It’s hard to describe how I feel sometimes. About a year has passed since I last posted a blog, since I left my job teaching preschool to work in an office, since I turned 27. I think of writing often. I think about the writing I did as a child. I was always telling stories about historical events that fascinated me, placing myself as a character within the midst of chaos. As a child I survived the sinking of the Titanic, trudged through the trenches of war, and even made it through a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day. That part of me started early: the curiosity of someone else’s shoes. How could I understand if I wasn’t there? The only way to try was to write it.
I think about the writing I did in high school. It was morose and vague. There was poetry about dead birds, rifles, and a boy that was never good for me, because what else was I to write about as a teenage girl? And then there were the snips and snaps that started to happen; the characters that I knew too well becoming the center of each new piece. An idea that perhaps, I was not just an avid reader but also someone with a voice, whatever that voice was.
I think about the writing I did in college. An 8-page analysis of one line in Heart of Darkness that was probably entirely wrong. Stories littered with my past and present. An unfulfilled need to move, move, move. That was always clear.
I always moved. From town to town; from house to house; from person to person; from thing to thing. My roots have never quite settled in one place, yet once I’ve left that place they seem to stretch back as if grasping for mossy rocks or solid ground to hold onto them. A search for something new was always at the forefront of what I wrote, yet my words were set deeply in nostalgia.
I think about how I don’t write now. I don’t write myself out of danger, or out of love, or out of the murky past. I don’t make up names and plots to faces I already know. I don’t even write the images that flitter through my brain.
You know what I write about now? I write about apartments, and how qualified I am for a job, and my five year goals. I write that we should catch up and that things are good and miss you sometimes.
I miss me.
There’s an image I still see some days. It’s of me sitting in a desk amongst classmates, my high school English teacher with my paper in his hands. He has just finished reading and it is quiet, my cheeks are flushed and I’m terrified. And then he nods, and someone else smiles, and my paper is back on my desk and someone else stands in front of the class. My cheeks cool off and I can see clearly again, and I feel good.
I miss me.
Or maybe it’s just that I miss what I used to believe me to be. I was a girl who wrote and wrote well. I was a girl with a voice and a passion for telling stories. I wanted to tell my stories. I wanted to live my stories, like Alice falling into that rabbit hole and landing in a foreign world. I still want to live stories, but I don’t tell them anymore. Not like that.
Recently my boyfriend told me that for someone as scared as I was to share my art, myself, I sure could be judgmental about other art. I suppose it goes hand in hand. Those who can’t, teach. Those who don’t, judge. It’s a viscous, jealous cycle and I don’t know where it stops.
When I started writing tonight, it was all about tips on how to have a good day back in the office after a 3-day weekend. Your typical listicle of overly obvious things you could do to have a good day. And I was bored and sad. Who am I to tell anyone how to enjoy being at work when I just had a tediously miserable day? Why would I write something so uninteresting? I’ve been writing what I think I’m supposed to in a blog. I’m supposed to be witty and snarky and offer valuable insight to your life. But I don’t have it in me today. Today, I just want to write without trying to impress anyone. Younger me didn’t want to give you advice, she just wanted to write something a little sad, and a little sweet. Because that’s me. It’s a big part of me. And it’s the me that I miss.
So here I am, sitting on my couch, sipping a G&T and daydreaming about summer afternoons laying in the park grass in Lancaster and you were there, and you were there, and I was there. We couldn’t read this post online and it probably would have been posted to my Easyjournal which ceases to exist anymore. Thoughts my teenage self put out into the world are now lost in an endless realm of coding, bad URLs and time. But here I’ll put them back out there. I wish to be more than I have been, and I’m terrified but I feel good.
It’s the digital world, people. We’ve got a lot of things going on, nonstop notifications, and too many things we want to do. It’s hard to get it all done. Sometimes I just want to feel like I’m making a difference without having to do anything. Fortunately, I think I’ve figured out a few ways to do just this.
1. Make a List:
Any kind of list: a grocery list, a to-do list, a list that describes a particular group’s characteristics, or even a list like this! (Hell, I already feel more productive.)
