“You ask why to a lot of things and you wind up very unhappy indeed” * Or, Book Club 101

I mentioned in my last post that I teach high school English now. In that capacity, I’m co-leading an extracurricular book club with another high school English teacher. Originally, I envisioned it primarily for eleventh-graders, and primarily for the eleventh-graders who are taking the dual credit college composition course I’m teaching and are therefore not being instructed in the reading-literature standards the state is going to test them on in April.

I bet you know where this is going. (No, it’s not a rant about state testing, but I will eventually feel compelled to write that rant, no doubt.) Or maybe you live a life that keeps you blissfully unaware of what high school students at very small, low-achieving public schools are like. In which case you may not know that one thing these high school students are not interested in is reading books, or if they are reading them, they’re not interested in talking about them with other people.

So those eleventh-graders I mentioned? They’re not getting extra time talking about (how to read) literature. Instead, we had one lone seventh-grader show up for book club. She rushed in, breathless, at the end of our first lunch-hour meeting, so committed to joining that she left another lunch-hour meeting early to come to ours. This is a girl after my own heart.

But this is not a post about her, or about the state of public education in this country (which is too big for me to tackle here). It’s about what we decided to read.

A little history first: the original plan for the book club was to be very open in terms of what to read, because we didn’t want to scare off any potential members with too prescriptive of a reading list. That said (and we being English teachers at an underfunded public school with underprepared students), we figured we’d try to steer toward 1) the “classics” that students are not reading in the classroom but that might be on the state test, and 2) the books we already have teacher sets of in the school library. So the top two options were, originally, The Scarlet Letter and To Kill a Mockingbird. I have nothing against either of these books–I actually have a soft spot in my heart for 19th-century American literature–but to be honest, I wasn’t thrilled about either choice. (Funny aside: I was going to vote for reading To Kill a Mockingbird just because I figured reading Hawthorne with high school students would stamp out my affection for those American Renaissance writers. That’s right: when you teach high school English, you seriously consider avoiding the books and writers you love so that they don’t become fatally associated with the profoundly frustrating experience of actually trying to teach them. Oh, the irony!)

I’m veering off course. The point is, that original iteration of the book club got absolutely no interest. So I revised it into the “Dystopian Book Club” and had my eighth-grade son, who wrote a series of widely popular morning announcements for Halloween-o-grams back in October, quick write up and deliver a morning announcement for our dystopian venture. This version of the club (and the announcement about it, I suspect) is what elicited our lone seventh-grade joiner. (Since then we’ve grown our ranks: the seventh-grader brought her eighth-grade brother into the mix, and my own eighth-grader and sixth-grader have joined as well. If you’re into statistics, this means there’s only one person in the club who isn’t blood-related to anyone else in the club. Oh, the irony?!)

What was our first book choice? Fahrenheit 451. I hadn’t read it in many years and had little recollection of it, but gosh, that Bradbury had his finger on–way back in 1950 when he published the first (shorter) version of the novel as “The Fireman”–what are now some troubling contemporary issues. For those of you who don’t know (or, like me, don’t remember stuff), the novel follows a week or so in the life of a “fireman” named Guy Montag. In Bradbury’s dystopian world, fireman don’t put out fires, they start them. And they start them in order to burn books–and sometimes the people who own them. So, at its most obvious, Fahrenheit 451 is about censorship.

Bradbury doesn’t get everything right (like: he wants, at least in part, to blame political correctness for censorship, which reads–surprise, surprise–like the plaint of a privileged white guy who doesn’t want “minorities” questioning what he says is true), but his exploration of the breakdown of barriers between screens and life is pretty impressive, given how limited the technology was when he first wrote this book.

But the real itch I’ve been wanting to scratch, the reason I’ve been wanting to write about this experience, has to do with the book’s meditation on happiness. I’ve been thinking about happiness a lot recently. In our particularly American context, happiness is a good to be pursued–you know, the old “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” When I say “good,” I do mean it in both its moral-philosophical and its economic senses. The book questions this pursuit of happiness, equating it with the suppression of dissent and the elimination of the leisure required to think (deeply) about anything important. In other words, thinking about things causes dissent and, therefore, makes us unhappy. Struggle makes us unhappy. In this context, pleasure and ease are happiness, and such things are found on the surface of life, not in its depths (and, as we know, pleasure and ease can be bought). As the book’s antagonist, Beatty, puts it in his attempt to head off Montag’s crisis (of faith? conscience?) and justify the work of the firemen,

