Thursday, September 23, 2010


I'm posting this in my grad class because it's my fucking birthday, and I don't care about the cycle of assessment, I care about drinking Riesling in my pajamas and watching Mad Men.

Here's a snapshot of my day:

Student: "Ms. Howison, I doo-doo'ed."
Me: "That's good, do you feel better?"
Student: "No Ms. Howison I doo-doo'ed in my pants."
Me: "... you sure did."

And I'd already thought this was a shitty week. /rimshot/

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bad news bears

Guys, the situation with my baby sister has deteriorated. It's no longer about her being in college - that's her decision to make, and I got some good perspectives on it from readers.

But it's more than that now. Something is very, very wrong. Last night she told my oldest sister that she needed to take a walk. While she was on said walk, her boyfriend's mother picked her up at the end of the road. They went back to her boyfriend's house,where she is now staying. She will not answer her phone and when my mother and sister went to talk to her, no one would answer the door. I've called her a few times today and she hasn't answered.

From what I've gathered, her behavior is pointing to some mental-health issues. There's nothing anyone can do, because while my sister is a baby to me she's legally an adult. I don't know what the fuck her boyfriend's mother is thinking, but damn that is a shady move to pull on a fellow parent.

This is such a fucking mess. I know she isn't thinking rationally right now and as someone who's been there, done that, I want to help her. But I can't if she won't talk to any of us.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Some good news

For anyone who remembers the student who went missing last year - good news! She's back at school and doing very well in her kindergarten class. I haven't had the chance to sit down with her and chat, but she waves and says "Hi Ms. Howison" whenever she sees me and it makes my day every time.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Opposite Day

I feel the exact opposite of how I felt this past Monday. I'm grouchy, I'm irritable, I'm bitchy. Is this related to Aunt Flo's visit tomorrow and even though I'm living better chemically, sometimes it gets to me? Yes (she said, beating her inner feminist with its own army boots). Is this related to the busy week and equally busy weekend I've had? That too. Professional development from 9-5 really takes the mickey out of you.

On days like this the smallest things get to me. A shirt I haven't worn in a couple years was just a bit tighter than most things I wear and it made me nuts. I got massively upset over nothing this morning. After I finish this, I have to cut out several dozen paper shapes. Right now Jim is playing
an online game that is accompanied by the most grating, idiotic music imaginable. My iTunes is turned way up, but every time a song ends I hear it. I know that if I ask him to turn it down, it'll come out so bitchy that he'll get offended and I'll get upset again. I'm really hankering for some mindless TV, but we've decided to cancel cable in order to save money for the wedding. I know it's the right choice, but dammit right now I would cut off a finger to watch The Real Housewives of D.C. Or something at that level of desperation. Jim appears to have no problem with the shutoff, which just just makes me more irritated that I can't be that virtuous.

ZOMG I'm bitchy. I know this the result of a potent mix of hormones and fatigue and work stress, and I know that it will pass, but I am absolutely wallowing in this shitty mood. I know I love Jim and he loves me and someday we'll have cable again. I know he will not be play
ing this game forever, and I know someday The Real Housewives will be on Netflix and I can watch it whenever I want. Heck, I might even get to meet a DC housewife someday. Anything is possible.

And yes I'm going to ask him to turn it down.

If this doesn't make you feel a little better about life, you might be dead, and I have a strict no-zombies policy with this blog.

Monday, September 6, 2010

What a teacher loves

Preschool teachers love many things, among them:

  • parents who are involved but not too involved
  • parents who have realistic expectations (no, your daughter will not be writing full sentences by her fourth birthday)
  • a reliable coffee-maker that is consistently refilled
  • planning periods
  • specials teachers - you librarians, you music teachers, you gym instructors (you, my friends, have immense power - your decision to come in or not can profoundly impact our day)
  • outdoor recess
  • the common ground provided by Dora, Diego and Spongebob
  • pull-ups - not gonna lie, I'd rather throw away a pull-up than pack a student's sodden pants, underwear and socks into a plastic bag (only to have the student forget to take it home and come in the next morning to the ... aroma)
  • students who say please and thank you
And finally
Believe me, I care about my students deeply (and this year is SO MUCH BETTER than last year), but damn if an extra day off doesn't make all the difference in the world to my mental health. This has been a great weekend, and I feel ready to take on those little people tomorrow.

