Author Archives: Mrs. Chili

About Mrs. Chili

I'm an English teacher and an all-around lover of language. I'm a wife and a mother and a good friend. I love to read, to cook, and to think.


The other day, I was chatting on Facebook with my cousin.  One of the things I like about her is that she’s honest; she doesn’t sugar coat anything, but neither does she indulge in unnecessary drama or hyperbole, either.

Her assessment of her current status was that she “sucks,” but she’s “stubborn,” so she’s making do.

That lead me to try to describe to her how I’m doing, and I came to kind of a startling realization.  I feel as though, over the last 6 months or so, I have been hanging in a near perfect balance.

Professionally, I am doing exactly what I want to do.  I’m teaching in a high school classroom, and I have a LOT of professional and creative freedom to run my classes how I please.  The school is at the end of a really pleasant commute, my room is on the sunny side of the building, and every once in a while, I feel like I’m making a difference.

On the other side of the see-saw, though, I HATE where I am.  The culture of this school is completely dysfunctional.  There are almost no expectations for student behavior or academic performance.  The adults in charge are not at all supportive or approachable, and I have serious doubts about whether there’s a future for me here.

Perfect balance.

Personally, I am in a really good place.  My marriage is strong and healthy.  My children are doing well in their respective pursuits; Bean is rockin’ her junior year in high school and is active in clubs and activities and Punk is working at the deli in our local market and taking a couple of classes at Local U.

All of that good is counter-balanced by the fact that I am still bereft over losing Jordi.  That little beastie was a huge part of my heart, and I still miss her every single day.  I find myself worried when the cats go out; we’ve always had indoor-outdoor cats because, while there are clear and obvious risks, we (and our vet) feel that their quality of life is better when they’re allowed to play outdoors.  I know I’m going to have to get over it, but I’m not nearly there yet.

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See?  Perfect balance

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Goodbye, Jordi

We lost our precious Jordi this morning.  She was hit and killed by a car.  She did not suffer.

There are no words for our pain.


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Letting Go

I signed up for a once-a-day email course in letting go.

I’ve been finding that I’m tense and uptight when I didn’t used to be.  I have trouble sleeping, I don’t feel as though I’ve been thinking clearly, and I seem to be having a hard time thinking clearly and focusing.

Almost all of that stress is work-related.  I’m doing what I love, but I’m doing it in a place in which I really don’t fit well, and that bothers almost every part of my life.  I’m hopeful that this course will help me to prioritize what’s important, release what doesn’t serve me, and help me find some balance.

Today’s lesson asks us to reflect on our goals for the course, and I thought perhaps that this might be a good place to put them.

  • How I hope to feel as a result of clearing what no longer serves and supports me is:  I would like to be able to sleep well.  I’ve been having anxiety dreams – frenetic, pointless, busy dreams that leave me feeling more tired than I was went I went to bed the night before – and I feel generally restless and uptight in my waking hours.  It would be a bonus if I could feel better about my professional situation, though I recognize that a lot of that is beyond my control.  I would like to feel as though I’m thinking clearly and that I’m able to focus; I feel as though I’m scattered and frantic most of the time.


  • What I hope to let go of is:  the feeling that I’m powerless.  I have a lot of good ideas and I can see a clear way to implement them; I’m just not sure that I can do it where I am now, so I would like to give up the feeling that I can’t do it at all, that because I’m only one person, I don’t have the resources or the wherewithal to do big things.


  • What I hope to attract is: clarity, confidence, and balance.  I want to feel organized and effective, and to attract people who think and feel the same way I do.  I want to build a team that gets things done, and that supports each other while we’re doing it.


  • How does “clutter” show up in your life?  I tend not to suffer too much from physical clutter; though there are a lot of extraneous things in my life, I’m pretty good at clearing the excess out relatively often (in fact, I currently have a trunk-load of stuff that I can bring to the thrift shop; I need to make a point of doing that soon). My brain is cluttered, though, with to-do lists and scattered tasks, and with a lot of plans and ideas and hopes.  I’ve been working on getting these things on paper and out of my head, but I find that I often think of things that I want or need to do in the car or the shower or, worse, just before I fall asleep.  I’ll focus on getting better at putting these things down (and checking them off); I learned how to use the reminder feature on my phone the other day, so I’ll make better use of that.  I’m also working with my students on weekly goals; I’ll use that as an opportunity to put my short-term stuff in order.

Today is the Solstice, so it feels right that I’m beginning to put these ideas in place today; this day feels like a good day for fresh starts.

