The Countdown (and the inevitable re-emergence of my taskmaster self)

I start teaching again June 7.  That is exactly twelve days from now. . . which may seem like a lot of time off, but I only count “time off” in terms of relaxing vacation-y time as the time that I’m not prepping for or otherwise thinking about work, and that’s going to start next week.  Actually, the thinking has already begun.  I just won’t start thinking on paper until next week.

That deadline brings the awareness that my time for recharging, reorganizing, re-de-cluttering, and generally re-getting-my-shit-together-ing is almost up, and that gives my wanted-t0-accomplish list more urgency.  It’s behaving like a flickering neon light at this point, demanding that I pay attention and do something about it.  And while my 33 years may make me wise enough to know how life should be lived, I still struggle with knowing precisely how much recreation to how much work, cleaning, etc. is the perfect ratio for my happiness.  I mean, I’m smart enough to realize that my want-to-do list will never be complete (because that would be a sign that I’m not living well), but I don’t think I know myself well enough to know how to pick and choose from that list in the best possible way yet.

And still, a list-maker I am.  So here’s my entire and characteristically unrealistic list of things I would like to do before I go back on June 7 (at which point I will, whether I or anyone else likes it or not, become an all-work-all-the-time machine):

Definitely

  • Get front flower beds entirely cleaned and Preened
  • Read at least four more books to add to Summer Read class reading list
  • Produce sweet new summer syllabi and class websites
  • Get the house back to its “break clean” state (including everything behind doors, like closets and cabinets), and have a system planned for maintenance
  • Work with Steph to design training for writing consultants and fellows
  • Get some color on my legs so that I can rock my new warm weather clothes (Thanks, Mom and Steph!) without blinding anyone
  • Spend time with the hubs outside, enjoying our patio (this will require some attention to the immediate back flower beds because otherwise, I can’t relax)
  • Spend time with friends
  • Experiment with some new recipes–especially ones that will make good leftovers for lunch at work
  • Build working out (not counting walking Abby) into the routine, and make it a real priority

Maybe

  • Paint downstairs bathroom
  • Read some more good books just for me (I have four started and never finished)
  • Read good books on reading pedagogy and incorporate/test some of their ideas in summer course
  • Meet Steven Layne, get all stupid and googly-eyed and tell him how amazing he is, and then milk him for great ideas

Probably not

  • Get all of the flower beds cleaned and Preened, with a garden planted, shrubs trimmed, and a yard so gorgeous all the retiree neighbors are envious.
  • Read all of the books on the to-read list and revamp the novel list for Read classes
  • Start designing reading component of writing center

And now, a disturbing confession. . .

Because I’m a taskmaster, my brain is currently breaking down the “Definitely” list into more specific daily to-dos that will, within moments, become a dated list of assignments.  What can I say?  School is ingrained with me, and I don’t get much done if I don’t have deadlines.

Bee’s Rules to Live By

Maybe it’s that I just turned 33.  Maybe it’s that I just finished the most terrible semester (part of a remarkably bad academic year) of my career.  Maybe it’s just my usual penchant for self-analysis (have I written yet about the television-drama styled meta-narrative that runs through my head constantly?).  Whatever it is, I’m busy being reflective lately, and inspired by a recent piece in O, I’ve been working on my rules to live by.  Here’s what I have so far:

1.  Be authentic.  I am a geek.  I am clumsy.  I am loud and easily amused.  I am not sexy in the traditional open-mouthed, messy haired, bedroom eyed sense.  I am, though, sexy in my own quirky way when I own all of my awkwardness and really let it fly.  It is when I am most myself that I am most comfortable, most beautiful, and most successful.

2.  Be kind.  Being kind is different than being nice.  Kindness is thoughtful.  It is intentional.  And it’s universally applied without expectation or judgment.  Sometimes it’s proactive, like looking back when you’re about to walk through a door to make sure there’s not someone behind you for whom you should be holding that door.  Sometimes it’s reactive, like choosing to be patient with someone whose grumpiness could very well be caused by awful personal circumstances (that would make you feel like a twit for responding any other way).  The beauty of kindness is that it is its own reward.  No matter how the creature on the receiving end responds, I always feel better in my gut because I was kind.

3.  Find joy in the seemingly small things.  Chucks.  Dark chocolate.  Dry red wine.  Extra sharp white cheddar cheese.  Multi-colored toenails.  The smell of clean clothes.  Fireflies.  Little games, like guessing what tip HP will leave the waiter.  Walks with Abby in various weather conditions.  Silly moments when HP and I both repeat the same line from whatever show we happen to be watching.  These are the things that bring me joy–not just contentment or surface-level happiness but way down deep in my gut pure joy.  I’m not really sure why these always get called “little things” because for me, they’re so clearly what matters most.  The day I stop feeling karmic pleasure at not stepping on worms the rain has washed onto the sidewalk is the day I stop being really, deeply happy.

4.  Know what’s worth fighting for, and then fight for it.  I hate having people be upset with or otherwise disappointed in me.  It really doesn’t matter who they are or whether I usually value their opinions or not.  That someone could possibly be feeling negatively about me tends to get my stomach acid in crazy eruption state.  I also, though, have a natural sympathy for the less powerful, less privileged, less heard, and there are times when that overpowers my extreme desire not to piss people off.  There are times when pissing people off is necessary, and in those times, it’s really your responsibility to do so.

