IJM website and learn more about the very real tragedy of modern day human trafficking.  It is clear and present danger to many around the world.  Do not hold blind eyes to it any longer.

And because I am wearing dresses all month…here is today’s picture:

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Today was Sunday funday!

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I am changing.  Quickly I am becoming someone else.  It is a good metamorphosis. I am excited to see what becomes of me.  I am boldly stepping out of a shell.  I am realizing things about myself that I never knew existed.

WOW!

Talk about transformative, the last 7 days have been a whirlwind of change.  I have felt the incredible urge to share the story of the dress and therefore write about it AND share that writing.  Putting myself at risk for possible judgement of my writing style and ability.  That is a scary thought for an English teacher.

If you read back over the blogs I have posted in the last 6 days you will see change and if you go back even further you may even see a different writer.  I know that this change is due to all the thinking I have been doing about the choice to wear dresses for 31 days for a specific cause.  But it is going deeper than that too.  I am noticing things I never knew about myself. Things I am not quite ready to share here (but I am sure to share as I go along this journey).

That realization makes me think about the journey to freedom that the slaves go through.  IJM  posted on their facebook today that they had dozens of families graduate from an after-care program that lasted 2 years.  Could you imagine?  It is an after-care program that helps with career options, counseling, learning how to self-advocate, and I am sure so many other critical skills that we take for granted.  Could you imagine all the changes and incredible transformation that is happening in the lives of these people who were once in bondage?

I know I am overwhelmed with all that has transpired in my mind this week but I cannot even begin to imagine what is happening in their minds.  What that new idea of freedom tastes like!

After being rescued the, now free, people are given support and expected to work to earn a living for themselves.  They get to pick their job! They are so transformed that they likely do not recognize themselves or their families.  But they are free.

This month is about so much more than a dress for me and all the people who are working to the end of slavery in the world.  It is about transformation in our minds and extending kindness.  It is about awareness in subtle and not so subtle ways.  It is about finding out what you may not have known about yourself and others.  It is about assisting others who cannot help themselves without you.

Will you help?  You can of course donate money through my campaign but you can also learn about what IJM does and get involved there.

It is about so much more than just money.  Just awareness of this world-wide problem informs our everyday  movements but that is post for another day.

Saturday: waffles, visits from friends and family, Santa’s Workshop, & shopping

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Today was one of those normal Saturday’s: busy and relaxing.  How is that dichotomy even possible?

Well, I got to sleep in, make a delicious pot of coffee, make a simple (but thrillingly received) breakfast for my family, do a little Christmas tree decorating, hug a friend and my mom, go to an event sponsored by my church to shop for a family we are sponsoring, & take my boys out to dinner & shopping (yes that was good).

The coffee and waffles I made were so delicious and while we ate in shifts, we all got a chance to talk and enjoy each others company.  That is such a wonderful way to start a weekend (or any) morning. Especially since my boys are growing up and going to be moving on soon enough.

Then, as if the day hadn’t started wonderfully enough, one of mah honks came over to say hello and give me a hug (she “just happened to be running errands”). Oh how I love mah honks! (PS that’s her in the picture above)

I scooted out to the Santa’s workshop my church set up for those of us who adopted a family for Christmas so we could shop for them.  That was so amazing: a room filled with donated toys, puzzles, & games for all ages and interest levels.  The planning and organization that went into it was fantastic!  And THEN the first question of the day:

“You mean you have to wear them on the weekends too?”

“For 31 days!”

“What are you doing? Why are you wearing a dress?”

So the sharing commenced about IJM, Dressember, & my fundraising campaign.  How wonderful that was for me to share with them about this little thing I could do that could impact so many people around the world.

And to up the ante on my day, my mom came over to tell me about her recent vacation and again to give me a hug.

Man, I love my village!

I got home tonight from being out of the house for about 9 hours.  That, in and of, itself should be exhausting. If I could add more fuel to the fire and complain about it a little it would be this: I drove for 3 hours of that 9 (and I may be underwhelming that number a bit), it rained the whole time, I was driving the 95 corridor (for those of you who do not live in this area it is the main thoroughfare for the mid-atlantic states), & I had two boys in the car with me.

