Mo liosta buicéad

journey

This is NOT my typical blog, but my friend Mary has done gone and inspired me to think about what I want to do with the rest of my life.

If you haven’t read Mary Todd’s writing, visit her Facebook page and read her notes. She is a local celebrity. She travels the county on foot, inspiring people, expounding wisdom, collecting pennies and other treasures, and plotting world takeovers. She carries a walking stick with a troll attached. The troll’s name is Martha. Martha is trouble. You have to watch out for Martha.

Mary is my twin of another mother. She says she’s the bad one and I’m the good. But in the words of Shawn Spencer, “I’ve heard it both ways.”

Mary recently shared her Bucket List on Facebook, and I decided to compare hers to mine. Then I realized I don’t have one.

I do now. Thanks, Mary. Readers, whoever you may be, feel free to share your thoughts too. I challenge you to make your own list. Every life should have purpose.

MY BUCKET LIST afraid

  1. Go to Ireland for an extended stay.
  2. Meet Little Richard and tell him about my book.
  3. Have a real conversation with Steven Tyler. (And, no, I DO NOT lust after Steven Tyler nor anyone else for that matter. Sheesh, do I get tired of telling people this.) I happen to think there is a part of Steven Tyler that comprehends a part of the human soul that most people don’t, and I should like to speak with him about this matter. (I understand what this means even if I can’t explain it. God knows.)
  4. Write a minimum of five books, not all YA. All five unfinished books are floating in my brain. I have to get them out.
  5. See at least one of them published.
  6. Open a live music venue.
  7. Run an online vintage, boho, gypsy spirit clothing boutique.
  8. Organize a local writers’ group.
  9. Live healthy inside and out. (I understand what this means even if I can’t explain it. God knows.)
  10. Buy a camper and camp. A lot.
  11. Play guitar as well as I want to. (At least now I know what I need to do to achieve the goal. I finally “get” it. Don’t ask me to play for you now. Wait a little while. THEN I can play for you.)

As Porky Pig would say, “Ble, ble, ble, that’s all folks!”

intuition

More than the quintessential cow girl

COW

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.”

Wow.

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.

Ode to my fairy godmother, by proxy

Have you ever contemplated jail time?

I mean just how bad does the offense have to be before they send you to the Big House?

I’m not planning anything a jewelry heist or embezzlement. I’m not even sure my dirty deed is criminal. But my motto has always been if the opportunity presents itself, then, by George, don’t sit there, man. Do something about it!

I want to meet Steven Tyler, and my opportunities are limited. I think my only option is to rush the concert stage when Aerosmith plays Atlanta.

Surely, I would get off with a plea of temporary insanity. Sane middle-aged school teachers don’t normally risk a record for a photo op with a singing sensation. But then again I’m not normal, and this is no ordinary singing sensation. We’re talking Steven Tyler.

Now let’s get this straight. I am not obsessed with Steven Tyler. I don’t hide the fact that I really, really like his hair and its charms, braids, and feathers. But I do not in any way, shape, or form endorse his beliefs or code of morality, whatever it may be. I do like his bluesy voice. I like his voice a lot. Almost as much as I like his hair.

Steven Tyler is an icon to me, not an idol. I do not worship him. I do admire his talent. I do not want to stalk him. I simply want to mark off one more “to do” on my bucket list. And that, my friend, is meeting him and getting a photo to document the occasion.

I know that it’s standard procedure for authorities to take said mug shot at the station when they haul in the perpetrator, but I was hoping, should I be arrested for rushing the stage, that said authorities might be kind enough to snap my mug shot WITH Steven Tyler before I’m taken to the precinct. Mission accomplished. That’s the plan. Bail can’t be that much. Can it?

I embarrass my children talking like this. Yet, they are just as quirky as I am. Both of them. They’ll understand someday when their opportunities for adventure grow limited, when they have to either deal with their own quirkiticity or lose any creativity they ever had.

I guess it’s a good thing I’m a teacher. I never really have to grow up. Except for a short departure to the Boro, I’ve never really graduated from Central High.

