Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dear Poppy

Today, for the last time in my life, I said goodbye to my Poppy.

Well, I didn't physically say goodbye. We were at a funeral home, and really there are way too many folks at funeral homes for me to actually be able to comfortably say goodbye to someone who has died. But anyway, today was the last day I'll be able to see my Poppy, in the 3D, at least. Two of my cousins as well as my aunt talked for a bit about my Poppy today, and that was truly great. It was the one way I'd want him to be remembered: we told stories.

My cousin, Adam, probably said what I felt was closest to my thoughts about Poppy. Adam described himself as "not exactly religious," and I am going to go so far as to actually say what I mean, I am an atheist. I don't believe Poppy is "in a better place," or that he's "happy now." I guess I could go so far as to say that he's not in any pain--he's dead. Adam summed it up best when he said that although Poppy didn't "go" anywhere, he is still here--in each and every one of his kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids.

And, that's true.

We will always remember Poppy stories. Poppy lessons. Every time I turn off a light, I think of Poppy. "You're not in that room, what the hell are you gonna leave the light on for?" And, I attribute my ability to (almost) say "A big black bug bit a big black bear and the big black bear bled blood!" in one breath without mispronouncing many of the words! :P Poppy taught us that life is what you make out of it. He played minor league baseball for Chicago, and had a "very promising" future until he blew out his knee. That didn't stop him, though. He went on to lead a very successful life, supporting a wife and three children, one of which grew up to bear me. He taught them, and us, never to expect a handout (but to take one when offered), and that we'd have in life what we made on our own count. He taught my dad this the hard way, by not paying for his schooling after high school, though the lesson translated over and I don't think I've ever expected a handout from my parents.

In his old age (as in, more recently), he taught me what it meant to truly care for someone. He and my Nanny were married for 61 years. Most people don't get the opportunity to experience ANYTHING for 61 years, except maybe being alive. I was reading through some of the old scrapbooks my Nanny kept, and in it were their anniversary cards from the first few years of their marriage. They described each other in such specifically romantic terms, telling each other that they were truly living the "best years of their lives." I don't know that I'll ever get to experience what they had...but their example has certainly proven to me what love is, and has set a standard to which I'd like to live up. So far, I haven't...but I plan to, and continue to relish the fact that I can aspire to a love as great as what Nanny and Poppy had.

In short, this says it best:

Dear Bobbie

Poppy, goodbye. You are loved, respected, honored, and missed. I love you. I miss you. I will carry you on in my memory, and in the way I live my life... always.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Breathe, just breathe.

Sitting here, it's almost 4 AM, and I'm not tired. I want to do what I want to do, and I don't know of anyone awake to ask "is this a good idea?" So, for the first time in a while, concerning this part of my life at least, I take the stand.

2 AM and she calls me 'cause I'm still awake,
"Can you help me unravel my latest mistake?,
I don't love him. Winter just wasn't my season"
Yeah we walk through the doors, so accusing their eyes
Like they have any right at all to criticize,
Hypocrites. You're all here for the very same reason

'Cause you can't jump the track, we're like cars on a cable
And life's like an hourglass, glued to the table
No one can find the rewind button, girl.
So cradle your head in your hands
And breathe... just breathe,
Oh breathe, just breathe

Except, I'm not making any calls. And, it's he who doesn't love me, not the other way around. Otherwise, pretty much.

And what I like most about this song is (well, I like the whole thing, as a story) the part that says "Life's like an hourglass, glued to the table."

Ain't that the truth? I think the most important thing about the image is that it's glued to the table--there's no flipping it back over for more time, or turning it on its side to stop the sand from flowing from the top into the bottom half. It's going to go on, no matter how hard you tug on it to pull it up, to dissolve the glue...in the end, it's fruitless, and you're better off forgetting about the damn thing, and going and living your life.

