A Year of Thanks

1 post a day for 365 days showing gratitude

Advice for new college students June 7, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — courtsbrogno @ 12:36 pm

With Maddie graduating high school in a few days, I was thinking about what I should get her friends. I don’t have any extra money, so I can’t give them cash (what they all really want). Instead I complied a list of advice for these soon-to-be college freshmen.

Courtney’s Outstanding Advice for how to Survive College (and Excel!!!)

  1. No matter how prepared you think you are for college, no matter how great of a high school you attended, no matter how many community college classes you took, YOU ARE NOT PREPARED. Be ready to have your ass kicked the first year.
  2. Be prepared to study WAY more than you ever did in high school. Think of it this way: however much time you spent studying in high school to get an A grade will undoubtedly get you a C grade in college– if you’re lucky.
  3. When studying, turn off all devices (especially notifications on your computer). All that does is distract you. Don’t listen to music that you know the words to. Don’t study in groups unless you can stay focused and not wander off on social life tangents.
  4. Stay healthy. Get a good night’s sleep. Eat well. If you get sick in college, it’s like a rollercoaster of trying to get better. So, take your vitamins, wash your hands, and don’t even think of going into dorm showers without flip flops on.
  5. Try something new once a week. Step out of your comfort zone. Join a club! Take dance lessons!
  6. Learn how to balance partying with school. College will be the time of your life. I promise you this. And you should get out there and socialize. Go to parties, drink alcohol, smoke some pot. But stay away from any hard drugs. Do not get caught up in them. And know your limits. If you have a test the day after a raging party, you’re going to feel like shit and perform badly if you party too hard. Balance. That’s the key. And always, always, always use the buddy system.
  7. Get to know at least 10 people who are different from you—race, religion, ethnicity, interests, political sidings. You live in a world with 7.5 billion people. Do you best not to be blind to only people who reflect you and your values.
  8. Go to your professor’s office hours more than once. If confused, ask for help. Make sure they know your name. Trust me, it will go a long way when it comes down to final grades.
  9. Date a lot. Don’t just settle for one boy or girl. Get out there. Figure out what you like and don’t like in a partner. But also know that you control your body and what you want to do with it. Don’t ever do anything because someone else wants to. Do what you want to. You are the narrator of your own story. Not someone else. P.S. Always use protection.
  10. Grades matter, but you know what matters even more: intellectual curiosity. I don’t care if you hate a class with a passion, you can still learn something. If you get a C in a class, but you learned so much then that’s what matters—not the grade. If you get an A in a class but don’t remember shit, that’s a complete and total bummer. Learn as much as you can. Fill your brain. Don’t just memorize and then forget. No one will ever ask you once you graduate what your GPA was, but they will ask you intellectual questions, and you should be able to answer them.
 

the myth of sisyphus May 24, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — courtsbrogno @ 7:00 pm

You know, the first few times I read Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus, I was like, “Damn. I get it. I’m sooooooooo existential.”

Bullshit 20-something year old, Courtney. You don’t get it.

Now at 41, I fucking get it. I have been rolling that rock up and down the mountain for two many years and I’ve learned this: Life is pretty meaningless. Right when you think you’ve got it all figured out–up the mountain you go. You’ll make it back to the top again, only to watch the rock fall back down again.

Over and over and over and over again until you die. Yes, there will be brilliant moments of life and love will conquer many things (but probably not), but all that will turn on a dime and you’ll be rolling that rock up. that. fucking. mountain. again.

Forever.

So while I’m trying to be optimistic and grateful again this year, I’m also beginning to really understand the chaos and repetitiveness and bullshit of life. All scattered in with a few beautiful moments that tease me into believing I’ve learned something. Figured something out.

Guess what, Courtney You don’t know shit.

So, today I focus on the up the mountain/down the mountain beauty and shit of life.

Beauty–I get to stay in my house and don’t have to move. Soon, I will sign a lease with the landlords whom I met and I will forever be disconnected from my ex.

Shit–It took weeks of arguing to get the house, and at times, I didn’t think I was strong enough to keep fighting, but I did. That was a hellish two weeks, though and  BONUS! the landlords raised the rent $200/month.

Beauty–It’s no secret that I am way short on money lately. But I also have family that have lent me money and bought me groceries. I am so fortunate.

Shit–Yesterday morning, I looked at my bank account and thought, “OMG. I’m going to make it to the end of the month and be okay.” Then I went to drive to work and my battery was dead. So, I watched a bunch of youtube videos and with the help of my brother, replaced my battery, which saved me about $400, but killed that “I’m going to make it to the end of the month” feeling.

