The Lindsay Rules: 2-3-1

It was one of those conversations where everyone is sitting around discussing what characters from TV shows everyone identifies with. You know, what Sex & the City Character are you? Or Game of Thrones? or Golden Girls?At some point, we touched on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (where I’m pretty sure no one wants to identify with any of the characters) and both my husband, Thor, and my bff, Courtney, simultaneously looked at me and said, “You’re a Dennis!”

The world goes black.

I’m a DENNIS?! I mean, sure they are all horrible people…but Charlie is endearingly goofy, Mac’s delusional action hero daydreams are hilarious, you can’t help but pity Dee…even Frank is somehow physically disgusting but fully amusing. BUT DENNIS??!! He’s like the most self-absorbed, self-satisfied, smirking asshole on the show.

Then Courtney says, “You have all these rules you live by,” to which I paused and was like, “Well…yeah…”

So ok, fine – I’m a Dennis. Supposedly.

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Tonight I’m packing for a quick work trip to Kansas, and my two colleagues were texting me, “What are you going to wear? What are you packing?” and up popped one of my most important and self-created rules: The 2-3-1. Tonight, I will share my secret rule with you.

Here’s the scenario: You’re going to be meeting a lot of new people over multiple days, in a professional setting. These can be consecutive days, or spread out over time, but basically it’s the same group of people. What do you wear to be remembered, and also communicate your professional competence while not forgoing your true personality?

That’s where my 2-3-1 rule comes in.

Day One: First impressions are key. You don’t want to underdress, but if you overdress you can seem stuffy or unapproachable. I shoot for a “2”, meaning my outfit is polished and professional, but toned down. For me this means kitten heels, basic colors, cool and classy. Maybe nice jeans with pearls, and easy but definitely styled hair and make up. People will say to themselves, “Say – she looks smart and classy!”

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Day Two: Now you’ve set the stage that you can look classic professional, and it’s time to turn up the dial. I dress as a “3”, meaning a great dress and high heels (not porno high), hair definitely up and make up that is more bold. Maybe one piece of jingly or sparkly jewelry; definitely a great handbag. Now people are possibility intimidated because you look goooood, but they’ve met you once before so their first impression is still forming. They are wondering if you are cool or super high maintenance…and you let that suspense hang…

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Day Three: Just when people think you are all about climbing your way to the top, I take it down to a “1”, meaning it’s all about cool and casual. For me this is skinny jeans (or my favorite leather pants!), Converse, and cool sweater and maybe a leather wrist cuff. People subtly realize that you are also down for a beer after work, but out of the 2/3 times they’ve seen you, you look dressed up so you’ve solidified a professional, yet personable persona to your new network.

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There you have it: my “2-3-1″. If living by rules seems a little constraining to you, that’s cool. But just remember one thing: I’m a Dennis.

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Letters of March

It’s funny to think that back in January I wasn’t sure who I would be writing letters to all year, and now it’s snowballed to the point that I can’t seem to write enough. By writing letters to some of my former students, it’s opened a floodgate of letters written back.

In February, I posted about writing a letter to a former student who is currently in jail, and this month I received a long letter back. The teacher in me was immediately impressed how much his handwriting, spelling, and conventions had improved. The human in me couldn’t believe how heartfelt and wise his message to me was. It might be the nicest letter I’ve ever received in my life, and it was funny, too!

He mentioned he had just finished a book, so I went out and purchased a couple new ones and mailed them back, and at this point, I’m pretty certain I’ll hear from him again.

I also wrote two new letters to other former students who are getting ready to go to high school.

The fourth letter sucked. One of my students from last year was an incredibly talented boy from Colombia who had moved to Portland to learn English while living with his aunt. For anyone who knows about language acquisition, it was astounding that he entered at a Level 1 (basically zero English) and by May we had literally exited him from language services as a Level 5 (basically proficient). I didn’t even know that was possible. Two weeks ago, he and his mother were killed in a car accident back in Colombia. Thus I sent a letter to his father and aunt in Colombia. I had my students each make an Identity Book (inspired by a friend who posted her 7th grade version on Facebook). My plan is to somehow return the books to them when they graduate high school (yeah – we’ll see how that goes…). Since I still had his Identity Book, I made sure to include it to his family.

