Monday, September 4, 2023

I Need a Nap . . . Forever

As mentioned in earlier posts, I turned 50 last year and am fast approaching 51, and just like that, I should be considering moving to Miami, Florida. Unfortunately, I do not look as good as the ladies from Sex and the City and I am definitely not as cool as The Golden Girls.

I hate everything about being 50. I hate the stigmatism of being "middle age"; I hate my sore knees and back; I hate my wrinkles; I really hate that muumuus and lounge dresses are more appealing than dark jeans and sequenced tops.

I remember in college I could do a dozen things a day on 6 hours of sleep: attend class, work full time, exercise and even maintain a social life. When I started teaching, I was still finishing my credential. So my day became working in the morning, working out in the afternoon, and then going to class 3 nights a week. I wrote a hundred-page thesis when I was 30, teaching full time, and starting a new relationship. I didn't work out as regularly, but exercise was still a part of my life until I broke up with both the relationship and significant physical movement when I was staring down the barrel of turning 40.

I know its been a tortoise / hair race between my body and my mind toward, ya know, death, but I can't figure out which is which, and even then, which is winning.

Somewhere in my mid 40s, I realized that if I want to do two things in one day, I need a nap in-between or bookend my "busy" day with 8-10 hours of sleep. Run an errand, or god help me, exercise after work? In bed by 8 p.m. Dinner with a friend after work? Nap in-between. Clean on a Saturday morning and then socialize Saturday night? Nap. Have one of my nephews overnight and then do anything afterward? Major nap.

Day-drinking has taken on an entire new significance now that I'm fucking middle-aged. My party starts at noon, and either is broken up with a nap or ends at 6 p.m. I need a minimum of 3 days to sober up and sleep it off.

So it proves to be a challenge when one's feeble attempt to reclaim her youth includes going to as many heavy metal concerts as possible. Honestly, if I want to reclaim my youth I can go out and make staggeringly bad relationship choices and then crash my car.

Most recently, my sister and I saw Godsmack on a Thursday night and I had to go to work the next day because it was the second week of school. In addition, I was supposed to be having my nephews for a sleepover. Now, I don't take both nephews at once; there aren't enough naps in the world to prep me for that. If I want to enjoy myself, I only take one at a time for one night. So it might be Jay on Friday night, then I swap for Blake on Saturday, then take Blake home Sunday, take a 2 hours nap, and spend the rest of the day readjusting my apartment and my brain.

But, when my sister and sister and I were working out what we call kid schlepping details, I didn't realize that all three events were back-to-back. I only realized it after I started updating my Google calendar. Once I realized my scheduling impossibility, I went storming into her office and nearly screamed: "I cannot have a kid the two nights after a concert!"

My sister looked up from her planner, filled with writing and post-it-notes. Her computer is flashing and beeping in the background. Her half-cast eyes show exhaustion; her slack jaw shows confusion. Or exhaustion. Or both. My sister has two kids every night of her life: one kid is heavily into sports, and she is very conscious of giving the kid not in sports as much of her time and attention as the other.

I held up my hands to stop any other comment from her and said, "I'll die. I mean, it's the first week of school."

My sister's profession includes the title of "director." The only directing I do is of teenage fuckery. My sister hosts seminars, zoom meetings with a dozen people who also have impressive titles including terms like "regional," "statewide," and "national." I have talks with adolescents about why they shouldn't have their earbuds in while I am teaching, even if "they are turned off." My sister holds workshops and seminars for people with PhDs. I teach how to capitalize the personal pronoun "I" to a class of gangling teens who are literally sweating hormones.

My sister flips back to August in her planner, propped her elbow and dropped her head into her hands and said, "Okay . . ."

We worked it out so that I wouldn't die. And a big shout-out to my baby sis who probably could use a nap, but still manages to function, and function well, without one.

Me? I had to take a nap after the near fatal scheduling mistake I nearly made.

Friday, August 11, 2023


I promise: Genres of My Life will not turn into my personal diary full of narcissistic whining about things that really aren't that bad. But, for now, I am just slinging up anything that may have one good sentence in it (aka, gaining traction). 

