F. Scott Fitzgerald said,

"There are no second acts in American lives."

Most people think he was crazy.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Doing the Best We Can

The National Board of Professional Teaching Standards' website has had difficulty posting this years' winners--and I'm not upset.
Last year I attempted to become nationally board certified, which is something many teachers here in North Carolina do. It required a lot of detailed documentation, evidence, and reflection. It also requires an on-line test of content-specific knowledge (in my case, English) and case-study reflection and recommendations.
In short, it's a butt-load of work.

I was happy to do it, because I think I'm a pretty good teacher. I have always claimed to do the best I can with what I have--in terms of supplies, equipment, and kids. I think I bring something to the table that other teachers may not--enough knowledge to integrate information from other content areas--art, history, psychology, business...even science--to make kids understand that everything relates in one way or another and that learning and understanding should never occur in isolation.

But those details--page numbering, word and time limitations, video quality? Those things kicked my ass. And I didn't pass. The things I did well, I did very, very well. But the things I failed, I failed miserably.

So I decided (to the tune of a month's mortgage payment) to re-try. And as I put the last piece of evidence in the envelope to send away to be judged, I realized that it just didn't matter.

On my first attempt last year, I was assigned a mentor, a teacher who was already board-certified, to help me wade through the myriad crap and read my entries. After I had the first entry done, I contacted my point person to see if she would read it and make suggestions. I e-mailed her through our school contact list (she was at another school in my district) and didn't hear from her for nearly three weeks. At that point she apologized, said she'd been out for two weeks, and was just checking e-mail when she saw mine. She explained that she was going to be out again, but that I could send it to her at home and she would read it there and make notes.
I learned in subsequent e-mails that she was fighting breast cancer--in her thirties--with two preschool-aged children and a husband who was as in need of attention as she was, thinking he was going to lose her. She couldn't work, and didn't have the energy to both care for two active children and fight the disease and I wasn't going to add one more thing to her plate. So I told her not to worry about my national boards, and asked if I could do anything for her. She politely declined, said her mom was staying with them, and that was the end of our connection.

I plowed through the plethora of instructions, scheduling and minutia, determined to get the stuff done and in on time, worried less about the quality and more about the rules and put the other teacher's troubles out of my mind. I knew I would have the opportunity to re-do anything that was sub-par and sent it off. I took the computer test, realizing part-way through that I had bungled the first half by not doing the second page of some of the selections and running out of time on other parts and knew that I could take it over if necessary.

But when I saw a familiar name in the obituaries, I knew that the teacher who was to be my mentor was not getting any more do-overs. That her time had been cut short NOT by a computer test, but by a disease that had left two small children without a mother, a scared young man without a wife, and grieving parents without a child.

I am not a great teacher. I hope I am a good one. But if I don't get a passing score, I really won't care. Because now I am less about doing the best I can with what I have and more about doing the most I can with the time I've got.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ignorance is, well....something.

I was chatting with a friend, talking about the latino kids in my classroom. I mentioned how difficult it must be for them to transition between Spanish and English and why vocabulary is keeping them from reaching their full potential. I enjoy having them help me with my Spanish and they have taught me the simple phrases that I can use to give instructions. (I've mastered "sit down," but I'm still working on "get your journals.")

My friend mentioned that she would love to learn Spanish, but she'd rather learn Vietnamese, because then she could listen to the conversations of the technicians in her nail salon. Another friend, overhearing the conversation, said "Your nail ladies are Vietnamese? Mine are asian."

How does one respond to that statement?

I know that geography has taken a back seat to "tested" subjects--reading and math--but if we want to keep up with the rest of the globe, we can't ignore geography, science and history. Because we don't want folks to think we are idiots.

My husband has a story about a VP in his office, talking business with a gentleman from Austria. Apparently, after a drink or two, the gentleman suggested the VP take his wife to Vienna for a romantic vacation. The VP replied that he'd love to go to Vienna, as he always wanted to visit Scandanavia.

WTF? Would you want to do business with a group who doesn't even know where your country is? (To add insult to injury, the VP continued to argue, then offered to beat the Austrian up if he didn't admit that Vienna was in a northern European country. That's what REALLY makes this country great, folks!)

Moving to the common core standards (more about this later) is supposed to take care of the heavy emphasis on the multiple-choice reading and math tests, but what it cannot do is teach kids that there are things you just need to know--like knowing where the people with whom you do business are from--simply to keep from looking like an idiot.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What am I doing now??

It's been a few months since I posted at this site--mainly because I have completely changed my focus. I originally thought I was going to segue from being in the classroom to doing educational and corporate training consultation, but when states had no more money to spend on education and corporations were struggling to keep their doors open, that idea kind of $hit the bed.

Then, I thought I'd go back to my first love: making stuff. Like Martha Stewart, but not as old and huffy. But I need a regular income, and the pay for being a "Lifestyle Guru" is sporadic at best.

Next, I thought "to heck with it all...I'll find something FUN to do for a living!" But all fun has apparently been cancelled.

So I went back to work this fall, my tail between my legs. Meanwhile, opportunities to become that "Lifestyle Guru" have begun to appear.
Mysterious ways, my peeps....mysterious ways.

I have begun a new blog on a new site which provides me with the opportunity to grow as (I hope) my business will. I am continuing to work for my regular income, and this blog, Fifty, will be about education. It will be a compilation of information, ideas, and what is going on in education today: the good, the bad, and the ugly. It will provide insight from the folks on the front lines...the teachers who are trying to do what's best for kids and learning. If you're interested in education, this may be a good blog to check up on now and then!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

An open letter to all the folks who won't interview me...

Dear Sillyheads,
I have been led to believe that one of the reasons you will not honor me with an interview is because I am over fifty. Not much over fifty, but still over fifty. As if the fifty is a line you refuse to cross.

Oh, I know it's ILLEGAL to discriminate on the basis of age, but I'm no dummy. You use terms like "up-to-date-technology" and "energized workforce" but I know EXACTLY what you mean. You mean you think I'm too old to work for you.

Let me tell you something, Bukkoes--I have a hell of a lot more to offer you than someone in her twenties, thirties and forties. Not that you're going to let me prove it or anything, but here's the lowdown:

1. I have more energy to dedicate to my work than someone younger. I know! Hard to believe, isn't it? The old broad can focus more energy on work! Why? Because she isn't focusing her energy on her kids! My kids are grown! They don't need me to read to them, or help them with homework, or chauffer them to the myriad activities. I'm not staying up at night, waiting for them to come home from whatever-the-hell teenagers come home from. Nope! I can put that "kid energy" into my job.

2. I will be honest when I need to be, but will be gentle in that delivery. I won't ignore or gloss over a problem (unlike the terminally vapid Katie Holmes on the finale of "So You Think You Can Dance), but I'm not gonna verbally kick you in the balls, either. If there's a problem, I'll let you know. And I'll also offer ways to fix it. Because that's what mature women do--it's in our nature to help fix problems.

3. I will not have to take maternity leave.

4. Or move to be with a man.

5. If it's EXPERIENCE you want, then who better than a fifty-year-old woman? We have experience. A whole lot of it. I've driven home just in front of a tornado and not pi$$ed my pants, so you know I can handle an irate co-worker. I've spent the holidays on a broken foot with two kids under 12, so you know I can work through minor inconveniences. I got my Masters degree while working full time, raising those same two kids under the age of 12 AND taking care of a household with little help from my spouse so you know I can organize. Throw it at me. I'll handle it.

In reality, I think you are chicken$hit. I think if all women over the age of fifty got together, we could take over this entire country. And we would not play your silly games. You would have no other choice than to straighten up and fly right.

The fact that you are afraid lets me know that I am right.
Your loss.
I'll take my wonderful self elsewhere.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Who Put the Poopyheads in Charge?

One of the things I've noticed lately is that there are a whole lot of folks who have their own agendas. (Kind of like our representation in Washington.) While I am a big proponent of goal-setting, I feel as though one's right to extend one's arm stops where that arm would interfere with another's body. Unless, of course, that arm was invited.