A lot of times I have really high ambitions for my day. The night before my day off, I’ll make a list about what I would like to get done the next day. It almost always begins with waking up around the regular hours between 7 and 8, doing some yoga while laundry runs downstairs in the basement. Next I’ll make coffee and clean while listening to a podcast or the news so that I can stay up to date and current. Then I’ll sit down and crank out some writing. Maybe I’ll write a blog post, or perhaps I’ll work on that play idea I’ve been trying to explore. I’m also going to eat a freshly tossed quinoa salad at lunch with dried green tea. I’ll probably apply for some new jobs and maybe take a walk for fresh air. By evening, I’ll be ready to work on the crafts I’ve been thinking about: learning to knit, making my own cards, sketching out new pottery ideas. Then I’ll surprise my boyfriend with a homemade vegetarian lasagna for dinner and go to bed early.
None of these things will happen, but I feel more productive after just writing it down! Lists make us think about all the things we need to do or get or be. Isn’t thinking where productivity starts?!
2. Instead of watching TV in bed, watch TV standing up:
It doesn’t matter what you’re into, the Daily Show and Scandal will both be enjoyed more if you’re being productive while watching. Don’t lay horizontally under those covers at 3 PM like a bum. Get up and watch those Shonda Rhimes dramas even closer up. If you’re standing, you can get as close to the screen as you want. I guess you could do squats or something while you’re watching, too, but that’s only for the most ambitious of you.
3. Refresh your Facebook newsfeed:
I know, I know! Sometimes you’re looking at your Facebook and you’re scrolling down and you’re like, “Ugh, I’ve already seen this picture!” Or maybe you’ve already commented and liked all the status updates that you relate to. Now what will you do? Just press that little arrow that’s so close to making a complete circle and voila! There’s sure to be at least one or two new pictures to be jealous of or rants to vehemently argue with the poster about. Your next two minutes are covered.
4. Talk to people about your art:
This is the easiest, and the best, way to make other people see you as an artist. Look, anyone can make something and put it out into the world. But it takes a special kind of person to convince others just how great of an artist they are without showing any of it to anyone. Besides, the more you talk about your process and the themes behind your work, the less actual work you have to do. This is productive in more ways than one:
a. Self-promotion, AKA make a name for yourself!
b. Keep your clothes clean of paint or clay or rotten tomatoes, AKA the less laundry to do.
c. Save money, AKA the less time you spend making your art, the less money you spend on materials!
d. Feel superior to others, no AKA needed. Am I right?!
Whoa! I just made a list within a list, not to get all Inception on you, but two lists equals twice the productivity for this chick over here.
5. Use broad strokes:
If you really have to get down to the nitty gritty of making something, the bigger the better. If you’re a painter, use a bigger brush. Some people say the art is in the fine details, but I like to think it’s simply a full canvas.
6. Get back in touch with old friends:
You know what will take up a lot of your time and have no real lasting effect on your life? Sending a quick text or message to that friend you haven’t talked to in like a year or so. Most likely, you’ll get sucked into a back and forth of “how have you been’s” and “pretty good’s” and then you’ll start talking about where you’re working and where you have or haven’t vacationed and how your friend’s getting married and moving to Paris or something, and you’ll remember why you stopped talking in the first place. Another double whammy! You get to catch up but you’re also reminded that you don’t really want this person in your present life. Good thing you figured that out before doing your taxes.
7. Tag pictures:
Look. I realize that this is starting to seem a little Facebook-centric right now, but don’t forget that you can post pictures lots of places! I mean, did you tag your girlfriend in that shot of her and that burrito mid-bite that you posted on Instagram last week? The world needs to know who is eating that colossal food porn immediately! Besides, Facebook’s facial recognition feature makes tagging photos so easy that you can get this done in no time. It’s not creepy that Facebook knows my face from the millions of other users online; it’s convenient.
Daydreams are to us like pollen is to flowers. Daydreams help us realize the things we really want in life. Plus, you’re using your imagination! If imagining that John Cusack is cooking me shrimp and grits for dinner isn’t creative, then I don’t want to be creative. Get really productive by daydreaming outside: lay in the grass and stare up at the clouds, debating internally whether that one looks more like a frog or the Grand Old Duke of York.