But, when one gets COVID and is in forced reclusion, there is very little to post about. Narcissistic Whining must be a genre; if not, the linguistic community needs to get that shit canonized before "bruh" is. 

I'm not going to complain about how awful I feel. Because I have a fantastic immune system, my symptoms are minimal. My two BFFs, whom I gave it to, not so much. They are such good friends that they took on the more than their share of COVID pie. 💖you ladies!

No, my bone to pick with the universe is not that I have COVID, but it is because of when I have COVID.

My rah-rah teacher day is Monday and I have students on Wednesday. As you read this, I should be in my classroom doing my contract-anointed "float day," but I can't get within 10 miles of campus. I have not been in my classroom since they waxed the floors. If you are a teacher, no other explanation is needed; the collective gasp can be heard around the world. 

For those who don't fall under the educator umbrella, what that means I have to plug in everything (and in a classroom, plugging into the Matrix in no easy task), clean up my decorations (there has been a mad game of Tic Tack Toe going on the construction paper that lines my back wall), and xerox . . . something (digital age or not, GenX teachers don't feel they are ready for a new school year until they photo-copy for at least an hour). 

Being 26 years into my career, I can roll in and throw down some bullshit for a couple days (if any of my administrators are reading this . . . deliver pre-planned, relevant and rigorous lessons that build relationships). Nevertheless, I was going to prepare for the new year for 2-3 long days in my classroom before the year started. Roost around a little bit: clean some shelves, organize my teaching library by genre, organize some desk drawers, put up the posters I never got around to putting up last summer, transfer my 20 meeting invites from my inbox to my new bougie planner that I'll use for a month. Reline the back wall with clean construction paper for the 2023-24 Tic Tack Toe season. Xerox . . . something.

Nope, no roosting, nesting, settling, pulling-shit-together for me. I'm behind before anything has even started. 

But hey, COVID didn't leave me totally hangin'. According to isolation and return-to-work instructions, it is safe for me to return to work just in time for rah-rah teacher day. Great! Can't get my room ready, but I'll be front and center for all those welcome back meetings.  


(Hey, let me know where the good sentence was. The narcissistic whining I can find easily enough.)

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Professional Development

I never have, nor ever will, manage my money to get by in the summer. Even with my district managing the academic calendar so that teachers get paid 11 months out of 12 (rather than the traditional 10 months), I still stress out in August as I watch my balance shrink and my bills remain robust.

Meh, fiscal responsibility is for wimps. 

Instead, I do a lot of professional development to earn some extra cash. Pay me, I'll do it. I'll workshop the shit out of any teaching technique you want. I'll learn how to teach math, science, underwater basket weaving . . . whatever. Attend trainings for online teaching programs that I'll never use during the school year? Done. (If any of my principals are reading this, I PD in the summer to grow and hone my skills as a teacher. And those online education platforms? Love them 😍)   

Of course you are all probably snickering as you think "She can pole dance" but then I must remind you that one of my new themes for the blog is that I'm fucking 50. I need to earn money not go to jail. 

Regardless, I do try to go into teaching workshops and the like with an auspicious attitude. Even if I don't learn something new, it helps refresh best practices that I might have left by the wayside. Sometimes, they reinforce that I am doing a couple things right.

In July, I virtually attended my first AVID training. AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. The program seeks to provide disadvantaged students access to resources and rigor to "close the gap" in their learning. It is basically moving through a series of teaching techniques that provide students success with reading difficult texts and writing cohesively. 

How's that paragraph for sounding professional? Well, the development stops there.

Like a good conference attendee, I did all my prework the night before: I watched the tutorial to learn how to use the meeting platform; I tested my technology so that everything would work the next day.

Ya, that last one: as if. 

So, I wake up Monday morning with enough time to make myself camera presentable, brew some coffee and enjoy a few quiet moments waiting for all neurons to start firing-- or at least a couple neurons. But of course, the moment I sit down at my desk and turn on my computer to join the training, I realize my internet is not working. No idea why. It was working 12 hours previous and I hadn't done anything online since my technology check. But, if anyone can jack-up her technology without even being on said technology, it's me.

