Resolve the New Year

I've never understood New Year's resolutions. I mean, I get it. The very definition of a resolution is to make a firm decision to partake or refrain from a behavior or action. What bothers me is people make them (including myself), but they're not very firm decisions since the  majority of people never actually stand by these decisions. You may have resolved to exercise, diet, drink less, quit smoking, etc. By March or April (sometimes sooner) life and stress become hectic and your "firm" decisions turn to putty and slip through your fingers. Next year, you make the same vows to yourself, yet they fall to the wayside.
Last year, I made a major change. Instead of resolutions, or trying to change a part of myself or my behavior, I set goals for myself ranging from easily doable to dreams. I can say that by viewing them at the close of the year, I've done pretty well. I've completed a couple short stories, finally feel as though my novel is good enough to share with a test group, at last found a decent balance between motherhood and work, learned to judge people less and accept them more, relaxed more as a parent, and cut out/limited the stressors in my life. All I can say is that I've never been happier. Work seems easier, my son more manageable, people aren't as annoying, and I feel more confident in myself and my abilities as a parent, professor, and writer. Even though there was still plenty of stress with papers, potty training, a son that rarely naps (who has an unlimited energy supply, and wants to get up super early), not to mention a knee injury, deaths of loved ones and pets, and much more that went on, it was a great year despite the hardships. What was the  difference this year from the one prior? Nothing really but my mindset. A positive mindset, even through the worst experiences, makes life so much easier and rewarding.
Were all my goals accomplished? No. They are goals, things to strive for, not to resolve to do and be disappointed by letting them go. I didn't put a time limit on  my goal; I didn't say, "This year, I must..." I said, "This year I will attempt to start..." By qualifying the statement instead of using such limiting language, I open up for the possibility of not fulfilling them. In a sense I cannot fail if I make some kind of attempt at my goal. Therefore, there are no disappointments just celebrations when I succeed and when I do not fulfill a goal, there's always more time, always next year. As long as I "start" my goal, I've succeeded. It doesn't seem that difficult, yet I've done so much more without forcing myself every Dec. 31st to force change. Positive reinforcement is proven to work for people, and if you start small you'll eventually accomplish big goals. My largest goal is publishing a book, and for a couple years I tried getting an agent thinking it would just eventually happen. I kept saying to myself "I have to get published this year!" Then I ended up depressed each New Year's when that didn't happen. Instead, I now don't resolve to do anything but strive for my goals. If you have issues sticking with resolutions each year, then think about viewing next year with a different, more positive, mindset. Don't resolve, strive and attempt. That way you'll always succeed. Happy New Year!

Take a Break

Mission Impossible

"Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer" (Thoreau).


Yesterday I was making pancakes for my son in the kitchen while he was drawing at the table. I paused, turned and took a sip of my tea, and met my son's gaze. He smiled and said, "my mommy," with all the enthusiasm and admiration only a child can muster. My heart swelled and I thought to myself, "how could it ever get better than this?"


Feeling more than satisfied with life, I took another sip of tea and looked out the window. What I saw could hardly be properly described in words and give it justice. I simply saw the rich blue cloudless sky through the trees that seemed to be dancing in the wind. It was nothing more astounding than the beautiful sight nature gives us if you have the time to stop and observe it. I rarely have the time. No, what was profound about it was my perception of the view. It wasn't just a picturesque scene. It held so much more. I was almost overwhelmed with a feeling of greatness, beyond contentedment and joy. I felt positive and unstoppable. I'm not a spiritual person normally, but the feeling I had went beyond rational feelings. The transcendental poets studied in college came back to me and their enthusiasm for nature inspired me all over again. I suddenly had an epiphany: my dreams will come true one day. That's what the sky told me. Maybe not today or tomorrow but one day.
I'm not a hard person to please. I like a simple life, don't care about the Jones's gadgets, am not traditional or conforming in any way. You could say I go to the beat of my own drum and that has gotten me what I want in life. I never have wanted what the Joneses have; I make my own definition of success. I have everything I want in life--almost. I have a loving husband and son, a job I love, great coworkers, family, friends, but I want to publish books and have moderate success doing so.
I often lose faith in my writing abilities and self, but yesterday it was as if something beyond me (the fates, God--insert your ideology here) was telling me to have faith in myself. My mind transcended as these poets often described and I rarely grasped until now. The last time I had such profound feelings and inspiration was in Scotland and Wales where the picturesque scene demands your attention. One visit to Edinburgh was enough to show me how JK Rowling was inspired to write Harry Potter. What transcending does is more than a spiritual message through nature; it makes you realize things about yourself. I realized that I had lost faith in myself as a writer.


