Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Yes, Colleen. There is a Santa Claus.

Colleen is 11 and had been hearing some crud about how some people don't believe in Santa for quite a while. I would say to her what my mother always said to me, "Santa is the Spirit of Christmas". It is a true statement and moves the child along who still has hope in their hearts. Unfortunately, on Friday, a substitute teacher told her plainly that there wasn't a Santa Claus, and a very sad and agitated Colleen came home to me.

As I leaned against her, side by side on a couch, and held her cheek against my shoulder, I explained that though a man doesn't come down the chimney and that I'm the one that bring her her gifts, Santa is the feeling I get when she opens her presents. Santa is in the excitement she and her siblings share all December. Santa is in the cutting down of our tree and is laced in every memory brought back by an ornament or Christmas decoration.

"Christmas is all heart, Colleen. And that is where Santa lives. He is real."

Santa is in the golden harp ornament my best friend, Stephanie, gave me the year that so many of my own ornaments smashed after my tree fell.

Santa is in the creche that Lisa bought for my kids a few years ago when I told her that one of them was curious about the the Christ in Christmas.

Santa is in Rebecca inviting us over to watch her family light the Menorah.

And then, yesterday, when a co-worker, Robin, heard about the spilled beans, she left a bell from the Polar Express in my mailbox for me to give Colleen. I ran up to her classroom and, with warning that I was about to do it, hugged her for understanding this sadness, for thinking of us, and for expressing the true meaning of the season. We teared up talking to one another about keeping dreams alive for our children. I said to her "THIS is Santa Claus!", gesturing to our emotion and to her kindness.

This weekend when I said it was time to formalize our letters to Santa, Colleen lead the charge. She turns on the Christmas tree. She is watching every streamable christmas show and movie. She came to me, pained, not being able to choose which present to get her sister and could she please give both. "It is the spirit of Christmas, right?" she twinkled at me. She has lost nothing more than an image of Christmas, keeping the meaning alive and thriving.

I always feel love and appreciation for those around me who hold me up, warm me, and care for me and my family. It is just that this time of year that when I feel it, it feels like a belly that's a bowl full of jelly, a twinkle in the eye, and a rosy cheeked laugh.
Santa is real.
And now we have the sweetest 11 year old elf helping to keep our spirit and love of the holiday alive.




Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dear New Homeowner of the Red House

Dear New Home Owner of the Red House,

Though I can't ever picture moving out of this house, I know one day it will happen. As I sat here in the quiet and messy house, I felt a little resigned to the fact that when we move, you guys are going to find nerf bullets and hair elastics. No matter what I do, I will never have packed every lite brite peg. You will encounter it as you stumble across more storage space. Every hairball will not have been found. There will be tinsel and pine needles in a corner or embedded into a carpet. I'm sorry. We never have even had tinsel in this home, but I did growing up and that tinsel found its way into the ornaments I took when I cleaned out my parents' house. (Which probably wasn't completely cleared either)

There will be a matchbox car in one of the heating vents. There will be a Barbie shoe in a drawer. We will do the annoying thing of leaving paint cans in the basement for you to do touch-ups, and maybe a tarp or a tool in the garage because when we move, we won't be tarpin' and toolin', we hope. We won't be doing a darn thing.

I'm sorry about those two floor boards we never replaced and we had meant to change the trim color a long time ago, but.....weekends got away from us. There were nerf fights and competition hair. That nail polish stain that won't come out came with a really wonderful sister afternoon in the blue room. That loose bannister happened during a Saturday night fashion show we had to watch our kids put on. We sometimes cleaned the webs from outside the windows, but the suckers kept coming back. We sometimes raked and trimmed and pruned. We sometimes let the snow just cover it all until Spring inspiration hit again.

We have no idea what you will come across in the woods. Knowing that our children became teens in this house, I don't want to take any guesses. I know some wrecked club house will be out there. I won't venture more of a guess beyond one of their water bottles with a cute design worn off will be somewhere in the vicinity.

The Zen porch will hopefully leave its Zen-ness for you. I hope any heaviness has lifted from it and some creativity remains. I hope we cleared out all of the cat toy mice so you don't get a fright in the wood closet. I hope the warmth of the kitchen-the feeling of warmth since we probably never got around to new and better windows-gets left behind, too. Everyone was in there all the time. And make sure you get on that outdoor porch- we were so bad about using that space every minute of every warm day.

Sorry for the few grains of rice in the cupboard. Enjoy the generator we leave you.
Someone play that piano. Invite someone to a game of pool.
This house is meant to be filled with family and friends.
It is very tolerant of a little neglect, and does a great job of hiding clutter.
It should make you feel so completely at home.
But you already knew that. You chose it for just that reason.
Don't worry about forwarding us anything we may have left behind.
All we need stays with us.

All the best.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

This Thanksgiving is a Gift

I think after the loss of a family member, it is pretty clear that the holidays are going to be prickly, surrounded by the thinnest layer of ice like one finds on a shallow puddle these cold mornings. Delicate.
All that water so close to the surface.
And I knew it was coming and saw my choices: maybe dive into the sadness or steel against it. I'm sure there are a lot of in betweens, too.

I was kind of shuffling back and forth like a boxer, trying to figure out what my move would be to this approaching holiday when the bell sounded. The match was canceled. My gloved hands fell to my side as I bewilderedly stared back at my husband.

"She isn't coming at all?"
"No, she doesn't feel well." he confirmed, talking about his mom.

We were quiet for a moment, both feeling out what to say and not say next.

"Should we go there?"
"No. She doesn't want anyone there. She doesn't feel well."
"Did you ask her?"
"Yes."
"For really reals you asked?"
"Yes."

Huh.

Hm.

We have no family coming to Thanksgiving.
All I have ever known was family coming to Thanksgiving.
I have no idea what this looks like. What this Thanksgiving is.

I don't need Linus coming out and saying "lo...." and having his speech about the true meaning of anything. I know the meaning of Thanksgiving is to give thanks and share love with one another and make some pie and bake some bread.