There has been a lot of discussion about the economy as of late. We could be moving into a double-dip recession, and times are difficult for a lot of people. And while I'm not suggesting we should all become Communists, I do think that the people who have agendas need to stop, take a breath, and think about how their personal desires might impact other folks.

I hate to admit it, but people my age tend to be a tad soulless when it comes to...well, just about anything. I'm not talking about individuals, but of the collective. "Stuff-worth" has replaced self-worth, and we love our stuff. McMansions, expensive automobiles, Coach handbags, and gourmet meals...we have replaced what should be intrinsic in nature with extrinsic trappings. I'm not saying that we should all live in cold water flats, but we have our priorities skewed.

According to the AFL/CIO (okay--I'm going to get a lot of flak here for using their data, but please hear me out), average total compensation for a CEO in a Standard & Poors top 500 company is over ELEVEN MILLION DOLLARS. That's for ONE YEAR, people! Even if the AFL/CIO has inflated the amount to double the 'real' amount, it's still over $5.5M for a year's employment.

Think about it.

I know that CEOs work hard. Some of them are very well-educated. Some of them give up a 'normal' life in order to get to the top of their respective fields. But many of them are irresponsible, buttholey folks who will think only of themselves and not of the people whose daily lives are impacted by the decisions they make.

Oracle Packaging is one of those companies. The CEO of this small, privately held company has basically used the company as his own personal bank account, taking all profits for himself and not reinvesting or saving it as working capital. Multi-million dollar mansions? Check. Expensive gifts for various cronies? Check. First-class travel? Check. 350 employees who will be out of work when the creditors come knocking? Check.

Where do we find leadership with common sense for the common good? Certainly not in business. Not in Washington, either. And for a lot of us, it's not in our social circles. But we have the power to turn this tide, if we so choose. For some of us, it's time to quit looking outside for our self-esteem, and start looking inside. I think we can do it if we all work together.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Life is Hard, Then You Die.

...that's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

Okay...not really. Actually, I have been incredibly fortunate. My parents were awesome, my hometown idyllic, I have life-long friends (truly--from shortly after birth, right Hoop?) and everything was relatively easy. I did what I was supposed to do...graduated from college, found a great guy with a bright future, had the good fortune to be able to to stay home with my two awesome kids, and went back to work at a job that (up until recently) I love.

But life doesn't always go according to plans. Sometimes, $hit happens and you have to steer onto a different course. My peeps in Wayne County would call these "character building opportunities."
I call it "maybe losing my house."

But I also look at it as an opportunity. It's a timely topic: professionals who are without their incredible salaries and who are cast afloat--without the "Greed is Good" lifeboat they had assigned themselves to.
Oh, yes...I see so much potential.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

When Do I Get My Turn?

There are people out there who assured me that my fifties would be easier than my forties. Like an idiot, I believed them.

Other people seemed to believe that in this decade of life, I would be able to do those things that I really WANTED to do...not just the things I had to.

Things I want to do, but can cross off my list 'cause it'll never happen:
*be a movie star
*marry a prince
*grow three more inches
*make a zillion dollars
*live in a big city
*be one of the 'cool' people.

Any advice from the youngsters?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What's Next?

These are the things I am currently "playing with":

Buying an antique/consignment business
Leaving the teaching profession
Focusing on updating Brandywine

Here's the reality:

No regular income
No health insurance

It would be predictable that I would quit my job and get into an accident where I am badly injured and horribly disfigured and they would have to pull the plug because I'd have no insurance.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Scopin' Things Out (Some People Might Call It Stalking, but Whatever.)

When I go for my legendary (or at least they will be, soon) walks through the neighborhood, I like to keep tabs on stuff. I walk a different way every day, on a five day rotation, just in case something exciting happens. And I make sure that at least once a week, I check out the Rapunzel House.

The Rapunzel House has been an ongoing concern since 1984. It is STILL unoccupied and uncared-for, and I am starting to get nervous. Someone is going to buy the Rapunzel House...and tear it down.

If you are a peep of mine, you know that my husband and I are like OSI's Oscar Goldman. We take outdated, run-down properties and fix them.
"Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better...stronger...faster."

(Okay, maybe not faster. And obviously, a house ISN'T Lee Majors. But you get the picture.)

And I am afraid that once Rapunzel's out-of-state owner decides to sell (oh, yes...I have done my research. I know who she is. I know where she is. And I imagine that she is hanging on to this house because she grew up there), it will be too late. The house will be in such a state of disrepair that there will be no saving it.

Do yourself a favor, Chickie. Sell the house. To me.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Because You're Mine, I Walk the Line. (Not Really. Because I'm Chunky, I Walk the 'Hood.)

Last year, I wrote about BV Bootcamp and the rules for walking. And now I'm walking and not just observing the rules (sort of), but getting to see my neighborhood when the sun comes up. And it's really interesting.

First of all, there is the little old guy I like to call "White Baseball Cap." He runs every morning about 9 am. His little legs look like they would snap in a strong wind, but he always waves as he jogs against the traffic. I wave back, from the safety of the sidewalk, as I don't trust cars to avoid my big-butted self.

Then, there are the "Little Mamas." They always walk in pairs and threes, pushing big honking strollers with one or two children strapped in. They chat and laugh loudly, sometimes as if they are forcing themselves.

The group I love is the "Seventies Shorts." The group varies in size--sometimes as few as three, sometimes as many as five, who jog before they go to work. They are young women in their 30s, and they wear those little jogging shorts from back in the day when I was young and fearless, sort of.

"Blonde Audrey" is always interesting. She's very young and very thin, blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail. Her skin-tight clothes are head-to-toe black and she wears oversized black sunglasses. I'm of the belief she is trying to channel Audrey Hepburn.

But the best of all are the two old(er) ladies with the Westie. I like them because they are always smiling and never fail to say hello. They seem to be grounded in reality: they wear comfortable clothes and have not attempted to turn back time by coloring their hair.

And I wonder what those people think of me? I know what the "Little Mamas" think-- they tend to look at me as if I am the friendly neighborhood child molester. I want to tell them that once upon a time I had little children I pushed in a stroller, even though it was through a different neighborhood, and that just because they're privileged doesn't mean they're perfect. But they're young--what do they know? The "Seventies Shorts" probably think I need to join them and lose a few. "Blonde Audrey" doesn't strike me as the type that thinks at all.

But the gray-haired ladies? They probably think I'm a pleasant person.
And some days, I am.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Eat Me!

So, I have learned one thing....that white food taunts me.

It sits there in the kitchen, calling me...softly at first, and then louder. "Kirby,,,I'm here....you know you love me.....you know you want me....puh-leeze....I'm here...."

And white food is tricky. Potatoes, in particular. Potatoes want you to THINK they're vegetables, but they're really WHITE! And totally off-limits.
(I tried to think of them fried, and therefore more of a yellowy-tan. But Doc Adam, whom I will discuss at a later date, says that it doesn't count--potatoes are still white on the inside.)

White food? Is the Debbil.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Kicking My Own A$$, Part I

I will admit it. I am a food racist.

I love white food.

Bread, pasta, biscuits, cake...all receive a big "Hell Yeah!" from me.

And, as most of you know, it was a long,cold winter and, being unable to grow a fur coat, I have put on another layer of a different sort.

Ten years ago, I could lose fifteen pounds in a couple of months. All I had to do was eat a little less and exercise a little more. But that doesn't work any more. Now I need to try something drastic. My "Kirb Appeal" this summer will be NewThirteen, trying to weigh what I did at 13. (This is a HUGE joke, peeps. At thirteen I weighed 101. Like the song. Now? I would need to remove all my insides PLUS a leg in order to weigh 101. Which I believe would be drastic.) And lest you think I want to LOOK thirteen again? Let me correct you. That would involve braces, headgear, and perhaps the ugliest wire-framed glasses on the planet. Nope--I'll settle for losing 15 pounds and looking 50 instead of 51.

