Snowed In: My Experience in the Boston Blizzard

This weekend I was officially snowed in and cut off from the world. I had plans that got cancelled by two to three feet of snow literally stopping everything in the city. That meant no visiting my grandmother and mom (in from out of town) in the suburbs. No visiting one of the local breweries for their tours and tastings. No picking up my dog, who after months apart, I was finally going to bring home. I was going to have a busy, social weekend. Emphasis on was. Because instead Boston was hit by winter storm Nemo and the blizzard of 2013.

I have never been in a blizzard. Being from Arizona, the worse weather I’ve experienced has happened since I’ve moved out here. Other than the hurricane, it’s been a pretty mild winter. Or so I am told, cold is cold to me and Massachusetts is cold. But they said this was going to be big, whatever that meant.

Just in case it was as big as they said, I hit the grocery store on Thursday afternoon, lamenting with the person behind me in the very long line, that this was a little silly. Worse case scenario, we assured each other, there’d be snow and by Sunday things would be back up and running. There was no call to by the dozens of eggs and gallons of milk that people were buying. There was really no need for an emergency shop at all, we decided, this storm wouldn’t throw anything that would put you on lock down for more than a day or two. And even if it means Easy Mac, there was no need to swamp the stores like people were. We assured each other that we weren’t emergency shopping. It was a regular Thursday at Whole Foods as far as we were concerned. Nothing out the the ordinary in our shopping baskets because nothing was going to happen.

So when the storm rolled in Friday and with it the news that public transit would be shut down at 3:30, driving banned at 4:00, I was a little surprised. It seemed extreme, but what did I know? I started to worry. If the government was so eager to get everyone off the streets and bunkered down so early, the sky must be about to fall. And I expected it would fall even as soon as quarter after four. Well, it didn’t and my grocery store cynic was feeling vindicated. Sure, it was snowing and the wind had picked up, but mostly I didn’t see why I couldn’t be meeting the appointments in my social calendar. I have to say, I was little annoyed at the city. They kept talking about The Blizzard of ’78 like it hadn’t snowed since and this was just a little snow, a little wind, nothing new.

By 9:00 that evening, I was a little stir crazy. It didn’t matter that I’d spent every other night that week content on the couch with my dear friend Netflix, I was itching to get out. But finally the snow was coming down. This was it, the rest of the weekend was shot. I was doomed to stay in and watch PBS reruns and never see people again. It was dramatic, sure, but I was bummed. I’d been so excited about the weekend and now I had to spend it alone.

Then, from outside, “Dude, you call that a throw?”

“It’s the gloves, man!”

blizzard

I should definitely go outside now…

There were people outside, in the midst of a blizzard, playing football. Four people from the house across the street were running and jumping in the foot or so that’d come down at this point. I couldn’t resist the temptation, and boots, coat, scarf, and the thickest gloves I could find later I was on my front porch shouting at them, condemning their foolishness. That is, until they invited me to grab a beer and a snow ball and join them.

So I did.

At one point we turned to each other then back to the snow covered hill and lamented that our responsible, adult selves from the rest of the year that had neglected to buy sleds because this would be the perfect hill for it. And it was safe, with the driving ban there would be no one to run us over. Not moments later, down at the bottom of the hill, out of the murk and snow, headlights appeared. A plow was heading up the very hill we’d just wished we were sliding, out of control, down. “And I just changed my mind,” my neighbor commented. “I am so glad that I am responsible the rest of the year,” I agreed.  “We’d be down there, dying, right now.”

Then, something else appeared through the wind and snow: the silhouette of a person, just barely visible, about halfway between us and the steadily approaching plow. They turned back and saw the plow, just headlights moving ominously closer.

“Run!” we shouted together. “Oh, my God, run!” He ran and managed to beat the plow out of the way and onto the sidewalk. We laughed and laughed, cheering his safety, celebrating the top of the hill and not sledding and being grown up enough to make enough good decisions that we’d survived to stand out in a blizzard drinking icy beer.

It was awesome.

This is the view of the street on Saturday morning. Those lumps are cars...

