I grew up in New York and moved down south from New Jersey, so keep that in mind when I say the following:
I'm trying to be nice and it's not easy.
It's not my fault.
I am, by nature, an introvert and it's something I work on a lot. And also, as I may have mentioned, I'm from New York. When I used to work in the city, I could go weeks (months?) without saying so much as a word to anyone else during my commute. Just pop those headphones on (yeah, I'm that old) and go. If you don't keep your mouth closed and your feet moving, you'll get knocked over leaving the train station.
And then we moved to Florida and oh my. Because that's what people here say. They say things like "oh my" and wait, you'll like this one - "excuse me". So polite.
Everyone here is so, as Southerners would say, gosh darn happy to talk to everyone and their mother. Okay, maybe I shouldn't have said the and their mother part. Maybe that wasn't so nice. Arrrgh.
I don't know how to be fake nice. Is that what it is? Fake nice? Or are people really just so friendly here in the south? And when I say people, I mean people that I don't know - for example, the cashier, the mailman (mine is named Leonard), the lady who goes walking at the same time as me and for some reason must walk the same route at a slightly slower pace while humming. Okay, maybe that wasn't nice either. I'm sure she doesn't mean to follow me but it's so gosh darn annoying. And the humming, that she can control so no, I don't forgive her for that.
Okay, maybe that wasn't so nice to say either.
I'm trying, I really am. But I'm not one for small talk or chit chat or whatever you want to call it.
So in effort to be more, um, I don't even know what the word is, but how about this - LessNewYorky - I dedicated this past week to smiling at everyone I meet, saying hello and striking up a conversation.
This past week I have felt, in no specific order, crazy, creepy, and a tiny bit stalkerish.
And yet, oddly enough, also happy.
I tried to make friends with at least one person each day while I run errands.
(And please don't judge me by the fact that I visit a food store every single day).
On Monday I met a woman at Publix and we chatted for ten minutes about the Chanukah display at the end of the aisle, about which temple she used to attend and about how she thinks $1.99 for a box of Chanukah candles is an excellent price while I think it's highway robbery and that they should be max, 69 cents a box. She gave me her number and I pretended to create a new contact in my phone. I'm an awful awful person.
So I tried to be nicer the next day.
On Tuesday I talked to the cashier in Whole Foods for a good five minutes past the moment that she handed me back my credit card. I now know what she packs her kids for lunch in the morning (yogurt and some salami on crackers), how her husband should really pack those lunches because she works the morning shift (everyday) and how many croissants her son eats for breakfast (seven. Seven?!).
On Wednesday, I learned that the associate at Michael's actually thinks there is a better selection of paper punches at AC Moore and also that she prefers pistachio nuts in her brownies as opposed to walnuts. (Okay, Michael's is not technically a food store, but we talked food, and yuck, pistachios in your brownie!? Never mind. We're not being judgmental).
On Thursday, at World Market, I learned that the lady (Janey, if you must know) in the glass cookie jar aisle was also there trying to figure out what her husband should give out for holiday gifts at his office.
And then, after Janey and I parted ways, wishing each other luck and happy holidays, I headed to Publix to pick up a few things for Shabbos and there I met a woman who is in town on business. She stopped me to ask if there were any kosher restaurants in town and I had to say no, not yet but it didn't end there. I learned that she is from NY originally (and immediately wondered why she was talking to me) and that she moved to Atlanta a few years ago (so that's why she's talking to me). In my zeal to be friendly, I asked her if she needed anything, if she wanted to come for dinner (panicking at the same time because we have scrambled eggs on Thursday nights) and if she needed a place for Shabbos. Turns out, she travels for business often, is used to eating crackers and fruit and is staying in the same hotel as her conference so she can attend on Shabbos, and that it's all the way downtown.
But I did it. I was so proud of myself.
I made conversation with a stranger, I made small talk. I still don't enjoy it, but it's an important skill, one I have to work on further. My dream of sitting on my couch all day with an ice coffee and only talking to my best friends - and you know who you are - is probably not a realistic dream, especially that I live many many hours away from those friends these days.
So I will continue to make new friends. Random people. Because everyone has a story and if you listen carefully, you will see that the world around you is amazing, that each person has a past and a present that they are usually happy to share and at the end of the day, you have no idea how your smile or kind word changed someone's entire day for the better.