I restart my computer. I restart my modem. No internet. Both seem to be powered up and there are no alarming red lights flashing. I turn off my power strip to hard restart everything in my office. Still, the computer telling me it cannot find any available wireless connections. I am close to restarting my entire apartment by throwing the breaker. Unfortunately, being "camera ready" does not mean I should actually leave the house. 

I say the f-word a lot. 

Turns out the problem is with my desktop, but I don't have time figure it out. It's 10 minutes to go time and I need a minimum of 2 hours to fix my tech. So I grab my laptop, which isn't charged. To be comfortable, it would be better to sit in a my large, loungy-like chair called a "cuddler" but I have to crawl over the back to reach the electrical socket. I plug in my laptop, grab my coffee and put it on the C-table, then settle myself in. I secure a bolster pillow under my knees, put my lap desk in place. Of course, as I grab my laptop, the power cord hooks my coffee cup and sends my survival juice sailing across the room and my auspicious mood out the window.

More f-words. Climbing out of my gauntlet of comfort, I throw a few pillows across the room, refresh my coffee.

I am now officially late. I regroup: add some Bailey's to the coffee, snuggled back up in my chair. Prep the lap desk and laptop so that it won't tangle on anything when I move it. Place the coffee on the table. Make the sign of the cross, bow to the east, sacrifice a couple chickens. I crawl back into my cuddler, get myself all wedged and propped, and log on in time just as the welcoming message is ending. 

Next time, I'm not checking shit before an online training. I'm just gonna roll out of bed 10 minutes before and log on late. 

Monday, July 31, 2023

Thank You for Returning

I struggled with how to title this post. I've already done the "I'm Back" in 2018 when I intended to post regularly. Turns out that didn't happen.

My posting streak seems to have ended about 10 years ago. Since then, I've thrown up a dozen "meh" posts. 

So, what happened? I don't know. My blogging silence wasn't because I was building a legacy: didn't write any new novels, didn't get any works published, didn't get married, didn't have kids, and didn't become a teaching guru. 

But what did happen was I lost my dad, an aunt and an uncle, and both grandmothers. I gained 2 nephews. I wrote very little and taught a lot.

Oh, then there was COVID.

I realize I'm not the only one who has been assaulted with change, who are looking back over the last 5-10 years and thinking: what the fuck did I accomplish? Why I am so fucking tired? 

Why return to blogging now? Still, no answers. Maybe I need to reflect on all the shit I didn't accomplish in my 40s now that I am 50. Maybe I need cheap therapy. Or maybe someone reading this will think: "Thank the goddess I'm not the only one." Even better: "Wow, this bitch is a mess; I feel much better about myself." I can be the guru of bad decisions and train wrecks. Hell, I might already be.

In my usual, hopefully more sophisticated, sarcastic voice, I will be posting on themes of the past: teaching, language / slang, my ongoing battle with technology, the enigma of teenage behavior (formally known as "To Quote My Grandmother: Why Are Teenagers so Stupid?") In addition, I hope to write about being an auntie, being fucking 50 years old, and maybe . . . maybe dating.

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Cheap Way to Sleep: Me

When my two best friends and I travel together, sharing a hotel room can be a challenge. Over the years, we've worked out a system for getting ready so that we have all the bathroom time we need to get pretty in a timely manner: Cher needs at least two hours to move through her very thorough and meticulous regiment: Lisa needs less time, but still adheres to a formula to produce her beauty, so she gets to shower second. Me? I can slap myself together in forty minutes, because well, I give far less of a shit what I look like than the other two.

What we haven't worked out is compromising on the sleeping atmosphere. Arrangement, we've got down: we reserve a two-bed room and one of us brings and aerobed. What we can't seem to get a handle on are setting the perfect conditions for each of us to get a good night's rest.