This is the view of the street on Saturday morning. Those lumps are cars…

The next morning, mostly thawed out, I peeked out at the world outside my window. It was almost unrecognizable, drift upon drift of white snow. Cars had all but disappeared under the snow, stoops and front steps were gone, and trees were sagging under the snow on their branches. The road, even though the plows came through well into the night, was buried under a foot of snow. But the neighbors were out and we all started to clear driveways, cut paths, and uncover cars. The streets were impassible, the subway down, and stores were closed. But people were smiling, inconvenienced, but smiling. What was that about?

Sunday was much the same, except the plows finally got to most streets, including ours and the city was coming, slowly, back to life.  I went down to the CVS, about half a mile of twisted channels and paths cut out through the snow. For the first time, when I walked to CVS and paid attention to the foot traffic, the people, around me. The paths were too narrow for two to pass each other, so you had to notice who was coming your way, find the niches at doorways and open streets to wait to let someone else by. For a city known to be impatient and rude, the snow forced us to wait, watch, and thank everyone around us. I remember thinking it was sort of delightful.

Maybe it doesn’t speak well of our species that it takes such a storm to get us out of our homes, routines, and social circles. Maybe it isn’t great that I only ever talk to my neighbors when there is somewhat of a crisis. But on the other hand, maybe it does. I happen to love that when nature told us that if we wanted to survive it’d be holed up in our apartments alone, we said, “Wanna bet?”

After all, the liquor store stayed open.

Don’t Call Me Brave

Hufflepuff. That, I am sure, is the house I would be in if I attended the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And although we Hufflepuffs are the butt of every joke, I think I would be happy there. Certainly, I am not smart like those in Ravenclaw, nor cunning like those in Slytherin. And I am definitely not brave enough to find a home amongst the Hermione Grangers and Harry Potters in the Gryffindor house.

Perhaps that is why I am so suspicious when someone comments on my bravery. When they suggest that I am brave, I assume they mean stupid or, at the very nicest, foolish. Surely they don’t really think moving across the country solely because I wanted to is brave. They must think I am out of my mind. What? You moved to a city you don’t know without a job? Hardly with a plan or excuse other than that you’ve lived in one zip code your whole life and it was time for a new one. Were they all out of zip codes back home? That they express jealousy of my freedom in that sense only says to me, “We are of the higher minded houses. We Gryffindors, Slytherins, or Ravenclaws plan, scheme, or strategize before buying that one way ticket. Sure, that may be holding me back from what I want right now, but it is the better way to do it. Just because you are happy doesn’t mean you are doing it right.”

And maybe that is what some of the people think. Those who care about me, I am hopeful, really are envious and really do wish they could do what I am doing. Because who doesn’t want to be happy? Why shouldn’t you go after what you want? And because I did that, does that make me brave?

Let me answer how I experience it: no. I am not brave. I am not stupid. I am not foolish. But I have that Can-Do attitude we Americans are so known for coupled with that cowboy Get’er done mentality from growing up in the west; from growing up with parents who expected a lot. And maybe just a dash of YOLO, for good internet measure. With that, and the knowledge that it’ll probably all work out and if not I can always go back to 85719, I will always leap and wait for the net to appear.

Fast forward to now, four months into this little adventure of mine. I’m wrapping up a handful of projects from NaNoWriMo, an internship, and a teaching contract. The next few months are a little frighteningly devoid of an income. Looking forward, well, frankly, (with the exception of a new zip code) I’m in the exact same place as I was a few months ago, and am poised to jump all over again. Because if that net doesn’t appear, and if I don’t land on my feet, well, I don’t have much choice but to jump again and again, until I get it right. What is it we Hufflepuffs are? Unafraid of toil?

er...Just to really tie up any loose ends, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary lists bravery as:  having or showing courage (and courage as: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty). Wait, by that definition…

Look, I have a younger brother. If nothing else, I am able to withstand difficulty.

I Wrote a Novel in a Month

Or Why I Haven’t Been Blogging.

