The Compromise

On Friday, I let everyone in on the stressful situation that is going on in my life right now. And there was this huge flood of amazing support and words of advice and encouragement. Thank you to the Grumpies, by the way, for steering so much of it this way. You two are my Cheerleaders but totally awesome feminist ones.

I have been reading, and responding, to your comments all weekend. You are a very wise bunch. And what I decided was to compromise.

This trip does mean a lot to me. It’s not as simple as Take Kids to Theme Park. It’s more layered than that. And one of the things it means to me is keeping promises. I hate broken promises, I really do. Probably because I’ve been the victim of so many in my own life.

So I thought about it and vented on Stallion in a big, big, big way. I pretty much threw my tantrum with the tears and the boogers and the, “It’s not fair!” Very classy. And after he hugged me and told me it’ll be ok I calmed down and made a decision.

We are not going to Disney, but we are going to Universal. The tickets for Universal are free, they are for both parks, and their confirmation number was sent to me last week. They are there waiting for me. And it is scheduled for the 12th of August, Eldest’s birthday. As I had mentioned, the kids received money for the trip, and my grandmother and mother have told me they will be giving me Eldest’s trip money as well. With that money, I have the cost of the hotel covered, the gas, and I think even the food. The only big ticket item that is not yet covered is the one ticket for Stallion’s daughter which is her birthday present as well. Her mother is giving her money for food so that should be perfect.

As for Disney, it is not cancelled, but it is postponed. I am going to work my little tookus off and see if I can manage to put together enough to fund a trip to Disney in December when it’s all decorated for Christmas. We’ve never seen the park that time of year, the weather will be nicer, and the two littlest ones will get their birthday wishes filled then. That will be the new goal– survive and Disney in December.

Like I told Stallion, the reason this has been so hard for me to let go of is because how long I’ve been working at it– and how close I was. I have been diligently saving and saving and saving. Over half the child support payments have been going to saving up for things like the school’s $2700 registration fee (private school, my parents pay the tuition if I pay the registration) which I paid in full at the beginning of the year. When my tax refund came in, I did the math and put a portion of it into my emergency fund, a portion into my big ticket savings like the summer camp, the trip, and Christmas, and sent a huge chunk to my credit cards. You know, the responsible thing.

And it was working!

When my car broke down in March I had enough money to pay for the repair. When school let out, I had the $3000 to put them in summer camp. When I woke up one morning to find my cat had been vomiting everywhere and had a fever, I had the $450 to cover the vet bill. I think I might rename my cat and call her Disney.

The big thing now is what I am going to tell the children. My kids are pretty young. The youngest just turned 4 and 6 in June and the oldest turns 9 this Sunday. Money is really hard to explain to the youngest ones and unfortunately, they are the ones who wanted Disney. Eldest is the one who wanted Universal as he is obsessed with Harry Potter.

I’m thinking of going about it this way.

First things first: Be (vaguely) Honest. I’m going to explain that I had to make changes to the trip this weekend and that one of the parks is going to be postponed. I’m going to explain I am not making as much money every month as I used to. I might use coins to explain this. Show them four coins and explain that’s how much I was making, take away two coins and explain that’s how much I’m making now. I am extremely wary resistant to the idea of explaining their father’s role, or lack thereof, in all of this because of how young they are, how sensitive a topic it is, and how complicated it may get to explain. Eldest can probably handle it and maybe he and I will have a separate conversation later, if he wants one. I think I’m just going to explain that there were two ways I was making money and because the economy is bad, one of them isn’t making money right now. It might start making money again one day, but I’m not sure when, etc. etc. etc.

I am then going to explain we are going to Universal Studios only because the tickets were free. I did not choose which park we went to. I asked around my group of friends and the connection that came through was for Universal. I want this to be clear because I don’t want them to think I was choosing favorites or anything and besides it’s completely true. If the tickets to Universal weren’t free, we wouldn’t be going anywhere.

I’ll then lay out my plan to try and make more money so that we can go in December to Disney to see the park at Christmas time. And then I’ll ask them to please look at the Universal website with me and try and get them fired up about what we’re going to do and see there.

The bad part is, it’s the youngest kids’ trip whose getting postponed. The good part is, they are distracted easier.