I have done lots of research these first two weeks of summer, and I will be blogging about some of the things I've learned about dieting. (By 'learned' I mean read with a healthy dose of skepticism.) For now the easiest, albiet the most painful, choice is to give up a lot of my white food.

Alas, little Biscuitville, I hardly knew ye.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Love/Hate Relationship with Menopause.

Why I love menopause:
1. I can use it as an excuse. As in "Hey, I'm sorry I'm late, but I was driving along and all of a sudden I had this terrible hotflash and I had to pull over into the nearest Cook Out and get a peach cobbler shake.
2. I can use it to scare people (particularly those of the male persuasion). As in "Do you REALLY want to mess with a menopausal woman? Go ahead. Go there."

Why I hate menopause:
I look every day of fifty-one.

Why this is a problem:
I was still getting carded into my late thirties. I am not joking. And it wasn't just a clerk or two being nice, either. It was "I'm sorry, ma'am. I need to card everyone who looks like they might be under thirty."

So my challenge to myself this summer is to get my cuteness mojo back. Kinda like Valerie Bertinelli, only blonder.

Because I want to stop looking like this Kirby:

And start looking like this Kirby:

Friday, June 24, 2011

I Win!

I don't know who started it...I have a notion it was my mother...but there's been a lot of discussion regarding "who gets what" after her death. It almost makes sense, now that she's in her late seventies, with multiple health concerns, but this talk began when she was, oh, I don't know....fifty.

(Younger than I am now. And to my kids--if you're reading this? You get NOTHING! I'm taking it all with me. j/k.)

There has been some discussion among my siblings. The protracted discussion (by protracted I mean twenty-year long) has been regarding a certain corner cupboard, which my sister and I both covet. Why? Who the heck knows--it's not an antique, nor is it particularly beautiful, but the scale is perfect and the style beautiful in its simplicity. The inside is wide board tongue-in-groove, painted sage green, and the rest is dark-stained knotty pine. And frankly? I love me some knotty pine.

This corner cupboard was the one piece (besides the bed and sofa) that my mother insisted had to come with her to the old lady apartment. I think she has been putting off making the inevitable: to whom should this corner cupboard be bequeathed?

Recently, the winner of this nice (but not old or particularly valuable) corner cupboard is *Tah-dah* me! And yes, it would look great in my living room. But you know what? In the past twenty years, there have been a lot of changes. And for my brother, sister and me, it's not really all that important who gets the corner cupboard. It's that we can all pitch in together--first during my dad's loss and the subsequent sale of my mom's house, then moving her to an apartment, and now through her health issues. We can sit down together and talk and laugh and there isn't any underlying animosity. (Of course, I am speaking for everyone because I am the big sister. I guess I could be wrong, and they both hate my guts and I just don't know it.) But in so many families, where there is so much bitterness, I figure that corner cupboard or not, I still won.

No, Kiki, do not get your hopes up. The corner cupboard is still coming home with me. ;)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Look into the crystal ball

Spending this week (please bring drugs and/or liquor) with my mother has been like getting a glimpse of the future.

And the future isn't pretty, peeps.

It's not just that your body begins to betray you and you are not young and cute and energetic anymore, as if that's not bad enough.

It's that you become an OLD PERSON.

It was funny...when I told people I was coming back here to care for my mom for a week, they invariably asked her age. And then it was, "Well, that's not old."

I am here to tell you...seventy-seven is old. Your body breaks down, your memory has glitches, and you develop old person habits like accumulating tons of junk "just in case" and that unmistakable "old person smell."

Yesterday, I mentioned that getting old was not for the faint-of-heart. But neither is staring at the person you will most likely become.

I will begin stockpiling liquor as soon as I get home.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Between a Rock and...well...

Todaay, I did something I've done before. And it doesn't get any easier.

I left my mom in the hospital.

Just for the night--she had a procedure today that involved some girl parts. Like she said, it's not as if she's going to use them any more.

And I'll pick her up tomorrow and she'll come home, where I'm supposed to force her to walk around some.

But I could tell that she was scared, and I didn't want to leave.

Taking care of elderly parents wasn't something I ever thought about, when I was in my 20s and 30s--maybe was because I was too busy taking care of my little kids.

But it's something I need to think about now.
Sometimes getting old stinks.

Monday, June 6, 2011

This is interesting...

This is an interesting article from Newsweek. Apparently, I'm not the only one thinking Fifty is the New Thirteen. Okay, so Newsweek says Sixty is the new Eighteen, but still....

Hey, Newsweek...I thought of it first!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I Want to Be in Their Club!

Well, it finally happened.
Two of my favorite authors got together and interviewed each other. It was all I could do to keep from yelling "I WANT TO BE IN YOUR CLUB!"
And I am in a writing club. (I am not in any other clubs. Clubs don't want me. I was briefly in a sorority in college, and one time somebody mentioned I might want to join a book club, but they did not offer theirs. I am in Bunco, which is kind of like a club, but it's mostly for drinking, and that I can do alone.) The writing club let me in because they had to. I paid the money, and now they send me e-mails. I get together twice a month with folks who critique my work, but most of them are either (a) memoirists, or (b) traditional fiction folks, and I am YA.

(YA, for the uninitiated, stands for "Young Adult." It comes in many forms--supernatural, James Bond-y, chick lit for teens, or angst-ridden prose. I don't write any of those. I write weird stuff about kids who are a little different.)

YA doesn't have a club here.
YA has a very cool club somewhere else, too inconvenient for me to join. Like Pheonix, where Stephanie Meyer lives, or Northern New York (Laurie Halse Anderson), or Vermont (Karen Hesse), or 'islands up and down the east coast' (Judy Blume). Hell to the yes (!) for Judy Blume! Islands up and down the east coast?? How much money did a book about a girl who wants her period MAKE you, Judy Blume?? I can write a book about a period--I had thirty-nine years of those mothereffers!

So, because I can't join a YA club (is it because I'm too snarky?), I'd like to join the "funny girls who drink too many Flirtinis and do a little facebooking under the influence" club.

Do they have one of those??

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Let's torture our old people!

In the past four months, I have filled out over a dozen job applications and sent out several dozen resumes. I have not received one. single. response.

I know times are tight. I know we're in a recession. And I know that there are thousands of middle-aged folks out of work. Middle-aged middle management has taken a swift knee to the b@lls, and there's no real chance for those folks to recover. After all, we can only absorb a certain number of pompous a$$es.

But please hear me out.

*we won't get pregnant and be out for ten weeks' maternity (or paternity, for that matter) leave.
*we are pretty boring. You don't have to worry about us coming in all hungover, unless you expect us to work Saturday morning. Even then, it's unlikely.
*we are pretty responsible. There's not much chance that we'll do anything stupid; we need the job.
*we won't be wearing inappropriate clothing. Mainly because that kind of stuff no longer fits.

So, if you need to hire someone...you may want to look into hiring someone older. We don't have the sense of entitlement that younger folks do.
We know better.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Okay....apparently I am no longer an asset, but a liability.

I have never been one to believe I was anything other than average. (My parents made sure of that!) But there's one thing I always knew, whether anyone wanted me to know or not--I could write.
In kindergarten, Helen Countryman told me I was a good writer. (She might have meant my printing, but who knows? Let's pretend she believed I was Pulitzer-caliber.) In fourth grade, Mrs. Russell told me I was a good writer. This was after I'd written a story based on a magazine photo. Mine was about a birthday party. In high school, Norma Gunkler encouraged my writing, and Betty Coman (despite the fact that she initially believed I was an idiot) finally came around and admitted I was the best writer in my class. (Sorry, Stuart.) Years later, she said she was sorry for both giving me a lousy grade the first semester of my Junior year with her, making me forever ineligible for National Honor Society, and for not giving me the English prize at graduation. I figure she paid for those grievous errors by having to drag around an oxygen tank like a dachschund with no legs, but I digress.

