Friday, October 31, 2008

You like me. You really, really like me.

Okay, it's not an Academy Award. But it is nice that my dear blog friend Pseudonymous High School Teacher thought of me. So I'm gonna pass the love along.


The rules are:
  1. The award may be displayed on the recipient's blog.
  2. Add a link to the person from whom you received the award.
  3. Nominate up to seven other blogs.
  4. Add their links to your blog.
  5. Send a message to each of those you awarded to tell them about the award.
I nominate the following blogs that always give me a smile or a laugh and without fail something to ponder. Two of the blogs don't even know I exist, so I guess you could say I have been stalking a couple of these blogs. Let's call it Stogging, (unless that means something awful that I am not aware of):

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What I really want to be when I grow up

I had to smile when one of my favorite bloggers, RockZee, commented on my last post: "That seemed to take off rather quickly." Thank you all for the positive feedback, but truth be told I should have gotten off my ass and done this long ago.

This recent little freelance success has been eighteen years in the making. Or perhaps even twenty-two years! I headed off to college in 1986, with absolutely no ambition other than to punish my parents for making me go to college in West Texas rather than follow my boyfriend to school in California. (Sadly, that boyfriend dumped me ONE WEEK before graduation, but that is another story.)

I decided sometime during my freshman year that I would major in marketing and open a wedding consulting business someday. I find this rather hilarious now. I enjoyed planning my own wedding about as much as I enjoyed childbirth.

I spent three years meandering through marketing classes and struggling through statistics 101. I eventually married someone on a whim, mostly out of boredom, and dropped out of college. Through a circuitous route that involved divorce, moving in with my parents and the desperate need to move out, I came to work for a small weekly newspaper as a receptionist. One day the only reporter quit, and the newspaper owner knew cheap labor when he saw it and made me the new reporter.

I loved it. I went back to school and got a BA in journalism. Then I decided sticking to the facts wasn't for me, so I went to graduate school and got an expensive MA in writing. To help pay for all these pricey dreams I went to work for three crazy professors of education at Fordham University. Next thing I knew, I was teaching at an all boys high school in the Bronx. I loved that, too. I then taught at an exclusive girls school in Greenwich, CT. I didn't love that.

So after years of meandering, mothering and finally growing up a little bit, I have stopped dreaming and decided to just do it (Nike may be onto something). I have been pretty passive with my career path up to this point. I did some research over the last couple of months about freelancing, made a business plan and then got to work sending out my resume/clips. It feels like I have been holding my breath for the last two weeks as I embarked on my first truly intentional career path. I'm exhaling this week and taking it all in.

Now I want to hear YOUR stories. How did you end up doing what you are doing?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The difference a week can make

I think I might, maybe, actually be able to say I am sort of a freelance writer now. I have accepted one writing job and I am talking to two others. They are not in any way, shape or form glamorous writing jobs. They are mundane writing tasks that someone wants to pay me to do from my home (between filling sippy cups and cajoling someone to sit on the potty).

It feels a little bit like when I first got married and saying I was someone's wife seemed so strange. Being Mrs. Newlastname didn't seem very real, afterall the day before I was just regular me.

It looks like I won't have to resort to sending half my hard-earned substitute teaching paycheck to daycare yet. We'll see what this week brings!

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Recently a study by the University of Michigan revealed that the brain is not truly capable of performing many tasks at once. While it may seem like you can talk on your cell phone and drive at the same time, the authors of the study discovered the brain is actually switching from task to task. The brain puts one task down, so to speak, and takes a moment to pick up another one.

This job switching takes time. The study noted that the several tenths of a second it can take your brain to switch from one thing to another can add up to dangerous time. Take the aforementioned driving with the cell phone. During the time your brain is focused on the call, the car is still moving without it actually being under your control. That half second is enough time for an accident to occur. Scary thought, huh?

Any parent could have told them that multitasking is an illusion. While I may be simultaneously making dinner, unloading the dishwasher, helping with homework and thinking about the topic for my next blog post, I have a headache to prove that the synapses in my prefrontal cortex are sizzling under the demands. My life is lived in ten minute snippets of time. The path of unfinished tasks around my home tell the story of my fragmented life: a pile of half-folded laundry there; the computer opened to a half-written email here; the lonely grocery list sitting on the counter while I drive to the store.

