I do most of my writing while lying in my giant bed, propped up by several pillows and swimming in a sea of blankets. I write at night when I've guzzled Mountain Dew during the day and am consequently quite wired and unable to sleep. Or I write on Saturday and Sunday mornings, still lying in bed, eating cookies because I'm typically starving 5 minutes after I wake up. Or I write at Panera when I'm supposed to be grading but looking for ways to distract myself because I slightly abhor grading. Or I write because my blogging friend Kimberly asks her blogging buddies to write about different topics and I use it as an excuse to write about things that aren't quite as trivial as "movie-going rules." The latest I wrote for Kimberly was about a teacher who influenced me.
Lately I've been writing at night, after having read a chapter of Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It's a book about writing and every chapter inspires me to want to write more, to want to practice and get better. I lie in bed, lost under the covers, ready for sleep but wanting to read "just one more chapter." Then often times, like tonight, am compelled to grab my computer and get back under the covers and type. With sleep just moments away, instead, I choose to write because of Anne. She makes writing seem like such a glorious, difficult, and worthy process that after hearing from her, I am driven back to the keyboard, and forced to try to string together the words that are swimming around in my head.
In the introduction she describes herself in the following way: "I started writing when I was seven or eight. I was very shy and strange-looking, loved reading above everything else, weighed about forty pounds at the time, and was so tense that I walked around with my shoulders up to my ears, like Richard Nixon...I was very clearly the one who was going to grow up to be a serial killer, or keep dozens of and dozens of cats."
See why I like her so much? She is so real and honest and funny and so stinkin good at writing that I can't help but want to be like her. Something else she wrote in the introduction stuck with me: "One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around."
Indeed, I have found that keeping a blog does give me an excuse to do things and to pay closer attention to life as it passes. I experience awkward moments in a new way because I often think, "Oh this will be perfect for the blog" instead of, "Oh I wish I could bury my head in a hole right now." When talking about the oh-so-glorious process of being set up, I voiced my hesitations to my brilliant cousin who gave me some very wise counsel. My first hesitation was that this guy was too serious and not weird enough for me. She said, "Katie, he could be a closet-case of weird. You never know." I thought this was genius. I've fooled plenty of people into thinking I'm totally normal. Then she said, "And hey, you could meet and it could go TERRIBLY but then you could blog about it." So now I'm kind of hoping for REALLY bad dates to write about. Blog-worthy bad dates.
I especially love the line by Anne about life "lurching by and tramping around." Life definitely seems to be doing that lately. Because my life isn't that thrilling right now. I used to write this blog while I was living in Mozambique. Every day was a random adventure. Life wasn't "tramping around." It was boldly leaping and soaring and roaring around. There was no missing it. If I wasn't getting chased by three-legged dogs or wild elephants, I was running from potential muggers who were following me in sketchy areas of town. It was marvelous.
The only people who chase me now are my nephews. Last night they chased me around the house threatening to throw their dirty, pee-soaked diaper in my face. (Doesn't make for a great story but I did run just as quickly away from that wet diaper as I did from the rapid dog.) It took me awhile to start blogging again because I thought I didn't have any stories. Nothing to write about. Nothing bizarre or blog-worthy in the all-too-safe suburbs of southern California.
But I missed the process of writing, or rather, I missed being forced to observe. I found myself going through life and experiencing it but not really savoring it. Writing forces me to savor the flavors of life, even if they are nasty. Or rather, WHEN they are nasty because let's face it, there are some parts of life we all want to spit out. Writing forces me to stop and consider what I'm seeing or experiencing or learning and take note. And this process of "taking note" has enriched my life this year. Plus, I'm learning to search for adventure around corners, to find the bizarre in the seemingly banal, and to enjoy the mundane. I'm learning to love the ordinary. Or if not "love", at least find the humor in it.
A teacher friend was recently talking to me in the lounge about my blog. "You write about such ordinary things. You're stories aren't crazy but you make them seem crazy." On the one hand, I fear that I am glamorizing my life- making my days seem much more interesting than they actually are. But on the other hand, the hand this friend meant by her comment, I am finding joy and pleasure from the ordinary. I am observing the common, every-day experiences and finding that "common" isn't so bad- "common" can actually be amusing if you stop and appreciate it. "Common" ironically becomes "uncommon" when you hold that moment in your hand and inspect it.