I’m going to veer in a direction that might make some of you uncomfortable. Crying is not only a cathartic release of emotions and stress. Tears are actually a necessary part of our lives. They lubricate our eyes and help us see in addition to functioning as germ-fighting antibacterials. So weep, baby, and detox those eyeballs. It doesn’t have to be a lot of work to do: sure you could try and make yourself cry by staring into space without blinking until tears start to cloud your vision, or you could break your own leg or break up with your significant other to spur the tears, but I suggest the easy route of chopping up a really juicy onion. Your eyes, and you, need it!
Cuddling is similar to crying. Our bodies crave the touch of another. Whether it’s a person or a cat, cuddling releases endorphins in our bodies that elevate our mood and our souls. Feed the soul to feed your work. A good cuddle session is also productive because you can do it while doing other things! Cuddle while watching a show. Cuddle while watching a movie. Cuddle while watching youtube videos of people slipping on ice. You can cuddle while watching almost anything!
11. Post a review on Yelp:
Did the server at that dive bar you went to the other night give you a disingenuous smile when you cracked a joke? Maybe the fries were cut thicker than you prefer. I can’t believe they made your margarita too strong! Tell. The. World. about this injustice! Don’t leave out a single detail. Definitely tell me what you ordered and post pictures. I will never go there to get drunk because you let me know what’s up. For real, y’all. When you post a review on Yelp you’re helping me, the consumer, and you’re helping the business. Shame them for their choice in dishware and don’t you ever look back.
Feeling Good On A Wednesday
It’s a little late to start talking about New Year’s Resolutions. Christmas lights are packed away, vacation days seem nonexistent, and nobody’s baking anymore! If we’re going to be talking at all about the goals we set just before that last chime of 2014 struck midnight and our wobbly posture and slurred words set in, we’re probably supposed to discuss whether we’ve held up our end of the bargain. It’s January 28th. How’s that diet working out?
I wrote down some goals back at the end of December, too. Before I start preaching, I’ll even share the list with you for all judgy purposes.
Two years ago, my resolutions were just two: make your bed every day and drink the coffee at work instead of buying it out each morning. These are the only New Year’s Resolutions that I’ve ever kept. Probably because they were small. Also, because they helped me build better habits. And they’re now my new model for setting goals. In fact, I think my goal for every year, or better every day, will officially be: do things that make you happier, smarter, and better. Work for progress.
How did a few pressed sheets and Folgers coffee make me happier, though? I know I don’t have a whole lot of support when it comes to making the bed. To some it might seem frivolous, a waste of time, or the worst of all, boring. I am not your mom and I will not make you make your bed, but it is how I start each day. It’s the official, “I’m awake and not going back to sleep,” status. It’s also the comforting invitation to crawl back in at the end of a (hopefully) productive day. Drinking coffee is also a (obviously) long-running morning routine. I’ve simply changed the way I do it. On work days, if I make it to school on time, I’m rewarded with free coffee. On my days off, I’m rewarded with the luxury of not putting on a bra if I put that old French press to work. Both goals have helped me wake up and face my day while saving money. Habits for progress.
Don’t get me wrong, the goals that I listed earlier all have the ability to make my life better. But I think sometimes where I go wrong is by looking too much at the distant future and setting too many restrictions upon myself. A better me (and a better you!) takes more then a flip of a switch to achieve. I’m working on it.
First, and most importantly, I’ve rediscovered things that make me feel at the same time happy, productive, and rewarded. This month, after considering enrolling in a ceramics class for several years, I’ve started throwing on the wheel. Centering be damned; I will make you a giant mug! I’m also remembering how therapeutic working long, fast-moving hours while building with my hands can be.
Working with clay isn’t the only therapy I’ve been indulging in. There’s been more reading and less tv watching. I’m writing my own words down in my notebook rather than quotes spoken by someone more successful. It’s a bit like a renaissance of self, where I’m rediscovering some of the things that make me feel like me, the things that I’ve chosen to define myself by. And I’m finally working on them. Steps 1 and 2 of resolutions: identify what makes you feel good, then put your time into those things.
A toast to tots
I’ve been saying a lot of goodbyes lately. Not see-ya laters, really, but farewells--the probably won’t see you agains. To people I’ve known for more than three years now. That’s longer than I’ve known my current roommates, my boyfriend, some of my close friends; that’s also more than half of the people I’m saying my goodbyes to’s lives. Yes, I’m talking about kids. Yes, they’re going to kindergarten! And yes, it’s time.