Beauty–Mother’s Day with my kids was wonderful.

mday

Shit–You know what I really want for Mother’s Day? To be left the fuck alone and just read.

Beauty–Maddie went to her senior prom and had a great date, was surrounded by her best friends, and had a fantastic time that she will surely remember for a long time.

Shit–Do you know how expensive prom is these days? It’s like I just had a small wedding for Maddie.

Beauty–I received this email from  former student today and my heart just melted:

letter

Shit–I finished grading for the community college and out of 29 students, I had 7 withdraw or drop; 1 A; 5 B’s; 2 C’s; 1 D; and 12 FUCKING F’s. Unbelievable. You have no idea what a complete waste of time it is to put in so much effort as a teacher for about 16 weeks only for about 10 students to legitimately stop showing up the last 2 weeks. Like–can’t you make this decision before I’ve graded all your work for 16 weeks???

Beauty/Shit–This takes the cake. I clean the house. The next day it’s dirty. And so on and so on and so on FOREVER.

Here is a perfect example. I cleaned Luke’s entire room and just when I thought I was finished I looked behind his bed to find all this:

lukes room

So you know what? I’m texting every member of the family (minus Luke. I’ll tell him in person) daily chores and if they are not done by the time I go to bed, I’m kicking that member out. Well, not Luke. He’s too young. But I will take away his TV watching.

Because for real. I am so over all this shit.

 

 

Don’t piss this mama off May 10, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — courtsbrogno @ 3:48 pm

At Maddie’s school, there is–of course–a newspaper. The last newspaper reported solely on the issues of LGBTQ students. I read the articles and found them quite enlightening.

However, a teacher from her school decided to write a letter to the editor in response, which was published. This is what he said:

Dear Editor,

I love the staff and students at name withheld. My students know that. But I love God more, so in obedience to Him, I am writing this letter.

Without divine intervention it would be mathematically impossible to write a book filled with hundreds of predictions over thousands of years with 100% accuracy regarding their fulfillment, yet the Bible has done exactly that, with just a few prophecies yet to be fulfilled. Therefore, I have faith that the entire Bible is without error.

The Bible tells us  that we are all accountable for our actions, and that teachers are especially accountable. I’m a teacher, and I don’t want to displease God any more than I already have with my sinful life, so in obedience to Him, I’m asking you to please slowly read and consider the following excerpt from the book of Romans, Chapter 1, verses 16-32, in the New Testament. It describes a deception that has happened in the past, and is happening again right now, not only at name withheld, but  throughout the world:

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes – the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in His sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”

But God shows His anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because He has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship Him as God or even give Him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.

So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and shameful things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the creator Himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.

Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, He abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them too.”

I write you these things in order to lift up those who have stumbled, or may stumble, and put you back on the right path.

I pray you each have a great summer, a wonderful life, and a perfect eternity.

Love,

name withheld

What the actual FUCK. Here’s one thing you don’t want to do and that is piss off a mama.

So I wrote the principal and this is what I said:

Dear name withheld,

As an American citizen, an educator, and a parent of senior at name withheld, I am a fierce defender of the First Amendment; however when freedom of speech treads on hate speech, which can easily lead to a hate crime (since an already marginalized community was threatened), I feel that the letter to the editor written by name withheld teacher name withheld is without a doubt appalling, insensitive, and is hate speech.

While, name withheld quotes from the Bible, particularly, Romans 1: 16-32, the fact that he used this quote as evidence for his belief is unacceptable. The evidence from the Bible calls the LGBTQ community slanders, insolent, inventors of evil and malice, heartless, ruthless, and that they deserve to die, among many other atrocities.  Furthermore, the passages quoted by name withheld are not correct in its assumptions. Idolatry is the focus of Paul’s argument, not gays and lesbians. The cultural and religious context is unfamiliar to some modern readers because many modern readers are unfamiliar with Roman history and Jewish history in the first century AD.

Sadly when suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24 and the rate of suicide attempts is 4 times greater for LGBTQ youth and 2 times greater for questioning youth than that of straight youth and suicide attempts by LGBTQ youth and questioning youth are 4 to 6 times more likely to result in injury, poisoning, or overdose that requires treatment from a doctor or nurse, compared to their straight peers, it seems like name withheld quotes DO border on hate crimes. And you have a responsibility to take care that all students are safe.

I work extremely hard to teach my children and my students tolerance of people different from them. I assume most parents do. I would assume that at a public institution, your teachers would do the same. But name withheld letter was the opposite of tolerance and the opposite of what name withheld should represent.