So there it is – letters of March.

I was on the soccer field, actually playing soccer. People were passing me the ball, and while my footwork was terrible, I could run fast, and mostly pass the ball down the field. I didn’t know anyone on my team, and I had no clue what the score was, but I was playing soccer. And then I woke up.

My husband, Thor, thinks I’m nuts for seeing symbolism in my dreams, but I really think that they mean something. For months when recovering from knee surgery, the last thing I would picture in my head before falling asleep was myself out running. I would try to visualize what it would be like when my knee was healed and I could be back to running outside. I would often have dreams that I was trying to run, but my legs wouldn’t move right, or I would uncontrollably spin in circles. After many months, the circles went away and I was plodding along…and then in reality, my legs slowly started being able to run again.

So the soccer dream last night took me by surprise. Mostly, I have sworn off soccer for fear of blowing out my knee again. Yes, yes, I did all the necessary physical therapy and I’m really active again – but soccer is a contact sport. Running on the track or lifting weights puts me in control, but playing soccer adds a lot of variables. I’ve wondered if I could play on a lower division team – maybe there’s even a “recovering injury” league full of people like me who want to play some gentle soccer; just passing the ball around, no slide tackling or full sprint challenges.

Spring has started, and I work out with a group of teachers on the track across the street from our school. Last year, the girls’ high school soccer team had their games at the same time, and I couldn’t take my eyes away. I wanted to charge the field and add myself to a team. Maybe my height and my bouncy blonde ponytail would help me infiltrate them for just a couple minutes.

Which also reminds me how much I miss being a part of a team. Whether we had a rare winning season, or a season where we didn’t even have enough players to fill the field, it was still fun to hang out with my soccer buddies every week. After having to quit the team, it was a lonely place. Every Sunday I knew they were out there playing without me, while I was icing and loading up on ibuprofen – and that sucked.

Before I ever hurt myself seriously, I remember playing a heated game in my women’s division. The women on the other team were pretty catty, making a lot of cheap plays, and one woman (at least 10 years older) was getting particularly frustrated that I kept beating her to the ball. At one point, I snuck in and inadvertently checked her in the hip hard while taking the ball away. She screamed at me, “You could really hurt someone!” I took a cheap shot back and replied, “Maybe you should join the over 40 league, lady.” That really pissed her off. It was a terrible thing to say and I knew it would rattle her. We won the game, but I didn’t feel very good about my comment.

Here I am today worried about someone like me, who enjoyed pushing people around on the field, and sometimes took risky moves to steal the ball. I’m not saying “Oh hey world! I’m going to play soccer again!” All I’m saying is that my dreams are telling me that I’m probably ready…maybe…

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#12 – Howl at Wolf Haven International. Check.

Last fall, I was having happy hour with a few teachers after school. One of their husbands, who is a professional musician, showed up and someone asked him, “What’s an interesting show you’ve played lately?” I’ll admit I wasn’t fully paying attention, until he replied, “Oh man – we played a gig for some wolves…” He went on to explain how his band drove up to Tenino, Washington to a wolf sanctuary to play music for the wolves, as part of some research study. His story was super interesting, and being a big time wolf lover, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. His wife later told me where I could find the video and more information about it:

 (Read about it here)

The part that really hooked me was when he said they were told to howl at the end, and all the wolves howled back. How badass is that?

Three months later, I was still thinking about those wolves, and I knew I had to hear them howl with my own ears.

Today I was joined by my two friends, Jim and Courtney, to drive up to Tenino (a little more than two hours north of Portland) and get a tour of Wolf Haven International. We learned that they house approximately 50 wolves, all rescued from some form of neglect or abuse, and that because people raised them, they cannot be returned to the wild so they live out their days at the sanctuary. Some of the wolves are also approved for breeding, as part of an endangered species repopulation effort.