Some of us have been over each other for a while. They’ve outgrown me and our school and the younger kids to follow. I’ve gotten to my wit’s end with their newly found love of sarcasm and know-it-all-ness. But these goodbyes are different than ones you would have with people you’ve had relationships with for three years. They’re going to forget me.
This year is the toughest of the three I’ve been teaching at this school, because these little nuggets were my first group, the only ones I’ve seen the whole way through school. In three years they’ve grown out of diapers, learned how to draw superheroes and ninjas versus scribbles, and finally understand the difference between a question and a statement. I’ve learned their habits and characteristics, their flaws and shining moments, just like they know me and my habits, and my likes and dislikes. They know my moods and the things that really tick me off as well as many of my family and friends. They know I don’t like peanut butter and that I like to sit in the blue chair at lunch. They remember when and how I broke my foot almost two years ago, and they harass me about having a boyfriend regularly. They know that singing “Party rockin’ in the house tonight...” is the fastest way to drive me insane. We have inside jokes and rituals together. All of those things they’ll forget.
I’m not saying I won’t forget, too. I will. And then I’ll hear a name I haven’t in a while, and I might think of one of them. I’ll think of Cars 2 and remember Graham’s frustration that someone had Cars-themed diapers and he did not (the injustice!). I’ll give someone the “I’m watching you” gaze and think of Caleb. A text message full of emotions will flash me back to naptime with Pirjo, and summer barbecues will remind me, always, about how Lorena called me Jayne Watermelon.
These little people spend more time with me than almost anyone else in my life. Forty hours a week, every week, for three years adds up to 6,240 hours. 6,240 hours of tantrums, hugs, and whys. 374,400 minutes of drawing, dancing, and singing. 22,464,000 seconds of love, frustration, and laughter that they have given.
Our goodbyes are for good. And I’m proud of them: they’re so old! They’ll visit, for a while, but you never have quite the same bond when they come back--catching up with six and seven year olds is a relatively one-sided conversation, and the familiarity of spending every day with each other fades quickly. They replace you with new friends and teachers and activities and knowing how to read, and you replace them with new kids in diapers. So it goes.
Have any of you guys come to the inevitable mid-twenties decision that it’s finally, really, actually [going to do it this] time to get your shit together? I’m talking like you’ve spent the last eleven or so months laying around with your boyfriend smooching and binge-watching Breaking Bad and Scandal, smoking pack after pack of cigarettes and drinking bottle after bottle of tequila, putting off that whole finding a new job thing and then all of a sudden it’s the beginning of summer and you’ve got to find a new apartment, find a new job, arrange travel plans to go wish your grandfather a happy 90th birthday that requires renting a car and driving across the state, start getting back in shape AND quit smoking but also realizing that although you have to do all of this, you have NO CREDIT? Cause that’s what I’m going through.
Here’s the thing: some of it’s great. Forreal. I haven’t smoked in three days. I’ve gone on three runs and completed about three hours of yoga since Sunday. I feel great (minus the nicotine cravings that get really intense on that trolley ride home)! I’m getting healthy! I’ve also eaten an entire bag of gummy bears and gulped so much seltzer down that my body is approximately 90% sugar and bubbles right now. Baby steps. Oh, and that apartment thing: I’ve got a great one, one to share with the person I love, one to make into a home; if only the landlord would send over that lease. Again, baby steps.
Here are the downsides:
But that’s the thing. Summertime I want to drink and eat crappy hotdogs off the grill with my friends, and cigarettes go hand in hand with that. I want to spend my weekends hiking or swimming or visiting my family, and applying for jobs and credit cards is a drag.
You might be thinking, “Hey, Jayne, getting your shit together is never fun,” to which I would agree. But summer’s a whole different enchilada. I got spoiled as a kid. Three whole months off just to ride my bike around and go to the pool and eat french fries every day? Never having school on my birthday?! I mean, DREAM TOWN. So I know I’m complaining about nothing new, like usual, and most of the time I’m content enough with the maturation process. Today, I’m just craving a bit more youthfulness. Any of you got any hints at growing old with grace?
