Monday, February 23, 2015

Taylor Swift sings about 80% of my feelings, these are the other 20%

I don’t think I need to establish this publicly, but just in case, I’m a HUGE Taylor Swift fan. Not like creepy - just like casually listening to her entire discography on repeat most days kind of fan. Being a 24 year old white girl she is basically my spirit animal, (right? That’s a thing. It’s totally a thing) along with yoga pants and a jar of Nutella. That trifecta will basically solve all of your problems. Broken heart? Pre gaming a night of dancing? Dressing up like hipsters and making fun of your exes? Yep. Check, check, and check.

But here’s what drives me nuts, being the yoga pants wearing, wine drinking, cat owning, ugg loving, red lipstick fan girl that I am, there’s still like 20% of stuff in my life that I have a lot of feelings about, and Taylor has yet to sing about. So I have some proposals for her next album, ideas I’d like to see included.

Pea are Never Ever Getting Back Together - Sometimes at 24 you really have your shit together, and you pay all your bills, and put gas in the car, and even buy vegetables. You’ve pretty much mastered competency - so much so that you are even doing meal prep for the week (on a Friday!). Setting up the crock pot to cook chick peas for the week, and things pretty much couldn’t get any smoother. Fast forward to 24 hours later when you smell something burning in your kitchen, and the devastation sets in. You’ve left the chick peas on low for a full day and they are now blackened, dried out, shells of their former selves. You suddenly feel like nothing will ever go your way again and pour yourself a drink.

How you (don’t) Get The Girl - Online dating is a beast many of us millennials contend with. There are few frustrations greater in my life than exchanging a few well worded, intelligent messages, only to find that someone probably pulled a Cyrano on you. Conservative and economical with words online, in person he has word vomit worse than Cady Heron. Questions about your interested online? In person its all me me me me all the time. Despite your best efforts to put off an ice queen glare, the dude is practically dislocating his shoulder to reach his arm across the table to try to hold your hand, which is now firmly planted under your seat to avoid his. You end up home before 10 pm, in bed with your ironically named cat, wondering how you could have been more clear that you are not interested. This inconsequential dude with tell all his friends that you’re a heinous bitch for not being interested when you ignore all his texts, and you’ll die alone with your cat.

Should’ve Said No Thanks - when you agree to go out with friends, despite the gut feeling that 10 hours of CSI: Miami in your bed would have been a better choice.You either end up in a massive group of couples or people who are more chronically single than you are, and you can only take so much of it before you’re positive that Golden Girls marathon would have been significantly more life affirming. You also become more convinced that Carrie Bradshaw nailed it when she said “Maybe girlfriends are our soul mates and guys are just there to have fun with.” Then you get sad that your best friends live no where near you and spend all night drunkenly snapchatting videos to said best friends telling them how much you love them.

Two Is Better Than One - this ode to cupcakes and glasses of wine, celebrates what we all know to be true, few people will be there for you as consistently as Three Buck Chuck and $1.99 slices of grocery store sheet cake. Skip the glass and drink straight from the bottle - cause who are you kidding, two is always better than one.

24 - Not as you might expect, a ballad about the time she dated Jack Bauer. Instead let's talk about how 2 years later the world looks significantly less exciting than 22 - you're no longer a relatively responsibility free college senior, you now have bills, and a cat. It never feels like a good night to dress up like hipsters - it generally feels like a good night to catch up on Forensic Files marathon. You can no longer ditch the whole scene to dream instead of sleep, you have a job that you have to go to every day and you need sleep for that damnit. Boys no longer look like bad news, just a series of disappointing dates. Not quite the pop anthem we wanted, just the does of reality we're living.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What it boils down to, is that I really hate rules.

It may surprise those of you who still respect my integrity (which is likely not many of you) to find out that I sparknotes’d my way through a lot of high school.

“But Grace! You love books! You read so quickly!”

Don’t worry, I’ve heard that one a lot. (Also don’t worry, I have also already apologized to most of my high school teachers for being such a nightmare.) I do love books, I am a voracious reader, and I do tend to consume them the way my little brother consumes pizza rolls - the entire jumbo bag at one time. (Except I don’t leave the empty bag in the freezer. Anymore.) Here’s the other thing though, more than I love reading, I hate being told what to read. (Corollary, I hate being told what to do in general.) It ruins the experience and I end up missing most of any historical or literary value because I am in such a rush to get it read in order to tell people I read it. Which entirely defeats the purpose of reading and creates a self fulfilling prophecy - I don’t want to read it because I’ve decided I won’t like it, I read it to appease someone else and it's a miserable experience and therefore I don’t like the book.

