Be Good and Kind and Drink A Beer

We had dinner with two friends last week. They are married and I work with the wife. We are both teachers. We have many things in common with this couple including a love of food, beer, England, travel, good music, and corgis. This is nothing to write a blog post about of course, except one thing keeps striking me about our friendship with them. Neither my husband nor I are religious (I’m actually more on the atheist end of the spectrum with a good dash of humanism on top but that’s for yet another post) and our friends are you could say, very religious. In fact, the husband is a pastor at one of the largest churches in

Eat food and be merry!

Eat food and be merry!

the area.

Again, nothing to write a whole blog post about. After all, I have many friends who believe in something and take part in organized religion. They are all good and kind to everyone, even me, the godless atheist. This is true of our pastor friends as well.

But what really strikes me about our two friends is how simple and honest their view of god and religion is. “We just want to love people,” my teacher friend said to me once in passing. And do you know what, faceless internet readers? They actually mean it. No judgement. No dogma. No shame over enjoying a beer or cursing or asking hard questions. You’re not a bad person if you’re gay. You still deserve to have people who love you.

I try really hard not to be an angry non-believer. Speaking only of my personal experiences, it can be difficult when you see a consistent pattern of people behaving poorly and using god and religion as an excuse. Because of my experiences, especially those in the last several years, I have so much more respect for our two friends. Though I am not a Christian, or at all religious, these two people are probably the best example of what a good Christian should be. That, I think is what life should be about and if you ascribe to a religion or a set of beliefs then, yes, that’s what your god should be about: Being good to people. Having dinner. Laughing. Loving people.

Ultimately, I think our friends and my husband and I  believe in the same fundamental ideals. We just approach these ideals from two different ends of a spectrum. Our friends ask the same questions and even see the same issues with religion and church that we do– and man is that refreshing.God and Beer. Two things that go pretty ok together if handled correctly.

I guess I keep thinking about this because neither my husband nor I talk much to anyone about what we don’t believe. It tends to start fistfights and make people uncomfortable. And, it’s deeply personal. In the right and respectful circumstances, I love talking about what people believe and why. But rarely is there a right and safe circumstance. I just keep thinking, how awesome is it that four people –two, for all intents and purposes, atheists, and a pastor and his wife– can sit down at dinner and have the same views of the big picture.

You don’t have to believe in each other’s religion. You don’t even have to have one. But if you do, be good and kind and eat bread and drink a beer. As just one atheist with a sprinkling or humanism, I will appreciate and respect you for it.

I feel kind of silly saying this because I already knew it, but we aren’t, all of us, so different after all. I guess it’s nice to be reminded that people can be good. And that, we can all agree on, is worth a raised glass of beer.

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Machine Gun Nancy Go!

It’s my first official day of summer.

 Summer!

For the last 6 or so summers I have had a part time job. I worked retail for 5 years and had a fabulous closet to show for it. Last summer, tired of spending most of my money on my wardrobe and dealing with people who treated me like an idiot instead of the fashion fabulous educated gal that I am, I took a job coaching a summer swim team.

Now THAT was a terrible idea. It was horribly stressful, too much work for the pay, and you know what? As much as I love kids (hello, teacher!), I really needed a break from them. We’re getting ready to buy a house this fall and I tossed around the idea of working that retail job again to get us an extra grand or two, but the husband said give yourself a break, you crazy, lady. (Actually, he said much nicer things, but I think the crazy part can be inferred.)

So, I’m giving myself a break but I have a whole list of things that I want to accomplish over these next two months.

  • Packing the nonessentials for the Big House Buy 2014
  • Walking the dog every morning and evening
  • Working out a money-saving, waist reducing meal plan
  • Cleaning/maintaining the house
  • Doing a few DIY projects… maybe
  • Reading, reading, reading (and going to the public library for the first time in 2 years to fuel my book habit)
  • Working out at least 6 times a week

I got up this morning at my normal time, made coffee, tooled around the internet, took the dog for an hour long walk, had more coffee, made a healthy breakfast, started laundry, and it’s not even 9:30 yet. I’m feeling pretty good so far and more like myself than I have in awhile. I kind of forgot what it was like to take a breath and not really have anything going on. I really want to take time this summer to be productive and unstressed.

A huge part of that will be eating right and exercising. I love working out. I love it because it makes me feel

After Machine Gun Nancy Go! Mode -- in which I work out like a crazy lady for 90 minutes 5-6 days a week.

Prone on the floor after Machine Gun Nancy Go! Mode — in which I work out like a crazy lady for 90 minutes 5-6 days a week.

strong, good about myself, and because I work out like I’ll never see gym equipment again, it lets me eat what I want. The problem with that mentality is when I am tired and stressed from a bitch ass year and I don’t want to work out AND I want to eat all of the cupcakes to bury my feelings in deep inside sugar and sprinkles. When I’m in my Machine Gun Nancy Go! Mode– or you know, my really intense work out mode– or, you know, how I imagine myself as I’m working out, which is a heroine of a Japanese Manga in which I definitely have a  machine gun/sword and an attitude and will definitely save the world from the evil ninjas/ robots/demons/ whatever–  I work out like clockwork and I can eat whatever the hell I want. But when I’m in this mode, I don’t want all of the cupcakes because I feel good, want to work out, want to maintain, and thus: healthy. Stressed out Nancy eats all the cupcakes, thinks, “well, I work out hard… most daysish… I can have cupcakes for breakfast” and then feels like a mass of sad flesh later. I don’t like feeling like that and I refuse to 1) let myself feel that way again 2) sit around when I can get back into my routine.

