To The New Woman In His Life

Does she carry Bayer in her purse for your upcoming heart attack due to your salt obsession? If not, I’ll send her my bottle.

After a decade of knowing, moving, changing, and growing up together, I have become an expert on all things you. Now that our lives are separate and there are new characters introduced I have some advice I’d like to share.

I need her to know that your head used to be so full with long hair and little curls at the end. And sometimes still, when you miss a haircut, the nape of your neck curls a little. When those show up she can twirl them around her finger. Actually, I need her to know this so she can lovingly make fun of your whisps that barely come to your forehead. I hope she counts your 8 chest hairs and lets you know when you have a new one. I hope she appreciates how varied your palate is. You eat blueberries, for Christ sake! The days of only plain hamburgers and Hungry Howies pizza are long gone. She should appreciate when you stay up past 8:30. She should put down her phone, or her school work, and she should play a game with you or build a puzzle. I hope she asks you important questions like, “What is the craziest trip you’ve ever been on?” and “Tell me about your Grandparents”. And when you tell her about Grandpa Red and show her some pictures, I hope she sees how much like him you are, especially in the heart. I hope she embraces your relationship with your mom and encourages you to take the time with her that she does with her mom. When you fall asleep on the couch and she snaps a photo she should create an album titled Just Checking for Cracks. Tell her not to mind your ritualistic behaviors or your preference for the mundane. You are stable and reliable.

Does she know that you are terrible at singing but music is one of your favorite things? Does she sing along with you? To Petty and Dylan? I hope for the past month she has heard your “Masters” jingle in preparation for this week and understands where your priorities lie while it’s on. I want her to know that you call every day when you leave work, not because you are checking up on her, but because that’s how you show you have been thinking of her and that you want her as part of your daily routine. I hope she pushes you to change and grow in a healthy way. I hope she challenges your repetitive nature and compliments your dedication to any project you commit to. When you have had a bad day and are frustrated I hope she listens, really listens, offers encouragement and then gets you ice cream.

There are so many things I wish I could tell her. About you, and your family and who you used to be and who you have become. But most of all, I want to tell her that she is one lucky woman. I want her to know that men aren’t made like you very often and to have you is to know true love.

My wish is that you find all your happiness within yourself and next to someone else. You deserve it.

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Sedona to Papago

I repeatedly flick my gaze to the rearview mirror. Her upper body turns around again and again, looking out the back window. The car reeks of a melancholy quiet that sank in when we turned onto the scenic byway heading toward the interstate. The red dust covers our car, our feet and our hiking packs.

“It makes me sad to say goodbye,” she chokes as we round another bend and a giant rock formation disappears in the distance.

All I can say is, “Me too.” It is not enough, I know.

Within a few minutes we have put too much distance between us and the last of the red rocks to continue looking backward. We both turn our gaze to the landscape passing us, searching for any second-prize beauty we can settle on. There isn’t much. Any scenery we comment on now would seem like fraudulent statements. So, we stay quiet.

When we approach the interstate and turn toward Phoenix we both become uncomfortable stewing in the pessimism.

She chirps, “So, Papago for sunset then?”

“Ah, yes, sounds perfect” I breathe and I relax into the headrest.

Relishing one adventure, letting its end be paramount and embracing the next. I have driven this pattern of life countless times, making it a habit. A happy habit at that.

Desert Oasis

Oh, Arizona you have done it to me again. Your magical beauty has spun its web around my heart and psyche. I am wrapped up in your cocoon of everything peaceful. My soul is set ablaze as I watch your fiery sunset sink over the palm trees as a small chill descends upon us. The feeling of dust covered feet propped up with a glass of wine, listening to the evening birds chirp is what I have yearned for during the bitter cold Illinois winter. The sunshine on my face, warming my skin and thawing my frozen attitude. Cruising with the windows down, wind blowing my curls into a crazy mess, tunes turned up and not a care in the world. This is what I have waited for. This is what I have dreamed about. It didn’t take long for my stress to disintegrate and my patience to elongate. I feel so incredibly relaxed.

For the next week I will get to go on adventures, kick back with some of my most beloved friends, and enjoy delicious food and drinks. I will see 7 jaw dropping sunsets and 7 inspiring sunrises. I will get my feet dirtier than one could imagine and sweat out all my anger. The next week will be rejuvenating and restoring.

Every year I come to the desert and find myself and this trip is setting out to be just as restorative as I had hoped.