I can’t really think of a lot of people who will tell you they enjoyed all their required reading in high school, and I can think of a whole lot of people who have really hated reading for school because they don’t really enjoy reading outside of school.I blame required reading lists for a lot of that. I am all for reading in schools, at home, on the bus, in the park, at the doctor, with fox, in a box, to a hen, in a pen...everywhere. There is no wrong place to read - just the wrong books to be reading. When I taught, the one time during the day that I could count on my class to keep fidgeting and talking to a reasonable minimum without any kind of behavior reinforcement or reminder was story time. Ask them to read a one page story in the required reader? It was pretty much like I asked them to walk across broken glass barefoot.

As I recently mentioned I didn’t read To Kill A Mockingbird until late in college and I loved it when I finally got around to it. I didn’t read Jane Eyre, and had no plans to until someone I really respected put it in front of me and told me to read it. It took me a year to get through it, but I enjoyed it and now its one I go back to frequently. Huck Finn though? Pretty much turned me off Mark Twain. Jane Austen? Please ask me to walk across broken glass instead of reading that (loving the BBC miniseries is not the same as loving the books so just don’t go there with me.) East of Eden makes my top 10 book list, but Of Mice and Men? Just take me out to a nice spot in the woods and shoot me.

Ultimately what has distinguished the classics that I really do respect, admire, and love and the books that make me roll my eyes and pretend to throw up are whether I met them on my own terms on under someone elses'. So here’s my crazy idea, let’s stop telling kids what to read. Let’s stop telling them what is valuable in literature and what is not. Let’s give them books lists, and extra hours in the library. Let’s share with them podcasts, YouTubers, and author interviews. Let’s stop telling them what’s above and beyond their ability and support them as they can while they find that out for themselves Read short stories, poems, non-fiction, childrens books, no matter how old they are. Let’s find out what they want to read about, and value the new literature they bring us, and jump at the chance to talk about any book they’re reading - even if it is Twilight or Captain Underpants.
Boots also objects to reading lists. And rules. And work. Pretty much anything that does not revolve around him.

PS - I don't hate all books lists in general, they can be super useful but lets not confuse a curated list of books that have a similar theme, or thing in common with required school reading lists.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Like all of the internet, I too have feelings about a sequel for To Kill a Mockingbird

Confession, I didn't read "To Kill a Mockingbird" until I was 20. I distinctly remember the disbelief that the main campus library didn’t have a copy available, and the amusement that the one copy available on campus was in the law library. It must have been early in the fall because I know I sat in the open, sunny, and peeling windowsill of my dorm room to read most of it. I loved every page, and I know that’s due in large part to  reading it under my terms, as opposed to those of a high school reading list.

I remember watching Gregory Peck live up to every expectation I had of Atticus Finch later that year. On the long Amtrak trip from Salem to San Francisco I was anything but disappointed with the film adaptation, and I immediately went back for a second reread of the book right away. It was just as good the second time.

I don’t know what else there is out there to say about "To Kill a Mockingbird." For over 50 years it has been reviewed, beloved, compared, analyzed, critically examined and dissected, and passed on to readers of all ages. It’s book that has the magic of reaching out and grabbing readers of all ages - and I don’t feel the need to review it for you all here, other than to say go read it. Don’t be intimidated by its literary legacy, or status as a modern classic. At the end of the day it’s a book. A lovely one, one that indulges in the simple pleasure of a well written story. I had plenty of reservations, haughty uninformed opinions, and plenty of contrarianism about the book before I read it; which is how I ended up reading it at 20, rather than earlier on. There are few books out there that match the enjoyment and satisfaction of reading To Kill a Mockingbird.

This is why I can’t get excited about the announcement that Harper Lee is writing a follow up. Bear with me - this may be more of those reservations, haughty opinions, and contrarianism - but I’m worried and disappointed. Worried because "To Kill a Mockingbird" has long been set in literary canon and  standing up to is no small feat, let alone standing up to it as something that continues in the same  narrative. Think about the last chapter of "The Deathly Hallows" - where JK Rowling  attempts to wrap up the narrative 20 years in the future. It was terrible. Most fans will tell you they pretend that chapter was never written because it diminished and dulls the trials and triumphs that came before it.  Rowling’s second wind of success came from a pseudonym and a genre vastly departed from her first go at writing, an endeavor that was totally divorced from the JK Rowling name.  

