Sunday, November 27, 2011

Adele by Glee

I've watched a total of two Glee episodes, yet, you gotta love some strong, female voices. Aye! This makes me want

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Danger of a Single Story

I've learned an important lesson from Chimamanda Adichie.

She is a novelist who spoke at one of the TED conventions about "The Danger of a Single Story." I was told that I should watch it because I was teaching a pop culture class and I'm glad I did. But the lessons I've learned stretch far beyond the information I needed for that class.

Watch it here. Now.

We are limited when we are only being sold one narrative. When we can only see one point of view (that reminds me of this other TED Talk about how when ten people enter the same word in a Google search, we'll get ten different pages. The internet is catering to what it "thinks" we need thus eliminating views that contradict our own).

Adichie mentions how when most people think of Africa they imagine beautiful landscapes and incomprehensible poverty, wars, and AIDS. This is the "single story" we are being sold about what it means to be from Africa. However, it's not true. It doesn't tell the whole story.

I used the ideas from this video in my pop culture class to talk about how advertising only tells us one story. Usually it's the story of the rich, thin, and famous. About sex and the high-life. About airbrushing and Photo Shop. We are not able to see behind the curtain into how these people got rich, thin, and famous. Are their lives really so glamorous? We rarely see the pre-Photo Shopped images for a reason: advertising thrives on selling us a single story. It's a fiction and we think it's reality.

I've been thinking about this "single story" idea in my own life. My single story would be: white, American, middle-class, female, well-educated, happy, put-together, confident, and talented. But the full story is deeper and more complex. We are not only the boxes we check on census forms. We have full stories that reach beyond our sex, our weight, and our country of origin.

Facebook is King of the single story. We only post pictures of happy times, cruises, graduations, birthday parties, and picnics at the park. I'm not recommending we show pictures of funerals, car crashes, burnt macaroni, and slobbery tears. However, the internet gives us a platform to only spread the information we want to be seen. The story we want to be told.

Jeremy and I often talk about what a "good" relationship looks like and what we want for ours. We sometimes look at other people's relationships to know if we're doing all right. So, often we see two people in love, holding hands, working, playing, celebrating holidays, going on adventures, and living the "good life." So naturally we feel like incapable bums when sometimes...our lives look nothing like that. We don't agree. We argue. We don't see eye-to-eye and frankly, we don't want to.

I've never seen my parents fight. Disagreements are natural, human. And when I look at my own relationship struggles, they seem out of context and somehow wrong because they don't resemble what I've seen in movies or in real life.

I got home last night and my sister Ashley shared with me some of the ins and outs of her marriage. They are so happy and fit so well together, yet, they're human and sometimes they disagree. What a relief!

What I find time and time again whether by sharing my own story or hearing others' is this: most of the time we are in the majority of people struggling, but there are only a minority of people talking about it.

I'd like to see those flip-flopped. I want to tell a bigger story. One that includes
love and disdain,
five-course meals and cereal on a Wednesday night,
picnics at the park and rainy days indoors,
afternoons of laughter and afternoons of boredom,
life-changing conversations and other times when the conversation sits stagnant and awkward because we're both unwilling to compromise.

I want to tell a complete story that's real and complex and messy and true.


A few weeks ago, some good people threw me a birthday party. I've waited until now to post about it because I just couldn't tell the story without the video of the birthday rap. Oh yes.

There were gluten-free goodies galore, compliments of wonderfully thoughtful friends.

And Jeremy was happy to deliver them.

My sister, Ashley.

My delightful friend, Kylie.

Kylie, Becca, and me.

Then came a birthday rap compliments of Kylie and A.J., two improv extraordinaires.

My buddy, Michael.

Birthday presents like a cozy blanket and slippers.

Lovely Keri.

My talented friend, Ben.

My silly roommates.

And my wonderful boyfriend, Jeremy.

A great birthday made possible by great friends.

I'm truly blessed.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving used to be my favorite holiday. Until the food part became difficult (i.e. eating disorder) and there wasn't much left to the holiday at that point.

Thanksgiving (and Christmas) are the absolute hardest times of year for people with eating disorders (and probably people with any addiction). I remember sitting in a group session with 8-10 anxious, grave-looking women listening to them making commitments about what they would and would not do during Thanksgiving:
"I will not throw-up."
"I will not eat food I don't like, just so I don't have to talk to people."
"I will not eat to make other people happy."
"I will not eat just to make my worried mother feel better about herself and her own eating disorder that she'll never admit to."

I sent an e-mail to a friend this week to ask her how she was going to get through Thanksgiving this year. She said simply, "I'm working so I don't have to." I don't blame her.

