5 Lies Hollywood Told Us About Snow

I grew up in Southern California and, even though I had seen snow in the mountains when I was a kid, most of what I learned about snow came from movies. When I moved to the Northeast 11 years ago, I was in for a rude awakening. Here are some of the lies spread by the movie-makers…and believed by at least one naïve Californian.

1. Snow is pretty and white. Sure, the first few hours after a snow storm are gorgeous. And if you’re lucky enough to see snow cover rolling hills or a group of pine trees, it’s especially majestic. But in the urban world in which most of us live, snow is dirty. The plows send loads of oil and grime mixed with chunks of white into piles that line the streets and parking lots. After just a day or two, the once white blanket is nothing more than grey mush.

2. Don’t eat the Yellow Snow….Oh no, wait. That one is true.

3. Snow Angels are fun. We have all seen the movie scenes of people smiling as they make snow angels, giggling as they flop around in the pure white puff. It’s totally bogus. My Freshman year of College, after the first snow storm, I was so excited to go outside and play. My team mates and friends all made fun of “the silly California girl” as I wrapped up for some fun. As soon as I found a fresh spot, I threw myself down on my back and started flapping my legs and wings. Within seconds I could feel the cold snow on my back where my jacket had been tugged up by my arms. I felt crystals on my neck, slipping between my hat and scarf. And since I didn’t have proper boots, my shoes were filled with snow by the time I stood up. Not only did my “Angel” look nothing like the one in the movies, but my playtime was cut short by the unexpected frost-bitten sensation coursing through my body.

4. Snow = Snowball Fight! I always thought a good, clean snowball fight was standard practice when it snowed. One thing they never share in movies is that it takes a special kind of snow to make a snowball. Sometimes, snow is too heavy and wet. Sometimes it’s too soft and powdery. Only rarely does one some across perfect snowball snow. Even then, throwing a ball of flakes packed into a make-shift baseball is quite difficult. In my experience, the snowball exploded over my own head mid-throw more often than it found its target.

5. It only Snows at night, when children dream of a White Christmas. I always imagined waking up on Christmas Day and racing to the window to share with the rest of my house, “It SNOWED!” I had this idea in my head that snow was made by magic. Unfortunately, it is much more common to utter the words, “Ugh, it snowed. Can I use your ice scraper?”

Vows 11.29.13

On November 29, 2013 I married my Soul Mate. I mean “Soul Mate” as literally as someone can possibly take it. If anyone were to express to me that they do not believe in Soul Mates, I might kindly respond with, “Well, then you haven’t had the chance of witnessing it yet.”

Our Wedding was everything we wanted it to be. It certainly wasn’t the kind of Wedding most people dream up – but to us it was absolutely perfect. Neither of us can think of a single thing that went wrong all night. Frequently during the reception, we stole small conversations with each other, pausing to take in the Beauty of our friends and loved ones all there to celebrate and support us. The room was so full of Love…I can still feel it.

We chose to write our own vows, selecting works of Music and Literature to quote. I read mine a hundred times before the ceremony, trying to prepare myself enough so I wouldn’t cry. But the words are so powerful, so true, and so meaningful…my voice quivered and cracked throughout the whole thing. I have heard some people say that their whole ceremony is a blur – not mine. I am so lucky to have every moment tucked away in my memory. I hope those emotions I had standing up there holding Jamie’s hands are as strong in 50 years as they were that day.

I am still flying sky high…

“I have chosen most of my vows from my favorite book, The Alchemist, by Paolo Coelho.  The book is about a journey to discover dreams and fulfill life’s desires. I know without a doubt that that is what we are doing here today. This is my Personal Legend. You, J, are my treasure.

“In the book Coelho says, ‘If you can concentrate only on the present, you’ll be happy – you’ll see that there are stars in the Heavens. Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living right now.’ I feel that way each day I am with you, and vow to do so the rest of our lives.

“There are people in the World that don’t believe in the love we share. ‘But maybe people who [feel] that way never learned the universal language. Because when you know that language, it’s easy to understand that someone in the world awaits you, whether it’s in the middle of the desert or in some great city. And when two such people encounter each other, and their eyes meet, the past and the future become unimportant. There is only that moment, and the incredible certainty that everything under the sun has been written by one hand only. It is the hand that evokes love, and creates a twin soul for every person in the world. Without such love, one’s dreams would have no meaning.’