I do not wish for name withheld to be terminated or retire; however, I do believe that he should attend a biology and history course to educate him on other science-based evidence. Furthermore, I believe he should have to sit down with the LGBTQ community and LISTEN to their stories and feelings. That is the least name withheld can do in light of such hate and disgust from one of your own teachers.

Best,

Courtney

 

This is not how my life is supposed to be May 5, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — courtsbrogno @ 3:54 pm

It’s been awhile since I’ve been writing and focusing on gratitude. It’s not that I’ve been lazy or unmotivated or too busy. It’s just been that I’ve been thinking about my life. A lot.

And to be honest, I am not happy with my life right now. My life is not supposed to be the way it is now.

Now, that is a bold statement, and I have never really subscribed to the American Dream of a white picket fence, cruising up the corporate ladder, buying a house, etc. Obviously, by just looking at my life choices, one can see that I have not followed in any particular path.

And that has always been okay. I have two kids from two different fathers, I chose a career that would not make me a millionaire (or even close to it), I enjoy being single and have not been on the lookout for a “husband” to make my life complete. And of course there are a million other small ways in which my life looks different from the American Dream.

But the thing is, I have worked so hard my entire life. I started working at the age of 14 and haven’t stopped since. I had Maddie when I was 22 and persevered to finish my college degree, get a master’s, and land a job in a field that I really enjoy–teaching (ok, mostly enjoy. Grading can sometimes kill me). Then I had Luke. And I still persevered. I have sacrificed graciously for my children. I actually enjoy them. We might not be taking fancy holidays to Europe or Hawaii. We might have lived in some pretty run-down rentals. Maddie has never seen the snow. BUT–they have been loved and provided for and I hope they have never felt that they were “less-than.”

Of course, I have made mistakes. Many, many mistakes. And I take ownership of those mistakes. I go to therapy to become a better person, mom, employee. I have bitten my tongue on so many occasions just to have peace between their fathers. I love my family more than anything.

Yet, this past year I have been riddled with anxiety–I’ve had several severe panic attacks in the last few months and have developed insomnia (which is the worst!). I worry constantly and am always almost always feeling like I’m losing some sort of life game. I’m stressed more that I ever have been in my life.

The overwhelming cause? Money. While I have never made a large salary, I’ve always been able to get by. But now, suddenly, I find that I’m just not making enough. Our local paper just published an article that stated to live in my city, $61,000 is considered lower income. Ummmm…my yearly salary doesn’t come close to that.

By September 20th I have to move out of my house. Sadly, I am priced out of living in my own town. Since Maddie will be attending college in the Fall, I am looking to rent a one-bedroom. Just a one bedroom! I would obviously sleep in the living room, so Luke can have his own room, and you know what? The average price of crap one bedroom in my town is going for about $1500/month. And many landlords will not allow pets and like hell am I giving up Baily, my 17 year old dog.

There is the possibility of me moving into my sister’s back house which is a one bedroom, but after I factored in her rent and my commute to and from work and the kids’ schools, it pretty much equals almost the same.

And then, of course, my kids cost more money. Luke is in several therapies that don’t take insurance. Maddie is going to college. I just canceled my dentist appointment because Maddie had a cavity that needed to be filled and I can’t afford both. She also has to see a gum specialist in June because something is up with her gums, even though she takes excellent care of her teeth. Even the dentist was confused.

There are, of course, other stressers in my life that don’t focus on money–dealing with my ex, living with my brother (which can be wonderful and horrible at the same time but damn, I love him), figuring out how to fix certain things that break in my house, finding some time for myself to just BE.

I always believed that as I got older, life would be come easier. I would be wiser. More financially stable. And I do think I am wiser. The problem seems to be that I no longer make a living wage. Inflation has gone up and my income has remained stable.

I have this constant day dream that I just take off–me and my books–to live in a more affordable city and just work at a coffee shop. But I can’t. I would never leave my children no matter how wonderful this day dream seems.

This is the reason I have been a bit off the writing grid. I’ve just been so stressed. I do know, however, that I am incredibly lucky. My mom has been periodically filling my refrigerator. When I had a MASSIVE panic attack last week, I was able to call my dad and he rushed over to watch Luke until my medications got into my system and calmed me down. At the end of the day, when Maddie gets home and Luke is in bed, and I open up a book to read, I can find some peace. Others have it so much worse than me. My health is good, I have wonderful friends, Maddie IS going to a great college, and Luke is a love bug.

So I don’t mean to complain, but there is something terribly wrong with the fact that I work–and have worked–so hard and yet I’m wracked with anxiety and stress constantly.