This is something so many of us forget about. We believe in higher powers, our friends, family, but we rarely have time to believe in ourselves. Sometimes, when we do have a crowning moment of achievement it is destroyed by others who see confidence as a negative attribute. There's no sin in loving and believing in yourself unless you leave no room for others. I'm often so hard on myself that I don't need others to criticize me, my life, or my writing. Often others hinder me from attempting my dreams and no one should ever let that happen. There's a fine line between constructive criticism and dashing someone's dreams that many people cannot navigate. We are our own worst critics, so when someone adds a scathing review to the pot, my confidence is in shambles. I'm much too hard on myself.
I often feel like I'm juggling and afraid I'll drop all the balls if something in life is out of balance. The metaphorical balls in the air would be mother, wife, homemaker, professor, social media writer, novel writer--probably in that order. When I have to grade and I do well doing do, my son feels slighted and begs for attention; if I put the papers down to play with my son or chat with my husband, I feel I'm now a bad professor. When I'm writing a blog as I am now, I'm thinking of the cleaning, novel writing, grading and other things I should he doing instead. I feel as if a ball will drop and I'm terrified it will be writing and that I'll never pick that ball up again. Then I realize that I need to give myself a break. My son won't be scarred for life because I ignore him now and then to grade. My students won't suffer if it takes 2 weeks to get a paper back rather than 1. My husband won't be upset if we have to get delivery instead of a home cooked meal. And I won't die if I don't publish something immediately.
Looking out the window with a feeling of great things to come reminded me to give myself a break, literally and figuratively. If all I have left is one dream to fulfill, I have plenty of time to try to accomplish it. Nature's beauty reminded yesterday to believe in myself and to make my dreams happen. So today, and one day every week, give yourself a break mentally and physically. Stop criticizing yourself, taking on too much, worrying about all your roles in life. Stop following society's drummer that tells you you must be perfect. Go beat your own drum. Stop and look at the window and enjoy the view because "troubles are just the shadows in a beautiful picture" (Voltaire) and that glorious picture is life.


Character sketch: Zombies and the Regime


 I threw yet another shirt onto the ground. It wasn’t the paint splatters on the sleeves that bothered me. All my clothes were covered in paint—the hazard of being an artist, I guess. What bothered me was the largest, most grotesque, bulbous object that God spurned me with—a bubble butt. There was no way to hide it, especially in leggings. I contemplated changing completely, but the digital clock on my dresser scoffed me; I was going to be late if I didn’t haul ass.
I threw on a bright green sweater-dress that I knew would cover my butt, and Chucks that once matched the sweater, but again, covered in paint. I grabbed a cookie and a coke can and ran out the door—breakfast of champions. I almost made it to my old beat up Ford Escort, when the Wicked Witch of the West stopped me in my tracks. She also went by the term “mother.”
“Seriously? Look at the state of you! What that adorable boyfriend of yours sees in you, I don’t know. You should take better care of your appearance. And that paint…”
“Can’t this wait mother, I’m late,” I growled throwing my backpack into the car.
“The paint is atrocious.”
“Why because it is a reminder of what you hate most about me?” I shot out the accusation. I don’t know why I did it at times; I guess I sadly still hoped she would comfort me and show me some love and respect, but there was no touching this ice queen’s heart. I braced myself for the upcoming sting of whatever she would say.
“Hate? No, that’s not right at all Ria. The correct word would be…disappointment.” Her eyes were soft, as if she really believed she was complementing me, that disappointment was so much better than hate. Didn’t she realize it hurt so much more?
“Well, get used to it. I’m double majoring. Make me mad mother and I swear I’ll go to an art school.” The threat usually made her back off. I figured if I threatened to limit myself to only art, then they’d condescend to let me double major in business and art. It would be the lesser of two evilsfor them. After all, they were forking out half my tuition, so I had to somehow manipulate them into giving me what I wanted.
I climbed into the car and slammed the door shut as she said something along the lines that we’d talk about it when we got home. My father, Hitler, and mother hated the fact I wanted to be an artist. It wasn’t practical; it also wasn’t practical that I hadn’t been a boy and that my birth robbed her of her chances to ever have that prized boy or any other child for that matter. They wanted me to be a doctor or lawyer and proclaimed to all that would listen that I was wasting my brain on “scribbling.” I could not wait to get out of their house, to leave them behind, to start living my life. Graduation seemed like a winning lottery ticket and I was oh-so-ready to cash it in.