I feel a lot better about this weekend now that I’ve made this decision. One of the things that struck me after reading your comments and throwing my tantrum was the reason I’m so frustrated and angry about postponing part of the trip is exactly the reason I need to postpone part of the trip.

I have been doing things the right way for so long, why blow it? If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that it’s far easier to create problems than to fix them. The right way worked. It did what it was supposed to do– I just hadn’t been able to fund it long enough to cover me more than it already has.

The wrong way, I’ve already done that before. I know where that goes and what it does to a person. So thank you for helping me get to this place I am in right now. I’m not going to lie, I’m still a bit down at the mouth and I would really like to practice some sort of physical violence, but I am trying very hard to pull up and out and I just wanted to thank you all for the boost.

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Better vs Easier

I’ve started writing this post twice already. Third time’s a charm…

While I was reading The Marriage Plot, I stumbled across this quote,

My life getting better, but it ain’t getting any easier.

And it sent something through me, something warm and soothing. I’ve since read it over a billion times. What drives me batty is what an obvious statement of fact it is. Better is rarely easier. That’s so obvious.

Except it’s not. Not to me at least. I guess in some situations it makes sense to me, especially with something like food. Better food is seldom easier. It is not the same to make a cake from scratch as it is from the box. Even if you really enjoy that sort of thing, even if you do it so often it doesn’t feel harder to you at all, objectively it is.

I guess what I have found interesting is that I never really explored that concept further. In life things, my mind equates better with easier. A better job makes life easier. A better salary makes bill paying easier. A better parenting style makes raising children easier. Better self-esteem makes finding the man of your dreams easier. A better crocheter has an easier time with projects.

Are we on the same wavelength yet? Do you see what I’m alluding to?

Here are some things in my life that are Better but certainly not getting Easier.

Finances

It doesn’t feel this way, but when I step back and look at things objectively (concrete numbers make that easier) it’s obvious I am in a better financial state than I have been in my life. Not one of my six credit lines is maxed out and four of the six have zero balances and have had so for ages. I have retirement savings with five digits. I’ve never in my life saved so much money. When I subtract the amount of my debts (student and credit) from my savings, I have a net worth of over $20k which is something that was impossible to wrap my head around just five years ago. I swear there was a time in my life I believed net worth was for old people. At least the green ones (net worth, not people).

My finances aren’t any easier though. Not by a long shot. I recently drained the last of my savings to fund the last couple of weeks of summer camp because I couldn’t arrange care for the kids that wasn’t imposing on a bunch of people. The last time I got a normal, timely, child support payment was in April. The last time I got a child support payment at all was in June. And of course I have not been compensated for any of the cost of summer camp. I haven’t requested a dime from my parents but right now, things are finally approaching the perilous point. You know, the one where you’re counting the days left to your paycheck and taking inventory of your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry while anxiously glancing at the fuel needle. I’m surviving on a very tiny overdraft line of credit ING gives me for my checking account. The credit cards with empty balances are calling me a little louder every day.

Yeah, that point. That totally not easier point.

Love

I’m in a stronger, healthier relationship now. We have similar values and on similar life paths. We’ve had similar challenges in the past. It feels more like a team than anything I’ve been in before. He may not be my husband, but he treats me the way I always imagined my husband would treat me. But it’s not Easier. This Summer with his daughter here, I family went up to a size six. And managing the change in dynamics the presence of his daughter brought was challenging at times. Don’t get me wrong, the girl is great– she’s sweet and helpful but she craves her Dad’s attention (understandably) and I had to adjust to that without disappearing into the background at the same time.

And no matter how much we have in common, managing a family is still hard work. We’re still figuring out how to distribute work to each other and to the kids while making sure to communicate gratitude constantly.

Future Outlook

When I take the fact I’m back in school and combine it with the fact I was able to keep my job, I know I’m in a Better place than I was even two years ago as to propel myself forward to achieving more of my goals. It is certainly not Easier nor does it look likely to become so even though so many people feel compelled to promise me it will. No, school does not get Easier. And work does not get Easier. As I master something, I move on to the next thing instead of stagnating. There is always another step to take, another achievement to unlock.