I’ve accepted the fact that my destiny is to be one of “them,” the crazy teachers the students all whisper about between classes. I hear them talking.

 “Did you hear about Mrs. L? Yeah, she’s on that Tyler kick again.”

“Aw, man. I was just getting into our discussion of the futility of the American dream in Death of a Salesman. Now all we’re going to talk about is American Idol. Again.”

But the good thing about being a teacher is that I work with adolescents who have not yet embraced the mature adult state of mind that prohibits quirkiticity and embraces stoic etiquette.

I just found out Steven Tyler is hosting a Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp in LA. The thought of spending any time in a Playboy mansion disgusts me. But here we have one more very real opportunity to get a shot with the man.

And that is ALL I want. I do not lust after Steven Tyler. I do not desire his fame, his fortune. Well, maybe I DO covet his hair…and his clothing. My son Michael says we can go shopping together. He’s right.

My family members have been calling the radio station trying to help me win the contest that will send me to said fantasy camp. I’m sure they relish the idea of me just getting this notion out of my system so that I can go on to the next item on my list. Or they just want to get rid of me.

Fantasy camp is probably a no go. Oh, I clicked on the web site and filled out the online application—except the part where I had to enter my credit card number. The digits came close to $9000. I did not click enter.

So maybe the camp’s out of reach, but the concert is in the bag. Literally. I have my ticket in my school satchel. Notice I said ticket. My family won’t even go with me for fear I’ll embarrass them all, ruin their reputations. Get caught on camera by CNN.

I just don’t get it. I would never do anything lewd or immoral. I just want a picture. Is that too much to ask?

Well, and maybe one of his scarves. A scarf would be nice.

This is MY bucket list. And again, I do not endorse Steven Tyler’s beliefs, his morals, his lyrics.. My pursuit is just a manifestation of my quirkiticity. And I think he does a great job of helping the American Idol kids pursue their dreams.

I don’t want to go to jail. But a girl has to do what a girl has to do. My major concern is that this blog is evidence of premeditation.

But doesn’t premeditation just apply to murder and really bad crimes? I’m really not committing any crime. Not really.

I’m not even stalking the man. I just want a picture. (And maybe a scarf.) Is that too much to ask? I’m an aged, soft-spoken little woman. Do I look like a criminal? Surely, someone will take pity upon me.

I believe in the six degrees of separation.

Perhaps one of you bloggers out there knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows Steven Tyler. How hard would it be for one of Steven’s people to send a simple meet and greet pass to a simple school teacher who has given the majority of her life to help build America’s future?

I know how the music industry works. It’s all about who you know. And right now I don’t know Jack Squat.

If only I had a fairy godmother to grant me a wish. But, hey, I believe in serendipity. Perhaps the right person has stumbled onto this blog by accident. Maybe you could make a few calls, and bring a short little woman in a Tennessee hick town great happiness by sending her a meet and greet pass for a little concert in Atlanta,

I’ll let you know how it works out. Otherwise, look for me on CNN.

Dream on

Note: If my children read this, I will be in some serious trouble. But as they say, forgiveness is easier to get than permission.

Last night I treated my sons to a delicious meal at the Hong Kong Buffet. When the waitress brought us the ticket and our fortune cookies, Josh grabbed one and looked at me in horror.

“I’m sorry, Mom. I didn’t open it. I’ll put it back.” And he pulled his hands away. It was too late. He had already touched it.

See, we have this “thing” in my family. I ALWAYS get to pick the first cookie. I choose my fortune. Michael ALWAYS gets the last cookie. His fortune chooses him. Whoever’s left gets what’s in the middle.

But since Josh had already touched it, I told him to take it. I chose another one, and Michael’s cookie chose him.

Michael’s cookie said he needed some relaxation time. My cookie told me to pursue my long-term goal, and Josh’s cookie predicted mystery and romance.

“Hey, these cookies went to the wrong people. I think Michael needs the mystery romance cookie.”

Michael balked at Josh’s words. He’s is in that “in-between world” of not knowing whether he should run to or from girls.