 “’Cause I understand you, we see eye to eye/ Like a double rainbow in the sky/ And wherever you go, so will I/ Cause a double rainbow is hard to find’*”

*From Katy Perry’s song “Double Rainbow” from her new album Prism

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My Cinderella Story

When I was 9, my Father signed me up to play on a Softball team that his friend was helping to coach. My Father always took our family to baseball games and I loved them – but I was never really into playing sports. I had danced since the age of 5 – tights, leotards and fringe were all I knew when it came to competition. A new challenge, however, sounded like fun.

I got a Rawlings Ken Griffey, Jr. Signature Series mitt, sliding shorts from the local Big 5 Sporting Goods and a pair of Nike High-Top cleats. I was scared out of my mind when I showed up to the first practice. Everyone else seemed like they knew what they were doing. The Coaches were using words like “grounders”, “shag” and “back-up”. I was lost. Over the next few weeks, I slowly became acquainted with the lingo. I felt myself improving and I was proud of my progress.

The next year, one of the Coaches suggested I learn to pitch. I was always the tallest girl in my age group and I have unusually big hands – two things that can be very helpful to a softball pitcher (I sometimes now look back and laugh at how so much of my Destiny was dictated by such minor physical characteristics). My Father and I began practicing 5 days a week on new pitches. He even found me an amateur Pitching Coach for a short period of time. By the time I was 14, I had dreams of playing in the NCAA. I had the 1996 USA Softball Team posters all over my walls. I even sent away for a VHS tape pitching tutorial taught by Olympic All-Star Michele Smith.

Michele Smith

In 1998, I entered High School and in the Spring of ’99 I tried out for the Softball Team. Tryouts were grueling. We ran a lot. Threw a lot. Hit a lot. The first two days of cuts were massive – 40 girls showed up the first day and by Day 3 there were 25 of us left (it was Southern California, after all – Fastpitch Softball Capital of the World). On Day 3, I was feeling so confident. The 25 of us gathered around the Junior Varsity Coach for the list of the final 15 girls that had made the team. With each name, my heart skipped a beat, waiting for mine to be called. Until finally, all 15 names were announced – and I wasn’t one of them. At first I thought it was a mistake. I actually went up to the Coach after everyone was dismissed to double-check. She confirmed I wasn’t on the team and said, “Keep working hard and come back next year.” And that was it. My dreams were over.

My Father had to work so I sat on a bench to wait for him to come get me. As time passed, I grew more and more disappointed in myself. By the time my Father pulled the car up, rolled down the window and asked with a big smile on his face, “So? How’d it go?”, I was an emotional wreck. All the tears I had held in came pouring out. He slammed the car into park and rushed over to me. He had nothing but comforting words, but I still couldn’t help but feel embarrassed – like I had let him down. I was lying to myself when I told myself I was a good pitcher. The progress I thought I had made was false. I couldn’t even make the JV Team – what was I thinking?

My Father must have sensed I needed some time. He let me stew in my grief for about 2 weeks until he finally came to me and sat me down for a chat. He reminded me of my dreams – of how for so long I spoke of nothing but playing Softball at the Collegiate level. He reminded me of the girls on my walls upstairs and how hard they had to work to get to where they were. He then said, “If you truly want to give up on Softball, then I will support you. But if you still want to play and if you still want to pitch, you have a choice to make. You can be satisfied with the level at which you currently are…..or….we can get you a better Coach and we can work harder.” It was that conversation that saved my dream. It was my Father’s support that kept me focused on my Destiny.

A week later he had set me up with a new Pitching Coach. We drove 35 minutes each way every 2 weeks for lessons. I learned new pitches from a man who had coached the best pitchers in Southern California. My Father and I threw in the backyard at least 3 times a week. I got stronger and faster. Eventually my Father even invested in shin guards, throwing pride aside for the much-needed protection as I consistently started throwing over 60 MPH. When we were on vacation, we found time to throw. When it was rainy (although rare), we pitched anyway. When I took a two-week trip to France with my French Class, I brought a ball to work on spins and grips.

