An Open Letter to Ronda Rousey


Dear Ronda,

First and foremost, I want to say I’m a huge fan.  You have singlehandedly put women on the sports map for MMA.  However, from recent articles it seems you are in need of a pep talk from a female friend.  Let me be that friend.

There was an article published online where you told your mother your new mantra was “FTA”.  (For frequent readers of this blog who might be under 18, we will just say that stands for “Forget Them All”).  I agree with your mom.  You don’t need to use this mantra. 

Look, I know you are dealing with a lot on your shoulders with your upcoming fight against, “what’s-her-face”.  You are angry from your loss in November of 2015.  You are angry because people tried to put you down or tried to steal your shine.  Let me put things in perspective for you for what it’s worth.

Nobody will really know the name of the person you fought 15 years from now.  Heck, I don’t even remember her name now and would have to google it.  Look at what happened after that loss; you fulfilled one of my long time dreams of being on Saturday Night Live.  Note who they asked…YOU.  Not the other gal.  You.

You performed a skit in which you stood against bullies.  You know what it is like to be bullied, and I don’t see anyone else performing that skit better than you.  That skit was so funny, I showed it to the kids I help teach.  

After your loss you admitted to depression and facing a lot of dark areas.  You opened up a lot of minds with that statement.  You could have kept it secret, but instead you let it out there into a world where there is still a stigma attached to it.  You helped others to see it is okay to be dealing with stuff in a dark way, which is completely normal even though society tells us it isn’t.

You say your new mantra is for your nieces, family and fans who haven’t given up on you.  Ronda, I haven’t given up on you.  I will say this though; if you hadn’t had the backlash from “haters”, would you have had the anger to fuel you for this next bout?  By saying, “FTA” to te opposition, you are only proving them right.  You are proving hate is a way of life.  You are feeding into what the other teams want; which is you getting angry enough that you sabotage yourself.  They are betting on the false hope that your anger will open up any weaknesses they can exploit.  Don’t let them do this.

In a strange way, anger can get you through some tough times (trust me, I’ve had some).  Be thankful for the anger, but don’t let that anger dull anything that makes you happy.  Don’t let the anger get in the way of your passion for the sport.  Ultimately this is why you are still in.  Not just any woman would voluntarily train as hard as you do to get a few licks to the face.  You obviously are putting yourself at risk because there is something you love about the sport.  

Prove the others wrong.  You aren’t fueled just by anger.  You are also fueled by love.  Love for the sport, love for your family, love for your friends and your loyal fans.  Never give up, never give in.

Merry Christmas and Sincerely yours,

Quirky Girl

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Marriage and friendships

One day, my husband and I before we were married, were on a date in the park.  We were sitting on the jungle gym when suddenly he noticed I was paying attention to our direct right.  There was a group of young teenage boys talking about Batman and arguing over why he was the best or worst and what super powers other heroes had that could beat him.

My husband curiously asked, “What are you thinking about?”

I replied, “I’m just wondering if the friendships we form earlier in life, are the relationships that prepare us for marriage later in life.”

“That is a lot deeper than what I was expecting…”

On that note, it is something I’ve continued to ponder the almost 4 years we’ve been together and married.  Often times I think back to my best friends who I met in high school and how they helped form and shape my ideas.  What is cool, what isn’t cool, and why it is okay to not agree with them.  Whether we realize it or not, often times it is those we associate with early in life that help form our personality.  Often times I was the weirdo in our group of friends and everyone was okay with that.  They knew better than to expect normalcy and complacency out of me.  They helped me realize how a person should be respected.  Which is why it puzzled them when I would date someone who didn’t, even later in life.

These friends are the ones you introduce to your college comrades.  If they click, you know you’ve got a keeper for a new friend.  They ultimately share the same values.

When my husband and I got married, we were originally introduced by a mutual best friend.  We knew if we were in line with this person and her values the other must be pretty cool too.  Needless to say the first date was a success and three months later we were married.