I have so many gifts around me that I don't have to name or list or count or share. Everyone knows. I am loud about it. My 3 children and my husband are my world, but my world, on Thanksgiving, has always been so much bigger. It has always had someone's brothers and someone's mother, and it used to have fathers, and it always had babies. Just this year, it will not.

I was blinking at it.

My husband is embracing the idea of change. We can do something completely different and enjoy it, a man who never favored the holiday or it's food. I can hear what he is saying and I can feel the turkey defrosting in the fridge. This day must occur. Food, parade, discomfort, more food.

I had about 18 hours of a little bah humbug creeping in. Nothing major. No need to be visited by ghosts or anything. And then my principal pointed at me while I was eating my lunch and said "I have a job for you. You will DJ our faculty/8th grade football game."

I will?
And then he pointed to my friend sitting next to me and recruited her as DJ, too.

What was originally a stunned, panicky feeling became a hilarious and wonderful time on the side of the field. I was struck by how much family I am surrounded by every day at work. I became the Grinch at the tip of the mountain, holding a sled aloft, heart 3 sizes too big.

I left school and went to the store and bought 2 new sleds and lots of candy for snowed in fun. I am going to make my kids help prepare the food (until I find that appropriately annoying) and we are going to decorate and my husband will build fires and we will maybe get our tree- he can saw that down.

This Thanksgiving is going to be different.
This Thanksgiving is going to be a gift.
I will toast those I miss with the love and joy of all I have.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Children Live Here

Why is my coaster on the floor? It isn't even an interesting coaster. It is an ugly fake cork temporary one until I find or make coasters I like. But it is on the floor.

Why are there random socks on the rug? Why are there socks on the stairs? What the heck with the socks?

Why is the vegetable peeler on the couch? Why is yarn dangling from the bannister? Who did this?

What is my colander doing on the porch? Why is MY comb not in my bathroom? What the heck is going on with the laundry basket on the driveway?

I haven't worn those high heels in forever. Why did I just trip on them? Who is in my closet doing this?

WHY is EVERY towel in ALL the lands crumpled at the foot of the bathroom sink?

Who did that to the cat? Why? Stop that with the cat.

Who put back the empty cartons? Empty jugs? Empty boxes? No thank you to a half eaten apple back in the fruit bowl.

Where is the remote? WHY is it upstairs? Every couch cushion is on the floor? Yes, every last one. Well now we can go see all the lost matches to the socks.

This is why no one is invited to dinner or for drinks. This is why we can't have nice THINGS. Don't you ever want nice things? Don't you want friends to BRING YOUR PARENTS WINE?

Put the cat back down.

Go to bed.

Not one more hug!

OK, one more hug.

GO to sleep.

When I say go to sleep I mean it so very much right now to happen now!

Good night.



Why is it so quiet?
It is eerie quiet.
Why am I so tired?





Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Karma




What is the deal with Karma? Is it for real? Is it coincidence with a fancy name? Consequence put in a higher power's hands?
I have been thinking about it a lot lately. It is an old belief that spans different religions. Some believe it is run by a higher power and others believe it is more of a natural cause and effect. 
It isn't Fate. 
It is a reaction not necessarily "due" a person, but caused by a persons' actions. We talk about it a lot as a payback, though. 
It originated more as what keeps balance in the world. It was interesting researching it a bit. Essentially there is no good and bad Karma then, right? 

Just Karma.

Though in my life there are plenty of times I could think of Karma, I think about it the most living off of rt 117. It is a hairy road to turn on to. Ever since moving here, I flash my lights and wave my hands to many cars that are trying to cross, turn on, or turn off of the road. I give many people the opportunity to get to where they are going without having to wait, some times of day easily 4 minutes, just to turn on to 117. SO many drivers look right through me. 
Nope. 
Nope. 
I am going. 
I am going to keep driving. 

Well, I don't. I figure the more people I wave on to that road, flooding them with relief from the waiting and intense concentration, the better. I allow such relief from the math problem: Timing + Velocity + Dick Factor 

Simplified: (T+V+DF=K)

This in turn should allow for more people to invite me to join the stream of traffic when I need to, right? Is that selfish?

I also think about it when I smile at a complete stranger or chat with an elderly person. You, complete stranger, need a smile. You need to chat. You are probably lonely. I will probably be lonely one day, too. I will need someone to smile at me when I am searching my 10 gallon purse for my wallet and holding up the line of tskers and heavy sighers. 

Or you know what? Maybe my mom will need someone to chat with her while in line at the pharmacy. Maybe my dad needed a smile after he stumbled a bit and looked around for a steady place to put his hand. Perhaps someone will help my child figure out a situation when I am not around. Maybe I am being attentive to others because someone was already attentive in my world? Maybe my good actions can go into the world and return to someone I love?  That sounds pretty lovely. 



Now, go forth and let me on the road.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Someday....

I told my husband this very seductive story last night.
It was about a time when, on the weekends, we will have nothing to do. How we will wonder what should we do to fill the day.
He interrupted my tale at once and said he didn't believe me.
"No, it is true! We will turn to Chronicle for ideas about where to go. We will stay at bed-and-breakfasts just to get out of the house...."
"You are making this up!" he said as he wiped the guts of a pumpkin from his hands so he could start carving.
"I mean it. You'll see!" I replied, itching my nose with my wrist, my hands sudsy from scrubbing a cheese grater, and getting splashed by the new dishes the sugared-up kids were throwing in the sink. "For reals!"
"We will never not have to do something." He was adamant.
"That is what all parents think and then suddenly we won't be needed."

On a Sunday night after a busy weekend, my words were a comfort to our weary selves.
As I woke to a quiet house, pre-dawn, my thinking about it has taken a well-rested turn in direction.
I will miss these weekends.
I will miss being needed.