5.  Smile and laugh freely.  Memo to the universe:  we are not given a limited smile and giggle bank at birth.  Cheesy smiles and belly laughs cost nothing.  Coolness levels do not immediately decrease with each baring of the pearly whites.  Intelligence does not improve with somber expressions.  Do you get it?  You lose nothing by smiling.  Instead, you give the world a little gift, a little pick-me-up, a little reassurance, maybe even a little kick in the pants.

6.  Celebrate people you love.  When you’re a kid, you get these fantastic birthday parties with people singing and presents.  You get gold stars on homework–sometimes even scratch-and-sniff stickers that smell like banana splits!  You get at least once-a-year awards ceremonies with certificates acknowledging the smallest of progress.  Then something changes.  The awards ceremonies stop, and so as not to appear boastful or self-centered, you stop announcing your successes and sharing your good news.  Ok, that’s fine.  But at that point, it becomes everyone else’s responsibility to celebrate you.  Friends and loved ones deserve to be celebrated. . . and not just at big moments like weddings and retirement parties.  We should all know our friends and loved ones well enough to know when some small accomplishment is a big victory and to know how best to help that person celebrate.

7.  Take your own advice.  I try hard not to be an opinionated turd who tosses out how-things-should-be-done tidbits like free t-shirts from one of those sweet air cannons at most indoor sporting events.  In my head, though, I often find myself knowing how a situation could’ve been better handled.  I have enough clarity to produce a list of rules to live by, after all.  But as with all of those internal judgments, these rules are much clearer in writing than they are executed in my daily life.  We all have inherited wisdom that sticks with us for good reason.  I, for one, would probably be better off if I applied it to myself more frequently.

Sometimes I’m not a Bee. Sometimes I’m a pita.

Because my navel-gazing blog exists, you already know that I think pretty highly of myself.  I find great humor in silly little inconsequential stories.  I think lists of things I like are entertaining reading material.  I’m under some delusion that someone might find my very personal goals and dreams of interest.  It’s no surprise, then, that I happen to think my husband, HP, is a pretty lucky guy; I mean, he gets to live with me.

Once in a while, though, the constant analytical metanarrative in my head offers commentary on something I am planning to do, currently doing, or have already done, and I remember that I am, in fact, quite the pain in the arse (hence the sweet pet name “pita,” given by that lucky guy who gets to live with me).  So for the record, I give you the top ten ways I am a pita on a regular basis:

  1. I always forget to replace the toilet paper.  I was raised better than this.  I know it’s inconsiderate.  Still, somehow, I use the last sheet and then get preoccupied in fiddling with zippers and such and completely forget to get a new roll.
  2. I leave my long hair in a disgusting pile covering the drain cover after every shower.  It is gross–gag-inducing clumps of water+shampoo+conditioner-slime-soaked hair.  I should not leave this dirty work for anyone else.  I know this.  Still, somehow. . . you know.
  3. I collect travel mugs filled with days-old coffee and bring them to the kitchen only after they’ve begun to produce a stench (and some interesting green organisms that are far more than simple mold).
  4. I cannot keep secrets–particularly when intoxicated.  I very regularly share information I’m not supposed to either because I’ve let something slip or because a magical beverage has led me to believe that everyone on the planet is a trustworthy dear friend.
  5. I’m a cryer.  If I’m touched by a beautiful moment in a 30-second commercial, I will very likely be brought to tears.  If it’s a television show about people doing nice things for others, I will become a blubbering, sobbing mess.
  6. I have constantly changing, completely uncontrollable, and never predictable eating preferences.  Today, I may hate ham.  Tomorrow, I may crave it.
  7. I am a planner.  I am an organizer.  I’m a list maker (duh!).  If there is an army of unruly ducks in a pond nearby, and you want those suckers lined up in neat rows, I’m the girl for the job.  If you just want to go with the flow and see how things work out, I’m probably the most annoying creature on the planet (even when I’m trying hard, hard, hard to restrain myself).
  8. I have a childlike appreciation for surprises paired with a scholar’s research and critical thinking skills.  This means people like to surprise me because of the reaction they get, but it also means surprises are hard to pull off because if I have any idea whatsoever that something might just be coming, I will think, interrogate, and research in order to figure out what.  Even if it means I ruin the surprise for myself (which I hate), I cannot control the excitement-driven inquiry.
  9. I’m completely uncomfortable with anyone important being unhappy with me (and exceedingly so when it comes to my partner), so I cannot possibly wait for cool-down time.  I will immediately apologize, promise not to behave in such an offensive manner again, and expect to be immediately forgiven and back to business-as-usual. . . immediately.  That is unless we’re talking about something I really believe in, in which case. . .
  10. I am stubborn.  I mean heels-dug-so-deep-I’m-up-to-my-neck-in-mud stubborn.  I come by it honestly enough.  I’m fairly certain the combination of my stubborn parents’ genetic material resulted in some kind of super gene on the stubborn DNA chain.  It doesn’t help that nearly all of my accomplishments in life are a direct result of that stubborn tendency, so it’s been reinforced repeatedly.  Still, there are most definitely times when I should learn to shut it off (both the stubborness and my mouth) and choose my battles more carefully.

