I Believe In You

Those are four exceptionally powerful words. Separately, not so much – but when brought together like that, “I believe in you” they can change your life course. It’s not, “I love you and I think you are fabulous” – obviously, you love me, you should think I’m fabulous. It’s not “whatever you do, you do great” – that’s not my favorite line because that feels like it almost voids out everything – if everything is great, then nothing really is. When great teachers prove this phrase to a student – that they believe in who they are, that they can achieve, a student’s whole life can venture into a new direction.

If you who are reading this are one of my friends or family following me, you’ll notice that there has been a definite uptick in my posts. It’s a bit hard not to notice – I posted back in January of 2014 and then didn’t post again until my Breaking Up With Facebook post. If you’ve read that post you’ll know that I typed the entire thing on my phone (which resulted in a migraine – that could have been from the small screen or the emotional vomit or a combination, or the weather, or just because, honestly, who knows with me? I have like five migraines a month!) There was a part of me that I really hadn’t been accessing for awhile that broke free after writing that post. And after reading that first post, my husband said to me, “you have to keep writing”. I truly appreciate his support but he’s my husband after all – shouldn’t he support me? I guess he doesn’t have to, but he’s great like that. And once he said it, I could feel the tug in my gut to write more … just a bit more.

Later, after my sister read that first post, she texted me, “you should keep writing”. Now, just like with my husband, I truly appreciate the support – but both of these people love me dearly, (at least they seem to! ;)) they aren’t particularly objective. But what I do know about my sister, that is different than my husband, is she would stop me from embarrassing myself if I looked like an ass! And as she doesn’t want to be the sister of an ass – she would do that for both of us! My husband just doesn’t care what other people think so he would never think I was embarrassing myself. With a nudge of support from both of them, my brain started to write a little more often – my version of prewriting.

Since I can remember, I’ve been writing. Not always writing on paper – many did make it to paper, lots and lots of poems – but the writing in my head has constantly been there. Stories and stories have always gone through my mind. I’m a people watcher who makes up crazy worlds about strangers’ lives – this is great entertainment when I’m stuck in traffic, the other drivers are unknowingly living exciting adventures or have really messed up home lives that they are running away from. I make up the most bonkers of stories about my animals and what they are thinking and who they are when no one is watching. I think I’ve watched too much Toy Story or read far too much fantasy because in my mind anything can come to life and have a life – and it tends to be a dramatic one. This is the way I’ve always been. And, yes, I do know there is a very fine line between insane and creative.

When I was little my stuffed animals lived fabulous sagas in my mythical kingdoms. With all this “prewriting” and creating going on in my head, it also produced in me a very specific talent. I became a consummate liar at a very young age. I’m not joking when I use the word consummate – I looked it up just to make sure I was using it exactly the way I wanted to. I was a master liar, I was pretty fantastic. And let me tell you, for someone like me to say I was fantastic at anything – I promise you, I had to’ve been. I was quite convincing. Let me share with the blogverse one of my first really tall tales – I had already told much smaller ones at this point, but this was one of my first more elaborate ones.

When I was in the first grade I told my first really significant outside of my family “story” (lie – just depends on how you look at it). I was just six years old in first grade. I think of my own sweet children and how open and candid they were at six – it just makes me want to go back and appreciate each of them even more than I did when they were that age! They were so guileless and winsome. But I wasn’t.

In first grade we ate lunch alphabetically. I’m sure there was a good reason for this – easier for the attendance lady to check our names off, didn’t cause such a slow down as you were being checked in for lunch … something that made reasonable sense to adults. But in my six year old mind that was a bunch of baloney. You see, my last name started with an M. Normally that worked in my favor because my best friend from preschool to sixth grade was Sarah Maracini. M & M. We worked well together – and best of all we were in every class together for those first seven years of school. But Sarah lived across the street from the school, and her mom was one of those typical 70’s/80’s moms who liked us to eat natural peanut butter – she was into lots of natural stuff… but, that’s a different story.