The tour itself was about an hour, and led by an extremely knowledgeable tour guide. Although we didn’t get to see all the wolves (some were in more private areas), we did get to view several pairs of wolves, coyotes, and a wolf-dog hybrid. Basically what I took away from the tour was that humans (as usual) are ignorant assholes who think they can raise wolves as pets, keep them in tiny cages for entertainment, or accidentally kill wolves by mistaking them for coyotes.

While it was pretty cool to get up close and personal to the enclosures, the best part was when they suddenly went into a group howl:

Of course, the tour guide seemed pretty protective of the wolves (as he should be) but my whole goal was to howl myself. As the tour was ending, I did a quiet howl under my breath and I saw two wolves’ ears perk up, but I wasn’t brave enough to outright howl in front of a bunch of strangers. After we had purchased our souvenirs from the gift shop, we rolled down the car windows and belted out our own group howl in the parking lot. Sadly, I didn’t hear any of the wolves howl back, but maybe they were just afraid of how tough we were in our new fingerless knitted wolf gloves.

#25 MYSTERY GOAL – Unlocked

Earlier this month I mentioned that I’m playing a bit of my own personal game with my bucket list items this year. While I have my typical “learn this” or “try that” goals, I decided to add a “Mystery Goal.” Once that mystery goal was officially revealed, I would add two more mystery goals and secretly shoot for them – and these mystery goals aren’t just normal, everyday goals: they are epic. (You may be thinking I’m totally insane right now, but I swear I have a system fully worked out in my head).

Let me tell you – when it rains, it POURS. My first mystery goal was to see Lady Gaga in Vegas…and now that I have my ticket and flight secured, I’m sure I’ll be crossing that off next month. In my opinion, Gaga is AH-MAZ-ING, but there is another woman who was far more formative in my life:

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That’s right. THE woman. The Queen. Madge.

I have no clue what I listened to before Madonna…because she started it all. And the last time she was in Portland, it was 1985 and I wasn’t even five years old yet. Although I parted ways with Madonna’s music in high school (she kind of lost me with Ray of Light and Bedtime Stories), some of her singles in the 2000s kept me interested. Then she kissed Britney Spears at the VMAs and got herself a 26 year old boyfriend, and I realized I will always love her.

But alas, when I heard she was playing here in PDX in the fall, I hemmed and hawed about my wallet. I totally splurged on Gaga tickets already! Sadly, I told my other Madonna loving friends that I would have to sit this one out, but maybe I would photoshop myself into a picture with her.

Last week on the way home from work, I’m driving in my car with my iTunes on shuffle. Not one, not two, but three songs from The Immaculate Collection comes on in a row (out of hundreds of songs). It was a sign; and I immediately began the hunt for tickets. A few Facebook messages, one latte, and about a million heart palpitations later, I eeked out tickets this morning – and they weren’t even that expensive!

I totally understand that some people might be thinking this is the lamest goal ever. Madonna is 56 years old, strutting around with a puffy face, in fishnets, and talking in an English accent. I get it. But to those of us who grew up with her; like worshipped her, that idolatry will never die.

October is a ways away, but in the meantime – I’ll be posting some of my favorite Madonna moments here (because there are far too many for one post).

Madonna Moment #1:

Hey Quantico! I’m coming for you!

It’s official: we’ve reserved our hotel room and booked our flight to Washington DC for the last week of July, as part of my goal to visit the FBI Headquarters in Quantico. Last year, I was lucky enough to take part in the FBI Citizen’s Academy (read about our epic graduation day here), and now that I am part of the FBICA alumni network, I have been officially invited to go on a tour with 10 other alumni (oh yeah, and I get to bring my husband).

