Monthly Archives: January 2013

TEST PASSED!

Done and officially passed! With room to spare! Now just have to wait for the word on whether I will get certified within the company based on other program requirements. But hopefully so. I really don’t want to have to take that again.

It was definitely an exercise in endurance.164 questions. Almost the longest test I’ve ever taken but not quite. This one was more nerve wracking because it was all online – and that means I can’t go back and check over what I’ve done.

The real treat? The two sections that had nothing to do with any of my classes. They were a scavenger hunt. Or, as my boss said, an test of how well I think on my feet and use company resources to find the information I need. Good point.

Needless to say, my brain is mush. Absolute mush. I’m headed home to do something absolutely mindless with the fam tonight. And no, that doesn’t make me less of a thinker! I deserve it.

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The Test

So today’s the day. My Big Test at work. They’ve been pretty cool about it actually – leaving me to myself so that I can retype all of my notes and go over all the online resources. And that’s been nice. But dangit, it seems like the more I try to prepare the more uptight I get about it.

THAT’s the reason I specifically didn’t prepare for the GRE when I took it a few years ago. There are just some things that you can’t study for. I’m one of those people that tend to psych myself out if I’m over prepared, at least for tests. Musically too. Back in the day I would actually make myself leave the instrument in the case the night before an audition. Like my teacher said, ‘If you’re not prepared now, cramming won’t help.’

And I need to remember that today during The Big Test. Honestly, it shouldn’t be that bad. It’s open note and I’ve got access to all of the online Job Aid materials. So why am I even remotely concerned? Three reasons, really.

  • All of the coursework for this certification has been online. Each course had a quiz at the end. And some of the questions were pretty vague and random. Definitely NOT written by teachers, to tell the truth. Almost like some of those video defensive driving questions where they ask what color the speaker’s shirt was, just to make sure you actually watched it. And random questions freak me out. I tend to read too much into them, not go with my gut and end up doing less-than-perfect.
  • The passing rate for certification here is 80%. 80 percent. I’m having real trouble wrapping my teacher-brain around that one. 70 is passing, right? Always has been, always will be. Even for educator certification. And that stresses me out.
  • What’s on the line? Um, a new job title, a step up, business cards and my ego. There are lots of people in other offices that have passed this test. So if I don’t, my positively negative brain wants to classify that as a failure.

And finally – I love my boss, I really do. And she really wants me to do well. So much that she’s been randomly popping over to my desk all week and asking me random practice test questions. She means well, but that’s starting to freak me out. Just a little.

So today I’m going to try and think as little as possible about this stuff. At least, until 2:30 when it’s showtime.

Wish me luck! And any suggestions on how to get my brain to dial back the stress level would be much appreciated!!

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Filed under Career path, Evaluations, working moms

Young and Dumb – With Knives

So my earlier blog today and comments about my Vaseline addiction in college got me thinking back to those days. How completely opposite the perception and expectation was among us Prospective Musicians. It’s funny to think about it now, because we were dead set – in our little Music Bubble – that your chances of Making It as a musician could be determined, at least partway, on appearance. I’ll explain what I mean.