I’m disappointed because I so love the fact that "To Kill a Mockingbird" is such a beautiful moment of writing. It has a clear and powerful message without getting mired in self righteousness, or lecturing condescendingly. Nor does it sacrifice any literary value to be moralistic and preachy. My instinct is that a continuation will diminish the impact and meaning of one of my favorite novels, in the same way that Rowling’s last chapter tarnished the whole Harry Potter series.  I can’t help but wonder why Lee would choose a sequel and not a separate book altogether to say what more she has to say.

Perhaps I’m not giving Harper Lee enough credit - perhaps “Go Set a Watchman” will soar above expectations and set itself as a second piece of modern literary canon. *Perhaps my concern isn't Lee's writing at all, but the pedestal that has been built for "To Kill A Mockingbird." Whether it's the one I've built myself, or one constructed by the media and readers at large, Lee's first book looms like a titan on it, and it would be a far fall. Regardless of authorial intent, these constructions outside of it put future books in a precarious place of bringing down a beloved classic thereby tarnishing the whole story. I don't intend to blame Lee for this, as it is hardly her fault that people love her writing, but it is likely the root of my worry in seeing a sequel published.* I hope I’m wrong, I sincerely hope that like my first reading of “To Kill a Mockingbird” Lee’s words manage to dissuade me of all reservations a second time.

* Portion between *'s added in at a later time than original posting.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Not that I'm all that and a stick of gum, but...

There is a long list of things I don’t “get” about online dating. Like why I receive stacks on stacks of messages from guys old enough to be my dad, despite stating a clear preference for men my own age. On the other side of that why the other messages I get seem to be from well meaning undergrads, some of whom can’t even legally buy me a drink; again despite a stated preference for men my own age. Which brings me to my next item, why are you on a dating website in college? (Internet dating is set up for massive judgement more than any reality TV show, so I’m letting my vice flag fly and judging away.) I could go ten rounds on this topic, and still have more to say, but there is one item that looms larger than the rest on my list my cantankerous complaints. I wonder  why on earth anyone thinks that writing a message that brashly and rudely questions or insults one of my listed interests will get you anywhere?

It strikes me that the point of online dating is to get a date. Intuitively this means striking up some kind of a conversation with someone else. Now, maybe I’m just getting old, and out of touch with the world, but I’d like to think that at 24 I’m not quite obsolete yet. I have always found that questioning a person’s intelligence, interests, or hobbies is really not the best way to approach making friends or getting dates. If you really feel that said person is stupid, shallow, or boring why bother trying to be friends in the first place?

So it baffles me that I get several messages a week asking why I would waste my time thinking about Kanye West (first off, that was a joke. Test one failed), or telling me my taste in food is disgusting and unfathomably gross. I don’t mean to say two people who disagree over whether pickles have a place on grilled cheese (they do) can’t be friends or be in a relationship (they maybe can. Maybe.) What I am questioning  is why would you think that as someone who enjoys said food, or hobby, or music, or (insert item of preference here) your reaction of saying “Nuh- uh, no way, not ever, how could you think such a thing is enjoyable” is going to make me say “now here is an individual I want to get to know.”

Clearly you must have copious hours on hand to waste so much time and energy writing me a message that does nothing but disparage my interests. COOL STORY BRO - thanks for your opinion! I’ll keep in mind that you think I’m shallow next time I’m in the bathtub sobbing into my wine glass wondering how I’m single. HOW WRONG AM I! To think that I spend any time considering Kanye West - what a shallow ignoramus must I be, thank you, superior being, for showing me the error of my ways with your extreme condescension and arrogance.

That, by the way, was the effective use of the worlds lowest form of wit. Were any of you attempting to be sarcastic or facetious in your blatant disgust for the items I’ve listed as REASONS YOU SHOULD BE INTERESTED IN ME OR MIGHT WANT TO TALK TO ME, not only did you fail, it wasn’t funny.Take this recent charmer;

why would you spend your time thinking about Kanye west lol?”