We stand against the small tide of those who want to make everyone unhappy with conflicting theory and thought. We have our fingers in the dike. Hold steady. Don’t let the torrent of melancholy and drear philosophy drown our world. We depend on you. I don’t think you realize how important you are, we are, to our happy world as it stands now.  (61-2)

Of course, it’s not a happy world underneath. Duh, it’s a dystopia. In the opening pages, Montag’s wife tries to commit suicide, an event that she doesn’t remember in the morning (and plot turn that made my sixth-grader throw down the book in disgust). Characters make references to suicides throughout the book, evincing little sorrow or concern. Nothing, not even death, is worth that much thought. Really, what Beatty’s pulling for is to maintain the happy surface, symbolized by Montag’s frozen and “fiery smile” that “never ever went away, as long as he remembered” (4).

Right. So, like I said, I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness lately as well, though not in the lofty, society-changing way that Bradbury does in his book. I’ve been thinking about it because I am not super-happy here. But then I wonder, is that really the point? I mean, so what if I’m (not) happy? Shouldn’t the purpose of life be something more or other than the pursuit of happiness? And if you get happiness as a byproduct of that other pursuit, then bully for you, but if you don’t, well…

The issue seems to be (in life and in Bradbury’s book) that happiness has become unmoored from meaningfulness, or, more precisely, that true happiness is the result of meaningful engagement with the struggle of life. But this is my question: what if the struggle doesn’t produce happiness–true or false? Does that mean it’s not meaningful?

At the beginning of the book, right before Montag comes home to find his almost-dead-by-pill-suicide wife, he meets the teenaged Clarisse McKellan–a character prone to thinking and questioning and “running in the moonlight” (10)–who asks Montag whether he’s happy. He finds the question nonsensical–of course he’s happy; I find it somewhat beside the point. What Montag eventually embarks on, by the end of the book, is not the pursuit of happiness. In fact, the life he chooses promises to be hard and dangerous. The difference is that he believes it to be meaningful and therefore feels connected to other men who are pursuing meaningful lives and making difficult choices. (And yes, they’re all men.) It’s not ultimately about happiness.

The two characters–Clarisse and Beatty–who pose questions of happiness to Montag are clearly meant to represent opposing ideas of what a happy existence should entail. Beatty’s is the happiness of no-struggle/go-with-the-flow/conform/do-what-you’re told. Clarisse-as-happiness is about making human connections and questioning impressions and experience and thinking deeply about the meaning of life. What I see in my classroom is a paralyzing mix of a Clarisse-ian resistance to doing what you’re told just because you’re supposed to and a Beatty-ian commitment to no struggle. On the one hand, there’s the students’ overall and unquestioned belief that an easily-obtained personal happiness is the greatest good–whether that means getting a good grade or, at least a passing grade, without having to do any classwork or homework that isn’t entertaining enough to maintain their interest. On the other hand, there’s definitely resistance, which comes about via questioning, if not outright refusal.

For example, just last week, a student (an eleventh-grader!) spent an entire class session complaining about having to read and write about Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” (and successfully avoided doing both, despite the multiple offers of one-on-one help from the aide sitting next to him). “How is this relevant to me?” he asked, because that question is the criteria by which students judge the work they’re being asked to do. It’s a reasonable question–and I want them to question the educational system they are ensconced in–but if “relevance” is judged in relation to personal and immediate happiness (of grades, of not having to struggle), then work of any kind is not going to be relevant, even, or maybe especially, the work of learning. We just don’t equate anything that feels like “work” with “happiness.”

And maybe we shouldn’t. That’s what I keep coming back to. Maybe that’s the misstep right there–happiness as the ultimate goal, as the primary preoccupation. Maybe the cultural script should focus on the importance of difficult, meaningful work as the goal of life, where “happiness,” whatever it means, is not even a part of the equation.** (That would mean providing everyone with opportunities for difficult, meaningful work, though.)

How to be happy, how to live a meaningful life–these are not new questions, and I’m wading too deep into philosophical waters without the proper safety equipment. Suffice to say, trying to make learning fun and students happy can be quite the vicious circle for teachers and a source of much unhappiness for everyone involved. (Oh, the irony!) Beatty describes exactly what I feel as a high school English teacher right now. I’m one of “those who want to make everyone unhappy with conflicting theory and thought,” and my students are not having it. They don’t want life complicated by what they see as artificial choices. Who could blame them? The struggle of learning is for suckers. Grades are what matter. And English teachers especially are a pain in their collective ass.

Didn’t I tell you it was a hard job?

