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Half of the Time We’re Gone, but we Don’t Know Where

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Godzilla Attack!

When I was 15, I experienced Mean Girls. Ok, we know that’s not true–I definitely experienced Mean Girls way before I was 15, but they didn’t associate with me. They were usually the cool kids, and I wasn’t. But when I was 15, that changed. My circle of friends branched off, and the newly cooler half tormented the rest of us. Maybe they didn’t, maybe that’s just how it felt.

The closest thing I have felt to that since was a few years ago, when a grown up Mean Girl, a co-worker, belittled me frequently, often in front of her students. Behind closed doors, she told me that the reason my students (who were one of those groups that simply complained about everything, and never turned in any work) didn’t turn things in was because of me–that I was a bad teacher. I was back to 15 years old again, when someone–my peer, made me feel inferior. And I was so overwhelmed, and stressed, and baffled that I began to believe it.  Continue reading

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Love Can Mend Your Heart But Only If You’re Lucky Now

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Beads of Courage

I’ve been thinking all day about this post; about my wording, about whether or not I will cry as I write, or if instead I will beam with pride, like I did this afternoon (until I left the room and let the tears out).

The picture at the top depicts a small portion of one very long strand of beads–special beads. They are Beads of Courage. I had never heard of these before. One of my students has been battling cancer for 7 years, and she has been in and out by the day all year long. November was a very close call, and after a deep depression and a home visit by me, I persuaded her to return to school and be the girl she had always been again. It took a week, but she came back.

 

She had chemo on Tuesday and wasn’t planning on returning this week, but her counts were so high, and she felt so great, she came today, beaming as always.  And with a bag she could not wait to show me and my coworker.

Before I continue, I started writing on song 1. I am now on song 5, and it’s as if someone or some thing chose the songs for me tonight. I’m almost spooked by it. All 6 are special songs to me, in their own rite. And I checked. None of them have yet to play on MWOAS. I don’t know how it’s possible.

So out came this strand of beads. It wrapped around her neck 4 times, hanging nearly to her thighs. My coworker and I held 2/3 of the beads, as she held the other third, smiling, as she told us the black beads were for lab work, orange for Continue reading

I Ain’t Lookin’ for Prayers OR Pity

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My current list of irrational fears:

  • That an enormous earthquake will occur while at the gym and the the moorish dome above my elliptical  will collapse on me.
  • That I have gained 45 pounds since September.
  • That I will be single and lonely forever.
  • That I use too much water, not because we are in a drought, but because I fear this kind of crap.
  • That I have buckets of yarn, and no finished product.
  • That I have lost me.

OR

My current list of rational fears:

  • That an enormous earthquake will happen while I am asleep and the books by my bed will crash down on me.
  • That I have gained 12.8 pounds since September.
  • That I am currently single and lonely for now.
  • That I use too much water taking baths, but not because I drink enough water.
  • That I have buckets of yarn.
  • That I have lost a little bit of me over the past four months.

It’s been a hell of a few months–one filled with growing, learning, stress-eating, a lack of exercise, and yes, sacrificing my passions and interests for the sake of this new job. I knew this would happen 1. because this always happens when a major change comes into my life, and 2. that I have let it happen. 

The other day, at the apex of my stress and frustration and lack of sleep and exercise, my mom had a good Coming to Jesus with me, and told me to start small and things will work their way back to the way I want them. I went home, didn’t go to the gym, took to Benadryl, and went to bed at 9:30. I woke up a quasi-new person. So the next day, I didn’t stress the smaller things at work, and got over my intimidation with a coworker who refuses to follow the rules of teaching some of my more learning disabled students. I took charge, was firm, and refused to take no for an answer. I ate lunch with coworkers, and left at 3:30. I went to the gym, took a long walk after, and went to bed. 

Today I had a bit of what I like to call a shit sandwich. I had to meet with an auditor for California’s Department of Education to ensure Continue reading

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This Train Has Got the Disappearing Railroad Blues

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So I’m picking the songs tonight by hand. I heard them throughout my day, so I’m not really cheating. I was cleaning my apartment, missing those who are no longer here because that’s what I do sometimes. I made a genius list off iTunes based on the first song, which puts me back twelve years today.

I was on duty for the first time on my own in Connecticut, with a houseful of boys worried about the state of their lives, the state of the country, the state of the world.

Most of my students are twelve, on their way to thirteen, and I have to touch upon how our lives changed so much twelve years ago.

They do not know our country without war. They have never had someone meet them at their airport gate, unless they were flying alone.

They are too young to remember that those first few weeks after 9/11, that driving to the airport, at least on the east coast meant a trunk search by a guy in cammos with a semi on his shoulder.

They will never know what those moments felt like watching live on tv or God forbid, in Battery Park.

Nor should they.