With three kids, the being needed will wean out, thankfully, but it will happen. I am not sure how much longer I will hear "One more hug and kiss!" while I am trying to leave their bedroom at night. Sometimes? I drag my feet going back in to give it to them. I self talk- "they need this, they are asking for this, make sure they feel this love to send them to sleep." I could feel bad about the dragging feet, but I know I am not a bad parent for being done by 9pm. Days can be exhausting.

I am on the cusp of the possibility that my oldest will withdraw from me for a while. I can see the balancing act of it. When to return her hug fiercely, when to grab her for one on one. When to add the humor and when to remove it from a situation. When to let the slamming of a door go and when to march up there, young lady, and let her know what is what. Soon, that door will be open and the room quiet because she will be away in school or in her apartment, or in her house that I will hope hope hope is in my town or near by.

I remember when I lived in PA my mom told me I lived far away in the boonies. When I finally made it back to MA to live, my mom told me I lived too far away from the Cape. Now, 50 mins from her apartment in Boston, my mom took my hand and said "I wish you lived closer." And on quiet mornings like this, I know what she means. Me, too, mom.

Someday, my husband and I will have nothing to do. And those first few weekends, we are going to relish it. We are going to spin in it, and take road trips, and sit and read, and grocery shop together (my fantasy) and sleep in (his fantasy) and eat dinner at 9pm like we did when first married, and maybe move back to NYC. Or maybe he can convert my porch into an all season one and we'll just stay here forever where our kids have space to return. And we will count the days until they do. And we will keep busy getting their favorite foods and planning a winning outing we can all do together, and hope they have allotted us some time during their visit to hang out with us. We will be pretty bored by then I am sure.
And I hope they live closer.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Looking Ahead, Looking Back.

Around this time every year it is time to buy a new calendar and start filling it with all the sporting events, parties, Dr. and DDS appointments made 6 months in advance, and get generally organized as we approach the starting of a new year.

I usually take about 40 minutes to pick out a new calendar. This year I grabbed the one with Asian images and Thich Nhat Hanh quotes on it because if the last week is any indication, I need to calm the heck down and mindfulness quotes can do that for me.

As I settled in to filling in the crisp new pages without any cross outs, arrows, or kids' embellishments of "yay!" for sleepovers or "don't go!" for trips, I grabbed my current calendar to copy birthdays down. And that is when I stopped and just stared at all the pages.

What a year.

And I don't just mean the heavy stuff. I mean, I saw an elaborate meal crossed off the dinner menu one night because a friend called for a walk. I remember that walk.

A dentist appointment that started me seething. I don't even go to that dentist anymore.

A birthday I write down every year even though I am not in touch with that person- do I not write it this year?

A birthday of a friend I never hear from lately. I texted her a hello.

Whoa! So many birthdays in February, March, August.

I looked at Little Brendan's birthday and he shares it with the Dalai Lama.
(Of course he does.)

April. My Father's birthday. My Dad's day of first breath. And, there. Two weeks later he had died. I kind of had to meet my new April. The whole month had just become so much different than the Spring, new life, daylight filled days that it was back in March. What struck me was that my Dad died on Good Friday. This upcoming year Good Friday lands on his Birthday. That spoke to me. Not so much in a religious sense since I am not religious. But Dear ol' Da grew up a good Catholic boy into the man who made sure we all got the foundation of a religion that so shaped his family, neighborhood, and men he worked for. I thought it a decent nod to a life well lead. I also liked that the day he was born the first year after he died was labeled a Good Friday, because his death was a blessing and his presence in the world was quietly powerful.
 As I hung up the calendar I faced the quote that tells me that my looking ahead and looking back needs to come to an end.



Thursday, October 2, 2014

What Gets Left Behind

Yesterday I was sad.

I wrote to my brother, Ter, and he wrote back that he, too, was sad. He wrote: It is said that after a break-in, it takes a really long time to know what is lost.
We were talking about the death of our father.

You hear the word "profound" when it comes to an amazing amount of loss and devastation or tremendous change with huge impact.
Yes. That's right.
I can be hiding from my family, trying to stifle a crying jag, and the word "profound" repeats in my head, like a mantra. It is a perfectly round sounding word like the noise of pain. It is a perfectly accurate word to describe how I am feeling. How I've been changed. How I'm thinking.

Like being robbed, I go to ask my father a question like one would reach for their necklace. Gone.
I hear his voice like one would see what appears to be the corner of their laptop under a couch cushion. A mind's trick.

And what got me yesterday was that I didn't even know that I had lost an old familiar tradition shared until receiving the stinging slap of realization. I didn't see it coming so I couldn't brace for it and was unbalanced by it.

On a quiet, rainy and dark morning, I'm sitting in a chair he frequented, and I'm thinking about how he would make me feel a little bit better. What words he would use. But all that comes to me is a completely different memory.

He was home one weekend day and my mom was out. I'm maybe 10 and cleaning my closet when this horrendous Mickey Mouse doll fell on my head. (It had a hard body and you could squeeze his hands to make him pigeon step around. Am I dating myself with this?)

I was more offended by the attack than anything and ran downstairs to tell him what happened.

"What doll hit you?" he demanded, in all seriousness.
"Mickey Mouse." I said.

My father got up from the couch, grabbed his cigarette and went marching up to my room.
I ran off behind him, confused. He got to my room and halted. (Probably frightened by the mess. He was a tidy man.)
"Show me. Show me."
Obediently, I ran to my closet and grabbed the offending toy and held it up to him. He placed his cigarette between his teeth, giving him a ferocious and menacing appearance, and took Mickey from me and said, "Hey, buddy! Blammo!" and hit the doll square in the face.

(stunned silence)

He handed the toy back to me, removed his cigarette from his mouth, and kissed me on the head.
"Nobody hurts Kitty Kat Kate."

How fortunate that memories can never be stolen. And you can find them when searching through the wreckage.



Monday, September 29, 2014

Is It My Kid?

I was walking today with a friend of mine that I met a couple of years ago. Our girls were in the same class and they had hit it off, we had hit it off, all was happy and new. We would see each other off and on as would our kids.