Am I just an old curmudgeon who is begrudging my students their happiness as my own flounders? Am I just a burnt-out teacher looking for another way to complain about “kids today”? I don’t think so. At least, that’s not my intent or what I feel in my heart of hearts. But too often I find I want them to just do what they’re told, and to do it because I said so, without any resistance. My goal as an educator is not to create people whose most developed talent is to sit down, shut up, and follow directions, but (more irony) if they don’t just sit down, shut up, and do what they’re told–which is reading and talking and writing about texts–how will they learn how to question critically and practice resistance when it really matters? It feels like a losing proposition, though, because I’m asking them to pick the struggle that creates more struggle, rather than the one that provides the immediate gratification–the happiness–of not having to do the work.

 


* p. 60 [This and all other quotations are from the 1991 printing of the 1953 Del Rey edition of Fahrenheit 45.]

** Somehow, I’ve managed to lead myself around to a preliminary claim that suggests that the Declaration of Independence got it wrong. That’s not where I thought I was headed in this post.

 

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Hello, Old Friend

What fun to find my former self on these few pages written while I was embarking on a new life path.

Maybe “fun” isn’t the right word. Odd, then. But not in a particularly bad way.  More like a befuddled, “Huh. Where did that person go?”

The last time I posted, we had just moved to Long Island. We lived there almost three years. We stopped homeschooling and enrolled in (a very good) public school. One boy took up running. The other, soccer. They made a film and premiered it at the talent show. We made good friends. We got a dog.

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We went upstate, visiting Sleepy Hollow right around Halloween. We made it to TWO Yankees games and more than one Mets-Brewers games. We spent one Christmas in the city, eating the best Chinese dumplings ever and visiting the top of the Rock. We made it, with only weeks to spare, to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

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And we did the American Museum of Natural History and Central Park twice, not to mention the Met, the Guggenheim, and MoMA. We went to Philly (twice), and DC, and Boston, and the Green Mountains in Vermont, and Shenandoah. We managed to make it to Fire Island and Montauk, and we perfected the drive from NY to WI and back again.

I started on a new career path with Eastern National: I was the site supervisor at Sagamore Hill, a job that allowed me to flex my writing and visual presentation skills, along with managing employees and budgets. It was fun (fun is indeed the right word here). I was in on the planning and prep for some important events, did work at the NPS sites in the city, and got to try my hand at product development and promotion. I don’t like to brag, but Eastern National did pretty well at Sagamore Hill while I was there, and I’m darn proud of my work for the company.

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Then the husband got a job at Grand Canyon. And here we are! Living at one of the most iconic national parks of all time. I mean, come on! There’s even a movie called Grand Canyon! (I should find that one for the boys to watch, though they’ll spend the whole time asking me why it’s called Grand Canyon when it’s set in LA.)

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New state. New career path. I’m an English teacher at the high school here, recruited the day after we arrived. And yes, I’ve been an English teacher before, but not in a K-12 context, and there’s definitely a learning curve.

It’s been a whirlwind of change–change of culture, change of profession, change of climate, change of elevation, change of exactly how long it takes to get home (too long). When I go to the edge of the canyon, I expect to see water. I grew up on the edge of Lake Michigan, where the best views are of water. There’s no water here, at least none you can feast your eyes on, unless you hike the several miles down into the Canyon to the Colorado River. If you do, though, fair warning: you also have to hike the several miles back up and out, which is hard work. I guess that’s how I’d characterize this new chapter in my life–everything is harder. The ground is harder, the hikes are harder, the work is harder, the views are harder. The life is harder.

You should come visit.

 

A Chief’s Wife Doesn’t Whack Weeds *

The other day, someone referred to me as “a chief’s wife.”

The next day, as I was working on why being referred to as “a chief’s wife” would stick in my craw, there was a guy whacking the weeds directly outside my open window, and he seemed to follow me into every room.  I tried to be thankful that I don’t have to do the yard work, but the two things–the comment and the weed-whacking–seem connected in some way that captures something important about our transition from west Texas to Long Island.

The weed whacker is one of the many “perks” of living at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, which is where we’ve landed after the whirlwind that was west Texas.  I put “perks” in quotation marks because, well, the perks of living here are very real and also qualified.  Like: I don’t have to whack my own weeds, but I also don’t get to plant flowers in my yard.  Or a garden.  (Historical integrity!)  Living here also means that we can afford to live on Long Island at all, but, at the same time, it means (for Martin, at least) literally living at work–and in what often feels a bit like a fishbowl, since we live in the maintenance yard, and there are, very regularly, men doing noisy work right outside my door.  They’re nice guys, and they don’t peek in the windows or anything, but still, it’s a little weird.