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Just Call Me Fred

I mean to give him the same chance every year, whether he likes it or not, for I pity him. He may rail at Christmas till he dies, but he can’t help thinking better of it—I defy him—if he finds me going there, in good temper, year after year, and saying Uncle Scrooge, how are you?      -Fred at his party, talking about his determination to keep being generous and cheerful to his stingy Uncle Scrooge.  Stave III of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

I’m feeling an awful lot like Scrooge’s nephew lately.  I keep offering little bits of kindness and generosity that keep getting baldly ignored.  Case in point:

The other day, I was in Trader Joe’s texting with a coworker – we’ll call her Blair – asking her about the candy preferences of yet another coworker, whom I’ll call Charlotte (I’m putting together little gift baskets and, since I have almost no interaction with Charlotte on a regular basis, needed some inside information).  I sent a bunch of pictures of the choices and managed to determine from Blair that Charlotte likes chocolate covered peanuts, so I bought some.

On my way home, Blair texted again with interest in the peanuts; she doesn’t live near a TJ’s and wondered if I’d pick up a box for her, too.  I’d already left the store, but I had Bean text back (I was driving at the time) that she could have the box I bought for Charlotte, because I’ll be back in TJ’s before I need to give her the gift.  Blair did the “no, no; that’s okay” thing and that’s the last we said about it.

This morning, I left the box of peanuts on Blair’s desk for her to find when she came in.

Blair’s room is two doors away from mine.  We have REALLY easy access to email.  She has a double-block free period AND she passed me, TWICE, in the hallway today.  Never ONCE did she acknowledge the gift.  In fact, she barely acknowledged me (and maybe wouldn’t have if I hadn’t said hello first).

Merry Christmas, Blair.  God save you!

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Fuck Your “Thoughts and Prayers”

Today is December 2nd.  It is the 336th day of the year.  According to all of the sources I have looked at today, there have been 352 mass shootings this year.  For those of you who, like me, might be math-impaired, that’s 16 more shootings than we’ve had days.

Sit with that for a moment, would you?

Today, there were three mass shootings; one in San Bernardino, California which, at this writing, has claimed 14 lives and left upwards of 20 people wounded; one in Houston, Texas which left one person dead and an unknown number wounded; and one in Savannah, Georgia, which left one person dead and at least three wounded.

I always feel the same after something like this happens (and it should be noted here that something like this happens a couple times a week, and yes, I know about almost all of them; I make a point to seek out this news).  I find myself suspended halfway between gaping despair and wordless, seething rage.

Right now?  Rage is winning.

Observe; these are the twitter responses of some of the major candidates for the nomination on the GOP side:

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This right here?  This is why we have 16 more shootings than we’ve had days in this year.  We are experiencing EXACTLY WHAT WE DESERVE because we’ve tolerated – no; more than tolerated, we’ve elevated – the people who aspire to some seriously twisted image of what it means to be an American with “2nd Amendment rights” far more than they value public safety and the lives of our citizens.  We vote these nationalistic, ignorant, dangerous and deluded maniacs into office.  We allow them to refrain from bringing to the legislative agenda anything that even remotely resembles a meaningful, rational attempt to curb our national obsession with firearms.  We’ve allowed them to get the ignorant and frightened all worked up about “baby parts” and refugees and Obama coming for your guns.  We’ve stood politely by and respected the “opinions” of others who tell us that “laws don’t matter; bad guys will always find a way to get guns” and, “an armed society is a polite society” and, “the only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” and instead of collectively standing up and saying “you know what?  No.  No more,” we light candles and hold vigils and offer “thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families” and hope that we can finish praying for one set of murdered citizens before it’s time to focus on another.

Fuck that.  Fuck your thoughts and prayers.  Your thoughts and prayers weren’t enough after Columbine to prevent Mark Orrin Barton from killing 9 people in Atlanta.  Your thoughts and prayers after Atlanta weren’t enough to prevent the Virginia Tech massacre.  Your thoughts after Virginia Tech weren’t enough to stop the mass murders in Huntsville or Tuscon or Seal Beach or Aurora or Oak Creek or Minneapolis or Newtown (when we REALLY should have said “here and no farther”) or any of the literally hundreds of shootings that have happened since; they didn’t stop the guy who killed three people at a Planned Parenthood on Friday and they didn’t stop the guy who murdered a waitress at a Waffle House because she told him he couldn’t smoke in the restaurant and they didn’t stop the guy who killed someone for parking in front of his house.  They didn’t stop the staggering number of young black people who’ve been murdered, literally in the middle of our streets, simply because they were there.

For whatever good intentions you might have, your thoughts and prayers don’t do shit.

Enough.  Get off your fucking knees and DO something.  Write to your congresspeople.  VOTE.  Insist on reasonable, rational laws and regulations that will certainly help to limit the number of these kinds of incidents.  Volunteer at your local schools to help teach kids how to manage their problems without violence.  Stop tolerating the kind of rhetoric that allows us to think of our neighbors as less than human.  Be fucking decent to each other.  Stop enabling a society where more mass shootings than days in the year is commonplace.