We’re in a wedding at the end of the month and there is a dress that I need to comfortably fit in all day long. I will not be sad, sorry, sack of flesh bridesmatron. I will also not focus on my health just to look good for that day. My goal is to maintain my skinny shorts circumference through the summer and fall, and winter, and right back into shorts season.

So, my real goal this summer is to find constants and reboot myself. Life is good and I am lucky to have the one that I do.  I’m grateful that I have a job that allows me time to take a breath every year and a spouse who tells me that if I want to, I should just go and workout and read a book already. I’m hoping that by writing all this down, I’m solidifying what I do and do not want my summer to be. I won’t always have the luxury of two months of free time and since I need it so badly right now, I want to make sure I don’t waste it.

Happy June 2nd, I’m gong to go jump on the elliptical.

 

 

Belief is a Five Foot Two Deoderant Free Child

SchoolI am not a religious person. Every now and again, I am faced with the question “what do you believe“? It is not a difficult question to answer, though it could be for lots and lots of tricky reasons that people like to get mad or sad about. But this is not a post about labels or lack of belief.

In fact, it is about belief.

I believe in people. Sometimes that’s hard to hold firm and to affirm. I believe and know that people are good.  Some days my faith in people is shaken, because I also believe and know that people can be bad. On those days, if you were to ask me what I believe in, I would say that I always, always, aways believe in kids. Always. That is one reason I teach, because above all else, I will always believe in my kids, your kids, the kids in the one room school-house, the kids who skip school, the hand raisers, the grade skippers, the ones who hate to read. I will always believe in them.

You probably think I am crazy. Kids? Middle schoolers? You rest your belief in something five foot two that hasn’t discovered deodorant yet? you ask. Yes. Yes, I do, and let me tell you why.

I believe in their potential to change the world in small, everyday ways. I believe that they will discover things that will change they way we live, save lives, encourage one another, change systems that are broken, and stand up for what a generation before them could not, tried to but failed to. I believe in them because the world hasn’t had the chance to try and turn them into “people” and they have yet to make choices that might weigh them down or might, someday, shake my faith in humanity.

I believe in them because when I teach, I see them thinking, creating, and wondering and they are so brilliant it makes me want to cry and hug them and shake them by their shoulders and tell them that the world is theirs, do good, work hard, you are my hopes and my dreams. And they are. They give me hope, especially when I start to lose my faith in the rest of the people.

They give me hope because they wave hello, they open doors for one another, they say thank you, or they don’t, but I catch the gratitude in some other way on some other day. They give me hope when they make me laugh, and even when they test my patience, when they talk too much or throw a standing ovation temper tantrum at 12 because I think, this is just the beginning, and you have so much more to give.

They give me hope when they are kind, as no one else but a child can be, when they put a hand on a friend’s shoulder and say, “Hey, buddy, you look down today. Are you doing ok?”

How can you not believe in the potential of people when you see that a foot in front of you?

So, I believe in kids and because of them, I believe in people and all of the goodness that they can do. And some day they’ll figure out the deodorant thing, I know it.

 

Mysteries of the Pantsless

Don't judge the wrinkles.

Don’t judge the wrinkles.

The plains and the people in them were finally taught a lesson after two years of sticking our thumbs in our ears and going “pbbbbfffft” at the weather. Or maybe it’s just me that does that. Around February 15th every year I dare Mother Nature to get colder, because, please, I can practically see March and Spring Break, you wouldn’t dare, Nature.

She dared. There is a snow drift practically up to my big picture window and I’ve been inside for two going on three days. I am anxious to go outside but also, no thank you, because it is cold, I am short, and I might get lost in the hip deep depths a few paces from our front door.

So, excuses to stay inside: I haven’t written anything in a while and I am trying to do that more. Excellent. A reason to stay in my jim jams for another half hour and entertain no one but myself with another teaching story.

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It is a well-known fact that Miss G. does not wear pants. The 6th grade children, who somehow cannot remember homework or that they should, yes, please, write their names on all their papers, run into one another because they have no spacial awareness, have sharp eyes for inside out sweaters (I wish this had only happened once. I did it again this year, too. ) and fashion.

 The weekend after I bought a very trendy cape coat one 6th grade boy says, “Miss G.,” as he runs past and into the room just as the bell rings, “that is a very fashionable coat.”

See?

So they have noticed that I do not wear pants. Ever. Coldest day of the year? Who cares. That’s what tights and boots are for. It becomes a point of curiosity. And concern.

After a fun day of writing six word stories, they turn in their assignment: Write 6 different 6 word stories. One reads, “Please wear pants. It’s winter time.” Five words technically, but clever. Another, not about pants, but so sweet and endearing it has to be shared: “I still wish I could fly.” And you wonder why I love to teach middle school.

Another time a little girl turns to me with a serious question. “Miss G., would you rather wear pants or be chased by a bear?” Naturally, it depends on what kind of bear I am being chased by.

And just after the year turns over into 2012 and it is cold, cold, cold I finally do wear pants and they ask what I have done with Miss G. and it becomes a story that spreads to the whole of sixth grade. “Have you heard? Miss G. is wearing pants.” And they all come to look and tell me I don’t look like myself at all. It was a big mystery why I didn’t wear pants. I became much like the bearded lady at a carnival when both my legs were jammed into uncomfortable sausage casings. I mean, pants.

I wear them now. My current 6th graders have no idea what I put my kids through last year. If they saw me now, they might keel over in surprise.

And why didn’t you wear them, Miss G? They would ask.

Because it’s funny. Also, they pinch. Now let’s talk about grammar.