We lived “at work” in west Texas, too, when, for five weeks, we got to crash in a one-bedroom (!) duplex at Guadalupe Mountains.  Our next door neighbor, Christie, became one of the boys’ treasured buddies, along with Brian in the duplex in front of ours, and Delco, who lived just down the road.  From these guys, the boys learned how to block and dodge punches, ding-dong ditch, and handle themselves around mules.  They ate elk for the first time and played with real (unloaded) rifles.  They got to ride in Delco’s rattling Jeep and Christie’s big, gleaming truck, and one time, Brian left a “warning” on our car (he’s law enforcement), which the boys found great delight in leaving on his in return.  They got to walk Edna’s sweet little dogs (so much giggling), and Felix, especially, got to know Sara and Bridget in the Visitor’s Center, where he hosted a table of please-touch animal artifacts and rang up purchases at the cash register, and they made sure he felt like he belonged there, with the grown-ups.

The boys would have been content if, along with our stints at volunteer work, including opening up Pratt Cabin and Frijole Ranch and chatting up the visitors, all we ever had done at GUMO was hike–up to the tippy-top of Texas, down Devil’s Hall, up to the “secret” cabin, and around the Bowl.  But luckily, they got way more than what just Mom and Dad could offer.  What I hope the boys will remember most about their time at GUMO is that they met a lot of genuinely interesting and caring people who made them feel welcome in a community with no other kids for miles around, (except those visiting the park).  They blossomed through this experience of being treated, by adults, not as if they were (mini) adults themselves, but worthwhile companions, nonetheless.

We were there just over a month, and no doubt, if we had gotten to stay longer, living in the middle of nowhere would have felt oppressive at times, particularly during the summer months of 100+ degrees every day.  Then again, it’s difficult to feel closed-in under a west Texas sky.  Waking up every morning to jagged mountains cutting through a heartbreakingly blue sky, and going to bed every night under a blanket of stars (a cliché, I know, but so apt), I felt a kind of peace that is hard to come by elsewhere.  Guads

Don’t get me wrong, our regular challenges (as individuals, as a family) persisted.  A west Texas sky is not a miracle cure for all that ails you.  But the experience of being there was unparalleled in my life. It was a time when things converged in just the right way.  And I will keep the memory of it close.  As I slog through the rain, humidity, and traffic of summer on Long Island.  😉

Because now I am “a chief’s wife.”  Where once I was “Melissa” (the best way to be) or “Professor Schoeffel” (inaccurate, but fine, whatever) or “Mrs. Schoeffel” (inaccurate in an upsetting, my-mom-is-not-here way) I am now “a chief’s wife.”

What.the.fudge.  [We’re trying out a new non-swearing approach in our family.  Don’t worry, though: I get a pass when I’m driving, otherwise I’d owe about a thousand dollars to the swear jar, which Felix claims I created in order to “get rid of some spare change.”  Oh, that one, he’s a charmer.]

For whatever reason, being referred to as “Felix’s mom” or “Alfred’s mom” has never rankled.  It most often comes from their peers, and really, there’s nothing more fun for me than walking into a grade school classroom, for example, and being greeted with “Hi, Alfred’s mom!” or “Hey, it’s Felix’s mom!”  Love it.

And I love my husband, too.  But I don’t really want to be his “wife.”

No, that’s not precise or true (most of the time).  I was “Martin’s wife” at Chamizal and GUMO, and it was alright.  At Chamizal, I suppose, I still felt like a person in my own right.  At the very least, I was still working at maintaining a (mostly) full-time position as a college-level instructor, still traveling down the career path I had chosen over a decade before, so even if I had been “a chief’s wife” there, it would have felt like a pretty small part of who I was.  At GUMO, I had already knocked down to teaching only one online section and was no longer operating under any illusions about maintaining my career path, for sure, but I also didn’t get the feeling that anyone felt compelled to be nice to me because of whose wife I happened to be.  When I met people, we became friends (or not) because of something other than my marital status (even if being “Martin’s wife” was why I ended up there in the first place), or my professional life, for that matter.

Now that we’ve landed here, where we expect to be for a good while, I’ve had to begin grappling with what my life is going to be, for real, now that it is no longer what it was.  I’m “a chief’s wife.”  And as a chief’s wife, I’ve experienced a really strange mixture of being ignored because I’m a woman–like the time when the whole family was being introduced to a man who shook Martin’s and the kids’ hands, but didn’t even look at me–and feeling like I’m being accommodated because of whom I happen to be married to.