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None of my friends from high school had met him yet, (except for one who invited us to her church), none of my extended family had met him, just our best friend from St. Louis and a few of my old co-workers he knew from checking out at our store.  We had been married for quite some time when one of my college friends announced she was getting married.  This meant another best friend and her husband coming to town for the wedding since she was going to be a bridesmaid.

She and her husband were the second set of friends to meet him. We had gone to the wedding, exhausted, she, her husband and I decided to go get coffee.  My husband was going to be off work in a few minutes so I texted him where to meet us.  She then pointed out, they had never met him.  when you’re married for a while and a lothappens, you tend to lose track of who has met whom, especially when keeping up through facebook or text. That is when I realized none of my close friends outside of my St. Louis friend had known who he was either.  When he arrived, he surprised me sneaking up behind me.  They laughed, we all talked and had a great time.  After he left, she said, “I really like him.”  I knew she and her husband would, after all, they helped shape my idea of what an ideal partner should be like.

     Do you think friendships help shape our ideals of marriage?  Why or why not?

 

 

15 minutes

When I was younger I wanted to be famous.  Let’s just put that out there.  When you were a kid, you wanted to be famous too, you might as well admit it.  Any kid worth their salt wants to be famous. Even if you wanted to be something with relative anonymity like an inventor, scientist, teacher, you could still be famous for it somehow.

There was also something else I wanted when I was younger.  At the beginning of the school year there’s nothing sweeter than the smell of a fresh notebook before the school season starts.  For me, going down the aisles of our local store shopping for school supplies was always one of my favorite parts of the year.  Everything was new, everything was still fresh, untouched and more importantly, it was the time of year where we were excited because everyone had the same grades.

One afternoon, I was perusing the blank pages of my new 5 subject notebook while sitting on my bedroom floor.  The Mead company had really outdone themselves that year.  Back in the early 90’s we didn’t have the internet, cell phones or access to call a company ran by several ladies and Katharine Hepburn who knew the answers to everything.

“Desk Set cinema poster” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –

Instead, Mead came up with the great idea of putting times tables in the back, along with a few other helpful goodies.

One of the helpful things listed on the final page of the notebook; quotes from famous people.  You had the likes of Winston Churchill mingling with Thomas Edison.  You might have had a quote from George Washington Carver or Marie Curry.  As my eyes read the quotes one by one, an alarming one seized my brain.

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Who was this Andy?  Why did he think this?  I knew several “Andys” and none of them had ever thought this or said anything of this nature to me.  They were usually too busy telling jokes or singing songs to other girls on the school bus.  Why was this guy so special he had a quote?  Surely he was a scientist or something and knew something we all didn’t.  I imagined a man sitting there with a giant calculator and a notebook trying to exact the least amount of minutes one would have for fame.

Next thing, my mind flitted to the amount of times I had been mentioned in the local newspaper.  There was that time my third grade class was featured because we all dressed up funny for school spirit week. That was probably about 6 seconds for every person who decided to read the paper that day and glazed over my name.  I knew everyone in class bought a copy so that was exactly 6 seconds times 30 kids and one teacher.  That is 3 minutes and 10 seconds off my fifteen minutes this Andy had guaranteed me.  Then there was the time I won an award in the science fair.

CRAP.

Sure it was great winning an award, but then there goes about another 3 minutes and 10 seconds of my fame, plus the time it took distant relatives to read the article which my family made sure to send them.

Within 5 minutes I had looked at my life like it was a cell phone plan, before there were cellphones.  I wasn’t worried that I wasn’t living, I wasn’t worried about finishing school, falling in love, making the coolest art, or writing the best paper.  As far as my 12 year old self was concerned I didn’t even have time for a bucket list.

I was too scared I had used up my minutes.

Lucky for me, there is more to life than fame.

What as something silly that you were afraid you had limited time on?

The Seussical Substitute

Two weeks ago I gained a deeper understanding of the book, “Cat in the Hat”.

Georgia Portrait (4th Grader)

A student’s rendering of my likeness. (The quickly scrawled bird was my doing.)

It all started when I walked into a 4th grade classroom, comfortable, cozy and ready to teach.  When I walked down to the gym to escort the students to the classroom, they looked curious and as if they were about to have fun.  (Somehow I think my glasses give them that impression.)

