School Daze

“Two great gobs of greasy, grimy gopher guts, mutilated monkey meat, itty-bitty birdy feet; two big eyeballs rolling down a dirty street and me without a spoon…”

Out of all of the things I could remember from grade school, this is the one thing that just instantly pops in my head when I think of those early days of being a kid in the 70’s. I know there are different versions, depending on where in the world you grew up and so there are variations on the theme, but in general, it’s just plain silliness and I love it.

Whenever I think of school, the first thing that comes to mind is the crisp Autumn air, the leaves turning color and the back to school shopping, which was hands-down my favorite part of it all. Some kids want new shoes, new clothes and backpacks. I, on the other hand, looked forward to new pens and fresh, unmarked notebooks and piles of binder paper, just waiting to be filled with the endless stream of thoughts and ideas I always seem to find whenever faced with a blank page. I loved the new beginning, fresh start and endless possibilities that awaited me with each new school year; it was like New Year’s except without the hangover and the pressure to make resolutions. It was a chance to learn, to strengthen existing friendships, make some new ones and exercise my brain, while learning new concepts and discovering new worlds that I had not previously known. It was an escape from an unquiet, chaotic household to a world of order, clearly defined rules of behavior and expectations. It was a world of learning and because I was (and still am) a huge fan of learning, I received a great deal of praise and encouragement in those classrooms. It was a place that I felt I truly belonged to and some of my most formative lessons growing up took place at school.

As an adult, of course, things are a little different, but I still love learning. I have to work harder than I did as a kid because 5o is just around the proverbial corner and because (as you all know) my mood swings around like dancers doing the Lindy Hop.

But there are rewards that by far outweigh the effort put forth; the sense of accomplishment, of facing challenges and overcoming obstacles that you just don’t get when you run away or quit. It reinforces the belief that I am capable, intelligent and have some serious moxie.

mox·ie
noun NORTH AMERICAN informal
force of character, determination, or nerve.

I love that word, moxie. It’s so cool. Makes me think of old school gangster movies with Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney and Bogey.

Sorry. Shiny thing distracted me.

At any rate, school will always be a place that I love. I may not like the teacher, the subject matter or other miscellaneous things, it is a happy place for me and the memories of playing dodgeball and hopscotch will always be some of my all-time favorites. My first slumber party, becoming a song leader (cooler dancing sister to the cheerleader) and playing volleyball are some of milestones that made me the woman I am today and the teachers who were endlessly patient with my endless supply of questions nurtured the desire to learn in me and allowed me to explore my intellect and question what others called the truth.

Doodles. That’s another thing I love about school. Doodles are awesome.

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Mean Girls & Brave Girls

I know that most of, if not all of the women that read this post will be nodding their heads in agreement, remembering the ghosts of Mean Girls Past; whether from high school, college, grade school or even present-day workplace, we have met and endured them. They are the ones who gather followers in an ever-present revolving door of “you’re In” and “you’re Out” with little to no regard for the feelings of anyone other than themselves. You see, these Mean Girls believe that the only way they can be popular, get noticed and have any power is to steal it, manipulate others, lie and a host of other methods I won’t go into detail about. They are under the mistaken impression that if they surround themselves with followers, that will make them popular. There is a huge difference between being popular due to being a good friend and a thoughtful human being and being popular based on campaigns of fear, intimidation and attempts to shame and/or humiliate someone. Those girls are only following that Mean Girl because they believe that so long as they are faithful to her, they will escape her acid tongue and horrible acts. They are wrong, sadly. These Mean Girls are also so insecure that if someone doesn’t follow their direction, they become afraid that they will lose control of the group; maybe even lose the status they crave and the attention that is their motivation for all things Mean. So the BFF of yesterday is the outcast of today.

I have a co-worker who has a daughter who is currently experiencing first-hand the tactics of a Mean Girl at school and I have to tell you, she’s my hero. She is so brave and so strong and doesn’t demean herself by lowering her standards of behavior and “returning fire”.
There’s an old saying that fits nicely in this scenario and it goes something like this: “Never wrestle with a pig – you get dirty and the pig likes it” (said to be attributed to Abraham Lincoln). This Brave Girl doesn’t tell lies and spread bad things about the Mean Girl (even though they would be truths) and she doesn’t force other girls to be My Friend, Not Hers. She has a grace and a maturity that is well beyond her years and I am in awe. Not to say that these attacks haven’t hurt her deeply and the loss of girls she counted as True Friends, along the way. But she doesn’t let it break her spirit, she doesn’t give up, she doesn’t let the Mean Girl win. Do you know why? I do. It’s because she’s better than that; she’s meant for greater things and at the core of her being, she knows that. She is not and never will be a Mean Girl and I wish I could tell her that these things go away when you leave the playground, but I couldn’t lie to her. Mean Girls are a part of life, just like PMS and taxes; you can’t get away from it. But how you choose to see yourself when faced with one will be the difference between Victim and Victor; have faith in yourself, believe that this, too, shall pass and know that Brave Girls always win because they are true to themselves and make it through tough times, knowing that they will be all the stronger for having gone through them.

I dedicate this post to Shelby, the Brave Girl I know and to all the Brave Girls out there, fighting the good fight and staying strong. Be good to yourself and be good to your sisters; we can make a difference.