Monday, August 20, 2018

Buying Flowers

Good Monday morning.

I posted a blog last week, & you can read it ---> here if you missed it. This past week was a week of transition; as I sit & type my little family & I are transitioning still.

Moments ago I earned another notch in my Mom belt. I dropped the kids off at school in stretchy yoga-ish pants. We said goodbyes, we shared kisses, & then I walked back down the elementary hall in my informal pants. I sat in my car & sipped the coffee I'd made myself earlier at home. It was quiet inside the car. I leisurely pulled out of the school parking lot. I am, at present, seated in a coffee shop sipping today's second cup of coffee & typing this very blog you're now reading. It's drizzling outside.

When last week commenced it was still very much summer in our world. The kids & I made it to Chick-fil-A by ten Monday morning for our last summer breakfast of chicken minis. We were joined by a lovely young lady I taught last year who could not leave for college without having coffee with me.

Monday night the shadows of school were looming. Trey stayed home with the kids while I attended Reagan's parent orientation. Orientation went well. I am excited about the year ahead for Reagan. I could not be more thrilled about all of the people who are loving on her & educating her during the day. I drove back to school Friday at her lunchtime, & I will do so again today. My plan is to be there to reassure her for these first few days but to let her give herself medicine for her lunch. There is a note in her lunchbox with the total carbs for the day's lunch. This is good for me, & it is good for Reagan.

Tuesday & Wednesday the gathering school clouds temporarily lifted. Tuesday night the kids & I joined my sister & cousins Maisie & Michael for a sleepover at Nana & Papa's house. For a sleepover with four kids, the whole experience was truly quite relaxing for me.

The relaxing began with my walk Tuesday evening. The golf course is closed to golfers on Tuesdays, & this meant I could roam freely without fear of being struck by a rogue golf ball. I walked for about an hour, pausing to take these:

My mom bought four air mattresses for the kids to spread across her living room. Without too much fuss they were all asleep around ten o'clock, leaving me free to enjoy the wonders of my parents' house, wonders like cereal. I never buy cereal. All cereal is loaded with carbs, & then you want to pour milk on it (more carbs), so I just don't buy it because if I did I'd sit up at night & eat three or four bowlfuls of it. 

I found some Honey Nut Cheerios in my mom's pantry & proceeded to eat two bowlfuls of it. I then headed upstairs to my lovely private room my mom stocked with tiny toiletries like those featured in fancy hotels. Once upstairs I made some coffee, which I was able to do upstairs because my mom assembled this outside the two bedrooms my sister & I use when our kids have their sleepovers downstairs. 

Isn't this the best?! Hot coffee or tea right outside my bedroom door. 

After a late night of eating cereal, drinking coffee, & watching crap on TV, I awoke to this Wednesday morning.  

We stayed at my parents' house for a long time Wednesday. I did drive home briefly to feed the dog, but the kids played hard all day. It was a nice goodbye to summer. 

Wednesday night the kids I were back home, & we were sans Trey. Trey spent three nights last week at an Apologetics conference in Dallas. Apologetics is defined as, "reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine." I guess I should say he attended a Christian Apologetics conference. While I unravel in my old age, insisting on reading thoughtless fiction & whiling my time away in coffee houses, Trey continues to sharpen his mind & hone his critical thinking & debate skills. To each his own. 

So, the moral of the story is that the kids were solely my responsibility the latter half of last week, well, mine & my mom's responsibility. She came to the house & hung out with the kids Thursday night while I attended Henry's orientation. Upon my return home, Henry headed back to Nana & Papa's house where he stayed Thursday night & much of Friday since Reagan had school Friday but he did not. Henry's first day is today. I did take some pictures that I might share with you next week if I can get my act together. 

With Henry & Trey both gone & Reagan sleeping soundly in the bed beside me, I made some questionable decisions Thursday night. I stayed up entirely too late for a woman who was supposed to have her daughter to school circa 7:45 Friday morning. I was of course up reading. I was reading this month's book club book, The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. As of last night I've finished the book. I have many feelings about this book, & they are not all positive. That's all I have to say about that for now. 

I did make it out of bed Friday morning, & after a considerable hassle Reagan did as well.

While Reagan was at school Friday I was at Delta Community College ironing out my schedule for the upcoming fall semester. Because the gods are kind, everything I am teaching falls on Tuesday/Thursday, which is why I am currently ensconced in a local coffee house wearing stretchy pants & little makeup. 

Next week I plan to share (1) Henry's first day of school pics, (2) my thoughts on The Kitchen House, & (3) more details about my fall teaching schedule. For a variety of reasons I am not delving further into these matters today. 

There are two things on my mind I'd like to throw out there before signing off. 