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. We don’t put much stock into these “fortunes,” but we have a lot of fun with them—Michael, usually more than others. He likes to add the words “in the bathroom” to everyone’s fortune.

Try it. It’s fun—even though it’s obnoxiously juvenile. I always scold him when he says it at the restaurant, but on the inside I’m laughing.

I told Josh I believed his cookie was meant for him because the word romance didn’t necessarily mean “huggy, huggy, kissy, kissy.” And both of us proceeded to explain to Michael that romance also referred to adventure in a King Arthur kind of way.

I like to think both of my children are adventurous and romantic. When they were little, they became so caught up in their imaginations I had a hard time pulling them back to reality.

For eight years Josh was an only child, so he invented imaginary brothers and a sister—Kinder, Mark, and Folla. They road atop our van along with his imaginary uncle from England.

Josh went through a Batman phase. Even when it wasn’t Halloween, he used to dress like the superhero. I remember taking him into a Shoney’s in Knoxville. He signed autographs for the waiters and waitresses—as THE Batman.

He also created his own detective agency and made me print business cards for him.

Michael, on the other hand, has always been creative but in a different way. He’s always had Josh, so he didn’t need imaginary siblings. I could buy him expensive gifts at holidays, but there has always been one gift that enthralls him—pencil erasers, as long as they come in two colors so that he can create intricate battles between opposing teams or armies.

Isn’t that weird?

Michael also wants a golf cart more than anything else in the world. Who knows what he plans to do with it. For years he has pleaded with me. When Old Stone Fort shut down its golf course, Michael begged to go there so he could ask a park ranger for one of the golf carts.

Not going to happen.

Sometimes I wish I could go back to the days of my childhood. As only child, I spend nearly all of my waking moments in another world. It was okay back then. When you’re a kid, you can imagine all you want, and nobody thinks you’re weird.

I loved horses, so my mother’s brooms became my mighty steeds. My golden banana seat bike transformed into a palomino. I spent weekends at my grandparents’ hiding in the bathroom with my cousin Robin, my partner in crime, and we spent hours mixing Jergan’s lotion, Comet cleanser and other cleaning supplies into magical potions. Were we scientists or actresses in commercials? I don’t remember. We just had fun.

Sometimes I find myself drifting off into my imaginary world again, even as adult. When Josh read his fortune at the Hong Kong Buffet, I found myself drifting off again. I had a plan.

Josh is a journalism major and sometimes falls into media opportunities. There is a possibility he might work a major awards show in the near future. A possibility.

Sometimes these workers drive the celebrities to their appointments. If I recall correctly, one Steven Tyler showed up at last year’s event. Who’s to say he won’t come back this year?

So here’s the plan, man:

Josh finds a way to grab golf cart duty. He looks for Steven Tyler. He drives Steven Tyler in the golf cart, but he doesn’t stop at the awards show. He brings him to our house. (I don’t know what we’ll do with him once we get him—I don’t want to keep him. I just want to borrow him for autograph or a picture. Maybe a song.)

Mission accomplished.

If the plan works out, not only will I get to meet Steven Tyler, but Michael will get his golf cart. Josh will probably go to jail, but hey…he’s the one who grabbed the first cookie.

And it’s MY imagination.

Oh well. I guess I can just “dream on.”

Walk this way

Public domain photo

I’m not a world famous novelist or journalist. I’m just a simple person. I love God. I love people, especially those who feel unloved, and I want to be an encourager. I write from the heart. But the last three weeks have been so hard that I haven’t felt like writing anything at all, especially anything good or positive.

I shared my dilemma with my journalism students. We often talk about our personal writing struggles. They suggested I use my writing to work through my frustrations. I want to use my words to bless, not curse.

Then one of them suggested I write about Steven Tyler—a frequent topic in our random media discussions. He’s bad…in kind of a good sort of way.

Okay, I’ll confess. I like Steven Tyler. REALLY like. REALLY, REALLY like.