I went to meet Brian by his car as usual. He was the boyfriend my mother was oh-so in love with. It was ghastly how she flirted with him. My father loved him as well. He was the like the son they never had: football player, on the honor roll, never did wrong, and was planning to major in pre-med. He was average in everything though, and certainly he wouldn’t get into medical school or even through a pre-med program. He was kind of intelligent but a very lazy student. I liked him, but I wasn’t blinded to his faults as some girls get, or my parents for that matter. He was cute, a great kisser, and had nice eyes. We had been dating for almost six months, like marriage for teenagers, but he was more of a friend than a lover.
“Hey,” he said quietly, shuffling his foot and not meeting my gaze. This did not bode well.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. He didn’t seem particularly sad, like a death in the family occurred, but just a bit put off.
“We’ve got to talk,” he sighed.
“I thought that’s what we’re doing,” I mocked. I knew where this was headed, but I needed to wrap my mind around how I felt about it.
“No, like a serious talk, Ria.”
“So talk,” I prompted. I wasn’t going to say the words. I wouldn’t make it that easy for him.
“We’re graduating in two weeks, going to different schools in the fall. I just think it will be easier to cut loose now, you know, instead of in August.”
“Easier?” I asked. I’m not sure why. I tried to think of something to say to get him to change his mind, some way to get him to stay with me, but none came. And then it dawned on me: I didn’t want him to stay with me. Otherwise, I’d find the words to fight for him. Why not break up? I didn’t love him. I’d never marry him. We were headed in completely different directions in life, geographically and figuratively, and we wanted very different things. He didn’t even fit into my plans.
“This is hard, I know…” he scrambled for words.
“No, not really.” I cut him off.
Brian looked as if I slapped him across the face. He was stunned.
“What?”
“You’re completely right. We’re not in love. We never should’ve even bothered to date really,” I mused aloud.
“It’s impossible to love you Ria,” he said suddenly full of anger. “You never let anyone in! You never feel anything! It’s like dating a zombie! And you totally over rationalized everything until it’s rancored useless!”
I bit my lip trying not to laugh at his blunder.
“And you laugh? You’re crazy, you know that?!” Brian kicked the bumper of his car and stormed off muttering curses at me under his breath.
“Brian!” I called before he could get far.
He stopped and peered over his shoulder at me.
“It’s ‘rendered useless,’ by the way,” I corrected him.
“Ria, fuck you.”
Then he stormed off.
As I walked to homeroom, I wondered why he was so upset and angry at me that I agreed a break up was a good idea. I must’ve wounded he pride. If he had expected me to cry and beg for him to keep dating me, then he didn’t know me at all. He was probably just lashing out because he was upset, but the things he said weighed heavily on my mind all morning. Was I impossible to love? An emotionless zombie? Did I really have trouble letting people in? He was right in that I was rational, but was that really a fault?
In art class, I tried to concentrate and pour my feelings out onto the canvas. There it was, my emotions for all to see, reds and blues of anger, frustration, and sadness. I could feel and I could show my feelings. So what if my medium was artwork rather than sobbing in the halls like some of the really silly girls in my school? Half the time I swear they cried just to get attention from people.
I didn’t think about Brian again until I saw the back of him in Trig. It was strange. His appearance didn’t bring anxiety, nervousness, or even regret. I felt…resolved. Things were over and that was that. I felt relieved. We would’ve wasted each other’s time if we continued dating. The only thing I lamented was losing the friendship. He was obviously angry, upset, and ignoring me now. The friendship probably wasn’t worth salvaging either; by the time things would stop being awkward, we’d be parting ways for college.
My thoughts drifted off to my overly strict father and what would await me when I got home. Another “pep” talk about how I’d fail as an artist and he would not financially bail me out of my mistakes most likely. He was a hard man, who worked hard at his car sales job, who never amounted to become the Wall Street stock broker he dreamed to be. He tried, but just couldn’t cut it. And mother was a failed ballet dancer, and even stopped teaching lessons when I was little to become a paralegal. My friend Matty said once that they might be dashing my dreams to protect me from experiencing the difficulties they had, and he was a smart cookie, but he gave them too much credit. They wanted my life to be stable for the self interests, so that they wouldn’t need to spend any money on me outside of college and so that I would be successful enough to take care of them when they were old. My mother told me as much once. I couldn’t remember a time when I felt that they loved me, just indifference and annoyance. I felt as if I interrupted their perfectly happy lives.
“How’s your day?” Matty asked me at lunch. We had a strange lunch table, a hodge-podge of different people from different cliques that was glued together by Matty. He was one of those guys, not super popular but able to hang out with just about anyone, very likable.
“Well if you’re referring to the heinous fight with my mother or the very awkward breakup with Brian or the fact upon self-reflection I find that people see me as an emotionless, pathetic, bitch, I’d say not such a good one. Do you think I’m a zombie?”
“Huh?” Matty looked at me as if he just realized I was there. Apparently, the greeting was merely a rhetorical question. He was obviously preoccupied with something. “What were you saying?”
“Nothing, just rambling,” I told him. I shifted my gaze down at the cafeteria pizza, no longer wanting to eat. I’m not sure if it was the cardboard consistency that ruined my appetite or the fact one of my only real friends could care less about what I was going through. Probably a bit of both. The fact Matty could care less hurt even more than Brian’s accusations. I felt suddenly so small, like Alice in Wonderland when she shrinks. No one could see me or care to do so. I was as insignificant as an ant.
Matty, my best friend, was staring at the cheerleading table, staring at Jenny Hapner, his obsession and reason for living since the first grade. He spoke to her twice, about homework. Since the first grade. It made me pity him. When he found out she was a vapid, cold-hearted snob and not the romanticized vision he fabricated in his imagination, he'd be broken hearted.
They made me sick, even Matty. Brian had accused me of being an emotionless zombie. Well, they were the zombies. Oh they felt things, things about themselves. The kids in my school, my parents--everybody--they were all after their own self interests. My best friend ignored my plight readily because I got girl was across the room. They were the zombies and the adults were the regime. I was getting out as soon as I could.
That day was they day I began my countdown to freedom.

