What Worked in 2016

Man, I messed up a lot in 2016. I committed the ultimate faux pas via group message, causing me two weeks of distress and humiliation. Budget smudget. We didn’t make it to the zoo as much as I wanted. I got an official obese diagnosis. I quit Facebook to no avail no less than four times. I entered my mid-thirties. OK, I can’t help that one. Nor could I help the massive benign tumor in my shoulder. I tried probably 5 diets that just weren’t all that, but ended in a bag of chips. The Family Size. With dip. Nonetheless, here are a few things I’ve done right in 2016…

 

 

  1. Preparing my coffee the night before. Really, doing everything I can the night before. If given the choice, I will always choose “keeping the dream alive” in the morning. It’s not that I’m lazy, I just have way more energy in the evenings. I’ve made and mostly stuck to a solid nighttime routine once my little goes to bed. Dinner, read for a bit, clean the kitchen, pack the lunch, set the coffee, and always be ready to relax by 9:00 pm.

 

One way I think I could make this even better in 2017 is to have a solid cleaning schedule each night. I am always searching Pinterest for one that really fits my life, but perhaps I should just create one on my own!

 

 

  1. Read only things I love, and putting down things I do not. It may be the English major + teacher in me, but when I didn’t finish a book, I would feel unsettled, as if I broke some hidden commandment. But one thing I constantly give my students permission to do is to switch novels mid-quarter if they don’t love their independent reading selection. This year, I’ve offered myself the same grace. I’ve purchased a few books that just were not my speed, and so I gave up. Conversely, this freed up a lot of time for books I’ve adored. I’ve mostly read memoirs this year. I love authentic stories and feel strong connections to those who tell them. Also, it’s a dream of mine to tell my life story one day.

 

One thing I would do differently in 2017 would be to challenge myself in reading a memoir that is less relatable for me.

 

 

  1. Kept Novella in day care throughout the summer. Before I had Novella, my mother-in-law used to say that modern moms are far too concerned about “me time,” and since I had no dog in the fight, I usually nodded. Now, I’ve come to realize our parents’ generation inherited the belief that a “good mom” is synonymous of “martyr mom.” I feel the opposite- I could pen my Motherhood Manifesto later, but a peaceful life is what keeps our house warm, organized, and afloat. I had to pay for daycare over the summer anyway, but lucked out when they offered me a part time option. So, 2-3 days a week, she went to daycare while I went to the gym, had lunch, grocery shopped, organized the house, wrote, cataloged 14 months of photos…basically did whatever I wanted to do. It also kept her on her routine and gave her time with her friends. If B had the day off, we could have a little day date without paying extra for childcare. It worked well for all of us. Her new school offers a similar option, and I plan to take it as well.

 

One way I could improve this arrangement in 2017 is to be more purposeful in the five days Novella and I are together. I don’t wish a second of her life away, but I am looking forward to time together when she has more interest in activities.

 

  1. Switching her to another school. She switched to the toddler room around 14 months old, and we hated every bit of it. It jarred us, for we loved our experience in the infant and baby rooms. Once she entered the toddler room, her personality changed. She was less joyous and easygoing. When we picked her up, she was always sitting and playing alone. 4/5 days she had an accident report, and most of them were for being bitten. I am by no means a helicopter parent, but once I noticed an extremely dangerous safety hazard, brought it to the director’s attention only for it to still be there the next day. Since I am a creature of habit, the decision to change her to a structured school did not come easily, but ultimately it was the best choice for her. We don’t feel as “at home” as the other place, but she has only had one accident report in 4 months. Her verbal abilities have skyrocketed. Best of all, she is simply happier in her environment.

 

One way I would improve this situation next year is to be more in touch with the teachers in her room. Not that I want to email them every day, but I would like to at least know their names for sure.

 

  1. Going back to blonde. Plain and simple, I look better blonde. The only way I can improve that is to go for regular touchups.

 

  1. Getaway to Athens. My girlfriend and I have decided on a new tradition: meet somewhere the first weekend in December. Athens, Georgia is probably the South’s best-kept secret. We spent a weekend at The Graduate hotel, and it was nothing short of amazing. Amazing food. Even better company. Shopping was perfect (although I am not much of a shopper since I am trying to get out of debt). Creature Comforts everywhere we went. Live Music at the Foundry. A massage (in which the therapist found a benign tumor on my shoulder, to be documented later). I was getting into a huge funk, and this trip saved my sanity.

