overeducated & understimulated

"if you're going through hell, keep going …" -winston churchill

Be the Change You Want To See In Your Blog … September 15, 2014

Filed under: Writing — Aerin Rainey @ 10:47 am

Why is blogging so hard?  I’ve been trying to get this blog going for years now.  It’s still woefully unpopulated.

I can immediately think of three reasons why:

  1. I am really quite busy.
  2. I can’t make my blog page look the way I want it to look and it is so time-consuming trying to work it out through help menus and experimentation.
  3. I can’t think of anything to write.

I guess none of these reasons is really a major stumbling block. Schedule in some time, get over your perfectionist tendencies and just write.

It’s not a motivation or inspiration problem — it’s a discipline problem. Consistency and routine will solve this problem.  Taking my ego out of the equation will also help a lot.  By ego, I mean that judgey part of your mind that’s always working to keep you stuck in a rut.

So here I am, actually writing on my blog — how long should this post be?  Does it matter?  It will be done when it’s done.  Or when I run out of time.  So, how is it going to look?  I guess it doesn’t matter that much.  I’ll click “Publish” and it will stream into my site.  Worrying about the snazzy factor is definitely putting the horse before the cart.  Gotta have some words to present before designing the presentation.  So what to write about?  Well, I guess this is a bit of a stream of consciousness and the main subject is a bit boring.  Next time, I will focus on something that may be interesting to more people than just me!  At least I’ve set the bar pretty low …

I am hereby committing to stop making excuses, get in the good daily habits that include writing in this forum, and start being kind to myself so that I don’t put the brakes on before I even start rolling.

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Thank you for my high school teachers April 22, 2013

Filed under: Gifted,Writing — Aerin Rainey @ 4:43 pm

Was there a teacher who helped you recover a lost part of yourself?

My parents never thought creative writing was good for anything.  Or art.  Luckily, I was also really good at readin’, ‘ritin’, and ‘rithmetic, so I could still gain their love and approval!  With lots of university degrees and a high-paying job, their “unconditional” love was secure. But I have wanted to write books for as long as I can remember.  And I still do.  But it is hard to believe that wanting that is okay, let alone do it.  I am time-travelling through my past and looking for the little Aerin who once believed in herself and in the worthiness of creative pursuits.  I can remember three people that I knew as a high school student who encouraged me creatively.

 

…my art teacher

One was Ms. Harris.  The thing you have to know about me in high school is that I was very busy being the “new me” and hiding my light under a bushel.  Being “normal,” and having friends.  Ms. Harris was our art teacher.  She had spiky red hair, always dressed in head-to-toe black, was pretty and youngish, and bore the unusual moniker of “Ms” owing to her status as divorced.  She was an exotic creature in our corner of suburbia.  You only had to take art in Grade Nine, but I took it every year. And the adored-from-afar Ms. Harris was quite indifferent to my work as an art student … until the day of the charcoal drawing.

The assignment was cool.  On cream-coloured construction paper, we used charcoal to reproduce some blurred areas of light and dark that Ms. Harris had put up on the overhead projector.  It was really a black-and-white photograph of a figure sitting in a stairwell that she had purposely left unfocused.  Once we had covered the paper with our blurred light and dark areas, she sharpened the focus.  Again, we worked to reproduce what we saw on our own sheet.  She kept sharpening the photo until we could see it the way it was meant and could add the last finishing touches to our charcoal drawings.  I wrote my name on the back and put it on the pile as I left for my next class.

When we returned to the art classroom four days later, our drawings were all pinned to a bulletin board that ran the length of the class between the top of the window and the ceiling.  I spotted my own drawing easily because of the thick black space I had created down one side to make the paper’s proportions match the photo.  Everybody was checking out the work, and after Ms. Harris called us to order, she started talking about the drawings and pointing out what had worked and explaining why.  She kept using my drawing as an example of the accurate depiction of light and dark and how depth is created by seeing light and shadow.  I was so gratified!  But then, oh my god, she congratulated and complimented someone else by name for my drawing!  I put my hand up.

“Ms. Harris, that’s my drawing.”

“Oh, no — I was talking about her drawing — the one with the thick black space down the side.”