So there you have it:  proof positive that I am a turd.  Y’know. . . just in case you thought life over here was all sunflowers and daisies.

That’s right. I’m a girl who finishes things.

Here’s the list (with limited journaling because most of that’s for me):

Places I want to travel

1. Sonoma

2. St. Lucia

3. Ireland

4. Tuscany

Things I want to own

5. 2010 Honda CR-V (Black with black leather interior, 4wd, MP3 jack, and moon roof)

6. The Camera

7. iPhone 4g

8. The Dyson Pet Vacuum

9. A pair of Chucks in every color of the rainbow (but starting with yellow and green)

. . . for my life

10. A nice booty. . . actually, a nice bod that results from regular Pilates, but a booty would be a good start

11. Some kind of personal style that’s NOT the mindless Bee uniform

12. Cute, colorful, fun, livable organization — In my dream June-Cleaver-meets-Martha-Stewart-but-so-much-cooler world, I am an incredibly organized woman with a cleverly and cutely organized home.

. . . for the house

13. A sweet man cave (that will really be an HP and Bee cave) complete with bar, giant tv, surround sound, and pool, poker, and air hockey tables

14. An organized office that is pretty and that has spunky personality

15. Spa-like bathrooms for us and for our guests

16. A beautiful backyard with pristine flowerbeds and a built-in pool and hot tub

17. Dinner parties in said backyard

18. A nursery

Artists I want to see in concert

19. James Morrison — soulful, smart, survivor-style tunes

20. Sister Hazel — MAD sweet harmonies

21. Sugarland — Don’t judge.  Jennifer Nettles can outsing anyone.

22. Elton John — Classic

23. Lady Antebellum — A real trio with sick harmony skills

More for my life

24. Learn to cook the kinds of meals that make people excited and to learn how to arrange flowers and place settings and all the other bells and whistles that make guests feel special.  Learn to entertain.  Then do it.  Often!

25. Be that couple — the couple who’s so in love, even after decades of marriage, that we disgust people.  Be happy.  Choose it and make it happen.

26. Be an inspired version of myself.  Be who I could be if I were the leading lady in a movie–a cool, pretty movie about an amazing girl who makes the world a better place, especially for those she loves.

27.  “Remember happiness is a way of travel, not a destination.”

28.  The image reads “There is a direct correlation between the level of happiness in one’s life and the amount of silliness they allow into it,” she said.  “I know.  I’ve done studies.”  And my journaling here says this: Dear God — Please don’t ever let me forget that my silliness is a gift; that my willingness to be a carefree, goofy soul is part of my appeal; that grown up, somber seriousness is seriously over-rated, and that this is what makes me happy (so that’s all that really matters).

29. Remember Sara Henderson — “Don’t wait for a light to appear at the end of the tunnel; stride down there and light the bloody thing yourself!”

30.  From a magazine — “I’m a Busy Bee, Mover-and-Shaker, Up & At ’em.”  My journaling — And I’m not afraid to let my freak flag fly, Baby!

Shame on me

I’ve been thinking a lot about my vision board for the upcoming second installment of B4.  I’m having a hard time moving my thinking away from things I already have and love.  My tendency, it seems, is to just want a replenished supply of my favorite (often guilty) pleasures.  But if this vision board business is as powerful as it seems, then I should use it for really incredible, important things that I don’t yet have. 

So that those pleasures that will not make it onto the board are duly noted and appreciated, I give you Bee’s top ten guilty pleasures:

  1. Dry red wine
  2. Deep, dark chocolate (we’re talking 75% or more cocoa)
  3. Extra sharp white cheddar cheese
  4. Chuck Taylors (these still might make it onto the board because I’d like a green pair)
  5. Booty shakin’ songs, like this and this
  6. Sushi
  7. Silly commercials like this and this
  8. Large silver hoop earrings
  9. Pretty office supplies
  10. Fuzzy creatures–particularly dogs

Oh the Humiliation!

My buddy JD recently introduced me to Humiliation–a geek’s party game that involves confessing some major literary works you’ve never read and earning points based on the number of people in the room who have read said works.  He only got one point from me, and being the competitive freak I am (even if it means competing for the rank of least well-read geek on the planet), I am setting out now to beat his weak one point with hundreds.  Here’s my list:

1.  Any of the Harry Potter books

2.  Any of The Lord of the Rings trilogy

3.  100 Years of Solitude

4.  Pride and Prejudice

5.  Song of Solomon

6.  Brave New World

7.  War and Peace

8.  Lolita

9.  Middlemarch

10. Midnight’s Children

Tally ’em up!

Little Pretties

I love school supplies year-round, but the beginning of every semester brings a surge of desire for pretty new tools. . . like these (click on photos to shop for items):

           

. . . and I just learned that my beloved Staedtler Triplus Fineliners now come in this exquisite rolling case.  I’m in love.   

For more office supply eye candy, go here.