And so not to alarm my “normal” conservative family members and friends, please allow me to indulge in my infatuation from within an American Idol context. Yes, some of his Aerosmith lyrics are crudely suggestive. And yes, while I am adamant supporter of the First Amendment, I cringe when I think about how Aerosmith pushed for funding for federal funding of an explicit art exhibit in 1992. But let’s stick to this context—American Idol. Other than his occasional bleeps, Mr. Tyler is actually a pretty cool dude on the show.

There are two main reasons why Steven Tyler strikes a chord with me.

(Side note:  Despite what some of you might think, I won’t begin by talking about his hair—although I do like his long hair…and his feathers. It took me a while to believe he was actually wearing feathers, but that’s what they are, actual feathers in the form of hair extensions. Don’t believe me? Check out this salon that specializes in them.)

But I digress. Let’s get back to the point of this blog—two reasons why I like Steven Tyler on American Idol.

THE MINOR

The twinkle in Steven’s eyes suggests he’s a mixture of mischief and spontaneity, which if you know anything about me at all you know this is my kind of person. Steven makes the show more interesting. (Some days it’s all I can do to appear the calm, subdued English teacher. But what fun would life be if I didn’t talk my past a security guard into Fenway Park during the off season or if I didn’t accidentally find myself staring at a shiny badge during the middle of drug sting while searching for boxes for a move to a new apartment–just a couple of stories from previous blogs, I think.)

Steven Tyler doesn’t care what other people think. He wears what he wants to wear, he unleashes a quirky sense of humor the audience may or may not get, and he encourages whomever he pleases. In other words, he doesn’t give into the peer pressure of downing contestants just because Randy thinks they’re pitchy. And despite the gibes of his band mates, he followed the decision to do something “normal” like appear on a mainstream TV show.

THE MAJOR

Despite his outrageous rock n’ roll persona, Steven Taylor exudes compassion. He stole my heart the moment he knelt down beside the wheelchair of Chris Medina’s finance,  kissing and hugging her while reminding her how special she is. I also like the fact that, unlike Simon Cowell, Steven applauds the gospel roots of the contestants rather than showing contempt for their faith. Of course, Steven did grow up singing in a Presbyterian church choir.  He gets it. He has even voiced that he “gets it.” I wonder why he wandered away.

So in the context of American Idol, Steven Tyler is no longer the self-centered rock star with the ego-induced attitude. He appears the kindest and most humble of them all. Of course, Steven Tyler is on stage. He shows us what we want to see. We’re all on stage, aren’t we? Only God knows what’s really inside—good or bad.

I’m a public servant, a teacher. I’m on stage every day. Even when I’m sick with a fever or coping with the death of a loved one, I do my best to give my best performance. I shell out hundreds of dollars each year to equip my classroom or to buy things for a child who needs the help. I come in early and stay late and give away my time to someone else’s children. And not once have I ever raised my voice or said any child was “bad.”

My audience isn’t always so kind. Some of them take the term public servant and interpret it as “whipping boy.” They hurl hateful words at us teachers without regard for what it does to us emotionally. We’re the ones punished—or bullied—when their young princes and princesses don’t “make the grade”—literally now days.

What has all of that got to do with Steven Tyler, you ask?

Not much, really.

But on those days when my heart is too heavy to pour out anything good, on those days when the bullies make me their whipping boy, on those days  when I need a miniature vacation—an escape, I can point my remote to American Idol. I can pretend the American dream really can come true, I can listen to great music, and I can see the twinkle in Steven Tyler’s eye. It’s contagious. Before I know it, I’ve got one in my own.

And when I am heart is so heavy with grief and disappointment, I can do something goofy by writing about ceiling ninjas, pirates, or Steven Tyler. Maybe I can make someone smile—or even myself. Life is mean. We have to fight back if we’re going to help others get out of it alive.

And by alive, I do mean make it to eternity. Fighting back means using words to bless, not curse. Fighting back means trying to find the good in people, even when all they have to show is the bad.

Fighting back means not giving into peer pressure, the kind kids go through when they choose to go on a church retreat instead of a party…or the kind adults go through when they refuse to gossip during prayer meetings when their friends bring up so-called “needs.”