The following school year, our girls were in different classes. They had lunch and recess time together, still, but there definitely had been a shift. I didn't hear her name often. There were no requests to play with her. The mom and I didn't see each other anymore, either. When we bumped into each other, all was fine, but we didn't connect outside of that as before.

I asked my daughter if she and her friend had a falling out. She said not really. They just played different games. I asked if they could still find some games to play together, maybe, and I got the shrug off.

But I wanted to ask her more. I wanted to know if she had disrupted the friendship. I asked her, "Have you done anything to upset your friend?" She said she had not.

I wasn't convinced.
Was it my business?
Should I push this any further?
Is there a reason why I am getting involved in her friendships?

There are articles circulating right now about raising polite children, kind girls, kids who won't be a bully or a brat. I do my best to make sure my kids are well schooled on what it means to be a friend and a kind person in their world.

I wanted to begin a refresher course with her on friendship to be sure she remembered what it took to be a thoughtful person. I also wanted to stay out of it because who was ever involved in the picking and choosing of my friends when I was a child?

I realized I wondered if the lack of time I spent with my new friend was related to the lack of time our girls had with each other and I got a little panicky. What if my child had been mean and now I lost a friend?

Did I call or email? I did not. I didn't know how to approach it. I had such little time with my long standing friends, too. My socialization is at a minimum for me. I just let it all slip away.

A new school year has since begun.

Today, the mom quite easily said to me that it seemed our girls were getting along again.
"YES!" I blurted out. "I noticed that, too." I was counting steps along side of her, lost on how to ask the question,

"Was it my kid being the punk?"

What was I to do if she said yes? Would she say yes? Would she say no? Would she know either way?

Then I wondered, why do I assume my child to be the one who ended it? Why did I assume it is anyone's fault? Haven't I dropped off from being with those I used to be friendly with? Isn't that really a part of the ins and outs of years passing us by? Why did this take up so much of my thinking?

I'm still working it all out. I made sure to say that I hope my child hadn't done anything to upset hers and she said she didn't think so. I have to take that as the answer and let everything be. We even spoke of a possible get together for the girls soon. My plan is for that to include some time for us.

I find that my children are extensions of myself. My mom used to say to us as we left the house, "Your behavior is a reflection on my raising you...!" with her leaving out the inferred "Don't make me look bad." I can't help but feel the same. However, there comes a time when our children's behavior is all their own and, hopefully, with all the lessons, examples, talks, and guidance, their behavior will be a practice in kindness.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Me & My Yogi Tea. 4

How much do I listen? What percent of the time am I fully engaged? Not waiting for my turn to speak. Not formulating my thoughts to go next. Not touching, glancing, thinking about my damn phone.
Present. 
Open. 
All in. 
Listening. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

If It Isn't Yours, Then Don't Take It.

I wasn't sleeping well and decided to get up and fit in a huge chunk of reading time. While waiting for the sun to rise on my porch so I could see the pages, I was reading through some articles about the leaked pictures of Jennifer Lawrence and I got all agitated. So now I'mma gonna write.

I'm pretty sick of butt shots of the Kardasheans (sp?) and the Miley low cut tops with tongue to the side pictures. But, whatever. These women are comfortable putting themselves out there in that way which is their right to do. See-through dresses, reality shows, humping wrecking balls- have at it, ladies.

A woman like Jennifer Lawrence, though....she is just being an all around amazing actress, goofy pal, and great role model for the younger generations, thank the freaking lord. And now this. What a violation.

We know we live in a time where we have to be hyper vigilant about what we put out there because it stays forever and can be shared in the blink of a second thought. We have to teach children that what they share should represent their beauty- inside, and can violate their beauty- outside. They can make themselves victims without any breath of awareness.

What agitates me the most on this morning is the people who share and the people who look at these pictures. Does the thought of seeing JL naked sound appealing? Sure enough does! Does the thought of leering in her house to see her naked sound appealing? Nope. And that is essentially what the pictures are to me. I am not someone who feels that if someone drops something, it becomes mine. And she didn't even drop these. They were stolen. And so was her trust in what is around her. You know the panic she must have felt. She is someone's daughter.

I think, as I am wading through this, I feel like this is another example of how sometimes women exist for others solely as an object. As a desire. It is the moment when the human is lost. The value of the person is stepped on. I think about the times I have been grabbed at inappropriately by those I have known and not known when they had no business touching me. What makes me up as the person I am was non existent to them. I was purely a vessel with wide hips or freckled skin or whatever was fueling their want. My very SELF was disregarded.

So I will continue to not look at pictures. I will continue to hold the secrets friends trust with me. I will continue to talk to my children about privacy and mindfulness in their every action. I will continue to see the very self of people around me.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Me & My Yogi Tea. 3


This saying made me think of the safety caution on airplanes: Put your oxygen mask on yourself first. Then help others. Many grow up knowing to respect others, but do we remember to appreciate ourselves? We compliment other people as we should, but aren't always polite to the person with whom we spend the most time. This also makes me want to remember: when complimented, just say Thank You. You obviously earned it in someone's eye. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Me & my Yogi Tea. 2

Don't adjust your screens. Don't rub your eyes. The shot is blurry. My shame runs deep for that. 
However, the message is clear to me. When I'm asked how I can support someone who has let me down, how I can see someone else's side of the terrible story, how I can forgive whatever it is I forgive- this is how. It anchors me. One never feels grounded in their anger or negativity. I feel adrift when empathy is lost. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Me & my Yogi Tea. 1

My Yogi Tea bag says.....