"Help me to accept the things I cannot change," like people's feelings, emotions, and desires. And, ultimately, help me accept the actions of others, even when I disagree or don't comprehend the logic behind the decision. It's there. Help me to accept that, and help me to be at peace with it.

"Help me to change the things I can," like my responses to other people, both physically, verbally, emotionally, and otherwise. Help me keep myself in check, and help me to constantly be able to scrutinize my life from a somewhat objective perspective; without this third party perspective, I will not be able to understand my own motives, or the motives of others.

"And help make me wise enough to know the difference," which is debatabley* the hardest, and therefore most important part of this whole process. I've spent a lot of my time lately thinking about why I can't change the things I can't change, and even for a while not being able to recognize them as unchangeable, for me at least. For example, I cannot just step up, snap my fingers, and change how someone feels about me. Although most desirable for the short term, this likely would have caused problems in the long run. However, I suffered a lot of unnecessary grief due to my inability to recognize this fact.

Help me accept the things I cannot change.
Help me to change the things I can.
Help me to be wise enough to know the difference.

Though I'm not religious, so I'm not reciting this to a higher power, I do ask this of my friends, my family--those there to support me, no matter what the cause. I also write it like this to remind myself that belief that I can do one thing (or conversely, cannot) can change me to such a great degree. So, lastly, I'm reminding myself that I need to accept, change, and be wise, ultimately. Easier said than done, that's for sure.

But, not entirely something to give up on. There are always new prospects, and every day comes with a new dawn.

2 AM and I'm still awake, writing a song
If I get it all down on paper, it's no longer inside of me,
Threatening the life it belongs to
And I feel like I'm naked in front of the crowd
Cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud
And I know that you'll use them, however you want to

But you can't jump the track, we're like cars on a cable,
And life's like an hourglass, glued to the table
No one can find the rewind button now
Sing it if you understand.
and breathe, just breathe
--"2AM Breathe" by Anna Nalick

*(there is no real spelling for that word, right?)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

And Doug takes the cake, again.

Sometimes I wonder why Doug wasn't born my older brother, instead of my younger one.

A few days ago, my boyfriend broke up with me. I wish I could say it was "out of the blue" and I was "completely shocked," but neither of those are true. It was actually pretty expected, and as much as I want to hate him, I can't (go figure. How many people say that. Now I know what they mean). So anyways, I'm basically pouting (aka, "mourning what could have been and won't be"), and I texted my brother to let him know. Don't get me wrong, I love phone conversations, but I also wasn't too keen on my brother seeing/hearing me break down completely, so I decided a text message would suffice. Upon hearing the news, he said, "It's ok. These things come and go." To which I replied, "Wish it would have stayed longer, before it went." Doug replies, "I'm sensing a life lesson, here." Hmm...smartass! Or so I thought. So, to test his knowledge, I said, "Which is?" (probably more snarkily than I had intended it). And then, he goes on to say the following:

Oh, something on enjoying everything for what its worth, never squander a moment, always a silver lining, hindsight is worth more than gold. Some afterschool special bull. :-)

And then, just then, I wished for a moment that my younger brother were in fact my older brother. Not solely to propagate age-related stereotypes, nor "older siblings are wiser" stereotypes (though for the most part, it's true ;) ) but solely for the fact that, to give such sound, content advice seems like something that should be coming from an authority figure, an elder if you will, and that my 16 year old brother, however great, seemed slightly out of place giving it.

But not really.

If you think about it, though I may be more "independent," "intelligent," "social," "academically-oriented," (the list goes on, all according to my parents, btw, not me...) than my brother, the truth is, that kid possesses a wisdom beyond his years. And, it's not because of the amount of books he's read, or because the number of years he's spent on his own, dealing with life... Rather, it's sort of this innate ability he has to internalize people's feelings, emotions, and so on, and come out with a worldview that is, while possibly inexperienced, completely moving and beautiful beyond belief. I don't know how he does it, but he continues to inspire me and give me hope that there are more people in the world like him. He may call himself negative, even cynical, but he remains a positive force in my life, inspiring to do more, be more, see more, and achieve more.