The main thing I try to get across to students, is learning can be fun, it doesn’t have to be this dreaded thing you are forced to be carted to 5 days of the week.  The more fun you have learning, chances are the more you will remember.  We started the morning working on prepositional phrases.  This is something we went over at University recently , and people in their 20’s, 30’s and even 40’s are still struggling to understand prepositional phrases.  Because kids at this age generally try so hard at this, they feel they should understand and “get” everything in the first try.  I emphasized that we were still studying this at my age and then they began to ease up on being so hard on themselves.

Once they realized they could be calm and themselves around me, they started peeling back their guarded layers.  One student showed me their writing book.  In it she had written a book about a Monster school, complete with Banana pudding pranks and more.  As I read it, a smile couldn’t be kept from creeping across my face.  When I told her I really enjoyed both of her stories, it was as if she finally gained acceptance of her creativity and an acknowledgement of her originality.  She nodded with a satisfied smile.

Before they had to take a break to go to their other classes, one student quickly asked me to draw a Garfield on the board.  Within seconds I had drawn the head of the beloved feline character.  By the time I turned around, instead of it being the original boy who had asked for the drawing, it was the entire class gathered around the board to see how it was done.

I was in a class with kindred spirits.  Many were budding writers, cartoonists and illustrators. All of them with original unique ideas on how to do things.  These students were struggling because they were being forced to be in a box when they were capable of doing so much more.  Were their drawings perfect?  Were their stories completely free of grammatical errors?  No.  They finally understood everything takes work and time to make it perfect, they just wanted someone to let them know they were on the path of getting there.

cat in the hat person

The boy who had asked for the Garfield on the board drew his own version when he came back and it was amazing. A few other students, once they saw how it was done, started experimenting and trying their own hand at drawing Garfield.

From my own experience and from the students’ experience, by accomplishing one thing and being good at it, the simple joy from this one act can make you feel capable of doing anything of intellectual value.

I had to dismiss them for lunch, and went to eat my own in the teacher’s lounge.  All of the teachers there were wonderful, amazing and incredibly nurturing.  You could tell they cared about the students and their job by how they painstakingly painted and decorated their place of lunchtime respite.  Because I’d never taught there before, I was nervous and after devouring a sandwich, I went to pick up the kids.

I was early.

As I stood there at the door, one of my students was sitting with kids from other classes, when suddenly one of the children he was sitting with shouted, “Hey you should come sub for our class sometime!”  I told him I would love to if given the opportunity.

When we finally came back from lunch we started to work on math skills.  When I was younger and their age, math was a struggle for me.  It has been ever since Kindergarten.  It doesn’t mean I’m not smart, it just means it was something I had to work at more so than most students.  Knowing that this class was full of kindred souls, it was going to be a challenging subject for them.  Since I’m the ripe age of 35, it’s obvious I’ve had much practice in getting multiplication painstakingly down pat.  The students who were having issues I gave individual attention to, occasionally breaking to do a problem on the board when more than one student had difficulty with a particular problem.

Then came the class clown.  She had been acting up all day.  Mind you, it wasn’t in a bad way.  She is the kind of student who is very bright, and excels at most subjects except for one, Math.  All day she would finish her work and then instigate other side projects she had going on like a fake raffle she had put together or purposely asking random questions to throw students off their game.

In the morning when she first started acting up, I knew her name by the seating chart.  She was impressed that “the sub” knew her name.  Then she asked if she could instead be called by her middle name which she liked better.  I told her if she behaved the rest of the day that I would comply.  She tried, she really did try to be a good student.  However her intelligence got the better of her as she became bored easily.

