Saturday, December 7, 2013

Candidate, Hello Again

It has been almost two years since I have written a word on here. And who knows if I will often, or not for another few years.

All I know is this:  I appreciate that life is so wonderfully the same and so thankfully different from these old posts. Rereading them has been more than enlightening.

Mostly, I've forgotten all about this old blog. Yet, when I think of it, I imagine it full of the embarrassing tears, anxiety and ultra-sensitivity that was transitioning into teaching in BCPSS.

But it's not. Well it is. But not only.

It's really full of transitioning into all and other newnesses:  new to Baltimore, new to parenting, new to surviving two very young children and a fully intense work load, new to new friendships, new to new houses, new to being more open about the shit of an anxiety disorder, new to such limited time to myself, and new to time for poetry again.

I know that over the past five years, I've grown immensely as a person, parent and teacher. What used to cause me great pain and anxiety has certainly mellowed, but so has my intensity and sensitivity. Many would argue that's a good thing; I finally have some of that "thick skin" we all think is so awesome.

I don't know, though. With my thinner skin, I wrote these posts. Trust me, I do not want to be 15 pounds skinnier because chewing food is an impossible feat, or up so early with insomnia that making a sandwich to put in your kid's lunchbox seems so daunting. And not only is it daunting, but somehow I made all of those other sandwiches wrong. Maybe I thought they were yummy at the time, but I was mistaken. I fucked up all of that sandwich making, and I am a horrible person for it. This is the batshitcrazy of anxiety at 3am. I do not miss it. Yet, with my thinner skin, I documented my young boys' interests and accomplishments. I want to do that again with the same amount of purity, adoration and awe.

They are so fully formed now; they even have a Wii! They are talkative and argumentative and super opinionated. And so exact to who they were at 3 and 1. Jack is still a serious, sensitive, thoughtful, but somehow impulsive kid. (He thought it would be a great idea to cut up all of his paint tubes one morning...why? WHY?) Benny is still incredibly easy going and happy; so full of love that he almost knocks over his teacher when he runs to hug her. (Granted, she is very tiny)

I found some older blogs that I did not publish. One when I was turning 36 (um...39 now!) and giving some advice:

- Never go cheap on the toilet paper
- It rarely works out to cut your own bangs
- Only a true asshole throws gum on the floor
- You CAN ignore a cold when you have two kids
- When you feel like kicking something, step away
- There is more to your core than previously imagined

Good advice, young Brenda. 

And another post about Vinny from Jersey Shore (yes, really!):

I never watch Jersey Shore. Well, I watched maybe 10 minutes of some episode in the first season. At the time, I was watching a lot of Reality TV in an attempt to numb myself from the reality of life.

As Jersey Shore premiered (ha, on my birthday in 2009)  I had just returned to work after a year's maternity leave and returned to teaching after a five-year hiatus. I was placed in a dreadful non-functioning middle school, but had just been told I was about to be transferred to who-knows-where-high-school. It was December. I had lost 15 pounds since September due to the stress, which somehow disengaged my ability to enjoy or even to chew food.  I was not sleeping. In a word:  wrecked. 

Yet, even during this time of necessary mind numbing, I was not able to watch Jersey Shore. It didn't make me feel better as somehow other Reality TV did.  It made me scared. For the future. Seriously, for the future of youth, this country and my boys.

But recently I heard about someone named Vinny from Jersey Shore who had to leave the show due to a clinical anxiety disorder. I had instant empathy.

Clinical anxiety ruins my life. It has ruined the lives of friends, students and family members, but people rarely discuss or acknowledge it. We all live painfully, either shamed with terrible self-esteem or self-efficacy, pretending not to suffer. Why not just admit it? Because it is shamefully embarrassing, a weakness like no other. The ultimate deficiency. 

People do not succeed by smarts or kindness or caring. This world seems to be run by confidence and ego, and the clinically anxious have neither.

I know I have an excellent life, but I struggle daily to enjoy it. That is not because I am greedy or ungrateful or unappreciative or opportunistic. It is because I  have a disorder. And want to be  done with it.