And everyone really dislikes back-to-school night. Ugh, another medley of patriotic songs (photo)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Thanks for the support on the last post. School's been up and down this week - some parts of the day are awesome, but the block from about 11:00-2:00 can be tough. It's a lot of transitions: lunch, recess, read aloud and nap. Then there are the two little ... sweethearts who do not enjoy naptime. One is still very much a toddler and enjoys saying no ad nauseum. He needs limits.

Then there's the limits I'm setting with the family situation. One of my sisters wants to stay in college - she's making friends, going to events, enjoying her classes. The other sister is determined to leave. I spoke to her last night and it was not a productive conversation. The things I tried to tell her - that she's been in college for less than two weeks, that I was miserable and thought I was the stupidest person in the world for my first month of college - she didn't want to hear. The things I wanted to tell her - that, frankly, she's acting pretty spoiled and rude at this point - I couldn't.


I know how it is to be miserable at school - I spent the last year going to school every day and being miserable. I know that a four-year residential college isn't for everyone. But a degree isn't going to hurt you (unless you are a LeBron-level athlete). If she gets a bachelor's or an associates and still wants to be a cosmetologist afterward, then she can get a job and pay her way through. If she becomes a cosmetologist and then decides she hates it -

.... and I need my own limits. This is her life. If she wants to do these things, it's up to her (I can, of course, call her on her rudeness to our mother). But I can't expend much more energy on this. I'm not going to drive home this weekend so I can talk to her - it wouldn't help anyway. I need to set my limits, if for nothing else than my own sanity.

Friday, August 27, 2010


I did not think that, at the end of the first week, school would actually not be my biggest concern. The week was okay. I did not flip out. I did not shed one work-related tear.

I am more upset about things going on in my family. My youngest sisters are not liking college so much after being there a week. This brouhaha is bringing up issues and habits that have gone untouched for years.

My sister and I, and my brother (in different ways) were pushed to achieve. We were never allowed to quit - a sport, a job, a class. You started it, you fulfilled the commitment you made. We were challenged - take the AP classes. Stop reading and go practice algebra (this was actually a common theme). I think it was different for my youngest sisters - there wasn't the pushing, but then also the expectations weren't as high. They weren't told they could do the things the older kids did.

I feel like maybe I wasn't a good role model for them. Maybe I didn't try to motivate them enough myself. Maybe I didn't let them know that I think they are amazing people who can do any
thing they want. Maybe I didn't let them know enough that I believe in them, I believe in them so fucking much. I love them and they are marvelous people; if I had told them that more often, maybe they wouldn't be feeling the way they are now.

I'm 600 miles away - I can't shake them and hug them like I want to. I can't go back in time and tell them all the things I should have told them

Chimpanzee family says if we'd spent more time grooming, we wouldn't have this problem.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Last day of summer

Tomorrow I go back to school - a classroom full of three-year-olds.

I know I'm much more prepared than I was before. I know I have more skills. I know that when my kids don't do what I tell them, I don't need to freak out because I can get them back on task.

I keep thinking about tomorrow. I know what I'm going to wear, so I know how I'll look. I know what my classroom looks like, so that's set. But as much and as carefully as I plan, there's no guarantee that anything will go the way I want it to. I can envision my kinds coming in, sitting down, following directions. But then all I can do is think about how easily it can go to hell.

I know I can't think about it too much. I've planned, I know the main parts of what the day will be. Obsessing about what can go wrong won't help me. I need to walk in there with confidence - even if I have to fake it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hoo buddy

I'm back in the land of the ankle-biters next week - where the eff did this summer go? This week DCPS teachers are attending professional development at their schools from 8:00-3:30. Today about 1/3 of the material was actually relevant to my instruction - the rest dealt with test-taking grades. This wouldn't be terrible if I didn't have 847,293 things to do to make my classroom ready for students again. I spent an hour rearranging furniture (there goes the lovely waxed floor, sorry custodial staff) and will probably re-rearrange it tomorrow.

I'm starting to get a panicky, hummingbird-on-cocaine feeling whenever I think about the school year starting - so I'm spending most of the day feeling like a coked-out bird.

