Category Archives: School

A Long Love of Reading

IMG_5037I started reading and speaking at about the same time. Letters and words read to me by adults became a magical fixation. Entranced by their power, at the age of one and a half, I was determined to harness the pictures for the words that adults used.

The books had pictures and were made of cardboard. The best audio books came with cassette tapes and had a voice or beep that told you when to turn the page, allowing me to more easily follow along. Goodnight Moon was one of my favorites. I’d listen to the words, following along in my book.

Listen to a book, follow along, rewind, repeat. Over and over, memorizing the words. Each word a little picture. I was reading but not phonetically. Deciphering the code, little by little. I started with easy words like dog, cat, and god (sometimes mixing up dog & god).

To entertain myself in the car I would read and call out the letters and words on street signs. On one road trip just before my second birthday, as my mother reviewed directions on a large paper map, I suddenly became VERY excited and thrust my tiny finger enthusiastically onto the map. “Ping-Pong! Ping Pong!” I exclaimed, pointing to the small town of Ding-Dong, Texas.

Earlier in the day, I’d been watching Beanie & Cecil. In the episode, they had sailed to the island of “Ping-Pong” and shown the location on a map. I was very excited when I thought I’d found it.

Reading came easy for me and had a head start on the other kids when I started Pre-K. Unfortunately, by the time I got to first grade, I hit my first roadblock. Reading aloud, something I still avoid as much as possible.

We sat in a circle, textbooks open. “As we go around the room, everyone will read a IMG_1704paragraph. We will go around the circle until we finish the story.” My memory of that day is still remarkably clear. I will always be able to replay those events in my head.

I remember the teacher’s anger when I didn’t read my paragraph. I remember reading the words in my mind, screaming the words in my head, then begging the words to come out of my mouth. Nothing. I knew the words but couldn’t say them. I remember being sent out of class for refusing to participate in the activity and I remember being ashamed.

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In middle school reading was a solitary activity, allowing me to dig myself deep into the elaborate universes of Anne Rice, Bram Stoker, & Stephen King. In the eighth grade I devoured Interview With a Vampire, Dracula, and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.

Throughout high school, I worked on writing. Listening to my favorite authors, making note of the writing styles and story patterns. Creating edgy teen vampire fiction, printed from an old Windows 95 computer. I placed the stories into brad folders before passing them along to my classmates.

 

As I’ve grown and changed, my love of reading has evolved. As a girl, I’d escape into fiction. In my late twenties, I started to find more value and joy in the accumulation of facts. There are still vivid pictures in my mind when I read, but now I’m visualizing real concepts, like human digestion and brain function.

 

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It’s fun to reflect back on my history of reading. To think that it all started on the laps of adults who cared enough to read to me, even before I could speak. How could my life have been different had I not received this type of encouragement? What would have happened if the people around me had cared less?

 

Many of my earliest memories involve books. I will always be grateful for those who nurtured my love of reading.

Zero to My Own Hero – The Evolution of Me

Over time I’ve changed, grown taller and wiser. My physical appearance, ways of thinking, and self-wort have all teetered back and forth, from one extreme to the other. Every experience is an opportunity for growth, if we are open, even the most difficult situations have the power to teach us something

A friend once said to me that she remembered that I “wasn’t good at anything” when we were kids. This week I talk about what’s changed over the years. Life hasn’t always been easy but I make the most of things.

Most importantly, I’ve gained more self-confidence through growing a better understanding of myself.

Let’s Talk About Internet Bullies

In last week’s video I spoke about my experience with bullies. Some viewers commented experiences with on online bullies, inspiring this video talking about internet bullying and not taking things personally.

 

Let’s Talk About Bullies

I’ve had run-ins with quite a few bullies over the years. When I was younger they were more obvious.

Adult bullies are often better at hiding their negative intentions. They cheat, they steal, they lie. I’ve got no need for drama and trouble in my life.

Now, as I am getting older and wiser, I’ve learned to avoid bullies. How do I do this, by not allowing them into my life. I don’t care who you are – if you bring trouble and negativity my way, I can do without you.

Now, my life is a bully free zone and nobody can touch me!

(This was much harder to do in school.)

Let’s Talk About the Fidget Spinner Craze

This week I check out my first fidget spinner, in an attempt to figure out what all the fuss is about.

Some of us were fidgeting long before the revolving metal discs came whirling into the picture. All of the sudden fidget toys and spinners are everywhere.

As I pick up the small black tool and twirl it between my pointer finger and thumb, I have mixed feelings. The heavy cold metal zings and vibrates, resonating into my fingertips.

On one hand, the whoosh of the quivering metal is soothing. The fan-like rotation is also quite enjoyable, reminiscent of the shimmering pinwheels I adored in childhood.

Spinners are everywhere. They have invaded playgrounds, classrooms, and memes all over the world. Kids collect them like Pogs, do tricks with them like yo-yos, and flinging them across classrooms.

Somehow spinners have caught on, becoming the new “cool toy” and everybody wants one. Completely out of control, the fidget fad is booming, leaving many people who were “fidgeting before it was cool” with mixed feelings.

I hope this will give way to more teachers allowing movement in class.

When I was in school hands had to be still. You were not allowed to play with pencils or strum your fingers, even if you did so quietly.