Of course, I do believe there is a moment when Better and Easier do merge into one. I think that is the ultimate Achievement Unlocked and is represented by that peak on the happiness chart researchers keep finding.

What about you? Are things in your life better AND easier? Better but not easier? Easier but not better? Or neither better nor easier?

P.S. I’m still sick and dealing with this crap sinus infection. So I apologize if I got rambly in places. My powers of editing are vastly diminished in this state.

Mutant Supermodel gets Hair-larious

You should know that just now I was at my standing desk dancing to M.I.A.’s Paper Planes (Diplo Street Mix) and because I’m behind my desk I had kicked off my heels and because I was dancing I tripped on them and because my chair was directly behind me I collapsed straight into it. That’s totally chuckle-worthy right?

It’s Friday. It’s Friday and I had such a horribly stressed out day yesterday that I am forcing myself to let go and relax and be silly and lite and total fluff. I’m not even going to be mysterious. I’ll just come right out and tell you that yesterday sucked because the people I work with in Office #2 filled me with complete panic about my job security. The university’s medical school has been adversely affected by the calamity that has beset our city’s one and only public hospital with which we are closely affiliated with. This is of course trickling up and per the rumor mill the administrative jobs are under close scrutiny. Some people insist that doesn’t include mine and some people insist it does include mine and yesterday I was with the second group and though I’m not proud to admit it, they totally got to me.

Now after having several hours away from that atmosphere I’m not so panicked anymore and am more in my original attitude towards the whole thing– I do think I am safe because the project I work for is very lucrative, I am the only admin that is fully funded by the project, and I do have something to do with the project’s profitability although how much those in charge would be willing to acknowledge that is not something I can really guess at. If the opposite is true and I am not protected by my project’s profitability, then it’s true– I am the most likely to go because of lots and lots of reasons. And even though that sort of makes me sad, it’s not really fazing me. It’s just a sign that something in my logic, something in my plans, isn’t right and I have to fix it and this is one way of correcting that.

But back to fluff and stuff right?

On Monday I asked you guys what to De-Frump next and 50% of the voters chose Hair. I’m actually kind of happy about that. My kids go on spring break now so I actually have a week of mornings with more time. I also got a haircut last month and have been enjoying playing with it.

So bring out the hair products and the accessories and put away the scrunchies and banana clips (none of us actually have those right? Ha. Ha.). Let’s figure out how to use these bobby pin things. Let’s look at some hair tutorial videos on YouTube. You can be edgy. You can be feminine. You can be pop. You can be rock. You can curl. You can straighten. You can poof. You can smooth.

If you’d like to play along this month, I’m going to encourage you to share photos. And I am going to give you LOTS of ways to do that ok? So if you do something with your hair you are happy with, send it my way via:

I know a lot of you are camera shy so I figure this might be fun because you can take lots of pictures of hair without showing your face. I know it sounds wrong, but trust me. Have fun with it this month, let’s go a little crazy. Send me photos of hair-related things that inspire you. Send me before and after photos. Send me links to hair tutorials. You know that fantasy that guys have of a bunch of girls at a slumber party doing each others hair in their underwear? Well it’s kind of like that except we’re all on the internet and I’m guessing most of us will be fully dressed but you totally don’t have to be if you don’t want to be.

I’ll kick it off by showing you the collage I put together and took with me to the hairdresser last month for my hair inspiration. That way you can see that before you see how my hairdresser actually did and how I’m wearing it.

Have fun!

Change of Habit

22: wii-fit

22: wii-fit by zigeunerweisen on Flickr

I’m starting to believe that what was initially conceived as a silly and somewhat indulgent idea, my De-Frumpiness Project, is evolving into something deeper and more significant. When you start to pay attention to yourself every day, there’s a lot to notice. Last month I indulged in lipstick. This month I’m trying to keep my finger and toe nails pretty and healthy– although maybe not as colorful as I’d initially anticipated going into this challenge– nail polish is just too vulnerable to my lifestyle.

But, there are other little things that are going on too. I’m straightening my hair every now and then. I’m wearing my heels at work more often. I’m managing to at least wear my kids’ Square 1 art pendants. And I’m finally completely and totally fed up with the abuse I’ve heaped on my body the past couple of years courtesy of overindulging on food and completely abandoning some sort of exercise.