“Yes, that’s mine.”

Ms. Harris looked at the other student for confirmation.  And back to me.  And all she said was my name, “Aerin.”  But it was the look of happiness on her face and the reverent sound of her voice, and she looked back and forth between my drawing up by the ceiling and me sitting below it and I felt like someone was finally seeing me and liking what they saw.  I could have cried.  Or hugged her.  But I just soaked up this new and different feeling.

…my English teacher

Another teacher who supported me creatively was Miss Roseburgh.  She was the complete opposite of the cool Ms. Harris, but I loved her even more.  She was round and rosy-cheeked, dressed mostly in voluminous floral prints, had thinning, dyed hair and was still single and closing in on her retirement.  She really liked me.  I can’t remember another teacher liking me the way she did — and don’t think there was any ulterior motive, because in our graduating year, she and Mr. Heathcock, the equally round and rosy-cheeked music teacher, finally stopped having a “secret” affair and got married.

She always called on me to read aloud from our assigned novels and Shakespeare plays.  I loved it.  And she gave us creative writing homework, which I hadn’t done in a long time.  I relished it.  I wrote a long story about an anorexic girl who was obsessed with running.  The character was inspired by my friend Christina who went to a different high school.  She and I were out of touch, but we had been close back in middle school.

After I got my story back, I was dismayed to see a message written on the last page from Miss Roseburgh:  “Please see me after school today.”

Miss Roseburgh was worried that my story was autobiographical.  (I guess I was really skinny back then.  My mother certainly tried to get me to eat a lot of her disagreeable cooking.)  But when I explained that the story was not about me but based rather on my old friend Christina who went to a different high school, Miss Roseburgh didn’t seem to believe me.

I was in shock.  Elated.  I mean, Miss Roseburgh felt that I had imagined this character so vividly and described her so grippingly that I must be her.  I reached my goal of bringing a story to life.  But at the same time, I worried that should I have chosen something safer — that wouldn’t make me personally vulnerable if people chose to believe I was drawing from my life experience?  Despite the compliments on my fiction, I might have shied away from writing as a result of Miss Roseburgh’s suspicions about my possible eating disorder.  But I went on to write many stories for Miss Roseburgh.  I felt safe sharing my writing with this caring teacher.

 

… my guidance counsellor

Mrs. Flannery was like the mother I wished I had.  What Mrs. Flannery did for me was to let me cry in her office every morning when I should have been in homeroom and tell me repeatedly that there was nothing wrong with me.  A lot of teens clash with their parents.  This was beyond that.  I don’t think my parents ever knew how to be truly supportive anyway, wrapped in their own fears and lack of fulfillment as they were (are).  But then my dad lost his job, my mother hit menopause, I became a teenager.  And it was awful.  Non-support became direct attacks.  I can remember so many hurtful things that were said to me.  Hence the crying in Mrs. Flannery’s office.  I would get so upset thinking about what my mother had told me that morning or the evening before I couldn’t stop myself from crying.  I would have to leave class and I could either sneak out of the building or go sit in the guidance office legitimately.

Mrs. Flannery was like a light, warm, down-filled duvet that you wrap yourself in when you are chilled to the core, shivering with violent cold.  Soon you are cozy again and your teeth stop threatening to chatter out of your head.  I needed that.  I needed to hear that sometimes young people don’t fit with their family and that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you.  I needed to hold on to the idea that the person I knew I was inside was a good person who deserved to be happy.

She told me something a bit questionable maybe for someone in her position but that was really smart and brave of her to say to me.  Because she was right.  She told me to go to university as far away from my parents as I could possibly go.  I never would have become the person I am proud to be today if I had not followed her advice.

 

…thank you

Thank you, Ms. Harris, for seeing me and making me feel good about something I created.

Thank you, Miss Roseburgh, for liking me and giving me the chance to write whatever I wanted.

Thank you Mrs. Flannery, for understanding me and giving me a safe place to understand myself.