"Love is Immortality"

Resounding moment
"Unable are the loved to die, for love is immortality." --Emily Dickinson
Recently, I lost my uncle to Parkinson’s. You’d think having 20 years to prepare for death that it would make it a bit easier, but it doesn’t. We weren’t particularly close, not like some families are, and when we moved down to South Carolina, he was only able to visit a few times due to his illness. My father, who is retired, went to see him a few times a year. My lack of a close bond with my uncle doesn’t make it any easier. 
I’m not sure any of us can imagine how hard it is to live with a disease like this. I am an empathic person and can see beyond the surface to see, or perhaps assume, someone’s suffering. Even as a child, I worried when others felt bad or something happened to them.

Wayne Borne
Suddenly, mortality is staring me down in realization that loved ones, old or young, are in fact mortal no matter how much we love them. A new anxiety fills me and my incorrigible imagination ventures off on planes of horror seeing or envisioning my loved ones dying and I physically almost retch at the thought. I. Just. Can’t. Deal.
Dispelling these images, I try to digest this awkward grief, of losing someone you know well, someone who is family, and of course I’m sad. But not seeing a loved one for years on end seems to soften the blow for me, yet I don't know how to deal with my grief, searching for a way to come to terms with it. My troublesome imagination casts out a net, looking for a way to feel bad, so that I can break through the numbness in my heart. What I mean is I think of my father having to watch the life leave his baby brother, my aunt dealing with watching his debilitating state day after day, year after year. I try to comprehend their pain, but then it becomes my own—the power of empathy knows no bounds. Then the dreadful imagination substitutes the scenario and I’m burying my brother or my husband and then the grief hits me like a brick and I have to dismiss the thoughts before it becomes too overwhelming. Why would I do this? Is it masochism? Not exactly, I’m looking for a way to break through this barrier of emptiness I feel. I’m trying to blast through the five steps of grief at once to come to terms with things. Yet, it does not make me feel better. I feel like I'm still trying to digest the fact my uncle is gone.
I still felt numb after the memorial service. I saw my dad's sadness, my mother's stoicism, but I couldn't fully let go of the idea that my uncle was gone until two weeks later. My cat helped me grieve as strange as it sounds. She had stopped eating and lost a drastic amount of weight over the last month. Off to the vet I went. After two trips and increasingly bad news, we were told she was dying. They let us take her home and told us to call if her condition declined, which I knew I wouldn't call until it was time to let her go. As I watched my once fat cat, now a mere skeleton, struggle to walk more than five feet before needing a rest, her short deep breaths, and her desperate sudden need to be held and loved, even around a rowdy toddler, I realized I was being selfish. It dawned on me while I held the syringe of food to force feed her again, that I couldn't do it. I couldn't keep her around for my benefit; it tore me apart to admit I needed to put her down, but it opened up a gaping wound that this was the exact situation my uncle went through, and my aunt had to watch it. His living will said no force feedings and as a man trapped in his broken body, I could see why he wouldn't wish to continue that way. Seeing the cat struggle made me realize how hard it was for my uncle and his wife. My imagination tied the two events together and every time I saw the cat's sad weak eyes, I thought if my uncle and the years of suffering he went through. My grief overwhelmed me and I finally broke through the numbness and felt.
 
Fatty Boom
When I said goodbye to my little feline child, because as every pet owner knows, they are our children, I said goodbye to my uncle too. My empathy for others has prepared me for the worst and facing death, although hard, doesn't break me. I'm strong and stoic and can bear the burden of grief, yet the imagination never shuts off constantly wondering--no fearing--what my loved ones' last moments were like.
If only I could turn this imagination of mine off and stay in my own head…regardless, I’ll take the bad with the good. My imagination allows me to be creative, to write, to truly understand other people and connect with them on a level that they may not even be aware of. To see one's struggle in the end, the determination to live, and the sadness when that person or animal gives up, is part of the human experience that we must all face. If I must feel the raw human emotion of grief, even through imagining what others feel in order to get there, then I will gladly step up to the plate because an imagination, a true human connection, is a bad thing to waste. And I would not trade that for the world.
I press forward no longer numb but now feeling great sadness, but part of me is glad they no longer suffer. They are released from this life but not from my heart. As Dickinson famously stated, "Unable are the loved to die, for love is immortality." Although they are gone and I won't see them anymore, my love for them, all my lost loved ones, will live on.






