I guess, as "amazing" as I am (haven't I heard that enough in the past few days/weeks/month), I will never consider myself as cool or pure-hearted as that kid. Maybe it's just the whole, blinded by the reflection in the mirror syndrome, but that kid's got so much going for him, and I can't wait to see him fly.


Thanks, Doug.

"We are at the crossroads of destiny, and I am forever with you."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The cost of an education (why I teach).

One of the best privileges of holding multiple jobs is having the chance to experience education from multiple angles. One job in particular, for a company that matches tutors and students nationwide, has been on my mind in particular lately. I'm not at liberty to name the company on here, but I do all types of work for them. I take issue with a few policies, most of which I shouldn't be writing about publicly, but I'll share with you one today that's been on my mind a lot recently.

The cost of a tutor.

The tutors for the company I'm referring to are allowed to set their own hourly rate for tutoring students. The company I work for then swipes 40% of what the tutor charges, leaving the tutor with the remaining 60% of the original rate. All things set aside, this is how it happens, and I'm not going to comment on that, at least not at the moment.

The company's tutors are invited to keep their own blogs on the site, which I am (partially) in charge of reading, approving, and then (if I see fit) commenting on and engaging individual tutors to make them feel more welcome and comfortable sharing information, and so on. Recently, I had posted on one woman tutor's blog. The blog was about "the bravest kids in school," and was a lovely reflection on both general and special education. The tutor basically said that, any student who feels uncomfortable in school, either with the material (too hard, too much too fast, etc), with classmates (victims of bullying), or with the teacher(s) is one of the bravest students in school for sticking it out and returning every day. I liked every image her blog implied, so I commented and told her that, as a fellow teacher, I completely respected and agreed with her opinion, and that I was very glad that students may have the opportunity to find tutors, or teachers, like ourselves to help them through such a seemingly difficult time in their education. She actually responded back, thanking me for my support, and then engaged me in further conversation saying how much she loved having the opportunity to help children so much.

Intrigued, I clicked the link to her profile to see what her story was....AND WAS APPALLED AT WHAT I FOUND!

Her hourly tutoring rate is...

Wait, before I tell you, let's take a little test here. Let's imagine you are a parent, and have a child who needs a tutor. This isn't a one time thing, but you know you'll be paying this tutor for a minimum of 5 months, and would like your child to be tutored at least 2 times per week (since studies, like mine!, show that for tutoring to have any effect at all, it needs to be done at least twice weekly, if not three times, consistently over time).

Ok, so you have have all that information? Now imagine you are a parent that is with your significant other/spouse (which is fairly rare these days) but that your spouse is on unemployment, collecting about $800/month. You work part time, minimum wage, at a local store because that is all the work you can find, despite your college degree. You average about 25 hours per week, at $8.25 an hour, which means you're making about $825/month, but that's before taxes. After taxes, your family nets about $1450/month (and that's being generous). The apartment you're renting costs $900/month for the two bedrooms you have. You have an electric bill (~$50/month) as well as a gas bill (~$30/month) as well as cell phones for you and your significant other (~$100/month). Now, you're up to $1080, and you haven't bought groceries yet, nor have you clothed your kid(s), paid for doctor's visits, school/book fees, and the like.

Now, back to the original point. Your child needs a tutor because they are not understanding the curriculum in school. You'd help, but you're usually at work or trying to pick up hours as a cleaning lady on the side to bring in a little extra cash. Your significant other can't help your child, because he/she either doesn't know how, or your child won't respond. So you think, how much could I afford to put into my child's education? I have him/her in school, already, shouldn't that be enough?

So, I ask you, how much would you expect to pay for your child's education? Think about this, think long and hard. What hourly rate would you expect?

When I opened this tutor's profile, when I actually clicked through to see what she was charging those that she "loves" to help, I was shocked. Her hourly rate, folks, is $60/hour.