When she asked what I was going to do, it felt really good to realize that I didn't have a plan, because I don't need one as much anymore. I went back and read a blog I posted Thanksgiving 2009 and recognized growth:

"I hunger for a normal relationship with food...I wonder what normal people think when they sit down to a meal. Because I'm thinking, "Ughh, don't make me do it." The nerves rage, the anxiety flares up and I'm left at the table like a stubborn 6 year-old who doesn't want to eat her dinner...I wonder what it would be like to not count other people's calories, Two egg salad sandwiches, Naked juice, pumpkin pie: at least 900 calories. That's not normal...I hunger for peace and contentment."

I still hunger for peace and contentment. I'm sure I always will, but this Thanksgiving was different than any in the last five years. Now, this day was full of other kinds of less-than stellar thoughts (school-related stress, relationships, the future) that somewhat overtook my mind, but at this point, that's probably "normal." Regardless, I can say that it was not filled with food/body-related dialogue in my head and for that, I'm grateful.

This is growth.
Even when it hurts.
Even when it's slow.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I am not only a student-teacher.

I am also a student,
a friend,
a daughter,
a sister,
a girlfriend,
a musician,
a writer,
an athlete,
an artist,
a gluten-free connoisseur,
a skeptic,
a dancer,
a Modern Family junkie,
a cook,
a reader,
a world-traveler,
and a Mario Kart ninja.

I am good.
I am fun.
I am kind.
I am hard-working.
I am compassionate.
I am a good listener.
I am worthy.

I can be imperfect.
I can make mistakes.
I can lift others up.
I can not have life figured out.
I can pray.
I can breathe.
I can be.

Just be, child.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cotton Ball

Today was a good day. Fun class activities. Great feedback. Planning ahead.

Then, seventh period happened. Ken was gone. I was subbing. They knew it. And as the last student walked out the door, I put my head on my desk. And cried.

The plan was simple: group presentations. Then, I got overwhelmed with the questions, the eye-rolling, the leaning back, glaring at me, I-don't-care-about-what-you-have-to-say-and-you-can't-make-me attitude.

With five minutes left in class, I sat in my chair, leaned back, put my feet on the desk, crossed my arms, rolled my eyes, and added some necessary huffing and puffing. I asked them what non-verbal messages I was sending. They guessed: "Annoyed." "Frustrated." "Pissed off!"

Ding, ding, ding.

I reminded them that the best way to get what you want is to...ask for it.
Rolling your eyes doesn't qualify as "asking."

Recently I got this advice: "You're a duck. Let it roll right off your back." Well, what if I'm not a duck. What if I'm a giant cotton ball? I seem to absorb rather than repel.

I left feeling defeated. Small. Fraudulent. No one forced me to feel this way. But I did. And it sucked. How do I maintain a strong sense of self without letting those ornery students get to me?

Well, I've had a few ideas. Some better than others. One is to be on the defensive. To be ready for the difficulties and strengthen myself against them. To come armed and ready for the war.

Another, that came to me this week, was that the "me vs. them" analogy might actually be harming my experience because I'm constantly on the look out for the "enemy." So I regularly reminded myself: "This is not battle. You can relax."

Maybe I need a different strategy per class because the non-war analogy works great with some classes who don't come at me and horribly with 7th hour. It seems that I need all the resilience I can get with them. But I'm not a fan of "war" in general, so using that model feels counter intuitive.

After school, I walked to my car, sat inside, and breathed in the sweet silence. The present moment can be so elusive and difficult to identify and weed out amongst the past pains and future worries.

For my sanity these last 18 days of student-teaching, I'm desperately seeking that present moment to get me through. Looking past what I wished this experience had been and looking beyond the fears looming out-of-reach, and dwelling here, on the couch, with a blanket, and a mostly calm mind.

Dwell here.

Friday, November 11, 2011


A teacher at school found out that I teach Zumba and asked me to come teach her P.E. class. I did. It was a grand 'ol time. As usual. Afterwards, a girl whom I've never met before came up to me and said, "I wish you were my student teacher. Do your students, like, absolutely love you?"

I assured her that no, all of my students do not absolutely love me. Maybe if I just taught them Zumba they would, but indeed English and literature classes come with a certain amount of studiousness and alas, homework. This didn't seem to faze her as she pranced away.

This student teaching experience has made a certain quality loud and clear:
I may be too sensitive for this teaching thing.

I struggle with students who lean back in their chairs, fold their arms across their chest, roll their eyes and huff and puff.

I loathe preparing lesson plans, initiating discussions, and having students stare in silence, while I contemplate dancing the macarena and singing the Canadian national anthem simultaneously in a desperate attempt to make them give a damn.

It's hard to stand in front of teenagers only to have them completely ignore you because their calculator, their other homework, the person sitting next to them, or the wall is more interesting.

I don't know exactly know how to handle that student who constantly complains about the homework, the assignment, the class time, or...just about everything.

It's super hard for me to look past that difficult student, to pretend like it doesn't get to me, or doesn't make me feel like a bad teacher. Because I can't pursue teaching at this rate. I can't let these little things get to me and actually survive, nonetheless, thrive. The alternative seems to mean being distant or removed so that individual students cannot penetrate my exterior. And if that's my goal as a teacher, why bother?