There's just so much going on, from all over the place.
This is kind of petty, but why was I the only instructor on the entire first floor who didn't receive a pad of chart paper? I wouldn't care, but a) that shit is expensive and b) this is not the first time I've been shorted on supplies. I don't know who I pissed off, but I will do anything to apologize. And some recent legislation sent stock from Jim's company down the tubes and added a bajillion more hoops for them to jump through. I have a new paraprofessional and I'm nervous about working with her. My school didn't make AYP for the third year in a row - if we don't make it this year, the school closes. Period. It's not a tragedy for me, because we'll be moving anyway after our two-year commitments are up, but a couple of the teachers have worked at the school since it opened 30 years ago. And my principal created an elaborate schedule for the preschool/pre-k classes that, while certainly rigorous, seems to have no basis in reality. It takes two grown women longer than 5 minutes to use the bathroom - how does it make sense to allot that same amount of time to 16 three-year-olds?

And deep down I'm absolutely terrified that once the kids are back in my classroom, it'll be just as awful and miserable as it was last year.

I need more primates.

Orangutan says chill the fuck out, Lisa.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Today's guffaw

Want to know what I looked like in high school?

Yeah. I was THAT COOL in 2005.

I was also kind of pretty. And had impressively shiny hair.

But I never would have believed that if you told me.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Comments redux

Let me say right off that I love the gym I go to. It's relatively small, rarely crowded, and pretty friendly to women. After a long day like today (at work from 7:30 AM to 7:30 PM), it's really helpful to get sweaty while reading a fashion/fitness/gossip magazine.

Today, though, I noticed something. In a re
cent issue of Shape, the two "success" stories both included anecdotes about nasty comments. The first woman was told by a snooty salesperson that she was "already wearing the largest size the store made," and was so devastated by the thought of shopping in a plus-size store that she decided to change her ways. The second woman went to a family reunion, only to have her grandfather-in-law say that he "couldn't fit his arms around her" after he hugged her. In front of the rest of the family.

I'm not bitching about the magazines themselves. If I really didn't like them, I wouldn't read them. Weight-loss stories can be inspiring for people who are trying to improve their health (although I wish the focus was actually on health rather than weight loss). But the point is that these women were shamed into losing weight - one by a person who had no business passing judgment and one by a family
member. Thing is, shame is not an effective weight-loss method.
This is a slow loris. Why? Because this post is long and I like primates.

Something else happened at the gym today. I was well into some cardio on the bike a when I finished my magazine. I took a break and went to find another, trashier if possible. As I looked over the selection, a trainer drew me into a conversation about why people get personal trainers. I replied with a polite smile and nod.

Then he said, "You know, if you're doing cardio correctly you shouldn't be able to read."

I gave him my sweetest, fakest smile and said "I know." But once I got back to my bike I was too angry and upset to go on.

I tried to think about why I was so angry, and I talked to Jim about it to get his perspective. First, I know he is probably a nice person and just wanted to give me some advice. Second, I really think you can use cardio machines correctly and manage to read, say, People. Also I was literally dripping sweat when he said that to me - do I look like I'm doin' it wrong? And finally, as Jim pointed out, a lot of personal trainers think everyone (I would say every woman) has the same goal - to thinner. The guy had no idea why I was there (to get sweaty and read a bad magazine), and because of that, he shouldn't have said anything.

Buddy, if I wanted your advice, I'd pay for it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A day so crappy I had to write about it

MAN today was crummy. Here's why:

1. Yesterday I fell off my bike, which added pain and discomfort to today.

See, Jim has an official mountain-bike bike, and he's really enjoying terrifying-sounding things like "singletracks" and "switchbacks." I have yet to attempt these things. The other day, though, Jim said hey! we should mountain bike together! you can learn how and then we can ride along steep dirt trails, a couple so blazingly athletic that we risk blinding bystanders! And I think well, I'm a little scared because I had a bad fall the last time I went out and we were just on a regular trail (with a convenient patch of gravel for me to fall into), but I want to spend time with Jim and hey, maybe I can be a sleek, blazingly athletic woman on a bike.

So we start off on the trail and I'm terrified. I'm moving at about 5 mph along this trail that is 80% rock, 10% tree roots and 10% certain death, but with the amount of adrenaline I'm pumping I feel like I'm flying. But after I manage to stay upright for a while and we get out of the woods, I start to get some confidence. I come up on a series of small hills and think hey, I can do thi- GAAHRGRRAAAGGGHHHHHAAAHHHHHH

Given the force and volume of my scream Jim thought I had died, but I just banged up my legs and arm. I was bad ass and used my water bottle to wash off my wounds and kept going. Then later on this ride I fell into a marsh, but that's not funny so much as it is just sad. And I was hurty all day.

