why i don’t care about being “cool”

When you work with kids, like I do, they have a way of keeping you pretty dang humble.

Like last week. I was teaching a lesson with two young students who moved to the U.S. recently from Taiwan, and are ESL {English as a Second Language} learners. I was guiding them through a reading comprehension activity I developed, based on my children’s book There’s a Huge Pimple On My Nose! Usually, the kids reading this story know what a pimple is, but “pimple” was a new word for these two students.

“It’s a bump you get on your skin,” I explained to them. “Like a mosquito bite, but smaller. Then it goes away on its own. Usually when you’re a teenager is when you start getting pimples.”

The girl pointed to my face. “Like what you have on your chin?” she asked.

I laughed. “Yep, like what I have on my chin. Adults get pimples, too!”

Later that same day, I was leading a writing lesson with two third-graders. We were talking about brainstorming strategies and how, when you feel stuck or are struggling with writer’s block, it can help to write down every single idea that pops into your mind, no matter how silly or off-topic it might seem.

“Writer’s block happens to everyone,” I told them. “Even professional writers get stuck sometimes. I’ve been writing for twenty years and I still get writer’s block! All you can do is keep trying your best and don’t give up.”

“Wait–you’re a writer?” the boy asked. “Like, do you write books?”

“Yep,” I said, thinking maybe I was earning “cool points” in the eyes of my students.

“Then how come I’ve never heard of you?” he asked innocently.

“Well, I’m not famous yet,” I said, shaking off my stung pride. Elementary schoolers, man. They can be tough!

{But then sometimes they make you feel like a million bucks!}

I remember a time in my life when I cared about being “cool.” Back in middle school and high school, I definitely paid attention to the trends and tried to stay on top of things. I used to straighten my wavy hair when I wanted to feel “pretty” because shiny, stick-straight hair was the coveted kind. {Now my hair is naturally straighter, and—guess what? I miss my waves.} I remember using babysitting money to buy face glitter {I really think that’s what it was—not eyeshadow, but glitter for all over your face, because we were ridiculous like that in the late 90s} and the honeydew-melon spray from Bath & Body Works, which was THE popular scent in my middle school locker room. To complicate things further, the guidelines for what was “cool” sometimes contradicted each other. On the cross-country team, high running shorts and low invisible socks were the “cool” uniform; but on the basketball team, baggy shorts and high socks were in. I played both of these sports in high school. Usually the seasons were at separate times of the year, so coordinating my outfit wasn’t a problem… except for during the summer, when I had both basketball AND cross-country practices. I remember running into the bathroom to change my shorts and socks, slipping from one practice to the next—knowing that I would feel like everyone was looking at me funny if I showed up to cross-country with high socks and baggy shorts, or to basketball with short-shorts and low socks.

As I type this out now, it seems so silly. But at the time, it felt so important.

It wasn’t that I felt like being cool was the most important thing. I cared more about being kind, and curious, and thoughtful, and respected. I cared about being a good friend and a good sister and a good daughter. I cared about learning and growing and striving for my dreams.

But I also cared about being “cool.” I wanted to fit in. I wanted boys to like me.

When I think about that thirteen-year-old girl, peering critically into the mirror and wielding a straightening iron, I want to take her hands in mine and kiss her on the forehead and tell her, You are perfect just the way you are. There is no way you can make yourself any more beautiful than you already are, right this moment. You are exactly, wonderfully enough.  

When I went to college, my world opened up. What had been deemed irrevocably cool at my school had not necessarily been cool at someone else’s high school. I remember sitting around one afternoon with my college friends, going through our high school yearbooks. Looking through the line-ups of senior portraits, none of us were able to pick out who had been in the popular crowd at each other’s schools. It was such a strange, liberating realization. Those old rules didn’t apply anymore. Perhaps they never really had. We had been in small fishbowls, but now we were in the wide-open ocean. There was so much more room here. So much more life and light and color.