I need absolute darkness and silence in order to wind down; both of my BFFs need the noise and the light of the television. Because I'm out-numbered, I  have to lump it. We've tried shoving me in dark corners or angling the television screen away from me; nevertheless, I usually spend the night dozing on and off. (Trust me, when I win the lottery, marry rich, or start making money off this damn blog, I'll be reserving my own room.)

On one occasion I stood my ground and demanded they set the television on a timer so that I could enjoy some peace and quiet. They acquiesced by setting the timer for six fucking hours. I meant for it to be set for maybe two hours to give them enough time to go to sleep and leave me the dark and quiet I need to stay asleep.

I woke up at 4 a.m., the damn television still on: the Pavlovian gong of Law and Order echoing throughout the room. I lie there watching the stupid episode--one I'd seen around 25 times-- until I finally snatched up the remote and turned Jack McCoy's indigence off. Instantly, Cher and Lisa both shot up in bed like mummies or vampires rigged to pop out of a coffin in a haunted house. I swear their hands were formed like claws, and they bared their teeth at me.

I invited McCoy back into our bedroom.

Getting a good night's rest is a challenge for most everyone; in fact, according to American Sleep Association (ASA), between 30-40% of adults struggle with sleeping. The ASA suggests adults get 7-9 hours of sleep. If a "children's" book called Go the Fuck to Sleep by Gilbert Mansbach and Ricardo Cortes gets nearly a five-star rating on Amazon and entices Samuel L. Jackson and Morgan Freeman to do a dramatic reading, feeling rested is a rarity. 

We all have certain conditions for getting a good-night sleep. Regardless of over-booked and over-stressed lives that should guarantee at the end of the day, many still fight insomnia. Our bodies in hyper-drive in order to plow through our long days, our brains full of worries and our eyes staring at screens for . . . well . . . every bloody minute of the day make it difficult to wind down, drift into a peaceful sleep, and stay in it until the alarm goes off. 

There are sleep therapists, drugs, and apps to help, but my advice is much, much cheaper and less addictive.

There are many things I'm willing to compromise and/or give up: vegetables, overtime, making my bed, but I will not deprive myself of sleep.  No matter what, I will get my 7-9 hours a night. Hell, I've hosted parties where I have gone to bed and left my guests to fend for themselves. 

How do I do it? Well, I don't have kids, which I'll admit helps. Even without them, I do have a full-time and a part-time job, a commute, food to prepare, laundry to do, an apartment to clean, errands to run, and a desire to keep up some semblance of a social life.  Believe me, turning off my brain is no easy task. And I can stare at a screen as much as the next person. So, I developed a routine that guarantees a good night's rest. I've shared my approach with colleagues, friends and family, of which one told me I needed to blog about my recipe because she found it so effective.

I use Blue Light Filter
First, and I know this suggestion will sound sacrilegious, make sure to filter out all the blue-light from your devices--phones, tablets, computers--at around 8 p.m. There are a lot of apps that allow you to set a timer so it happens automatically. Of course it detracts from the vividness of graphics, but it is those graphics that convince your brain to stay awake.

About and hour before I hope to be asleep, I turn my television to a show I've seen many times and is formulaic so it doesn't require require my full attention. The mere sound of the characters' voices, theme song or score acts as a signal to my brain it is time to disengage.  I am partial to Forensic Files, but if blood spatter analysis and mitochondria DNA doesn't lull you to sleep, then I suggest  Law and Order or NCIS.  I only watch shows involving murder, so my suggestions are limited. Again, the key is formulaic and repetitive. You don't necessarily want to sit and watch it, but more listen to it while you prepare for bed.

I shower at night, so the warm water relaxes me. I take my time drying off, apply a myriad of lotions to lift, tighten while also plumping aging parts of my face and then I slather lotion on the rest of me and hope for the best. While waiting for one layer of lotion to sink in before slapper on another, I'll do some very easy stretching: touching my toes, raising my arms over my head and bending side to side, throw in a nice and easy sun-salutation or two. I am nowhere near breaking a sweat, but I am working out some tension, nice an easy.