By the time I went back my Sophomore Year to tryout, I was a completely new Pitcher. I still believe to this day, that if I had made the team as a Freshman, I would have been satisfied with my skill level. I never would have been forced to recognize my weaknesses. I might have played for a few more years – and that would have been it. Instead, I excelled as a Pitcher and made in onto one of the best 18 and under travel teams in Southern California. The team traveled all over the country and gave me exposure to real College Coaches! When I got a letter from the Head Coach of a Division I University on the East Coast, I was over the moon. I was offered a full scholarship and in September 2002, my dream of playing at the College level came true.

I can only describe those next four years as pure bliss. I earned the #1 spot as a Freshman and led our team to the Conference Championship. My Sophomore year I broke the Season Strikeout Record and my Junior Year I surpassed the previously set Career Strikeout Record. My Senior Year I even got a phone call from the Olympic Softball Coach of Holland! I still pinch myself when I think of those four years. I wonder, at times, if it even happened. Did I actually get to do all that? Was that really me?

Last week, I received a call from the Athletic Director of my Alma Mater. It was strange to receive a call from him and I wondered if there was something wrong. His words stunned me: “I just wanted to call and let you know that you will be inducted into our Athletics Hall of Fame in June.” I was speechless. Never in my wildest dreams, especially that day on the bench waiting for my Father to pick me up, could I have imagined that the girl that was cut from her High School JV team her Freshman Year, could receive such an Honor nearly 15 years later.

I have so much to thank my Father for in my life. He is my rock and my hero. But that single conversation on a random day in February of ’99 is by far at the top of my list. He saved me. My entire life had been centered around Softball and the ripples that came from playing. I have my Father to thank for saving my Destiny.

10 Reasons Why Drag Queens Make the World a Better Place

The Incomparable Jinkx Monsoon*

The Incomparable Jinkx Monsoon*

10. Entertainment – The job of a Drag Queen is first and foremost to entertain. If you were to speak to any Drag Queen about why they do what they do, I’m certain they’d all have their own reasons. Each Queen has a story that made them who they are today, both in and out of drag. But at the heart of each is an entertainer. That pure joy you see as you watch a Queen on stage, putting her heart into whatever her craft has led her to do, is something that can put a smile on any face. That is life-saving “entertaintment”.

Brittany Lynn phillymag.com

Brittany Lynn
phillymag.com

9. Commitment – A Queen’s closet is no joke. She has wigs and shoes and lashes for days – or years rather. And clothing isn’t all she has in her repertoire. So many Drag Queens can do multiple impersonations. Some can sing. Many do comedy. That kind of commitment seems like it’s fewer and farther between these days.

8. Fashion – Queens have style! And I don’t necessarily mean the what’s-hot-and-what’s-not kind of style. Fashion doesn’t always have to be dictated by magazines. I just mean polished and proud of how they look. It’s an impressive feat to look so on-point as a boy and smokin’ hot a girl.

Jessica Wild as both Bride and Groom in the wedding challenge on RuPaul's Drag Race Season 2.

Jessica Wild as both Bride and Groom in the wedding challenge on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 2.

7. Creativity – The Drag World is a culture rich in unique creativity. Not only do Drag Queens have their own lingo (one that makes little sense to the uninitiated), but they are even bringing their artistic influences to the music world these days. There’s songs like RuPaul’s “Tranny Chaser” and Sharon Needles’ “Kai Kai” that even poke fun at their own culture. You can find campy craziness in Alaska’s “Nails“, with the chanted lyric, “If you’re not wearing nails, then you’re not doing drag!” My favorites are the parodies of popular songs. Willam Belli’s “Chow Down (at Chick Fil-A)” featuring Detox and Vicky Vox remakes Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On (For One More Day)”. The trio recently collaborated on another creation in “Blurred Bynes“, a hilarious montage throwing shade at Amanda Bynes and her not-so-mature antics. And a must-hear is Mimi Imfurst as she sings her parody of “I Will Survive” entitled “Another Lie“, referring to the “tiny” fib told by a male about the [desired] size of his nether regions. 😉

Alaska Thunderf#%$ 5000, Star and runner-up of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 5

6. Cajones – And I don’t mean actual testicles (although they have those, too). I mean courage. It takes more courage than many could fathom for a man to dress in women’s clothing and parade around in public. Many Queens share stories about the first time they dressed in drag and how liberating it felt. But the world, as accepting as it’s becoming, is still a scary place. Bigotry and hate threaten that liberation each time a Queen steps out her door. Seeing their courage can give us all hope.

