Sunday, January 31, 2016

Older and (sometimes) Wiser

I confess. I have moments of wishing that I were younger.  There are times when I look in the mirror and think "Is that REALLY me? Where did those wrinkles come from?"  I've stopped coloring my hair and, considering I started finding gray hairs mixed in with my very dark brown hair in my late 20's, I have more than a few of them now.  But with age comes a certain amount of wisdom. I make feeble attempts to pass that wisdom on to my students and my two boys.  However, most of the wisdom isn't my own.  I find it in examples set by others- Mama Mildred, for sure- and in the incredible wise words of others.  I have recently discovered someone who is wise and funny all at the same time.  I attempt to write.  He really does it.  I found him by way of a Facebook friend named Virginia Jones. I found Virginia through her beautiful photos of Paris.  I feel as if she and I have been friends for many, many years, yet we have never met face-to-face.  Go figure.  She shared an essay by Sean Dietrich and it was love at first read.  So, I found him on Facebook, started following him (or stalking as some of my 8th graders would say...) and now I read his daily story while I wait for the coffee to brew.  I am a terrible creature of habit at 5:30 am.  While most people I know are still sound asleep. Well, except for my small band of Frenchies, but that's only because they are six hours ahead of me.

I honestly believe I was born to be a middle school teacher.  Some people's idea of one of the seven circles of hell from comments I hear from time to time made by "normal" people.  But it's not.  For instance, I have an advisee this year, an unnamed 7th grade boy who is at times the most aggravating 12 year old on the face of this earth.  Or at least on the face of my earth.  I resorted to yelling at him not once but twice last week during the after school study hall I supervise.  I normally do not yell except at basketball games where it is socially acceptable.  But he kept doing idiotic 7th grade boy stuff.  You know, asking to go to the bathroom and staying gone for 20 minutes but trading iPads with the boy sitting next to him before he left so that that boy couldn't do his homework because he couldn't log on to the other boy's iPad.  There was a dad in the hallway, waiting to pick up his son, and it just so happens that I taught that dad when he was in 6th or 7th grade.  I pray that I did not cause him to have flashbacks to middle school.  He survived middle school and seems so well-adjusted now and he has a nice kid. And this same above-mentioned 7th grade boy will leave me absolutely speechless with the words of wisdom I overhear coming out of his mouth once in a while. Advice to another boy overheard on an advisee outing to the State Fair-- Put away your phone and talk face-to-face with people. They like that better.

Go figure.

So, back to my overwhelming need to impart words of wisdom to these kids.  I have a few students (and parents) who read this blog.  This is for you, kiddos.  My little angels, as I call you. And, well, your parents are all younger than me, so they can read on, too.  Just a couple (okay, three) of Sean's latest essays.  You can find him on Amazon and on Facebook.  He is even giving away some of his books for free on Amazon Kindle until midnight tonight.  I downloaded them and have started reading, but I feel guilty.  I will buy one, too, and that will help with the guilt.  And I will continue to stalk  follow him on Facebook and share his stuff and make comments.  Thank you, Sean. Write on. Please.  Bless your wife's heart.

The first one I read... (You will see why I fell in love.)


I‘m going to level with you, I’m glad I’m not a woman. Because I couldn’t survive today’s society. I don’t know how modern girls do it.
There was a time when the only things required of women were knowing how to fry bacon and popping a sass-mouthed toddlers.
Not today.
Nowadays, to be a card-carrying female, you’d better be able to do more than Granny. To start with, you must have washboard abs, a blossoming career, a husband from the pages of Men’s Fitness Magazine, children dressed in seersucker, and at least one expensive handbag.
And if that doesn’t give you a nervous breakdown, the modern woman’s household must be breathtaking. Her wardrobe: cute, but sassy. Her daughter must play piano. Her boy must compete in baseball, football, basketball, soccer, track, lacrosse, polo, skeet shooting, and speak fluent Spanish.
Had enough? I’m only getting started. Society also requires women to be gourmet cooks, preparing everything from Sloppy Joes, to blanquette de veau. And let’s talk size. Today’s woman is instructed to maintain the lithe weight of a malnourished North Korean underwear model — with washboard abs.
Are your palms are getting sweaty? Mine are.
You know what I wish? I wish we allowed women to be themselves, for Christ’s sake, Grecian curves and all. I wish ladies swimwear wasn’t made of dental floss, that nineteen-year-olds weren’t dictating fashion. I wish women of all shapes loved their bodies.
I wish we taught confidence to young girls, and taught young boys to help them find it.
I wish women took more spa vacations, and less sick days. I wish ladies considered gray hair and wrinkles as trophies, not things to cover up. I wish waist sizes weren’t measured in numbers, that thick was the new thin. I wish women were proud to be round, firm, meat-eating knockouts, with real smiles, instead of whatever society says they should be.
And one last thing.
To hell with washboard abs.
Number 2 Life isn't fair.  Fact of life.
You would've liked her — everyone did. She had soot-black hair that hung down to her lower back. If I close my eyes, I can still see that hair. Because boys, you see, love long hair.
Don't believe any who say otherwise.
I was miles beneath her — along with four million other freckle-faced toads. We all vied for her attention and never got more than a smile. Though a smile was good enough. Those were simpler times.
She was going to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a teacher. There aren't exactly many choices in a small town. She was smart as the guts of a calculator, and pure hell on the volleyball court. Basketball too. 
I only heard her sing once, at a wedding. “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Thee." She had the ability to make men weep like willows, and young boys sob like men. 
And then she fell apart.
Folks used the C-word, said it was a mass on her brain. But most said things like, "It's a damn shame about that girl." And it was, too.
Her friends packed her room so full of flowers the greenery threatened to burst her windows. And she had more Hallmark stationary than a drugstore aisle of greeting cards. 
On the day she died, her mother was beside her. She swears a cold wind blew through the room.
"It was like someone left a window open," her mother said. "And then her eyes went out like lightbulbs. At the funeral, the preacher told everyone she had 'gone with the wind.' I liked that.”
I'll bet.
"But," her mother went on. "She didn't die that day, it happened long earlier. She died the morning the nurses shaved head. Oh, it killed us all. Her hair was her favorite thing about herself. And this world took it from her.”
Well, I don't know a thing about life, and I don't know where her soul went off to. The same place we all go I guess. 
But wherever she is, I know she's got her hair.
Number 3 For my boys and all the boys out there.