I began paying less and less attention to what the outside world marked as “cool” and more and more attention to what I liked, what made me happy, what made me comfortable. It didn’t really matter what someone else said was cool. What did I think was cool? I began to listen to that voice inside me, instead of the voices outside myself. I let my hair air-dry, wavy and natural. I wore tennis shoes. I listened to country music. {Holly and I loved Taylor Swift back in her early, first-album days, when our other roommates thought she was lame.}

I learned that true coolness isn’t about following someone else’s list of rules. It’s about being happy in your own skin and being joyful in your own life. That is what gives you the sparkle. That is what other people are drawn to. Not your face glitter. Not your high socks. Not your honeydew-melon body spray or perfectly straightened hair. It’s your… you-ness. Your confidence and contentment. It happens when you embrace the knowledge that you are the only person in human history who will ever be exactly like you, living your unique and beautiful life. Why try to cram that life into a one-size-fits-all box?

It’s probably not surprising that once I stopped trying to be cool, I became cooler. Boys asked me out on dates, tennis shoes and all.

At my wedding, I put on my tennis shoes and compression socks for the reception, because I wanted to dance my heart out and I wanted to be comfortable doing it. For most of the reception, they were hidden under my floor-length dress. But one of my favorite photos is of Allyn removing my garter for the garter toss. My shoes and compression socks are on full display. Our friends and family who were gathered around loved it. I felt like the coolest bride in the universe.

These days, when I think about how I want to be remembered, I don’t care one iota about being cool. I want to be remembered as someone who lived her life boldly, and freely, and generously, and gratefully. I want to be remembered as someone who spoke her truth, wrote about things that mattered, and loved others with all her heart. I want to be remembered for how I made people feel: encouraged and inspired and cared for and confident.

When my students grow up, I want them to remember their writing teacher Miss Dallas—yes, Miss Dallas with the pimple on her chin and no bestselling books to her name—as someone who believed in them and in their dreams. I want them to remember Miss Dallas as a teacher who made them feel empowered to express their wonderful, complicated, messy, hilarious, impossible ideas down on paper, and to actually have a bit of fun doing it. I want them to remember Miss Dallas as someone who always let them know how proud she was of them, and who taught them to be proud of themselves.

Your turn {if you want}:

Grab your journal or open a new document on your computer, and use the following questions as jumping-off points:

  • What was “cool” when you were growing up? Did you feel pressured to be “cool”?
  • Write about a time you felt distinctly uncool. What happened? How did you react to the experience?
  • How do you want to be remembered?

summer beauty GIVEAWAY!!

Happy Wednesday, everyone! I’m super excited to announce my first giveaway!!

My birthday is two weeks from today, and I want to celebrate by giving something away to you! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my blog — it means so much to me that you make my little corner of the Internet part of your day. I am very grateful to be part of such a vibrant, positive and friendly blog community!

For the giveaway, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite beauty products into two prize packages — just in time for summer!

Prize #1: Big Beauty Basket

big beauty box

Prize #2: Travel Beauty Clutch

travel beauty clutch

The giveaway will stay open for two weeks, until my birthday, May 29th. Good luck! And thanks for celebrating with me!

Click on this link to enter: a Rafflecopter giveaway

saturday upsides, christmas chili & les mis

Happy weekend, everyone! We made it back to southern California safe & sound tonight after visiting my extended family up north. It was a quick but jam-packed visit, filled with fun family time, delicious home-cooked food, and lots of laughter. Here is a pic of my brother and me with our Grandma & Grandpap {on our mom’s side}:

with gparents

One recipe I forgot to share with you earlier this week is my Christmas chili! It’s the same as my California chicken chili recipe, only I added red and white kidney beans, regular chili powder instead of the “white chicken” kind, AND festive red and green bell pepper. {Which is why I call it my “Christmas chili”!} The reason I used the regular chili powder is that I couldn’t find the white chicken chili kind out here in California … but it turned out to be one of those serendipitous things, because I think this is my best chili yet!

christmas chili

I don’t know about you, but around this time of year I nearly always battle the post-holiday blues. It’s true: I love Christmas! I love the joy and excitement of the season of giving. I love being home with my family. I love not having to worry about the normal day-to-day stresses of school and work. I love baking cookies and special holiday treats. I love watching Christmas movies with my Gramps. I love small things, like the special flavors of Hershey’s kisses and chai lattes at Starbucks. {Greg snapped a picture of me on his smartphone at Starbucks, enjoying a gingerbread chai … mmmmm.}

gingerbread chai

I always get a little sad when the holidays are over. Does anyone else feel the same?