Breaking Down the Confident Woman

This title is two-fold. First, it can be taken as breaking down the modern confident woman. Second, it can be how society attempts to undermine womanhood by attempting to make a confident woman literally break down.

Being a confident woman in society is difficult, maybe even as difficult as it was during the Suffrage movement or before women fought for equality. The main enemy doesn't seem to be just men, but other women. Both slgenders together have reinforced throughout society that being confident is actually a bad thing, when in reality it is far from. Some of the most successful women in history put aside their insecurity demons, ignored society, and accomplished great things.Cleopatra, Boudicca, Joan of Arc, Elizabeth Cady Staton, Susan B. Anthony, Madame Curie, and many more women have tackled so many feats during a patriarchal reign. Despite the astounding history that proves to us that a healthy confidence level equals success, society attacks the modern woman. In fact, there are many negative myths created about them that people buy into. 

Debunking the myth: a confident woman...

1. Is a hard core chauvinistic feminist.
A lot of people still cringe at the word feminist, since in our modern age it has taken on a negative connotation. Feminism actually means to believe in the equality of men and woman socially, economically, and politically. No where does its definition say that women believe in the inferiority of men. Society really wishes to say a woman is a chauvinist if she looks down on men, but we misuse the word chauvinism, much like our misuse of feminism, and apply it only to men: chauvinist pig (another sexist crime). Chauvinism actually is "excessive or prejudiced loyalty or support for one's own cause, group, or gender" according to Google's dictionary. This is really what people mean when they use the term feminism in a negative way. So yes, most confident women are feminists (in the true sense of the word) and proud of it. They believe they have the right to be equal to men if they so choose (you can be a feminist housewife if it is a choice to be so). However, rarely have I ever come across a chauvinist woman who is truly confident. If she must put down men (even if she is a lesbian or asexual), she has a bounty of insecurities that attack another gender; sometimes she has been burned or treated poorly by the opposite sex--this would indeed take her confidence away. Therefore, most confident women are not axe wielding man hating beasts. They simply see men and women as equal autonomous beings that cohesively coexist.
Feminist Ryan Gosling - feminism Photo

2. Looks down on others.
Society tends to jump to the conclusion that when people show confidence that they see themselves as superior to others. They believe a confident woman is a snob. This myth is by far the most ridiculous. A woman can love herself, know herself, and be confident about herself and her abilities. Just because a confident woman doesn't let people's opinions get the best of her and bring her down, it doesn't mean she's ignoring that opinion or advice. It doesn't mean the adviser or critic is beneath her. Usually she is listening, values that opinion, but she just doesn't let what one person says rule her life (like insecure folks do). She most likely values other people as well since a confident woman realizes that a person's worth is completely subjective. Self-worth is easier to measure and understand and she transfers that understanding onto others. Therefore, not many people are considered "worthless" to her (rapists, molesters, murderers, etc.--these she looks down on). She values most people's roles in the world and personally in her life. Those who feel she is looking down on them most likely are insecure themselves. Also, if she does look down on others, she has some deep-seated insecurity issues going on. Because those who truly believe in themselves have no need to disqualify the achievements of others; instead they celebrate their friends' successes.

3. Is a frigid bitch.
This is a tough one. A lot of men and women claim someone is a cold bitch because she has wounded their pride. Perhaps she belittled the guy that was hitting on her and couldn't pick up her cues of disinterest. Perhaps she is harder to get into bed than he hoped for. Perhaps she didn't fawn and empathize over her friend's "huge" problem because she wisely knows that said friend just wants attention or that the problem is minuscule compared to the major issues in the world. Acknowledgement of the flaws of others (like drama queen above) is a cardinal sin in our society but only if the confident woman sees herself as above these issues, which brings us to number 4.

4. Believes she's flawless.

The number one reason people hate confident women is because they're...confident. Society views that as they believe they are perfect. This is far from the truth. A confident woman knows she has imperfections, that there's no such thing as a perfect person, and those that strive to be are headed for a downfall.
She knows everyone of her flaws, and she has embraced them. She doesn't let people pointing them out get to her and she loves herself despite her flaws. We can self analyze, to not do so is being egotistical, not having confidence. Egotism and confidence are not synonyms, which is something people don't understand. Another thing overlooked is envy. Confident women are often scapegoated by those with poor self-esteem. They attack the confident woman because they're jealous, not because she makes more money, her kids are angels, or her husband is a saint (which most likely aren't always true) but because she likes herself. Many women dislike themselves when they shouldn't, so a woman who likes herself is a threat, an outsider, and ergo must see herself as perfection itself. This is not true; she merely doesn't let her flaws consume her. Diets, excessive exercising, the latest fashions, and the hottest trends don't rule her life. She may partake in these things but she doesn't let it rule her. Appearance and material items are only small factors in which she bases her decisions. She rules her own life, not society, and this intimidates and irritates self-conscious women.