I’m begging you.


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If Not Me, Who?

I was born on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in 1969, the year after he was murdered in Memphis, so our lives never overlapped, not even a little.  Despite that, I’ve always felt a kind of kinship to the man; for as long as I’ve been aware of him (and I learned of Dr. King very early, sharing, as I do, a birthday with him), I’ve felt that something about his energy and mine resonates; that I carry, even if only a little, some of his legacy.

When I was about 6 or 7, the family lore goes, I made an offhand comment to the effect that I was sad that I was born when I was; my greatest regret is that I wasn’t born in time to march with Dr. King; though several friends have pointed out that one can’t regret something over which one has no control – like the timing of one’s birth – the fact remains that the feeling I have is best described as regret, so that’s what I’m running with.

I am an empath; I feel, deeply and profoundly.  I believe that others’ suffering – even if I have no tangible connection to it – makes my life less.  I believe that we are less free when others are oppressed.   I also believe that we are all made better when good is done, wherever and whenever it is done; that an act of kindness or compassion or mercy done anywhere makes us all a little bit better.

The last few years have been particularly difficult ones for empaths.  Sandy Hook.  Ferguson.  Charleston.  Beirut.  Nigeria.  Mali.  Iraq.  Turkey.   ISIS.  Boko Haram.  Al Qaeda.  Al-Shabaab.  Al-Nusra.  The Taliban.   Angry, frightened white men and racist police in this country (and that’s not even talking about governmental policies in this country that are specifically designed to disadvantage particular groups of people).

Seriously; it’s enough to make some of us feel like withdrawing from life altogether.  The amount of suffering we seem to delight in heaping on one another can feel overwhelming.

It occurred to me the other day, though, that I no longer have cause to regret being born when I was.  I may have come to this party too late to stand with Dr. King, but there is more than enough opportunity for me to carry that legacy in the here and now.

There’s not much I can practically do, really; I mean, I can donate to ethical causes and I can continue to support my local community, but in terms of big, sweeping gestures, I’m pretty limited (though I am doing some preliminary research into how my family can foster an unaccompanied refugee; more on that later).  Really though, the biggest things I can do are commit to my teaching practice and to continue to call out, unapologetically and loudly, all of the racist, xenophobic, jingoistic, hysterical bullshit whenever and wherever I see it.  I will NOT allow my silence to be mistaken for my agreement; I will NOT stand by while my brothers and sisters – ANY of my brothers and sisters – are denigrated, dehumanized, or oppressed.

I am one little voice, but I will continue to scream.  I am one little body, but I will continue to stand up.



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The Perils of Being an Empath

For quite a long time now, writing has been absent from my day-to-day life. I used to be quite a prolific writer, and I enjoyed the process of thinking and observing and writing very much, but I have let the habit slide and, as a consequence, have fallen well out of practice.

This evening, I pulled up a recipe from Stupid Easy. Beanie had wandered down from her bedroom lair to socialize, and she parked herself in front of my computer while I was cooking, occasionally relaying ingredient measurements to me, but mostly reading old posts on the site. At one point, she turned to me and said, “Mummy, I love how you write. Reading your writing feels like talking to you.”

It’s not the first time I’ve been paid that highest of compliments. Many years ago, I had an opportunity to meet Michael in real life. We had been blog buddies for about a year and a half at that point when we discovered that we grew up in the same neighborhood. One day, Michael mentioned that he was heading ‘home’ from Alabama to visit his family. I asked him where ‘home’ was, and it turned out that it was exactly where I grew up (which is an easy car ride from where I live now). Anyway, we made plans to meet while he was there, and after about five minutes over our salads at Bertucci’s, he paid me the highest writing compliment I’d yet received; “I know this sounds weird, since we only just met, but I feel like we’ve been friends for years. You write exactly like you sound.”

Bean’s echoing of that compliment flipped a switch. I have been feeling like I need to write more – that part of the reason that I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed and so skittish and so restless and, yeah, kind of hunted is that I’ve not had an outlet for all the things that I see, think, and feel.

I’m working as a teacher at the moment. A few weeks ago, I printed out and gave my students an agenda that helps them to set clear and specific goals, and I printed one out for myself, as well. I decided that my goal for November is to plan more dinners (dinner time can be very stressful after a long day. “What do you want for dinner?” I don’t know, what do YOU want? “I don’t know. What do we have in the house?” Gah!), but now I’m thinking that I’m going to add another little goal. Next week, I’m going to write two pieces – probably here. The week after, maybe I’ll write three. Regardless of the amount, I’m going to build writing back into my life. I need the outlet.

Maybe a regular writing practice will help me sleep more at night.

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