(Those of you who know me can skip the next part, because you've heard it all.)
So when I turned forty-nine, I decided I was done caring what other people thought...I would do and say exactly as I pleased and blame it on old age. So I "cut off my hair and grew a pair." And ignoring everyone who ever said I would never write...I wrote. First I wrote "Kirb Appeal"--both the videos and the blog--and I now have 41 subscribers--six of whom read regularly! Now, it's "New Thirteen" which is basically my journey through (old) age. Then, I joined a writers group, and I learned something about myself: compared to other folks? My writing is GOOD. (Don't believe me? Take a look at the serial romance the group is writing. Some of it is--well--pitiful.) Then, I went to programs that were led by writers and asked questions. Do you know what I heard?
That I am too old.
Too old to write.
Too old to have anyone interested in publishing anything I have to say.
Publishers are looking for hot young women who can write, not old farts who can write. They want either Sex in the City or Mommy Bloggers. Better yet...Sex WITH a Mommy Blogger.
Believe me, back in the day when I was a mommy, I would have been a Mommy Blogger. But there wasn't any such thing back then, and so I wasn't.

So I am planning something new: Post-Mommy Blogging. For Moms who used to be mommys but are now way cooler. Won't you join me?
You don't have to have sex in the city or anywhere else. Old age has it's privileges.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

One More Rant Before I Go...

When, as a society, we talk about education reform, I want to laugh.
Because we really don't need education reform...
We need education revolution.

I have been digesting "Waiting For Superman" for months. If you haven't seen this documentary, you should. If you are a teacher, it will leave you feeling frustrated and guilty. If you are a parent, you will leave feeling angry. If you are a citizen of the United States, I hope you will leave feeling like you want to do something. (Of course, if you are a lawyer, you will leave wanting to sue people and make a ton of money, but that's another story for another day. Kind of an "I hate lawyers except for my sister and Perry Mason and Matlock" story.)

We've tried all kinds of things to 'fix' education: Public Law 94-142, which guarantees a public education for all students in the least restrictive environment...tracking students according to ability... standardization of curriculum...incorporating technology..."new" math...
and none of them have worked.

All that we've managed to do is point fingers at the most convenient scapegoat, and currently the scapegoats are teachers.
Another teacher once wrote that there is no other profession where you fail EVERY SINGLE DAY, and yet you keep going back to fail again the next day. And maybe once every month or two, you see a glimmer of success. THAT'S what keeps you going. Not the money (ha!), not the respect (double-ha!), not those awesome health benefits (that actually are pretty good, if you are single...but forget insuring your family, because you could be in the red after all those kids you decided to have are added to your plan).
And you know what? I agree. I see lousy teachers all the time. I see adults in schools who SHOULD NOT BE THERE because they really don't care whether the kids fail or not. I see folks who look at a day of failure as just one more day, instead of as a challenge. I see teachers who EXPECT kids to fail, so they naturally do. They don't believe they can do any better.
But let's not point our fingers only at teachers. We're not the only ones to blame. Some parents have given their kids the idea that we are the enemy, because they want to be their kids' friends. Some administrators don't want to take a stand because they're afraid of litigation. Some kids are just being kids--because there are kids who will always be rebellious, and will be buttheads just because it's who they think they need to be at that given moment.

We've instituted programs in education reform in order to solve 'problems'--many of them specific problems which affect a very small number of students, some of them larger, nationwide pushes to address issues that affect all kids. Studies are done in order to (a) figure out what should be done next, and (b) keep people who have their PhDs in education employed. These new programs might work for awhile, but then it's onto the next boat that comes along.**
Here's my complaint: these programs cost money.
Here's my other complaint: when the current multi-million dollar program no longer works, you throw it out and spend a few million more on a new one.

I believe we throw them ALL out. All of them. And we all work together--teachers, parents, administrators, kids...maybe a token PhD and one governmental official (but he/she is a non-voting participant)..to decide on a comprehensive program to help all kids in the public schools. With all the money we're not spending on bull$hit programs, we can mount the revolution.

Who's bringing the pitchforks and torches? Please sign up on the sheet that's going around.

**Career Start, ALCs, Writer's Workshop, Balanced Literacy, Instant Recess, Problem-Based Learning....

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Welcome to New Thirteen!

For my birthday, I decided to resurrect myself. Not in any religious way, because I am pretty much a dyed-in-the-wool Heathen, but in a metaphorical sense.

Those of you who have read my blogs in the past, know that the last two years have been an internal struggle--my kids have left home for real, finding their own lives in which my role is peripheral. So now that I'm not a mom anymore--what am I? And then it dawned on me...I am who I was before I was a mom, just older. (And more wrinkly, and heavier, and more tired, but pretty much the same INSIDE.)

In discussing this with friends (both real and imaginary) as well as complete strangers, I found that there are an awful lot of women out there who feel the same way. We love our children and (for some) grandchildren, but we are also jazzed about not having complete responsibility for anyone else's lives...just our own. And while we can't get back the twenty-plus years we've spent putting other people first, we can move forward putting ourselves at the forefront. We can choose how we spend our time, and most of us want to spend it doing things that make us happy.

These observations led to the birth of "NewThirteen." What is it? Right now it's a domain name attached to a website that's not only incomplete, but a total mystery. I'm glad that my $50 investment comes with the toll-free number of a guy who will, in the special language of computer geeks, tell me how the heck to set the thing up. After that, NewThirteen will be a website dedicated to all things fun for women of a certain age. It will be a clearinghouse of information about cool things to do, see and join...without having to worry about being judged. Eventually, there will probably be advertising, and I hope that someday there will be guest blogs. And if this website helps just one woman (or man, for that matter....this is not a "no boys allowed" club) decide that who she was is really still who she is, then that's a good thing.

So, for all you women who don't want to go gentle into any dang good night...welcome to New Thirteen!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Here's an interesting premise...


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sometimes the "Old Thirteen" Comes Back to Bite You in the A$$.

I think that if you have been a follower of "Kirb Appeal" (my other blog and video series) for awhile, you probably have a pretty good idea of what I'm like. (And, if not...why not? I'm FABULOUS!) And I probably come across as being smart and funny and confident. And most of the time, I am.

But every once in awhile someone says something that socks you in the gut and all the self-doubt and bad feelings are there again, just like they were in eighth grade.
The other day I was reading a blog that a younger, hipper woman writes (of which I am insanely jealous, mainly because there were no blogs when I was younger and hipper--oh, who am I fooling? I was never hip.) and of course it resonated, because we annoying girls are always annoying, irregardless of how old we are. And we tend to become solitary over time, because no one wants to hang around with the annoying girl.

Annoying girls keep their fingers crossed, hoping that ONE DAY someone will want to date them and marry them and maybe, if they're lucky, the boy will have a sister and she will feel compelled to be a friend to annoying girl, just because her brother will beat her up if she isn't.

I never had any trouble dating, mainly because guys don't find me annoying. Apparently there are different standards, like as long as a girl has two X chromosomes, she's datable. And I thought, as I grew older, I would make some friends. REAL friends, like the kind who will visit you in the hospital if you're dying. But that hasn't happened yet, and now I know why.

Yesterday, sitting at a restaurant having martinis with colleagues, I was told that I would never be invited to a girls' weekend at the beach because I am annoying. The term that was used was "high maintenance," but the translation was "annoying." And that I would never be included.

In a flash, as if by magic, I was fourteen years old again, targeted by "mean girls." And not one of the women at that table went to bat for me.

I have moved on from being annoying girl to annoying woman. Maybe I need to reconsider the title of my other blog.
Maybe I'm not so appealing after all.

Monday, March 14, 2011

DOB: unknown

Received the fifth "Thanks but no thanks...not even interested in interviewing you" e-mail.
Contrary to popular belief, I'm rather amusing in person. I'm smart and funny and I'm not afraid of a little hard work. I don't expect to get paid the big bucks...I'll even do a "trial run" for free--let me give you a week of my time. You won't be disappointed.
But no.