Talk about being unmoored.

I’ve known this was coming.  I’ve tried to shore up some internal resources for dealing with such a major shift in my sense of self.  Becoming a homeschooler has been part of the shoring up and making the transition meaningful.  I get some of the same pleasure from homeschooling as I get from paid teaching, and some of the same grief.  What I don’t get is any recognition of myself as a person outside of my roles as wife and mother, or much time with grown-ups overall (especially when half of them pretend I’m not there).

It was my choice, I know.  And though I knew it was coming, this change in how I’m perceived in the world, chalk it up to my inferior mental powers that I am nevertheless perplexed and disheartened by it.

What to do?

What I’ve begun to do, now that I’m “just” a wife and mother, is dig deeper into the homemaking arts.  (If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em??)  I maintain a “starter” now, with which I make bread.  [Two loaves under my belt qualifies me as a “breadmaker,” I’m sure of it.]  I have carrots fermenting in my pantry and probiotic lemonade in my fridge.  I made cream cheese. I can now roast a chicken (no small thing for a vegetarian-up-until-last-October), make broth with its poor chicken carcass, and have plans to make homemade mayonnaise, among other various and random things. I’ve made my own bug spray, with which I will squirt you when you come to visit, because the mosquitoes out here are nuts, and I can’t let you spray all those toxic chemicals on yourself.  So there’s that.  And it helps.  And it will continue to take up more space in our lives, which is good enough, for now.

I fear I’ve given Sagamore Hill a bad rap in my waxing nostalgic about my former self–and Texas (!), of all places.  It’s a good place, this little pocket of history.  I am happy we are here, where we have easy access to New York City and wilderness areas with views of the Atlantic Ocean that cannot be contained in even the most rapacious eye (or a photograph).  FireIsland

Long Island is not too shabby, folks.  And I already have a friend!  She is lovely, and is also negotiating being “a wife,” when she used to be, you know, a person.

I know, have known from the start, that in the midst of this ruminating on what we have lost, I will be better able to see all there is to gain in our adventure.  The most important of these things is a deepened appreciation for all my friends–old, new, and yet-to-come.

 

* Just to be clear, our yard work is off-limits to me because the house we live in is a historic structure.  It really has nothing to do with being a chief… or a chief’s wife. 

 

One of those days

Yesterday was one of those days.

It was one of those days that made me think, “Hey, maybe this was a good idea.”  What was a good idea, you ask?  Well, primarily the decision to homeschool.  But also everything that came with it that got us here, to this point–a homesick Wisconsin family living in the suburban desert of West Texas. Because yesterday was one of those days when it was really good to be a family, together, in the middle of nowhere.

Felix has been busy making movies lately.  Well, mostly movie trailers (I think the trailers outnumber the actual movies 3 to 1.)  We recently downloaded the iMovie app onto the boys’ iPads, and while Alfred finds iMovie to be a snarl-inducing frustration, Felix LOVES it.  He’s been a movie maker for a while, but his early work was done with a digital camera and a laptop running Windows Live Movie Maker.  Switching to iMovie on the iPad (with its own built-in camera) has had quite an impact on his productivity.

Even without it, though, Felix is one of those people who can maintain concentration on a project for a really sustained amount of time.  If he wants to make a movie, he makes a movie, no matter if friends come knocking on the door or his mother is yelling at him to get dressed/eat something/clean up/get ready for bed/etc.  It takes him hours.  Days.

He is driven, persistent, creative, and a really good storyteller.

These are some of the qualities that make me lean toward what the folks call “unschooling” as I continue trying to figure out how to make homeschooling work for us.  Unschooling is theorized (and ideally practiced) as a learner-driven approach to education, where the kids follow their own interests and parents/teachers serve as guides on their journey.  It means that the parent’s attention is focused differently–less on curriculum development (or curriculum-purchasing) and more on how to support what the child is interested in learning about.

This is a pretty basic definition, one that doesn’t do unschooling justice, really, and one that will no doubt get more traditional homeschoolers irritated with me for making it seem as though they’re not interested in what their children are interested in learning.  That’s not what I’m saying.  What I’m really getting at, I guess, is that there is a different kind of attention paid to children’s interests, and that it demands a different kind of structure to our “school.”