I have tried several times in journals in poems in conversation in this blog to explain what an anxiety disorder feels like. It is not the same as anxiety over a thing or event. It is not comparable to when someone feels a nervousness...

Or this from when Jack was 4:

All of a sudden, your kid can become "That Kid." 

Last week, out of nowhere, Jack whacked a child in the face with a wooden block; gave that boy a huge shiner. Poor kid was just walking over to play when Jack hit him. The next day (my birthday, coincidentally) Jack was sent home from school for pushing and throwing a toy at a child.

So, we are racking our brains trying to figure out what is going on with him, why he is so frustrated and how our seemingly sweet and nonviolent child has turned into the kid who can't control his impulses...

 Anyway, I hope to be back.

Mostly to document how my children grow; to know that I will not remember all of the creative details of what they say and do exactly, or what the boys think is funny or worthwhile at 7 and 5 without writing these cool things down.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year. New Post.

It has been about a year since my last post. Thought I was done with this site until I reread what the boys were up to then, laughed, and remembered why I originally began writing hellocandidate.

So, I'll begin again with their hijinks.

Jack - 5 years old:

Incredibly kind and sensitive. 
Loves soccer and karate
Is just now playing more by himself, with action figures he throws around with grunts and yells...
Favorite food: salmon
Favorite color: green
Favorite subject: math (Yes, I think I know this already :)

Benny - 3 years old:

Incredibly mischievous
When disappointed, he will put his head in his hands and sigh for a second. Then, lift his head and continue his day. A great lesson.
But...he is in some kind of hitting and throwing things stage (not fun)
Favorite show: Yo Gabba Gabba
Favorite food: Pizza (Or really, bread and sauce. We have to take the cheese off or he will throw it up)
Favorite color: blue
Loves to sing and will break out in song randomly

Here's to a wonderful 2012 filled with fun, growth and focus!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

March 2011

So, time is quickly slipping by, and between work, kids, avoiding the dishes and passing out every night in the eight o'clock hour, I haven't been recording the hilariousness that is 4 1/2 and 2. 

Jack - 4.5:

- Enjoys dressing up - as anything
- Likes to play the game "bad monkeys", which means we are a family of bad monkeys doing...something, just living, I guess. The next day, we will play "bad tigers"
- Can catch you in a lie in a nanosecond
- New movie loves: Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz
- Will choose to keep Benny laughing, even if it means not listening to us
- If you stub your toe, Jack will run over to kiss it.
- Is great at puzzles, but doesn't concentrate on just one toy for too long!

Jack's litany at bedtime, which he calls "the rules":
If I have to go poopie or peepee I could just call you? And I shouldn't have to go for long?
If I pick my nose, will it bleed? If it does, tell Daddy because he's older.
Will I have bad dreams?
Watch which way my head goes. Can it go that way (points)? Can it go that way (points to the other side)?

 Benny - 2

- If you ask him, "Are you Benny?", he will respond, "I'm a good guy" 
- Loves Nemo, Shrek and Toy Story, which he now just calls "number 3"
- Would beat us all in a pizza, hot dog, meatball eating contest 
- Is so cudldly and talkative when he first wakes up
- Loves his green shirt. He'll say, "I have green shirt. Mommy has bluuuuueeee shirt."
- Loves to talk about and look at pictures of his friends - Will Will and Andi especially!

They both cannot stop wrestling each other and love to sleep in the same room. Their favorite game to play together involves throwing around action figures (which they call "bad guys") in a pretend ambush. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010


A couple of weeks ago,  I fell into a huge depression. I'm not exactly sure why, but probably a culmination of the move, work and being so busy that I could barely see straight. My perspective was so off that I truly believed some very strange notions about life, parenthood, teaching, etc. It started with a panic attack I had over my freshman seminar class. 