Fighting back means letting go of the ego and, instead, offering compassion. Fighting back means standing up to the bullies out there.

Fighting back also means letting go of the fear of being who God has called you to be. I just hope I don’t develop a taste for locusts and wild honey. But I sure do like Steven Tyler’s hair.

Don’t be surprised if the next time you see me I’m wearing feathers in mine.

Full moon crazy

Full moon tonight. The crazies come out.

I’m not sure what that means, but I think I like it. It’s been a long winter full of trouble, and I’m ready for the thaw. I need more crazy, the good crazy, the kind of crazy that brings out the kind of harmless mischief that ignites my creative spirit.

Writers thrive on crazy. Crazy schedules. Crazy thoughts. Crazy characters. And drama. Of course, it’s easy to deal with the drama when you can close the laptop and take a break. And the crazy characters? We can make ‘em do whatever we want. (Don’t you wish we had the power in real life? Maybe some of us do; maybe some of us don’t. Who pulls the puppet strings in your life? Just a side thought.)

Creative people need crazy.

Take American Idol for example. In my opinion, producers can thank Steven Tyler for breathing new life to a dying show. He adds just the right amount of crazy. He is a connoisseur of crazy. Steven refers to it as “goop,” the “stuff you get when you’re creative to get the job done.” But he’s right. James Durbin and Casey Abrams bring the crazy to every performance, and that’s why they make their fans go crazy.

All right, naysayers, chastising me for speaking so lightly about such a serious topic. I hear you. “How dare she be so flippant about the full moon? Hasn’t she heard that more accidents, more murders, and more crime occur during the full moon phase?”

Scientists tell us the moon has an effect on the oceans’ tides, and the Average Joe makes the assumption that if the moon has an effect on the large bodies of water, it probably affects small bodies too. We humans consist primarily of water—about 80%, right? Crazy thought, isn’t it?

I believe people do act a little more strangely during a full moon, maybe even a little meaner. But authorities haven’t agreed whether there is any scientific proof that the lunar phase has any real effect on a person’s emotions. Of course, the debate has gone on for years. Where do you think we get the words lunatic and looney? Full moon crazy.

Pagans have their own beliefs, but I am steadfast Christian. I don’t think full moon crazy stems from religion or science. I think we writers are responsible.

No, there’s not much scientific proof that weird things happen during a full moon, just writer conjecture. Songwriters, screenwriters, novelists, and journalists, we all perpetuate the myth. Thank you, Stephenie Myer for tweeking the moon myth with New Moon. And Warren Zevon, you incited terror in the heart of a teenage girl who listened to your vinyl 45 almost every night, worrying about poor Jim getting his lungs ripped out and feeling sorry for the “little old lady [that] got mutilated last night.”

Full moon crazy. Makes me want to take my new green journal to a picnic bench in the park and write tonight.

By the way, tonight’s full moon is what is referred to as a “super full moon” or a “perigee moon,” noted for its rare size and beauty. The last time we had one of these was back in 1993. Even if you’re more the analytical type with little time for my creative tom foolery, you should take time to see the show God’s putting on tonight. You’ll want to get there just after sunset for the best seats.

And by the way…..

FULL MOON CRAZY CONTEST

I need a little crazy, so in the words of Steven Tyler, give me the “goop.” What’s your best full moon crazy story? What are you going to do tonight? If you’re reading this after March 19, you can tell me what you did. Or just tell me your best full moon myth or trivia. I don’t care. I just need some full moon crazy. I need you.

I’ll randomly pick a comment and treat the writer to a cup of coffee. Don’t worry if you’re across the world. I’ll send you a Starbucks card. (Deadline is midnight, Monday, March 21.)

Congratulations Herb Crowder for winning the Starbucks card. (You should receive it soon.) I’m sorry for the delay in posting. Due to the death in my family, I have not been able to work with the blog for a short while. Thanks to all of you who have prayed for my mother and my family. She is resting now. Please remember my father in your prayers.