The tour is supposed to be a week of fun filled activities that include a VIP tour of the FBI Headquarters in Quantico, as well as the FBI Academy and Laboratory, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and then a host of typical DC museums. Considering the fact that we were treated to some very interesting speakers and hands-on activities in our regular class, I expect that the trip will take it to the next level.

In the meantime, here’s a tribute to some of the some of the best FBI agents I’ve ever known.

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Pros and Cons of Writing Letters

Although there are some goals I haven’t even attempted this year, one that remains in the forefront is writing a letter a week (albeit more like 4 a month). In 2015, I have officially mailed ten real handwritten letters through the mail, which is probably ten more than I did during all of last year. Success!

But to be honest, it’s kind of a pain in the ass, and I can see why people (including me) are lazy and just rely on email and Facebook. Here’s what I’ve learned so far in my first quarter of the year, which seems like a bunch of no-brainers, but well, you know…

PROS and CONS of WRITING LETTERS

PRO: People actually write you back, thus checking the mail is far more appealing than when you only get credit card offers and grocery coupons.

CON: It takes time to hand write a letter, look up an address, and walk to the mailbox. I give it 10 total minutes a letter, so if you sit down and write four at a time – well, that’s a lot more work than shooting out a few emails out (especially since I type close to 100 wpm).

PRO: Stationary! The more letters you send, the more fun stationary you get to pick out! Paper candy!

CON: Stamps! I ran out last month and kept forgetting over and over to buy more. Then I went on the USPS website to order them (thinking that was a foolproof option) and it said they would take approximately 7-10 days to be delivered! What?! Can’t the mailman just pull some out of his pocket?? And they charged shipping! I ended up getting them at the grocery store approximately 6 more forgotten days later.

PRO: Clearly my letters have made an impact on those I have sent them to, and that feels good, and motivates me to send more.

CON: Since I am essentially looking up my former students’ addresses through our district server, I’m not sure if they are all actually being received (don’t be shocked: people lie to schools about their address all the time). An email or Facebook message would be a lot more effective in the actual delivery of my message.

Either way, I’m relearning the art of letter writing…maybe I should read some Emily Post.

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About that “Mystery Goal”

This year, I added a twist to my bucket list with a “mystery goal.” A few people asked me what the “mystery” might be, and I admitted that I had no clue. A few things were rolling around my brain but I didn’t want to commit to something to big or too weird and then beat myself up if I couldn’t make it happen. I’ve learned that while it is critical to think big and write down certain items, the ones that aren’t exactly in our control maybe shouldn’t be written down. Even if you hope the goal is achieved, you’ll feel like shit if it doesn’t, and that isn’t exactly fair.

But one of my “big” goals started to magically come together last week. A good friend, who lives in Las Vegas, texted me Tuesday night: “You should come see Gaga & Bennett next month with me.” I immediately responded, “YESSSS!!!!” The next morning, she had locked down a presale code and snagged us tickets, all before lunch.

Hopping on a plane to Vegas isn’t exactly part of my normal budget, but I’ve been stockpiling some cash in my sock drawer (literally) for some such occasion. And if you know anything about me, you know I love me some Gaga. While pop music isn’t exactly my preference, Lady Gaga represents more than music to me – she’s a full experience. In my classroom, I use her speeches on same-sex marriage and equality to discuss how musicians can influence social and political causes.

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She can actually sing (which I totally butcher at karaoke), and hearing her speak live (back when she was in Portland) was a seriously intense experience. A lot of pop stars are out there to make money and crash Ferraris, but I truly believe she has an agenda to change the world for the better (at least when it comes to equality).

Then there’s Tony Bennett. An icon. I actually tried to get tickets to see him in Portland a couple summers ago, and the price was astronomical. So the fact that these two are playing together, in Vegas nonetheless, is something I cannot pass up. Thus I have “unlocked” a mystery goal and have added Goal #24: See Lady Gaga & Tony Bennett Live.