Scent is critical to my relaxation. Lavender will always do the trick: use lavender scented body wash, lavender scented body lotion, and then to top (or bottom) it all off, put some lavender oil on the bottom of your feet. Trust me on the foot thing--it is magic.

Once you climb into bed, take a few minute to mentally put all your stresses away.  What I do is turn any taxing thought into a photo and then visualize myself putting that picture into a box. Once I've "put away" all my stress, I place a lid on the box and put it away (slide it under my bed, tuck into my closet, or throw it out my bedroom window). I might have to repeat this visualization a few times depending on what is going on in my life at the time.

For those of you who need sound to sleep, instead of leaving the television on, stream soothing music or nature sounds. I play rain sounds throughout the night. If you must have the dialogue of a television show, wear a sleep mask so the light doesn't keep your brain stimulated (and yes, this happens even when eyes are closed). Lisa used to leave Criminal Minds on all night until her boyfriend told her the sound of screaming women being murdered was interrupting his REM cycle. As much as I would like Derek Morgan in my bedroom, no matter what form, he will keep me awake.

Many don't have the luxury of fitting in an hour's worth of sleep-prep, so these steps can definitely be moved through more quickly.

Now, go the fuck to sleep.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Know Who You're Wearing

As I strolled across the high school campus this morning, I saw a young man sitting on a brick border surrounding a raised planter, wearing a Metallica Master of Puppets sweatshirt while listening to The Smiths. It was a time-warp, culture clash I was not expecting and only mildly prepared for.

Did this student not understand the gravity of his cultural misstep by conjoining the metal of Metallica with the ah-ah-ah-ah of The Smiths? In public? Is there no respect for the 80's?  At least those of us who lived them showed proper reverence by wearing fluorescent clothing, ripping open the ozone with hairspray, and snorting cocaine.

Did this student not understand that those who listen to The Smiths want to cut themselves while those who listen to Metallica want to cut others? Sometimes, choices must be made. Some boundaries are for the betterment of culture, of character, of sanity. Little did the heavy-metal-wearing, pop- listening teen know that he was plummeting into an identity crisis. Kids today think they can just disregard the constructs of fashion and music genres, mixing them into a hodgepodge of expression without consequence. The nerve.

To give the student the benefit of the doubt, I reminded myself that he may not even know who Metallica is. Over the summer I learned T-shirts and sweatshirts featuring rock bands from the 80's is a fashion trend with no relevant connection to the music itself.

When I first noted students wearing Guns n' Roses Appetite for Destruction, Metallica Ride the Lightning, and Def Leppard Pyromania T-shirts, I thought they had raided their parents' closets, unearthed a piece of nostalgia prompting them to share the glory of their concert days, maybe even played a little "Welcome to the Jungle," "Fade to Black," and "Rock of Ages," and their children--being so impressed by the rock music of their antecedents, wore their parents' rock shirts to school and sparked a fashion revolution.


While working in a writing center at Rio Hondo JC this summer, I asked a student who wore a Def Leppard Pyromania T-shirt if her parents had listened to the band.  My first concert was Def Leppard's Hysteria tour and I had Joe Elliot's face plastered all over my bedroom walls (after taking down Simon LeBon and John Taylor).

Her response was a shrug.
Can be found on Amazon

"Do you know who that band is?" I had asked, pointing the glass building aflame on her chest. She shook her head.

I am slowly accepting the music of my youth is now played on Classic Rock stations. When Neil Diamond was demoted to Easy Listening it quite dismayed my parents. I might have scoffed at the idea of Elvis Presley being The King of Rock, but if I had gone vintage and worn a Rolling Stones or Janis Joplin shirt, I would have at least known who the fuck they were. Hell, I could have busted out a few lines from "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and "Cry Baby." And Neil Diamond? I could have karaoked the shit out "Sweet Caroline," "Forever in Blue Jeans," and "Love on the Rocks."