Unless people are warning each other that there's a wacko from New York who is still driving around with her New Jersey plates on her van, going around making eye contact and smiling. It's totally possible.
Look what I made today.
It took me five years to do it.
Okay, not really.
But I did buy this huge letter W five years ago. And it sat in the dining room, and then on top of the china closet, and finally, in my clothes closet. And then it got packed up and moved to Florida with us where it resumed its spot on top of the china closet - until today.
I was standing on one of the dining room chairs looking for something on top of the china closet and I saw the W and I thought about how ridiculous it was that it's been, literally, years, and I have not completed this project.
And then I thought about how many other things I push off, I pretend that I don't need to do or just can't plain make a decision about and so I keep that task or project or whatever on my to-do list and it never gets crossed off.
So today was the day. Or rather, this afternoon was the afternoon.
I thought it would take much longer to decoupage my W than it did. I started printing pictures at around 12pm and it's now 8pm and it's all done. But it didn't take 8 hours. That would be silly because I don't have eight hours to do anything, ever and also because in between 12pm and 8pm I made dinner, folded a load of laundry, did the 2pm school pick up, colored, baked corn muffins, did the 3pm school pickup, did homework, served a snack, sang a few songs, cleared the table for dinner, did the 4pm school pickup (!), served dinner, cleared dinner, washed the dishes, packed five lunchboxes for tomorrow, did more homework, cleaned up the playroom, got four kids into pajamas and everyone into bed.
So this project must have taken, what, five minutes?
No. Not five minutes. But somewhere between five minutes and three hours, I would say. I guess it depends on how big your letter is and also if you decide to decoupage the sides and bottoms of your letter.
But let me back up here for a second and tell you what I did.
First, many years ago, I saw this project here and I loved it.
The first step is to sort through all your family pictures on the computer. I chose 25 pictures, copied them into a word document and played around with the sizes of the pictures so some were bigger and some smaller.
Then I printed them in black and white, cut them out and the layed them out on the W to see how they would look.
And that's when I realized that I did not have nearly enough pictures, so back to the computer for 25 more.
Wash, rinse and repeat. In total, I probably used about 100 pictures so just keep that in mind when making yours.
To attach the pictures to the W (which by the way, is nothing more than cardboard; I think it's a base for a papermache project, very light-weight) I used Modge Podge and a foam brush. Modge Podge dries clear so I was not neat about this at all, but I was careful because the printer paper is very thin and I did not want the pictures to rip.
Glue the pictures to the front and then do the same to the sides and tops and bottoms of you letter. The tops and sides and bottoms are really optional. In theory, you could paint them a solid color or just leave them as is, but many of my pictures wrapped around the sides of the letter a little here and there so it was all very uneven after I finished the front of the letter.
And I really do like how the W looks wrapped in pictures from all angles.
Now I just have to figure out where to hang it. I had the perfect spot for it in our old house, but now I'm not so sure what to do.
But I need to figure it out. It can't really live on the kitchen table.
Now on to the next project - pulling out all the Chanukah decorations and figuring out where they go in this new house of ours.
Oh, old house, how I missed you today with your fantastic W spot and awesome Chanukah decoration mantle.
I didn't know it would be such a challenge making this new house into a home.
We bought a couch today.
The picture below is the couch coming into the house through the backdoors, but first it has to get through the still-standing sukkah.
We are big fans of craigslist and yet every time we look to buy something, I get all nervous.
Will the sellers be crazy?
Will we hate the couch (air conditioner, toy, whatever) when we see it and then have to tell the seller no to their faces?
And the worst, how will we get it home?
That's what happened today. I mean, it's a couch, you can't exactly throw it into the trunk.
And also, both Josh and I wanted to see it, which meant all the kids had to come too. The six of us fit comfortably in the van, but no room for a couch here. So we took two cars, took all three booster seats out of the van, put them into Josh's car and off we went. The car seat stayed in the van. We'd have to be getting something a lot better than a couch to make unhooking the carseat worth it. Actually, I can't think of anything that would make taking the carseat out worth it, short of getting a new van. And even then, a new van is already so expensive, why not just get a new carseat to go with it, you know?
We got lucky with this couch. I don't think anyone has ever sat on it. And the owner steam cleaned it before we came. I don't even know what that means, but this is one clean couch.
