Words from Grandma

Thank you, Ruth Ayres for reminding me to celebrate daily blessings and for sharing a platform to post my celebrations.

Last year I called two of my grandmas one night to catch up.  I was in a funk, but I was hoping talking with them might help.

My grandma with Alzheimer’s delighted in my call, thanking me repeatedly for taking the time to call and telling me how much I made her day. The other grandma gave me relationship advice, telling me not to worry about my future. She pointed out all of my accomplishments and told me I should be so proud of all I had done and that if I kept doing the right thing that it usually always works out. She told me, “Most people get what they want eventually.”

My grandma knew I had just ended a 7 year relationship and although the relationship wasn’t right for me, I was still struggling. It took every effort to get out of bed in the mornings, and I retreated to my bed the moment I got home from anywhere. I still fulfilled my commitments, but after every one, I rushed back to bed. It’s the only place I felt safe- the only place I wanted to be. Unlike relationships from my past, I knew I had to grieve this one.

I wanted to throw myself into another relationship and stick a band-aid on my wounds, but I also wanted it to be different. It hurt like hell. I spent most days in my pajamas- wasting the days away binge watching Netflix and crying.

My grandmas’ words resounded with me that evening. I frantically reached into the kitchen drawer for paper to jot down their wisdom. I tried to scribe their advice on the post-it’s I fished out, and I hung them up to serve as mantras.

My Grandma Ginny reminded me that I’m okay just being by myself; I don’t have to have another person to be okay, and if I want that, I’ll eventually find it when the time is right. My Grandma Ferguson reminded me that sometimes when you are struggling, it’s best to reach out and be there for someone else. This in turn usually helps you, too.

These post-it’s have been on my full length mirror ever since. Some days I notice their words and other days they blend in with the surroundings. But I noticed them this week, and I couldn’t help but laugh- so much had changed in a year. I met an amazing man and suddenly all of that worry and fear seems so silly.

I’m celebrating today that like the seasons: life changes. Nothing is permanent. And when life is not going great, helping others can make you feel better.

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Namaste

There was a moment in my yoga class today where I felt a surging sense of self-confidence as I held challenging positions I wasn’t able to before.  I slightly giggled at the person next to me, their face asking, “What the hell is she talking about?” as they stared at the instructor in utter confusion, trying to mimic a pose named something I can’t pronounce.

You want me to do what? Their face questioned as they lowered themselves in defeat to their mat.

For a moment, this knowing what to do and being able to hold the position when the person next to me didn’t/couldn’t, filled me with pride.

Until…the next pose when I nearly face planted.

Suddenly, I wished I could take back all the silent bragging I just did in my head.  It’s like the yoga gods provided some instant karma, defending the newbie who should be commended for just showing up.

As I was snapped back to that moment and put in my place, I realized I’m not a yoga guru, not even close.  (I can’t even touch my toes after all.)  But I realized even more that it was never about the person next to me.

I’m not competing with them.

They aren’t competing with me.

My pride came back when I recognized it as my own, knowing I’m a little stronger than before and that’s all that matters.

Me just continuing to show up is all that matters.

Celebrate

Celebrate

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I’m often reminded to celebrate the small victories. To focus on the positive, the haves, instead of have nots. Thank you, Ruth Ayres for reminding me to do this and sharing a platform to post my celebrations.

In summer especially, my to dos feel daunting, like I have to get my life back together after 10 months of neglecting bills, house repairs, etc. I don’t even know where to begin, and some days I don’t even start.

I coined the term reverse lists (probably not an original idea), but it has made all the difference in my days and has combatted some of my anxiety about being overwhelmed with all I need to do. Throughout the day, I write down what I have accomplished. Therefore, when my to do list feels daunting, I can celebrate the tiny victories of my day (recorded on my reverse list) and see what I’ve done, instead of where I’m coming up short in the never ending list of life.

I’d also like to celebrate all the other blessings in my life right now:

1. I joined a local writing club. These ladies and one gentleman stretch my thinking and encourage me when I don’t feel comfortable putting words to the page.
2. I have time to get stuff done and think about what I want, even if it feels like it’s not enough time.
3. I’m establishing a morning ritual and realizing the importance of taking care of myself first. My morning involves daily prayer reading, making my bed, and exercise before making a healthy breakfast. I’m grateful for having time now to establish this and hope it will continue once the school year gets underway.
4. I’m learning the importance of living simply and not having to have things just to have them. I feel best when my space is decluttered, and I’ve started piles to get rid of unwanted items and even started making money for my old junk. I sold several unwanted items this week!
5. I’ve finished two professional books in the last couple weeks that have me buzzing with new ideas to try for next year.
6. My sister had an amazing time in Grenada, and I’m so happy for her.  I’m grateful the Viber app helped us keep in touch and being able to see pictures of her trip.