And I say, yes. This is what I teach my children. The only things they don't have to share are their germs, their lovies, their negative thoughts, and my ice cream.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Just Right Fit

I did not sound like a 40 year old while talking to my mom that afternoon.
“I haaaaaaated sixth grade, Mom!”
“I know”, she said in that familiar calm voice my mom has always had when I have been at my wits end; understanding and a little placating.
“I can’t work in middle school for a whole school year. Filling in at the end of last year was one thing. This is a no.”
Silence on the other end of the phone.
“I’m a First Grade teacher for Pete’s sake!”
“But, Kate. Don’t you think those middle schoolers need you? Don’t you think you would be best for the job as someone who suffered through Sixth Grade?”
Silence on my end at this point.
“Gak” was all I could come up with.
So I called up my best friend and my husband. I just complained a bit more to whoever I was talking to and they listened and encouraged and supported and knew they were just there to hear a rant from me. I called back the Assistant Principal.
”Yes, I would love to be a middle school Instructional Assistant. Thank you so much for thinking of me.”And thus started my school year working with Sixth Grade and a curriculum I had no desire to re-learn.I breathed deeply through the first weeks of school; getting to know the students I was working with, learning the style in which each child learned, figuring the mood and approach of the classroom teachers, and sensing my role within the classroom. I sweated a lot. I eyed the “cool kids” with apprehension. I heard every joke of mine that fell flat echo through the silence that followed. I lost my appetite. I overate. I was nowhere near just supporting these students with learning differences, I was revisiting a time in my life when I was heavy, wearing bad clothes and huge glasses, and had few friends. Some days no friends if they had all decided on that before I had gotten to school that morning. PTSD lite.
I remember a few weeks into the school year knocking on the Assistant Principal’s door to say “Thank you” for reaching out to me to take on this role again that I had finished for someone the Spring before. I was proud to have been thought of, appreciative to be employed in such a great school district, and raised up well enough to say thank you for something, even if it isn't exactly your cup of tea.
As time went on from there, I became more comfortable with the students. I started talking up in the classroom to ask for some clarification from the teachers knowing the students….that I...had missed a point being made. Questions I never would have asked when I was 11 or 12. I became more strongly the advocate for the student who was so very disruptive, felt every regret for the one who just didn’t do his homework, received the drop in the gut when she got back her test with a failing grade. I researched some topics being covered in class to add to the explaining of this or the reasons for that when studying with my kids. I stopped to talk about home life with those who could not move on from their math problems until they cleared their heads of their worries. I came down hard on he who chose an afternoon of sports over his study guide, or on her laziness when it came to finishing the chapter assigned. I high fived every success on a quiz, beamed at every hand raised, even if he got the answer wrong. I laughed at every joke they told because they were so funny, and teared up at any thought of not working with her again next year, of not seeing him at this school anymore. 
In late spring I was called into the principal’s office to discuss the following school year. He said he had some bad news and some good news. The bad, I was being pink slipped- last one in, first one out of a job. The good news, he knew an opening was coming and it would be in early childhood education- perfect for me.
The noise in my head went from buzzing, hearing I was being let go,  to roaring when I heard I wasn’t going to be in middle school anymore. Not be with middle school? Not be with my guys? Early childhood? Better fit? I was lost.
And then, I wasn’t.
The principal said that if I really was hoping for a different grade level, he could see what could happen. I realized my facial expression must have been purely confusing to him. I shook the look from my face and said, 
“I’ll go anywhere. Anywhere you need me.” 
And I would. Even when I saw a glimpse of Eighth grade. Even when I thought of glitter and clay and helping to brush teeth in Pre-school. It didn’t matter where I was placed. I am a teacher. I am meant to be this. In my younger years I thought I was meant to be a First grade teacher and that was it. How closed minded I was then. How closed minded I was a year ago. I had shut myself off from so much by limiting myself to a grade level rather than seeing the vast role as a teacher. I love and work well with students, regardless of age. Regardless of what is being taught or how it is being taught. It doesn’t matter if it is my classroom or I slip into someone else’s room. I am in a child’s corner. That is my job. That fits just right.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A(nt) Terrible Tragedy

I have a story to tell. You will need to remove all children and small pets from the room first. I am not trying to be dramatic, but I have absolutely no choice here. 

None.

This is a story about a woman recovering from a wee bit of jetlag. She felt great, really, even though she had been awake for a while in the dawning hours of the morn.

"I'll go downstairs, make myself a cuppa coffee, and go on with my day", she thought. And that is exactly what she proceeded to do.

The sound of her flip-flop slippers upon the steps caught the ear of her son, also wake. They said good morning and she continued her trek to the kitchen. She pulled out her trusty mug- a gift from a good friend- and filled it with water. She scooped the appropriate amount of coffee into her single serve filter and thought...."I have been away a while. I think I will just run the machine with water, first." A little cleaning for a fresh cup to start the day.

And then she saw an ant. Not at all surprising as they have been coming and going since Spring. The hot water continued to heat and our fair maiden saw another ant scurry upon the top of the Keurig. Hm. She guessed they were hiding in.....


OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!

As the steam erupted from the machine and the cup was being filled with hot water, the Keurig machine seemed to shimmy as the HOARDS AND HOARDS of ants streamed out of the crevices for their shit lives and ran amok upon the black, plastic top, making it near impossible to tell what was waves of heat from the machine, what was legs and thoraxes scurrying and tripping upon their comrades, and what was the shaking of her eyeballs at the disgust of taking it all in.

She yanked the whole of it from the outlet and threw it, gently, into the sink in order to deal with it. She shot that sucker with hot water and sprayed every nook she could with the water while trying not to break the machine. It was a pup of a purchase. 3 years young.

Bodies writhed to their deaths in the sink and our hero was joyous at the loss of them. Triumphant!
She placed the machine upon the counter again and went to dry the cord for safety when, like that famous scene in Fatal Attraction, the machine exploded into a new streaming sheet of ant bodies! 

Like a chocolate fountain of pests! 
Dip not thine pretzel nor marshmallow treat in this flow, dear reader!

A guttural sound erupted from her as she lifted the Coffee God, again, into the sink and did a dance of distress and disgust which included flapping hands and fiery facial expressions. Still too Scottish to throw the thing away, she worked and toiled. She sprayed and screamed warrior words!! until she was left panting and the machine left still.