A lot of people tell me I’m being silly, that I look really great. And I truly appreciate the compliments, I do. But. I feel like crap. I’m not sleeping properly. I have total energy lapses throughout the day. I’m extremely impatient and irritable too many times. And I’m often fighting off the blues one way or another. You can’t convince me the 20 pounds I have gained in the past two and a half years have nothing to do with any of that.

In the past few days, I have read two really well-written and interesting pieces. The first was the New York Times article, How Companies Learn Your Secrets. I know it seems completely unrelated to what I’m talking about, but it turns out the article is written by Charles Duhigg who has a new book coming out next Tuesday called, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. And it turns out the reason companies are able to figure out so much information about us is because we are predictable– creatures of habit.

The article is more fascinating than creepy. I thought it was packed to the gills with some really interesting information and yes, I’m intrigued by Duhigg’s upcoming book.

And then yesterday, the next dot to be connected for me came on Google+ (Are you on there yet? It’s amazing). An article from the Harvard Business review was shared on my stream, Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.  I can relate to every single guy featured in that piece. I took the audit and scored perfectly in the “Full-fledged energy management crisis” section. Of the four categories– Body, Emotions, Mind, and Spirit the hardest hit was Body, but not by much.

And you know what stuck out to me once again? Habits. There were habits everywhere– bad ones that needed to stop and good ones that needed to be created. The two pieces go together exceptionally well.

I hate thinking of myself as a creature of habit. I like to think I’m spontaneous and unpredictable, in a good way. But when I step back and look at myself, I see I am a creature of habit but there are too many bad ones and not enough good ones. And I am spontaneous and unpredictable, but not always in a good way.

Yesterday, it dawned on me that it was Fat Tuesday and today Christians everywhere begin observing Lent. In my Catholic upbringing, this meant sacrificing something for 40 days. And in way, I’m going to go ahead and do just that but I’m not really doing it out of reverence or anything like that. I’m doing it because I need a kick in the (bigger, plushier) booty.

I got up this morning at 5 and worked out on the Wii Fit Plus. I actually upgraded to this from the old school Wii Fit for the purpose of this project. I would like to do some form of exercise for 30 minutes every single day. It doesn’t have to be all out insanity where I tear my muscles to smithereens and then let them recover. I’m not into that. Some days, it’ll be yoga. Some days it’ll be dancing to the Just Sweat mode on Just Dance 3. Other days, it’ll be checking out a new routine on the Wii Fit Plus. After ten days, I’m going to reward myself– either with a new exercise Wii game or a new exercise DVD so I keep it fresh.

I’d also like to get more sleep and eat better, but those are sort of lurker goals right now. I’m happy with this direction I’m moving in. I feel empowered. I go through these phases in my life where I truly feel like my life is in my hands and I am at the wheel and I can get to where I want to go. And it’s not just the physical aspects of my life I feel good about. Everything is behaving properly right now. My money is doing what it’s supposed to. I am enjoying my children and my boyfriend. School continues (no test grade back yet, boo). Work has been flowing beautifully, like a well-navigated ship. So I’m enjoying the ride and taking advantage of the strength as long as I can.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve reached the end of my Ultradian rhythm.

Finding Enoughness

75/365 A Measure of Self Worth

75/365 A Measure of Self Worth by ~*Leah*~ on Flickr

Last week, I reviewed Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. It got some good feedback (even from the author!). One of the comments left was this one:

I don’t get it?! what’s wrong with having things and living a happy life?! why do we always have to cut back on things…

And I thought, “Those are good questions and deserve a post reflecting on them.” So here we are.

There is nothing wrong with a) having things and b) living a happy life. However, they are not inclusive of each other. We all know of the people who have lots of things and don’t live happy lives. Need examples? Look at the celebrities who unexpectedly lost their lives to substance abuse– legal or otherwise. And of course not having things doesn’t mean you can’t have a happy life either. If you actually know people who live below the poverty line, you now they are not all living unhappy lives.

The bottom line is, having things is not an indicator of happiness. Personally, I believe everyone has a baseline of happiness that is tied to having things.

