Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Five for Ten - What it means to say YES


One seemingly cancels the other one out.  You cannot say YES to what you say NO to, and vice versa.  YES opens possibilities and NO often closes them. But not always. 

One can be freeing while the other one is limiting, and it is up to each individual as to which is which. 

Saying YES to too many obligations, the plague of the modern mother, means you have less time for yourself, your family, the things you want to do.  Saying NO, something many people find a near impossible task, can be freeing.

We can over schedule ourselves by saying YES, and we can limit our opportunities by saying YES.  It seems like such a simple word, and yet, it can either open doors and change our lives, or limit us leaving us bound to how things are.

Right now, we are torn as to which things need to be said YES to, and to what are we saying NO.  I want to say NO to Arizona, to move away from here, to say YES to a different opportunity, a different way of life for my family.  Unfortunately, I'm waiting on a YES that is very slow in coming.  Too slow perhaps.  Too slow for it to do any good, because while I am waiting on a YES, we got an unexpected YES on the house.  Our sale was approved.  This is good news, but this YES means that we must also say NO.  It means we don't have the luxury of waiting on that all-too-slow-in-coming YES, the one that will take us far away from here.  It means we need to say YES to staying here another year.  And I'd be alright with that had we not already been saying this over and over for the last four years. 

One more year.
We will just hold out one more year.
We can make it one more year.
One more summer
One more school year.

We keep waiting for that ellusive YES to come, but if and when it does, will we be able to say YES to the YES?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Five for Ten : Lust


a fleeting monster with a pretty face and a tempting smile
what you first see
what you first feel
what draws you together
what makes you stop thinking

it's a place to get lost in
to fall into
to revel in
an indulgence, decadent and passionate

and then it changes
the hunger eases
the thinking returns
no longer lost
but still falling
falling deeper, but with eyes open

life brings surprises,

and then it is a memory,
the hunger, the longing
just a memory
but reality is here


Friday, May 14, 2010

This I Believe: Teaching is infinite.

I'm torturing my students, again, or so they believe.  I'm making them write (Gasp!) and think (Shocking!) during this current project.  Using the NPR books and series "This I Believe", I am having my students write their own belief statements. 

Put that way, it sounds religious in nature, but that's not it. One student is writing about how he believes in anger, and how releasing anger, feeling anger, at the right time can be productive.  Another student is writing about how he believes in music.  Another sees the purpose behind telling the truth (those nasty consequences that come about from being caught in a lie...)

So, I thought I would give it a go, too.  I am always saying to the kids that I won't ask them to do something that I am not willing to do myself.  Money - meet mouth...


I believe that teaching is infinite.  I label myself as a this-teacher or a that-teacher, or I say I want to be another-teacher, but that is all too confining for what I do every day.  Better, actually, to say it is what I strive to do every day.  Admittedly, some days I miss my mark.  Other days I miss it by a whole universe.  But some days, I nail it smack on the head, and leave knowing I did good.  Like the perfect golf swing that results in the perfect ball, these moments do not come around very often but are so rewarding in and of themselves that it pulls us back, despite our better judgement, to try again to get that feeling, that lift, that joy.  Sounds a bit like taking drugs, doesn't it?

My teaching is infinite because it ripples.  I may only have 12 kids in front of me, but every one of those kids has his or her own circle.  Maybe we discovered something in class today, maybe we had a discussion over something amazing, and maybe that student went home, and shared this piece of amazing information.  My student left inspired.  He is, in turn, trying to inspire someone else.

And who could resist inspiration in the form of an exuberant 12 year old boy whose face lights up when talking about this amazing piece of knowledge he gained today?  If it works as it should, the inspiration does not stop there.

Nor does the influence stop when school is over and my students have moved on to bigger things, older grades, tougher work.  My influence stays with them, in the inspiration, the perspiration and the exultation that resulted in the things we learned together.  Maybe it was my unwillingness to ever really give up on them, my constant pushing to find the greatness within themselves.  Maybe it was simply a root word, found in some foreign text or heard on the news or read in a paper, and the light bulb goes off..."I remember that - Mrs. Jensen drilled those damn roots into our heads..."