5. Beauty – What fascinates me most about Drag Queens is the illusion. I can’t get enough of watching the Boy turn into the Queen. To me, it’s Beauty in such a true form. When I put on make-up and do my hair, I may spend about 20 minutes on the whole project. To watch what a Drag Queen must do to become the women within is breathtaking. It’s not an easy Beauty. It isn’t effortless. It’s laborious. It takes time. It takes energy. And at the end of it all, each Queen is on display for critique and judgement. And yet it’s the Beauty and the Labor that keeps her coming back to the high of being in Drag. It is, without a doubt, truly beautiful.

Maddelynne Hatter in Leland Bobbe's Half-Drag portraits project.

Maddelynne Hatter in Leland Bobbe’s Half-Drag portraits project.

4. Fear – With every act of bravery comes a little bit of fear. Sometimes when we recognize a fear within ourselves, we are embarrassed by it. We try and bury the fear, cover it up, ignore it. But when we see acts of bravery overcome fear, it gives us a glimmer of reality. We begin to recognize that everyone has fear – even the coolest, calmest, bravest of heroes. Fear is real. A Drag Queen may put on wigs and layers of makeup and 6-inch heels, but underneath it all there is a little bit of fear that reminds us that they are real.

3. Defiance – What’s a Drag Queen without a healthy dose of Bad Kid? Just the definition of Drag Queen proves that they don’t follow the straight path dictated by the squares of society. That alone makes me green with envy – throw a lace front wig and couture dress on top of that and I can say that I am officially jealous of Drag Queens.

2. Patience – The art of drag definitely doesn’t come easily. To give you an idea of what a Drag Queen does to get ready I included a video below titled “Drag Becomes Him”. The video is of my all-time favorite Queen, Jinkx Monsoon. She is querky and bizarre and silly. As a boy, she has wild red hair and a goofy laugh. As she transforms herself into Jinkx she becomes her and the boy just melts away. It takes a special kind of patience – but what an amazing reward.

1. Inspiration – And finally, the number one reason why Drag Queens make this world a better place – INSPIRATION. Even if a large part of the world doesn’t want to accept Gays and Gay Culture, we’re here. There are countless adolescents out there struggling with their sexuality and where they fit in. Somewhere, there’s an awkward gay boy that has a picture of Jinkx Monsoon in his school notebook and uses it each day as a promise of a better future. Maybe he’s from a small town, maybe from a big city. Either way, he needs someone to show him that being different and being gay and being fabulous are not things to be ashamed of. And maybe someday he’ll be able to express his own creativity in an equally fabulous way – because Drag. Queens. Rule.

*The Featured image for this post is of Jinkx Monsoon starring with Major Scales in “The Vaudevillians” at the Laurie Beechman Theatre in New York City. It is an incredible show and a must-see! Get tickets here! But do it soon – after November 19 she takes the show on an international tour!

Macabre meets Elegance…on a Budget

WARNING: This is one of those nerdy “Do It Yourself” posts. I can’t help it – I’m damn proud of my work and now I want to share! 🙂

As I detailed in a previous post “Let’s Give Em Something to Talk About“, Jamie and I are planning on having the kind of wedding that has people talking for years. Our hope, although not our motivation, is to surprise and wow people all through the night. Our motivation is simple – do us. Every detail of this day has been hand-constucted (and I do mean hand constructed) by us, for us. I decided pretty early on that I was going to make everything the for the wedding myself*. I am pretty crafty (and VERY thrifty) so it worked out. I quickly became one of those “DIY Brides” one might see all over the internet, although I consider myself in a separate category since I never once looked at a Bridal Magazine nor did I ever sign up for Pinterest. 😉 “Doing it myself “also helped our budget significantly, which was a major bonus since we are paying for this shindig on our own.

Even though we really didn’t get serious about planning the wedding until we booked the venue back in March, we had slowly been creating our vision over the course of the last 10 years. It is that vision that has been coming to life these last few months….and IT. IS. BEAUTIFUL.

