An Open Letter to PA Senator Pat Toomey, RE: Betsy DeVos

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Below is a letter that I sent to Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey today following not only his disappointing vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education despite how almost laughably unqualified she is, but also for his extremely disappointing treatment of his constituency in recent weeks. 

This letter has been slightly edited to protect personal information. I am going to also openly state that I am not interested in and will not approve comments attacking me for my beliefs. Education should not be political. Education is about doing the right thing. I will not host political battles here. Continue reading

Meta: In Which I Write About Writing to Make Sense of Things, In Order to Make Sense of Things (Or, Why Journaling is Crucial)

Over the past week or so, I’ve grown a little bit bored with my usual podcast lineup. Maybe bored isn’t the right word. It just felt a little stale, and while I was still enjoying the shows I listen to every week, I wanted some new content too. While listening to an episode of Literary Disco, I heard one of the hosts, Rider Strong (yep, that Rider Strong), mention some work that he did with another podcast, Mortified. From his description, I could tell that it was very similar to another show I’ve recently started loving called Grownups Read Things They Wrote As Kids (pretty self-explanatory).

The premise for both of these shows is simple: at various clubs where the events are hosted, adults get up on stage and read things that they wrote when they were kids. It ranges from really bad poetry and weird stories to middle school diary entries, notes passed in high school to AOL conversations printed years ago, and everything in between. The results are typically really humorous (and often very poignant at times). Many of the participants are also roughly my age, so a lot of the references and particular habits resonate with me (printing “important” AOL conversations in the late 90s so that you could read them again later to make sense of them? Guilty. Also my mom just recently threw away boxes of notes that I had from junior high).

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Time is a Weird, Warped, and Frighteningly Powerful Thing

photo credit: Daniel Kulinski via photopin cc

photo credit: Daniel Kulinski via photopin cc

I’ve been staring at my hands for three days trying to figure out what’s bothering me about them.

On the surface, they just look like my hands. My short, stubby fingers. One is crooked from playing trombone in high school (I wish I were kidding… actually, no I don’t). One is crooked because I broke it playing basketball in 5th grade, before I stopped growing and everyone else got tall. The others are all mangled from when my brother wound them up in the car window as I was reaching through for more papers on my paper route one day in 8th grade. They’re all knotty from the juvenile arthritis that set in when I was 15. On my left hand I wear a Claddagh ring that my grandmother gave me the day I graduated from college. On my right, I wear a ring that I truly can’t remember where it came from. I’ve been wearing it since my junior year of high school, at least. These are my hands as I have always known them to be and they haven’t changed drastically.

And yet.

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Hey Internet, How About We NOT Be Dicks to Children?

New_Jersey_Counties_by_metro_area_labeled.svgI take a lot of crap for the fact that I religiously watch The Real Housewives of New Jersey. I’ve been watching it for years. Yes, I think it’s ridiculous, and no, I won’t stop watching it because it’s not high-brow enough. You take your mindless entertainment and I’ll take mine (and can we please agree that everyone knows that no one in the entire history of the Real Housewives franchise represents actual real housewives, but we can know that and still enjoy the mindlessness of it?).

So all day, I’ve been reading articles and following along with the fraud trial and sentencing involving Teresa and Joe Giudice, who have been cast members since the show’s first season.

The story has been trending on social media all day, and as such, there is no shortage of people pointing fingers and passing judgment all over the damn place. It’s really irritating me. Really irritating me. To the point where I thought, “Ok, I’m not going to get up on a soap box about the Real Housewives of New Jersey.”

And then I thought of the Giudices’ four daughters, ages 5-13, and I thought: I have a soapbox. It’s called a blog. And so I apologize, but I’m about to get a little righteous. Because what is happening to those girls tonight is not okay.

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New Year’s? More Like “Ugh Year’s”

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Now that Christmas is over, everyone is all focused on the new year. Resolutions. Changes to be made. New opportunities. For the last few days, I’ve been noticing people sharing this one post on Facebook about things to let go before the new year, as though it’s ever so simple to just stop your own force of being in merely a few short days. As though, in just hours, you can undo mindsets that have taken years to cultivate. Sure, it’s a nice thought. I just don’t think it’s realistic.

Maybe I’m just not optimistic enough to talk about or believe that a new year means anything anymore.

Or maybe I’m too old. Or maybe it’s both.

I haven’t felt like celebrating New Year’s for the past few years, so I haven’t. One year I was house sitting, so I watched a movie. When it was over, it was a new day. And it just so happened that it was also a new year. Big deal. I went to sleep. Last year I knitted. There have been no countdowns, no champagne toasts, no Rockin’ New Year’s Eve, no fanfare of any kind for me in a few years. Because what really changes? Things change all the time. For the better. For the worse. Whether you want them to or not. They don’t need a year’s permission to do so.