At last, she placed the war torn scene upon the counter and sighed at the battle well fought.

But not won.

Upon the third explosion of exclamation points scurrying upon the lid and body of the machine, our betrayed and battered warrior threw up her hands in disgust and threw that shizzle in the tra-zizzle. 

Bagged it. 
Knotted it thrice. 
Disposed of it in the garage trash can and slammed the door.

I ask of you now, any reader who should still remain, what machine should I purchase today? Recommendations, welcome.



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Rant from O'er the Pond

I am traveling right now which is something that makes me a little anxious, very happy, and very tired. I have now reached the point in our trip when I feel flabby while wearing a linen shirt (which was a stupid purchase of the clings to the necessary under layer). And I feel overwhelmed with the sense of urgency to fit everything in while also being present in the moment which is something that has become very important to me. It is supposed to reduce said stress. All I need right now is a nap, but instead I am writing this and putting my shoes on at the same time and trying to get out the doors so that I can explore a new town- Dun Laoghaire.  

I wouldn't have been writing this at all if I hadn't gone to the bathroom. But I needed to go to the bathroom and as I looked to my right I saw a little dispenser and it made me irate for absolutely no good reason other then all of the reasons I mentioned above and, for this week only, including my "red tent" time (if you will). 

All this says is "For Lady". That's it. That's what it says. And yet the rage boiled in me so strongly that I flushed twice. I understand it is something for the products I'm using right now, and I like that they have something available for me in such a "condition". But when a woman needs a product like what's in there, that woman wants to see some proper grammar. I can't speak for all ladies, but this English major wants to see it say "for ladies" at the very least. But honestly I don't want it to say "for ladies" or "for a lady" at all. Go ahead and give me a women's symbol. It can be a scientific one or a stick figure one. It could say something like "hygiene" or "for your personal use". Those I would also accept. 

I think it's pretty clear that I just need to do some yoga or go out for a walk around this town or maybe get in that nap. Just a drive by rant from Ireland to you with love and shallow breathing. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Ice cream

There is a man in town who, in the Summer, goes to our local store to have an ice cream cone now and then. What makes this man stand out to me is that he buys his ice cream cone somewhere around 10:45am. I thought it peculiar the first time I saw him sitting at a picnic table with it. He was staring straight ahead or up at the sky as he ate it, making no notice of anyone coming and going. By the time I came back out of the store after a quick errand, he was wiping off his face, standing slowly into a shuffle, finding his footing, and then walked back to his total Old Guy car.

I have seen him a few times since, each Summer I have been here. I have noted the time, sometimes 11:15, sometimes 10:50.  I would get a small chuckle out of seeing him enjoy such a treat so early in the day. I am a rather scheduled person myself, and see 11:00am as not quite a desert time. What made him do it?

I'll tell you. 

He and his wife used to go for ice cream on warm Summer evenings all the years they were together. Sometimes they would venture to far off towns to try a different ice cream stand, and other nights to a few of their old faithful local places. They would sit together, working away on their ice cream cones, looking at each other, looking at the setting sun, checking each other for drips and mis-licks, saying very little of anything during this quiet, delicious, familiar time.

As they grew older together, his wife became ill and started asking to go a little bit earlier to the ice cream stand. Some days he would drive her far into other towns to try new places, and the ride was very soothing to her. Other days he would take her down the road to the store knowing that their outing had to be a shorter one for her. They would still sit quietly, enjoying their treat and warm company, and then get up to leave.

At one point, their outings, though infrequent, were becoming more consistently before lunch time. She became too unsettled as the day went on now. And when he asked her why so early she would always say, "Why the wait? Why not now?" He would always take her. He eventually stopped commenting on the time. "Why not now?", he thought. "Why not dessert first? Why not a pleasant moment right when it can be had?"

Eventually his wife went into a home for care. He would go and visit her every day. He would bring a different pint of ice cream each visit and would feed her some whenever she woke, and he would kiss her deep, wrinkled brow before he left, whether she was awake or asleep. The feeling always made her close her eyes anyway.

Ever since she passed away, when the mood would strike him, or when he was feeling too alone in his home, the man would come to the local store for ice cream. He didn't bother traveling anymore. He didn't see the point in it. He didn't need conversation while eating it since they never held one. He just needed to sit for ten minutes, look at the sky, and eat his treat- all the while thinking of his sweetie that went away.

At least that is what I think.
Dessert first, friends.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

GRAFFFFFT!!!


I'm not sure how to share with you my (severe, unreasonable, and all encompassing) fear of my upcoming gum graft I have to have done. I don't come out looking so great in it. The anxiety is somewhat constant and uncomfortable. I am not much of a fan of anything being done in my mouth. I am not alone in this. Hello out there, fellow fearers of mouth work. How are you? You look great. What a smile.

A quick aside: What is a gum graft? Well, I will tell you. Sure- I will share this with you so you can UNDERSTAND. It is when they make and incision (gouge) into the roof of your mouth, slice (flay) some skin off in there, and adhere (smack) it to the receded gum area with stitches (of white hot death). Now, should one not want to use their own flesh for this procedure, one could choose that from a cadaver (dead-ass guy!) I believe my dad was offered some pig skin. I never was offered that, which is fine. Just may be another option out there.

I went ahead and booked this (SURGERY) procedure in March? Early April? And booked it out until late June when I would be out of school so I wouldn't have to use my mouth (for the 12 years of pain I was to experience!!!!!) much. And as a teacher, my mouth is flapping around all day long. Well, the man to (make me cry for daaaays!!!) do the procedure wasn't free until July. July 17th to be exact. Fine. I'll take it. I placed it on my calendar that is synched with Rob's so he could plan (my wake and funeral and/or psychiatric incarceration) to be home in case I couldn't pick up the kids from their activities in time.