“Thirty days and nights of writing abandon” so says the masthead for the National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo, website. The Challenge: write a novel in a month. A novel in NaNo terms is 50,000 words, roughly 1,667 words every day. For those of you with memories of finals week still fresh in your mind, that is that final paper that you wrote at the last minute, every single night, for a month. And people choose to do this? Yeah, and I was one of them. One of something like 300,000 worldwide for a word count around 3,288,976,325 (this year).

Heck yeah I did!

Heck yeah I did!

For the math whizzes out there, that doesn’t quite add up. If three hundred thousand people are writing, we’re coming up something like 12 billion words short. Clearly not everyone completes the challenge. But, I did! My 50, 102 words were part of those three billion words. I feel pretty accomplished  To be honest, there was a fair amount of personal back patting, but shoot, I deserved it! I’ve never written that much before.

So I’ve written a novel. Or something. I’ve written 50,000 words of a novel. Except that I haven’t even gotten the whole idea out… You have no idea how tempted I was to have the last official thirteen words be: “And then they were all hit by a bus and died. The end.” and just be done with the dang thing. But I didn’t.

Maybe you noticed that we are halfway through December and I’m still not blogging (sorry long lost drafts of October… I’ll get to you some day.) November has ended and yet, here I am, writing every day, still. Queue cramped fingers, crossed eyes, and yet more crumbs in my keyboard, all in order to achieve the goal, to write the novel.

The goal is different now, more intangible.  When you are counting each word, you have something to achieve. But now I’m just trying to finish the plot, and that isn’t quite as quantifiable. How do I know I’m done? Assuming I don’t send in the bus after all, that is. And when I’m done, is that a novel?

Saturn with its largest moon Titan.

Saturn with its largest moon Titan.

Before I can answer that question (if I can answer that question), I should tell you what it is about. It is about a National Park Ranger. At the Rings of Saturn National Park. Who gets wrapped up in a revolution to free the Saturnian moon system from the United States.

In the words of my esteemed friend Carolyn, “Is it supposed to be good?”

My answer: “Well…” Because I don’t know. I don’t even know what makes a good novel. What I know is: The science is good. The story is, if nothing else, original. And the characters have dimension, although I’m still working on that last piece.

So have I written a novel in a month? Not exactly. It probably won’t go any farther than the five free bound copies Amazon gives all NaNo Winners. Probably not more than five people will ever read it. But to tell the truth, that doesn’t matter. Because I beat this monster, this looming I never have so I never will mentality that kept me from writing seriously in the past. And you know what? Even if I am the only one who is, I can’t wait to read it.

But heck, it is a love story, wrapped up in the fight for good and evil, in outer space. What isn’t there to like?

That Dreaded and Dreamed-of First

Editor’s note: This is the sixth installment in a series about losing one’s virginity, inspired by this project from Rookie magazine. Earlier authors include JessKate, GinaAnna, and Heather. It’s not explicit, but probably not for the easily scandalized, like the author’s parents…

During my freshmen year at college, fairly early in the term, I was at dinner with a group of my new friends. We sat around our — I want to say it was Indian — food and chatted about whatever was on our minds. Since I was with five guys, the conversation, unsurprisingly, was about sex. Specifically, it was about in how many states they were no longer virgins. I, being a virgin in every state, didn’t speak up. Finally, I couldn’t be tactfully sidestepped any longer. “How about you?” I didn’t know what to say. “Um?” Luckily one of the guys there that night came to my rescue and diverted attention away from me. The evening proceeded unmarred by my inexperience.

Except the whole situation stuck with me. I’m not used to having nothing to add to conversations. As we walked home that night, just my savior, another close friend and myself, I couldn’t help but bring it up again. Somehow during the walk it was decided that when I did — and none of us doubted that I would — lose my virginity, my savior would be the first person on the list of people to text about it. Like right, right afterwards.

Maybe you noticed, and maybe having a list of people to update afterwords gave it away, but I was not ready for sex at 18. I wasn’t waiting for anything or even anyone in particular. But I wasn’t willing to jump into bed with just anyone. I was content to be a virgin; yet  another sign that I wasn’t ready.