Yesterday, “structure” meant packing up the majority of the boys’ stuffed animals, some Lego characters, and some Cars cars, along with the model T-Rex skeleton (named “T-Dex,” in case you’re interested), and driving two hours to shoot the photos necessary to make several Felix productions.  Guess who made this happen?

Daddy.

The boys have been wanting to go back to White Sands National Monument since the last time we went (1 year ago?  2?).  If you’ve never been, we’ll take you there when you come to visit.  What is super-fun about White Sands is that you can go sledding.  On the white sand.  That looks and, more or less, acts like snow (that never melts).  Except that yesterday, for example, it was 80 degrees out and everyone was barefoot and in shorts and t-shirts.  So, we had been planning to go to White Sands on Saturday anyway for some sledding and hiking, but after a few days last week of Daddy coming home from work to the screening of yet another Felix production (I think it’s Toymaster Films, officially), he asked Felix if he wanted to shoot on location.  Then, together, the night before last, they gathered everything Felix would need to complete several of his filmic visions.  And yesterday morning, we headed out “on location.”

Here are the boys, post-sledding, scouting the best location (the biggest boy is Daddy, “assistant to the director,” which means he carries all the gear):

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Felix has never been an “easy” child.  It’s what comes along with being driven, creative, persistent.  So, to create events, situations, entire days, when he is thoroughly engaged and … happy–no, happy is not the right word, even though he was definitely that; he was in what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls a state of “flow”–is a challenge.  Yesterday, he was fully himself and thoroughly enjoying it, even though it was hard work.  And witnessing it was pure joy for me.

And key to his happiness, his state of flow, was his father’s role in it.  They did it all together.  Alfred and I amused ourselves as best we could and stayed out of the way.

Here are Felix and his dad, shooting some scenes in the sunlight.IMG_0196

While they set up, photographed, took down, and started the process all over again, Alfred and I doodled in the sand.  Without Grandma living nearby, there’s been a sad lack of art-making in Alfred’s life, so we were both happy to have this chance.  IMG_0198

And I got a whole bunch of love notes out of the deal.

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It was a perfect day.  And it would have been perfect even if almost all of Alfred’s artwork hadn’t been love notes to his mother.  It would have been perfect even if one of Felix’s movie projects hadn’t turned out to be “Lost In the Dunes: A Father-Son Story,” which though not fully made yet, promises to be a beautiful tribute to this time he had with his dad.

Our days with them as children are already so numbered.  Felix will be 10 in two weeks, and I know he feels himself to be turning a corner of childhood. To have this one day was such a gift.  And it couldn’t have happened any other way.  We had to have made these terrifying changes to get to this point, and (for today, at least) I am so grateful we did.

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El Paso observation

When the weather is cloudy and in the 60s (with a scattering of raindrops, no less), people around here bundle up in scarves, jackets with hoods, and gloves.  I think it’s adorable.  It’s probably why, unlike me, they don’t all want to commit murder when the temperature rises above 80.

getting up

I woke up this morning thinking about how I don’t really have any real reason to get out of bed.  No job to go to, no friends to meet, and the kids can pretty much fend for themselves (prefer to, actually, because when Mom gets up and pays attention, she makes them do boring stuff like write and learn and do math).  This is why I decided that today is the day I would start “the blog.”  Maybe it’ll give me a reason to get out of bed.  You might say, “But Melissa, you can write a blog in bed.”  Indeed.  But still, metaphorically, I need to get out of bed.

I’ve actually been thinking about writing this for a while, thinking about the title for a while, because so many things have happened lately to make me feel “unmoored.”  I quit my job (not all the way, but enough to mean a significant change in my sense of professional self), took the kids out of school to become homeschoolers (what was I thinking?!), lost my sweet dog (she died), sold the one and only house we’ve ever owned in a neighborhood and city I love, and moved away from my friends and family (this last one is so much of a heartache that I can’t make its phrasing pretty or interesting).  I left the water of Lake Michigan behind, where my ship has been moored for the great majority of my life, to come to this strange place in the desert, where the water, I’m convinced, literally makes me sick.

There’s a heady sense of freedom that comes when you leave behind what you are moored to and “head West” where the only things to moor yourself to seem about as substantial as a tumbleweed.   But since I’ve never been particularly interested in seeking out adventure or being an explorer on a quest for “freedom”–mostly, I’ve always wanted to stay home–this heady sense of freedom just makes me feel dizzy.  And, let’s face it, sad.

Hence, the not feeling very much like getting out of bed.  At least there, if I’m feeling dizzy, I have a soft place to land when I fall.