Honestly, I think folks are put off by my age.
What else can it be? I have an undergraduate degree in English/Communications and a graduate degree in Education. I am a fantastic reader, a good writer and can communicate clearly and effectively.

I can get thirteen- and fourteen-year-old BOYS to dance a production number from "A Chorus Line."

I am magical.

But I can't even get an interview.

I'm thinking of leaving my year of my graduation from Westminster off of my resume to see if it makes a difference. I know that ageism is illegal, but I believe it exists. (Just like prostitution, but I AM too old to go that route!)

Meanwhile, if you hear of any jobs that call for someone who can read and write and think and motivate and work a little magic now and then, please let me know!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Poem for 8th Grade

You Have My Books

And I want to yell
"Give them back!"
(Because over the last
ten years
I have lost
Roughly five hundred
And I used to send notes home
Saying "Please
Return the book or
Pay for it"
But it didn't work.
Even when I tried to
Collect the money,
It was turned in to the
Main office
And I never saw a
Dime, so
What was the point?)
I'd like to think that
If you knew
I paid for those books
Out of my
Own pocket,
You'd return them.
And then I think,
Maybe you really
Love that book!
You simply
Must have a copy of
Your own!

But I know in reality
The book is
Under your bed, along with a
Hundred thousand
Dust bunnies.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Education Revenge..er...Reform.

Hi, Friendly Taxpayers!
I know you're pi$$ed at me. And you have every right to be. Honestly, of all the people in the world of whom you can be jealous...I should definitely be at the top of your list. Because I'm FABULOUS! And I have an AWESOME WARDROBE! But best of all, I'm a STATE EMPLOYEE!
I have it made. Because we all know that state employees are paid for doing nothing, basically. And that great pension and all those honking benefits! Jeeze! I'm even jealous of myself!

But I have a challenge for you, you pitiful folks in the private sector: Be me for a day. This should be fairly easy, as we all know that I just work part-time. Heck, 7:00-2:15 is a walk in the park! Piece o' cake! Don't forget, though, that you need to get to school about 6:40 or you'll get caught in all the traffic because parents don't want their kids taking the bus. Plus, it'll give you a few minutes to gather your stuff for your lessons for the day. You have three separate lessons to teach--one for Academically Gifted English/Language Arts, one for regular ELA and one for Social Studies. But it's no problem...you're obviously bright enough to put together good 50 minute lessons that'll keep kids engaged. Just don't forget to know what the essential question of the day is, post it on the board, and be prepared to explain how it fits into the NC Standard Course of Study. (You should have that memorized, by the way. It's not hard; there are only about five dozen bullet points for each. Oh, and be prepared to tell how you differentiate the lesson for slower learners, kids with learning problems, and kids who don't speak English at home, as well as the kids who are working above grade level, okay?)

Take attendance (on the computer), make sure you change the absence status of kids who bring in notes (on the computer) and keep track of kids who come in late. If they come in late more than three days a quarter (let's face it, some come in late more than three days a week), be prepared to keep them after school for detention. This means you have to find something to do that keeps them occupied for an hour that isn't class-related, so be sure to figure it out ahead of time.

You'll have about forty-five minutes of planning time (that's why the job is just part-time!) a few times a week. This is a great time to (a) straighten up the room, (b) find some good supplemental lessons on the internet, or (c) figure out the technology you're going to use that day, if you're lucky enough to HAVE technology. If you're not, this is a good time to make sure your overhead bulb still works. Of course, the last few minutes of planning you should tinkle, because you won't get another chance for a couple of hours.

Some days you will have meetings. Your meeting might be with other teachers who teach your subject (if you teach two subjects, you might go to two, or just feel like you're completely out of the loop). Sometimes these meetings are fun and you get to discuss great ideas, but sometimes they are not fun and you talk about tests. When you talk about testing, feelings get hurt. And no matter how bad you feel, you CANNOT have a DRINK, even if you are over twenty-one!
You may have parent conferences, as well. Know that no matter how wonderful you are, there are parents who HATE YOUR GUTS!! Please understand that they don't really hate you, they hate their CHILD right now because he/she is thirteen. They may call you a lesbian, they may use cuss words, and they might cry...but none of this really has anything to do with you. They are frustrated, and because you are a public employee, they feel like they can take it out on you. They want you to fix their kid and you can't. Because if you could you would write a book about fixing kids and every parent in America would buy it and you would make a bajillion dollars and you would QUIT TEACHING and never look back!

After you have done all the stuff other people need you to do, then you get to teach! Yay! After all, that's what we come to school for, right? And how hard can it be? You stand there and talk about the subject for 50 minutes and the kids take notes.
But that's just some days. Actually, those days are few and far between. Because that's not the best way for kids to learn, and the whole point of school is so that kids learn, silly. So you have to mix it up. Today, for example, we did vocabulary review in Social Studies. It was a group activity, so kids got to talk a little. And they were to find out what things like "The Anaconda Plan" and "Jim Crow Laws" and "Reconstruction" were as review for a test. They could use the Social Studies textbook, but that wasn't enough for some of them. They wanted to know which pages the various topics were on! I used the word 'index' and they looked at me as though I had three heads! One boy REFUSED to do the activity unless I told him a page number! (I said "42" just because I will take any and all opportunities to be a smart-aleck. Because I'm not allowed to drink.)

Of course I do get a lunch hour, even though it's really only a lunch twenty-five minutes. Even if I got an hour (an hour! Who gets an hour? What do they do with all that time, fercryin' out loud?), I would have to spend it in the cafeteria, monitoring kids. So it's eat, tinkle, back to class (or tinkle, eat, back to class if I'm feeling frisky) except Monday and Friday we have exercise!

Then it's back to class for more teaching (don't forget to differentiate!) and then the day is over! Wasn't that quick? Sure...it's part-time! Just tidy the room and pack up--it shouldn't take you more than thirty minutes. Unless, of course, it's tutoring day. You have to tutor failing kids, it's part of your job. Some kids stay on Tuesday, some Wednesday, and some Thursday. And if you have a group project, the kids stay after because they can't drive and therefore cannot conveniently meet at Starbucks. Your room is like Starbucks without the mocha frappacino, so you may have to stay until 3pm. Unless someone's mom doesn't show or you have corraling. Then it might be 4. But that still is just part-time, right?

Oh, I forgot to mention grading papers and entering grades in the computer. Sometimes you can get that done during planning, but sometimes you might have to take stuff home at night or over the weekend. But how long does it take to grade 100 research papers, really? No sweat! For the big bucks and incredible benefits I get?

I know you wish you were me.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

My plans for total world domination...

I have an interesting group of academically gifted students this year. They enjoy the whole concept of being "renegades." I guess they were assigned to the right teacher, because this whole 'teaching Physical Education' thing is right up my renegade alley.
I am very fortunate that the woman who teaches with me is supporting my response to having to lead exercises. She feels as I do--that if I lose 10 minutes a day from a class period to lead exercises, then over the course of a week, I have lost AN ENTIRE CLASS PERIOD!!! This is ridiculous, as I have a test at the end of a year that gauges whether or not I've taught my students ENGLISH/LANGUAGE ARTS, not how to follow a silly exercise video.

So, I decided to chunk that 50 minutes into two 25 minute blocks. And instead of a lame exercise video, we're learning a production number from "A Chorus Line."

Our goal is to be a singular sensation.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

$hit like this is why I might be clinically insane.

Okay, so this blog isn't Kirb Appeal. Because I am not always appealing. Sometimes I act like the kids I'm supposed to teach, which mostly makes me annoying. But I have a feeling I won't be teaching middle school much longer, so it's fine. (If you know of any job openings for has-beens, let me know.)

In another quest for financial incentives (or "kickbacks," as I like to refer to them), our school system superintendent has mandated that each teacher MUST teach 10 minutes of physical education a day. We can squeeze this in "at our convenience." If you teach a tested subject, as I do, it's never convenient. But I have to cram it in there anyway, along with "CareerStart" (kickbacks circa 2006) and "Learning Focus" (Paying Kickbacks Since 2007!). None of these have any actual bearing on my subject (English/Language Arts), but it doesn't matter. Someone, somewhere, who probably knows somebody, is having his hand greased because he has told teachers they need to implement more crap into their day.