When we got to math however, she raised her hand asking for help.  With her head down on the palm of her hand, she calmly stated, “I don’t get it”.  I felt horrible for her because I knew exactly what she was experiencing.  I had been on my knees trying to sit at desk level while showing her how to work the numbers right to left.  She was silent but you could tell something was really getting to her.  She went to an empty table, and brought a chair over for me to sit on while helping her.  She then said, “I think you have gum on your shoe by the way.”  Quickly I looked at my shoes and realized there was a indeed something there but it wasn’t gum.  I looked at her and said, “It’s a raisin. I think it might have come from my house.” Smiling at her she smiled back and as we tried to go over the math problems. Her eyes started watering. Within seconds it wasn’t hard to notice it was more than just “allergies”. I asked her if she was alright.  She was putting on a brave face trying to be strong and said, “I’m fine, I don’t know why I’m getting teary eyed, this just happens sometimes.”  Thinking it was her frustration with math I then calmly said, “You know what, it’s O.K. Math was really frustrating for me when I was your age too.  It can be a frustrating subject.”

It didn’t become clear until much later what was going on.  As we packed up to get ready to go home, the class clown drew the opening picture of this blog entry.  Everyone had been dismissed to their bus while the class clown remained behind with a few other students to be picked up by their parents.

“We’re going to miss you.”

It was then I realized the reason for the tears.  The class clown realized earlier our fun had to end.  We wouldn’t be getting to see each other on Monday.  They were not my students to teach and tend to every Monday through Friday until May.  I was not their teacher to show them it is okay to be unique, a little offbeat and to make mistakes because that is how you learn.  The moment was settling into all of us.

I walked them to their parents’ cars and the gymnasium.  Knowing I had reached and helped them as much as they helped me, cementing my purpose in this life, it was a long drive home.

“That is it, that is that”, and I was gone with the tip of my hat.

The Cat in the Hat

Amendment 3…a big no no!

As most of you know I’m studying to be a an English teacher for middle school and junior high students.  Those of you who live in Missouri, please vote “NO” on Amendment 3 coming up in the election on Tuesday.  Here is why, standardized testing.MO

The amendment proposes there be standardized testing with the success of the students’ scores determining whether or not someone like me gets to keep their job.  Many of you know how I feel about my job as a substitute.  I love my job.  By this time next fall, I hope to be teaching English in the local school systems while earning a Master’s degree.

The problem with Amendment 3 is it rests the responsibility of the teachers’ jobs on the shoulders of the youth.  Many might see this as a positive.  If the teacher is doing what they should, the students in turn should test well, right?  Wrong.

I was discussing with my mother the problem with this.  Everyone learns differently.  There are eight ways of learning.  If we reduce ourselves statewide to a number on a test, then we are only teaching the students to learn what we tell them and regurgitate.

I told my mother, I was one of those students who tried hard, studied and made decent grades but when it came to the SAT’s, my mind short circuited and I had to take the test 3 separate times.  I still have problems taking tests, my mind sort of blanks out the important information and I can only remember other things I was taught.  This happened with my first test in English Grammar this semester, I couldn’t remember the 8 morphemes, when ultimately I knew them.

This is what I’m afraid of, students who are like me, who know what they’re doing, who test poorly and suffer from test anxiety, will decide the outcome of many teachers.  It isn’t their fault and they should not be held accountable for an adult’s job when the adult has done everything they can to prepare that student.

There is also the other kind of test taker, the student who doesn’t care.  Sometimes they are the brightest kid in the room, but maybe they haven’t been taught proper etiquette, manners and respect for their elders.  They simply do not care and sometimes will do their worst to spite a teacher.  I have seen it happen.

So that leaves all the other students in-between.  Some students may or may not study and will do mediocre, some will do fantastic.  I don’t feel it is right for the outcome of anyone’s job to rely on a few select people.

Also by teaching students to only memorize and regurgitate on a standardized test, we aren’t teaching them to be well-rounded.  We aren’t teaching them problem solving skills, logic, and worst of all, we aren’t teaching them to think for themselves.  Will they actually be applying their skills and learning what they need?

Will Science teachers be able to perform experiments in their classes asking them to form a hypothesis and test the outcomes?  Will Math teachers be able to help their students apply theories and practices?  Will English teachers be able to teach their students how to write short stories teaching them about plot, motifs, and character?  Will History teachers be able to teach what is needed or will History be doomed to repeat itself?  What about the arts?  How can an Art teacher and Drama teacher standardize their curriculum when their students are supposed to stand out and have a “voice” of their own?