 

 

One way I could improve this applies more to how I can enjoy this more, and that means letting go of the notion that my best people would think less of me for spending time away from home. It’s simply not true.

 

  1. Choosing love. Once I sifted through the ashes of my mishap this year, I found mostly love in the rubble. When I remember this year, I will remember the love. Calling my husband and recounting the situation was the hardest call I’ve made to date. It was met with love. Returning to my students after two weeks invoked anxiety in the pit of my stomach; they met me at the door with cheers and hugs. I received so many calls and messages. All love. I don’t know that I deserved any of it. But I will never forget it.

 

And so, one way I can continue to improve this is to simply give love, even when it’s not easy.

 

  1. Accepting my weight, as is. Ima preface this by saying that I have lost 20, maybe 25 pounds this year. (I never actually weighed at the beginning of the year.) However, at intermission in July, I had my dreaded Well-Being Assessment. During that, I sat in front of a dry, unfriendly man who told me I am obese. Look, I’m a lot of things. But nothing about my appearance screams “obese.” Y’all, I got so upset with this assessment. I’m talking crocodile tears. I called my husband and texted my best friend. I said the same thing to each: “I wish this didn’t matter so much to me.” And so, I decided to not let it mean so much to me. I went to Chipotle and ordered a small burrito and balanced it out with a Dos Equis. I am mooshy. And it’s ok. No one died.

 

One way I can continue to improve this is to keep at my non-diet diet, and stop looking in the mirror at my inner tube on the daily.

 

  1. Bullet journaling I must confess, I had no idea what this was a year ago. I need to make modifications to how I do this, but that’s kind of the beauty of bullet journaling- you are allowed to change your mind, and Lort knows I need that chance often. I love being able to experiment with different lettering/fonts/ handwriting… what the heck do you call it when it’s in your own writing? That alone brings immense joy.

 

One thing I would do differently is to stop writing out my freaking budget in everything. I am so obsessed with crunching the numbers. I love crunching the numbers, but it doesn’t have to be every other page in my bullet journal. Additionally, I think I should designate some pages purely for ideas and brainstorming. I need a place to streamline my thoughts.

 

  1. 4:30 am workouts I’ll admit, these came on during the final months this year, and have since fallen off; I guess I can claim the holidaze? After I had strep, I thought maybe I would try working out to see if it curbed some health problems except I have my kiddo and then a little thing on the side called a full time job. 4:30 is kind of a terrible time to do anything, but I gave it a try and just like aforementioned things, I didn’t die.

 

One way I can make this better next year is to getbacktoit and stickwithit.

 

 

2016 was not kind to me, but I am an eternal believer in leaning closer to optimism. Call me an idealist, but I believe 2017 is going to be way better. Way better. More on my goals, soon!

Where I’ve Been

I’ve always read the worst thing a blogger can do is open up with an apology for not writing. But, what if you had a wonderful explanation?

 

One of my kids’ favorite pastimes consists of dreaming up situations I may be in when I am out of work. I usually try to send a blanket message when I’m out, but if I don’t, I can expect a whiteboard full of fabrications in my whereabouts.

 

I wish I could explain in full detail what happened to me this year (last school year), but I think it’s probably best that I give the Cliff Notes: I said something, via text, that was taken out of context. My heart was in the right place- my heart is always in the right place. But I landed myself in a compromising position, tarnished my reputation, and spent two weeks wondering if I ruined my own life. I have never questioned myself as I did in those two agonizing weeks.

 

This is a writer’s worst nightmare.

 

As a writer, I want to be able to tell my stories freely. I cherish my freedom and careful selection of words. As an introvert, I am always grateful for a platform to tell the story of my life. As one who gives myself and others a lot of grace, I hope to share with the world that we are all mostly good. As a person of faith, I want to inspire people to have hope. That’s what I want now.

 

But, if I’m being honest, I am scarred from this experience. I constantly wonder if I’ve said something I shouldn’t have. I am terrified to talk to friends via text. Forget thinking about my memoir. Definitely haven’t wanted to reach anyone through essays. I know it seems simple, but I learned the hard way: my words impact others.