Maybe it is the debate, the days we push the curriculum aside to talk about things that really matter: the kid who brought drugs to school, why so-and-so has a probation officer, the girl who killed herself because she was bullied to death, and what we can do to make our lives, our community, our world, a better and a safer place not only for ourselves, but for those around us.

I am the force that shapes my classroom, for better or for worse.  I am not a hand-holding-coddling teacher who allows her students to use their disabilities as a crutch.  I push then, I expect them to be better when they leave my classroom than they were when they arrived, not only in academics, but in self control, self reliance, self confidence.  I expect them to bring out into the world some of what they learned from me.

And I expect that effect to ripple on through the pond of community.  To live and last longer than I will.  To become infinite.

Like the corners of my mind...

When I was a kid, I tried to wrap my head around the fact that, without memory, we had no way to measure reality.  How would I know I experienced something, because from the moment I experienced it, it became only a memory. Kind of a trippy concept if you think about it for too long.

My friend, Angie, and I both have odd memories, or so we thought as kids.  We find memories triggered by smells (Only to find out that is really not so uncommon afterall) but then also define things in terms of smells... for example, saying that something smells exactly like a new, plastic halloween mask, or like her parent's basement.  I can also time travel to songs, taking me right back to high school, or the last dance of 8th grade, or even to the last song of the last dance of 8th grade, and exactly how I felt and with whom I was dancing. (Rob Moor, I believe... and Lady in Red was the song... or maybe it was Freebird..... ok, maybe my memory is not as fool proof as I want to believe.)

It's an amazing thing, memory.  And mine used to be really, really good.  Oh, don't let the fact that I can remember who my dance partner was for a dance that happened nearly 25 years ago lead you to believe otherwise.. my memory over the last ten years has whithered away.  (My oldest is nearly 11.. see a coincidence?)

What I find, though, is this... I am a little like someone with a hoarding disorder when it comes to memory.  I know there is not possibly enough space in my brain to fit all the precious memories that I want to savor, and it bothers me.  I want them all, like a child sitting amidst piles of candy, in large, open-armed sweeping movement, trying to gather them all in.  I want them all.. the memories of each of my children's first smiles, of the way it felt when I had them fall asleep in my arms, the smell of the top of their little infant heads, their firsts of everything, every feeling, every moment. All of it.

Of course, while those memories are really in there somewhere, they are not accessible to me seemingly ever. Every now and again, something will trigger a memory, but overall, all those nuanced moments of every ordinary day are mostly lost.  It is why we take photos of the ordinary, and why I seem unable to delete many of them from the computer, because they allow me to hang on, precariously, to the memories contained within.

My dad used to say he refused to look back.  No sense in it, he'd say.  You learn what you need to learn from the mistakes you make and you move on toward the future.  I like his philosophy in theory, but I cannot ever seem to live it consistently.

What is it about motherhood that makes it so hard to live in the present, looking toward the future?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Things that bring me happiness...

When it rains, it pours, right?  At first I wondered how I would find time for 5 posts in 10 days and here I am posting 2 posts per topic.   If you are here from Momalom, welcome, and thanks for visiting.  If you are here from a random drop in, welcome, and please go visit MOMALOM.COM to see what this is all about...

Things that bring me happiness...

Sleeping in
the sound of my boys, playing and laughing
the perfect iced latte
a good pair of well fitting jeans
sitting on the couch with husband after kids are in bed and WE get the TV for once!

When a student 'gets it' finally
when a coworker commends me on what I am doing
when a coworker likes my lesson and wants to borrow the idea
when I get my paper work all done
a clean desk

Finding money on a pocket
hearing Oldest play the bass
watching Oldest pitch
watching Middle play with leggos and build fort knox
watching youngest read out loud to the dog

The unexpected hug from a boy who looks like me
a person holding the door for me
finding no line at starbucks
a good pedicure
re-reading over chapters of my book that I've finished

Its the simple things in life that bring me joy, that make me smile.  If we focus on these things, the big things will take care of themselves.

An ellusive concept

My current supervisor calls me "Sunshine" because I am always bright and chipper on the phone.  I remember a day in college when I was in a particularly bad mood, and nearly everyone I knew kept coming up to me asking what was wrong, acting as if my bad mood was a personal affront to them somehow.  I reasoned their reaction to mean that they always saw me as happy, and why the hell was Ms. Happy NOT happy today?  No one seemed to accept the fact that I was just in a rotten mood for no particular reason.  (My family now realizes this occurrence as commonplace, which, I fear, means I may be turning into a grouchy old woman... who knows..)