So, let's see, your kid needs a tutor. You decide the tutor and your child should meet twice per week, that's $120/week, that's $480/month.

Did you even have that much to begin with, before you bought groceries, clothed your kid, took him/her to the doctor, paid for school/sports fees, and so on? Yeah... I didn't think so.

It's times like these, when I see people charging SO MUCH for help, that I have to stop myself and think, what are they really getting at? What is their ultimate goal? In this melting pot we're in, all kids are entitled to an equal opportunity at an education. But without the proper support, not all kids HAVE an equal opportunity to obtain an education. As a teacher, I am committed to the success of my students...not ripping them off. I have never charged more than $10 an hour for tutoring. My current student's family hasn't paid me since February...and I haven't asked for the money, either. Why? Because I know my student needs the help. I know, deep down in my heart, that I would tutor this student anyway, with or without the money, because he deserves a good education, and a fair shake at success in school, which is what I'm trying to help him find. Now go back to that math we were doing earlier. At $10/hour, two times per week, parents would be spending an average of $80/month extra on their child's education. Sure, even this isn't ideal, but it's much more manageable than the $480 option with which we had originally calculated.

I must say that I do wonder about teachers sometimes. One of my first semesters in college, I had a professor say to me, "Well, one thing about education majors is clear: you guys aren't choosing this option for the money." And it's true, not once since studying education have I thought "Man I can't wait til I'm a teacher, making the big bucks!" It's just not something that happens, especially not in elementary schools.

I guess what I'm saying is, if the families you're catering to as a tutor can afford to pay you $60/hour, that's great, and I'm sure you're worth it. Having never had any experience serving these types of families, I really wouldn't know what that feels like. But I will tell you one thing: the first time my student came to me with no Ds or Fs on his report card? Well, that, my friends, was worth a million bucks. And I wouldn't trade it for the world.

So keep that in mind, the next time you hear about someone tutoring. The best tutoring in life comes cheap, or free, or...better said, the best tutoring in life is affordable, whatever "affordable" may mean for you. Because honestly, tutoring means nothing if it's causing financial ruin or strain. And tutors: remember to take your family into consideration. If they can afford to pay you $10/hour, or even less, know that it is the best money they've ever spent, and they would pay you the world if they could. At least, I know mine would.

I say this because everyone deserves a chance, an equal opportunity at education. Since no two kids are equal, no two opportunities look the same either, and some kids need a lot of extra support to have the same chance as another student, who many need no extra support. It's definitely something to consider, at any rate.

Thanks for reading, as always. :)

Monday, June 6, 2011

"Look at me I'm Sandra Dee...

Lousy with virginity! Won't go to bed til I'm legally wed!"

Ok, well, that little ditty certainly doesn't describe my life...but in case you're wondering, that is from a song I studied way back in high school (when it actually DID come closer at least to describing my life...)

And this reminds me, why did I stop singing?! Well, ok, I never really stopped, but I definitely put voice lessons on the halt (no money) and I didn't take choir at school this past semester (no time). For something that means so much to me, that I even went so far as to tattoo on the back of my neck, I sure am doing a great job at ignoring the role music plays in my life.

Which brings me to the greater point: growing up and giving up. Maybe that's what this blog should actually be titled. I've been thinking lately that the more we grow up, the more we give up things that we have done in our youth. Have you ever had this feeling...?

Over the weekend, my boyfriend and I got into a "fight"--argument, discussion, call it what you will, but emotions went flying (mine) and honest, harsh words were said (his), and what came of this was the following: "All" we do (when we're together) is have fun. He doesn't like that--he doesn't feel productive, he feels like our relationship is just a game, it can even be 'fake' at times. And, to a degree, I would have to agree with him. We do things like watch movies, go to the beach, visit with friends, cook dinner (or on occasion go out to eat), and sometimes we drink. To most people, that probably sounds pretty standard--those are the fun, relaxing things that most of us wish we had more time for. However, his point is that he feels like, since this is "all" we're doing, he feels unproductive, lazy, and like he's wasting both his time and mine. So, the solution (after much, much discussion) was that we simply have to "DO" more together. He mentioned, several times, that we should incorporate art, or art projects, into this, as well as things that would inspire us to learn. I suggested going back to an original plan, to collaborate on a summer reading list so we could discuss.