Queen Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen – I would not have been okay with that nick-name…

Only, I wasn’t content being a known virgin. A few months later, 19 now but still virginal, my coworkers, both of whom were older and infinitely cooler than I was, were complaining about the dry spells they were stuck in. “Don’t,” they warned me, “have sex until you have some regular partner, because the in between is horrible.”

“What?” I protested my status as virgin, “but, I’m not…” How had they known? Was it stamped on my forehead, written there with red lipstick?

“Also,” one cautioned, “don’t lose it with some guy you don’t know.” Nothing like walking out of a frat house without so much as a goodbye to make you feel like a whore, she recalled of her first time. “But,” the other reasoned, “don’t think it means you’ll be in love after.” He remembered crying and telling his partner how much he loved her right after. It didn’t end well.

Suffice it to say, I was ready for the shift to end.

I remained — mostly because of my friends: the biggest adoptive family, who had all decided I was America’s Little Sister — a virgin for the next 2 years. And finally was ready. But I was still single. And generally not much of a partyer. And altogether unsure of how it would just happen. I am a goal setter, so I set my goal: lose my virginity before I turn 22. All I needed was the guy.

Whom I met at work. I liked him from the moment I met him, even engaging him in some of my most classic awkward flirting. For over a year, nothing happened. As much as I initially liked him and continued to like him, I liked pretty much every other guy in “the office” just a little more. It was awful of me, but he was my back burner guy, the one I went to when no one else was responding to my texts. But slowly, and after a few disappointments with the others, the back burner became my only burner. And I was okay with that. He was sweet and silly and good to me, what wasn’t to like? He also had all the right appendages to satisfy my goal. It was November – my birthday was only four months away. It was time to act.

It started as a Facebook chat session while I wrote an essay that turned into a midnight Taco Bell run. Don’t worry, it gets classier. It was midnight. On a Wednesday. And I was in a man’s apartment. We both knew why I was there.

But instead of getting down to it, we started a movie. Road House. Not an amazing film, but not the worst thing to get buzzed to — buzzed enough to not mind when yawning stretches turned into cupped breasts. I think my fondest memory of the whole night was when, partially undressed, he carried me to his bedroom. Still in the fairy tale, and under the influence of alcohol, it happened: The first penetration. I had a moment of clarity, the same I have every time I realize I’ve achieved a goal, before I relinquised all emotion to the experience.

Which, frankly, went on for far too long. He was significantly more experienced that I was and while he was charitable to my general ineptitude, he also was determined to get what he wanted out of me. Long before he’d finished I was composing the text that’d need to go out. Besides, I had school in the morning and was pretty ready to go to sleep.

“Well,” I said when it was over, gathering my underwear and putting my clothes on, “it was nice to see you.” And then I left. I checked off my virginity both with a goodbye (of sorts) and without saying I love you. I didn’t even wait to get out of his apartment to send my victory text.

Onward to Happily Ever After

For months and months and months, I’ve liked this boy. You’ve probably read about it before on Serving Tea To Friends. You may be tired of hearing about it. In fact, I realized that I was getting tired of hearing about it. What was I still thinking about him for? Why was I going over and over what might be if I’d just do something? I promised myself that I’d say something, knowing full well that I’d kept my fingers crossed behind my own back. I was a champion of finding an excuse not to say or do something when we two star-crossed lovers were together. And I say ‘star-crossed’ because we do both love the stars; and surely, I thought, that love could transfer to me, made up as I am, at the most basic level, of stars.

So I never did anything but hope that it would just happen; I could work out the math later. But space science isn’t like that. And neither is love. And I probably wouldn’t have ever said anything, except Lyzi posted about what we would do if we weren’t afraid to do it. She challenged those of us in the Serving Tea To Friends community to live better, fuller lives for just one month, then report back on facing our fears.

I don’t think I would have said I was afraid to tell the someone that I liked that I liked him. I find no shame in the way I feel. But I was concerned that I’d make him uncomfortable. Or that, in an effort to prevent awkwardness, be awkward or even mean. And there was that dark unknown I had to face: what if he doesn’t like me? It was not only a possibility, but after such a long time of not dating, a real probability. If I was afraid of anything, it was how I would react to that.