However, I will not complain beyond what I typed above.  My boys were perfect in the car.  My eldest kept good music playing in the cd player (yes, I am that person) & conversation going and my youngest in the back quietly played his video game.  The rain, while tiresome, is also a comfort (and brings flowers in the spring) and makes me drive slower on the highway.  The shopping I was doing was pleasant shopping for others (and a tree topper for my family).  While I was shopping my boys were in guitar center (they are both amazing musicians!) “shopping” for themselves.  It is nice to have confident young men who can take care of themselves while “maaaahhhhm” (what they have chosen to call me) shops.

All of this in a dress; an outfit I would not normally choose to wear on a rainy cold Saturday.  Thinking all the time about how I was wearing a dress.  Walking around, sitting in Five Guys, riding in the car, all these things are “better done” in pants.  But today, I was oddly comfortable in a dress.  As I shopped, I thought about all the people I was doing this for.  I know my impact in the grand scheme is minuscule but if I am able to help one then I have done enough.  As I said in my first blog, one starfish! But maybe it isn’t even helping that one so far away in the bonds of slavery, maybe it is helping a student, friend, co-worker, or random person in Starbucks find worth in themselves.  Maybe finally noticing the worth in myself will help others see the what they are worth as well.

A week of school is in the books

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Today was wonderful! I can truly say I had a great day. I have now spent 5 days wearing dresses and I haven’t passed out, lost my mind, hurt anyone, or spilled anything on them. I am even wearing them long after I get home. I am cooking, cleaning, and doing my general after school lounging in them.

Today was dress down Friday (jeans and spirit wear, I work at a high school). My breakfast buddies (Friday mornings are sacred!) asked why I was still “dressed” up. They all know that I love any excuse to wear jeans to work. I was so confident in telling them about why I was wearing dresses! Amazing start to my Friday!

Later in the day a student came in late (we were taking a test) and asked to speak to me I  that hall. With tears in his eyes he told me that he hadn’t told anyone abut that he felt like he could trust me and so he told me why he was late. My heart broke you this young man who was so willing to show me his heartache in the hallway if school.  Without going into details, he felt like I was trustworthy and would care about him. He isn’t the first student to say those words to me and he won’t be the last.

Later in the day I went and visited one of my cohorts and we talked about books, artists, & Dressember.  My colleague was excited about this journey and wanted to know more.  As we talked the words, “Are you trying to inspire me right now” were uttered in my direction. My direction!

Then after a family night of Chinese food, Santa Clause 1 & 2, & an attempt at decorating the Christmas tree (not successful I might add), my daughter called!! That was an hour and a half of a blessing. We prayed together at the end of our conversation ❤ <3.  I love that our lives have intersected.

I know that feelings like the feelings I had today do not last.  I know that when we are experiencing amazing things there are really HIGH points and really LOW points.

I realize that this post has very little to do with the fundraiser BUT THIS….if I was in bondage none of this would have happened.  If I lived in a different country it is likely that I wouldn’t have the wonderful students and co-workers that I do.  But my life isn’t different.  I am seeing my life for the first time as a blessing and as a gift that I can no longer take lightly.  I must DO.  This month I am doing, what will I do next month.  How will I effect those around me? How will I effect the world? I have no idea but I will do something.

Look at the picture of my dress.  I didn’t take a photo of the whole ensemble today but this shot is the epitome of who I am.  I am who I say I am.  I try my best not to put on airs for others.  I want to be as authentic as I can be.  My mix of patterns is how I see myself, a nice mixture of colors and patterns all somehow connecting and making sense although they shouldn’t.  It is the beauty that is everywhere if you choose to look for it.  I hope that you will stop by my donation page and check out what Dressember is doing with IJM.  Donate if you can, but more importantly, learn about the cause, tell other people about it, & find out how you can help.  Every little bit counts.Fotor_141783536467348

Day 3 Wheee!

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My students finally noticed!