I'm not sure what drove us to this point, and I certainly would have hoped that we could have sorted this out before it got as ugly as it did, but nonetheless I think he learned quite a bit about me, and I learned a bit about him in this process as well. Hopefully in the future, we can continue to sort these things out before they get to a dangerous level.

But back to my original point--what's wrong with doing the fun things? I understand his point that he wants to learn and be productive, but isn't it ok to have fun sometimes? To go to the beach with your lover? Or to just relax and watch a movie? I think the key here is all about balance--it's about not giving up on things you enjoy doing, even if they don't "get you anywhere" in life (ok, I'm really going to try to stop with the quotes--for whatever reason I always put cliche terminology in quotes, and I realize today I'm doing it more than usual!).

My boyfriend's ultimate goal is to "get better." Most activities he does, whether it's school, working out, etc. are all focused on improving a skill, gaining knowledge, and the like. As a teacher, I can DEFINITELY appreciate this, and wish that more people were as receptive to learning as he is! But that also makes me question, what's wrong with the "stupid" stuff? Or, more eloquently, what's wrong with doing something that has no real value, as long as the time spent is not taking away from another activity that would cause progression? I'm not sure that I'm ready to completely eliminate beach days, or movie nights, from my life. I do believe that I could focus myself a little better, and that my boyfriend and I could do more relevant things when we're together. I have no doubt in my mind that we would likely both be happier, as well. However, I also want to keep beach days, plecostomus kisses, movie nights, home cooked dinners, and the like alive and well. Because after all, if we all grow up and give up on the "childish" things we've come to know and enjoy, where will THAT get us? As a person? As a couple? Even as a community, a nation, and furthermore, a world?

Maybe we all need to redirect ourselves, once in a while. And now is certainly one of those times. However, my fun pastimes are and will continue to be a part of my life, even if the magnitude is not as great as it once was.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Mistreated, misplaced, misunderstood,

Miss No-way-it's-all-good, it didn't slow me down.

Dear Pink, I disagree. I think it does get you down. Being the happy camper, all of the time, always offering support to everyone around you while receiving little, if any, does most certainly get you down. 

I've always been the strong one. For me, it's always been "be there, be strong, or don't be at all." I had a lot of shit to deal with at a young age, and I can honestly say I'm 100% grateful for it...sometimes. Being the strong one isn't always easy, though. It takes a great deal of put up and shut up, put on a happy face, and biting the bullet at the right time.

When I was a freshman in high school, my biology teacher made the comment to my mom that I knew what I wanted and I knew how to get it. For the most part, that has been true. I usually do get what I want. But I think she had it wrong. It's not that I'm a manipulative bitch that knows how to play people. It's that I work my ass off for everything, and I don't give up easily at all. That's right, I'm admittedly one of the most stubborn people I know, and I'm proud of it.

Which is probably what makes not getting my way ten zillion times harder than it is for most people.

I like to think of myself as strong, courageous, and the one who supports others. And, for the most part, I am. That's what makes me such a good teacher. However, in some situations, it probes to be detrimental. Because I am strong, supportive, accommodating, and so on, I sometimes forget that oh, yeah, I should be me. I put myself first only when absolutely necessary. A good quality, right? Wrong. It's a good quality for those around me, sure. I work my ass off--my bosses love me. I do all my homework, on time, and well--my teachers love me. I support my family, emotionally and at times, financially--they love me too. But what about me? Do I love me?

That's a question I'm thinking about a lot right now--do I love me? Well, let's see. Do I respect me? Sure, anyone would be dumb not to. Do I like me? Sure, I am a hard worker, and have a good sense of humor--most people including me like people like that. But do I love me?