I knew it was looming. I watched it from afar. I shared (obsessed about) my nerves with anyone who was (fool enough) in earshot to listen. The week of the procedure I couldn't sit still. I had a few hours to myself that week with kids in camps and lessons and I tried (reclined through) some yoga videos. (What are they called if they are on youtube and have nothing to do with a VCR?) I sat and read the same paragraph over and over (and over and over) in my book and my tea was more bitter than I was used to. I just kept needing to be up and about and out of the house. TJMaxx/Marshalls/Homegoods Co. was psyched that week.

I awake on Thursday and move through the motions of the day whilst listing my lasts. (My last cup of coffee with a mouth. My last lunches packed before I am fed intravenously. The last time I brush my teeth before they are all gnashed away.) I drop off my kids at camp and make the much too short (and distracted) drive to the dental office. I sign the paperwork that admits (I could die at any moment) there are risks with any procedure and that any infection I should pick up (that will kill me if the procedure doesn't) is my fault. 

I am then made to wait.
(Of course)
As there are running late.
(Of course)
And I warmly receive (with dagger eyes) the look of apologies and comfort from the staff behind the counter.

"Ke-aautey?"
"Yes?" (I think?)
"Ke-uate? You come in."
"Um?" (Not sure how one messes that name, but I'm claiming that my name since I am the only one sitting there.)
"Yes? Ok?"

She is saying something to me. She is putting a bib on me. I am nodding appropriately I hope as she tells me that, "Yes, it hurts, OK? I mean, it has to hurt. But it isn't all bad. It is fine, really."
And I nod and try to focus on the sparks coming out of my eyes. I am shallow breathing and losing feeling in my fingers from having them so tightly entwined when the Gum Guy comes in.

On the phone.
And a hum starts in my ears as my blood moves about in annoyance.
On the phone?
And I take a deep breath as I hear him try to get off the phone.
(Who is this guy?)
And I make eye contact as he finally pleads his release from the speaker on the other end.
He extends his hand and says, 

"Hello. I must reschedule you. My wife's water just broke.


(cue banshee scream in the distant woods behind the office.)
"Your...wha? Are you serious?"
"Look at me! I am serious! She is having baby."
"Well, that is....great...." my mouth stops working as the reality dawns on me. This anxiety inducing situation isn't ending today. "Good stuff....."
"I don't know." he replies running his hands through his very much a lot a bunch of Lebanese hair roughly. 
(Uh, a little late now, buddy)
"Why? Is she early?" All thoughts are off of me!
"Yes! A week early!"
"Oh, that is nothing. That baby has been cooked for a few weeks now." Mother and child are fine so all thoughts back on me.
"I must go!"
"But, you know, it take a long time to have a baby if you just want to squeeze me in."
"I must go. The Dr. says she must come in with her broken water and such!"
"Right."
"I'm sorry."
"Yes, well, of course you must go.... I do have this bib on......" taunting him with one more graft before becoming a dad. I mean, it is a life changing moment.
"I am to reschedule you!"
"Yes, OK. Yes. I'll just take? the bib off? then? if.....?"
"Thank you! Goodbye!"

I am not sure how I left without crying. My cheeks were bizarrely heavy with my disappointment. I mean....when I scheduled this procedure, his wife wasn't even SHOWING yet. And now she goes and gives birth early during my appointment. Alllllll so heavy and sad for me!

The appointment is rescheduled for a month later. He should be so sleep deprived by then that the graft should take on a whole new level of (life-threatening) awesome. I am going to buy some of those neon pointer post-its and adhere one to the proper tooth to make sure we get this done correctly.

I won't post about it, I swear. This is the last you will hear about this. Truly. I'm even kinda over it. (Sure. Sure.)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What Stays

What Stays


Not that I like to start anything off in a negative way, but I can tell you what doesn’t stay. The hugs. My father’s dementia has taken his strong and all enveloping hugs from me which is the one thing that would probably get me through this. Without them, I am at sea at every visit. I am not sure what was hello and what was goodbye. I grab for the hugs, holding him tight to me until I feel his balance go, and then I release him and stare at my feet a second until the stinging in my eyes subsides. Not that we hide the tears from each other. We know this is the saddest, slow death.
What I find remarkable in this time of slow deterioration is what stays. He still wants to tell everyone how to get here or go there. He wants to run the show as he did his whole adult life in politics, news, and in finance. It is just the logistics. He no longer has opinions in what his children do, just wants to know what they are doing. He remains wary of crazy boys- now in the form of grandsons rather than his own 4 sons. He remains delighted in his granddaughters, doting on them as he does me, his only girl. 
He has always loved females. He has always loved when they grew into women of power. One of his proudest days was when I was accepted to Mount Holyoke College. My parents wanted nothing more than for me to go there. My father has worked with amazing women who graduated from that women’s college and had told me to work hard and get there (much to my disinterest at the time). One day, while helping to pack up my parents’ house, I came across a box of old photographs with some very recognizable people. There were a few shots of an older woman who was clearly important in the series of photographs. We all were trying to figure out who she was so we could make notes on the back of the photos. I finally took a picture over to my dad who was gazing out from his rocking chair and asked him who she was. He looked at her and his eyebrows shot up. He struggled at the recall and finally said, quite loudly, “Mount Holyoke! Mount Holyoke!” My mom then was able to put together that it was Frances Perkins, a graduate from the college. “Yes!”, he said, relieved. “Yes.”
What stays is my father's ability to work a situation out in 3 questions. Often when we go somewhere, he is no longer certain what his role is there. At a big gathering, he might think he is there to give a speech or guide someone else through their presentation. He will ask someone around him three questions to assess where he is and what the purpose is so he can formulate a speech accordingly. For example, at a gymnastic meet watching one of his granddaughters, he will often ask me the same questions. ¨What is it that drives you to be here today? Everyone here seems to be happy and on the same page. Do you find you are all united in this event? What do you hope to ḧave accomplished when this day is over?¨ With that, he goes inside his head again, fingers picking at his cuticles, often elbows on his knees as he looks between his feet, thinking, formulating, creating the words to be given. He will suddenly pop back out of his head and turn and smile at me, the job completed. The speech never delivered.
What he abandons is any pretense of healthy eating. He will eat any pastry, pie, and bowl of ice cream put before him. Very little else interests him but treats. I love it. I love to bring him eclairs and cookies. When he comes to these gymnastics meets, I sit beside him with a bag of snacks I pulled together for my kids to which I have added his favorites: whoppers, m&ms, and wheat thins. He has fallen for cheddar jack cheez-its and peanut butter crackers upon finding them in the bag. Just like the fulfillment I would get watching my children eat a healthy dinner, I feel pride in making my father eat and eat and eat. He smiles with a new snack he reaches for. He will then stop and ask what I am eating. No matter the diet or restriction I have put upon myself, I will grab something to eat. He smiles and reaches in the bag for something new for himself, too.
Selfishly I will share that I stay. I love hearing “kitty kat”, his endearment for me when I enter the room. He knows my voice on the phone and his voice fills as he talk to me. He knows that he loves me even during the times when he can’t quite place me. He might express the wish that I be a part of his family. When he learns that I am, my heart rushes with the look of sheer joy that bursts from his face. When I am a total stranger to him, he still will sit near me to make small talk instead of leaving the room. I stay. I don’t know for how much longer.
My mom stays. He isn’t always certain who she is and often even sees her as two people in the apartment at once. She can be his wife while a nice woman is also cooking in the kitchen for them...which was my mom, 10 minutes earlier. She might be his mom. She might be a kind stranger with whom he can talk about his girlfriend- my mom with her maiden name. I think she is also familiar enough to him that he needs her, and only her, to help him with everything no matter who he thinks she is.