The busy lives we weave together are not seamless. There are days the threads of our many tasks get tangled and snarled. But more often than not, we are putting down one and picking up the next thread with great skill. I have the deepest respect for the endless demands of all us multitasking parents. Just don't drive while talking on the cell phone!

Germans Don't Do Compliments

Did you ever see the Becks beer commercials featuring uncomfortable, emotionless Germans on dates or trying to perform Romeo and Juliet? The tag line was, "Germans don't do romance. Germans do beer."

That has been my life for the past 14 years with my husband of German descent. I've learned to see his affection and regard for me in other, less obvious ways. His getting the car detailed the morning we brought home our first daughter was his way of saying, "You are amazing and deserve the best." He figured out by daughter #2 that jewelry says it better.

You can imagine my complete, well, awe this morning when My German Husband gave me an outright compliment. Our daughters received their report cards yesterday and they were pretty darn great. Okay, they are only in kindergarten and second grade, but we are very proud of them just the same.

So, as I announced my first official paying freelance gig, my husband said, "You know, I've been thinking. The girls' reports cards were so great and that is all because of you, everything you do. Don't kill yourself with this substituting thing."

There were tears glistening in his eyes, no less. My mouth dropped right open. This is turning out to be quite a day!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Running into Her

She meant her words to be kind. As I stood there at age eleven in my baggy leotard in the empty dance studio, her words seem to reverberate off every mirrored wall."You have a great heart and a deep soul, my Bess," she said in her thick German accent. "But, a dancer you are not."

It was true that it took me longer to get the steps down than the other girls. "I need to practice harder?" My eyes searched her lovely, wrinkled face, trying to discern her words.

Miss Gray sat down gracefully on the piano bench and took my hands in hers, they were soft and covered with age spots. "Your mind understands the music, but your body does not follow."

I looked down at the worn wooden floor, the tears stinging my eyes as I finally understood what she was saying. All the practice in the world would not make me a better dancer. A world renowned ballerina had just told me so.

I walked home from the Fine Arts Center that day a changed child. It was not that I had great aspirations to dance--at the time I thought I wanted to be a lawyer someday. Yet, I had never had a door so firmly closed in my face or a mirror held up to starkly show my true abilities before.

That event skewed how I perceived myself for a long time. I was told that I wasn't good at ballet, but I'm afraid what I heard was that I wasn't good. My already fragile self esteem (whose isn't in sixth grade?) took a blow that day.

The years between the dejected ballerina and the woman I have become were ones spent searching for the strong, confident woman I wanted to be. I looked for her through an endless supply of beauty products from the grocery store or expensive department store cosmetic counters. I looked for glimmers of her in childhood pictures and stories of my younger antics.

My teenage years were difficult ones, though I would not contribute that solely to Miss Gray’s honesty. What she said was true and the blow she struck was made upon an ego already in jeopardy. It was perhaps a defining moment, but just one of many moments in a time full of a dizzying array of emotions.

My early twenties weren’t much better. I think I did a better job of seeming confident. The low self-esteem hovered just below the shiny veneer. I wore the mask of a flirtatious drinker, hiding my doubts in cute outfits. There were glimpses from time to time of the smart, considerate, caring person I hoped to be. But it’s funny how those lousy feelings eat away at all that is true and good in a person.

I never imagined that my first real look at the confident woman-in-waiting would be on the running trail. I started tentatively with mostly a need to dispel my nervous energy. I avoided the popular running trails, choosing instead the rag-tag streets around my apartment. Back then I was working full-time and putting myself through college. I lived in Austin, Tx, a veritable running mecca, and I thought everyone running around the crowded trails of Town Lake was training for a marathon. Then one day I just did it. I headed for one of the scenic trails and before I knew it I had covered four miles. My lungs wanted to explode and my legs were shaking, but I felt great. Better than great. Better than drunk.

It wasn’t about the distance; it was more the extraordinary thing that happened to me while I ran: I didn’t care what anyone else thought. Each step took me further from the self doubt, each run made me stronger. One day I just ran into her, the confident woman who was fast on her feet, dancing in her running shoes.