We've been looking for a couch for the playroom for a while now - pretty much since we got off the train in Florida and yet, I just could not justify spending a thousand dollars on a couch for a playroom - or for anywhere really. So we've been sitting around on the floor a lot. And I'm okay with that.
But every once in a while I would take a little craigslist look and see what's going on. The problem is, usually nothing is going on - and I'm so not used to that. In NJ, every craigslist search included NYC and that was always where the motherload was because, - and I know it's wrong of me to gloat - but no one there has any storage space so haha, once city-people don't need their double city-mini stroller anymore, I'm right there waiting to take it off their hands.
Here, in our new city, there aren't as many people. And people have big houses. And big closets. And they seem to be keeping all their stuff. And that kind of doesn't work for me because I still need some kind of table for my front hall. There's nowhere to put your keys or stash your shoes.
Anyway, I digress. I do have a point here. And it's not that the couch got semi- stuck in the sukkah that hasn't come down yet on it's way in through the back doors. My point is that you never know what you're going to get, and you never know how something will work out. Craigslist is really all about taking a chance and we took a chance on the couch and we got lucky. It could have looked terrible in the room, it could have been too big, it could have been awful and we would have had to walk away, but it wasn't.
You have to try or you'll never know.
And that is what I have been trying to teach my art classes these past few weeks.
My students are very focused on their outcomes, which I find to be a terrible thing. They do not at all look at the process as the reward, they don't see that the making of their creations is really where the beauty lies and that is why I find myself continually trying to talk first graders down from the ledge of perfection.
They constantly want to start again.
They don't like one little tiny dot on their page and all of a sudden it's garbage.
I am finding that these kids do not understand what it means to be creative, to look at something that maybe didn't go as planned and try to figure out how to fix it or change course and do something different. Which is why I instituted a new rule in the art room.
(I mean, it's not that big of s surprise, I already gave it away in the title, but here goes:)
I'm not sure it's the right rule and I'm not married to it so I can always change back to letting them try again and again, but I really feel deep down that my students need to learn to look at their work and either go with it as is or change directions - their choice - but they do have to stick with it.
These past few weeks we have been working with watercolor paper and paints. The first week we learned how to write our names in bubble letters, use oil pastels to outline the letters and then watch as the water from the paints and the oil pastels interacted as we painted over the whole sheet of paper.
Last week we learned to draw robots, step by step, only using shapes - and I first saw the project idea here. Then we watercolored around the robots after we colored them with crayons, again watching how the watercolors almost moved away from the crayon wax.
A couple of kids got it. A couple of kids were amazed at how all the different mediums played with each other. And the rest of the kids? All I had were complaints.
Mine isn't perfect.
I need to start over.
I'm so bad at this.
Why do we have to do things we don't know how to do?
Oh my goodness.
I was so sad for my students. So sad that they couldn't see the beauty and the creativity behind every move they make in the art room. It's art, it's not math. There's no one right way to do anything. And you know what, there's no one right way to solve a math problem either, despite what many teachers think but that's a whole other can of worms.
We talked about what the process means, what the end means, and what comes in between. And slowly they started to understand. Very slowly and some kids still do not buy it, but many of them are seeing their work in a new light.
Maybe it was never explained before, but I don't think that's true because they had a great art teacher last year.
I think it might be because kids now - and I sound like such an old lady saying this - but kids are very used to instant gratification. If it's not immediate, they're not interested. If they can't do something the way they think is the right way the first time, then forget it. Why work at something? What's the point? And I see it with my own kids too - if I cannot know how to ride my scooter (shoot a basket, play a board game, whatever) right out of the box, then I'm not doing it. And that kills me because I remember riding my bike up and down my parents' driveway for months before I learned how to ride without training wheels. Months! (Granted, I'm not very coordinated, but I did keep practicing).
And so that's why I have my no do-over rule. I started it two weeks ago with the bubble letters and the kids were horrified. They were slightly less horrified this past week and I'm hoping that once we start our projects this week (wait till they hear that this new project will take three weeks to complete, there's going to be a revolt. What do you mean we can't take it home right now?!) that they will be a little less demanding of themselves. A little more forgiving that their paper doesn't look exactly like their friends.
We'll see, I can only hope.
Are you a Mom?
Of course you are,
your shirt is dirty :)