On my eighth birthday, I remember slogging ass out of bed and down to the kitchen for a bit of toast before beginning the day’s activities. A late riser as well, my father happened to be sitting at the counter as I toasted my bread.
Always one to poke fun at what a she-beast I am when I first wake up, my father boomed a loud, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, REBECCA! PUT ON SOME GODDAMNED PANTS!”
Because I was eight, I rolled my eyes at him and grunted a monosyllabic “thanks” under my breath, hoping he’d shutthefuckup until I’d been awake for longer than 30 seconds.
“How’s it feel to be THE BIG EIGHT?” he twinkled, obviously enjoying my annoyance.
I thought about it while I gnawed on my toast. Did I feel any differently? Were things different today than they were last night when I went to bed? Have I developed boobs and gotten my first apartment? Did Vanilla Ice finally get all the fanmail I’d sent? Will he finally show up in his wicked ride to pick me up from school? Did I win the Nobel Prize in Awesomeness for sleeping?
No. I was, give or take the bleariness I tried desperately to wipe out of my eyes, the exact same person I was 12 hours before. I shook my head no and scuttled back upstairs to put on some pants.
The “goddamned” was implied.
I feel the same about New Year’s. I understand the need that some people feel to celebrate the ending of one year and the coming of the next the same way that I recognize that a monthly purge of my house makes me happy in the pants. I get it – it feels good to be rid of the baggage of the last year, or, erms, well, actual baggage.
If only it worked that way.
December 2012 was a dark, dark time for me. I don’t mean that as a pithy country song, I mean it was so damn dark I couldn’t tell my ass from my head. Days would pass before I’d speak to another person. I continued the job hunt that had consumed my life since July without any real hope I’d find something. Turns out, trying to eke out a career path after being out of work for so long isn’t as simple as throwing together a resume and watching the offer letters pile up on my desk as I sat back and evaluated which Fortune 500 company I’d opt to become president of. I’d been making ends meet by freelancing and selling off any of my possessions that had value, but my nerves were shot each month as I cobbled together enough money to keep the electricity on.(PSA time!)
Hey kids! All of that bullshit your parents spewed in your general direction about learning to manage a household? Turns out – you kinda need to know it. And I’d made the cardinal mistake most married couples do – Dave and I had decided to divide and conquer. All of the things that he’d done for us? I never learned to do. And the converse.
I’d been managing for a few months, still sorta in that daze between what-fuck-just-happened? and this-is-my-fucking-life and once reality hit, I started to take stock of whether or not I actually needed to grace the earth with my presence. I’d try and come up with reasons that I should stick around for another year and usually came up short. Only reason I’m here typing this to you now, Pranksters, is because I knew that my kids needed me. And the thought that it would be days or weeks before anyone found me had my stomach heaving well before I’d realized that my cats would probably quite literally eat off part of my face before I was discovered as departed. No one wants to put that burden on another person.
I woke up January 1, 2013 and nothing had changed. Sure, I could’ve gone to bed and said, “Self, tomorrow, everything will be different! You won’t wake up in a jolt of anxiety like your no-no square had just been tasered! You’ll be gainfully employed! You’ll be happy! All because YOU resolved to do it!”
I’ve been around this planet long enough to know one divine truth: The Universe has far bigger things to worry about than my resolutions.
But things did begin to turn around – slowly. By February 1, I was gainfully employed in a job I really enjoyed. I couldn’t call myself happy, but I was too busy to notice the sad bits. The anxiety got worse before it got better. I quit that job and took another. And another.
And now I find myself gainfully employed at a job I love working downtown in the best city in the world (apologies, New York). I no longer wake with that squirming ball of anxiety rolling around my gut like the world’s nastiest bowling ball – most days. I’ve learned how to keep the electricity on and my phone bill paid – most months. I no longer worry about someone discovering my half-eaten body. While I’m not always bouncing off the walls with glee (which is, quite frankly, a good thing – it’d be more likely than not to get me institutionalized), I can say that I’m happy.
That can all change tomorrow. I may go into work and find that my job has been given to someone overseas or find that my office has been converted into fancy lofts in Lincoln Park. I may have to go without food or electricity for a spell. Depression may rear its ugly, lying head and tell me what a total piece of shit I am for thinking happiness could happen to someone like me.
