Open Your Big Eyes, Take in the Sunrise

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When I was a little girl, maybe 6…7, we would have Sunday night dinner at my Gram’s house. We would drive home at the end of the night, 2/5 of the car asleep, and we would suddenly fall above something I used to call Fairyland. Not sure if my parents or I coined the term, but it was at the top of the hill, where all the lights of Almaden would shine, and it was Fairyland. It was my favorite thing. I was reminded of it when I landed at SFO last week: Magic.

You see, lately, I feel very small. Not like I’m minuscule, or powerless, but as I’m always reminded, I’m just a piece in the puzzle we call life–a contributor.

I had several ups and downs this summer, from moments of helplessness, to feelings of being on top of the world. And I’m so happy to have experienced them both, along with the nuances in between.

It makes me human.

I’ve been thinking a lot about being human lately. Feeling very small. Friends have had babies, friends have dealt with loss. I was on a boat in the Chicago River in July with my mom, looking up at the great American Skyscraper, and I felt tiny. I was pulled inside the circus tent I bought my 2 year-old Goddaughter last week, and once again felt like a child. This summer, I experienced water balloons with 5-year-olds, a car break-in, and weeping like a child at the news that one of my students was finally in remission. I felt very small.

But not in a bad way.

When I was 22, wet behind the ears, fresh from college, I set out one morning to Clement street, a few blocks from where I lived, following rumors that I would run into Robin Williams, a “neighbor”. I was selling books back to Green Apple, one of the finest independent bookstores, which have always been close to my heart. Continue reading

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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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