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Jessica holding a sheep’s heart

7. I reconnected with an old friend and am grateful for restarting our friendship.
8. The people in my life push me to become better. They are always encouraging me and sharing what has helped them on their journey. I am so grateful for all of the wonderful people and networks in my life.

9. My hydrangeas are finally blooming (after three years), and I’m able to cut some and bring to people.  It’s so fun to say, “These are from my garden.”

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Sister Travels

Every now and then I marvel at the fact that I’m an adult.  I tell my students when I’m giving a “you need to work hard to get a good job and have a good life” pep talk about how I can go home and eat ice cream all night in my underwear if I want to.  I even remember first living with someone years ago and saying aloud, “We can do whatever we want to!”

Sometimes this sense of independence gets muddled and overlooked, though, as the bills roll in or you walk past the weeds needing your attention. But I was reminded of the joys of adulthood today as I helped my sister navigate through her first trip abroad.

She’s flying to Grenada today for a ten day veterinary camp and has two flights before arriving.  I’m not sure how well my parents prepped her, so I started sending texts as I thought of things and as a response to her question texts she was sending me.  I was immediately reminded of all of the travel details you take for granted when you are with someone, especially your parents.  You can just follow their lead to your connecting gate, never really having paid attention to how to get from point A to point B.

Traveling alone, however, takes much more attention.  I wondered if she even knew how to check for her next gate.  When she confidently texted about how easy it was to get to her first gate at the St. Louis airport, I realized I needed to prep, but try to not scare her, about how large her next airport would be.  She innocently asked if there would be a charge for the tram that I just told her she would probably have to take to get to a different section of the airport.

Although I am anxiously awaiting my Viber messages from her telling me she’s arrived safely and enjoying herself, I can’t help but feel a sense of excitement at the feelings of confidence that I know are  developing inside of her as she successfully navigates each aspect of her trip.  There is nothing quite like traveling alone, and I’m so proud that she was brave enough to pursue this opportunity.

And, I think looking at flights for my next potential trip is definitely moving to the top of my to dos for today.

 

Celebrate

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I haven’t celebrated on a Saturday in forever, but it’s not because I don’t have things worth celebrating.  I’m so glad to be sharing my celebrations with you today. Ruth, thank you for encouraging us to notice all that we have to be grateful for.

1. I’ve got my first day gear ready to go.  This will be year two of me as a pilot/flight attendant.  It was a big hit last year (some of them thought I was crazy, but they were intrigued). I wear this on the first day and do a whole spiel about the places reading and writing can “take” you.

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2. My friend, Troy, asked me to join a writing group with him.  Troy is one of the most brilliant teacher’s I’ve ever met.  I got to pick his brain last week about trying to implement some things he does in his classroom. I’m so excited to try out some of the stuff he shared and to continue to grow as a writer by starting a writing group with him.

3. I get to work with my very best friend this year.  Gwyn, one of my best friend’s from my first teaching job, got a job at my school.  I wish I could insert a scream here to show you just how awesome that is.  We are going to be an amazing team.

4. I finished my push pin map to document my travels. I’ve wanted one of these forever, but they are super expensive.  I found an extra map in my basement that was leftover from one of my old classrooms, so I made my own.  I love how big it is and how it fills what was an empty wall.  I hope it will encourage me to get traveling.  I’m ready for my next big trip.

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5. I got to visit this week with a dear friend that I went to China with last summer.  She is so much fun to be around and loves to travel.  I feel so blessed to have met her.  We are already planning trips for this year and there’s talk of an international trip for next summer. She’s definitely gonna help me add some pins to my map.

Enough

These last few weeks have been crazy.  I’m not sure if it’s the November blues (lack of a break) or daylight savings time, but I’m beat.  I can’t seem to drag myself out of bed in the morning, and my attitude stinks.  My glass definitely seems half full.

I’m angry.  Scared.  Bitter.  Recent events in my city have left a bad taste in my mouth. I feel like enough is enough.  Between the shooting down the street, the news of recent burglaries in my neighborhood, and the impending threats of violence awaiting a grand jury decision, I’m losing faith in humanity.  And losing faith in my city, neighborhood, and line of work.

It’s my own fault, I guess, for watching the news and reading the comment sections online. (The comments get me all riled up.  It’s so addicting, and I can’t stay away.)

The crime and ignorance terrifies me.  I’m not sure, but I think this is magnified for me because I am an educator.

The people arrested in connection with burglaries in my neighborhood were ages 21, 17, 15, and 13.  I can’t shake the 13 year old.  He could be in my classroom, but, instead, he is robbing homes down my street.  It’s heartbreaking.  I feel like I’m part of a bigger problem.  A failing system.

I can’t help but wonder if any of my students will someday protest over something they aren’t informed on.  Will they respect authority?  Will they know the value of hard work?

Does what I do matter?