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When drafting my 2015 goals in December, I had also made another secret pact with myself (that I will now share): If I unlock one “mystery goal,” then I will open up two other possibilities…that shall remain unnamed. That’s right – I just turned my bucket list into a game. And it’s just the start…

Letters of February, more surprises, and a soapbox

January kicked off my goal of writing one letter a week, where I chose to write to four former students, and was surprised when two of them wrote me back immediately.

When I received two letters back, I thought that was pretty cool. They took the time and effort when I didn’t even prompt them to write back. Even more surprising was that both students separately chose to come back and visit me last week. They were excited to fill me in on everything they have been up to, and look around the classroom to point out all the changes.

Then on Friday, I received an email to let me know that another January letter kid had put his letter to me in the mail and I will be receiving it soon. Had I have not written those letters, certainly none of these things would have happened.

It’s now the beginning of March and I am reminded how much influence educators can have on their students, even when they have left the very school you once knew each other in. As far as I know, no standardized test can measure that kind of impact, and it is that very kind of impact that is leaking away with so much focus on high staking testing.

Hrrrmmmmm….

But wait – who did that fourth letter of February go to? Also a former student, but sadly the letter was sent to him at the county jail. I secretly keep tabs on many of my more “troubled” students, and searching names on the inmate database is something I do semi-regularly. A couple weeks ago, I had a hit.

He was a bright, funny, and super energetic kid, but emotional and impulsive. His parents were not in the picture (drugs) and his grandparents seemed beleaguered and burdened with his presence. I admit that as his teacher, he exhausted me to no end, but nonetheless I contributed much of my time (even after he was not my student) in an attempt to thwart the proverbial high school drop out. Well – in one way that was thwarted; he dropped out in 8th grade instead. The day he told me he was running away and wouldn’t be coming back, I shoved $20 in his hand and said, “Don’t buy drugs.”

Of course I reported it to all concerned parties, but all I received were a lot of shrugs and eye rolls. I kept thinking that somehow someone would swoop in and save the day…that’s what happens in the movies, right?

Instead, he dropped off the face of the earth for a time. Two years later, he resurfaced and visited me after school. He was much taller, and bonier, and excitedly told me that he was riding the rails between Seattle and San Francisco, and was just popping in to see me. Though it was flattering, I felt the failure of my inadequacy as a teacher.

I’m not sure what I could have done differently, but I can tell you that I watched him spend an inordinate amount of time standing outside his classroom “timed out” or being suspended in his 7th & 8th grade years. Teachers said things like, “It’s not fair to the other 26 kids!” And I agree; I’ve probably said it myself. But it doesn’t take a genius to see that when a kid who is just looking to belong gets kicked out over and over, it’s not setting them up for success.

Hopefully, he gets my letter and realizes that he’s got a friend.

And that, folks, is my soapbox for the day.

The calendar of 2015

Am I on my fourth year of bucket list blogging? Is that seriously possible?

One thing’s for sure when it comes to goal setting: you need to get things on the calendar. You can let things float around in your head with good intentions, but it’s easy to lose track of what you want to do when your constantly struggling with what you have to do.

 

Here’s my 2015 calendar:

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For the first time in all my blogging, I’m actually on schedule!

For me, periodically going back and looking at my calendar gives me a visual reminder of what I should be looking forward to. Since I have all summer off to have fun, more goals fall into July and August. Then I reign it in for September and October, as we are starting a new school year.

Then there’s money. I see a lot of bucket lists full of items such as “zip line through the Amazon” or “go on a tour of European castles.” I don’t know about you, but I certainly can’t afford that without some major planning. Just a few years ago, planning a trip to Omaha was about the max of my travel budget. This year I’m stretching it a little bit with our week in DC to the FBI Headquarters (considering we already went to Hawaii in January). Looking at “traditional” bucket lists used to depress me because I thought, “When would I ever have enough money to do that?” Now, I’ve learned that some of the best bucket list items are the small and simple ones.

Finally, I need the help of my friends to offer their expertise. Who knows how to needle felt? Where can I find a breakdancing competition in the Pacific NW? Who wants to paddle board in the ocean with me?