And the "kickback du jour" is Physical Education.

Now don't get me wrong--I think it's really important for kids to exercise and I like getting physical. But I am not now, nor have I ever been, a physical education teacher. I teach kids to read and write, not run. And I really don't have time (or the knees) to run with kids. But whoever is getting this money was thinking. He knew that teachers were going to plead ignorance and/or poverty when faced with this mandate, so he has supplied us with VIDEOS!

These are not just any videos, folks. These are not old Jane Fonda tapes or yoga DVDs or even the "Dancing With the Stars" workout. No siree! These are videos of students doing excercises! Exciting, right? 10 minutes of exercises like stretching your hands over your head! And touching your toes! WhooHoo! I can hardly stand the excitement!
And after ten minutes 'exercising' to a video that not only didn't get me sweaty, but didn't increase my heart rate at all, I decided that if it was mandated that my students exercise for 50 minutes a week under my tutelage, we were really going to exercise MY WAY!
(No, Pete, that doesn't include a pole.)

And I began to hatch my evil plan.
I'll keep you posted.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Lady Who Knows She Is Fifty...with apologies to Mr. Nash

Painfully, poor Kirby wakes,
Feels the sun with terror,
One erratic step she takes,
Trembling to the mirror.

Poor Kirby in poor Kirby's sight
Is old and gray and thrifty;
Forty-nine she was last night;
This morning she is fifty.

Cruddy like a sleepy eye,
Like the blanket, musty,
Kirb lets out a noisy sigh,
Because she feels so...rusty.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What Color is My Parachute?

I was seriously hoping it would be rosey apricot or periwinkle, because those colors look really good on me.

But it wasn't that kind of a book.

In my quest to find a new life, I borrowed a copy of What Color is Your Parachute from our downtown library. (I use the downtown library now that I'm in the city. No more 'burbs for me. I left the suburbs when I ditched the Volvo station wagon.)

The subtitle of the book is "A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers," so I thought it would give me some good advice. I was wrong. Instead, it made me feel, well....useless. Washed-up. More than halfway to death. Seriously, there's a whole chapter on "50+" and how employers will think I'm old and boring. After all, why would I bother to switch careers now? Why don't I just keep plugging away at what I've been doing, even though I am philosophically, intellectually and morally opposed to what education has become? Can't I just keep going a few more years?

The answer is no. And if you don't think I'm good enough to do your job, you're wrong.

Friday, February 11, 2011

So...it's not just me?

Before this blog begins in earnest, I've been doing a lot of reading and researching. Some has been both productive AND fun, which is always cool. One of the things I've done is invest some time reading "chick lit," which is not my first choice of reading material, but I wanted to take a look at whether or not they could hold any interest for an old-timer like me.

One of the books is Candace Bushnell's One Fifth Avenue. First of all, I need to make something clear: as I once told someone, I am not a "Sex in the City" person. About the only thing I have in common with those women is my affinity for cute shoes. The rest? Not so much. So I wouldn't pick up Ms. Bushnell's novel unless it was (a) on sale, and (b) for research. Fortunately, it was both.

I didn't so much dive into Ms. Bushnell's book as I did wade into it--hoping to uncover the secret to an amazing life full of martinis and Manolos. Instead, I found something I already have: discontent.

They say that authors write about things they know. I'm not sure that Candance Bushnell knows of discontent, but she sure does write about it in One Fifth Avenue. Many of the characters are in their forties and beyond, and they have a lot to say about age. One says, "Life gets boring when your middle-aged. You can't keep doing the same thing. You look like an asshole."The same character later says, "It's extraodinary, getting old. It's as hard as people say."

When the same character states that he doesn't want to hurt the feelings of another, the other character states, "I'm forty-eight years old. My heart's been broken for about forty years."

And here's one that I really love: "...he sometimes wondered if these larger fears masked the smaller and less worthy fears that drove everyone in his world: the fear of not making it, of being left behind, of not utilizing one's skills or potential or advantages to the fullest."

What I don't understand, and maybe it's intentional, is that all these characters are male. The females are strong and secure and know what they want and they go after it. I want to know how these (albeit fictional) women got this way.

Why is Ms. Bushnell not writing me an instruction book?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

More of the Same

I applied for another job yesterday, and was given the whole "wish you success in your endeavors." I think this can be translated into "thanks, but no thanks."

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Job Interview #1 - Should have been suspicious when they held it at a mall.

I decided to go out on a limb--a really loooong limb--yesterday and audition for a new segment on a local television station's morning show.

So did hundreds of other people.

(And yes, I'm well aware I don't have the hair for it.)

Anyway, I thought it would be a good experience, just so that I am in practice for the spring. Although I have applied for various jobs throughout the school system, they are LOUSY about contacting teachers, even to let us know our application was received. They usually end up hiring someone from an adjoining county--in an effort to keep the teachers from getting into jobs where they can actually talk about classroom needs. This is just my opinion, but it is widely held among my colleagues.

I didn't even make the first cut, though they did film me briefly for a segment about my 8th graders writing letters to this particular station about why I am the perfect candidate for the job. It's supposed to air next month when they advertise their new hire.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to practice interviewing and keep on keepin' on with Kirb Appeal and its various auspices. Stay tuned for more adventures of the new thirteen.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Still Getting Hit

Thanks for stopping by. This blog is under construction, but it will be up in April, for real.

Meanwhile, if you run into Rick Moranis, let him know I'm still waiting.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Wasn't Planning on This...

The "technical launch" of this blog and the new Act it unveils is set for April...so when newthirteen got a zillion hits today, I was perplexed.
Apparently, I'd been tweeted.

My post regarding the lack of "fun" in education had been linked by someone who has many followers. And I stand by that statement--education should be fun.

So thanks to the folks who have stopped by---I hope you come back when newthirteen is underway for real.

Friday, January 28, 2011

I Am Not Myself

I had a discussion (some might call it a disagreement) with a friend yesterday. She and I don't really know each other very well, but our circles overlap. She is young
(29) and pretty (pageant queen) and talented (sing, dance....you name it, she can do it). When I questioned the validity of a "quarter-life crisis," she said that a quarter-life crisis was real.

Here's the difference between her quarter-life crisis and my mid-life one: hers is situational. She doesn't necessarily have any power over the situation, but situations change. Yes, she's slogging through $hit, and it stinks as $hit usually does. But eventually the $hit will dissipate and she will reach higher ground.

Mine is physical. I was a dance minor in college. (You ask yourself: Really? You don't LOOK like a dancer. This is your nice way of calling me overweight. I'll be the first person to admit I don't weigh 107 anymore.) Not only can I not dance, I can barely go up and down stairs. And even if I could perform a twelve-count without worrying that I might break a hip and they would put me out of my misery by taking me out back and firing a bullet into me, it would take me an hour to learn. Because my brain doesn't work, either. So the $hit that I'm slogging through just gets deeper.

$hit. We've all got it, irregardless of how old we are. The best we can hope to do is hold hands and make sure no one drowns.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Add My Value, Bee-otch!

With all the talk (mostly negative, if it's an educator doing the speaking) regarding "Value-Added Measures," I want to ask how to add my value to the current data.

(Last I checked, kids were not data. If I wanted to deal specifically with data, I'd be one of the following: an engineer, a research scientist, a stockbroker, a mathematician. I, however, majored in English. More about that wise choice later.)

Nearly every year, I bring a kid over to "The Dark Side." That means I turn a kid from someone who never voluntarily picked up a book IN THEIR LIFE to someone who can't stop reading. Where are the points added for that?

Last year I had a student who was new to our school, coming from another school in the system. This is rare in 8th grade, and I wanted to know more. When I read his journal, I found out. He had been at a school where he had been ridiculed and made to feel "stupid." His parents agreed to move him to our school after he had attempted suicide. In his journal he wrote that he felt safe in my room--I would kid him, but it was fun. I made him feel "cool." How many points do I get for that, government?