Ok, let’s think about food for a minute. Everyone needs a certain bare minimum of food to survive. After you meet that bare minimum, you should take in food and manage it in a way to maintain your body in a healthy way. We all have our own personal cutoffs when it comes to food– that level where you know you’ve exceeded the amount you need to be healthy. The beauty is, we have actual evidence of this right? We have indicators of whether we’re managing our food intake properly. You can be underweight, healthy, overweight, obese, or morbidly obese. When you hit the range of excess– overweight, obese, or morbidly obese, there’s only one way to get back to healthy– eat less.

The important thing to remember is this– although there are standard indicators of whether or not you are eating correctly, there is no standard on the exact amount of food a person should take in to be healthy. A quick search on the web reveals the “recommended” number of calories a young woman takes in a day is different than a young pregnant woman. Children at different ages have different recommendations as well. Bodybuilders require a different amount of calories than an average man. And anyone who’s ever even bothered counting calories knows that’s not the whole story.

We know that I have a different metabolism rate than you do so even though we might be the same age, weight, and height I need less calories a day than you do because I metabolize differently than you do. We also know there are different types of calories right? There are healthy calories and empty calories for instance. So you see, what works for me as far as how much food I should eat will simply not work for you.

Money? Is the exact same thing.

The hardest part is determining your financial number of calories. But, it’s just something you have got to do. What do I mean?

Figuring out your own personal “enoughness”.

What is enough house for you? What is enough car for you? Enough clothes? Enough entertainment? Enough education? Enough charity? Enough beauty? What is enough time spent earning money?

We are told throughout our lives, “The sky’s the limit!” and it is, but it’s most likely not the right limit for you or for me or for anyone really.

Determining what is your very own enough is one of the most liberating experiences you can imagine. Just getting started on figuring it all out generates a really calm feeling in your soul.

Why?

We don’t like endlessness. We don’t like not knowing where we’re headed. We don’t like not knowing the plan. We don’t like being at the mercy of others.

When you don’t take personal responsibility for determining your very own Enough, you are putting yourself in the hands of others. And you are putting yourself in the hands of two types of others– the type who are as clueless, blind, and lost as you are and the type who have their own levels of Enough set and they want you to get them there.

Now that I think I squared away the first half of the comment, let’s do the second half–

why do we always have to cut back on things…

Try this little mental exercise for me, ok? I’d say close your eyes but you wouldn’t be able to read the rest of it. So, empty your mind as much as possible.

In your mind’s eye, picture yourself. Go ahead and do a really good job fleshing yourself out there. Don’t do an imaginary you or a fantasy you. Add the pounds. Put some clothes on even if it’s a bit wrinkly. Figure your hair out. Give yourself a facial expression you like. Don’t forget the details– a wedding ring, shoes, glasses or contact lenses, a laptop case or a purse, etc.

Ok now that you’ve got you, add anyone you help support in a significant way. Children, parents, siblings, significant others, etc. And now put yourself in your home. Map out all of your rooms. Drop all of your furniture into them. Fill your fridge up the way you’ve got it right now. Go ahead and turn the TV on. Check the closets. Open the drawers. Have a pet? Don’t forget to set out their food and water.

And just keep going. Think about any car you might have. Think about everything you and/or your loved ones did in the past week. Think of the doctor visits, the breakfasts, the lunches, the dinners, Valentine’s Day, the movie rentals/streaming, the craft projects, the groceries, the clothes you laundered, the floors you washed, the toilets you scrubbed, the ride to and from work, and so on and so forth.

Do you see “enough”? Do you even see abundance? If you are honestly looking at just YOU, you most probably do. When we start bringing in other comparison points, things diminish and lose their luster don’t they?

And that’s the point. Just like your food diet is not going to work for me, your neighbor’s things are not going to work for you. Once you’re at Enough, everything else isn’t going to do anything for you. Just like with food, you can even reach a level of Too Much. And that’s when you start cutting back and doing so joyously.

When you’re losing weight, do you bemoan the pounds as they roll back? Do you suffer anxiety as your clothes becomes looser and looser on you? Of course not! Because you know you are on the way to health.