This has all changed. No more gymnastics outings. Not as many grandkid visits. More confusion and fewer smiles.
But he stays.
My father stays in the words of wisdom that come to me in a hard moment. He is in the drive I feel to do more in my work and in my writing. He stares out at me in all the smiling photos I am collecting and keeping around me. He stays in funny stories we all share. He stays in a mist weighing down my heart until I visit him. The mist lifts at any moment of clarity we share and any eye contact that is made. But it returns. This sadness.
Because that stays, too.

And now he is gone.
And that stays the longest.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Kinda What We Are Doing

So.....We are all big screen people up in this house.

No......Really......

And I have nothing against "screen time" except that it is taking precedence instead of being an added part of our day. This always happens coming off of Winter. Somehow it doesn't get as curtailed as I would like, and then it becomes the race to get to the ipad or computer. Race through homework, a meal, or against one another if only one is available and first one there wins! (Evie.)

Also, I have this great daughter who becomes a little anxious unless there is some rhythm to her day which pretty much goes to pot once the school year ends. With camps and trips and different eating times and different flows, I have found in the past that it just doesn't work for her for long periods of time.

In walks ME! Schedule woman! I have been in school or taught in a school forever. When I was at home with babies, I craved the start of school or a schedule we could all follow. Why not have something in place now? To ensure comfort? Balance? Retention of what was learned this school year? Why not earn that screen time all the while being all Summer and somewhat loose, but grounded in the important stuff. And being a team! And let's learn some good habits. 
Wow. 
Tall order.

Well, this is what we are trying:


Each day- time permitting, adventure days aside- my kids (and I!!) have to read for 30 minutes or more, be outside for 30 minutes or more (and no reading outside to combo those, though, by all means, read where you will) accomplish 2 chores a day, get some brainwork in for 20 minutes or more (workbooks, online math program sent home, Reading worksheets, etc), and writing 10 minutes or more a day. However! Everyone can start their day with 30 mins of screen time if they wish. I find that reasonable as it is often a part of my start- coffee, email, facebook, shopping, whatevering.

We are on day 3 and it is going well. One child in a morning camp is having very little screen time which is causing him some pouting, but he is the worst screen offender so....whatevs!! And to avoid the repeat chores being done (seriously, the shoe closet is ORGANIZED! No one is wearing shoes!) I made this:

(Look at the time I put into taking these pictures and cropping them so well for you.)

We talk about how some of these chores should have a few days of not being done and how we should try to get to each of them. The youngest even added the last one: deck. He swept the pollen and whoseewhatsits off last night.

I had seen something online at some point that looked like this plan of action, but could never find it again. I though of my kids and my house and my laziness, and a plan was born. It also keeps me in line. Though being at our swimming hole counts for their outside time, I try to make my 30 minutes in the chaotic landscaping we have created. I get a serious chore done, make sure I am writing more on my computer and surfing less. And I think twice before staring at my phone. I should read my book. I should prep something yummy. I should get to that desk, closet, ironing.

Taking bets and wagers for how long this will last...it has got potential, though. I am shooting for the whole Summer with variations where needed while traveling or during full day camp weeks. When I was growing up we had no TV during the Summer. Mom made us reading charts and we were frequent flyers at Snow's Library. I know this is possible!
Wish us luck.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What I Learned This Year

In the ELA class this last week of school, the assignment was for the students to write about what they learned this year in Sixth Grade. I always jump at the free-write portion of this class and have made my own list, straying a bit from the exact lay out because I get to. I'm all growed up.

What I Learned This Year

What you think won’t be a good fit can end up feeling custom-made.

You can bear a loss far better than you worried you could not.

Life is better when you let go of Self sometimes and embrace Yes.

There is a regular person behind the green curtain- no matter what they portray on the big screen.

Math can be fun. Yes, it can. Just breathe.

Some people, no matter how old they have grown, remain immature.

Some people, no matter how busy, find time to listen and sit with one who needs a moment.

“I’m sorry” can be the same as saying “I love you” or “ you matter” or both. Or it can mean “I’m sorry”.

A regret will never follow counting to ten, or, better yet, counting to 600.

Change remains intimidating, but when mixed with an open mind and/or an open heart, it can be a practice in engaging with life.