But Lyzi said, seemingly directly to me, “Is it telling a romantic interest how you feel? Write him a letter. Think of all the things you could do if you weren’t afraid.” So that very night, I wrote him a letter.

Well, I wrote him an email, it being the 21st century and all.

“I really like that you like all the same things I like. And I really like how easy it is for me to talk to you, I don’t know how to explain it really, but with everyone else I am never quite sure how much they know about history/science/whatever, but we seem to be on the same level. I think. I like your friendship. [My brother] says that liking that you like all the same things I like is the same as flat out liking you. I do care very much about you and thought it was time that I said something.”

And now it is time for the updates: Sorry, dear readers, to let you down, but he doesn’t feel the same way. I know it isn’t the romantic comedy ending we were all hoping for, me more than anyone else, but it is the ending we got. He doesn’t, in so many words, like me.

The fears that I had have not reared their ugly heads. I am not devastated by the news. In fact, I am relieved. Maybe I knew all along, but hope wouldn’t let me acknowledge that truth. I finally have permission to like other people without cheating on my Tucson-based crush. And I think the friendship I still share with my ex-crush is stronger. At least, I feel better about it. All in all, I am happier for having said something.

Not everything is rainbows and kittens. Yes, I am happy. Yes, it was the right thing to do. But also, yes, I miss the imaginary life I built on morning commutes and day-dreamt afternoons. I still, for all the respect I have for his feelings and all the faith I have that I will find someone more perfect, think of him as the most compatible person for me that I have met to date (Pun?). I find myself ramming, full steam, into the immortal words of Sugar: “You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.” And bouncing off them.

There. You are updated. The boy who loves the stars back in Tucson isn’t the boy for me. I am okay with that. I am beyond glad that I faced my fears at long last. But I am in mourning nonetheless for the relationship that could have been. And scared all over again about the uncertainty of not knowing who the one is. But rather than fight that fear or bemoan the loss of perceived love, I will follow some other advice, “There are times, at least for now,when we must be content to love the questions.” -Neil deGrasse Tyson.

And that is a challenge I encourage everyone to accept.

Of Bikes and Boys

Remember several months ago when I wrote about having a crush? Oh, those bygone days of yore. Five months, several not-dates, and a whole self-help section of advice from my friends, and I’m still in love with him and he still either has no idea or no interest. But what I’m holding out for is that he is just as scared to say something as I am. There’s a word for that in some dead language from, like, the very tip of South America that means the exact same thing. I haven’t done the math, but I think that means that maybe, just maybe, I’m right, he feels the same, and I just haven’t pulled enough petals off of daisies.

My friends, on the other hand, don’t see the correlation. They reference He’s Just Not That Into You, promise that there are plenty of fish in the sea, and point out I’ve moved 2,641 miles away from him.

I’d like to remind the home audience that that isn’t the point. The point is, for some ridiculous reason, I am head over heels for this guy and no matter how many other fish there are in the sea, I’m kinda over fishing. Besides, I’m clearly not all that good at it.

Let me explain it this way: Recently I was on the hunt for a bike to get me around my new haunts, and a bike is a perfect metaphor for this guy, let’s call him Todd, because he loves bikes. When I started my search, I made a list of what I wanted in a bike: used to the point that is had some character but not to the point that I’d need to do a lot of work on it, a hybrid: something with a light frame like a road bike but with a heavier tire and upright handle bars, in my budget, and, of course, I had to be attracted to it. After a few weeks of craigslisting, falling for the next best bike, maybe pining for one I missed out on, I saw it. A dopey bike from the 70’s that just needed a little love and some down hills to get it going again. It fit the criteria and was within reach. I was in love.

Even before I got the bike, some part of my brain (and my mom), had their doubts. Is this the best bike for me? Is it going to give me everything I need from it? Is it going to require more than I want to put into it? How, you dolt, can you be in love with something that isn’t even yours yet?