 

It’s tough to find the balance between raw honesty and social norms, so there’s that. I guess more than anything, I must acknowledge: I didn’t make everyone happy, but everyone lived.

 

And so, now, I am giving myself permission to hit “publish” again.

 

When I started this blog, I chose the name “C is for Curveball” because life has thrown our little family a lot of curveballs. There are so many circumstances that transpire to which most of my friends now respond with: “Only Amelia.” And it’s painful and hilarious all at once. I don’t always love that this is who God made me to be. But when I ask Him, “Why?” He always comes right back to me, and says, “Because you have a story to tell.”

 

So, let’s get back to it.

Why I Quit Facebook (For Now)

February 29 was a pretty ordinary day, considering it’s the one extra day we get every four years. I’d see an occasional post on Facebook that said, “What will you do with your extra day?” But those were mostly from people like my dear retired father, and I would think, oh I will just continue working and stuff.

 

It was a wonky day at work, one we dubbed “first Monday.” Super Tuesday was the next day, so we didn’t have students the next day. Essentially, it was a Friday and a Monday for kids, and virtually impossible to get anything done that represented teaching. They were off the chain, and I left there with a tear or two brooding behind my eyeballs.

 

I ran to Sam’s to pick up a few baby essentials, like formula and diapers because that sweet baby of mine continued to love eating and digesting, and before I knew it, it was 5:00, so it was on to pick her up. I don’t care what I’m doing, if it’s 5:00 it is for sure time to pick up my little. More than that, it was Monday which means B drops her off super early.

 

Sigh. Even this beautiful season in our life is just so cray.

 

When I arrived at her daycare (or “school” as we call it to her) she was in the hall with her favorite former teacher, and I joked and said, “Oh no, are you in trouble?” but when my baby saw me, she straight up acted like she didn’t know me. And then, when I went to physically pick her up, she all but refused.

 

Let’s take a little time out a la Zack Morris, and let me just say how incredibly fortunate I feel that my little miss is loved so well. It’s simply wondrous/amazing/appreciated that so many people in her life fight over who loves her the most/who she loves the most. It’s just the bees’ knees.

 

Unpause. I know all this, but when I left the parking lot after finally prying her away, being shunned by a ten-month-old, I cried. I was embarrassed. I resented everything in my current lot: the ungrateful students, the atrocities of having to work in the first place, the realization that I’d have to return to work in 12ish hours, B’s busy schedule. Is it even worth it?

 

I think sometimes it’s easier to blame our surroundings above ourselves. I am admittedly too hard on myself far too much, but I really pondered this, and thought back to the near past with Novella. We’d just come off of a weekend together, yet I don’t know that I truly spent the time with her that I should have. I did a lot of laundry and cleaning while she crawled and followed me. When her crawling around and attempting what felt like a lot of brushes with death, we eventually resorted to her room, an embassy in our little broke down palace.

 

But, when we rested in her little room, I retreated to the most awesome chair in her room, playing on my electronic device while she played. I checked my Facebook no less than 20 times while she frolicked and begged for my attention. I’d occasionally look up, give her a half-ass reassuring nod. That’s how I inadvertently treated this sweet little girl that I prayed for a solid decade.

 

Novella is/was a Facebook baby. For years, I shared our gut-wrenching story of infertility and adoption loss via Facebook. When I saw the most shocking plus sign in all of the world, I immediately thought of all the ways I could tell Facebook, and had a photo shoot specifically for Facebook. I vividly remember my heart racing, sitting in Starbucks and posting those pictures shortly following our 13-week appointment. I had a checklist of people to tell individually before I could socially medially say “It’s a girl!” Even after a 32 hour, mostly (but unintentionally, epidurals don’t work for all) drug-free labor, I asked B to take one picture before I hit the hay, and updated my virtual friends to announce her unrushed arrival.

 

Shortly before I took maternity leave, I had a fascinating and eye-opening conversation with my students about social media and how they felt violated by their parents throughout their lives via social media. I think about my middle sister, and how much she absolutely abhors one specific picture of herself, and would promptly remove it from our family Christmas tree as if anyone ever visited our house, yet my students had countless of those types of pictures and everyone saw them and could reference them without any personal consent.

