More than the quintessential cow girl


The other night I watched The Words (Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde, and Zoe Saldana). I didn’t plan on watching it, but any movie about a writer struggling to “make it” begs me to watch it.

The movie bases its foundation on one question: “Just how far would you go to be the person you want to be?”

In other words, would you steal someone else’s story just to be who you wanted to become?

The film portrays an old man who says, “We all make choices; the hard thing is to live with them, and there ain’t nobody that can help you with that.”


I write. All the time. Something. Anything. Celebrity profiles. Fiction. Notes on papers I’m grading. Blogs. Texts. A few emails. Poor attempts at song lyrics.

So far everything I have written has been true. I have never stolen nothing, no not a thing—well, with the exception of the deliberate theft of that last sentence. If you know song lyrics, you’ll understand. If not, proceed. It’s no big thing.

I have a new group of creative writing students this semester, and once again, my goal for them and for me is for us to take our writing to the next level, to step out of our comfort zones.

My new class of creative writers has been very good for me. So far my students cut me no slack. If they have to write, they expect me to write. My homework for them? Create a blog with its own unique writing. Their homework for me? Write a blog about them.

But what can I say? I don’t know them well—yet. So far I have met the super intelligent Batman, a Halo freak who shares his cheerios, three musicians, an artist, a baton twirler, Lady Wit, a runaway who gets to stay, and a very shy girl who kind of reminds me of myself.

But when I get to know them, can I say more? If I tell their stories without their permission, will I invade their privacy? Will I steal their stories for my gain? But what happens if their story IS my story? I believe people’s paths cross for a reason.

Never should I define people by the characters they play in my life story, for tomorrow they will grow into somebody else. You change; I change. Not everything about us, just some things.

I, for example, will always love God, my family, and the Red Sox. I can’t imagine ever giving up writing or music. And I won’t give up the people I love. I do, however, abandon certain fads. I left the leg warmers in the eighties, and I don’t perm my hair.

I’m what they call a “seasoned teacher.” You can’t fool me. That’s just another way of saying old. No matter how you say it, I have been a supporting cast member in the stories of many students’ lives. I don’t mind. I just don’t want them to sell that chapter as my entire story.

When I first started teaching, I decorated my classroom in a black and white spotted motif. The next thing I knew I became the crazy teacher who liked black and white bovines. I like cows, but they don’t necessarily moooove me. I have, in fact, ridden a cow backwards across a barnyard. That, my friends, is another story, one better left in the barnyard.

During my “cow phase,” I acquired a lot (literally) of Holstein items, including a stool with udders, which I thought was utterly hilarious. Heck, even the baseball coach brought me a cow ink pen from a coaching clinic. The cow lady. That’s who I had become.

During another phase, I was the crazy lady who loved Julius Caesar. I still do. I received anonymous letters from students warning me to “Beware the Ides of March.” While some teachers had to be on the look out for yard rollers on Halloween, I had to keep up my guard the night of March 15. But that’s okay. My rollers and I are now great friends. But they should remember the evil that men (and women) do lives after them. Paybacks are killer.

At another point of my career, I voraciously taught my students the importance of vocabulary, and we started with the word QUINTESSENTIAL. Every student I had during this phase used the word either to impress or distress me. And even now, my co-workers smile when they use the word around me. I think it’s funny, especially when QUINTESSENTIAL shows up on my Facebook timeline.

There was a time when Michael W. Smith was my favorite singer, and, yes, in fact, I did name my younger child after him. I didn’t just like Michael W. Smith; I wanted to be like Michael W. Smith. I wanted to own a place like his Nashville-based Rocketown so that I could positively impact kids’ lives with music. I still do.

And now I’m the crazy Steven Tyler stalker. I don’t know why. I just am. I guess Steven became a symbol for me, a reminder that regardless of one’s age, a person can never be too old to act a little crazy,  to love music and to love people, the latter, I think, Steven Tyler maybe too much. But again, there’s another story, and we haven’t the time.

If I become a character in my students’ memoirs, I have no idea which persona I will portray. I hope the writers paint the truth and avoid portraying me as a one-dimensional character.

All people leave their colors on other people’s canvases, some more vividly than others. And believe me, whether or not it’s in print, we read each others’ stories daily. We should be careful to avoid over generalizing and assuming.

I have stories about my life I can’t tell, won’t tell, because my life isn’t its own. I am a vault. I could never make it as a member of the paparazzi.

I also don’t want to be painted as the crazy cow-loving cat lady who stalked Steven Tyler in the most quintessential way. I’m a whole lot more than that.