I don’t know what tomorrow brings any more than the meteorologist on Fox News know what the weather will be like. Educated guesses. Life is a series of educated guesses.
Tonight, I can resolve to lose 395 pounds or wake up an heiress and still wake as, well, me – Your Aunt Becky. Life isn’t about empty promises or a guarantee of a happier tomorrow. Good shit happens to bad people. Bad shit happens to good people. Shit happens, usually on some idle Tuesday in the middle of the month when you least expect it. You can rage against it all you want, but I’d surmise that nailing Jello to the wall would be easier.
Instead, I will go to bed tonight knowing that while I may not know what will happen tomorrow, it’s another chance for me to make messes, get dirty, and have fun.
And that (NOT the Hokey Pokey) Pranksters, is what life is all about.
The White House has instituted an annual White House Science Fair to focus attention on the importance of science education in the nation’s schools. The fair involves more than 100 middle school and high school students who display their inventions and projects for the president, education officials and the media. In his address at the 2013 fair the president linked the importance of science and technology to America’s future, as well as to his own educational policies. President Obama said “The belief that we belong on the cutting edge of innovation, that’s an idea as old as America itself.
You think about our Founding Fathers – they were all out there doing experiments – and folks like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, were constantly curious about the world around them and trying to figure out how can we help shape that environment so that people’s lives are better.
According to comparative studies American students score 23rd in science when compared with 65 other top industrial nations, behind countries such as Estonia, Finland, Hungary and New Zealand. This, scientists and other educators believe, is unacceptable. The President’s own Council of Advisers on Science and Technology issued a statement which declared that “economic forecasts point to a need for producing, over the next decade, approximately 1 million more college graduates in STEM fields than expected under current assumptions.”
Science educators are thrilled to see the increased emphasis on K-12 science education. Many of these educators have banded together to create a list of suggestions that, they believe, will return America’s students to a top place in science education. These suggestions include:
*Concentrate on front-load STEM-related teaching. Tap into the students’ natural curiosity and integrate science education into the school’s curriculum as early as first grade. One Chicago school has shown considerable success in beginning science education in preschool by integrating it into story time, puzzle time, play time and just about any other time of the day.
*Include science education in teacher training programs. More science-knowledgeable teachers will feel comfortable with science and will be motivated and prepared to integrate science curriculum into the children’s daily lessons.
*Don’t segregate science classes from the rest of the curriculum. Schools that “specialize” in sciences shouldn’t be the norm – every school should see science as a subject that is as important to the students’ future as math and English.
*Find ways to adopt forms of scientific methods in the pedagogy of all classes, including building models, arguing from evidence-based facts and communicating findings. These techniques can help develop students’ critical thinking skills and make science into a comfortable and familiar way of thinking.
*Stay in contact with nonprofit organizations (such as Project Lead Way) that are dedicated to supplemental training of teachers in the sciences. Good teachers will be open to additional training and their curiosity will inspire their students. Students who take courses from a well-trained teacher will be more dedicated to their coursework and more interested in the subject matter than their peers who don’t have well-trained teachers. Lowell Milken, an educational leader, has notes that “The most direct and enduring way to reach the mind and imagination of the learner is through the mind, imagination and character of the outstanding teacher.”
*Additional corporations and non-profits should be encouraged to donate towards enhancing teachers’ abilities. School districts and principals should make full use of these auxiliary institutions.
Ask any adult “Don’t you wish you had better and more engaging access to science education when you were in school?” The answer will almost always be: “yes.” With the proper attention and resources now America can make that wish a reality for today’s student.
On September the 10th, 2005 at 11:15 in the morning, Dave and I were married in front of 150 of our closest friends and family. We drank sangria and danced with our loved ones until the wee hours of the morning, celebrating our union.
Today, December the 31st at 11:17 in the morning, Dave and I were divorced in a courtroom filled with absolutely no one we’d ever met. There are no cakes or balloons, no flowers and excited friends, no dancing, and certainly no sangria. No divorce party awaits me when I’m off work. Hell, I don’t even get a cookie for the years I put into the marriage.