This ties back to what I mentioned in my review of 7. The unique thing about her approach was she turned her diet into an opportunity to benefit others. And maybe this is something you can try if the idea or act of cutting back in your life disturbs you. Imagine if there was a way doctors could take the weight you lost and give it to someone chronically underweight. Wouldn’t that motivate you to lose even more? The same thing applies with charity.

I’d like to believe that most of us care for people outside of ourselves. That’s the beauty of Enough. When you have Enough, you’re free to give and care for others. You can send your niece to college. You can volunteer at a hospital. You can donate to a food bank or a homeless shelter. You can hire a cleaning lady for your friend with cancer.

We tend to focus on people who have more than us when we seek comparison. And when we do, it’s pretty yucky feeling. We don’t stack up. But if we compare to those who have less, I believe we will more often than not  find ourselves wanting to help and we will always feel grateful, which is a pretty nice feeling.

So there you are. That’s my very long answer to your very short comment. What about you, readers? Do you see enough? Do you see abundance? Do you compare a lot to others around you even in external ways like TV shows, movies, ads, etc.? Are you still working on figuring out your Enough?

Grand Finale: 31 Days of Lipstick

Today ends my first mini-project of my ongoing De-Frumpiness Project. I started off with something fun and easy and light– 31 Days of Lipstick.

The goal was easy to define– wear lipstick every time I went out for 31 days. Now that it’s over, here are my thoughts.

It was easy to remember to wear lipstick when I: was going to work, was leaving work, was going to school, was going out with my friend who was playing along with me, and when I went out to an event.

It was hard to remember to wear lipstick when I: was spending the day in the house, was going out somewhere not special with the boyfriend, was running errands, and was stressed out.

I love the texture and smell of lipstick. I love the way it shapes and changes with constant use. I love how simple lipstick makes being bold. I love the ritual involved with putting on lipstick. I love the way it gets left behind when you kiss someone.

I hate how fast it disappears and how it disappears from the center out leaving you with a lipstick ring of doom which means reapply, reapply, reapply.

It made me feel pretty and feminine but also made me self-conscious of my teeth and smile which was a side effect I was not expecting.

It made me realize how much sexuality we attach to the mouth. I can’t tell you how awkward it was for me to photograph my mouth and not feel the photo looked suggestive. The one with the straw was particularly trying. Either I have a hyper gutter brain or I am being pillaged with sexual imagery concerning the mouth way more than I would ever have imagined.

This one was a fun little activity I highly recommend anyone feeling under the weather or less than desirable should undertake. Lipstick is a shot of color into your day. It’s also a quick and tiny “me” thing you can do– and cheap too if you rock CVS the way I do.

For February, it’s all about the Fingers and Toes. I have a very bad habit of tearing my nails, cuticles, even nail polish. This includes my poor little toes. Instead of going fancy and committing to going to a salon for the manicure/pedicure treatment, I’m committing to just maintaining nice fingers and toes. All paint is to be applied by me and will consist of the lots and lots of nail polish I already own unless I am able to snag up some free or super cheap polish at CVS during the month. I have to stop the habit of tearing and peeling. It’s gross and it’s painful. If I need to get my nails down to size, it’s either cut and/or file.

So that’s it for me for February– simple and clean nails. If there’s paint I have to keep it looking nice or take it off. No scratched up or smudged polishes. Anyone want to play? If you’re on Google+, circle me here. I put most of the updates to the De-Frumpiness Project on there. Otherwise, I’ll post every now and then on the blog and you can update me on your blog too!

Mutant vs. Math

On Tuesday, I sat down and met with a Transfer Advisor at the University. She reviewed all of my credits, did a degree audit for me, showed me the differences in required classes for the Bachelor of Art in Computer Science versus a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, and enrolled me in Pre-Calculus 1 which would be meeting in approximately an hour and a half in the building next door.

And just like that, I was a college student all over again.

This time, it’s different. Which is funny because when you’re younger everyone always tells you how everything is different when you a) are older b) are married c) have kids d) are not what you are right now. And for some reason (my guess would be lack of experience), you always fight against that belief. You roll your eyes and pfft “yeah right whatever” it off. Because we are just so damn sure of ourselves when we’re younger aren’t we?