There must be balance somewhere, but at this point I have not found it. The thought of waking up early, driving to school, and encountering 100 different students who have 100 different needs, makes me anxious for the day (coming quite soon, by the way) when I will be done with student teaching and can go be a barista. At least for a few months.

There are those students who seem to realize that I am a human being. I cherish them. I need them. I appreciate when after asking 30 different students about their lives, their homework, and their hobbies during one class period, one student dares to ask, "Ms. Bo, how are you today?"

There are those students who seem to understand that I have fears, and doubts, and talents, and a life outside of the 50 minutes we spend together each day. This is refreshing. Ya know, to be treated like a human being instead of a teacher-alien thing who is only out to punish and torture with insurmountable loads of homework and discipline. That is not at the bottom of my list, that's not even on my list! But convincing them of this is futile.

The answer that I get from most teachers about this problem is: "They're teenagers."

Is that really it? Is this just a phase? Was I like this in high school?

I am 100% positive that there are a couple teachers who would say, yes. However, I can say with confidence that I was a student who connected well with teachers and thrived because of it. I knew them. They knew me. I was not pouting at each homework assignment and arguing with every decision made in class.

So if teaching is an environment where some students will be absolutely wonderful and others will fight me every step of the way, do I want it? Is it worth it?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


This blog started at the suggestion of my sister, Ashley, and her husband, Ben. Maybe they saw some inner-angst that needed to be let out. Maybe they thought I'd enjoy writing. Maybe blogging was all the rage among their friends and it just seemed natural. For whatever reason, in August of 2007 I began writing here.

Mostly, I started writing to keep friends and family in the loop about my travels to Cambodia. But after my year was over, I kept writing because I couldn't imagine not doing so. I had connected with too many people, shared too many stories, and enjoyed the process too much to stop. Now, 499 blogs later, I write to practice/improve my writing. I write to connect with other people. I write to be held accountable to where I've been and where I'm going. I write to tell an honest story.

Recently, my honest story goes something like this:
-Twenty-four years old
-In a relationship with a wonderful man
-Lovingly supported by family and friends
-A teensy bit afraid of growing up
-Often doubting myself and my worth
-Completing my student-teaching
-Five weeks to graduation
-Can't. Hardly. Wait.

This honest story from blog #500 is different than the story from the girl who wrote blog #1.

My first blog was written from Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I had been there less than 24 hours and was writing about the journey around the world and my first impressions of my new "home." A line from the first paragraph in the first blog is this: "It's true. I am here. I can't go back now."

Sitting in the same body four years later, I know that's just not true. Now, I would argue with her:
Yes, you can go back.
Yes, you have decisions.
No, it wouldn't be failure.
No, most people wouldn't look down on you.
Yes, you can give yourself a break.
Please, give yourself permission to just be.

Girl from blog #1 didn't know that yet. She was stuck on pride and living for the imaginary audience in her head that would judge her if she stepped out of line. She probably wouldn't listen to me now anyway. This why I'm proud of the girl writing blog #500.

Because if it took 500 random, sloppy blog-postings to get me from there to here, than it was well worth it. Because who I was then is not who I am now. And I'm okay with that. I'm not only proud of the progress, I'm proud of the 19 year-old girl who stuck it out.

Her writing wasn't stellar and her rationale was lacking. But showing up deserves credit, because on some days, that's the best we can do. And that's always enough.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dear Twenty-Four,

Dear Twenty-Four,

It might've taken me twenty-four years to say this, but...I'm ready for ya.

Sixteen "earned" me a driver's license.
Eighteen "earned" me adulthood.
Twenty-one "earned" me drinking privileges (that I've never yet taken advantage of).
But twenty-four? What have I earned at twenty-four?

I have worked, cried, sought, chased, and damnit, I have earned wisdom. Not the kind where you have it or you don't. Not the kind of wisdom that is only granted to sages and people who have lived over a century. But the kind of wisdom that accumulates with time. Wisdom that, yes, you can acquire at twenty-four, if only a minimal amount. Wisdom that grows exponentially in the bank and can't be withdrawn. The kind that I'll look back on in another twenty-four years and think, "Oh geez, that girl had so much to learn."

But I'm okay with that. Because today, I welcomed twenty-four years of life. And that's enough.

Upon hearing that it was my birthday, my cooperating teacher, Scott, said, "Congratulations." For some reason it sounded odd to me, as if he were congratulating me for birthing a child or running a marathon. But no, he was congratulating me for having a birthday, simply for being alive. And I realized--perhaps for the first time--that simply waking up and showing up and surviving twenty-four years on planet earth might be worth more cheering and celebrating than I've been doing lately.

Because you see, I'm proud of the years I've accumulated. I've earned these years more than I ever "earned" a drivers-license or "earned" adulthood. Those were given. This wisdom was earned. And I'm grateful.