 

So, back to Leap Year. Something just clicked with me- and I couldn’t help but notice: the reason my daughter prefers everyone to me is because I prefer everyone to her too. I didn’t mean to, but seriously…why was I wasting so much time, investing and engaging in conversations that truly bore no significance on my actual life?

 

We would be in a sweet moment, and I would think I need to take a picture, so I can tell Facebook about this.

 

We would be in a difficult moment, and I would think I can’t wait for this to pass, so I can make a witty joke on Facebook about this.

 

And worst of all, I would take pictures and hold the button down for a photo burst, not so I could remember every little nuance in her sweet face, but because I wanted to get the best angle. For Facebook.

 

I’ve learned the danger in absolutes. It’s not that I will never get on the book again, but I see (channeling my inner Joni Mitchell) my life from both sides now. And I believe that once you know better, you do better. Or at least, you should.

 

After the jump: What I’ve learned so far without Facebook.

Deciding Who to Be

This past weekend, my sisters and I helped my parents clean out a lot of memories that we admittedly should have taken from their house years ago. It’s amazing how a cardboard box or two can remind you of, not only who you once were, but who you still are. There were so many memories, that I eventually had to resort to “I’ll look through this later.” This usually translates to, “I will bury this somewhere and look at it when we move again and are bored without internet.” But, this time my heart really desired the trip down memory lane. Maybe it’s all of the changes in my life; perhaps it’s the striking resemblance in my childhood photos to my dear daughter, Novella.

 

So, when I got home and settled Sunday night, I was quite eager to show Brandon my treasures, and so we laid out all of my childhood memories and delighted in all that once was. There were so many things I would’ve never remembered if it weren’t for all of those papers, pictures, and random assortment of items. Change is so gradual, that 30ish years in retrospect can jar you, tickle you, and sadden you all at once.

 

One of the sweetest moments was when we found a report card from my brief attendance of Poplar Springs Elementary in third grade. In the comments, Mrs. Leitchfield (ironically, the name of my parents’ hometown) wrote, “It has been a pleasure to know Amelia in this brief time. She is a very smart and sweet young lady.” Brandon read it, and said, “Well, you haven’t changed much from that.”

 

Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Nothing is truer when it comes to teachers, and I’ve tried my darndest to implement that in my own legacy as a teacher. Mrs. Leitchfield made me feel special from the moment I walked into her room as a terrified transplant into the deep south, approaching the end of the school year. She made me the “Proud Panda” of her class for the whole month of April, and I got to have ice cream with the principal and everything!

But, there were a lot of teachers that didn’t quite give me the warm and fuzzies, and I often wonder how much of my insecurities I owe to them. Mrs. Hazle in second grade evoked a fear and self doubt that I am certain did not exist before. She called me a brat, a day dreamer, a cry baby, and worst of all- annoying.

I wonder why it took a report card with it there in black and white to remember Mrs. Leitchfield’s words, and rote memory to remember Mrs. Hazle’s.

All of my life people have told me that I am smart and kind, and I hardly believe them. More than that, I take the latter as an insult. To be fair, it is usually offered to me as a means to excuse another behavior, i.e. “Well, you’re just nicer than I am.”

But I’ve been thinking a lot about how often we assign labels to ourselves and from where their roots of origin ever stem. And when do we decide to make that our official narrative?

When I found out that I was pregnant, it was the shock of the century. We’d been trying for ten years, and had been told by five different doctors that it would never happen. During that ten year wait, I heard a lot of comments about what kind of parent I would be. Some were loving and kind, some were plain rude and inaccurate. I heard from some that I would be a hot mess of a mom, although those words weren’t really used. There’s a huge, and I mean hee-uge misconception that I would lie around with my feet propped up while my sweet husband handled all the dirty diapers.

 

But, I decided to not let that be my narrative.

 

Maybe it’s a fire within me that vastly wanted to prove others wrong, or maybe it’s just plain necessity, but I decided who I wanted to be as a parent, and I roll with that 90% of the time. I have exactly two mottos in parenting: (Excuse the language but there’s no other way to say it and show I mean it)

 

Handle your shit.

 

And

 

Do not hesitate because of fear.