 

Gorilla dogs September 6, 2012

Filed under: Food,Life with kids,The meaning of life,Writing — Aerin Rainey @ 10:52 am

I could tell I was sick yesterday when I got a craving for Grill-A-Dogs.  Comfort food calls when the sinus cold hits.  Luckily, my illness coincided with the first day of school, so I was able to rest in a quiet house.  And I didn’t have to share my Grill-A-Dogs with anyone.

So what’s a Grill-A-Dog, you’re wondering?  It’s sort of a cross between a grilled cheese and a pogo.  (Or what I imagine a pogo to be, never having eaten one.)  To make them, you need two wieners, two pieces of bread, butter, and a Grill-A-Dog maker.  It’s similar to a sandwich maker, but instead it molds toasted bread around hot dogs.

Close up of the Grill-A-Dog maker

The hot dog compartments

Tastes just as good as on the campfire …

You can dip them in ketchup and mustard.  Mmmm…

When I was a kid, we used to eat Grill-A-Dogs at lunch time at the cottage.  My cousins, sister and I feasted on them all summer long, as often as our mothers would make them for us.  You can only make two at a time, and subsequent rounds of Grill-A-Dogs pose a bit of a burn threat to the chef.  It’s not as easy to load the bread and wieners when the thing is burning hot.  But our moms had mastered the art of gingerly placing the ingredients and clamping the griller shut.

They were motivated — the moms wanted their own Grill-A-Dogs, too.  This comfort food has a long and revered history in my family:  My mom’s family used to camp a lot when she was a kid and they were devoted Girl Guides and Boy Scouts.  Even my grandparents were involved in Guiding and Scouting from an early age and became leaders as adults.  So, when a local company started selling these Grill-A-Dog makers, it was a great addition to the camp kit.

Eventually, the family Grill-A-Dog maker ended up at the cottage.  Now, for a whole generation of cousins, it is eternally associated with summer, family togetherness, and eating lunch on the dock in a wet bathing suit as fast as you can so you can go swimming again.

When I moved away and started missing summers at the cottage, I realized that at least one element of that summer fun was portable … I started plotting how I could remove the Grill-A-Dog maker from the premises without anyone noticing.  But really, how could I deprive them?  The Internet saved me from becoming a thief, because I discovered that the inventors of the Grill-A-Dog maker are still in business and with several models to choose from!  If this post has inspired you or piqued your curiosity, you can even get your own Grill-A-Dog maker.

Soon the coveted Grill-A-Dog maker arrived at our house and I started making them for my own kids.  Of course, they loved them!  The eldest was convinced I was calling them Gorilla Dogs.  And she still is.  I like it — the 4th generation of Grill-A-Dog lovers is adding to the legacy.

 

Success is not in the eye of the beholder March 15, 2012

Filed under: Fitness & health,Gifted,Life with kids,The meaning of life,Travel,Writing — Aerin Rainey @ 12:55 pm

This has been a very tough week.  I am not feeling well, I have one sick child, I had that job interview that blindsided me, my husband is sick, there was a snow day, plus I got my period.  I don’t know whether it is required for me to spiral into an existential depression every time hormones and low iron levels hit me, but that is what seems to happen.

In the words of Tears for Fears, from “Mad World”:

All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere
And their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression, no expression
Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow
No tomorrow, no tomorrow
And I find it kind of funny

I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I’m dying
Are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you
‘Cos I find it hard to take
When people run in circles
It’s a very, very
Mad world

But spring is around the corner and I have a lot to do.  My plan is that carrying out this simple list of projects (in whole or in part, which is more likely!) will help me get back in touch with my focus and let me bring my full attention to every detail and start living in and enjoying the moments of my life again.  Instead of sitting around worrying what those people running in circles think of me.