Then I went to see “Les Miserables” with my mom, aunts and cousin Arianna yesterday afternoon. I had never seen the musical before and did not know the story at all. It was beautiful. I loved the music and thought the film was very well-done. {Best supporting actress: Anne Hathaway gets my vote!}

And my goodness, what an emotional story that really makes you feel grateful for what you have. I am SO lucky to have a roof over my head, enough food to eat, a warm bed, a loving and healthy family. Those are my Saturday Upsides every week!

saturdayupsidesbutton

And another upside? Having people to miss is a blessing because it means you have people to love!

What are your upsides this weekend?

what I wore to teach writing camp

I was delighted to teach a special one-day winter break session of my youth writing camp this past weekend! It was so much fun. I always come away from teaching creative writing sessions thinking, “I hope my students had even half as much fun as I did!” 🙂

When deciding upon what to wear to teach writing camp, I tried to come up with an outfit that was:
1) fun
2) professional, and
3) warm {it was cold by California standards this weekend!}

Inspired by Deme at Fresh Coat of Paint, I ended up layering a sweater underneath a pretty summer dress and pairing it with tights and flats. I also added some sparkly jewelry and a flower barrette for extra flair.

writing camp outfit

Here’s a back view:

writing camp outfit

I was pleased with the outcome! I think the pop of bright blue made for a cheerful and inviting look, which is great when working with young people and trying to establish and open, fun and safe classroom environment. {And I’m linked up at Fine Linen & Purple, woo hoo!}

I was really excited to find these babies at the grocery store yesterday:

pumpkin marshmallows

PUMPKIN MARSHMALLOWS!!

I used them to make a pumpkin-y batch of my rice krispies treats, which I brought to writing camp as a snack for the kids. They gobbled them up! The pumpkin marshmallows are a nice seasonal change from regular marshmallows. Highly recommended!

rice krispie treats pumpkin

Hope your day is going wonderfully!

-Dallas

———–

You might also enjoy these posts:

what I wore to thanksgiving dinner
what I wore to see “the nutcracker”
rice krispies treats with m&ms

what I wore to thanksgiving dinner

Happy Black Friday, everyone! Did you go out last night to score crazy deals? Are you shopping online right now in your PJs? Mike & I braved Walmart for a Christmas present for a special someone I can’t disclose for obvious reasons, but I will just say we got a good deal! It was my first time going to the stores on Black Friday and it was actually a lot of fun. We brought books and just read and chatted and people-watched for a few hours waiting in line. Luckily the store was open, so we were waiting in line in the warmth of the store. I’ve heard horror stories about people going crazy on Black Friday and trampling each other, but the people we were waiting in line with were all very nice and considerate. There was a fun holiday atmosphere and I actually had a lot more fun than I expected to!

Today I’m participating in the “What I Wore to Thanksgiving” link-up over at Camp Patton.

I wore my go-to autumn skirt {you might recognize it from my first day of school outfit this year} paired with a silky pink blouse I got a couple years ago when I won the “Best of You” award from Glamour magazine and was given a photo shoot. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life — I felt like a princess! I’ll have to do a whole post on it sometime.

Glamour photo shoot

In real life I never wear much make-up, so this photo feels like an alternate-reality version of myself! Whenever I wear this shirt, I think of that weekend and get a jolt of confidence. It’s the perfect shirt to wear when I have first days of school jitters, a big interview, or yesterday when I was meeting some of Mike’s relatives for the first time! They were all very sweet and welcoming to me. I guess the shirt’s magic worked! 🙂

I finished the outfit with a red belt, grey tights, a black cardigan, and black-and-gray flats.

I’m currently in my pajamas {yes, it’s past noon in Chicago} and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon! Hope you are also enjoying some post-Thanksgiving lazy Friday-ness.

Till soon!
-Dallas

ecomom’s “green” friday sale

Just a quick post to let you know about a really great sale one of my favorite “green” living sites is having this week …

Ecomom.com is a site designed for moms who want to buy healthy, organic, nontoxic products for their home and family. They have everything from organic baby food to non-BPA reuseable water bottles to natural products for your home. I especially like their organic hair products and natural home cleaning supplies. You don’t have to be a mom to find great products on their site that can make your daily routine healthier for your body, and for our planet!

Until November 25, they’re offering:

  • $20 off orders of $50-$99
  • $40 off orders of $100-$199
  • $80 off orders of $200+

This might also be a great way to stock up on some early Christmas gifts!

Here’s the website again: www.ecomom.com. Happy shopping!