On my Mozambique blog I'd often record the "highs" and "lows" of the week and there were some beautifully high highs and frightfully low lows. But the following list is neither. It's just me observing the trivial things in life that have brought me momentary pleasure or pain. It's me holding those moments, tasting them, smelling them, and then recording them so others can take note of the thousands of moments swirling around them and grab hold of a few and do the same. So, in the spirit of appreciating the common and taking note of those typical, ordinary moments which normally are ignored, here is my list of recent
Trivial Highs and Lows
* I made it through 2 consecutive yellow lights. It felt as if the universe was conspiring to help to get me home 1 minute faster. And it felt incredible.
* The car in front of me on the freeway mistakenly kept their hazards on. This bothered me more than it probably should have but I couldn't look away from those obnoxious flashing lights and the driver did not understand that the car behind him was repeatedly flashing her brights at him for a reason.
* The new shopping carts at Target are fabulous. They are large and sturdy and have a perfect place to put your feet to ride it like a scooter. There is a slight hill leading from the store to the parking lot and I make it a point to always ride the cart to my car. Bad mood or not, lots of people around or not, I force myself to ride. It always cheers me up.
* I started a fire in my car. Just a little one. But big enough to make me scream. No obscenities though. A Reeses foil wrapper had fallen into the cigarette lighter that I use to charge my GPS. I tried to get it out by poking it with a pen and suddenly there was a bright spark, a little shock and flames. It went out when I closed the lighter but smoked for a good while. Then I tried to retrieve the foil wrapper with a pencil. It caused another mini-fire. And another scream. I was already late and had no idea where to turn so I had solve this problem fast. So, going 80 miles per hour on the freeway, I fished out some tweezers from my purse (necessary for all stray eye brow emergencies) and with a steady hand, pretended I was playing the game Operation, and successfully removed the fire-starting foil. Moral of the story: don't leave your candy trash all over the car.
* I made a bet and won. I love being right. Possibly more than I love candy. When others disagree with me, I love to make bets for the sole purpose of reveling in my victory of being right. While in my car, a song came on the radio and one of my girls guessed that it was Lifehouse. I knew that it was not. So I bet her that she was wrong and set the terms: loser must bring the winner a cookie. We shook hands and googled the answer and the next day she delivered this to me:
How cute is her note? I really love being right. Especially when there are snickerdoodles involved.
* I was wrong. Okay, I've been wrong a couple times but this particular time was a low because I was so certain I was right and thus, looked like a buffoon when that I wasn't. My girls were doing their homework and one asked me a math question. I am terrible at math. Really terrible. There is no reason I should have spoken with such confidence. But she asked me what 2 divided by zero was and I thought for sure I knew the answer. I said that it was 2 because you divided it by nothing. My logic made perfect sense. But she didn't trust my math skills (go figure) and posed the question to the rest of the team. They said it was zero. I knew THAT couldn't be right so I loudly declaimed that they were all wrong and I was right. I believe I used the word "suckers" somewhere in there. But then some girl looked it up and found that actually, it is "undefined." I lowered my head in shame while they all laughed. Maybe that's why Proverbs talks about the importance of holding your tongue and not boasting.
* Vander was a walking cannon. Can't envision it? Well picture a stark naked 4 year old boy running out of his grandparents' room announcing, "Naked boy!" First, I made him stop and do a slow motion run while I sang the theme song from Chariots of Fire. Then, just when we thought we could laugh no harder at a naked kid, he bent over, stuck his rear high in the air and did a backwards bear crawl towards us. All the while he announced, "I'm a walking cannon! I'm a walking cannon!" When asked what he meant, he explained, "Guys, I'm a walking cannon and I'm shooting my toots at you." Sure enough, we smelled the after effects of this "walking cannon" as he got closer.