5. Has it completely together.
Along with flawlessness, some assume confident women have their shit together, as in everything in life is planned, organized, and goes on without a hitch. After all, these women have less drama in their lives than most. This togetherness, however, is just a facade. Yes, even confident women become unraveled by stress and drama, but they rarely create that drama themselves. They are confident and don't outwardly seek attention through kicking up a ruckus. Instead, a self-assured woman will pick up the pieces of a terrible situation, put it back together, and persevere on. She finds pleasure and contentment in how she handled the situation rather than pats on the back from others. She doesn't whine, wheedle, and look to be saved by an imaginary prince charming. She does it all herself and even has trouble understanding others who let themselves get knocked down and don't ever get up again. But she surely doesn't have it all together; she works hard to keep things stable in life but always knows, and is prepared for, there's a curve ball around the corner. In fact, some thrive on challenges.

Overall, the confident woman is not to be feared, ridiculed, or attacked by people. In fact, she should be revered and we should all desire to become her. There's no better dream than being yourself without the worry of others' opinions and more importantly to love yourself. So learn to be confident...


Love yourself
Be yourself
Don't let anyone bring you down
Cut out poisonous people
Set goals and tackle them
Admit your faults
Celebrate your virtues
Always look for the good
Defeat the bad 
Don't look back
Believe in yourself

It is what it is

It is what it is...

I use this idiom all the time, but I hate it. Why do I use it? Well, it's better than saying to my students or other people, "you're sh@$ out of luck," or "I refuse to change my mind or the situation." It ends all arguments since someone cannot disagree and childishly say, "no it's not." It's just as bad as "let's agree to disagree." 
For example, I'll have that student that will approach me with empty excuses to why he/she was unable to turn in any papers or do any of the work over the semester and has ignored all my reminders and warnings. Suddenly, this student shows up at my office at the end of the semester looking for a miracle to pass the class. I usually break it down to these students by pointing out policies in the syllabus needed to pass, then I show them mathematically the inability to pass. In desperation, most of these students refuse to see mathematical and linguistic reality. They become irrational and try to convince me that there must be a way to pass without doing the work (they don't say it in this way, but just refuse to come to terms with the reality of the situation). In the end, I resort to, "it is what it is." Only then do they seem to understand the finality of the situation and give in. 
Idioms come in handy because we universally understand them. But why are they necessary to use? Surely in the above situation as a student you should be able to grasp that you won't pass if you don't do the work, period. But that doesn't seem to be enough. The idiom "It is what it is," is said to be "used when a person, place or thing is behaving in accordance with their nature, so that behavior should be accepted or expected even if it is not what you would like" (Usingenglish.com). This makes sense in the above example. The "nature" would be the students' awareness, via syllabus, of due dates, expectations, assignments etc. and the professor holding them accountable for these assignments. So in the end I suppose I'm saying to the student, "I know you don't like it but this is to be expected." It seems obvious in this situation but given the background of some students and inferior public school systems, some of these kids probably passed high school classes by handing in something at the last minute regardless of due dates, or worse even passed without doing any work. In these instances, "it is what it is" is like a bitch-slap the face. A cruel and bitter sting of how life suddenly is so unfair to them.
I also end up using the ridiculous expression when working in the restaurant industry. I'll get those people who demand a booth, because for some reason they are so much better (even though where I work, they aren't padded), when there clearly aren't any open. I survey the restaurant, estimate how long the quickest booth to leave will be and explain the wait time. Often I'm met with a disgusted expression and shock to why they must wait at all. What I want to tell them is, "I'm not f$@*ing Harry Potter and can conjure a booth out of my a$$ for you." Instead I use the handy, " it is what it is, sorry." Every now and then that expression doesn't quite do it for them and they get angry because as we asininely tell them the customer is always right. In this instance, it's the reverse of students. Now I have to break it down: there are no booths open and you have to wait for one. Here, a simple idiom will not suffice. The customers have this huge self entitlement that they personally deserve the best, what they want should be given to them no matter what, and mere employees are their personal slaves for the next hour and must follow their orders. Here, the idiom is null and void since they believe they are right no matter what with complete disregard for reality. 

As the Rolling Stones state, "you can't always get what you want" people. The world doesn't work that way restaurant guests and students. As much as I hate the expression, the world, our country, our customs, they are what they are. So students do your work and customers be prepared to wait for your picky desires. It is what it is after all.