2. Today I got a call from my summer-work boss (I'm working for the Teach for America office) asking about the breakfast that was supposed to be delivered to a training and then I realize I FORGOT TO ORDER BREAKFAST. I was eating my own breakfast at the time and almost threw up. I really haven't felt that particular kind of oh fuck since the last time I realized a homework assignment was missing just as I walked into class. I spent the morning frantically calling Einstein's and finally got the bagels to the training about an hour after they were supposed to get there. FAIL. Of course my boss was super understanding about it and in the grand scheme, it wasn't that big a deal. But I still felt like I was going to go to detention.

3. I've been working on another project for my summer job and it has been the most tedious, frustrating thing I've dealt with in a while. There are files I can't find, instructions that aren't clear, docs that won't open. It's just my luck that the same woman who's directing this project is the one who was leading the training for which the bagels were late. That may be the worst sentence I've ever written. I'm letting it stand.

4. Of course, when I start to feel incompetent, my brain turns on my poor, battered body. You are so fat, it whispered as I struggled to color-code the tables of contents (like culs de sac?). Your stomach is really, really gross. Like a flesh marshmallow. Of course my rather less-nourishing food choices today haven't been helpful.

5. Now that I've bitched through this post, I am starting to feel guilty for bitching. Lisa, I say to myself, you know there are at least 5 billion people whose days probably were a lot worse than yours. Like they had car accidents or lost their jobs or had malaria. So you have no right to feel bad.

And there you have it, folks.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bad blogger!

Ack - I've been meaning to blog more. I sit down after work (I'm doing office work for Teach for America over the summer) and think, man, I should blog. But then I get on Facebook or start reading my book and then ... sleepy. I have so many things to write about - the Shrimp and Grits Debacle, the Barbie-doll who goes to my gym, the pitfalls of professional clothing, and more - but right now my brain isn't quite up to it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A huge thank-you

After a long, sweaty day at work downtown. After trying on bathing suits and overpaying for the only one that wasn't hideous. After waiting for the bus and sweating some more. Some good news - some really good, heartfelt, touching news.

I've been thinking a lot about this blog. When I started it, I was definitely underweight and definitely not recovered. I don't know if I was even really serious about recovery at that point. Things are different now. According to the grand-high-muckamucks of American health, I'm overweight. I struggle sometimes, but my mindset now is far different than it used to be. I'd been wondering what I could still contribute to this conversation we've all been having - about our lives, the struggles that we face, and the strength that we find in each others' words. I felt like I wasn't giving much - not nearly enough to repay all of the amazing support, advice, and empathy I've received in 2+ years I've been blogging. I was floundering a little.

And then I got an email from Emma Stone, who informed my lil blog had won a 2010 Top Eating Disorder Blog award. I was a little befuddled - I don't write about anorexia nearly as much as I did once - but then I read that my wonderful readers nominated me for the award.

How did you all know that I needed a pick-me-up? You guys are amazing. Thank you.

Friday, June 25, 2010

School's out

Got up at 8:30 - probably the latest I've awoken in three months. Now I'm working from home on my couch, wearing sloppy shorts and listening to CNN. I cannot convey how awesome this is.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

This is not okay

Last night there was a shooting across the street from my school. Three men, all in their 30s. One died. Guys, this happened where I take my class when we have a fire drill. So many of my students live on that block. He's got to be someone's dad or uncle or cousin or something.

Earlier this week, I found out that the reason one of my favorites* has been coming in messier than usual is because her mother packed up and left a week ago. Her 11-year-old sister has been taking care of her and their 6-year-old sister. An older sister? cousin? comes by sometimes, but she uses food as discipline and they're always hungry. And apparently this has happened before.

None of the sisters came to school on Thursday or Friday. A social worker drove by their apartment and said it looked like no one had been living there - there was trash in the cans, but no lights or noise. Nobody knows where they are. Three little girls are basically missing - and no police, one social worker, and a couple of teachers.

This is not okay. It's almost my last day of teaching - I should be ecstatic. But all I can think about is where this little girl is.

*If you think teachers shouldn't have favorites, you've obviously never been a teacher.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Three days

Dear Mrs. Palczinski: I know why you dumped out my second-grade classmate's desk and made her clean it up. It wasn't a stellar moment for you, but I know why you did it. Children do it to you.