Happiness seems a confusing emotion.  When I ask my 7th grade students how they felt after something good happened, and they reply they felt "happy", I immediately tell them to choose another word.  Happy is one of those "old, tired" words we English teachers want our students to avoid.  It is worn out and not very descriptive when you are using it to describe an event.  Elated, or joyful, excited or exhilarated are so much more colorful, don't you agree??  We see "happy" as the elementary word, and we want our growing kids to expand their vocabularies.

If you ask an adult, however, if they are Happy, well, you begin to see the weight of that question almost overtake them physically.  What IS Happy?  How do we define it?  The same word uttered so easily by my 4 year old leaves me in a quandary.  Am. I. Happy?

Is happiness the same as contentment? Maybe.  Am I content?  No, not really. Content means complacency, at least to me, and there is more I want: more security in my life, I want a house with a roof that doesn't leak, I want a job that pays better.. so NO, I am not content, at least not in those terms.

Is happiness the same as fulfillment?  Maybe.. I have a great family whom I adore, and on good days, I can say my day job gives me a sense of fulfillment.  My writing fills me up, my photography gives back to me, so I suppose if you can say happiness equals emotional fulfillment, then yes, I would say I'm happy.

It seemed like an easy subject when I first saw it:  write about happiness.  But I'm not Webster, and this was not an easy thing to define, let alone write about.

So.. how about you?  How do you define HAPPINESS?  Do you dare to answer the question... Are You Happy?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Courage - Part Deux

After reading so many great posts on courage, I have been doing lots more thinking about the topic.  One of the writers, who blogs at Worth Pursuing, talked about the courage it took for her to leave an otherwise unsatisfactory marriage in order to allow real love and support to come to her.  As many other posts have done, this one got me thinking a LOT about me, and what I'm willing to be courageous for.

Some say courage, but others say insanity.  Is it the outcome that separates the two?  Certainly, for WP, many could have called her crazy for leaving a husband who was not abusive, and without question, the easy road could very well have been staying in a relationship void of support, companionship and emotional intimacy.  Staying would have been easy. 

That's sort of where I find myself at this point in my life, and no, I'm not considering leaving my husband, but rather, WE are thinking of leaving HERE, where we live, where we are both employed.  HERE is mediocre.  HERE, and our jobs, barely get us by.  Between high costs for housing, cost of living and some of the lowest teacher salaries in the country, staying HERE seems like a bad idea.

Until I begin thinking of the alternative.  Leaving HERE.  Leaving here means going somewhere else, and WOW, while on one hand, exciting, it is also terrifying.

My kids only know HERE.  While I have never felt rooted or grounded here, they do.  The only home they have ever known is this one, with its drafty windows and leaky roof.  What bothers me immensely about this house, they don't even notice.

Add to that the idea of getting jobs, at our age, somewhere else, and you have a recipe for frozen-in-fear.  I think my husband has it... the fear that, if he were to leave the job he likes, but in all candor pays only slightly better than mine, he would have to start over.  He won't look at it, the idea of getting a new job.  Yet he also realizes that, if we stay, nothing changes.  Nothing gets better. Same poop, different day.

Is it the easy way out to decide to stay?  Or is it simply insane, especially now, to consider moving across the country into the unknown?  If we fall on our faces out there, well, the answer is clear.

Do we, as a family, have the courage to imagine something better?  It is like the old adage:  You cannot discover new oceans until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.

It does take courage to imagine a life better than the one you have.  It also takes courage to make it happen.  It is what our founding fathers and the hoards of immigrants who started this country all shared: Courage to believe, courage to hope, courage to act.

Monday, May 10, 2010


I'm taking part in Momalom's Five-for-Ten posting challenge, and the first topic for discussion is Courage.

Parenting takes courage, there is no doubt about that.  Courage, or utter and complete ignorance as to the risks involved in taking responsibility for the care and feeding of another human being for the rest of their life.