I am terrified of math. And I am so annoyed that I am terrified of math because it is for a really stupid reason.

In my Catholic middle school, there was one math teacher for the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. I did not like her. She did not like me. Why a teacher would have a strong dislike for a heavily picked on, super nerdy, late-blooming, glasses-wearing, book-loving middle-schooler is beyond my scope of understanding. But she did.

The problem wasn’t even that she would grab me from my mom’s classroom (next to hers) after school and put me to clean up her classroom, check papers, and do other menial tasks even though she had three children of her own. It wasn’t even that she also made me do this during school hours despite the fact she gave the “better” tasks to the kids she liked.

The problem was she picked on me.

Yes. An adult. Picking on a middle schooler. I was picked on enough as it was by my classmates. Since the popular kids couldn’t be bothered to pick on me, it was the unpopular kids who had field days with me– belittling me, telling me I smelled, calling me names (Mary Magdalene was a favorite- if you’re Catholic you’ll get it), putting dirty drawings in my desk, asking me questions they knew I would be too naive to know the answer to and then laugh at my stupidity innocence. And this teacher? Not only did she do nothing to stop the behavior when it happened in her class, but she also did everything she could to show the world I was not a smart and obedient little girl but I was really just some overly doted on brat who was everyone’s favorite because she was a kiss-ass (her theory, not actual reality: see above nerdy/late-blooming description).

She did this especially well in her math class by exploiting my one fault– disorganization. She required all students maintain a math binder that was so tediously full of insanely ridiculous specifications, I didn’t even try. I gave up. I am horrible with that sort of anal-retentiveness. And so she took much delight in slashing my binders with red pens, making derisive comments in class about my craptastic mathematical abilities, and using me as an example of what not to do. When I would inevitably begin to cry she would scream at me that “Crying isn’t going to change anything” and to stop it right now I was being ridiculous. She’d storm out of her door, knock on my mother’s door (yes, in the middle of class), bring her into the classroom (yes, while all of the students were there) and scream at both of us about what a horrible little girl I was and what a drama queen and that in the real world this bullshit wouldn’t fly.

Now I don’t know if you remember, but the core of the mathematics you are going to use in high school and college are really laid out in Middle School. If you don’t get those concepts then, every other math class is an uphill war. When your math class (and seventh grade homeroom, joy) are torture sessions, you don’t learn much.

Somehow, I absorbed enough to not only not get anything lower than a C+ my entire time in Middle School, but I also scored a perfect score on my high school entrance exam– even in math. However, once I got into the classroom all of the practical application collapsed under the one crushing belief I had cultivated under Mean Math Teacher– I suck at math. High school math was a struggle and I took the easiest math classes I could manage and took the minimum requirements to graduate. In college, I picked a degree that would result in the fewest math requirements possible and even took advantage of a temporary loophole where an Intro to Microcomputers was counting for math credit. I took one actual math class in college (Finite) and passed it with the necessary C+.

Thirteen years later, I’m back at school. I’m starting off with Pre-Calculus. And I’m going to pass this class with higher than a C+. Because the fact is, I’m good with numbers. I crunch them all of the time. In other words, I am great at math. What I stumble on is nothing more than material I simply wasn’t taught because I was stuck with a teacher who cared more about fulfilling her sadistic desires than doing her damn job. And that is a really stupid reason to have difficulty in anything.

The first class was brutal. I was overwhelmed and slow and racing to keep up. When I went home, I overdosed on Khan Academy. Then I did some more the next day. On Thursday, I did the homework and except for a couple hiccups, I had no problem. At class last night, I was having no problem keeping up with the teacher. I even solved some problems ahead of her. Things are clicking. I know I need to do a lot of practice and I’m not entirely sure how I can get that practice (Khan is great but it’s missing stuff) but I’ll figure it out. I also have to kick the habit of getting panicked and frustrated when something doesn’t click right away and shut up the witchy voice that starts in on me.

So wish me some luck this semester and if you have any advice, tips, suggestions, etc. for the maths, I’d appreciate it. Because I would really like to say a big fat mental “F**k You, Mrs. Rodriguez” this semester. Pardon my French.

day 21

“Day 21” by Kimberlyswhimsy on Flickr