Disclaimer: I’m talking about college back in the early 90’s here, so if you don’t get some of my references you’re probably not in my age group. Enjoy anyway. Please.
Okay, first of all, the true Musicians didn’t wear makeup. Usually not ever. At least, the female ones. Guys were another story. That was always a problem for me, since I was definitely NOT blessed with perfect skin and was pretty insecure about it. So I’d actually wear the makeup but spend a long time trying to make it look like I didn’t wear any. Except for my two-week Goth period. That lasted exactly two weeks, until my mom found the lighter I used to melt my eyeliner. She was already freaked enough about the cigarette paper I carried for musical reasons, but that sealed the deal. It was an awkward weekend home. But, now that I think about it, I must have done a passable job – because to this day the Spouse (who I met in college) mentions how great I look without makeup now and then. And he always brings up my ‘natural beauty’ from when we first met. Ha!
In fact, the chicks who didwear lots of makeup were usually the ones that were pegged as Not Going to Make It. Because, you know, a True Musician would have far loftier priorities than matching eye shadow to eyeliner and socks. (Hey, the 80s were still going out. Just watch a couple of early episodes of 90210.) I think I can count on both hands the times in four years that I actually wore noticeable makeup – other than for concerts.  A few first dates here and there, the rare occasion I went clubbing (remember – I had much loftier priorities), the time we had a girls’ night to Billy Bob’s for standing room at Alabama (it IS Texas after all), a wild night out in Stockholm while on tour, and the occasional double reed party.
Yes, you did read that right. Double reed parties. Don’t hate. And if you’re one of the few people reading this who knows exactly what I’m talking about – you were there at least once. Hey – get a bunch of people in one room who regularly use lots of knives on persnickety bamboo and it makes for quite a social experience.  Trust me. Brass parties may have been cooler and definitely more wild, but not as quirky as the double reed parties. Seriously. Man that sounds lame.
To my credit, I never went for the Birkenstock-and-poncho craze like everyone else seemed to. I mean, that would have been too conformist, right? Ha. Maybe that’s the reason I’m not a Successful Professional Musician today. Hmmm. Poncho rejection leads to career change. Definitely sounds like a New York Times headline. But it’s funny how Young and Dumb we were to think that appearance had anything to do as a forecast of future success. Huh.
And I still wonder what some of those characters are up to today. Either they’re anti-social media, I haven’t found them yet, or they’ve blocked me. I mean, who wouldn’t wonder about the guy who used to drive a hearse? Not for a job – it was his personal vehicle and he was darn proud of it. Or the guy from Philly who had a combo afro-mullet? Or the Spouse’s roommate who had a huge rat that was hung like a horse? Not that I was looking – it was so darned in-your-face that you couldn’t help but notice!
How about you?  Any college fashion do’s and don’t’s? I’d love to hear. And if you happen to see a bassoonist driving a hearse…

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Filed under 90210, College, Fashion, First impressions, Music majors, North Texas

Lipstick Does TOO Matter!

Got your attention, didn’t I? Good. Keep reading. And this ain’t gonna be one of those fashion-y cosmetic review blogs, either.

What does lipstick have to do with anything? Oh, just let me tell you. Remember yesterday’s resolution update? The one that I thought I could manage – Zumba, Pilates or yoga for 40-45 minutes four or five times a week?

Yeah. That one. Day one and I’m kind of miffed. Because my time management – at which I’ve always been pretty good, or at least pretty organized – is being affected by something totally out of my control. Know what it is?

Expectations of Women in the Workplace.

Let me get this straight – this is nothing new. Granted, my current office is more Mad Men than The Office. But thinking back to my very first teaching job brings up a couple of things I forgot to mention in my ‘Schooled’ posts. Gotta write these down for the book too!

My Very First Teaching Job was a dream. Excellent school, excellent neighborhood, supportive families, fantastic administration and a building full of overachieving teachers. What more could I ask for?? But one thing that anyone new to the building learned really quick was the Head Honcho’s pet peeve. And that, my friends, was teachers looking anything less than completely put together. Yes, she was older – and had been in education since the days of female teachers’ wearing pants was frowned upon. (Trust me, that wasn’t all that long ago. My mom worked in the library at my elementary school back in the ’80s, and she remembers the staff keeping their distance from one teacher who called herself ‘Ms.’ and wore slacks occasionally. Fast woman!!)

Back to the point – anyway, this particular Head Honcho’s idea of teachers looking completely put together included the One Necessary Touch – lipstick. Lipstick in the morning and – especially – after lunch. If she saw you in the hall during the afternoon and your lips weren’t freshly colored and dewy – you’d get The Look. And if The Look didn’t get you instantly fumbling to refresh your pucker – and if you got caught again looking unkempt – you’d get a nicely worded gentle reminder note in your mailbox. You can imagine how many notes I got the semester I was on Accutane and my lips were literally peeling off my face. And THAT was in the era when really dark lipstick was the fashion.