Since our theme is “Day of the Dead” (which totally speaks to our cultural interests and lifestyle) we have been challenged with finding the perfect combination of Macabre and Elegance. We both agreed we wanted the theme to come across clearly, without looking too much like a Halloween Party. I, however, am obsessed with all things Halloween so I couldn’t help but get inspiration from the classic Halloween Tree for our center pieces.

This is a typical Halloween Tree

Being from California, I thought it might be really cool to work in Manzanita, a plant native to desert regions of California, Arizona, Nevada and other similar regions. It has that Halloween Tree look so it worked perfectly.

Here’s some manzanita growing wild in California.

I went online and found a place in California that shipped the branches wrapped in string to preserve them. When they arrived, I cut the ropes off and let them sit.

They looked like this

Even though the umber look of the raw branches looks amazing, we decided we wanted them black so I laid them out on plastic and spray painted them.

Painted black

I then casted the branches in plaster using a throw-away plastic cup and Plaster of Paris. The throw-away cup was key so I could just cut it away after the plaster dried.

Cup is key

I bought little glass vases at the dollar store and, once the plaster was dry and free-standing, I placed it in the vase. In order to cover up the ugly plaster, we came up with the idea of using sand. It reminded me of summer camp as a kid when the counselors would give you a weird looking bottle, googgly eyes and 5 different colors of sand. All of those strange Google-Eyed-Sand-Creatures are probably in my Mom’s attic somewhere. But at least I got some practice for this! Our color scheme is Black and White with Cranberry accents throughout so we chose black and cranberry sand:

Step 4

Next I got to work on decorating them. I ordered crystals online and bought black wire thread from a crafts store. I threaded over 600 crystals over the course of about 2 weeks, but since I was off for the summer, it was really fun and almost soothing. I also decided to make paper flowers. The images below look a lot more like pink or red, but it’s really black and cranberry.

Made using a punch-out

Finally, I went online and ordered a bunch of black butterflies to add to the branches. They turned out so cute!

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I’m finding that working on all of these little projects (I also made a photo booth, all 9 bouquets, the guest book and the table assignments) has made me so proud of this wedding. Of course, I would have been proud of what it stands for no matter what, but since my own, hand-made touch is on everything- things that Jamie and I cooked up in our creative brains – it makes the day so much more personal. If not a single person at the wedding comments on the intricately painted cake-topper, the handmade photo booth, or the one-of-a-kind guest book, it won’t upset me. Because each time I catch a glimpse of those things in the background of pictures, or each time I remember that night, I hope I’ll also recall the heart and energy put into creating it all. And that is the whole point.

*If you’d like information on prices, where I ordered my supplies, or specific how-to’s just  shoot me an email at thatlesbianteacher@yahoo.com.

Towards Moonlight

From “The Morning After” Episode of The Fosters on ABC Family

Last Tuesday night my mother, Jenna, comes into the house

I’m sitting in the living room with my other mom, Kelly

Jenna asks us if we could take a drive with her

So we all get in the car

And as we drive, silence creeps along like the cracks of a frozen lake

Our hearts begin to thud slowly…off-beat

And I wonder and then I know

And I didn’t imagine it would end like this

I didn’t imagine an ending at all

But if they were going to tell me about the divorce, what a way to do it

I sit in the back seat and think about how lucky we were to have had this family

Their 20 years of marriage

My 15 with them

I remember all of us driving miles out in the high way until I fell asleep in the back seat

I don’t want this life to end

Jenna starts to talk

She tells me that our car is just 13 miles away from reaching 100,000 miles now

I wonder if this is part of the divorce speech or just a distraction

I feel angry

They should just say it

She tells me the reason we took this ride is so that we could all be there to reach 100,000 miles together as the people who matter in our life

Slowly I realize that this isn’t a break up ride or a divorce ride or a separation ride

This is a 100,000 mile ride

We’re in the car and we’re driving on a Tuesday night

And we’re 99,987 miles in

We stop for onion rings and sundaes

Keep driving, 99,993 miles – Stevie Nicks

99,997 miles – Elton John

When we get to 99,999 miles we hold hands, blast Melissa Etheridge and sing Lucky at the top of our lungs

There are too many reasons that my Mamas found love in each other’s presence

There are too many moments when we are unbreakable and this moment we are one family

Constructing road as we go

Burning bridges behind us

Adding mileage like graceful aging

Driving in our car towards moonlight…

Performed by Garrett, a friend of the Foster family. I didn’t really like the character Garrett until this poem. It’s like he captured a “real family” moment. And showed how a “real family” doesn’t have to be defined just one way.