So this morning my co-worker came in to see the ensemble.  She asked me again what the reason was for doing the Dressember event.  I told her all about the event, IJM, and how raising money for this event was the main reason I was participating. My first period student who were in the room were interested in what we were talking about so, I told them a little more. In my next period class we were studying Chaucer and The Prologue to The Canterbury Tales. As we talked about the satire and social changes that Chaucer hoped to see it made me realize that I could easily talk about Dressember and all the changes in our society that need to happen.

I know I am only on day 3 but I am feeling empowered and able.  I am feeling like I am able to be authentic with people about why I am passionate about this subject.

I feel like I am already planning next year!

I teach high school!

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Yes, I said it.  And you know what I love it!  I feel good in the morning going to work.  Yes, I know teacher are underpaid (all of them) and underrated (most of them) but nonetheless, it is a job I look forward to doing every day.  I have to work.  It is part of my chemical make-up.  It is also part of my family financial make-up. Why should I do a job I like?  I rarely complain about the students or my daily routine.

I dreamed of being a stay at home mom all through my teen years.  I said to myself I would be a stay at home mom until my oldest was in high school, just like my mom did.  Then reality struck when I stayed home. I was bored!  I cooked, I cleaned, I took good care of my son, and I was still bored.  I worked part time during that period of my life and I was accused of talking down to my co-workers.  I was hurt by that accusation.  I wasn’t trying to be mean or talk down to them, I was around a baby all day and worked several nights a week and, well, you know, baby talk was my colloquial.  So after almost 2 years of being a stay at home mom I went back to work, outside of the home, full time.

I did that job for another 8 years.  I enjoyed it, mostly.  Well except for the part about: customer service, working nights, weekends, & holidays, being made to feel guilty for having to stay home with a sick child, and a myriad of other retail related woes.

Then an opportunity I have never regretted came up.  Teaching.  I had wanted to be a teacher before I decided to have a family.  Why not now?  It would take a little more education, time, & maybe even a slight pay cut but I would not be swayed.  My husband and I sat down and talked about it for a while.  Finances, schedules, and life changes were discussed.  We did not take this change lightly.  We prayed and talked to others about it.  We devised a plan for survival.  Luckily, we never had to implement any of the components of our plan.  I got the job!

In 2007 I started teaching and I have never looked back.  I have loved every minute of it.

There have been days, weeks, months, & yes, years that I have wondered if what I do is all worth it.  Is the money worth it?  No, I am in charge of 150 students.  I see 90 a day (first block of 30 students every day).  If you do the math I make less than the average babysitter.  Are the hours worth it? Sometimes, I am NOT a morning person so getting up at 5:45 usually becomes 6:00 and PUSHING it out the door.  Are the entitled students worth it?  Man, there are days I wonder how they got to be that way: wanting and demanding everything they say blaming me for their problem of not understanding simple directions, complaining that there is to much work in our class, need I go on?

So, you ask, what prompted this blog post.

I will tell you.

A student, or maybe three students, or maybe even more that that told me I have influenced them in some way, shape, or form. But this one in particular…

We do silent reading in our class.  That means we spend 15-20 minutes of each class reading, self selected text.  (My master’s research was driven by Readicide a book by Kelly Gallagher.) They pick out a book and read.  They do have to complete a book share presentation and write a review for a class book (this gives other students an opportunity to look through colleague testimonials and find a book they want to read) but other than that they just read in class.

He told me, “I hate reading!”

I said, “Let me try to help you?”

He said “OK”

Challenge accepted.

I helped him find a book about a war vet called Warlord: No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy by Ilrario Pantano. That was his first quarter read. Today he selected his SECOND book for the year.  He is reading Burned by Ellen Hopkins.  He told me today he loves reading poetry.  His friend (who also made the same declaration at the beginning of the year) took him to the library today to get the book.  His friend (who says he has never read a book until he picked up Mob Boss by Jerry Capeci) just started reading Crank by Ellen Hopkins and is already (much to his pleasant surprise 3/4 of the way through) and told this student that Ellen Hopkins is a good author.

These young men hate reading, would never say they liked reading, like reading!