There are three days left in the school year. I honestly did not think I would make it this far - if you'd asked me in January what summer was like, I would not have been able to tell you. It was too far away to make sense. It was bad then - but it's gotten better. There are still times when I want to pull my hair out, but at least I know what I'm doing most of the time.

It's hard to believe how much has happened. A year ago I'd just graduated from college. I'd been engaged for three weeks, and I was about to move 800 miles from home to start a new life and a new job. I had no idea what I was getting into.

D.C. summers are notoriously hot and muggy. Bring it on.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Video games and being awesome

I cannot play video games. First-person shooter games make me wish I could turn the gun on myself. I am invariably last in racing games. Even Frogger defeats me. Moreover, I never really had an interest in them when I was growing up.

This has actually had an impact on my relationships. In fourth grade I made a fool of myself playing a soccer video game with a boy I liked. In high school, I spent a lot of time squished on the edge a couch while my boyfriend, his buddies, and their girlfriends chased each other around various courses. Sometimes I napped.

I was not an Awesome Girlfriend. Because my hands turned into donkey hooves when I held a controller, I could never be as cool or epic or sexy as a girl who's good (but not too good) at driving a car and shooting zombies. A girlfriend who plays video games is exponentially more attractive than one who can't navigate a frog across a street.

This came up a few nights ago. Jim found an admittedly fun-looking game on Xbox Live - a plane-chase game based on the Peanuts characters. He asked me to play. I said no, I said no, and then I got insecure. If I keep saying no, then I am a Downer Girlfriend again. I'm always saying no. So I agreed to play.

Of course it was a shit show. I couldn't move the plane where I needed to and Jim was (literally) flying circles around me. I got more and more frustrated and all I could think about was how I am not epic, I am not awesome, I blow really hard at a very simple hand-eye coordination task. I was in tears.

I know Jim does not base his love for me on my Call of Duty or Modern Warfare performance. But I think my inability to play video games taps into a big fear I've always had in relationships - that I'm simply too dull to sustain someone's interest.

Do you have a relationship fear or worry as silly as this one?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

You're entitled to your opinion ...

..but I feel that fat is definitely a feeling, and it is entirely what I am feeling now.

This wasn't the image I had for my 500th post, but that's the way it is.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Baby things change

Yesterday was a good time. We met a group of friends for brunch at 11:30 - should mention this is a champagne brunch with all-you-can-drink mimosas - stayed until the buffet closed at 4, then went back to our friends' apartment and stayed there until 11. Twelve hours at brunch might have been a little excessive, but it was still a good time.

I slept until almost 9 and now my grad school work is weighing on my mind, but so are some other things. I met a a friend-of-a-friend whose job title is "senior scientist." If that doesn't make her cool enough in your eyes, she does research all around Europe on quality-of-life, long-term care, pain management, etc. All of these big, meaty topics in medical anthropology. On top of that, she travels all the time - England, Denmark, France, Finland.

It's bringing up some old emotions. When I was a kid I wanted to have a career, I wanted to love it, and I wanted to be good at it. I never dreamed I'd be 23 and engaged; surely I'd be too busy building a career and anyway, who needs a man to be happy? Of course, life does things and I am amazingly happy to be with Jim. Now I'm facing the somewhat uncomfortable realization that I'd rather have a 9-5 (or 7-5, like it is now) job that lets me spend time with the person I love and the people I for whom I care deeply. I'll be an office drone - actually, right now an office job sounds AMAZING. Prestige isn't a big deal. I don't have to be the best and the brightest. I just want a desk and a computer and a lunch break. And starting at 9 would be great, too.

Do I go back to anthropology after I'm done with Teach for America? That's more school, more money and more time, and an advanced degree in anthropology doesn't always equal a higher salary. And a travel-heavy job would be wonderful, but it would take me away from Jim and the home we've built together. I don't think I want to be a teacher forever, but it might be something I do beyond my two-year commitment (though NOT in DCPS).

I used to think the majority of my satisfaction in life would come from my job.* Now I think it's going to come from sharing a couch, a kitchen, and a life with someone at the end of the day.

*Just realized this post might come off as judgmental or even antifeminist (gulp). It's NOT. The beautiful thing about feminism (or at least my own feminism) is that yes, you can be a CEO in New York or you can be barefoot and pregnant in a kitchen in Kentucky - so long as you get to choose. Whatever floats your boat.