Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Detours

 "Everyone knows exactly what they want to study.  Everyone knows exactly what they want to major in, and even what career they want,"  my son confidently told me.  "I have no idea," he lamented.  "I would just waste your money," he spoke softer now.  My son was explaining why he did not want to go away to school this year. We had spoken passionately about this many times. As usual I knew nothing of his experience. Holy smokes!  My experience was over thirty years ago. My college dilemmas were nothing like his. I knew nothing. Everything now was completely different.
    I searched his face, and knew it was time to take a break. As I quietly closed his bedroom door I padded down the hall and remembered my own senior summer. Lately, my mind had wandered to my own major and concluded that I probably should have been an art major.  I can only imagine what path my life had taken had I followed something I was good at, something I loved, or even something that came easy to me.
    Nooooooo- I was raised in a "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps," mentality.  In my family, my father's mantra was basically,  "One must struggle," "One must be hard on oneself," and of course,  "One must take risks."  These thoughts were somehow ingrained into us.  So, somehow I ended up as a freshman with a major that I guess I enjoyed but  it was also so hard for me.   Combine that major with living far away from home, performing daily, being critiqued consistently by peers and professors- it  simply spelled a recipe that quickly wreaked havoc on my self esteem.
   However, I did survive.  I need to remember that. I smiled slightly at that memory.  And like Dorothy Parker quipped, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger."  My bare feet curled up the carpet at the end of the hallway and I glanced wistfully down the hall at his closed door. I could almost smell the frustration on the other side of that door.  I turned back, headed down the stairs, with the knowledge that my son is destined for his own share of detours.  And that is more than okay.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

A Delicate Balance

    A few days ago I learned my youngest had decided against college for now (despite getting into over a dozen schools- and his top choice) and opted for a community college and part time work at a deli.  He really doesn't know what he wants to do.  He admits even community college is a poor second choice but admitted he knew that, "You and Dad would not let me do nothing!"
   How right he is.
   And with our second child always came a whole new menu of doubts.  Questions would shoot off my brain much like a pinball machine. How hard should I push?  Should I push at all?  Should I let him? Should I stop him?
   Six months ago he was diagnosed with clinical depression.  We learned that his typical teenage lethargy (sleeping, not committed, unmotivated, not enthused) now had even deeper roots. I felt like even more of failure.  How could I have missed this? How could I have failed him?
   As I pour over resources that help me learn more about depression, and mental health as we learn  tools together that hopefully will help him cope with life, and his depression I feel a little hopeful. I know it is is delicate balance to maintain. It is delicate balance for both he and I.  This is all we can ever hope for; and that's okay.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Standing Still

  Out walking my dog and eager to get our house and throw on my p.j.s (please don't interfere with my nightly routine) a young, fit runner came by with obligatory earbuds. 
"Oh, Hi!," she gushed warmly, as she spun around. She shot me a smile that stopped me in my tracks.  It was the smile of recognition but the sad thing was it was only on her end. 
 "Hi, who are you?" I blurted unfiltered.
    Immediately, her smile grew broader and my tiny, little third grader, Mackenna came into full view for me.  Except Mackenna was longer tiny, nor a third grader.  She had the body of a gymnast and she was a beauty. 
"Mackenna!" I exclaimed in recognition and hugged her. 
"So good to see you," I quickly recovered.
    And I meant it.  She waved again, still smiling as she turned on her heel, and took off.  I stood frozen, and in awe of the love and warmth she left her wake.  I was conscious of how much this sweet girl had changed and grown.  Memories of her that year flooded me in waves for a few seconds. For a brief moment I could easily picture sweet, capable MacKenna.  She had been able to recognize me easily (even from behind) yet it taken me quite longer to remember her.

Invisible



    There's something we do in our culture, and it's appalling.  We value youth so much that we tend to disregard, or see less merit in people who are older. I couldn't tell you what the cut off point is. I don't even know if there is one?   Is it going on everywhere?  I can't answer that. I couldn't begin to speak about other professions but it's definitely going on in mine.  Somewhere down the line I stopped being a meaningful, vibrant part of my staff.  I stopped being the midway for my principal for advice, innovative methodology,  and an overall source of all things good ( progressive pedagogy, best practices).  Now, don't get me wrong.  I am not a pariah.  I'm just up on a  random shelf somewhere.  I just somehow began to have less value as compared to my peers.
     Luckily, for me I AM older, and I don't get my own value, or validation from my boss, or my colleagues.  I get it from my kids' faces, or even their thoughts and feelings.  Nevertheless, it is sad.  Although all the older teachers bring different things to the table- what we DO share in common is that what we bring is of merit.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Sweet Escape

   I am LUCKY enough to have a mountain getaway.  Better than any drug, any drink, or even a fine vintage (and "Yes" I really DID just say that) my sneak-away place brings me inner peace like no other physical thing in my life.  The smell of the rustling pines, the warmth of sun and the spill of blue blanketing those pine covered mountains just brings time to a stand still.  That view- that deck- just stops me dead in my tracks- and almost commands me, "Drink Me In!"
     And so I do.  And 

just for that weekend life slows down, and I check out.  Everything is done (if done at all)  on mountain time. Pajamas?  Bit your tongue!  Pajamas are every day wear in the mountains.  Sometimes,  when I wake up I notice the stars peeking through the window.  "Hello Big Dipper," I whisper.  And suddenly, the familiar irritation of waking up in the middle of night fades away, as I lay still, and look at the stars before I drift off.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Change of Heart

I headed off to SDSU to take the world by a storm. With a series of parts under my belt ( supporting and major) I was sure I would be a working actor in either LA or NY.
     Cut to four years later in a group of at least 1000 who all thought the same thing, but had more confidence, seemed to have “ it,” or who knows- were better than me?
   Yeah, my hopes and dreams got mutilated and pulverized pretty damn quick. It was a painful time.
   Towards the end of my senior year I began to get involved in children’s theatre. We toured local elementary schools and had a “ Q&A” after each performance. I don’t know when it exactly happened but I began to enjoy and even look forward to their crazy questions and wonderings. Somehow, I just soaked up the children’s “ holy curiosity.”
   That’s how I went into teaching and I have never regretted it. Their purity, energy and innocence  gets me through life. It is beautiful. I almost feed off it. And my theatre background comes into use daily. In the spring we start adding drama/improvs to our days on Fridays.
   That’s not to say there isn’t drama every day. . . ( wink wink)

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The First One

    Everything looked better from my grandparents brick porch.  The green velvet grass, the spicy smell of the boxwood and the swooping curves of the Elm trees.  Everything looked hopeful from there.  I would sit on the warm bricks, and the skin of my legs would get imprinted w/all the rivulets and crannies.   I could still hear their laughter, and the clinking of their tall glass Tab bottles. but I was a million miles away.  I couldn't quite hear the words they were spelling, but I knew they were engrossed in their nightly Scrabble.
    I would sit w/my head in my hands, waiting. I could sit forever waiting for dusk and anticipation the very first firefly.   There!  There it is . Was that one? Was it my imagination?  I know I saw a red spark.  I thought I did?  The first one is the best.  Is there more? Is it time?  Yes! The second one confirms it.  Then suddenly there are dozens. They are here, and I sigh and relax.