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Art Imitating Life: When TV Really Nails It

By Eddo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Eddo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I want to preface this by saying that I have never before seen an episode of Glee. While I understand that lots of people love it and that’s cool, it’s just not really my cup of tea.

That being said, it was hard to miss all of the buzz last week when the promo spot for  “The Quarterback” episode was released online. This episode was to be the tribute to Cory Monteith’s character, Finn Hudson. Monteith, as you’re probably aware, died of an accidental overdose this past July. Though I’d never seen a single episode of the show, I watched the promo because I (strangely) gravitate toward tragedy for some reason. Immediately, something felt very familiar to me, and I knew that I’d finally have to watch an episode.

I just finished watching it. And it was brutal. So brutal that, instead of getting caught up on other shows as planned, I’m here, at 2:15 a.m. on a Saturday night/Sunday morning, writing it out.

I remember sitting in homeroom in 8th grade and having the teacher read us a form letter telling us that another student had died. He was a year ahead of me. He committed suicide. I didn’t know him, but I was really shaken up about it because I was in 8th grade. I’d just dealt with my grandmother dying a few months before, but this was different. This was closer to home in terms of age. And it stirred up the emotions that I was still processing from losing my grandma (the first person close to me to die).

That didn’t prepare me for what it would be like when I was teaching.

Fortunately, I never lost anyone I was close to in high school. A few years after graduation, a few of my classmates died, but I wasn’t close to them. My primary observations of teenagers grieving all came from my sister. She lost a friend to an unfortunate gun accident. She lost a friend to cancer. And, two weeks before their high school graduation, she lost one of her very best friends very suddenly to an unknown (at the time) health complication.

And that still didn’t prepare me for what it would be like when I was teaching.

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An Open Letter to Bob Seger, Re: “Old Time Rock and Roll” (cc: Every Wedding DJ Everywhere)

Hey there, Bob,

How’ve you been? I hope well. As for me, I’ve been very busy — moving, working, settling into a new place, and it’s summer, so we’re well into Wedding Season now. While 2008 was my biggest year by far for attending weddings, several of my friends are getting married this year, and I can’t help but to remember why I really kind of hate wedding receptions.

I’m going to be frank with you, Bob. It’s because of “Old Time Rock and Roll.”

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Watching the Crash From Afar

CrashSomeone I love is making a difficult and potentially life-altering decision. Right now. As I type this. I don’t know if it’s the best decision. I don’t know what I think it is. What I do know is that I’ve been watching this person spiral, lose control of things, get into trouble, and second guess everything. We’re beyond the point of saying that something’s got to give because many things have already given. This is the point where something’s got to change.

I’ve never been very good at dealing with change. This is a point that those close to me bring up with relative frequency any time I exhibit even the most remote apprehension about anything. The anxiety leading up to it is often worse for me than the actual change itself, and even when I’m excited for something (my upcoming move, for example), I’m still nervous. I’m still questioning if I’ve made the right choice. I’m still second guessing. The day I turned in my resignation for my first teaching job was completely unexpected. It was something I’d considered, but didn’t plan to do without another job. I found the sign I needed in the form of an email notifying me of a pay freeze that would render me unable to pay my bills. I resigned that morning and spent an hour sitting with my friend in her empty classroom, having a panic attack and crying until my whole face was swollen.

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You Want a Monocle For That Blind Eye?

medium_4764186425I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we only see what we want to see; how our own feelings about something or someone can skew a situation so that we lose sight of what’s real. It makes us behave in really terrible ways sometimes. We turn a blind eye to a person or a situation because we don’t want to believe we’ve made a poor judgment — of character or otherwise. We lash out at anyone who tries to get us to see the situation for what it is.

Reality can be a real bitch sometimes, and we resent anyone who bursts our bubbles by trying to make us see it.

What got me thinking about this was the suspects’ family’s reaction in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. As it became clear who the men were and the evidence began to mount against them, it seemed undeniable. They’d even told their hostage that they were responsible. They threw explosives at police officers.

The media, predictably, sought out any link they could find, asking friends and family members (or, in CNN’s case, the bombers’ mechanic) to share their thoughts and reactions. An uncle urged the remaining brother to turn himself in and ask for forgiveness. His response was passionate and it was clear that he didn’t doubt his nephews’ role in the events.

But the rest of the family, including an outspoken aunt and the parents, said, “No. They’ve been framed. They didn’t do this.”

It’s understandable that shock might settle in and you might not want or be able to believe it. But to declare vehemently that the government did this to frame your children just seems so outrageous. And insulting.

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