My students are learning about each academy we have at the school - Engineering, Finance, Law, IT, and Hospitality. We have a professional kitchen for the Hospitality students, and they often cook for the the teachers' meetings. Yum! So, for this unit, my students had to type up a family or favorite recipe and write a narrative about it. I gave them an example from Coolio's Cooking with Coolio. I struggled a bit before giving it to them...because there is a little cursing and some drug references...but there is also an incredible voice and attention to audience that I wanted the students to model. I picked a relatively benign page to copy, but after passing it out, I regretted my choice. I envisioned parents trying to protect their children from the rampant world of drugs, cursing and negativity around them, and wondering why their son/daughter was given this example in school. I totally overreacted; panicked; called my friend in a panic. Asked the kids to give it back the next day, and replaced it with a MUCH less interesting page from 1,000 Jewish Recipes. This "mistake" started a downward spiral into anxiety and depression for a week and a half. My confidence was shaken. My ability to see clearly...shaken.

Aside from the pain (and it is actual, physical pain), I cannot stand how selfish depression/anxiety are. Example: I forgot to pay our car payment and a few other bills, forgot my parents anniversary, and I mean completely forgot. And because I was too depressed to take their phone calls, Michelle wasn't able to remind me (though she tried). 

I got out of it, took a couple of good days at work for me to feel confident again. Or rather, the ability to SEE that they were good days. The days themselves were probably not so different from any others.

So, this year, I am thankful for so many things (for Evan - my rock, for Jack, for Ben, for their health, for family, for friends, for love, for all the things we notice when they are shaken)

But I am most thankful right now for mental health and adequate perspective. 

And these things, too:

- Old mix tapes that Jack and I dance to in the kitchen

- Ben's squishy cheeks

- Jack pretending that we are all bears about to hibernate

- My pillows

- The way Benny touches my eyebrows and says, in his sweet little voice,  

Hanging out in our new home (with all of its natural light) on a Saturday

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Moving Along

So, after the rocky transition that was last year, the 2010-2011 school year was going to be my "year of the same". I was so looking forward to a year of no major transitions...


We just moved again last weekend! That's four times in four years (if you count the three months we lived with the Serpicks) We found out my first week back at work that our landlord wanted to sell the place, and I blocked that piece of information out of my mind for an entire month! Then, we were forced to begin looking at what was available to rent in Mt. Washington. Slim pickings. We had a great deal at our old place, and it was hard to imagine paying more money for a shittier space. 

Alas, we found a great house to rent - more money, but more space too. And we love it. 

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of packing, cleaning, moving and transitioning into the new place (add Halloween, Evan and Benny's birthdays in there too). It took Benny a few nights of whining and a few mornings of waking up at 3:30, but he seems adjusted now. I only had one major panic attack. Evan and I have stopped bickering. Jack took the transition the easiest. He loved the space from day one and still gets excited to see it.

Jack: Are we going to our NEW house now? 

Mommy: Yes. And from now on, honey, when I say we're going home, I always mean our new house.  

Five minutes later: Jack: Are we almost at our NEW house? 

Alright, so our stuff is all over the place and I can't find my clothes and now when I want to lay down and rest, I can add, You have to unpack, too!! to the uber-long list of things to do. That's okay. I think as a parent of small children, transition just comes along with the territory. It's something to just get used to and not fear.

As my dad reminded me the other day, these are all good things. Lucky transitions.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Been A While

Here's why:

The school year started. Plain and simple. Teaching takes over my life, again.  I have yet to be able to teach and write poetry (bye for now, Fagel) or teach and concentrate on anything extra - consumed by the plans, the students, the grading, the needs.

I used to manage this obsession through practicing Capoeira, but then it seemed that Capoeira had to become my life for me to get to the next level, and I was ready to settle down with Evan and start a family at that point. So I quit both teaching and Capoeira (abruptly, regrettably) and had a few relatively less stressed years to enjoy pregnancy and adjust to motherhood (and move to Jersey City, then Baltimore - okay, some stress!).

Now, my "Capoeira" that takes my mind off of teaching has turned into making dinner, playing, baths, and bedtime routine for two little guys who deserve every bit of attention I can muster (and don't even get me started about dishes, laundry, or housework in general! That shit never gets done.) The problem is, I'm not always giving them the attention they deserve. My mind obsesses about what happened in the classroom or didn't happen, etc. When I catch myself, it becomes a battle that I don't always win. I'm starting to spend the time writing these obsessions down in order to let them go.  It's a very complicated relationship.