Today, I talked to a student who had worked hard and done all my extra credit last quarter. This kid has struggled with reading all his academic career and never made above a "D." I made him angry on more than one occasion by sitting next to him as he worked. I forced him to pay attention to the text. I was on the very top of his hate list, and he got a "B." When his father received the report card yesterday, they both cried. Do I get extra credit?

Statistics stink. As somebody's granny says: figures don't lie, but liars can figure. And what I do can't be shown on a spreadsheet or a bar graph. But there you have it: I have no value.

Monday, January 24, 2011

So, why the change? Why now?


In a nutshell? Teaching isn't fun anymore. Kids can't have fun learning anymore.

Instead, we're looking at "Value-Added Measures"--basically a series of standardized tests--in order to judge students and their teachers. Why?

Well, one thing I know for sure--it's a lot easier to give a standardized test than it is to go into classrooms. We don't really want to see what a teacher is doing to get the students jazzed--no one cares whether or not my students feel safe, their opinions and insights as individuals valued--and never mind that I introduce them to things they never even knew existed; things like the parallelism between "West Side Story" and Shakespeare, "Weird Al" Yankovic and parody, and the shootings at Kent State and political activism.

First, let me tell you why I became a teacher.

I became a teacher because I had great teachers. I had teachers who were not afraid of standardized testing. I had teachers who did not have to worry about having their names published in the paper for having "failed." These teachers: Dorothy Johnson, Norma Crane, Hilde Griggs, Bob Strong, Betty Nelson, Ginny Johnson, Bill Reilly, Norma Gunkler, Steve Murphy, Mike Savage, Nancy Compton, Carm Pascarella, Nancy Bauer...even Betty Coman, despite the fact that she didn't give me the English prize, though I was CLEARLY the best English student in the class of '78 (and to her credit she admitted such many years later) are remembered for making my educational experience important. I remember every single one of them for different reasons--they may have challenged me, or enriched my life in some way--but I am fifty years old. To remember these teachers after all these years is to affirm their lives as teachers.

On the other hand, I have had over a thousand students in my career, and I doubt if even one of them can say I made an impact. I have had to spend the bulk of my career "teaching to the test," and worrying whether or not my kids will "make the numbers." They end up hating school, and who can blame them? Several days each quarter are used up by testing, and kids are having to sit quietly for hours on end, focusing on multiple choice questions, sometimes with no right answer, filling in scan-tron bubbles.
Because if we're being completely honest here, we'll admit that it was really hard to concentrate for more than thirty minutes at a time. For some of us, it was hard to focus at all.

Honestly? I don't want the responsibilty any more. When my principal tells me that if I don't make the numbers, he won't go to bat for me--and 52% of my 8th graders have to make the 99th percentile--it's time to do something else, because this is statistically impossible. I can do a lot of things--like get kids who've never read for pleasure to VOLUNTARILY pick up a book--but I am not magic.

Administrators ask us to "create a safe environment" for our kids. They ask us to monitor our charges and report any bullying we might see. Yet, they are creating a climate of fear and distrust.

And it's not fun anymore.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

This Explains a LOT!!!

In my quest to find out what is next in store for me, I decided to take some of those aptitude/personality/interest surveys available on-line. (Only the free ones, though--I'm not paying for pseudopsychology.) One of the tests I let my students take at the beginning of the year (when we read and discuss "Flowers for Algernon") is the Myers-Briggs.

Which brings me to the dreaded ENFP.

(Here's my prior experience with Myers-Briggs.)

Let me ask you: if I'm told that no one wants to work with someone like me, what kind of work should I want to do?
I probably need to work alone.

Add to that, the fact that words are my life, and what do you have?
Reading and writing. Both are perfect, as they are solitary activities. No one will be forced to deal with my ENFP self. The only folks who will have to deal with the craziness are the folks who read my writing. All three of them.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why I Went There in the First Place

I decided to hone my Stepford-ness early, mainly because I wanted a husband. And not just any husband! I wanted a husband who was intelligent and well-educated and successful! Yep! I wanted a husband who could buy me things! Mostly shoes!! And cute sundresses!

And by-and-large, those guys love Stepford.

So, at nineteen, I thought, "Okay. This is cool. I can do this. No prob. You want me to pretend to be something I'm not? Hey. It's all good. As long as I've got my shoes, I'm happy."
Except I wasn't really.

For over twenty-five years, I was the soccer mom and the Stepford wife and the Betty Crocker and the Suzy Homemaker, when all I really wanted to be was Katherine Hepburn and Princess Grace and Susan B. Anthony and Pat Benetar with a dash of Sean Connery and Weezie Jefferson thrown in.

But when my baby left the nest (for Philly of all the godforsaken places), I said "To Heck with this!"
(You can well imagine it took people by surprise. People who have known me for years are still scratching their heads and saying 'WTF?')

It was the perfect storm--my daughter (not her real name) leaving, my menopause (which should be called meno-quit, because that's what it did) starting, my school getting a completely new administration, and my job becoming more and more difficult--I was ready for a 'do-over.' And, as I said earlier, that required me to go back to the beginning and figure out, yet again, who I really was.

Call it anything you like--moving forward, feeding one's soul, getting back to basics, re-evaluating one's life--but for me, it's my Second Act. And the curtain is up.

Friday, January 21, 2011

I've got a New Attitude

Believe it or not, there is a website dedicated to my former self:


...and whether you are one, want to be one, or---like me---are a recovering one, you have to admit the mindset is difficult to attain. It's also a difficult one to shake, once acquired.

As far as I know, there aren't any 12-step programs for recovering Stepfords. So, in order to move forward in my own life, I had to design my own detox. I found that it didn't take twelve, just three, but that last step was a doozy.

These are the 'steps':
1. Admit that you have a problem. This shouldn't be hard--being submissive should be second nature.
2. Spend time each day doing something that isn't house/husband/kid related. (I got a job. Guess what? Someone actually wanted to pay me for my time and energy!)
3. Quit caring what other people think. (This is incredibly difficult for Stepfords to do. After all, their whole image is based on other folks' perception.)

Remember, the world is your oyster--you just have to shuck it!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

If it's Tuesday, This Must Be Stepford

I have often said, if you look at my life from outside my circle, it looks perfect.
Yep. Sheer perfection.

Perfect family...perfect house...perfect job...perfect wardrobe...not even a single gray hair!

So what's wrong with this picture?

Nothing, if you want to live in Stepford.

Stepford is fine for some women. They like being part of a life that guarantees a certain level of comfort and consistency without any pesky surprises. For twenty-five years I was willing to go through the motions--important motions, but motions nevertheless. Then, when my youngest left home (for Philly, of all the godforsaken places), I thought "Is that it? Is that all there is?"

I want the answer to be "no."

I want there to be surprises. Even if I have to make them myself.

Monday, January 17, 2011

House of Fifty

In my subscription feed today--which pops up in my Blogger dashboard--I saw a cool title called "House of Fifty." Here's a link, if you're interested:


And I thought to myself: What a great idea! A place for fifty year olds to get together!

So I clicked, and found that while Isabella & Max has a great thing going in the home decor field, it's not a spot for the old broads to hang and knock back a few. Which is kinda what I was looking for.
I don't know if other 50 year old women feel the way I do, but I feel as though once I got to be "of a certain age," I became less audible and less visible. Not to say "unheard" or "invisible," but just less. (I didn't LOOK less--in fact, there was more of me, to a degree.) Rather, less noticeable, less important, less of myself. So many of us have spent the last twenty-plus years being someone's wife, or mom, or both, that we have no idea who we were before all of that. What better way to reconnect with ourselves than by having the support of others who are in the same situation?