One teacher, a stern old fashioned woman who seemed to have it out for me, made me sit on my hands to keep them still. I remember the hard wooden chair painfully pressing into my boney knuckles.

At first, when I stopped my hands my legs would jump, bouncing up and down, under the desk. “Do you have to go to the bathroom?” the teacher asked in front of everyone, “You look like you are doing a pee dance. Go to the bathroom or knock it off!”

Keeping my hands under control was hard work.  Eventually, I learned that my hands could be moving under the desk or table, as long as the teacher didn’t notice.

Little has changed. I think best when actively relaxed, allowing my body to move naturally. As an adult you find more acceptable things go play with, rings, necklaces, pens, and cell phones. Holding something in my hand keeps me grounded, helping me to stay present and mindful. Often I will pop and rub my fingers quietly if I find myself empty handed.

When I was young there were no fidget spinners, being the squirmy kids who couldn’t sit still was not cool or trendy either. Funny to see how things have changed.

Is this a door to widening acceptance or simply a gross misuse of a well intended too?

 

 

Coming Home – The Road to Writing

Written words are enchanting magic spells, casting thoughts out into the wider world. As I relax into a quiet space behind my keyboard something miraculous happens.

Many people complain about how much they hate writing papers, but my experience with writing (typing) has been very different.

I remember the first time I felt the fear, sitting in the reading circle of my first grade classroom. Each student in the circle would have to read a passage out loud. Terrified, and on the spot, when the teacher called on me I froze like a mouse trying to hide in a dark corner, nose pointing down towards my book.

My mother was furious. I started reading at a young age but my teacher was insisting that I could not even perform the basics in her class. To make matters worse, I was “interrupting the learning environment for the other students, running around the classroom and making disruptive and distracting noises.” The teacher was not happy and my mother was in complete disbelief.

“That KID CAN READ!” I remember hearing her say. “She’s been reading since she was two years old!”

Yes, I could read. In fact, I had read the entire page in my head already several times. The literature was pretty simple, I understood and enjoyed the story but when asked to speak in front of the group something happened. A fear I’d never felt before grabbed me by the gut. The eyes in the room like laser beams blocking the connectivity between my mouth and brain. I was completely stuck, unable to speak. As the teacher became more and more aggravated my anxiety grew, causing me to retreat further into myself.

The same fear lingered for years, even into high school. Teachers, who seemed to take pleasure in calling on anyone who didn’t seem to be paying attention or gave off a confused aura. I was the perfect target. Vengeance on the students who didn’t study or understand the material. Most days I wanted to be invisible.

The school wasn’t the best time for me, but there were a few good teachers along the way. High school was a bit better. I was spending large chunks of time typing up vampire fiction, inspired by books that I had read in middle school, most of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (this was before the Twilight era).

The books were trash, and I never published or finished them. They featured teen vampires, inspired by myself and my friends, getting into fights and mischief. The stories had plenty of sex and violence, giving me credit with my peers as a real “artist”.

Truthfully they were tasteless.

Telling those stories was like therapy. Back then almost everything I set my eyes upon was fiction, so I used fiction to work through many questions and scenes from my own life.

There was a period in my life when I wasn’t writing. The entire time I felt as if something were missing. Chatter in my head, telling me to search without sharing what I should be searching for.

My deepest and most accurate form of communication had been cut off, and I hadn’t even realized it.

Finally, something inspired me to write, I started writing and I kept writing. It was easy and enjoyable, just like coming home to a plush sofa and a Netflix movie.

The more I write the more I understand about life, the world, myself, about relationships, and the people I care about. It is like a key opening up greater understandings.

Spilling my thoughts onto a screen through a rubber coated keyboard is a very soothing practice. Creating a blog post doesn’t feel like work, in reality, it is more of a meditation.

Gazing upon the softly glowing screen I sit perched in a nest of pillows, wrapped in a soft red blanket. Relaxed, bathing in the softly glowing lights of our living room, I am calm and still.

Wanting to Be Older

Longing to grow older is a bit like wishing for death, praying for your life to advance more quickly.

When I was a small child I wanted to grow up. I felt trapped. My legs were too short and I couldn’t reach the latch to unlock our front door.

In elementary school, I wanted to be older. I was afraid. The other kids were mean to me and I wanted to get away from them.

Junior high was difficult and I felt misunderstood. Teachers spoke down to me and school was hard. I wanted it to be over wishing adulthood would hurry up.

At fifteen I was feeling suffocated. All I wanted was to be sixteen so I could get my drivers license and be free.

When I turned sixteen I got my license. For a while I was content. Eventually, I started to want more freedom and the familiar longing started up again.

After turning eighteen I wanted to be twenty-one. My ego was huge and I wanted to be a “real adult”.

At twenty-one nobody took me seriously. I was too young to know anything and still wanted to be older.

By the time I turned twenty-five things were getting better .I was beginning to realize how much of my life had been wasted wishing I was somewhere else. Finally, I wanted to learn how to appreciate the present moment.

Now that I’m two months shy of thirty my life is better than it’s ever been. I don’t long to be older have a greater appreciation for where I am now.

Life is more enjoyable when you aren’t preoccupied with being somewhere else (or in my case somewhen). Living in the future causes anxiety and stops you from seeing the joys right in front of you.

I know this now but it took thirty years to figure this out.