I’ve never believed in the American Dream, but I always thought I could make it. Now I’m just not so sure.

 

Celebrating Luke May 3, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — courtsbrogno @ 4:11 pm

luke3

This kid. Luke. My absolute love in all ways just turned 9 (well, on April 8th). Luke is a strange kid in many ways–so unlike his sister, Maddie, who has transitioned through life effortlessly. Luke, on the other hand, has been slow to catch up. According to our doctors, he’s about 3 years behind socially and emotionally. He has ADHD and ODD. He is in speech therapy and occupational therapy. And because of his ODD, he can be quite difficult and defiant. These might all be seen as faults for some people, but for me, Luke is JUST PERFECT the way he is.

Yes, he can be challenging, but he also tells me he loves me about 20 times a day–NO JOKE. Yes, he still plays with toys that are much younger than appropriate for his age, but he doesn’t care at all. He will wear a MY Little Pony t-shirt to school and kids will make fun of him, but it doesn’t even register with him. Other’s opinions about him have no relevance in how he sees himself (The exception is how his parents see him. That does seem to affect him).

Luke loves harder than anyone I’ve ever met. His worldview is filled with beauty–some might say naive–but what I would give to have his enthusiasm for life, his unflinching love for almost everyone, and his belief in all things good.

Sure, he can be annoying (just ask Maddie) and he will interrupt any conversation, run around the house naked, announce to anyone who is listening that he “has to go number 2, ok?” He will throw a tantrum and scream at me and I will get frustrated. But as soon as he sees me getting frustrated, he will run over and hug me and tell me how much he loves me.

Luke made our family whole and I am such a better mother and person because of him.

family

 

So for his birthday we went to a climbing gym with family and friends AND I THINK LUKE HAS FOUND HIS ATHLETIC NICHE! He was a natural!

Then there was cake and presents–his favorite, of course, was a My Little Pony castle.

So happy birthday to my amazing son, Luke. He is so loved. Everyone needs a Luke in their life. He makes even gray mornings shine.

luke 1

 

letting go April 7, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — courtsbrogno @ 3:57 pm

For the first time ever, I think, I have Thursdays off this quarter. I’m not quite sure how much I’ll like this considering it was a little difficult to motivate myself for one day of teaching before the weekend, but as far as yesterday goes, I got so much done.

I cleaned my house, did all the laundry, made dinner, finished writing thank you notes and sealing and sending out student letters from last quarter. I mean I felt so accomplished.

work

Look at that beautiful stack of work I finished.

I also finished this excellent book:

book

And I finally did the one thing I’ve been meaning to do for five years now–I transferred my old, beat down address book into a new, updated one (that I’ve had for years). But a strange thing happened as I was doing this. I couldn’t NOT write down the addresses of my grandma and my biological dad and his mom (also my grandmother) who are long deceased. I felt like if I didn’t transfer their addresses then somehow it made their death more permanent, which is silly because their deaths ARE permanent. There’s no logic in me transferring their addresses except that it felt right.

Then today (actually the whole weekend) it’s Open House at the university. There’s an estimated 12,000 more people in town and mulling around campus, and Maddie asked if she could miss school and go to the orientation today, and of course I said yes. But then she called me and asked me to go on the tour with her. I was already on campus, and at first I really didn’t want to do it because I have work to do and it’s raining and I’ve been on this campus for 20 years. Actually, Maddie grew up on this campus so I wasn’t even sure why she wanted to go.

But I said yes, and met her and we toured the campus together with her best friend and her parents and we both met some nice girls in her major and listened to–in my opinion–ridiculous speeches about how easy it will be for students to get classes (it’s not), how fun the quarter system is (it’s not)…and a whole bunch of other salesmen-like pitches. But in the end, Maddie and I had fun, and it made me sad to have to leave the tour a bit early to teach. It also made me sad to realize that in just a few short months, Maddie will be in college, living on her own. However, she’ll be 5 minutes away from me and can visit me on campus any day and that makes me happy.

I guess today was a day of me not wanting to let go, but I’m OK with that right now.

cp

(I actually got a free lunch out of the tour. I never get anything free so that was cool.)

 

that feels good, too April 5, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — courtsbrogno @ 1:05 pm

Two posts in one day! My God. What is happening to me?

But I just received this text from a student, and it kinda made my day–especially since I spent the morning looking at my student evaluation from last quarter, which weren’t bad, but also weren’t great (if I read “Too much work for a G.E. class” one more time, I’m going to throw my computer out the window. The window I don’t have in my office. So I’m actually not going to do that, but you get the point).

text