In the meantime, I’ll just be sitting in my floppy straw hat on the front porch, waiting for Peter Pan to show up with some elixir of youth. That’s how it works, right? Fifty bucks a vial, no wrinkles for awhile.
i'm a well-seasoned stew
I’ve gotten a bit of a bad rap from my roommate James about being somewhat two dimensional; he even suggested I turn my blog into the two sides of me: Judgy Jayne and Jelly Jayne.
Judgy Jayne comes out a lot around the apartment, probably because it’s easy to sit up on the porch with a beer and talk about everyone that walks by. In fact, this is one of my favorite Philly pastimes. Seriously though, sweatpants to work: not okay. Sweatpants to the corner store: probably a bad idea. Sweatpants at the airport: unacceptable. I’ve still got a few Southern ways in me and dressing down to travel is off limits. I refuse to arrive at someone’s home after not seeing them for years wearing sweatpants with Juicy written across the ass. Actually, I never want the word juicy to be written across my ass. There is no Juicy Jayne! (Except when I’ve got a plethora of carrots and the energy to clean all kajillion pieces of my juicer.)
Jelly Jayne might be a little more endearing? Some of you probably recognize this one from South Park: Wendy is so jelly after photoshopping the appearance of another “not so attractive” gal from the fourth grade and all the boys start fighting over said photoshopped girl after the picture is leaked online. But I can’t help it that I’m jealous of the girl and guy up on stage that got to kiss my boyfriend, or that I never want to hear about your dating past EVER, or that everyone on facebook is going on vacation and I’m stuck in Philthy Philadelphia indefinitely! Some things aren’t fair!
But guys. After an evening of botching up cover letters where I'm supposed to sum myself up in a list of positive adjectives, I'm starting to lose my mind. There are many sides of me. Take for instance my most common side, Jittery Jayne. It usually comes out after a full french press pot of coffee and the buildup of years worth of anxiety. Actually, this side probably comes out most days of my life. Oh, my hands are shaking? I’m used to it.*
Then there’s Jiggly Jayne. We all probably have days where we’re something of this nature: Blubbery Barbara, Dumpy Daisy, Portly Portia. You know what I’m talking about. Fat days are the worst, but also the best. Because on my fat days, you can bet I’m not saying no to a second slice of pizza or that Twix bar in the checkout line.
The most rare form is the endangered Jolly Jayne: if you catch this side, take a picture please so I don’t forget that some days I’m happy! Carefree! In the mood to run and jump and hug you if I see you on the sidewalk! Oh my god the sky is beautiful and the flowers are blooming and I’m gonna climb that tree because TODAY I CAN.
But watch out! Here comes G-G-G-Jayne: the lady that doesn’t want to shave. And I’m still going to wear shorts.
Finally, I’ll mention Judicial Jayne. I would say she’s the one that likes things to be fair, but usually that ends up determining which toddler had the troll with the pink hair first. Sometimes she mediates, and most of the time she listens to your side of whatever story you’ve got to get out of your system. But she’s easily distracted, probably by her Judgy/Jelly self.
It’s hard to describe yourself as one type of person without contradicting yourself with another. (And j-adjectives kind of suck.) It's also really hard to create a resume or cover letter that shows the charming/creative/innovative/passionate/dynamic/headcase you are accurately. If you've read any of my previous entries, it's probably clear that I'm a lister, but when it comes to listing "organized, mature, self-starter, great communication skills," I start to freeze up. I'd rather list to you the things I love (coffee, bunny rabbits, ceramic tiles), the ideas I'm passionate about (art education, healthy eating options for all, universal healthcare, Twin Peaks), and so forth rather than tell you what I think you want to hear about me as a person.
I’ve seen a lot of articles titled things like “Who I am and Why” and “What I do and Why,” or you know, a more clever version of exactly that. But really we’re all just people: so judgy or jelly or jolly or jiggly (or, you know, creative or organized or a great leader)-- I can think of words for each of those starting with most letters of the alphabet. The real point is that some days I feel jealous, and so does everyone else. Some days I feel fat, and so does everyone else. Some days I just want to make fun of a stupid outfit and I know I’m not alone! And some days I want to stop trying to convince you that I'm the best person for the job. Please stop defining people into ones and twos, please stop making life about how well we can write a list about ourselves, and please, for the love of god, stop wearing sweatpants in public.