    Potty Mouths

    Resounding moment # 7  "Potty Mouths"

    Memories from childhood are hard to evoke without adding some embellishments. First, you recall it from a child's perspective which is not always credible; second, time and situations are hard to measure as a child; third, when you have a creative mind it is really difficult not to fabricate details without knowing you're doing it (I call it filling in the blanks). This being said, whenever I write about childhood memories, they take on a creative nonfiction lens. Creative nonfiction is just fancy literary way of making a narrative, memoir, or any other work that is based on fact. Critics dispute though how much creative invention is acceptable in this genre. I merely invent where the details or pieces are missing. This means that the following passage is based as closely to reality as I can remember...

    It was around third grade when I learned that life wasn't fair. I had gotten in trouble for the first time, serious trouble for elementary school. Yes, my bestie at the time Quinn and I deserved the week of no recess, with the creepy secretary who wouldn't let me use the bathroom and stored used tissues up her sleeve to reuse the next time her nose would run. We had been bullies; I usually was the victim but we used inappropriate language to make fun of a girl a year younger than us, Vicki. The words used were very adult for our age group. 


    Vicki had been wearing a training bra and was only in the second grade, what made her a target was that she didn't need it yet. It started off with questions pertaining to her bra. It irked me as she proudly boasted she needed them for her "big boobies." I already needed to wear a training bra but vehemently refused to because people could see it through your clothes and then you'd become a target. The boys loved picking on girls about their boobs and bras not realizing yet that the rest if their adult lives most likely would center around removing that contraption to get to the goods. Boobs would become a focal point in their lives but for now they were a mysterious garments that symbolized womanhood--a scary mystical future world.
    Flat chested Vicki saw us laugh and whisper. I shared with Quinn that she didn't need a bra and wanted attention. Quinn, the bolder one of us, who had no qualms about telling someone the truth, told Vicki, "You don't need a bra."
    "I do too. My mom says I do."
    "Well, your mom's wrong," Quinn asserted without any malice. She was simply stating a fact.
    "Oh because your boobs are soooooo big," I said with sarcasm. 
    "They are," she puffed her chest out as if that would help us see better.
    Brooke, a girl a year older than us laughed. "Oh so big," she mocked. 
    Now Brooke had boobs, big ones in our eyes at least, so this slight hurt Vicki even more. I could see the pain in her eyes but Brooke, "cool" Brooke, was being nice to me for once and she was older, the proud holder of the coveted backseat of the bus. So I went further. "Your boobs are so big they won't fit in the seat!"
    A couple kids laughed.
    "No the entire bus!" Quinn added.
    I made sounds as if her boobs busted the windows and crashed the bus.
    Brooke and her friend whispered to each other. Brooke said to Vicki, "Do you have a dick Vicki?"
    "What?"
    "You dunno what it is do you?"
    "No." 
    Now Quinn and I were at a loss, so we didn't laugh. I was anxious she'd ask us next. Even though we had some foul mouthed brothers in the seventh grade, we still hadn't been subjected to hearing that word yet.
    "It's a penis," the two older girls explained laughing. Quinn and I knew this word. It's what boys peed out of of course! 
    "Do you have one?"
    "I dunno," Vicki said biting her lip sadly. She was out of her depth.
    We couldn't help but laugh. She had a little brother after all.
    "Yeah," she guessed. We were in stitches now, howling with laughter.
    "I mean no!" She tried to correct, but it was too late.
    "She has boobs to the front of the bus and a big penis!" I cackled.
    "Her Penis is as big as Texas," Quinn joked. 
    "No, it's so long that it goes to California" I added. 
    Brooke leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Tell her she's a boy with an ugly penis."
    "You're an ugly penis boy." I giggled.
    The banter went further with Brooke supplying us with insults and Quinn and I delivering them, until Vicki rushed off the bus at her stop. I saw her out the window; she went running to her mother crying. The older girls laughed, Quinn fiddled with her book bag, but I watched the scene outside with overwhelming guilt. I felt bad for joining in, for saying things that upset Vicki. I misread the silent treatment she gave us in the end as stoicism when in reality she was merely holding herself together. 
    I felt awful; I mentally punished myself all evening and the next morning on the bus I apologized to Vicki. She ignored me though. At least I apologized I thought and my guilt abated--only momentarily. My teacher took Quinn aside that day to talk to her. Then she took me. When I heard my name, I knew what it was about and that I was in trouble. What had Quinn told them? We were besties, surely she'd tell the truth and hopefully minimize our guilt. I went with the truth, being taught that the truth would set you free. I thought I'd get a punishment and I knew I deserved it. The truth would give us leniency, or I had hoped. 
    After our teacher, there was an inquiry with Mrs. McGwiggin. I was shaking. She was the fourth grade teacher that gave my brother a bad grade and got him in trouble for a short story he wrote in his journal that reenacted a scene from Rambo. On top of that, she spread the gossip to our grandparents since she frequented their bar/restaurant.
    Mrs. McGwiggin questioned Quinn and I together. Being Brooke's teacher, she was biased from the start. We were told that the older girls had corroborated their story about what happened on the bus since they had been accused by Vicki's mother as well.
    "We will know then if you are lying to us."
    This seemed a bit one sided from my innocent perspective. I felt as if I was being accused of lying before I even got to speak.
    "We already had to tell Miss Henry." Quinn said a bit pertinently.
    "I want you to say it and look me in the eye when you do so," Mrs. McGwiggin attempted to intimidate us by giving us a glare and crossing her arms.
    My 8 year old instincts knew that Brooke had lied, was believed, and we would feel the full brunt of the punishment. Yes, what we had done was wrong, but the older girls were in the wrong as well. They taught us words we didn't know. I was suddenly furious. I felt like I was being attacked because of her dislike for my brother who she taught years before. She was the only teacher that I ever heard who spoke badly of my brother's academic performance who had been a model student his entire career. This painted a picture to me as being one of those teachers who didn't believe in equality, who had her favorites (ass kissers) and those she pretty much hated (hyper children with large imaginations). To a child, the impact teachers have is astounding and she has until this day left a foul taste in my mouth.
    "Quinn just meant we can't lie because we already told Miss Henry the truth," I managed to say to her. My anger fueled my audacity. Normally I was a meek, timid, and silent child, easily intimidated by adults. I didn't mean anything by the comment only the logical explanation of why we wouldn't or, more correctly, couldn't lie to her on a whim.
    "You're a smart alack just like your brother aren't you?" She glared at me. I was stunned at this accusation. My brother and I weren't smart asses in any sense and never would talk back to a teacher. If she liked my grandparents, why would she hate us? I was so confused and angry.
    "All four of us said bad things. They gave us the ideas, the bad words," Quinn blurted out getting the heat off of me for a minutes.
    Again we were asked a dozen questions. This time they were very leading questions; she was trying to corner us and get us to eradicate her beloved Brooke's blame. We were two clever little girls though and she couldn't snare us.
    She was rattled and angry. "If you don't tell me right now the truth, you'll be in more trouble than ever. And you know what Lisa, I'll tell your grandparents all about your foul language and what you did to that poor girl."
    Then the tears came, not because I was scared of the threat, or my grandparents finding out, but because I knew how much I put that poor girl through. The guilt had been festering even after the apology I gave her. I wanted the punishment, but I wanted all of us involved punished. The curse word was what was getting Quinn in I in so deep and we were taught that by Brooke.
    "Who else would tell us that word?" Quinn interjected because I was a blubbering mess.
    "Your brothers," Mrs. McGwiggin hissed at us.