That said, I'm in a good place with teaching in many ways. Someone once told me that it takes about seven years to truly find your way. This is my seventh year in the classroom - though because I took a break for a few years, and entered a new system, and began again with middle school, and had a baby less than a year old, last year sure felt like my first year teaching! I cannot even reference the blogs I wrote those first few months here - I was a total mess - kind of embarrassing. Now, I'm in a school I love, where I have support in the curriculum, while given the freedom to be creative. I have a good handle on classroom management, after yeeeeaaaaaarrrrsss of trial and error.

It is frustrating as a new teacher or a teacher in a new environment when the seasoned tell you that you will "find your way" with classroom management. It's like a hazing we all must go through. There is no formula or method that works for all because a teacher must be his/herself in the classroom, or it's 10 months of intensive, impossible acting for hours and hours daily. The first time you have a student freak out for something you thought was benign, you learn what is not benign. The first time you feel like shit for watching a student cower, you learn that is not your way, either. And, certainly, the times you let something serious go because you didn't have the energy to deal with it, you learn that some things need to be addressed immediately, no matter what. Or, as one of my colleagues would add, the first time you have a student whip out his penis and pee in front of your desk, you don't think bathroom passes are such a big deal any longer!

On the good days, I never felt better about myself. I feel like the service I am giving is the one that truly changes people and families and poverty and the country. On the bad days, I feel like an imposter who somehow tricked people into thinking I could handle this immense responsibility! Some days I plan and plan and research and put together a lesson I think is profound, and it bombs. Others, I haphazardly plan a lesson that I think will bomb and it will soar.  It's all a part of that people factor that makes working with them rather than machines so glorious and inspiring.

Again, it's a very complicated relationship. But one I am so happy to be involved in. 

Friday, August 6, 2010

Morning Rituals

It is true that the later the boys go to bed (and the later I go to bed), the earlier they wake up.  Happens every time. I have never understood this phenomenon. Has anyone done a study on this? Well, I thought we were turning a corner with the just about 6am wake-ups, and stayed up late last night to watch Project Runway (1.5 hours? Bor-ring!). But, alas, 5am this morning Benny is wailing and Jack teeters out of his room not too much later. They have always been connected in this way. The day Benny was born, Jack let out a cry and a second later, my water broke. No joke. They work together, those two. 

I consider myself a morning person, always have, but I cannot play or function without my coffee. And that means, every morning the boys watch TV while I make coffee, Ben's bottle, breakfast, go online, wait to wake up, and the like. They were watching Pinocchio as I began this post. 

At this point, we've had to limit our TV. One hour in the morning and no TV at night is the rule we (mostly) abide to. Exception being on dead-tired weekends, when we've spent all day running around or playing together and just need a break. 

And what a break TV is! A true, "free" babysitter. Jack and Benny are mesmerized. I can go upstairs, on line, lay down, have a reasonably timed bathroom trip. It is all too tempting. Kind of like my own battle with TV-to-tune-out-ness.


                      and...worst parents in the world award,  here

Jack's loving Batman, with the fighting and jumping around and all sorts of mahem. Times have surely changed in a year. When he received a transformer last year, I thought I could control the boy socializing, remember? Now, he's all about playing "bad guys" where he attacks us on the sofa with a strange grin, making scary noises. He plays the super-hero-good-guy, saving the world from Ev and I. I play Cat Woman. Evan plays "Sally".

I can only imagine the fears and issues I'd be dealing with if I had a daughter (reason #103 for not having another child), but socializing boys is a delicate balance. I'm trying to encourage Jack's sensitivity along with helping him be a bit more daring. Benny....we'll see...he doesn't seem sensitive AT ALL. He is more the don't worry 'bout a thing type. He is obsessed with trucks and cars. He will knock you over when you're not playing Cat Woman, with a grin on his face, and charm you out of being angry about it.