Yes, I’m serious. No, I’m not joking. And I can’t have made it up either. Get a group of teachers from that school together and we all have one thing in common – we ALL refresh our lipstick to this day after lunch. It’s a habit. We can’t all be that neurotic on our own. And for someone like me, with my music background, that’s no minor feat.

See, as a Wind Player, lipstick was verboten. Absolutely. Chapstick, on the other hand, was a requirement – especially after hours of rehearsal during the blustery, cold and sometimes snowy North Texas winter months. We obsessed over it. Chapstick was a requirement, but the stuff that really worked – Carmex – was an absolute NO. There was some weird urban legend that the stuff was addictive, could make the chapping worse due to withdrawal, and should be avoided at all costs. By graduation I can’t even tell you how many industrial-sized tubs of Vaseline I’d gone through out of necessity. The Spouse could probably joke about our early married days and budget arguments about my Vaseline expenditures. Seriously. So you can imagine how much of a stretch it was to actually WEAR lipstick, much less refresh the stuff.

How does this have anything to do with my fitness goals? It’s simple. Today’s work environment – at least mine – still has pretty set-in-stone expectations about how a woman should look in the workplace. And for me, that takes a while. I’m NOT one of those lucky chicks who can go to bed with wet hair, wake up and shake it out, dab on some mascara and zip out the door. Looking presentable requires lots of time and effort. I’m ‘blessed’ with hair that every stylist I’ve visited in the last decade calls ‘uniquely textured.’ Translated, that means that it’s naturally curly underneath and a frizzy disaster on top that’s neither wavy or straight. And it’s really thick. My Hairntervention hasn’t worked. So just looking decent requires a good blowdry session followed by Chi torture. And then more Chi torture. Makeup and lipstick add more time.

Look, I’m a mom. I already get up at five AM just to look decent, dress appropriately and spend some time being mom, wife and getting the minions out the door to the bus. If I want to work out in the morning, I’d have to be like the guy on the radio right now that I absolutely want to punch in the throat. He rambles on about how the only time he can work out is at three AM and his miracle solution is some random energy shot drink. Three AM?? I’d be a zombie by noon, and I have to work until six.

Evenings are a problem too. Most nights I get home around seven – and need to be wife and mom again for a while. Working out on the way home would mean that I’d see the minions for about five minutes before they got to bed. That’s a no-go in my book. But if I try to work out after they’re in bed my body gets so ramped up on endorphins that I can’t sleep, which makes looking decent the next day a huge problem.

See my dilemma? And don’t go all feminist on me by saying that I should just screw the makeup and hair and let myself be judged by my performance in the workplace. Sounds good in theory, but reality is different. Your competence in business really is determined – at least in the Mad Men building in which I work – by appearance. Granted, the Girls Down the Hall have taken that to a new extreme. Forget VPL – they specialize in VTL. Visible Thong Line. But in my office, it’s ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have.’ Rule set in stone. Period.

And conforming to those expectations doesn’t – in my opinion – make me less of an empowered woman, less intelligent or more of a conformist. It’s called having goals and ambition – and doing what I need to do in order to achieve my goals and move forward.

But working out?? I’m desperate here – suggestions please!!

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Filed under Fitness, goals, New Year's Resolutions, Pilates, working moms, Yoga, Zumba

Resolved: Update

So it’s the end of the month. The End of my January challenge to focus on the positive instead of always seeing the glass half empty.

The results are in, folks. And it’s a mixed bag.

 In the beginning it was pretty easy. Writing in my journal, setting positive goals for each day, pausing in tight situations to reprogram my brain’s natural negative train of thought. But here’s the catch – that was at the beginning of January, when the minions and Spouse were all on vacation, the house was put together and life was generally low key and low stress. I was able to count to ten and put a positive spin on just about anything that came my way.