    It had gone full circle. We both knew she had made her mind up before she even questioned us.
    "We wanna see Mrs. Bobkowski," Quinn insisted.
    Mrs. McGwiggin was shocked but said, "Fine." Then sent us to the office. I thought Quinn was crazy to ask for the principal, but she was right in the end. Mrs. Bobkowski heard our entire story without bias, showed no emotion, and then gave us our punishment. We had never been in trouble before, never had been mean to someone, so we weren't facing a suspension for the curse words. We would get our week of no recess, which we rightfully deserved. When we showed up though, Brooke and her buddy weren't there. Quinn and I were fuming but we weren't allowed to talk and the secretary said we'd be in more trouble if we passed notes. We wanted justice. We wanted their punishment as well, not because we didn't deserve it, but because it was what was right and fair. They egged us on, they made us take it further than we would have. We made fun of her nonexistent breasts; they influenced us to mock her as a transvestite. What we did was wrong, but what they did took it way too far. I didn't feel like justice was done. They would bully and bait others to bully for them in the future. They wouldn't learn from this mistake as we were.
    I forget what happened to Brooke, except that she smoked in middle school at our bus stop and I never saw her in high school. Either I paid no attention to her or she moved. I think her parents divorced. What stuck with me about Brooke was that day on the bus where she was a bully along with us, jumping in and taking it to a worse level, then craftily eluding punishment despite Vicki pointing fingers at her as well. It stuck with me that others could do wrong and get away with it. Yet, in the end I learned a valuable lesson. That, yes, life is unfair, but that wasn't what mattered.in the end. I learned not to bully others, that I was better than people like Brooke that jump in to help put down others. I learned that life wasn't fair. It still isn't. So many people manipulate, bully, or put down others as adults even. I made a decision not to pick on others after this incident and, yes, life is unfair. I spent most of middle school as the verbal punching bag for a plethora of Brooke type girls. But that decision--to become the victim rather than the perpetrator--has made all the difference and has made me who I am today. Life is not fair at times, but at least I can try to treat people fairly.

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