There’s a meme meandering around Facebook where you are given a number and that’s how many unknown items you are to share about yourself. I’ve put it off for several days because really, I’ve had a blog for just shy of eight years, what the hell is left that I haven’t already shared? At this point it’s toejam descriptions and the combination to my bike lock. I also wasn’t sure if I was supposed to change my profile picture to a platypus, a rainbow zebra, or just the standard Facebook meme giraffe; that wasn’t clear so I just left it.
And then I thought, “Self! You’re doing NaBloPoMo! And you could use a lighthearted and amusing post today! And this is the kind of fun meme post that bloggers did all the freaking time before Facebook kidnapped the social and community aspect of blogging! Surely there are six things you have never shared on your blog! Surely you could milk the hell outta this meme for a post! Self! Get on it already!”
So I listened to myself. If any of these sound familiar, I apologize; I have shit for brains lately and my memory ain’t all that great either.
1. My name was supposed to be Jillian. When my mom woke from the anesthesia, she discovered she had a Jennifer. My dad had named me after a girl in one of his grad classes because he liked the name. Yes, mom let him live and yes, they are still married, 47 years and counting. Me? I’ve had the pleasure of using every possible shortening of the name short of Jenna, courtesy of Jennifer being the number one name in the country for the entire first decade of my life.
2. For about half a heartbeat at decision time, I was going to play horn instead of flute. Let us take a moment and consider all the ways my life would be different had I chosen that instrument.
I really have been writing for too long. I keep thinking of possibilities and then realizing I’ve pontificated on that in the past.
3. My original college major was special ed, with a focus on deaf education. I changed majors on preview weekend, playing for the director of bands in his office when he had a minute. Met the flute professor at my first lesson. When I auditioned for grad school, I couldn’t go out on any of the official dates because I was working 900 miles away. We flew out on a long weekend and I played for the flute professor in her office when she had a minute. So I have really no idea how true college auditions work.
4. We built our house in Colorado and I have an entire scrapbook of the process, from bare ground through our first year living there. What I don’t have is a picture of is the JM ❤️ TM scrawled on one of the wood beams behind the drywall in our old bedroom.
Sweetbabyjesusonapony really? I only have four? I’m dyin’ here!
5. Facebook tells me I have 440 friends (holy crap, really?). I would say, of that number, the vast majority are not local. Part of that is because we picked up and moved a thousand miles two years ago, but a good portion is because I have met so many wonderful people through blogging and gifted advocacy. In fact, two of those friends (met both through my blog, in the old-timey era of several years ago) came to visit and stay in my house before we’d ever met face to face. The whole “stranger danger” and “people you meet on the internet” conversations are all kinds of fun in this house.
6. I am the hugest social introvert you will ever meet in the history of ever. I have no problem speaking in public (I even enjoy it), can play my flute in a recital without a second thought, and love being in groups of people whose company I enjoy. But when it’s over I need to get the hell outta dodge and get as alone as possible to recover. In addition, I am considerably more outgoing and loquacious in print than in person, so please remember that if we ever meet. I’m reserved until I know you well, then I let the
profanity fart jokes fly.
7. I have a potty mouth.
8. I don’t watch TV. Or, rather, I watch so little as to not be able to participate in conversations about the show du jour; social media has saved me in that at least I know what people are talking about. However, I can quote whole segments of Family Guy, American Dad, and Bob’s Burgers. See also #7.
9. I have a remarkably low bullshit tolerance for someone who is also very much “live and let live.” My baseline level of stress is probably related to this.
10. I can’t count worth a damn.
I am a flutist.
I want to practice and improve. Watch YouTube videos of masterclasses and recitals, attend concerts every week. Focus on my pedagogy, so my students can benefit from what I learn and share. Write a method book because even after 20-odd years of teaching I still haven’t found one that suits the individual needs of my students. Dive into a new piece of music and only come up for air when I’m good and ready, and to solo with the wind ensemble, instead of putting it off another year…again. I want to be at the top of my game once more.
I am a writer.
I want to lock myself into a room and listen to the words in my head, then pull them out and arrange them on a page until they suit me. Write until my fingers tingle, read until my eyes are bleary. Work on blog posts, my book, anything and everything. Luxuriate in the contentment that comes with getting it all out on the page and feeling good about it. I want to be better.
I am a parent.
I want to enjoy the crazy moments instead of gritting my teeth through them because they never seem to end. Live in the moment for a change. Laugh with my boys instead of attempting to teach a life lesson about farting at the table, when in reality it was a well-timed toot. Give them my full attention because they deserve it, when I’m really sick to death of Minecraft and hacking and tech. Push them past their comfort zones because it’s good for them and stand my ground when they push back. Relax at the end of the day, knowing I did the best job of parenting I could. I want to feel like I’m not screwing this all up.
I am a homeschooler.
