Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Magician

   This year has been one of my hardest years.  Every year the variety of behavior problems, and learning disabilities seem to increase and parallel with my responsibilities.  The love is still there for the kiddos, tho. This year is pretty questionable. When I return from a training or a random day off my classroom tells a story.  Mayhem, chaos and a release from structure are always evident.  I stand at my desk reluctant to read the substitutes detailed notes.
    Every day I roll up my sleeves, rack my brain and go in there (much like a prize fighter, I guess) and try out a different strategy.
    And every day, they morph, change and adapt to that brand new strategy like mutant DNA.
    Yesterday, I scrapped our daily schedule and  just went into some dramatic improvs spontaneously. The results were like magic.  The attention, the focus, the raucous laughter was there. They were in the palm of my hand.
    Leaving that day I grabbed my book bag, and I had to smile.  I turned off the lights and wondered, what will I pull out of my hat tomorrow?

Tuesday, July 30, 2019


    In a drugstore recently I found myself in the sunscreen section.  Trying to decide which brand to purchase, which brand offered the best SPF coverage, what is the best SPF, etc. suddenly seemed an overwhelming task.
    First thing I want to mention is that it's amazing the imagery that a simple sniff of suntan lotion can conjure up. Just a tiny whiff of the coconut can instantly produce grainy sand between your toes, transistor radios, and salty air.  And if one is really lucky, one might hear the repetitive crash of the surf, or even the sounds of shrieks of a roller coaster nearby on the boardwalk.
     If your suntan lotion fantasy is lucky enough to include said boardwalk then your memories could be brimming with cliche beach snapshots. That nearby boardwalk represents distant fun, and heady sugary smells that hang in the air like a sweet dense cloud.  The clickety-clack of the roller coaster on the wooden tracks or the piped organ music from some cheap ride can be heard in the air.
   Lost in thought, I suddenly looked down at my watch. Running late,  I put the cap back on the  Hawaiian Tropic lotion and made my way towards the front of the store.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Wonderings. . .

    I can't look at my grandmother's or my great grandmother's silver and wonder not just what this beautiful, delicate piece of silver was used for, but also to imagine who might have held this piece last, and where were they? Or even what was the occasion?
    Lucky enough for me, I have my grandmother's mahogany pedestal table from the Empire period.  I love having a holiday meal at this grand ole regal piece of furniture, and to peer at my own immediate family sitting across from me, and think, "Oh how I wish my grandmother could see me now!"  Or,  "I sure wish she could meet Emma and Max."
   I think she would love that her table made it all the way to California from North Carolina and that it is the best-not too mention most finely made piece of furniture I own.  I think she would be happy that we gather around it, sharing good times, and making memories.
   Now I set the silver down lovingly.  I imagine a bygone time with ice boxes and pie safes.   I think of ice tea, and suppers in the middle of the day, and I smile contently to myself.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019


 "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.


    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.