See how this is a perfect metaphor? For the one I also have a list of requirements: someone with character and history but not baggage, someone who can communicate with my friends and family thoughtfully but who I can talk to for hours about the latest from the Mars Rover (or other nerdy pursuits), someone in my age group, and, of course, I have to be attracted to him.

My friends (and mom) remind me to add “someone who loves me” to the list. And, unfortunately, probably take Todd out of the running.

“Um. No, thank you,” my dear, sweet, delusional heart says. “My list is fine. My list needs no editing. My list has been fulfilled, why in the world would I change that?”

“Yes, why indeed?” My brain, who is doing it’s best to stay out of the mess altogether, muses distractedly. “Wouldn’t want to change the status quo. Because, let me guess, ‘This way we can’t get hurt, at least.’ “

Which just leaves me, alone, anthropomorphizing my vital organs to argue, “Hey, I did get that bike.”

Scaredy Cat? Present and Accounted For.

I’m not afraid of mice. So when a pair of them magically appeared in my house one Halloween, I wasn’t terribly alarmed. (I think there is some irony in there somewhere- Halloween, not being scared…) Granted, they were pets. That I purchased. More or less on an impulse. Here’s what happened: my roommate at the time and I had gone searching for the final pieces of our costumes at a Party City. Next door was a Petco. We decided to go in and look at cats we couldn’t have. Not finding any cats, we stopped at the rodents. In the male mouse container, amidst a few dozen other scurrying pests, were two running, fairly unsuccessfully, in opposite directions on the same wheel. One was white with orange patches and the other was brown with a white stripe on his head. I pointed them out, “If those were my mice,” I said, “I’d name them Harry and Ron.”

Ron Weasley and Harry Potter, mice

And so we did. And they were great. Harry, tragically, died young. But Ron hung around for a while and was one of the best pets I ever owned. And while that may be the case, this is not a blog about pet mice. And it isn’t about being superior to my fellow writer – besides, I have more than my fair share of things that scare the daylights out of me.

Point in case: the cracked doorbell button. I will not push it, although probably I won’t get electrocuted. The “probably” is the issue. And I don’t want to hear about the current that runs through such a device. It’s lit up and rings. That sounds pretty potentially deadly to me.

Oh, and I’m not keen on loud noises. As you can imagine, rock concerts and the 4th of July aren’t really my thing.

And since we’re on the topic, I don’t really like cockroaches,  riding my bike next to buses or train tracks, riding my bike across train tracks, gutters in pools, gutters in streets, cattle guards, cattle, stopping and mooing at cattle, or the dark. And that is the tip of the iceberg.  My fears can get even sillier: like the paranoia that I will use the wrong “your/you’re” in a tweet. Just a few nights ago, I had a nightmare that a murderer was going to target one of the units in my building. With only six doors to choose from, my odds weren’t good. Legitimately scary, sure, but just a dream. Except that when I woke up I was worried my subconscious had picked up on something and was trying to alert me to my impending doom. The only way to be sure the killer wasn’t waiting in the living room was to check. Except that was too scary (see above: afraid of the dark). I compromised and locked my bedroom door, under the assumption that the tiny push lock would slow the deranged serial killer down long enough for me to wake up and find some means of protection. Luckily, it never came to that. But it illustrates just how much of my day to day (or night to night) is influenced by irrational fears.

And that is really what I have been trying to get to this whole time, the term: “irrational fears”. Talk about trivializing. Yes, it may seem silly that I’ve never been stung by a bee and yet I’m afraid of bees while I have been stung by a jelly fish and am not afraid of jelly fish (which, I’m told, feels a lot like a bee sting). But does telling me it isn’t scary make the bee (or the mouse) any less so? It doesn’t. Hello, ladies, we are all afraid of things, from big bugs to never owning a designer purse, and just because it isn’t going to kill us, is no reason to think less of it, and as a result, less of ourselves.

We are only as strong as our weakest link. That link isn’t our fear, legitimate or not. That link is the way we judge ourselves and tear ourselves down. Eff mainstream trivialization. Besides, rivers are on my list of things I’m afraid of.