Is it enough?

Are we preparing these kiddos to be upstanding citizens?

I love that despite my grumpy demeanor, there’s been a few bright spots to help me not throw in the towel:

  • One of my students brought me the third book in a trilogy series I book talked.  On Tuesday I book talked a book and mentioned in passing that I had read the first two books, but I hadn’t read the 3rd book because it was always checked out when I looked for it at the library.  When my student came in to class today, she said, “I have something for you.”  She handed me the 3rd book, and I almost cried.  She went to the library yesterday by our school and checked it out for me :).
  • Last night I had some time to kill before meeting with a new book study group, so I called my grandma to see if she wanted me to bring over dinner.  She was delighted, and we had a quick meal before I had to head to my meeting.  Today she left me the most beautiful message about how I made her day and how much she loved me.  I think someday I will write something about lessons from my grandmother.  Here’s what I’ve got so far: always dress your best (she was dressed to the nines just sitting around her house), keep a tidy house, send notes in the mail, tell people you love them, be generous and frugal, and don’t watch the news (this would have definitely helped me lately).
  • One of my coworkers told me the most beautiful story about his grandmother who raised 13 children.  Once the priest at her parish asked why she left mass early on Sundays after communion.  She simply responded and didn’t think twice, “I do enough.”  This statement was so profound for me.  She was setting her limits and excusing herself.  I am trying to do so much, and it often never feels like enough. I’m trying to learn how to let myself off the hook and to know whatever I’m doing is enough.

Celebrate on Saturday

Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres invites us to share our celebrations from the week each Saturday.  Thank you, Ruth, for reminding me to celebrate. Share yours at Ruth Ayres Writes.

1. When I went to the link up page at Ruth Ayres Writes, I couldn’t help but get lost in her beautiful posts.  I love Ruth’s candid writing and the way she honors God.  Thank you Ruth for sharing so much and reminding me to have faith.  I have a lot of changes coming my way, and Ruth’s posts were exactly what I needed to remind me it’s going to be okay.

2.  I’m celebrating the first day of my spring break!  I’m so happy to have some time away to regroup, catch up on some sleep, visit with family and friends, and read.

3. I’m also celebrating surviving my job until spring break.  There was a moment when I didn’t think I would finish out the year, so I’m grateful I’ve made it this far.

4. Today my friend and I are going to orientation for our teaching in China program.  I’m excited to learn more about my upcoming adventure.

5. I’ve been throwing around the idea of a road trip this coming week.  I love the spontaneity of a trip like that.  It’s fun to pull up google and decide where you want to go.

The Real Problems

My dad called me today to tell me to turn on the radio.  He was listening to the local a.m. station on his commute to my grandma’s house, and they were discussing education.

“Turn it on,” he said.  “You should call in.  You’d be the best caller they’ve had.  They are discussing the problems with schools, and it is exactly what you describe with your students.”

I didn’t know if I could even stomach to listen to two random people (not educators) discuss what’s wrong with education, but I turned it on. I tried to remain calm as I sat in my classroom on a Sunday working on my mile long to do list.

“Tenured teachers are ruining education,” the first caller said.

“Teachers’ unions are the problem,” the next caller thought.

 The callers continued to chime in with their opinions for why education is failing.  I angrily listened and realized these poor radio commentators didn’t have a long enough segment for me to explain to them what’s wrong.

Then I wondered- what is the real problem?  The biggest problem?

This is the only profession where having a great deal of experience is considered a negative thing.  I don’t hear any other profession dogging their veteran employees.  I’ve never heard anyone say, “That CEO is really lazy now that he/she’s been in the profession for 10+ years.” Or, “That doctor is awful after doing surgeries for fifteen years.  Give me the new doctor who’s never done a surgery before.”

Tenured teachers are NOT the problem.  Sure, there are some lazy teachers just like there are some lazy trash collectors or sales associates.  However, the education system is not being ruined by people who have devoted their lives to educating children.

Tenured teachers are a wealth of knowledge.  I think our system would be doing itself a favor to honor and value these veterans.  My friend and I used to talk about how valuable it would be to match veteran teachers with new teachers.  If there was a way to continue to pay veteran teachers who wish to retire a consulting fee (maybe in the form of insurance) in exchange for mentoring to new teachers, maybe we could help train new teachers into becoming experts.

Teachers’ Unions are not the problem.  I’m sure there are some imperfections to system too, but I’ve seen nothing but advantages to these unions this year.

The problem as I see it is that there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen claiming to be “experts” in a field they aren’t in.  I don’t make decisions/suggestions about health care, because I’m not in that field.  I’m not sure what gives politicians and other figures the authority to make decisions regarding education based solely on the fact that they went to school at one point in their childhood.

Here is another example of why education is failing: Students Shamed for Being Rewarded.  I could barely get through this article and video without screaming.