 Then Spouse went back to work, the minions headed off to school and it all hit the fan. It probably didn’t help that my regular checkup with my doctor was postponed. Turns out that one of the meds I take to manage symptoms can cause mood swings. Great. What a time to try to think positively. Work amped things up a notch too – apparently taking most of December off causes people in the world of Big Commercial Real Estate to come back in January stressed, behind schedule and generally a bit cranky. It’s hard to put a positive spin on the day when I was interrupted by one of the guys to be told that the electric stapler was empty and could I please deal with it right now? Never mind that there were two hand staplers within easy reach. The electric one needed filling STAT!And that’s just one example. Try working in that environment nine hours a day – when every situation is that dire of an emergency. I bet even Pollyanna would have trouble with her Glad Game then.

 Coming home after those days? What a great excuse to beat myself up for being mentally and physically tired. And the switch in meds was a real treat too – total exhaustion for three days followed by three days of feeling like I’d downed a six pack of Jolt cola by noon. Good times.

 So, how did my positive attitude fare during all of this? Oh, she bloomed in rare form. She deflated into a passive-aggressive ball of positive negativity. I’m really proud of that.

 What’s positive negativity? It’s a rare gift. Knowing that I was supposed to put a positive spin on things, I started saying and thinking things like these:

·        I’m positive that he’s a just a mean, nasty person with no redeeming qualities.

·        It’s a good thing that you’ve got me around, or this house would look like an episode of Hoarders.

·        Wow, I’m glad I’m not her. If I were that arrogant and negative about everything, friendships would be impossible.


See what I mean? My brain tried to get around my self-imposed negative ban just like my ten year old. ‘What’s wrong, mom? You told me not to run in the house, so I’m turning cartwheels while punching my brother instead.’ And here I thought that over a decade of teaching made me grow up! Ha!!

The absolute low came the other day, when I got so incredibly positively negative (my attempt at seeing how many adverbs I can possibly string together) that I finally snapped and sent off an e-rant into the void. We’re talking a personal maturity nosedive. I’m really embarrassed and ashamed to admit it, but I’m being honest in my resolution plan here, so full disclosure is a must.

I snapped out a rant that was basically the equivalent of a kid saying, ‘Fine, maybe I should just shave my head and run away.’ Only it was more like, ‘Fine. Maybe I should just be mean to everyone, get really fat and never shower again. Maybe then things would go my way.’

Seriously. It was that bad. Not those exact words, but you get my drift. And the worst part?? Once said, I couldn’t just unsay them. Not like some email programs that let you ‘unsend’ a message. Nope. No way. This one’s out there to stay.

So what am I getting at? My positive spin on my anti-negative failure is this: I may have picked a goal that was a bit too lofty for the beginning of the year and my level of personal growth at this time. In education we talk about setting SMART goals for the kids: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-based. Apparently my goal was not realistic or attainable. But I’ll still work on it – in smaller doses. After all, my brain can’t just go cold turkey after decades of programming, right?

Here’s my SMART February goal: I will do between forty five minutes and an hour’s worth of Zumba or P-90X three to four times a week.

I have Zumba for the Wii and all of the P-90X DVDs, so there is no excuse there. Done. I’ll update you on that one in a month.

Until then, my positively negative filter is set to maximum strength.

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Filed under honesty, Moms, Monthly resolution, New Year's Resolutions, Positive thinking, working moms

It’s Like Mama Always Said…

Isn’t it funny how so many of us swear as kids that we will NEVER be anything like our parents when we grow up? I don’t know about you, but I’ve blown that one to smithereens so many times it’s not even funny. Especially since I’ve had kids. Scratch that. Make it – especially since I’ve left home. I can’t even count the number of times that I open my mouth and a Mom-ism comes out. It’s like a cartoon. I can see my mouth opening in slow motion, a speech bubble comes out, and it immediately fills with one of Mom’s sayings. And I have no way of stopping it midstream.