Anyway, every day, she had Sarah walk home from school to eat her lunch, so instead of Sarah, I was forced to sit by Eddie Martinez! Now Eddie Martinez** grew up to be a great guy, but in first grade – I wasn’t haven’ him at all. Nope. Eddie Martinez called me Curtis Mathis on a daily basis. I already had identity issues because my mom thought all three of her daughters were better off having a haircut that was, in her words “cute”, in my words “boy”. Proof of this is when my brother looks at pictures of the four of us when were little, he refers to us as his three brothers. <sucker> Eddie would call me a boy’s name – Curtis Mathis and I would say back Eddie Spaghetti your meatballs are ready. This was our daily routine in the lunch line. It went on like this through elementary school because, like Sarah, Eddie was in almost all of my classes and Sarah always went home for lunch! Eddie got on my nerves.

My first grade mind decided to put a stop to this torture. I wanted to sit by my second best friend at the time, Amy Bennett. So I told my teacher that my parents were getting a divorce, my dad had moved to Hawaii and my mom was changing my last name to Apkins. Now, I had never seen the last name “Apkins” but I do remember thinking (and the fact that I remember this scares me since I can’t even remember yesterday) if I just took the “n” off napkin, I would get apkin – add an “s” and it sounds like a viable first name. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Starr, believed me hook, line, and sinker. Why wouldn’t she believe a first grader? Most of them are not big fat liars! Besides that, I had already learned to give some facts, but not too many because that would give away the lie (you see, I had been lying to my parents for years by this point, I had some major skillz).

Mrs. Starr sent me to the attendance office and I retold my story. The office staff said they would make a note and change my name but my mom would need to call and make the change herself. Here was the gaping hole in my plan – and it taught me a valuable lesson – you see, I wasn’t a long term thinker at this point. I learned you really need to look at the big picture and see where down the line you could get busted. This knowledge helped quite a bit when I was in high school. 

So there it was, the lie was set and I had a few amazing weeks – sitting not just next to Amy Bennett where I wanted to be, but also at the front of the line, where I always thought I should be. The front of the line seemed much, much better than the middle – let me tell you. I did not like to be in the middle, far too middlish. I’m a first born and folks, this girl feels she should be in the front of the line! No more Eddie Spaghetti. No more Curtis Mathis. No more middle. No more misery. 

But then one day, as I was sitting in my Brownies troupe that I went to after school sometimes. Happily doing whatever it is Brownies do, my mom showed up unexpectedly. I knew immediately – she was not happy. Actually, she was in a towering rage. And from my present perspective, I can tell you, my mom is a little lady – especially compared to me. I have at least three or four inches of height on her. But when I was six – she was towering. Angry energy was emanating from her every pore. And like most kids, I learned very early how to gauge my mom’s moods.

She tried to call me out of Brownies, and no, I’ll sit right here thanks. But she was insistent and even told my troupe leader that I wouldn’t be back that day. The tirade started as soon as we were out of earshot and continued all the way home and into my bedroom. I don’t remember every word, I don’t remember anything I really said to defend myself. But I remember the tenor and the gist of it all. The school had finally called to confirm my name change story. My mom was shocked. Of course I couldn’t really explain my reasons at that age. All of it is clear now, I knew what was going on in my head – but to tell her all of that – that would be too much insider information! I wasn’t into that at all. For someone who now is akin to an emotional nudist – at the very least, a flasher, as a child I didn’t want anyone tapping into my brain! I had way too many stories in my secret inside life. 

At one point, I remember her asking, “don’t you love your dad?” What? What the crap does that have to do with anything?? Of course I love my dad, I just wanted to get away from Eddie Spaghetti – and let’s be honest, Eddie was probably just as happy with the temporary name change as I was. My mom was thinking I had some deep-seated emotional issue against she and my dad and she was probably going to have to take me to a shrink. Actually, this lying thing wasn’t exactly normal, and maybe she should have sent me to a shrink, but she didn’t. I think she grounded me – I got grounded a lot (surprise, surpise) so that all blends in together. I do remember my teacher calling me up during “rest” time – yes, in the 70’s, first graders got “rest” time, lucky first grade teachers! I remember her whispering at me in the dark classroom in quite a frenzied way. I don’t remember at all what she was saying, but I remember her spit sort of stuck to the roof of her mouth when she talked. That sounds gross – but that’s all I got out of it. Looking back, I think poor Mrs. Starr was nonplussed having a child like me in her class. That wasn’t the last time Mrs. Starr was on the wrong end of one of my  “stories”. But I’ll save those, and maybe the time I sent out invitations for a make believe birthday party and kids showed up at my front door much to my mother’s chagrin, for another time – this particular story kind of got away from me. 😉