Why the Country Music world broke my heart…

I grew up in California and, despite the grossly mis-informed stereotype the rest of the states seem to have about California, many of us are actually huge Country Music fans. Every summer since I was about 12, my sister and I would try and see every Country artist that came through our city. One summer we saw 12 artists in just 4 months!

When I was 13, I got a job working at the Iowa State Fair where my cousins lived and raised animals. During the weeks of the Fair, dozens of artists (mostly Country) came to play at the Grandstand, a huge outdoor facility that sat over 10,000 people. By the second or third year that I worked at the Fair, I had figured out how to sneak into the Grandstand to see the best artists. I knew it was wrong but what can I say? I was a mischievous teen!

One year, Country music artist Chely Wright came to play the Grandstand and I snuck in to watch her rehearse. I loved her hair and I remember wanting to look just like her. I never could have imagined, all those years ago watching her sing “Shut Up and Drive”, that I’d relate to her so much as an adult. Or that it would be Chely’s struggle in the Country Music world that would tear my heart to pieces.

Chely Wright

On May 3, 2010, Chely became the first commercial Country Music artist to come out as a Lesbian. I remember when she did, and I remember the minor stir it caused, but I guess I was largely naive to the real struggle Chely faced as she made the decision to be honest about her life. I recently came across the documentary “Wish Me Away“, filmed over the course of the 3 years prior to Chely’s coming out. It includes very personal interviews and conversations, as well as video diaries Chely took in the weeks before the announcement.

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As I watched the documentary, my heart broke little by little. It broke as Chely told her story about being afraid to come out to her Father, only to later realize that there was nothing to fear. It broke when Chely recognized that there would always be people in the world that wouldn’t get the choices she made. It broke watching her struggle with what “normal” is and how to just fit in. And, most of all, it broke when she spoke about the real possibility of being cast out in the Country music industry.

In one interview in the documentary, Chely talks about having dinner with a male Country star a few years back. Rumors of Chely’s sexuality had been circling and this unknown artist flat-out asked Chely, “You’re not gay are you?” After Chely denied it, he apparently responded with, “Well, good, because Country Music won’t have it.” One of her producers, Rodney Crowell, expressed his fear of her being “iced out” of Nashville because of the way the Country Music world views homosexuality. Author and Country Music Historian Don Cusic predicted that many fans might consider it “a betrayal”. While being interviewed by a Birmingham radio station, Chely was told by the DJ to just “Shut up and sing.”

For so long, I have adored Country music and the artists that create it. It breaks my heart to know that so many of those singers I’ve loved for all these years, can’t accept their fellow Country artist just because she’s gay. A few weeks after coming out, Chely appeared on Oprah, who asked Chely if any Country stars had reached out in support. Chely replied that only two had so far.

I refuse to accept that Chely’s brave decision is something that will end her career. I have downloaded each one of her songs on iTunes (even ones I already owned on CD’s) and bought her memoir, “Like Me” for my Nook. Maybe you aren’t a Country music fan. And maybe you’ve never heard of Chely Wright. But perhaps you can help spread the word about her courage. And maybe her story is one to inspire others out there to be as brave as she was.

A Letter to Chris Christie: “The Governor”

Dear [Governor] Chris Christie,

I know that writing a letter like this can be a bit childish and can even come across as cowardly as I hide behind my keyboard. But right now, I have a few things to get off of my chest, and since the voicemails I have left you in Trenton have gone unanswered, to this humble blog I turn.

I am one of your hard-working New Jersey residents and even though I have only lived here for 11 years, I am confident that I have done New Jersey proud. I went to school here, I own a house here and I teach here. Before you roll your eyes, wondering what this “greedy” teacher wants now, I ask that you hear me out (and maybe even take the moment to read My Teaching Story to discover the real reason I became a teacher).

I take my job very seriously. To me, teaching isn’t just a means to an end – I LOVE what I do. I love it when I catch my students showing genuine interest in a piece of History. I love it when a student comes back to visit and shares with me how much I helped her prepare for the next level. I love the feeling I get when I leave school well after 4:30 because I was helping a single kid study for his upcoming Science test. And I love when a parent comes up to say “My son couldn’t stop talking about your class the other day!”