To put things in perspective, Einstein had trouble communicating and learning in a standardized way. He didn’t fully start speaking until he was 4.  Even when he first applied to university, he excelled in the Sciences and Math but did not pass the requirements needed for History, Languages, and Geography.  If Einstein were alive today would you want his standardized tests to decide the outcome of your career?

Whoopi Goldberg and Richard Branson both dropped out due to frustrations with Dyslexia.  Whoopi reflected on her Dyslexia by saying, “I knew I wasn’t stupid, and I knew I wasn’t dumb…. They knew I wasn’t lazy, but what was it?”  Thomas Edison’s teachers wrongfully and insultingly told him he was too stupid to learn anything.

I will say it again, everyone learns differently.  Everyone has strengths and weaknesses.  We weren’t meant to be good at everything.  By standardizing tests, we will inevitably leave people behind and potentially no one will ever figure out where they shine.

Obviously advancements have been made in the world of teaching, but if we favor Amendment 3, we will no longer find out if we have geniuses, comedians, business tycoons or inventors in our classrooms.Einstein fish

Compassionate Pineapple

When I was in the middle of moving from St. Louis back to my hometown three years ago I remarked to a close friend that I was going to start training to become a boxer.  She said, “You can’t do that.”  Slightly offended I asked why and she quipped, “You’re too sweet.” Boxing cat and dog In a way she was right.  I was a pineapple without it’s rougher exterior.  I wore my heart on my sleeve and allowed myself to be vulnerable to everything.  Fast forward to last week.

Last week was my first for substitute teaching.  As much as it pained me to leave my co-workers at my last job, this new job is the first step in a journey of becoming a certified teacher. What many don’t realize is the first step comes with a lot of tests.

I’m not talking about  literal tests where you have to fill in all those little dots until your hands bleed.  The tests many of us remember taking in college and high school. The ones where we darkened in the bubbles with the worn down graphite in our pencils only to discover we missed a question and had to erase and start over again. The tests I’m talking about are the ones the students put you through.

When you start substituting, you might think, “Oh I’ve got this.  I’m older, I’m smarter.”  Don’t kid yourself, you’re not.  On paper, you might be.  You might even have a piece of paper you forked over thousands of dollars for to say you know how to do something at an expert level, I do.  However it only proves you know how to do something.  It doesn’t prove you know how to work with people. It doesn’t prove you know how to treat a child coming from a home where their only source of parental affection comes from a television.  It doesn’t prove you are an expert in someone’s past.  It can however get you a foot in the door to doing something you really love.

I have a degree.  Proof that I have taken over sixty credit hours in school.  Proof that I can concentrate long enough to make a decent grade.  All the proof I need to willingly submit to being tested by some of the toughest people on the planet…grade schoolers.

They will try to tell you the teacher’s lesson plan.  They will knowingly pass notes about farting superheroes hoping they will get caught.  They will feign tummy aches and ouchies just to get out of class.  They will try to give you guilt trips and hold you responsible for losing a book that has been on their desk the whole time.  They will see just how many things they can get away with before their substitute for the day gives up.

Boxing taught me to tough out what you think will inevitably kill you.  It taught me to have confidence and to believe in myself.  My life training in retail, dealing with customers and quirky co-workers has taught me patience.  These kids weren’t ready for a teacher who wasn’t going to shout at them.  They weren’t ready for a teacher who was going to tough out their tests.  They weren’t ready for a teacher who doesn’t give up, or give in to their scheming plans to get out of learning correct grammar and punctuation.  They weren’t ready for someone who understands what it’s like to be a kid.

As I taught them, they taught me.

“Thank you for being nice to us even though we were bad,” remarked one of my students. The more I teach, the tougher my exterior becomes, yet at the same time, I find my insides getting sweeter. cat pineapple What life experience has taught you something when you least expected it?  

Gross Domestic Happiness

My husband and I are moving.  We are packing up the cats as we speak and teaching them how to meow in Dzongkha and Japanese.