What brought this up? I’ll tell you. Politics. Last week’s inauguration brought out everyone’s political opinions in full force. Again. Now, I have nothing against politics. Far from it. I generally have very strong political opinions that I’ll be happy to share with you – if you ask. If you don’t ask, I’ve learned to keep them to myself. It’s less trouble that way. I tend to avoid conflict. I don’t like it. Well, I don’t like it unless you’re going to agree with me. Isn’t everyone that way? And for a long time my political opinions were in the minority around here.
Back in the day – during the last Big Election – when Facebook was brand spanking-new, I connected with tons of friends and acquaintances from childhood and high school. It was fun to be able to finally answer the question, ‘I wonder whatever happened to…’ Fill in the blank with random name: BFF from kindergarten, the Kid Who Could Never Sit Still, the class president, the kid who used to carry my lunchbox in second grade, etc. The list goes on and on. But then I connected with SS.
This was a guy I’d known since elementary school. Saw him here and there around campus during college. Had friends who knew him. So connecting via Facebook was a cool way to catch up and see what was going on in his neck of the woods – far from suburban north Texas.
Not the best move. Apparently this guy had REALLY STRONG political opinions. And he’d decided to make Facebook his forum. Anything extremist, negative, highly charged and/or controversial? He’d post it. We’re talking seventeen, eighteen posts a day. Along with his VERY STRONG statements that his beliefs were correct. He was right, and anyone who didn’t agree with him was not only wrong, but stupid. I kid you not.
This brought out my personal inner seven year old. Along with an age-appropriate exit line. It’s a good one. Back on the playground, the ultimate putdown/argument ender/having-the-last word one liner was…
“You think you’re hot snot on a gold platter but you’re really just cold boogers on a paper plate!”
It’s a good’un, right? I mean, what could any kid possibly use for a comeback line? And it’s what came to mind as this guy was spewing his I’m-always-right-holier-than-thou junk all over Facebook. Um, hello? It’s called a social network. For social networking. So it might not be the best forum for that kind of stuff…
Well, of course not everyone agreed with this guy. And back in school he’d had a bit of a surly personality that didn’t always attract friends. So you can imagine that – eventually – he started to get a teensy bit of negative feedback on his posts. Just a little, tiny, miniscule bit.
I called it Free Entertainment. Heck, it beat seeing everyone’s Farmville accomplishments in my news feed. But apparently he didn’t agree. Not only did he express sadness and anger that his Freedom of Speech had been compromised – this was America, after all – but he just could not believe that anyone would dare to criticize his views, not to mention him personally. He posted a long-winded defense of his views and tried to put a positive spin on them. Didn’t work. More negative comments. And you know what he finally did? The guy with such strong opinions that he was so eager to share them with cyberspace??
He deactivated his Facebook account. Hasn’t been seen – or heard from – on there since.
And that’s where I saw the speech bubble slowly crawl out of my mouth, inflate and fill with her words before I could stop them.
“Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.”
My mom is wise. Very very wise. I’ll keep that Mom-ism for my own kids, thank you very much. And if you don’t agree with me?? Please comment. Argue. Disagree. I take that as a compliment that my writing has stirred up emotion in another human being.
And isn’t that one of the reasons I’m doing this?