Not every child deserves a cookie.  You have to work hard to get rewarded.  The point at which every student gets a trophy is the point at which we fail our students.  It scares me that many parents don’t seem to understand this.  And it angers me that this news station questioned this school.

Today I listened to old voicemails and received an angry message from one of my student’s parents.  The dad yelled into the message, “My son said you took his pencil case away.  I’m not sure what makes you think you can take away something from my son, but I swear if you don’t return his pencils by tomorrow, you will be sorry.”

This was an old message, so I don’t even remember taking pencils away from this child.  I’m not going to make a return phone call to that father, but I’m pretty sure he is also part of the problem with education.

If I would return the call, I’d say, “Sir, I’m your child’s teacher.  It’s my job to make sure your son is learning.  I took his materials away because they were distracting him.  I’m an adult and your son is a child.  That is what gives me the authority to take his pencils away.  The materials are in the class, and I will redistribute them to him when he needs them.”

My administrators require me to give my students a reading and a math test every Friday to check for growth on skills we’ve identified that they need to practice.  We also give countless other tests every few weeks.  My students are being tested repeatedly over skills I have yet to teach.  Then, I am questioned on why the students aren’t growing.

My kids cannot get along with one another.  Some of them have parents who are in jail.  Some of them talk about wanting to kill themselves. Others haven’t had their needed meds, because mom and dad can’t pay for the prescriptions.  Others haven’t bathed and are wearing the same clothes from the previous day.  Most of them complain about stomach and headaches daily.

These are real problems.

They show up each and every day, and I try to teach them fractions and about U.S. history.  They aren’t sure whether they will get food at night or if the Division of Family Services is going to come and split up their family.  It’s hard to care about school when you can’t be a kid.

Until someone creating these tests and making all the decisions gets this, we will continue to have real problems with education.

Unexpected Surprises

This week has been full of unexpected surprises.  First, I had a snow day that turned my 3 day weekend into a 4 day weekend.  (These snow days are getting pretty regular though, and I’m coming to expect them.  However, I was not expecting Tuesday off.)  

Then, I got to visit with Leigh Anne (a new friend I met at All Write).  It was so wonderful to talk school and blogging and life with someone who gets this little community I’m so happy I joined.

Today an appointment got canceled, and I was able to make it to my sister’s high school basketball game.  They were awful, but it was fun to see her on the court and to do the play by play with my dad.  We swear we have all the answers from the sidelines :).

I also got the most amazing text from a former parent.  She sent me a picture and asked, “Do you know what this picture is of?”  She went on to explain that it was a bookstore and how her daughter, my former student, saved all of her money to buy books at this independent bookstore when they went to the mall.  She said she even asked for books for Christmas and then the mom thanked me for changing her daughter’s life and making her a reader. I honestly can’t read the text without crying.  

This email, these surprises, could not have come at a more perfect time.  I’ve been so sad, so grumpy, and just like that God reminds me to hold on.  He sends me love and encouragement through unexpected channels.  I’m so grateful.  It’s nice to be celebrating before Saturday this week.  

Getting Started

It’s been months since my first All Write Conference when I met dozens of wonderful new people all telling me, “All you need is a blog name.”

I’m not going to lie, I initially thought they were crazy.  I couldn’t imagine what I’d have to write about.  Sure, I consider myself a writer.  I have a writer’s notebook I carry with me everywhere so I can jot down a quote I want to remember or an idea I want to save for later.  But, the idea of blogging seemed too out there, too public.  I couldn’t imagine I could write anything online others would want to read.

However, after I got home, I had this burning itch to write.  Ideas started flooding toward me. Inspiration was coming from everywhere, and I yearned to become a part of this community.  I felt like a little sister watching her older sister and all of her friends going out and wishing I could tag along.

My first block came with not thinking of that “name” they all said I needed.  I reached out to Ruth, who sent me to Tam, and I still couldn’t quite get that perfect title.  So, I stepped away.

Last week my friend from Italy came and visited.  As were were visiting and talking about life and fate, she said, “It’s like that flipping a coin quote.”

I love quotes, so I was intrigued, but I had no idea what she meant.  She stumbled to explain and keep the meaning intact from Italian to English.  I immediately went to Google, and I fell in love with this quote that has inspired my new blog name:

“When you have to make a hard decision, flip a coin.  Why?  Because when that coin is in the air, you suddenly know what you’re hoping for.” -me n.n

I’m in love with this quote.  It is so me.  I struggle to make decisions and have felt stuck wanting to move forward.  I ask people all the time what I should do about big things and trivial things, only to squirm when they say what I don’t like.

As I get older, I’m learning to be gentle with myself and give myself permission to make my own choices and be okay with them, especially if they are not what I think everyone else thinks I should do.

So, here I am.  I’m ready to flip a coin and ready to move forward with life and my new blog.