An Education on Education

 My first real teaching experience came this past year when I was hired as a subcontracted tutor for TUSD. The company I worked for advocated small group tutoring sessions right after school for all students who weren’t performing well on standardized testing. Studies have shown that just a few hours of one on one time with a student, something like five hours a year, can improve the student’s grade by one letter. And better grades lead to more confident youth. And confident youth lead to a brighter future. Plus, it was the highest paying job I’d ever had; all around it was a pretty good gig.

Until I met my kid. His name was Jordan. He was five, full of energy even at the end of the day, in a bad family situation, and far more interested in pulverizing his snack than reading. But I had to teach him reading. Three times a week. And one of those days was Friday, when his grandma, who picked him up, brought the puppy. What is that saying about a rock and a hard place? That was me.

Besides a brief summer after fifth grade when I wanted to be a zoo keeper, I have always wanted to be a teacher. But now that I was actually teaching, I wasn’t so sure. It was hard. And what’s more, I didn’t seem to be very good at it. More often than not, I cried on the drive home, having succeeded only in keeping Jordan in his seat the whole session. Sometimes I only managed to get him into the hall and away from the other kids before he exploded into a floor-rolling tantrum.

Working with him was never easy. Even when he was interested in the story, he’d psyche himself out, convince himself
that he couldn’t do it and that, actually, he didn’t want to do it and that I couldn’t make him. Even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, easily his favorite subject, the names of which he spoke with a familiarity of life-long friends, didn’t always convince him to pick up a book. Very slowly I began to, word by word through trades, deals, and a fair amount of candy, win Jordan over. And eventually he was reading more words than throwing tantrums. He’d demand all the books on his favorite subjects that I could find. And by the end of my time with him had read several books cover to cover, was writing most of his letters the right direction, and even used proper punctuation without having to be reminded.

Without question, tutoring Jordan was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

On the very last day I was with Jordan, his grandmother came over to me and explained that earlier in the week Jordan’s class had done an assignment about what they liked best about school. Jordan said his favorite thing about school was his tutor.

I was hooked. I will be a teacher when I grow up. There is absolutely nothing I can think of that, while being extremely challenging, is as extremely rewarding. Since working with Jordan, I have upped the number of students, positioning myself in front of real live classrooms on a weekly basis. Teaching is what puts food on my table right now. It isn’t all tales of adversity and triumph. Even while I am passing on new information and getting my kids to think in whole new ways, I still have to separate those girls that won’t stop giggling. I have to start all over and remind them what respect means. Hear, purposefully whispered too loud, someone calling me bitch.

But I also get to see court ordered youth fight me every step of the way and then totally connect when the roles switch and he is the teacher. I get to hear the whispered wows and ohs as little known facts reveal themselves. I get to watch faces light up as suddenly a concept is grasped.

I didn’t set out to write this article to reiterate that just because something is hard doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. I’m not going to remind you that all worthwhile things in life are difficult. (I think EasyMac illustrates that point quite completely.) I won’t even mention how much we learn from the things that scare us.

Did I just sneak a lesson in there? Apples now being accepted.

Things My Dad Told Me That I Should Have Known He Had Wrong

This is my Dad and I, take note that he is wearing his matching “#1 Dad” shirt and hat.

The other day, Laura shared her personal dark spots and the truths she’d initially ignored because dad’s can’t be wrong. After reading it I remembered that I still take my dad’s word as the gospel truth. And don’t I realize that he isn’t always right until I’m sharing some utter nonsense in a crowded conference room where I should be rubbing elbows instead of suddenly needing a fact checker.

Because my dad can definitely be wrong.

And I mean really wrong. Like, embarrassingly wrong. And not for him, but for me. For way too long I thought that the tail side of a penny had a trolley on it. And if you looked really close, you could see a little man riding it. There was a period of my life where I checked every penny for that man, checking to see if he was always the same person or not, figuring that if the US Mint was creative enough to put a trolley on a coin they’d have a little fun with it. To my disappointment it was always the same guy and always in the same spot.

Trolley.

Not a trolley.