I want to plan lessons for my son, ones that hold his attention as they scaffold his weaknesses and harness his strengths. Go on field trips and learn through doing. Learn together and have fun with it. Experiment and fail and try again and succeed and celebrate. Share the love of lifelong learning by modeling it myself. Give him my full attention because he needs it. I want to see him succeed.
I am a gifted advocate.
I want to help other parents as they navigate these murky waters of gifted and twice-exceptional. Weave a net. Listen and help and guide and support. Start a school for these out-of-the-box kids. I want to make a difference.
I am a chameleon.
When I am a flutist, a writer, a parent, a homeschooler, an advocate…that is who I am. That is my wild passion, all I want to do, and do it with my full focus and energy. But that one area is not all I am, there are all those others, and they are all equally insistent. When I am pulled from one area into another, it is actually painful, and when all five pull on me at the same time I freeze, not knowing what to do or where to start. They’re all equally important to me, you see. To give myself up entirely to one means giving up the other four, and that’s just not an option, especially the parenting.
Changing colors and foci is exhausting and destroys concentration. When you’re at your best diving deeply into an area and are pulled out for something else, even something you love just as much as what you’re leaving, the colors fade and blur into one another. You’re left with muted and murky blobs of color, lacking defined edges, lacking impact. You’re left with a chameleon fed up with changing and wishing she could just pick a single color and stick with it, even knowing she’d be miserable with only one color.
Mine is a chameleon life. It’s wearying changing personas every day, sometimes every hour, but I’ll fight to keep those parts of me. Someday I hope the colors each become stronger, joining together in a brightly colored tie dye pattern, instead of the blurry and pale watercolors of today.
A had a class at the planetarium today. It’s no Air and Space Museum, but it’s a good little museum on a beautiful piece of land out in the lake. The biggest PITA downside is that it took us over 2 hours to get there this morning and over an hour to get home this afternoon. I’m pooped.
Before the class he and some of the other kids meandered through the exhibits. I caught up to them at the different stations about the planets (no Pluto, natch).
Me: “Hey, A! Uranus is over there!”
A: <blank look>
Me: “Uranus! It’s over there! See? Might wanna take care of that!”
A: <shakes head>
A good Uranus joke is lost on my child. Sigh.
Unless I get a time machine, a full-time home-educator, a live-in maid, or another dozen hours a day, this is very likely my last NaBloPoMo. I can’t take the ratio of crap to non-crap here this month.
This? Falls square into the crap category.
Want to live in the moment? Play an instrument. But not just play an instrument, play in a high-quality ensemble on that instrument. And then play wicked hard music in that high-quality ensemble on that instrument. You cannot help but stay 100% in the moment then.
Tom and I had our concert this afternoon. There were a few moments this morning when the band wasn’t sure if there would even be a concert, because of the unseasonably wild weather. But the show went on, and the two hours went by in a flash.
Playing in an ensemble is the only way I’ve found to stay in the moment without my mind drifting. It surely tries, but whether it’s years of training or sheer panic that I will screw up, it comes snapping back to the moment in under a heartbeat.
My mind has a mind of its own, and even that mind has a mind of its own. I struggle with staying in the moment, and have for years. I’ve tried meditating, I’ve done yoga, but nothing is as effective as music performance to focus my mind. If I’m not entirely in the moment, I will musically pee down my leg before I know it. That’s both messy and embarrassing, and not terribly professional.
Mindfulness through music. I highly recommend it.
Sometimes you just need to some take time and hide, despite what is sitting in front of you demanding to be done. You need to do it because the alternative is hearing your blood pumping through your ears, or screaming to loosen the lump in your throat, or just running away.
Today I went and crashed in my bedroom with the door closed and the lights off, something I should probably do on a more regular basis.
There’s nothing particularly wrong, just an overwhelming sense of “I’m not doing it right,” or “I’m in over my head,” or “What the hell can I drop from my life to ease up on the crazy?” And there’s really nothing, because it’s all just in my head. Part of it is because the young creatures in the house direct every question and comment in their noggins to me and that after awhile that just wears me out. And part of it is because I haven’t been jazzed about anything in awhile, and I could use a little low-stress jazzy excitement.
This week I’m going to take more time. Tomorrow is out, as Tom and I have a concert, but the rest of the week I plan to find time every day to just unplug and lock the door and not exit unless a tree has fallen through the house. Squirrels running through my bedroom would certainly send me scurrying.
Taking time. Now that’s something to be jazzed about.
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Words matter. Words may be a clunky method of exchanging thoughts and ideas with others, but it’s the best and most efficient manner of sharing. It is too easy to be careless with the words we use. This is especially true when sharing ideas or thoughts or nebulous concepts. So we must take even more care then, because words matter.
Back in February Seth Godin wrote a post reinforcing stereotypes about giftedness; I, and many others, wrote very strongly worded posts in response. I chose my words carefully, because words matter.