* A student wrote something inappropriate on my whiteboard. What's worse is the fact that I was completely oblivious because he had written it in Korean. The next day in first period, one of my Junior Korean students said, "Um, Miss Hardeman, you should probably erase that from the board." When I asked him what it said, he blushed. I shouldn't have pressed for details but now I was curious and needed to know if I should give a detention. He paused and whispered, "It says penis....but they spelled it wrong." It took every ounce of maturity not to laugh aloud. I thanked him and then talked to the guilty party later that day. I had set out two detentions and had these two freshman boys terrified. I told them I should call home to tell their parents what they had done.
And I should give them each a detention for such rude, disrespectful, inappropriate behavior.
But instead, consider this a warning and never do such a thing again.
They breathed a sigh of relief and thanked me.
It's moments like these where I love my job. Not because people write "penis" on the board in other languages. But because I have the opportunity to teach lessons about appropriate behavior and the chance to offer grace. And because it is never the same two days in a row. I was giggling inside the entire time I was talking to them about their inappropriate behavior and still don't know how I managed to keep such a straight face.
* My bunco group played in our pajamas. I may need to write an entire post about this group one day. An ex-member is presently in prison and another current member won the mega-lotto a few months ago. (167 million dollar check, if you were curious) We are an eclectic group. It is our fifth year and we've started having monthly "themes" and January was "pjs." I wear my pajamas in public probably more often than most, but having an excuse to do so was just plain fabulous. I was telling a teacher a story about the group and the boys' basketball coach overheard. He said, "Um Katie? You probably should never start a story with, 'at my bunco group.'" I'm certain he's just jealous.
* I missed a large clump of hair while shaving. And I missed the same area about 3 times so when I finally discovered it, I had a field of curling ankle hair. I was so disgusted that I busted out the emergency tweezers and started plucking. And plucking hairs from your ankle is surprisingly painful.
* I saw this sign while in a hole-in-the-wall burrito joint. I waited until they turned their backs to take the picture in case I be classified as "obnoxious."
I love their specificity.
The clasp on my pearl necklace broke. This might not seem like a big deal but I love these pearls. I bought them in the Philippines and they always remind me of my family still living there. Here was the real reason I was upset though: the clasp broke while I was wearing the necklace and so the necklace was stuck around my neck. I wore fancy pearls in the shower and to bed until finally, two days later, I fixed the clasp.
* I scared the neighbor's cat. This black and white pest has been frequenting the balcony to use Dotty's litter box. Dotty has a certain meow which communicates, "I'm looking at a cat and I don't like it," so I rushed out onto the balcony to scare it away. But then it just went on the neighbor's roof and stared at me. Mocking me. Something had to be done. So I pretended to go back inside but I crouched down low and hid behind the wall on the balcony. Dotty and I worked as a team and when she did her crazy meow, I knew it was game time. I jumped from behind the wall and made that uninvited critter jump 3 feet in the air. It was awesome. I yelled, "High five, Dotty!" and then realized I was trying to high five my cat.
* The song, "I'm a barbie girl" got stuck in my head for an entire day. It was not a pleasant day. Oh dear. It's back.
* I tried a new flavor at Baskin Robbins and it was fantastic. The server sold me on it because I didn't even know what "ganache cake" was. But they were out of Daiquiri Ice and I love using those tiny, pink sample spoons so I got a sample and was pleasantly surprised.
* The toilet seat in our house is freezing. I realize that some of you live in cold places and will have no sympathy for me here but I'm saying it anyways. Yes, it is 71 degrees today but early in the morning, that seat feels like it's below zero. I may need to invest in the "Toastie Tush" product I just found on Amazon. I'm serious.
* My classroom smells incredible. I brought in my candle from Anthropology because I never remember to light it at home. I know- this might not be the brightest idea considering my recent history with fires and the amount of loose papers I have flying around on my cluttered desk. But my class was smelling like cleaning supplies and now it smells like heaven. At least, I hope heaven smells like this.
Despite how it may seem, my life hasn't been terribly boring recently. There have been some more typical "blog-worthy" moments but this was me trying to savor life- trying to notice the trivial moments that stack on top of on another to create my ordinary days, and thus make up small pieces of my not-so-ordinary life.