Today, yesterday, or maybe tomorrow, I have had to, or will have to, admit defeat in something that I want nearly more than anything right now. I might have already caved in, or I might be about to cave in, I'm not entirely sure yet. I haven't caved yet, which is obviously what the other person wants me to do, and it's making me feel...well. How is it making me feel? Good? Sometimes. Bad? Sometimes. Silly? A little. Stubborn as hell? Yeah. Is it making me love me any more?

"You cannot love another until you love yourself." False. I think we can love others in spite of ourselves. And, in my case, I think we can love others instead of ourselves. Maybe my heart just isn't big enough to love everyone else and me. Because the more I hear "I don't love you" the more I love others, and the less I love myself. Cause after all, if I'm that unloveable that others can't love me, how the hell am I supposed to love me? It's a vicious circle, really, if you think about it. How the hell am I supposed to process that thought? Love yourself, then love others. But while others can't love you, neither can you.

This thought has made me greatly question my motives. Why do I do what I do? (that's a lot of do's, I know, and I apologize if it's confusing).

The following conversation occurred on Facebook this morning.

My status: "I don't want to admit defeat."
My teacher from soph year of high school: "Entonces, no lo hagas" (Then, don't do it.)
Me: "Es posible que sea inevitable." (It's possible that it's inevitable.)
Teacher: "Buena suerte a ti, entonces." (Good luck to you, then.)
Me: "Muchas gracias" (Much thanks).

Teacher: "Y recuerdas, siempre te amo." (And remember, I always love you.)

Not going to lie, at that point I broke down completely. Someone I haven't seen in almost 3 years, solely talk to via facebook (and occasionally email), is offering up their support of my situation after having not even known what I'm going through. Talk about unconditional. One may say that sounds stupid, no way did he know that I needed the support at this point (which I definitely do/did). However, I see that conversely, positively if you will. Someone knows me well enough to trust the fact that if I don't want to do something, it's probably not going to benefit my life in any way. Entonces, he didn't pry, he didn't ask for additional information... he just offered himself, and his heart, to me completely.

Damn, what the world might be like if more people did that a little more often...

Well, that's probably the most I feel comfortable explaining, at least on line for the world to see. Thanks for reading. :)

And, if you'd like to see the rest of the song mentioned above, here it is. All credits to Pink and whoever the hell holds the copyright laws. :P

Made a wrong turn once or twice
Dug my way out, blood and fire
Bad decisions, that's alright
Welcome to my silly life

Mistreated, misplaced, misunderstood
Miss 'No way, it's all good'
It didn't slow me down.
Mistaken, always second guessing
Underestimated, look I'm still around

Pretty, pretty please, don't you ever, ever feel
Like you're less than fucking perfect
Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel
Like you're nothing, you're fucking perfect to me

You're so mean when you talk
About yourself. You were wrong.
Change the voices in your head
Make them like you instead.

So complicated,
Look happy, You'll make it!
Filled with so much hatred
Such a tired game
It's enough, I've done all I could think of
Chased down all my demons
I've seen you do the same
(ohh ohhhhhhh)

Pretty, pretty please, don't you ever, ever feel
Like you're less than fucking perfect
Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel
Like you're nothing, you're fucking perfect to me

The whole world's scared, so I swallow the fear
The only thing I should be drinking is an ice cold beer
So cool in line and we try try try but we try too hard
And it's a waste of my time.
Done looking for the critics, cause they're everywhere
They don't like my jeans, they don't get my hair
Exchange ourselves and we do it all the time
Why do we do that, why do I do that (why do I do that)?

Pretty, pretty, pretty

Pretty, pretty please, don't you ever, ever feel
Like you're less than fucking perfect
Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel
Like you're nothing than you're fucking perfect to me
(you're perfect, you're perfect)
Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel
Like you're nothing, you're fucking perfect to me