*This post inspired by Jittery Jayne
It was beautiful outside last weekend, and that’s an undeniable fact as it’s now April 16th (Happy Birthday Mama! #shameless #makingmomfamous #IWISH) and I’ve only worn NO PANTS twice. Well, in public. It got me thinking after my second hamburger and my twentieth gin and tonic, how many people in Philadelphia were having as pleasant of a time as I was?
Here are my estimates:
Number of Hamburgers/Hotdogs/Tofu dogs grilled: 625,014
Number of beers drank: 2,818,000
Number of cigarettes smoked: 1,500,000
Number of Sloppy Kisses: 412,001
Number of One Night Stands: 412,000
Number of Bad Decisions: 12 (On the first nice weekend of the year, a bad decision has to be like "I threw my best friend into a running car while posting it on Vine" BAD.)
Number of Too-Short Shorts worn: 320,000
Number of Sunburns acquired: 320,000
Number of Frisbees thrown: 609
Number of College Kids hammered: 450,000
Number of Brunches brunched: 9,542
Number of Selfies snapped: 2,345,678
Number of Smiles smiled: 1,548,000
Come back soon, Sun. I’ve got more porches to sit on.
Or Maybe It's just Lice
I’ve got an itch.
It’s for some sort of change. Well, really, it’s for drastic change. It’s to grow up, to figure myself out, to treat myself better. It’s an itch for immediate change: to feel happier, more energetic, more satisfied, more self-disciplined, stronger instantly. But then, in the back of my head, I’ve got another very simple, very stupid itch.
I’m looking at my unfolded laundry, shuffling through old notebooks, and sipping on my third cup of coffee. The clock reads 9:16, and I just have an itch. I’m not going to scratch.
Being an adult is hard though, right? I’m terrible at it, and yet my job is to take care of little people who are okay with yogurt and snot dripping down their faces, of little people who will ignore you until you lie and say, “I’ve got cookies!” At work I get to build with legos, color, and dance. My job is mostly to play, and when it’s not, my way of handling drama may not be as “teacherly” as some might prefer. I’ve told a little girl to push someone back after being shoved a few too many times. I told a child in the midst of a breakdown over his toppled lego tower that “things fall apart, and you have to rebuild them.” Sometimes I tell kids not to touch me or talk to me... at all... for the rest of the day. But! All that aside, the kids call me a “grownup” so that must mean I am. Do other grownups still call their mom every time they get sick, too?
I spend my days caring for a gaggle of other little people. When I come home, the last person I want to take care of is myself. Where’s the person that’s going to do my taxes and take my garbage out and bring me seltzer when I’m sick and buy me new shoes when my old ones fall apart? Why do I have to remind myself that a box of Cheez-Its and a bottle of wine for dinner is not a good idea? There should be someone to do that for me!
Strangers tell me that there’s “a special place in heaven” for me, that I’m a “saint,” that I must be “so patient” when they find out that I work with preschoolers. There’s not. I’m not. I’m definitely not. Teaching young children is not a saint-worthy occupation--we all lose our tempers, we all yell and say things that we shouldn’t, we ignore fights between kids and let them fend for themselves. There are mornings where I throw temper tantrums about getting out of bed: real life tantrums, kicking and hitting the entire time I’m getting myself dressed. Don’t reserve some special spot up there in the sky for me, I just want a vacation. Because I’ve got another itch.
It’s to smoke a cigarette and it’s to shave the hair off my head. It’s to pick up and move far away, or maybe to buy a house. It’s deciding whether I want to wake up and go for a run in the morning, or just to sleep until my five minute warning. It’s to start applying to schools and to give up eating meat. It’s deciding between a childhood dream, a new hobby, or health and dental insurance. I can’t sort out any of my own thoughts clearly enough because I want the same things that I do not want. I’ve got an itch that I can’t quite place. Because people have stopped saying things like good job and when you grow up and take your time; because people ask a lot of questions. I want to scratch, to gnaw away in my head until I get down to the very bottom of it, the most basic of basic, the essentials. What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you do for a living? What’s your career path? When are you getting married? Have you thought about kids? I’ve got an itch. Someone hold onto my hands.
heavy heeled when walking; heavy handed when pouring a drink