It's bad enough I have to endure Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" in a Honda Pilot commercial, Aerosmith's "Dream On" in a goddamn Buick Lacrosse commercial, and Guns n' Roses'  "Paradise City" in the background of Jersey Mikes, but now I have to watch the emblems of my rowdy youth become a meaningless decoration?

I don't know how Def Leppard, Metallica, and Guns N' Roses ended up on the racks of Target and Hot Topic, as well as the warehouses of Amazon, but can merchants please include a free download of the band's biggest hits? And can parents today do as my parents did before we had such efficient, high-tech ways of channeling music into one set of ears by telling that bitch Alexa to blast Heavy Metal of the 80's (okay, and 90's). Or go hardcore and confiscate all earbuds, duck-tape the kids to kitchen chairs, pull out the boom-box and CD collection and give them some music history.

And if my rock gods of old have to sell the rights of their songs to car manufacturers, can y'all stick with Porsche, Aston Martin, and (perfectly) Corvette? 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The iGeneration Putting the "i" in Irony

I might be the Hercule Poirot of language: I've solved they mystery of why students don't capitalize the personal pronoun I.

At first, I just blamed it on technology (my go-to scapegoat along with the weather and GMOs for all ills in society). Teens socialize primarily through text, Twitter and Snapchat thereby practice and perfect the incorrect grammar teachers spend their careers trying to undo. Regardless of how much we badger them about capitalizing their personal pronoun I, they refuse to do so.

The most obvious explanation seemed to be laziness because it's not a difficult rule to remember. I suppose it is a bit taxing to stretch that pinky finger all the way over to the shift key and hit it at the same time as the 'I' key: I mean, why hit two keys when one will do?

Recently, that theory was called into question when I found several hand-written assignments littered with lower case, personal pronoun 'I's; but as with typing, it takes a little more extra effort  to make one vertical and two horizontal lines versus just having one vertical line and a dot.

I further tested these theories by berating students on their laziness; you know, trying to shame them into writing correctly.  How are they going to succeed in school, hold down a job, building healthy, lasting relationships if they can't even capitalize their fucking 'I's? Surprisingly, their English teacher's opinion meant nothing to them.

Ready to settle on the theory that teenage rebellion demands they don't do one single thing they are asked to do without a fight; it is a trait of adolescence generations of adults have been unable to eradicate.  Still, it seemed too paradoxical: why wouldn't teenagers, especially Millennials, use every tool they had to assert their individuality? To assert their ego? Aren't they self-absorbed, coddled, entitled, and solitary behind their electronic devices?

Like most people, the answer came to me while I was in the shower: Millennials are also the iGeneration, they don't need they don't need to capitalize their 'I's because the internet provides so many other venues to promote their individuality in more engaging, entertaining, far-reaching ways. They can track how many people follow them doing ordinary shit. They can snap, tweet, post, share, filter, and, well, blog. Capitalized pronouns are becoming as necessary as landlines.

To be fair, pronouns have always catered to the ego. Grammar rules that "I" must capitalize myself as the writer in order to assert my ideas, opinions, actions over any other person I might be writing about. When composing my spectacular posts, I don't introduce my voice with "I, Holly Vance" and then shift to "believe i have solved the riddle of how teenagers think (if i had, i'd be in such high demand for consultation i wouldn't have time to blog). Sure, I will capitalized the names of others, but after an initial introduction, grammar rules that I should refer to others as he/she him/her they/them--not capitalized. Capitalization means specific, unique, and important; but to be grammatically correct, I shouldn't capitalize "she" when substituted for Lisa, Cher, Laura, Karen, Mindi, and Carrie even though each woman is specific, unique, and important. 

The generation who exist in a digital extension of their egos, the generation capable of asserting their "I" in so many ways, refuse resort to a archaic, symbol of the ego: the capitalized "I". It is ironic, but also isn't it expected for teenagers to carve out a way to be different, to not do things the way their predecessors did? Maybe I needed to capitalize "I" because I didn't have any other way to do so.

Or Apple started this whole problem with their iPhone, iMac, iPod, iWatch, iBrain. Like I mentioned earlier, damn technology ruins everything.