I just LOVE my profession. It’s not an act. I’m not trying to play to your emotions or fill a cliché. It’s a fact. The reason I bring up this fact is because you have repeatedly tagged teachers as greedy, lazy, overpaid, whiny and selfish – to name just a few. You have earned a reputation in this state (and across the country) for “telling it how it is”. Your insensitive and poison-laden words have become expected by the gluttonous reporters that show up to hear you, eager to snag another Christie One-Liner. Are those giddy reactions you see as you slander your citizens really that worth it? Have you ever considered that those so-called “lazy teachers” on which you choose to focus are the exception, not the rule?

I am the rule. Teachers like me are the rule. Everyday, I see my co-workers put their hearts into what they do. We collaborate on how to work with special needs kids. We collaborate on how to improve a certain lesson. We collaborate on the best methods of assessment to reach all kinds of learners. And in between, we feel hurt that our own Governor is out spreading lies to the citizens of the state. According to you, teachers are disposable. At least that’s the way you made it sound when you told teacher Rita Wilson that if she didn’t like her salary, she should quit. Is it really that black and white to you? Are you really arguing that we teach for the money? By my calculations, my gross pay is approximately $1.40 per day for each student I teach. I think those numbers more than speak for themselves.

You put on the Helping Hat, saying that your intention is to improve the school systems and make this a better place for our children. And you don the Cloak of a Champion during rough times to further blind the voters that will soon be stepping into the curtained booth. Perhaps you should worry less about the optics and the P.R. and more about what your state really needs:

1. Honesty. You have repeatedly gone back on your word, unwilling to even acknowledge previous statements made to your public. You refused to comment on this New York Times article, but maybe now you’ll check out what they have to say.

2. Leadership. If you want changes made in schools, sit down with actual teachers to discover where the improvement is needed. Be willing to find real ways to improve the state’s public education system.

3. Accountability. If teacher accountability is what you desire, good teachers will be right there with you fighting for the same thing (and so would I). However, if you aren’t held accountable for your job and promises, how are we to trust you?

On November 5, New Jersey citizens will be voting to either inaugurate a new Governor, or reelect the same one. It is my hope that the citizens of New Jersey have done their homework, read up on the issues, and ignored your altogether insulting P.R. stunts (such as the convenient withdrawal of your attempt at appealing the lower court decision to allow same-sex couples to wed in New Jersey – do not think that went unnoticed). If a mis-informed, perpetually blind public is what you desire, perhaps you’ll win this election. I, however, have more faith in New Jersey. We are Stronger than that.

Sincerely,

That Lesbian Teacher

Just one of your hard-working New Jersey residents.

Scene Life, Take Two

An excerpt from Shallow Hal (2001), starring Jack Black and Jason Alexander:

Hal: You’re not serious! You actually think you’re more mature than me?!

Mauricio: You’re right…you’re probably more mature than me – but at least I have a biggerwilly!

[tick]

[tick]

[tick]

Hal: Yeah, bigger than a mouse’s.

Mauricio: What was that?

Hal: I said you’re willy’s bigger –

Mauricio: I know what you said – but, it took you like, 8 seconds. You can’t come back with a comeback after 8 seconds. You got 3 seconds…5tops! That’s why they call it a “QUIP“…not a “sloooow-p“.

Ever have those scenes in your life that didn’t quite play out the way you wanted them to? The kind where you wish you had all the time in the world to think of the perfect response? Or that you could just rewind time and do a scene all over again so you come out sounding like a champ? Well, let me tell you, that desire is HEARD on my end.

Scene 1 Take 1I consider myself a pretty well-spoken person. I am not the kind of arrogant jack-ass type that spits my views all over the place expecting everyone to just nod and agree. But I am also not the silent lamb breed that rolls over and takes it whenever faced with adversity. I pick my battles wisely, and when I feel something needs to be said, I say it.

But there are times, when the words I wanted to say just don’t come at the moment I needed them. I find myself replaying scenes of my life, rewriting my lines to make me the bad-ass champ they write in movies and shows. Olivia Pope meets Erin Brockovich, with a little Idgie Threadgoode thrown in there for good measure. Do I always regret the original words I chose (or didn’t say at all)? No way. But it sure is fun to play director and invent scenes that would have made my character pop on that screen.