 

Toot! Toot! I am super proud of myself for sticking to these principles more often than not in parenting, a whopping ten months in…but that’s not really my point. I have days where I tee-totally a hot mess. If I catch myself wrapped up in that storyline, I  try to get out of it quickly.

 

I have stopped giving so much value to what other people say, especially the negative. It has taken me a long, long time to get here. Like, since second grade. But I just have to. If I don’t, I seriously worry what impression I will leave on my daughter. Instead, I’ve learned to examine words, and look at the facts and say, “Why did they say this?” And if there’s a behavior that needs to be changed, then I try to change it if needed.

 

But, mostly, I just think about what kind of person I want to be, and then I go and be that. Sometimes I fail miserably. Sometimes I am awkward. OK, all of the time I am awkward. That I fear I cannot change, but even in that I have decided that awkwardness stems from a lack of confidence I’ve developed since relocating to a new city three years ago. So, I’m making a commitment to myself to branch out more- try new things. Think about moving up the career ladder. Doing a few things that terrify me due to fear of failure (Helloooooo, gardening!)

 

A blogger I read writes down some goals for everyone to see, and then reviews them a month later. I like this idea a lot, but in the interest of full transparency, I will go ahead and admit that I currently have a poor track record in maintaining an open line of communication via blogging. Ugh. Now I think I am going to have to change that since I said it. Oh well. Here are some things that I would like to accomplish in the month of March:

 

  • Stay off of Facebook for the entire month. Commitment: I will write about this and explain later.
  • Get all invites sent out for my Novella’s birthday party.
  • Read 2 books
  • Start my garden
  • Address some health issues I am having (seriously, how long can we call things “Post Partum Hormones,” and when should we switch to “Girrrrrl, your body is jacked up!”)
  • Upon receiving my life planner, I want to map out things better and just bring more of a flow to my life.
  • At least FOUR blog posts/ essays.
  • Plan through the rest of the school year.

 

Looks like I better get to work! What are your goals for the month?

Pretty, But Not That Pretty

 

-1999tornado1

Source: tennessean.com

In 1999, the entire downtown area of my hometown was demolished in a tornado. I was 17, and a junior in high school. It was an interesting time. For the first time in a long time, I had no boyfriend, mostly by choice. It was also the only time in my life where I could be described as “boyish.” I’d had a rough year emotionally and terrible bronchitis, which led to a significant weight loss. I also adored my friend Lisa’s short haircut and totally copied her. Like presidencies and eras, you are able to name them in retrospect, and so I have since dubbed this time “The Era of Unfortunate Hair.”

 

I’ve lived in a state of disillusion regarding my appearance for, like, ever. I’ll get to that later. A couple of people said I was adorable, and so I believed them. I remember someone (or two, I think) said I looked like Meg Ryan (at the height of her career, nonetheless!), and so I ran with that and hoped that my bronchitis would return so I could look as adorable as she did with her cold in You’ve Got Mail.

 

I loved being single in a way that only a high schooler could. I spent endless hours with friends, listening to Ani DiFranco, and “finding out who I was,” which crept into every bad poem I wrote around that time. During this time, I discovered that I loved long walks (no lie), driving around aimlessly for hours, overly sweetened coffee, Judy Garland, ripping off Columbia House, and live music. The first time I discovered the latter was at a benefit concert to raise money for our demolished town.

 

Blessid Union of Souls had just released their album, and they rocked that mess so hard. I went with a few friends, most memorably a guy named (shall we?) Jack. We danced like there was no tomorrow, feeling both like no one was watching and that we were the most memorable people at that show. I believe we may have incorporated a few moves from show choir, which is shocking to those who had show choir with me considering I didn’t even incorporate those moves in the actual show. I am the world’s worst dancer, but this was before I cared.

 

After the concert, we walked for what felt like forever to my little red Kia, hugged on a brick sidewalk, and for a moment it was that awkward, “Are we going to kiss?” conundrum but it passed very quickly, and who knows…we may have just high-fived instead. I drove home and barely gave it another thought. I wouldn’t remember it at all, 17 years later, if it weren’t for what happened next.