I lost one of my favorite great aunts that morning, a few hours before the first plane hit the first tower, to Cancer. When I was able to piece together her loss, and the loss of former Cantor Fizgerald clients, and the state of our country, I was alone. And I think I needed to be. My first thought was if my Auntie Bette had survived that morning and had somehow heard the news in Vancouver, she wouldn’t have made it.

You see, she was an optimist, a rough-and-tumble Depression girl who saw the best in people. Despite my Gram having four sisters, she was her best friend. And they were sisters-in-law. Those phone calls home to the west coast that early morning, afternoon, and bedtime were filled with tears, silence, and questions.

The stark reality of the day hit me as I turned on the news like every morning, this morning,hearing the announced moment of silence. I forgot.

Like I forgot the date on my first day of school this year, the 5th anniversary of my Gram’s death.

But I realize that it’s ok to forget the exact moment–our memories and thoughts surpass it.

I think again of my students, who view today as just another day. Math test. Swim unit. Breathing in and out to avoid a meltdown.

These past few weeks in my new job have changed me. Kids don’t fear the 40 minute security line at the airport. Nor do they fathom the severity of Syria, regardless of viewpoint. It’s how they live now.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but I think I mean to say that regardless of age, we all know our struggles and remembrances from day to day. My students just don’t understand ours today. And the more I think about it, that’s ok.

I spoke to my Gram tonight, apologizing for not remembering the anniversary of her death. She was probably rolling her eyes because she knows I probably thought of her umpteen times that day without realization. But I know Auntie Bette, and everyone else I love was around her, and probably rolling their eyes too.

I think it’s wise to remember to move forward and have your moments of thinking of those who are no longer with us, 9/11 or not, but also see that there are a fresh bunch of faces looking at us to move forward. Never forget, but keep pressing on. Think about that math test, and swim unit, and breathing in order to avoid that meltdown.

We remember when we see a hummingbird, or a butterfly, or when we spill coffee grounds on the floor. It might not happen every day, but we remember.

——-
So Far Away–Carole King
Both Sides–Joni Mitchell
Time in a Bottle–Jim Croce
America–Simon and Garfunkel
City of New Orleans–Willie Nelson
My Roots of my Raising–Merle Haggard

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Roll, Muddy River, Roll Muddy River, Black Muddy River, Roll

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Organized, For Once.Let’s say I was a marathon runner. We’re playing hypothetically, just so you know. I don’t run. So let’s say suddenly, I decided to quit training for my marathons and become a rower. Although I am an athlete and I am very strong (we’re still in the hypothetical), my arms aren’t used to the muscle strain. Suddenly, I experience muscle fatigue unlike anything else, but it’s a familiar feeling that I recognize and welcome. This is how I describe my new role as a special education teacher. I don’t have the muscle memory, but I know that the old adage no pain, no gain rings true.

This might be a ridiculous analogy for some, but after 12 years of teaching English, I am using a very new set of muscles. I’m a little sore, and my reflexes are slowly returning to those when I taught English, but IT’S DIFFERENT. I wish I could explain it better.

I’ve been asked to dive head-first into a pool of unknowing, blindfolded. And here’s the kicker: there are butterflies, but I am not afraid to let my feet leave the diving board.

When I began teaching in 2001, I had left finance and found myself in the unchartered waters of teaching. Talk about a fish out of water. I was told by the very wise Victor:  go with the flow, ask when unsure, voice concern and frustration before you really feel this way.

I hold on to these sage florets of advice.

So the past five days have been trial and error. There are so many variables outside my control, and thank God I realize this. I haven’t even given these variables a second thought. My students run the gamut of Cancer support, Autism Spectrum Disorders, your classic “learning disabilities” like dyslexia and spacial issues, if those are considered classic. And then there are those that fall into no category, something that more and more teachers, both mainstream and special ed are experiencing. It’s not cut and dry (although, let’s be honest. No PERSON is cut and dry).

Today I had an out-of-body experience. I asked a student to step outside to congratulate him for an amazing goal he reached yesterday in another class. He was still focused on a negative situation from earlier in the day, and suddenly, out of nowhere, I said, “We need to put that thought into a box temporarily, and take a look at the thought I am handing to you right now”. Oddly, I remember using the analogy of a box for thoughts with one of my kids over a decade ago in Connecticut. It came naturally. And today, when I pulled it out of nowhere, it worked.

After a harried day of no preps, teaching through lunch, meetings before and after school, and putting out fires every class period with a very struggling student, it hit me. I know more than I think I do. Like riding a bike, I remember how to do things.

This realization kept me going all day, even past my grad school classes that finished after 9pm tonight.

Yeah, keep rolling, muddy river. I got you.

It’s going to be a mostly bumpy ride, but thank God I love roller coasters. And that I LOVE my job.

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Is She Really Going Out With Him–Joe Jackson

We Can Touch the Stars–The Jayhawks

Misty Mountain Hop–Led Zeppelin

Black Muddy River–The Grateful Dead

Freedom–Blues Traveler

The Boat That I Row–Neil Diamond

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