It is dealing with it all when life throws you a curve ball, and you find yourself saying "HEY!, I never signed up for this!!  I never knew THIS would happen!"  Sort of like the GIs who signed up for military service in a time of unprecidented peace, only to find they had to go off to war.  Ya' did sign up for it when you agreed to do this... it's in the contract..  read the fine print.

We don't go around expecting bad stuff to happen.  We'd never get anywhere in our lives if we did, and yet parenting takes the courage to face whatever happens and find a way to deal with it.

Middle could have died Friday night.  He mistook his fast-acting insulin for his long-acting insulin and took WAY too much of it right before bed.  Luckily, he caught his error and woke me up rather than just go to bed.  He could have not even realized his error, gone to bed, had a hypoglycemic emergency and never woken up.  That much insulin without any food to compensate for it could have been very, very bad.

As it was, we were in a bit of a panic for quite a while, as his numbers kept dropping despite pumping simple sugars into his body.  But Middle never wavered.  He admitted he was scared, but he kept shoving sugar-coated orange slices into his mouth one after the other to the point where I half expected to see them tossed all over the carpet.  He didn't argue with me when I had to come test his blood every 30 minutes until I was sure we were past the worst of it.  He took it all in stride.

Which is exactly what he has done for the last 8 months since his diagnosis.  I think part of his bravery does come from a bit of ignorance - after all, how can a 9 year old wrap his head around just how serious a low-blood sugar reading can be?  But he handles it all with grace and bravery.  I hope I can follow his example.  I hope I can show him the same amount of courage that he shows me every day.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

My life expectancy has just been cut by about 10 years...

There is a post coming on Monday to reveal more of this story, but Middle is really going all out in the "Let's scare the crap outta Mom" category!

We had a medical issue last night which kept us all up till about 2 am, and I will share more about that on Monday, but we can summarize it by saying the gal over at Banner Health Poison Control is a Rock Star, and my son is utterly unflappable in the face of danger.  I, on the other hand, was a hyper-ventilating maniac who tried her very best to remain calm but am afraid I failed miserably.

Ok, so you can also add exhausted to that list.  I was awake at my usual 6am despite my best efforts to ignore my internal clock.

I'm a follower of the Free Range movement of parenting.  I try, really really hard, to make sure my kids have opportunities to exert and test their independence without me hovering over them.  I am not a fan of helicopter parenting.   I allow my kids to bike around the neighborhood and even home from school without me.  (*They know they'd better wear helmets or I will keep them under lock and key until they are 30. And, they know our neighborhood has eyes all over and I WILL hear about it if they don't)  So, when Oldest has a game, Middle and Youngest are allowed to stay at the playground at the park.  They are about 500ft away from us, know where we are, and have had a great time all season playing with the kids who show up at the park.  Were they to come  to the game, well, let's just say the amount of boredom that would ensue would not be pretty for anyone involved.  It has worked out well so far.

Until today.

The game ended, and I was going to retrieve M and Y from the playground, and then head home to make lunch.  But they were not there.  Not in the bathroom, not on the swings and not climbing the play structure.

Two parties were taking place across the park, so I triapsed over there to see if, maybe, they decided to invite themselves to a party with a bouncy house.  Only, they hadn't.

Call to Husband - Can't find kids... need help looking.

Parked Oldest under a ramada near the bathrooms and Husband and I split up to search.  And search.. and search.  No luck.

We walked around for about 20 or 30 minutes, unable to locate our boys or find anyone who had seen them.  Here is what went through my mind:
  • This is not the sort of place where someone shows up with a gun and takes two kids.  Family friendly park, and way too crowded.
  • They would not have wandered off and gotten lost because Y was in flip flops and would have protested the long walk.
  • It is possible M is passed out somewhere from low blood sugar, but that is highly unlikely given the episode from last night and the Double-Bubble gum he was chewing last time I saw him.
  • Should something have really happened to them, what hellish sorts of things will people say about the rotten mother who left her kids on the playground?
In the end, the boys were ON the playground the whole time, only behind a big rock climber where we could not see them during any of the 4 passes we made around the park.

I'm not planning on taking back any of their independence, but see, now THIS is exactly WHY the have cell phones at their young and impressionable ages.  M's was, of course, completely discharged and therefore totally worthless.

We are starting a new electronic-device routine pronto.