First, if you've read The Wheel of Time series, drop me a note & let me know your thoughts. It has been enthusiastically recommended to me by someone who reads a good deal & is an intelligent individual. The thing is there are a lot of books in this series. The series is so long the author, Robert Jordan, died before the final books were completed. Someone else whose name I cannot recall finished the final books based on Mr. Jordan's outlines. Normally if I am even mildly curious about something I'll just read it, but this is a serious commitment. I would like a quality book series to slowly peck away at while I continue to keep up with book club reading, adjunct teaching, & life in general. The original contender for this role was Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. Help me, book people. 

The second thing that's on my mind today is the importance of assertiveness. To quote Virginia Woolf, "To let oneself be carried on passively is unthinkable." 

One day last fall I woke up & experienced a day that reminded me of a day in the spring of 1999. I can't tell you the exact date in either instance, but on both days a tremendous shift in my thinking unfolded over the course of the day. On both occasions I went to bed having decided I was going to do what I could to change things in my life that simply were not working for me.

In January of 1999 Trey & I began dating. About four hours after we began dating we drove to our separate college which were six hours apart. As the semester progressed & we exchanged letters & our parents' phone bills mounted, I resigned myself to several years of a long distance relationship. This idea was incredibly unappealing to me, but it was what it was. Trey was in his second year of college at Louisiana College, & I was making all As (except in Spanish, which doesn't count) at the university my parents had long ago decided was the best place for me to be. 

In March of 1999 I was eighteen years old. I'd been in college for a few months. I was not, for the most part, a rebellious child, & even hours away from my parents as a college freshman I was highly conscious of their expectations of me. One day I sat down with the fall schedule to put together a tentative list of courses I might take in the fall of 2000. I had a lovely schedule all planned, but I never saw my advisor that spring semester. 

It occurred to me one day that I could possibly attend another school. There was no law that said I had to stay where I was. This thought was disconcerting to me initially. I had things planned out in my head (as did my parents), & transferring schools was not part of the plan. I thought & thought. I talked to Trey. I wrote my mom a letter. I made pro & con lists. 

Not to spoil the ending, but I did in fact transfer to Louisiana College. It was a lovely transfer, too. I didn't lose any of the hours I'd earned as a freshman. I endeared myself to the head of the English department. She granted me admission to her Advanced Writing course that first fall semester I attended Louisiana College. In her class I wrote a handful of short stories; it was the first fiction I'd ever written, & I discovered I quite enjoy writing fiction. I learned how to work dialogue into a story. In retrospect, I learned a lot that came rushing back to me years later when I sat to write what would eventually become a novel. 

Coincidentally, I later took a British novelists class with this same professor who taught me Advanced Writing. In that class we read Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway.  I can't remember many details of that book, but I clearly recall our discussion of the novel's opening line.

Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. 

The opening line sets the tone for the entire novel. We know immediately that Mrs. Dalloway is not a passive person. The lecture on the opening line of that novel is one of a handful of lectures that stand out in my mind. It was eye-opening from a literary perspective as well as a writing perspective. Rule No.1 of fiction writing is to avoid the passive voice. You want your characters to be active agents, subjects executing a verb rather than passively being acted upon. 

Sally is baking a cake. 
A cake is being baked by Sally. 

Perform the verb. Buy the flowers yourself. 

As you've likely guessed, the decision I made in the spring of 1999 is akin, at least in my mind, to the decision I made last fall to leave the high school classroom. I looked around me, as I did as a college freshman, & I saw what was working for other people. I saw them happily executing their plan. I initially felt silly & even guilty that what I saw working for others was not working for me. The lesson here, if there is one, is that ultimately you need to be an active agent for yourself & certainly for your kids. There aren't always cookie-cutter answers. Don't passively let another year go by without addressing things in your life that just don't work for you or your family.

I am not a passive person. Passive people sometimes irritate me. A lack of passivity can be both a blessing & a curse. Some situations call for assertiveness; I excel in these situations. Some situations require a little deference & passivity; sometimes I do not excel in these situations. Perhaps next week we'll discuss discernment. As Kenny Rogers says, you've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, & know when to run. 

I am going to use the above Andy Warhol quote in my Freshman Seminar courses this semester (yes, I am teaching a handful of sections of the required freshman orientation course . . . more on that later). They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.

Having just left the prescriptive, one-size-fits-all high school atmosphere, college freshmen often do not realize the array choices before them, & if they do they are crushed by the weight of the pressure to make decisions. It's not only important to make good decisions, it is equally important to make decisions, period. Even as adults, when we're settled & things seem neatly lined up in front of us, it's important to think about what is working for us & what is not, & this is applicable to your career, your family, your spiritual life, your health, etc. Oftentimes we can make changes to eliminate or improve the things that are not working. Don't accept as permanent something you can improve or change. Don't passively wait for someone or something else to usher in a positive change you can make now. 

Yesterday I was looking at my planner. I penciled in something for December of this year & was reminded that Trey will turn forty in December. The moral of this story is that none of us are getting any younger; don't regret years you spent in passivity. 

Assert yourself this week . . . in a kind, loving way, of course. Y'all have a great one. 


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