That, my friends, is why I love teaching.  That testimony is worth so much to me.

I am supposed to do this writing thing….

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And I fear I am not very good at it.  I fear all the time others will judge my grammar due to the fact that I teach high school language arts.  I fear that my spelling or diction will not be on point for the critics.  And then I become paralyzed.  I freeze and stop doing what I have always wanted to do every since I was a child: writing.  I allow all that anxiety and fear to overcome me and I DON’T.  It is awful.

I spend all day with students telling them to step out on a limb, to try new things, to risk it all because “they are able”. I, then, come home and ignore all the best advice out there.  I think there is no way I could ever be good enough.  But there is a way.  It is the only way.  The best part is we get to choose, it is not forced upon us.  I’ll come back to that.

I stepped off the track of writing when I was a senior in high school and moved to NOVA.  The guidance counselor at the school told me that journalism was the way to go and that creative writing would be a waste of my time (I now work with the same teacher who , was teaching that course lo those many long years ago).  So I succumbed to her suggestion and took a journalism 1 class as a senior in high school.  I can’t tell you I hated the class.  It was fun there were people I made friends with and I was given an opportunity to write a feature in the 4th quarter.  But I wasn’t interested in writing any more.  I soon fell in love with Chaucer (this goes along with my life long love of all things Shakespeare and Tolkien). I was then off on an adventure of a similar but very different nature.

When I was a child I grew up around people who embraced technology wholeheartedly.  It was never something to be shunned or afraid of.  I remember my dad bringing home our first desktop PC.  I was 12 or 13 (in 7th grade at the time) he was taking some Army classes at Ft. Leavenworth and this was better than a typewriter.  I think we may have been the only people on the block with a computer (but maybe that is my child’s mind).  I remember being one of the only people on my first college campus to have a word processor (those of you who are old enough remember but those who aren’t: they were like laptops but they weren’t, they had 1 inch screens and you had to save your work to a 5 inch floppy disk).  I typed so many papers on that thing!  It was in my mom’s basement as recently as a few years ago.  My kids have since played with it.

I have been surrounded by technology so much of my life.  The biggest thing I remember though is the virtual academic discussions we had when I was in undergrad at GMU in Fairfax, VA.  This was where my writing could actually happen and I would not feel the fear of being judged for my ability.  I felt that in my passion for the content I was comfortable enough to write and write often.  I graduated and didn’t so anything with my BA in English until 2006 when I switched careers.  Shortly after I became a teacher I began pursuing my masters degree.  This course was a shift in pedagogy for me.  I learned to be aware of the students.  I learned that I, as a perpetual student, also needed to be aware of my needs. The other amazing thing this course taught me was that my writing is worth something:  I am a good writer & have good ideas worth discussing.

I have started to work here and there to write more and more.  My emotional side loves writing poetry but I find it easier to write prose.  I know poetry can be easy and fun but I am still afraid of certain judgement in that area.  I feel comfortable with the “journaling” type writing I do.  I feel if I find that one or two people read my work and like it then I am “doing a good job”.  Unfortunately, my writers worth still hinges of what others think.  If it didn’t I wouldn’t put it out on a public website ;).

So I said I would come back to that one thing…being good enough is all in your state of mind.  It is all in how you view yourself.  As a writer you could allow the grammar police to pinch every screed you pen.  That one criticism would be enough to stop you from every writing again.  I know for a long time it kept me from posting things, even of the medias.  Then through slow and fairly constant validation I was able to overcome their criticisms and become my own writer.

Nowadays, when I tell me students what I enjoy these things range from cooking and hanging out with my family to photography and writing.  I want to be a writer.  I want to write.  Do I desire to be Anne McCaffrey, sometimes, in my childhood imaginings of what I could have been but not usually. I am pretty satisfied with being a high school teacher and encouraging students to do what they want and educate themselves.  And while I really enjoy writing I don’t think I could write the sort of work I love to read.  Am I ok with that? Yes, absolutely! I am satisfied with what I write it brings me joy. And as selfish as that sounds, I’m ok with that. But I am still afraid, sometimes.