Nothing gets me going like poorly written one liners dripping with condescension - you got me. How can I resist such a brilliant mind, implying that I am shallow, wasting my time, and brain power on Kanye West? How have I managed to live without you these many years without you, my small minded knight in shining tinfoil?

Sorry to disappoint the haters hoping to send me into a fit of drunk and dramatic bathtub tears, in the hopes my self esteem will fall so low I can’t resist their macho red neck charms. I’ll be staying with with my cat boyfriend, our bottle of 3 buck chuck, and Keeping Up with the Kardashians for now; and instead of wondering what is wrong with all of you, wondering what is wrong with me that I continue to log into my OkCupid account.

Friday, November 14, 2014

I think I'm turning stupid.

“I’m just so excited to have time to read again, you know? Like, stuff I really want to read, not stuff  I have to read.”

I can’t tell you how many times I said this in college. I can’t tell you how many of my peers have vigorously agreed with that statement, or how many times I have heard the same variation on a theme. Now that I am no longer in school, and not working a job that demands every last piece of my time, energy and, brain I theoretically have this free time to read the whole library.

Have I?


I haven’t finished a book for my book club since I joined. Most of my kindle library books expire before I even view them. Anything that requires more than 2 brain cells to process immediately gets an eye roll as I reach for my Roku remote, or iPhone. Since it is No Shame November round these parts, I will tell you all the only thing I have read of late is 50 Shades of Grey, for the second time. (writing about that is, to borrow a metaphor, “Like shooting fish in a mug with an automatic handgun.”)

I’ll get back on the literary horse eventually - but right now it’s been stabled for more personal writing. (see what I did there?)

So those of you who come here to read about books, it could be a while. You’ll have to pacify yourselves with stories of my own shortcomings, personal humiliations, and neurosis. You’ll also probably have to read a lot about my diabetes - the former and the latter are part and parcel.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Because Mondays are never hard enough on their own...

Those who know me would probably not be surprised by the statement, “before noon today I was on the kitchen floor, crying over a yogurt.”

The therapist I saw in high school made the seemingly innocuous statement, “you’re not really a crier, are you?” while I sobbed over the pressure of managing my diabetes. I never went back. partially because at 17 I wasn’t exactly responsible enough to make my own regular appointments, and partially because she was right. With the gaping exception of movies, the number of people who had seen me cry before the end of college was limited to what I could count on one hand. I could pinpoint the day in October of 2012 that I became a crier but that’s another classroom story for another time. Couple with the new birth control combo I was trying, I became the crier my therapist told me I wasn’t. Bathroom breaks, lunch, anytime NPR was on, the wine aisle of the grocery store, Chipotle, I burst into tears just about anywhere. In fact, I’m pretty sure most of Saint Louis has seen me fighting back tears, or not fighting them at all, somewhere.

So there’s a portion of you, not at all surprised by the statement, “before noon today I was on the kitchen floor crying over a yogurt.”

Let me tell you, there is nothing worse, as someone who does cry over spilled milk, to cry over dairy products because you have low blood sugar. Waking up cranky with high blood sugar ranks among the worst experiences ever. Even with the careful control and management I don’t regularly practice blood sugar can spike because it feels like it, because you didn’t count the carbs in your chinese food right, or you forgot that MSG sends your blood sugar through the roof. When you manage it less well high spikes are not uncommon. Really bad ones make me feel like Bruce Banner, seconds before he bursts out of those sweet purple shorts he seems to have an infinite supply of. The fact that my spell check lights up like a christmas tree on emails is enough to make me want to hurl the nearest object straight through the screen on my computer.

Fixing a high generally leads to a low, especially when you are impatient and cranky and up your insulin dose in an effort to make it fall faster (pro tip - this never works). This is how you end up standing in your kitchen, trying to find something to up the low blood sugar you have inadvertently given yourself. Low blood sugar, much like airports and hearing other people passive aggressively bicker, makes me anxious, indecisive, whiny, incapable, and utterly useless. Given the carte blanche to eat anything in the kitchen in an effort to raise said low blood sugar the choices are overwhelming. I spend more time worrying about what to eat, while my heart races, and I feel like I just want to lie in a fetal position on the floor until everything is fixed.