Back to the point of this entire post (if you’re still with me). A few days after I posted my first post back, my husband bought me a new laptop. After 8 years, our old one had decided to take a powder and I couldn’t write on it anymore. I have stacks of journals, but this format allows me to process in a different way than a journal does – and besides, I get to invite my family and friends into this world of mine for good or bad. And what’s great for my friends is they can choose if they want to come along on this journey or not. My husband gave me this new tool and said “I believe in you.”. My seriously introverted husband will hate that I’ve put this in a post – he doesn’t like me giving him internet attention, social media, blogverse, etc. – and I know what he’ll say. “yeah, yeah, hero to zero.” But he really put his money where his mouth was this time and that’s a big freakin’ deal in this family! And a big freakin’ deal to me.

Because of his faith in me, because of the constant encouragement from my very accomplished and extraordinary baby sister and also from my always supportive parents, I’m finding my voice again. I’m shaking out the kinks – which is probably very obvious if you’ve been reading – I’m different than I was a year ago. So currently, writing and sharing is back on the agenda. (Look’s like meat is back on the menu, boys!) And for the time being, my fibro is still the main topic – but you’ll have to excuse me if I just can’t stay on topic. I’m really bad at coloring inside the lines, and maybe at some point, I’ll start sharing some of these stories in my head. 

**To Eddie Martinez, if you ever read this – I’m sorry for calling you Eddie Spaghetti in elementary school.



Mr. Martinez the Mr. Chips of 2014

Welcome to the digital age Mr. Martinez, you’ll find that the younger generation does not suffer fools gladly. The following post has blown up in the last few days, especially after Huffington Post picked it up. Check it out: Cause.We.Cool. The gist of the story is that a new principal, Mr. Martinez, announced to the student body that “modest is hottest” and “boys will be boys” in regard to the dress code. I highly recommend that you read her response. The girl is intelligent, perceptive and witty and her argument is astute. Of course the topic she’s arguing against is outrageously antiquated! If what she’s saying is true, what century is this dude from? “Boys will be boys”?! What??? Are we in 1955? Hello?? McFly?? I can’t even imagine that I would have heard “modest is hottest” 20 something years ago when I was in high school – we were well into the horrors of after school specials by that time. (that should be another post for a different day … how to be scarred by after school specials)

I’d be proud if one of my kids wrote this – but honestly, it raises real concerns for me as well. As a parent, I would battle over what lesson is more important – standing up for your values or having respect for teachers and other adults? Both are important and valuable life lessons. The writer seems to have guts galore – and although her argument is not disrespectful, I wouldn’t say she’s deferring to her principal with any kind of regard either. And I’m pretty certain a chunk of our societal issues stem from a lack of genuine respect for one another. We live in a world where we are determined to make sure we are all “treated equally” – although most people define that as being treated better rather than equally. But as an underage student, this girl isn’t equal to a teacher or an administrator, just like she isn’t equal to her parents or law enforcement. Similarly an employee is not equal to his or her boss. I realize what I’m pointing out here is the battle of the generations – the millennials versus the boomers (us gen-xers get skipped over anyway, and frankly, we’re too busy being sarcastic and quoting lines from movies to give much of a crap).