 

Monday morning, I received a letter. I will never forget it. I may even have it in my big box of high school memories that I’ll never really go through, even though I am forever married to my high school sweetheart. On a turquoise sheet of copier paper, in the finest penmanship I’d ever seen from a dude, read the following blowing crush:

 

“The other night, it felt like you wanted to kiss me. I want you to know that I am not interested. I love you, as my friend. And, I mean, you are pretty…but not THAT pretty.”

 

Half a lifetime ago, that still hurts. And, enter the thesis of this essay. Girls really need to know they’re pretty, and even THAT pretty.

 

We are smack dab in the middle of this movement to change everything that ever was, with changes so accelerated that who can even keep up anymore? It seems that everyone has a problem with everything, and you just can’t say a thing right anymore. I’m sure I could add fuel to a lot of mommy wars, but for now I just to implore one tiny thing, that could be a game-changer for girls: please tell them they’re beautiful.

Of COURSE you should tell them they are intelligent and strong. Of course you should foster creativity and exploration. But for the love of Bob, don’t try to change who they are innately.

 

I didn’t grow up with a lot. And, I certainly didn’t grow up reading magazines. I don’t remember seeing anything on tv beyond TGIF. I wasn’t very exposed to the supposed media that’s to blame for every body image issue young ladies have. I didn’t play with Barbies until I was maybe a little older than usual (I just really liked creating story lines and decorating an apartment with repurposed items and a tv stand). Yet, I can remember being in second grade, staring at myself in my parents’ dresser mirror and thinking, “Am I pretty?”

 

Every time, the reflection would say, “I think I am, but I don’t know if anyone else does.”

 

I would stare at my reflection doing dishes (a task I still find incredibly relaxing) and say “Am I pretty?”

 

And my reflection would say, “I think I am, but I don’t know if anyone else does,”

 

I would stare at my features. I studied them intensely. I would think, my nose is big, but not that big. My eyes are blue, but not big enough. And hair is a different subject.

 

No one ever told me to ask myself these questions, to evaluate my every feature. Yet, every little girl will eventually reach this point. We can’t pretend that’s not reality, and we can only blame biology.

I’m certainly not blaming my parents for any of this- they didn’t raise children in this world of constant blog posts/ essays/ lists of “Ways You’re Screwing Up Your Kids.” But, this is the world we are raising our daughters in now.

 

Now in 2016, I have the privilege of teaching girls in the height of building self-impressions. I teach seventh grade. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably finished seventh grade, and you know it’s the worst. Except a lot of my girls are not having the worst time. They are skating through unscathed. The clincher in all success in middle school, in feigning off vulnerability (strictly from my observations) is a certain confidence that’s been fostered for years, and you can just tell– they’ve never had to wonder much if they’re pretty. They walk can walk through the halls in either sweats or in Abercrombie’s finest and you can see they just don’t wonder.

 

And then there are the other ones. The ones that you can see their constant bargaining for approval, and I unfortunately fell into that category. As their teacher, I make sure to compliment them on even the tiniest nuance because I can just tell that no one else has. I don’t want them to wonder if they’re pretty, and seek to hear it from all the wrong people.

 

I look at my daughter, and I just think she’s more beautiful by the day. I’ve heard that’s what moms are supposed to think, but I believe it. Even in this sort of homely, mullet-and-snaggle-tooth phase, I sometimes stop in my tracks, and just say, “Novy-Girl, you are so pretty.”

Novella Car Seat

 

But I wonder if that will stop- not my belief that she is beautiful, but my gumption to tell her that mostly every day. Of course, I wish this wasn’t important. It is my hope that she will be better-known for her kindness and brilliance. But, most of all, I want her light to shine. And I know that’s virtually impossible when she doesn’t feel good enough.

 

It is unfortunate that in this shift of all the things, that “they” say we shouldn’t tell little girls they are beautiful, but they will eventually emerge into a world of scrutiny in the form of “likes” and ratings via social media. And, speaking from experience, this will happen no matter how tight your reins are. On this issue, we must face reality over ideals. Please, try your darndest to arm them with the engrained belief that they are good enough long before they start searching for the approval of their peers on multiple platforms.

 

Some day, no matter how beautiful and confident your daughter is, someone will try and tell her otherwise. Don’t let it be the first time she hears an opinion on the subject. Let her know, “Yes. You are pretty, and yes, you are THAT pretty.”