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Filed under Facebook, life lessons, Mom Sayings, Moms, Opinions, Politics

Schooled, Again

As promised, here are a few more tidbits from the lesser-known inside world of public education:

Skillset? Whatchyou Talkin’ About??
This one gets me every time. And it usually gets TO me as well. Last year I left the world of public education – at least, as a career. I’m still in it as a parent and that’s a WHOLE other ball of wax. Anyhoo, during my job hunt I was really amazed – amazed and discouraged – at the number of corporate types who view teaching as irrelevant or non-experience in the business world. That’s just dumb. Skillsets? Please. I’ve got skills to spare. You just have to look at the facts. For example:
Technical writing? I learned this one through the process of The Office Referral. The Golden Rule here? Be Specific. So, yes, I can write with brevity, specificity and direct quotations. “Johnny chose to look at a friend, shout ‘You smell like ass!’ and climb on top of the coat cabinet.” That’s a direct quote, people. Or this one:
Sales skills? Again. Please. YOU try sitting in on a conference with Protective Mama Bear and try to put a diplomatic spin on the fact that her little darling – who has never done anything wrong – thought it would be funny to paint his name on the restroom wall – while peeing. Mama Bear’s argument? ‘Are YOU a boy? YOU just don’t get it. Sometimes they just can’t aim.’ No, I’m not a boy, but I get the fact that, when I’m standing outside the boys’ room and four boys exit laughing with EXACTLY the same story about Jimmy peeing on the wall – there’s probably some truth to that. But it takes excellent sales skills to get Protective Mama Bear to admit it.

Growth and Development is Even More Horrifying as an Adult
Oh my. I learned this one the hard way. A couple of years ago, during my Master’s work, part of my degree was and on-the-job internship. My mentor suggested that I needed to step up and be the ‘go-to’ person when anything was needed. So when the ad went out for extra female chaperones during the Growth and Development film I eagerly – and naively – volunteered immediately. This was going to be my Path to Administration. And the end result? I was horrified. Back in my day, the Growth and Development film for girls was some old – really old, as in on a reel-to-reel projector – film about the marvelous changes to your body. It was probably filmed in 1965. So I wasn’t prepared for the up-close-and-personal diagrams – really detailed diagrams – of a woman’s hoohah. Labeled and everything. I’m pretty sure my gasp of horror was louder than any of the girls’. Chaperone Fail.

Strength and Agility Drills? Check.
During my second year teaching in The Hood, I lost my classroom to another department and was sent out to a portable building. A quarter of a mile from the building. Bathroom emergencies? Forget it. Anyhoo, this also meant that administrators were less likely to come visit – because they just didn’t want to walk that far. This was also a bad thing more than once. Take, for example, the time that Montell or Montrell – I can’t remember which – got upset about his behavior card and decided to run away. From school. He was out the door before I could catch him. Keep in mind that my portable backed up to a busy urban street. If he ran out there, he’d get squashed like a bug. So I grabbed him just as he tried to jump the rail around the stairs. Got a teacher’s aide to call the office. There I was, dangling a 55 pound kid over a rail five feet off the ground with one arm. And the office replied that the higher-ups were all in a meeting and could I just handle it this one time? Sure. No problem. Same thing on the day the kid decided to use me as target practice with his shoes. And other small objects he found in the room once he ran out of shoes. Heck, I could win a dodge ball tourney just with the skills I learned that day, folks.

Some Administrators Get It
And finally, here you go. A fairy tale in a world where administrators sometimes get a bad rap. A colleague of mine got a surprise visit from our district supervisor one day. As music teachers, we had the normal on-campus principal evaluations but also the regular district-level walkthroughs. So anyway, our supervisor came by to visit my colleague. After class I asked her how it had gone, and she replied, ‘Not that great. Kids were awful and he only stayed three minutes. I’m probably gonna get fired.’ Later that day, guess what? The same guy popped in to watch my class. Stayed the whole time and even lingered to visit afterwards. He was in a good mood, so I ventured to ask about my colleague’s visit earlier that day. His response? ‘Oh, I’m going to email her and ask when I can reschedule. And offer to buy her a drink.’ Huh? I was confused, and said so. Told him she thought she might lose her job. His response??

Wait for it.

“Lose her job? Please. I’ve seen lots of things, but Jesus Himself could not have controlled THAT classroom on THIS particular day.”

And that, folks, is just a snapshot of Public Education!

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Filed under kids, Moms, Public Education, Teaching, working moms