Another concern I have is the setting this has been addressed on – tumblr. Again, I get it – we are in a new world. But what if this girl’s explanation is not entirely accurate – and let’s face it, it’s from her point of view, we don’t have the other side of the story. This administrator has been vilified in a public forum by a student. Does the school have recourse if it’s not true? Can any student post anything on the internet they want to about a teacher?? As the oldest sister of three teachers, this makes me very uneasy, actually it makes me a bit sick to my stomach. Teachers are already under so much scrutiny these days, having to deal with testing and ever-changing standards – and my three siblings are teachers in California, so they are under scrutiny and have to worry about getting a pink slip every year and whether or not they’ll get their paychecks. As well as dealing with violence and drugs and social workers and migrant families and absent parents.

This year one of my sisters went out on her lunch hour and bought toiletries for a student who had been kicked out and was crashing on a relative’s couch with no possessions. Two of my siblings have been forced to call social services. One of my siblings has gone to multiple funerals for their students’ family members who had gang related deaths. My brother has always taught in schools that are in very low socioeconomic areas. He always reads novels aloud to his classes – books they want to listen to so much that they ask for him to read longer. Books that few of these students would be exposed to if my brother didn’t read to them. I know my two sisters and my brother are amazing teachers – I know this because they are amazing people. They work hard every day for other people’s kids. All three of them love what they do and are passionate about it. But I worry for them. I worry that some student out there may get angry with them at some point for a poor grade, or for calling their parent or just because they want to. And with a click of the mouse their life could be changed forever.

So I have a point here, somewhere, deep down. Yes, the point – for the hundredth time – our world has changed Mr. Chips, get with it! And it’s imprudent to play ostrich and pretend like you can go on acting however you want and someone is not going to record it for the world to see. It’s either going to end up on facebook or youtube or twitter or instagram or tumblr or reddit or something! If there’s space for it – it will end up out there floating around in cyberspace. (I’m going to take this moment to thank God – AGAIN – that I grew up in a world that was not like this! It’s much better to be an adult in this world than I think it would be for a not=fully-developed-Prefrontal-Cortex teenager!) If you are sexist and a principal, it’s time to grow up and take some gender sensitivity classes before you get fired. If you are a school board and you discover that you have a chauvinist principal from a student’s post on the Internet, you better look into that nonsense before parents who are crazy like me start complaining – loudly.

If you are a teenager, still waiting on your prefrontal cortex to catch up with the rest of your brain, don’t fool yourself either and think that your actions don’t have consequences. Someone taught us that in science someplace – for every action there is a reaction. So consider what you are doing before you post. Consider what you are saying – is it true? Is it articulate? Who you are saying it about? This is someone’s brother or father or husband – he could be a good friend’s uncle or grandfather – would that change your tone? And who could potentially read or see what you’ve posted? A future job? A future school? All of the Internet is a public space – even if you think it’s private – it’s not. It is courageous and important to stand up for what is right and what your values are, but it never hurts you to use caution and be respectful. And just remember someday you may need that principal’s recommendation to get into the college you want to go to.

If you are a parent of a teenager – and I’m taking this advice myself since I have three of them (maybe, or maybe I’ll just make them read this blog that would be easier – because I’m that kind of parent. 😉 ) I think we all need to remind our kids that showing respect for others – even if they disagree with the person – is a way of showing respect for themselves. Maybe we need to remind ourselves of that as well.

Everything is New Again

The following scene is an example of something that happens at my house quite frequently:

The whole family is in the car, driving down a dark country road headed for home. We come upon a local farm/pumpkin patch and it is lit up for Christmas like Clark Griswold had been in charge of the decorating.

Me: “ohhh! Look at the farm! It’s so pretty! I hadn’t seen that lit up yet!”

Youngest Child: “You saw it last week and said the same thing.”

Middle Child: “You saw it earlier this week and said the same thing.”

Whole family (minus me): lots of laughter

Me: “I have?”

Youngest Child: “Yes. You do this all the time.”

Family: More laughter

Me: “Well I guess I get to enjoy it like new again!”

Family: Even more laughter

Husband: for the duration of the trip home, “oh look at that tree, I haven’t seen that tree before!” “Oh look at that neighborhood! I haven’t seen this neighborhood before!”

This is your brain before fibromyalgia: relatively intelligent person.

This is your brain on fibromyalgia: everything is new again.

Any questions?