List of projects for a successful stay-at-home mother

  • Declutter the basement
  • Organize/purge kids’ accumulated art projects/school work
  • Finish painting the laundry room
  • Stay on top of laundry loads
  • Work on Brownie badges with Meghan
  • Plan and prepare healthy family dinners at least 4-5 times per week (prepare semi-healthy meals 16-17 times per week)
  • Help Meghan study for rider level test
  • Complete school’s online Scholastic book orders in timely fashion
  • Declutter my desk
  • Complete photo albums in Aperture and order prints
  • Contact all elementary schools in Greater Saint John area re: fundraiser (as per role on fundraiser committee)
  • Visit and present characters to elementary schools (as per role on fundraiser committee)
  • Purge kids’ DVD collection
  • Work out 5 days per week
  • Keep food record
  • Provide treats for teachers on St. Paddy’s Day (as per role on Special Events committee)
  • Declutter garage
  • Buy groceries
  • Hang hooks in stairwell for backpacks/sports equipment
  • Repair walls in laundry room, front hall
  • Hang new laundry rack
  • Ensure kids practice piano daily
  • Help kids with homework daily
  • Drive kids to and from all extra-curricular activities and playdates on time
  • Get birthday present for Clara’s friend
  • Plan summer vacation camps, trips, etc.
  • Plan trip to London
  • Pursue digital photography hobby
  • Read books I have purchased re: education, giftedness, health & dieting, photography, spirituality
  • Paint three bathrooms and two bedrooms
  • De-mold the upstairs windows
  • Clean all windows
  • Make/order blinds for kitchen windows
  • Install new shelf in Meghan’s room
  • Mail Helena’s housewarming gift
  • Blog 3-4 times per week
 

Made-up stuff October 3, 2011

Filed under: Life with kids,The meaning of life,Writing — Aerin Rainey @ 10:43 pm

I love our new art room.  All the arts & crafts supplies can be found there.  My kids can splatter paint and spread chalk dust around to their hearts’ content.  There is even a plasma car to ride around on when you feel the need for inspiration.  Finley, the betta, has taken up permanent residence on the table and the iPod is plugged into a speaker and set on a continuous loop of the Tangled soundtrack.

I would have loved a space like this when I was a kid.  Chock full of glue, paper, pom poms, glitter, paint, markers and possibility.

Don’t get me wrong — when I think about the basement at our house when I was a kid, it was all about imagination.  Made-up games, as my girls call them now.  And listening to them play pretend is bringing it all back to me.  In that unfinished space of my childhood, full of carpet remnants and mismatched furniture, my sister and I and our neighbourhood friends spent hours not just playing our made-up games, but setting the scene for our dramas.

First the cast of characters, complete down to their middle names.  An involved family tree and background story had to be conceived and fleshed out for each person and, if the game was a continuation from yesterday at supper time, we had to recap the entire pretend history. This was really the best part.

Next, we had to build the forts.  After all, even made-up people need somewhere to live.  The pool table, a cast off from my grandparents’ house was coveted for its cozy interior and rooftop garden.  Behind the bookcase was also a fab pad, as it came furnished with bean bag chairs.  Last and definitely least, the couch/coffee table combo.  My poor younger sister often got stuck with its sagging afghan roof and skull-and-coaster-jarring low ceiling.

And then we played.  “Say I’m …  in a car accident and you find me unconscious!” “Say I … get fired from my job, but on the way home I buy a lottery ticket and win!”  “Say … we all go to the beach and we get chased by sharks!” “Say … ”

“Say I’m a world-famous author … “

 

Cross-border geocaching adventure October 2, 2011

Filed under: Geocaching,Travel,Writing — Aerin Rainey @ 3:00 pm

“Good morning, sir,”  I say to the U.S. customs official, as I hand over passports for our carload of eager geocachers.

“Would you take off the sunglasses, please?” he answers.

“Oh, sorry, of course.” I am still smiling.

“Where do you live?”

“Quispamsis, New Brunswick,” I answer brightly.

“What is your purpose for visiting the U.S.?”

“Oh, just some hiking, I guess,” I hedge, not wanting to use the word geocaching in case he’s a Muggler.

“Will you be leaving anything in the U.S., ma’am?” he asks.

“Ummm … no,” I start, but honesty get the better of me.  “Well, I mean, yes, but it’s just a little trackable device, well, not a device, actually more of an …. item …,”  I trail off, wondering why I didn’t just say  No.

“What sort of trackable device?” his eyes narrow suspiciously.

“It’s nothing, really, just …,” I backpedal, somehow without stammering.

“Would you please step out of the vehicle, ma’am?”

No geocachers were strip-searched in the imagining of this scenario!