Last Thursday was “Back-to-School Night” at my school. It’s when parents and/or guardians come in for a Meet & Greet with the teachers. They visit all the classes in their child’s schedule and learn the gist of what each class (and teacher) is about. As frustrating as it is to come back to work at night after a long day, I usually don’tmind Back-to-School night. I find it fun to explain what I do, why I do it, and the basic day-to-day of my class. I usually leave with a big smile on my face and a pep in my step because I just got to explain my cherished Personal Philosophy of Teaching 6 times to parents that clearly take an interest in the lives of their children (at least enough to show up!).

This year, however, I was not looking forward to the occasion because of one parent in particular. He is the kind of parent that is not at all satisfied with his son, the teachers, the administrators, the world – I mean he has some serious issues. But it seems he has taken a particular disliking in me over the course the last few weeks. He’s made it clear in recent emails and rants that I am “a terrible teacher.” The words hurt – oh how they hurt – but I try and focus on the kids (and his son really is a good kid) and on the positive feedback I get so regularly.

Needless to say, however, I was worried about Thursday night. During the time-slot designated to Period 3 when I have the above-mentioned student, sure enough Mr. MeanGuy shows up. I go through my spiel and end with the following: “Since tonight is not a conference night, I cannot take the time to answer individual questions about your child’s performance, but please feel free to e-mail me with questions, or you can schedule an appointment through our Guidance Department for an after-school conference.” I said this same thing to each class of parents that night, as well as to any parent asking specific questions. The administrators of our school insist that we do not treat Back-to-School night as a time for conferences, and I willingly oblige.

It was following my very clear final statement and dismissal to the next “Period” that Mr. MeanGuy approached me. He is taller than I and thick like a line-backer – altogether pretty intimidating even before opening his mouth. And then he opened his mouth. He began pointing his finger in my face and accusing me of being unfair to his son. His accusations were not only false but very disrespectful – all in front of many other parents in my classroom. I felt like crawling into a hole and disappearing.

In the interest of being respectful and professional, I answered with the same not-a-conference-night statement I had just made. He didn’t accept right away, continuing to berate me right there in the front of the room. I insisted again that he’d have to schedule a conference and he finally left.

I can’t stop replaying the whole scene over and over again, trying to rewrite my part. What would the bad-ass me have said? How might I have laid into him with the searing words of the strongest females on the big and small screens? I’ll never know.

Life isn’t a movie. Things happen and we either work to overcome them or we don’t. Sure, it would be great to be able to write it all out, plan it to the tee and cook up some awesome one-liners in the process. But that would mean we’d know the ending – and what’s the fun in that?

A Hummingbird and a Bee

July 10, 2008

2:43 PM

Dear Diary,

I watched a hummingbird today – I am quite fascinated with them. They have wings that beat up to 4,000 times per minute and yet they do not always move quickly through the air. They pause. They wait. They hover, move backwards and even stop and stare. They are such amazing birds.

Two caught my eye as they flew together, playfully crashing into each other – Twitterpated. As high as they flew, and as far away as they could get, they were always drawn back to each other and to the flowers below.

Green Hummingbird

The one I watched was green, with droplets of blue that looked like he’d flown through a paint-ball fight. He was moving from flower to flower, pausing at each to drink the nectar from within. As I watched him, I listened to the gentle hum of his rapidly flapping wings and wondered what it would be like. What would it be like to soar away from all of this and just escape?

Then something happened. As the hummingbird drank from a tall purple flower, a honey bee flew by. The bee flew right up to that same cluster of flowers and went about its work. The hummingbird stopped drinking from the flower, hovered in mid-air…and watched.

For a moment I thought the hummingbird was upset – that at any second the bird was going to chase the bee away. Yet, how could I be so ridiculous? How human of me to think that such a beautiful creature would have those thoughts. The hummingbird simply went back to drinking the nectar from the flower beside the bee. Perhaps he knew that without the bee pollinating the flowers, there would not be any nectar to drink.

Hummingbird

And so I watched. I watched as a hummingbird and a bee spent time on the same flower. I wish my world could be like that.