What’s my point? Even though I’m all grown up (or something) and out of the house and doing my own thing, I am very aware of the fact that I don’t know everything. And even as I reach an age where the conversations with my dad are less and less him telling me what is right and true in the world and more and more of a conversation between equals, I’m still his little girl. I mean that in more than one way, yes, I am my father’s daughter. And yes, he will probably always see me as his little girl. But also, I will always see him as my hero, an infallible source, and the man with all the answers and I do this almost on purpose. Because if he doesn’t know all the answers, who does? And if he isn’t sure, how can I be? If my role models aren’t the gods I thought they were, what about all the other things I was certain about in my youth? What about all the other things I’m certain of now?

So yes, I thought that the Lincoln Memorial was a mode of transportation. And yes, I tend to be a little on the gullible side. But I’m probably not the only one in the history of the human race on the cusp of a major change clinging to pieces of their past. I’m not encouraging you not to move on, to not grow up, or whatever. I’m all for progress. But maybe, for all their faults and all the times they assured us that Grandpa dated Shirley Temple (just me?), our dads can still be the heroes we thought they were. It may be time to cut  them a little slack.

 More truths and lies courtesy of my dad: If you’re driving in a convertible and get caught in the rain with the top down you can, and he’s swears he’s done it, stay dry by driving fast. Something about the aerodynamics of the car. And it turns out, to his credit, that this is true. Another factoid from his car days, driving with the tailgate down or take it off altogether, your truck will get better gas mileage. Something about the aerodynamics of the car, er, truck. Turns out, that this isn’t true. Survey says: I probably shouldn’t have my dad help me with my homework…

On Being Cool and Why We All Feel Lukewarm

A few days ago I saw my friend from college, and before I get too distracted by how weird that sentence is to say, I want to tell this story. For those of you in the home audience, yes this is yet another one of those inspirational stories that should lift your self esteem. I hope you stretched.

Like I was saying, I just saw a friend, Kate, from college. We met for a late lunch in one of Tucson’s oh-so-trendy cafes on 4th Ave. I’ll give you a hint: it was B Line. I walk into B Line, she says hi, we exchange hugs, she gets guacamole with her chips, I get salsa, we trade life experiences. About four stories in she stops me. “You are so cool, I want your life,” she tells me.

I think I actually looked behind me for who ever she was actually referencing, who she had to be referencing. It couldn’t be me. But it was. I was cool. I was more than than that, I was worth aspiring to be. I was, frankly, confused. Who wants to be me? Heck, sometimes I don’t even want to be me. Melodrama aside, I wouldn’t have said that I’m cool.

This is how my WIRED subscription is addressed.

Part of what took me so completely aback by the situation has less to do with my own clout and more to do with the fact that I think that Kate is freaking amazing. I’m not just saying that to be humble on the internet. She is, first of all, beautiful. And I’m sure that her feminist streak loved that I started there. But she is. And she rocks a septum piercing that very few can. She makes Target clothing look the way it looks in Target ads, that is to say, good. She is smart, she’s getting her masters right now. I think what I envy the most about her is that she unabashedly studied (and is getting her masters in) history but flat out announces that she does not want to be a teacher. Let me explain for those of you who didn’t major in a social science: for those of us that did, teaching is pretty much the only answer your doubting relatives will accept when they ask just what are you going to do with that history degree. In a nut shell, cool.

The question that we should be asking ourselves isn’t whether we are or aren’t cool. But what is up with all this self doubt. Probably most of us are like Kate and I, able to see the immense value in the people in our lives but somehow not attributing that same value to ourselves. So what gives?

What is it about us personally that we can’t see we are cool? The thing about when I was told I was cool is that I didn’t think I was cool but the things Kate listed off, things that are all from my resume, are cool. But because I look at my resume so often (God bless this endless job search), it was all commonplace stuff. And, interestingly, what about her life I thought was really cool, she hadn’t considered because it was the things that made up her everyday life. I know the sample size is small, but I see a pattern. Seems like it isn’t that we aren’t cool but that we in fact are cool with such regularity we don’t even realize it.

Did I just make a breakthrough?