Today he did it again. No, I’m not linking up to the post, I have no desire to send more traffic his way from my site. A dear friend noted that he probably had a dip in numbers and so tossed out an inflammatory post to bring in the traffic. He is a marketer, after all, and traffic is all that matters.
Words matter to me. And when someone with a large bully pulpit carelessly throws out the word gifted without truly understanding how that word can be misunderstood and twisted against the very people it describes, I get ticked. Gifted is not simply someone who is “likable, honest, curious and thoughtful.” (Oh, and you missed a comma there; Oxford commas matter, too). Those are personality traits, not the neuropsychological wiring that makes up a gifted individual. Gifted people can have those personality traits, and usually do, but to define gifted with a bunch of adjectives that also best describe any courteous and hard-working individual? No.
There are so many definitions of gifted (thank you, semantics and bureaucracy), but the one that makes the most sense is that of the Columbus Group:
Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.
Seth Godin, please stop using the word gifted. You are using it wrong.
Just in case you haven’t checked out a calendar anytime recently, it’s mid-November.
Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are two weeks from today.
Christmas is forty days off.
Now you know. And are probably freaking out.
Just don’t kill the messenger, m’kay?
Towards the end of October I started looking ahead to
the hell that is NaBloPoMo. And though I’ve participated in this particular flavor of insanity several times before, I naively thought, “Oh, I have plenty of time and plenty of ideas. I’m not going to write anything ahead of time. Keep the purity of daily writing that way. It’ll be ok, I’ll be juuuust fiiiiine.”
Apparently I was batshit crazy.
This is the sixth or seventh or eleventy billionth time I’ve done NaBloPoMo, and every year about the 12th or 13th I am like a drowning woman, looking for any kind of life preserver. I can’t give up (because I am insane and don’t give up unless it’s really really bad and it’s my health or sanity on the line) and I can’t imagine going on. And yet, somehow, I manage to suck it up and put on my big girl panties (they’re the ones all purty and sparkly and say WRITER on the ass) and get through the month.
I’ve also determined I’m doing entirely too much in my life. This is nothing new. However, I am less tolerant of it, older, and considerably more exhausted. I also think Mary Poppins was wasted on Mrs. Banks. Yes, suffrage was important and all, but you also had a maid and a cook, so cough up the magical nanny, woman.
This month will fly by, and I will post every day here. If I can manage it I’ll even sneak some quality writing in there.
But next year? Bet your ass I’ll have pre-written half the month.
We are huge StarTalk fans in this house. Huge. Neil deGrasse Tyson has managed to make science fun and entertaining, accessible to the masses, and juuust the right length for a day of errands with the boys. We rarely listen to anything other than podcasts when I drive, because I get veto power as the driver, and the boys are more likely to come to a quick podcast agreement than to be forced to listen to whatever world music I feel like listening to that day. StarTalk is the podcast of choice and thankfully the boys haven’t really noticed or commented on the double entendres and occasional bawdy humor. Fine by me.
Several weeks ago I caught that StarTalk was doing a two-part series on the science of sex, with Dr. Ruth and Mary Roach as guests. I’m sure you’re familiar with Dr. Ruth and why she might be a guest; Mary Roach wrote a very entertaining book on the topic a few years ago. “Hooboy, self,” I said to myself, “You might want to just skip over those two episodes with the boys. You’ve already had The Talk with A and isn’t it husband’s turn to answer probing and uncomfortable questions from the innocent and socially clueless tween? Let’s just skip over those and learn about something else right now.” Self was happy and content with this option.
Self is an idiot.
See, my dear innocent and socially clueless tween had apparently subscribed to StarTalk on his ancient iPod some time ago, and has been listening to the podcast at night while going to sleep/sleeping/being dynamited awake. No dreams of sugarplums for this boy, no no no. This one has dreams of meteors and multiverses and interstellar travel…and very straightforward talk about sex.
I finally had a chance to listen to the two-part podcast driving down to Indianapolis last week. It was actually really good, very informative, very entertaining. And then I’d remember that A had been listening to it repeatedly since August, and I’d be less entertained and more “ohhhhhhh shiitttttttt….” I’ll never be able to drive parts of the Tri-State Tollway again without thinking of Dr. Ruth.
He has yet to ask any detailed questions, and I don’t know if that’s because he doesn’t know how to ask what a <fill in the blank> is, or if that’s because he’s Googled the answer already…and I don’t know which of those options worries and amuses me more. We’ve talked about porn and how to do careful Google searches so that you don’t end up bleaching your eyes and brain at the end of the day, but I also want to make sure he has accurate information.
In the grand scheme of things, you could do a lot worse than learning the ins and outs (heh) of sex from Neil deGrasse Tyson, Dr. Ruth, and Mary Roach; middle school gym class comes to mind. It was entertaining, it was memorable, and it was factual. It’s a great springboard for us to discuss sex with A, and someday with J.
At least now I know why my innocent and socially clueless tween has been making cracks about my sex life.