Boys. Help the girls. It's in the rule book.

Even though you'll find many females are strong enough to take care of themselves, help them. Every one. Old and young. Even the girl who's unusually tall for her age, who sits behind you in class, who pins you down on the playground and assaults you with a library book.

She does it because she likes you.

Carry heavy things for her, open doors, walk with her, make conversation.

My uncle once explained, “Being a gentleman is just a fancy way of admitting you idolize women and worship their mothers.”

And fellas, there's nothing wrong with that.

Get messy. You don't need me to tell you that. But even so, there are smartphones and video games out there that beg for your attention. I hope you don't forget log forts in the woods, or red capes, or leaping off doghouses like Superman — thereby fracturing your ulnar in three places. Because when you're older, you'll wish you'd done those things.

Do yourself a favor and ignore peer pressure. If you don't know what that is, don't worry. Remember: whenever some unfortunate clown says something like, “Aw, you big wimp,” just roll your eyes. Then respond with, “I zigs and zags, I to's and fro's. That's what you ask me, that's what you knows. Don't worry 'bout me, I can take care of myself.”

Your friend will say, “Huh?”

Then you'll say, “The Br'er Rabbit said that.”

If your friend doesn't know who you're speaking of, find a new friend.

Listen to people. Especially to those less fortunate than you. Don't give advice, dammit. People don't need it, and you don't have any. And neither do I. Just listen. Listen to a girl when she tells you what's bothering her. Act as though she's quoting scripture.

And if you should ever find you're having a hard time listening, then offer to help her do something.

Because boys help girls.

It's in the rule book.

J.P.'s Big Daddy Biscuits
recommended by Sean, made by me this morning
I have to admit that I didn't exactly follow the recipe... I used butter instead of shortening, I didn't have any milk except for almond milk so I substituted 3/4 cup half and half mixed with 1/4 cup water.  I kneaded the dough maybe 10 times and then patted it out by hand and just cut (sort of) squares.  I didn't want to waste any of the dough and I didn't want to rework it.  The biscuits get tougher the more you work the dough.  Sorry, J.P.  But they were good!

Makes 6 servings

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/3 cup shortening (or butter)
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425˚F/220˚C.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.  Cut in shortening/butter until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Gradually stir in milk until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.
Turn on floured surface and knead dough 15-20 times (I stopped at 10).  Pat or roll out to 1-inch thickness.  Cut with a large cutter or a juice glass dipped in flour.  Repeat until all the dough is used. (I just cut mine with a knife dipped in flour.  I didn't want to work the dough too much.)
Brush off excess flour.  Place on an ungreased baking sheet or line the baking sheet with parchment paper.  Bake in preheated oven for 13-15 minutes or just until the edges start to brown.

In J.P.'s words:
"This recipe will produce the biggest biscuits in the history of the world! Serve these gems with butter, preserves, honey, gravy or they can also be used as dinner get the picture. The dough can also be prepared several hours, and up to a day ahead of time. If so, turn dough out onto aluminum foil that has been either floured, lightly buttered or lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Roll up foil until it is sealed, and refrigerate. Don't be surprised if your biscuits rise even higher because the baking powder has had more time to act in the dough. You may have to make a few batches before you get desired results: desired results equals huge mongo biscuits."

Bon appétit et merci, Sean and J.P..  Now, the time has come to make up the week's lesson plans and devise cruel and unusual ways to torture middle school French students.  C'est la vie, y'all.

1 comment:

Virginia said...

I am thrilled you found Sean through me. He's a mutlit talented young man who I had the pleasure of meeting in person once here in B'ham. He's also a fabulous artist and musician. I love the internet, or as we say it down here in B'h'am, the "innernet"!