If we have met, YOU have become a character in MY story. You are paint on my canvas.  And if I do tell my story, I’ll do my best to paint you with an honest brush and to write you with an trustworthy pen.

14 thoughts on “More than the quintessential cow girl

  1. I’ve had you in class since 10th grade, and I didn’t know you had a blog! I think a blog is a good idea, and I really think I will have fun doing my own blog! Oh, and thanks for the nickname “Lady Wit”, haha 😉

    • I hope you don’t mind. 🙂 I can’t help but admire your creative and witty way with words. You inspire me. Thank you for taking time to comment!

  2. Tee,
    I absolutely loved reading your blog! It’s like I got to step into that crazy head of yours! (Literally, I feel like I have literally walked inside of your mind. It’s going to be really cool to read your blog throughout the year and see what types of things you put in it based on our class! I love getting this opportunity to be a crazy character in your story!
    The Runaway Who Got to Stay

  3. I used to write stories all the time as a kid. Songs and poems as a teen and chronicles about my horse a little later. Then I wrote 2 screenplays, one of which I really thought was going to get bought (that’s my “Betty White” story). Then I wrote and wrote and wrote about a betrayal that almost killed me. I guess I wrote myself out. Now it’s all I can do to write lesson plans and grocery lists. Then a combination of your blog and friendship and an “e-book” I came across (“I’m Going to Live My LIfe Like a Jimmy Buffett Song” by Anthony Bjorklund) have got me thinking I might try again. However, I need a Margaritaville Frozen Concotion Machine and a white Fender Stratocaster to set the ambience. Oh and a pair of Maui Jims to replace the 13 year old pair that got broken awhile back.

    • You can do this, Alexis. Writing is healing and good therapy. My greatest concern is that I don’t always effectively convey what I’m trying to say. It’s so easy for words to be misconstrued.On the other hand, I feel things so deeply, I need an outlet. You understand. You have much more talent than I ever dreamed of having, and you can pick up where you left off. I know you can. I think I’ll have to read the Bjorklund e-book.

    • Thanks for reading Jenna! 🙂 Someday your kiddos will remember you as “that teacher.” It’s not all bad. It’s nice to be remembered. I figure I’m good as long as they remember I really did care about them–even if I was too silly, sometimes unorganized, other times too OCD, and usually stressed. 🙂

  4. So I absolutely love your blog; you are so inspiring to me!! And, I for one, will always love God, Eddie Vedder, and concerts, especially when it involves hitching a ride to a concert on a golf cart with some crazy friends 😉 I am currently contemplating a blog of my own, and books, of course…I just can’t seem to get out of the beginning planning stages. Thank you, my dear, for the inspiration you unknowingly give.

    • Thanks so much, Summer. I miss you. I will always, always, always remember the night of that concert and jumping on that golf cart. I’m so glad I didn’t fall off. I didn’t realize those things could go so fast. We need to plan another adventure. I really want to get a group of aspiring writers (like myself) together and form a local writing group. I think we could help each other. Thank you again for reading. PLEASE let me know if you’re up for another adventure.

  5. LOVED this one. 🙂 ‘Tis true that we all play our own parts and roles. ‘Tis also true that others often see us entirely different than we see ourselves… ‘Tis also true that we often deliberately allow others to see us in a light we know is not accurate… ‘Tis also true that I need to quit using antiquated phrases and contractions. LOL

    96% of what I write never sees the light of day – most likely for the very reason of “what will people think”. What of the character who bashes her husband with a sledge hammer for over an hour until nothing remains but a pile of mush that she then flushes down the toilet. .. I mean, what would people think of someone who wrote stuff like that… :-\

    Oh, I like cows too.. They taste good. 😀

    • Mary, haven’t I warned you that WWF stuff is a bit dangerous. Bashing, sledge hammers, mush, toilet. Keep it in the ring, Mary. I probably wouldn’t write it in a future blog. On the other hand, Steven King has a pretty cool thing going. If you ever meet up with him, he can probably give you better advice than I.

      And, as for the cows. I don’t much care for them well, medium, or rare. I don’t like red meat very much. I guess I wouldn’t make a good vampire. Oh well. So much for that story. Oh yeah…it’s already been done.

  6. “During my ‘cow phase,’ I acquired a lot (literally) of Holstein items, including a stool with udders, which I thought was utterly hilarious.”

    I don’t think I could have resisted the temptation to type ” *udderly* hilarious “. You were strong and opted for subtlety. ha ha ; )

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