Sensing that this was about to happen today around 11:30, I thought I would head this off at the pass, and just eat right away, avoiding the low that was sure to happen. As a low is wont to do, it made me mopey and indecisive. Literally nothing, not even the discount halloween Peeps nesting in my pantry looked edible. Oscillating between fridge and pantry for a full 10 minutes, I finally decided on yogurt and granola. Every minute spent deciding on a snack renders closer to a useless puddle of tears. Since I am pretty much always 5 minutes away from bursting into a useless puddle of tears, lows are basically my nemesis. The struggle to get the yogurt lid off, then open the new package of granola took another 3 full minutes - in the incompetence produced my my quickly falling sugar. Finally securing a spoon, and the yogurt, and the granola, I faced the next dilemma - the granola chunks were too big to fit into the small mouth of the yogurt container. This was how I ended up sitting on the floor, holding a spoon full of yogurt, and a bag of granola. Low blood sugar has the added effect of reducing what ever brain cells are still firing to half speed. Moments away from tears I looked from the spoon to the granola thinking I had to find a way. Inspiration struck with neurons firing on half capacity, I decided that, yes, I COULD put the spoon in the granola! Surely the granola would stick to the yogurt and I would get a perfect spoonful of both yogurt and granola. For those of you who didn’t see that coming, let me tell you, that is not at all how it worked. The yogurt quickly spilled into the granola, leaving me with a bag now growing soggy and unusable with berry cheesecake yogurt. This, being the metaphorical straw to break the camels back, I did what any reasonable diabetic  would do, I sobbed into my already soggy granola and reached for the orange juice.
Boots is an incredibly judgemental roommate.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Elementary school bathrooms are my own personal hell.

Elementary school bathrooms are my own personal hell.

Not because they are always stuffy, and too hot. Not because the toilets are roughly half the size of a normal toilet and make you feel like an awkward giant. Not even because they always smell like pee, and always have a clogged toilet. No, until you have run a bathroom break for an entire second grade class, you have no idea how much your own personal hell can be elevated.

The many games of “will it flush?,” countless clogged pipes, and one small trash can fire will all live on as outer rings of my own personal hell. Yes, one of my second graders set a trashcan fire in the bathroom. No, it was not the worst elementary bathroom experience of my life. No, that accolade is reserved for what what I would like to call my most personally and professionally humiliating moment - but we all know this is only scratching the surface there.

Wrangling nineteen second graders to the bathroom is not an easy task when they lack any and all respect for you. How or why we got to said lack of respect is irrelevant, but the point is there was nothing I dreaded more than taking my class into the hallways. This task was complicated further by one of my favorite students, a special needs student who required near constant support. This bathroom break wasn’t going any better or worse than any other bathroom break. I had taken them to the bathrooms by the office, in hopes that proximity to the principals office would cast a pallor of decorum. In the end, as the one who ended up getting reprimanded, I can say it was a complete failure of a plan.

It’s the waiting for other classmates to use the restroom that really gets them going. When everyone has to go, no one wants to wait until last and there is a modicum of good behavior. Waiting for everyone else once you have had your turn though? That’s when kids get really squirrely. I had a class full of runners - the type to bolt. Especially given an open hallway. Naturally a pack of my boys started running around, including Akim, this favorite of mine. Knowing this was going nowhere good and fast, I made an effort to speed the last few stragglers through the bathroom. While pacing the increasingly loud hallway, making some semblance at giving directions that would be followed, I see Akim come running down the hallway, holding something out in his open palm.

It was a urinal cake. He was holding a used urinal cake. He skidded to an abrupt stop in front of me to ask what it was. I’m not sure whether it was the overwhelming nature of the shock, dread, and disgust or what that led me to tell him it was a urinal cake.

“Cake?” he asked as drew the urine soaked mint green round closer to his open mouth, as if to take a bite.

“NO. no, not that kind of cake.” I said as I put my open palm out, realizing I would be forced to take it from him. Upon realizing it was not a Little Debbie snack Akim dropped it right away and took off running. The rest of the class, oblivious to exchange had now grown to a dull roar and drawn the attentions of the principal, who was now standing in the hallway behind me, wearing his 3 piece denim suit in all its bellbottomed glory. Turning to face Mr.Taylor, urinal cake still in hand, and look of revulsion still on my face, I realized this wasn’t going to make things better.

“Miss Holdreith, you really need to get your class under control. I think its time you take them back to the room now.”
Back to class I went, urinal cake STILL in hand, no more quietly or orderly than we had arrived.