Today, I woke up married and will go to bed divorced.
I don’t know if there will be tears or if I’ve cried them all out. For me, grieving the loss of the dream of a happy marriage began three and a half years ago (four?):
Me (rolling over, going to sleep): “I love you.”
Figuring he was asleep – the man could sleep through a tornado being serenaded through our house in by the world’s largest marching band – I wanted to make sure he heard me. “I love you” This time, a bit louder.
Jokingly, I said, “what, you don’t love me anymore?”
“No,” he stated as flatly as if I’d asked him if I could pave the driveway with cheese. “I don’t.”
With that, he rolled over and fell asleep.
I laid awake, eyes wide in the dark, until the sun began to peek through the shades.
There it was, the awful truth, all wrapped up in absolutely no pomp and circumstance: my husband didn’t love me. As someone who’d already deemed herself probably unlovable, this crushed me. It was my fault, I guess, in that sense. He didn’t love me anymore. We (obviously) separated shortly thereafter. Turns out, there’s not a whole lot of places to go when the ugly truth is spoken.
I was, understandably, devastated. While I plastered a smile onto my face and went about my business as usual, there it was in the back of my head: “I should get the dishes unloaded and reload the dishwasher and oh yeah, Dave doesn’t love me anymore. Wonder when we’ll get divorced,” and “maybe if I pluck my eyebrows, I’ll look less like a sea hag and oh yeah, my husband doesn’t love me anymore. It’s probably time for a divorce.”
I couldn’t escape those words and what they meant no matter where I went.
I’d try to talk about divorce to my married friends sometimes, which proved a lesson in futility. They’d either minimize it, “Well, you can be married without loving each other,” or avoid me like the divorce plague was catching. Not sure I blame them on that one. What do you say to someone who’s husband doesn’t love her? I don’t know. Like, “I just got divorced 12 minutes ago,” I don’t know that there’s much that can be said.
I don’t know what we intended to have happen during our separation. Maybe he’d somehow learn to love me again? Maybe we’d wake up one day and this would all be a dream? Maybe a separation doesn’t mean divorce? Maybe I’d be able to live with knowing that, at one point, my husband didn’t love me? Maybe things weren’t as bad as they seem?
And separation didn’t, obviously, help.
The D Word was thrown around. Dave had already made a “special friend” by the time I moved from the home I’d once jokingly stated I’d have to be pried out of with a crowbar on October 1, 2012. I now reside in my beloved tiny apartment a mere 6 minutes from the home I once tenderly loved my flowers, my children, my husband in. The family, the dream I’d desperately wanted, within walking distance – light years away.
I may no longer mourn what might-have-been’s but I can’t help but wish that I’d paid more attention to those last times. It’s funny, when you’re married, you begin to make presumptions about the future; there’s always time to make more happy memories, the last time is the last time for now, tomorrow is another day.
Like the last time you see your baby crawl before she starts walking like a big girl, you don’t know it’s going to be the very last time you see a child of yours crawls. You don’t know that the last time you make love to your partner of ten years is going to be the last time. You don’t know that the last time you sit, eating dinner and shooting the shit around the big table you spent weeks of your life polishing will be the last time. It simply doesn’t register as something that should carry any more weight than it did. You don’t think to memorize the details, the way the food tasted, the way his body felt, the giggles of laughter during conversations around the table. There’d be other nights, other dinners, other conversations.
Until there aren’t.
What I wish, more than all, is that I could go back in time and re-experience those memories. I’d watch my husband dance with our daughter before her surgery because, “he was her legs because she couldn’t use hers yet,” knowing that memory would be one I’d cherish for the rest of my days. I’ll never again laughingly serenade Dave with my best (terrible) Rod Stewart impression while he does the dishes. That’s over. Those were the last times. Ever.
Oh, how I wish I’d have taken the time to recognize those moments as fleeting, soon to be only a memory stored under “Happyness,” in my brain. There are always new good times to be had, for sure, but never again will I be able to be proud to call someone “my husband,” so excited, so proud to use that term for someone who had simply been “my fiance,” mere months before.
But today, for the first time in ten years, I can say that I am totally and completely a single woman. There will be no cakes or parties tonight, only a quiet recognition of the way things are.