Sure, there are websites promoting middle-aged women, and mid-life bloggers abound. But the primary focus is on "Mommy Bloggers" and not the moms who are "post-mommy." My question is: If there are so many of us, and we're all kind of in the same boat, why aren't we connecting?
This blog is on a quest--I hope you want to come along.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

My Own Private Idaho. Not Really. I've Never Been to Idaho. So I Guess This is My Own Private Carolina.

I have been in my current home for several years, bringing it back to life as it were, from some silly and inappropriate updates. (This can also be called "a serious affinity for green carpeting and ugly wallpaper.")

One of the most compelling things about this house (besides the inherent character of the Dutch doors, wide plank flooring, and various nooks and crannies), is that it was built by two artists.

The artists who built my house were Joe Wallace King (who painted mostly portraits under the name Vinciata) and Earline Heath King, who became a highly-acclaimed sculptor. This couple had been high school sweethearts, both interested in art and music, living and learning in Europe, DC and New York...then moving back to the neighborhood where they met, and built the house I now own. There's a marble fireplace, crystal chandeliers, a slate roof, a garden house, and a walled garden...magazine-worthy potential. But the most important thing to me? The fact that the original owner, Earline Heath King, didn't start her career until she was fifty.

For the past few years, fifty has been like a benchmark for me. "When I'm fifty" has been a mantra...and a way to procrastinate. But learning that the remarkable artist who designed this house didn't begin her career until she was fifty seemed to be an omen. I could procrastinate no longer; I needed to become the person I always believed I could be.
In part, that meant a "trip backward." I was interested in getting back to my roots, so to speak, and revisit the person I was before I had to give myself up in order to take care of other folks. (I don't regret this--it was my job to raise those little people.) Some of these roots came in the form of English Ivy that I spent months yanking out, uncovering hydrangea in the process.

And that, my friends, is what I like to call a "sweet-a$$ metaphor."

When did we switch from "New and Improved" to "Authentic?"

One of the buzzwords I hear more and more in everyday conversation is "authentic." It's been used to describe everything from social networking media to lifestyle choices. I've even caught myself using it on occassion. But I've noticed that in almost all of these instances, "authentic" has been used erroneously.

Dictionary.com, my source of choice (mainly because I'm lazy and don't want to get off my butt to go to the bookshelf and take down the real dictionary when it's so much easier just to minimize and Google), says this about authentic:

1. not false or copied; genuine; real: an authentic antique.
2. having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence; authenticated; verified: an authentic document of the Middle Ages; an authentic work of the old master.
3. entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement with known facts or experience; reliable; trustworthy: an authentic report on poverty in Africa.

Taking these definitions into consideration, which one is the right one when used in the following sentence:
"Twitter could possibly be the most authentic form of social media."

Okay, so it's not a reproduction Twitter. Or a reproduced social media. It has been verified to indeed be Twitter, and many people believe it to be so.
But what the he!! does it mean?

In raising the curtain on a second act, more and more of us are referring to our "authentic" selves, when in reality we simply mean being honest with ourselves. Folks want to use a 'cool' (or 'hot', for that matter) word to describe what they are trying to do--get back to the things that made them happiest. In essence, using a word like "authentic" puts a spin on something that should, at it's core, be very real.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Reinvention" vs "Second Act"

In life, we all try on a variety of hats before we find one that fits comfortably. The problem is...we then change hats again, just to stay in style. That's reinvention. A second act is when you give up the new styles and go back to the hat that fit you really well to begin with, then tweak it a little--add a flower or a new band or some big fuchsia-colored ostrich plumes...but it's still the same hat underneath.

Don't get me wrong...I love changing hats. But reinvention can be used over and over again as an escape hatch; a second act is finding yourself again.

This will be a venue for Second Acts--situations that give folks an opportunity to be themselves again--maybe more successful, maybe more connected, maybe more famous, but nevertheless, themselves.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Years After "Lears"

Back in the late eighties, I was offered a subscription to Lears, a magazine marketed to women over thirty-five.

I was mortified.

I was probably in my late twenties at the time, and I thought to myself "WTF?" (This was before WTF was part of the American lexicon, but I always was cutting-edge.) Thirty-five? That was OLD! Did I look thirty-five? Really? Because if I did, it was time to get out the straight razor.

Lears was the brainchild and baby of Frances Lear, the ex-wife of Norman, who charged her husband a whopping $112 million for his freedom. I like to think she believed in the power of her age, and Lears was a big eff-you to younger women who may have had longer hair and better legs and boobs that hadn't yet made an acquaintance with Mr. Gravity, but they didn't have the moxie of those of us who had been around the block a time or two. (Of course at the time, I was still the former, not the latter.)

After Lears folded, the slack was picked up by More, which markets itself to women of a certain age. (They don't really say what age, but one can infer they mean 40+.) More takes less of an "eff-you" attitude and more of a "forty is the new twenty-eight." These are some of the tag lines in their direct-mailing campaign: "The prime of your life...is the time of your life!" and "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and "Maybe you had to play by the rules growing up. Not anymore!"

So here I am, not twenty-nine anymore. Mr. Gravity and I are on intimate terms. Not only am I 40+, I'm 50+. And according to More, forty might be the new twenty-eight, but fifty is the new thirteen. We may be cutting our hair and doing digestion commercials like Jamie Lee Curtis, but we are stronger and smarter and more determined than ever.

And that's an awesome second act.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Is it a comeback if you never really left?

Unless you've been on vacation somewhere outside the scope of this particular planet, you know that change is in the air. Oprah is leaving her talk show to build her own network. (In case you are not aware, this is a promotion, folks. It's like me jumping to school superintendent, which is not a job I would ever---even for a million dollars--want. Okay, I'm lying. I would do it for a million dollars. I would probably do it for a hundred thousand dollars, because I can, indeed, be bought.)

It seems as though half of Obama's staff has left or is leaving, even though that's not exactly true--just a few of his key players, and that's probably to be expected, given that working in the White House has got to be a tough, stressful, tiring job.

But what I'm most interested in right now are the "comebacks." Some of these we're delighted to see (Betty White and Valerie Bertinelli) and some probably should have stayed gone (whooping cough and bedbugs). Any way you look at it, comebacks are making a comeback.

In pondering these comebacks, I'm interested in what these folks experienced in the interim---the time they laid low when they were no longer in the spotlight. I'm sure the bulk of them did the things we all do--shopped for groceries, went to the mall, walked the dog, and cooked hamburgers on the grill. Ex-famous folks undoubtedly have an adjustment to make from famous to not-so-famous, and I'm sure some of them live the rest of their lives trying to be famous again.

What about, instead of a comeback, a second act?

That's what I'm hoping to explore in my next life--my own Second Act.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

New Thirteen...what does it mean?

It's the dawn of a new decade, and as superstitious creatures, we believe it's a perfect time to make changes. Most of these changes are personal--losing weight, getting organized, exercising regularly, and the like. But occasionally, there are those who want a "do-over." And that means change on a large scale. That's not just a "do-over," that's a "second act."

Second acts are life-altering changes. Second acts don't just change who we are, they change the way we live our lives. They may involve a job change, a big move, an empty nest, a changed relationship status. Sometimes there isn't anything we can pinpoint--we just need a change. But if we're not sure what that change should be, where do we start?

"Let's start at the very beginning...A very good place to start."

If it was good enough for Maria Von Trapp, it should be good enough for us. But that means going back in time...and until they build a machine ala H. G. Wells, it's a journey that we're going to have to take ourselves, enlisting the help of some of our friends and relatives to help determine the path our change should take. And that means having to find out who we were when we were most ourselves. For me, that was when I was thirteen.

And I've decided to be thirteen again. Only a new thirteen. A thirteen who has made some trade-offs---I now have to pay bills, but I don't have braces---someone who is going to embrace the qualities that are authentic. Qualities that I wasn't afraid to put front-and-center at thirteen, but locked in a trunk shortly thereafter. It's an enormous do-over, to shed the skin I've worn for the last thirty years, but I believe I will be happier, enjoy life more, and perhaps those two things will create new opportunities in other facets of my life--places that could use some "do-over."