In a former blog post I mentioned one of the five things people didn’t know about me is I wanted an assignment where I would travel and write about the destinations I’ve visited.  Obviously on this trip my husband would accompany me to help document our activities.  He is a professional photographer and the last time I took a picture I looked like this:

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Granted this all sounds very much like “Eat, Pray, Love” but it would be quirkier, I’m traveling WITH my husband and not starting out single.  Call it a “Couple’s Quest for Intrinsic Happiness”.

The truth is we aren’t really moving.  We recently watched a documentary titled, “Happy” on Netflix.happy PosterThe entire film was fascinating and a couple of things stood out to me.  Half way through the film the crew went to Bhutan and talked about the main concern of the country being “Gross National Happiness”.  Whereas most countries concentrate on the amount of money they’re bringing in, what exports they can sell to who, and how to turn the income from the sale into goods for themselves, Bhutan realized what was truly important, their people.

The nation as a collective has decided not to concentrate on material concerns.  The material concerns caused them to move established communities, upheaving a life they once knew, eliminate forestry cover and lose spiritual sites for a time.  Gross National Product in turn was causing more harm than good so instead, they decided to pursue Gross National Happiness.  Going into it they knew they wouldn’t be a nation of monetary wealth.  They have only just started this endeavor and we have yet to see what comes of their pursuits.  They believe the happiness of their people in turn will be rewarding, helping them lead prosperous, longer lives.

(It is a proven fact, the happier a person is and the people around them, the longer they live.)

This brings me to the next country we would like to move to, Japan.  There are two reasons I would love to visit the island of Okinawa.  The Okinawans have the longest living population in the world, most live to be one hundred years old.  They farm together, eat dinner together and through the farming, provide gifts of food for their family and friends.  This sounds like a dream to me, this is my first reason for visiting the beautiful island.

They interviewed elderly women at a local community center and the women spoke of “ichariboachode” (you are brother and sister even if you have met for the first time) and “monchu” (one family).  Some of the women were captives in World War II.  When they lost their families, they had their neighbors and communities to rely on.  Everyone took care of each other.

My Grandfather was in the 6th Marine Division during World War II, went to Okinawa and helped rescue some of these women from the caves they were hidden in on the island.  My Grandfather barely spoke of this, his heart was broken over the condition in which he found these women and children.  When I spoke to my parents about this film my mother said some resonating words, “Your Grandpa would be so happy that in time these people found happiness.” She is right.  This is the second reason I would love to visit Okinawa.  In some way, by visiting, I feel it would bring closure to an issue my Grandfather had for a long time.  By seeing with my own eyes, their happiness, and in turn letting them know he carried that burden with him for so long, it would be a meeting of happiness and healing for the parties involved.

My Grandfather in China circa1945

My Grandfather in China circa1945

My Grandfather on a tug boat Circa 1943-1945 (?)

My Grandfather on a tug boat Circa 1943-1945 (?)

For one nation to realize the meaning of life is not in the possession of things but within ourselves, faith and each other is a huge step, I feel, in the right direction.  I want to go with my husband to Bhutan and maybe accidentally get stuck between two prayer wheels, so I can say “It’s alright, I’m between prayers right now!”.  I want to explore what makes the people of Bhutan happy and how they plan to ensure happiness for future generations.

I want to go to Okinawa and speak to some of the women who may have met my Grandpa. I want to ask them how through the sorrows of war they made the journey back to happiness.

I want to travel to the places I only heard my grandpa speak of and where my great-aunt would bring back souvenirs like a tiny bronze Buddha statue.  Even though both my grandpa and great-aunt were devout Christians, they still saw the beauty in other peoples’ faiths and cultures.  I want to see what they saw.

I want to see, understand and live happiness like the people in these countries.  Maybe in turn if someone were to employ my husband and I to travel to these places, in writing the book about the experiences, it would help others to look within, reflect and see what their passion truly is, what truly makes them happy.

 If any of my readers are from Bhutan or Okinawa I would like to know what you think about the representation of your countries in the documentary.  Do you feel it is accurate?  Do you feel you are intrinsically happy or are you still seeking it?

     To my other readers, what makes YOU happy? Happy 

 

 

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