Hiding No More

Holding hands underneath the backseat tray on the airplane. Hoping that the guy in camo doesn’t sit next to us because, embarrassingly, we have stereotyped him as someone who would be disgusted and disapproving of us. Thank goodness it is some younger, tall, lanky gentleman who chooses to share this 3 hour airplane ride with us. He immediately reminds Becca of someone else. I try to see the resemblance and cannot.

Even though we are fairly certain he isn’t bothered we still hide our glances. We keep our hands in our own seat under our own table. Slowly we become more comfortable as we notice he doesn’t grimace. Now we can hold hands on top of the tray and even sneak a quick kiss, nothing too dramatic.

Waiters ask if we are together or separate, something that is often assumed when males and females dine together. Acquaintances are uncomfortable with the labeling of such relationships. Is it “girlfriend” or “partner” or “lady friend”. Nobody seems convicted in their ability to identify us. Most of our colleagues know but don’t discuss. It isn’t a workplace matter. Our kinship holds no ground when it comes to work. I will call her ass out. Y’all know I can’t bite my tongue even when she’s cute and does my dishes.

I always thought, there’s no reason for gay and lesbian couples to feel so patronized. The world is so much more accepting these days, get over it. That sentiment is true but with a caveat. The world is more accepting as a whole but there are still dick wads that throw shade and belittle a stranger for loving who they love.

Do you think I would interrupt my “perfect” life with an amazing, loving, caring man and a fits-like-a-glove in-law family to be thrust into a marginalized group if it wasn’t worth the pain? I had it all. My dream home, a planned out, picture perfect life, kids on the way and I upended that all to be with a woman who changed my life.

Some may never understand. I don’t need you to. I still struggle to understand sometimes. The only answer I can offer you is that I am in love and I feel more myself than I have ever felt in my whole life. I see the world in a different color since I have found Becca. She is my best friend and offers me the romantic experience I have been seeking.

I don’t ask that you change your beliefs, I simply ask that the next time you see someone, a couple or a group that you don’t immediately agree with you stop to think about who they are and the place they have come from. Where do they fit in this world and does it really effect you? Or can you just love them as another human on this earth trying to find happiness in the way that suits them.

PT Conference Glory

It worked!

I had 8 (out of 12) kids and parents show up for conferences! This might not sound like a win at just 66% but when numbers have consistently been at 25% this is a massive jump! I could list a handful of reasons why this is the case but I am going to go with the one that feels the best: my students ran their own conferences!

I am giddy tonight remembering the glow on those 8 kids’ faces as they showed off their hard work and their school world to their parents. The pride in the adults’ faces was palpable as they saw these little kids transform into mature scholars in front of their eyes. The language my students were able to use, without prompting, was award winning – it was simply part of who they have become this year. The way they talked about themselves and their school work was heartwarming to say the least.

Students who are typically shy and quiet blossomed tonight when their two worlds collided. Busy bodies were stilled as they showcased their writing journals and read to their parents. Every single student took ownership of their learning, their behavior and their unique place in our class family.

The last station they visited was Meet with Teacher. The student was asked to lead most of the conversation regarding their progress toward 1st grade standards with some degree of overarching adult consultation. I was able to have very sincere, meaningful conversations with parents based on what they just witnessed their student perform. The evidence was clear, it was right before them, it was demonstrated and compared to peer performance as well as standardized benchmarks. I had more “aha” moments with parents tonight than I have in years. I got genuine parent buy-in for support at home. I got compliments and smiles that confirmed this was hard work done right.

I am falling asleep tonight knowing this was a day in my career that I can hang my hat on. I am proud of my students and excited to see what round two brings tomorrow!

New Hair, New ‘Tude

All the little hairs float to the ground. The whirl of the hairdryer makes us raise our voices like we are at a concert. The foil crinkles around my hair, blanketing my ears in a deafness only felt in a salon. I am so relaxed and ready to zhush up my appearance.

Coming to the hair salon is something I so look forward to. I love the feeling of someone doting on me and showcasing their expertise where I lack it. I live for the best wash my hair has ever felt. The scalp massage, ahhh, yes that’s the spot. Plus, the eaves dropping! Oh my, the gossip that occurs in a salon is top notch.

For someone with a curly mop head like mine finding a hair stylist is not easy. For the longest time the mother of one of my best friends was doing it in her kitchen. She knew what I liked and I didn’t really have to explain anything to her. It was reliable and enjoyable. But then I moved away from home and could only see her every 6 months. 10 years later I am still on the hunt for that perfect fit.

Well, I think I found it. Ashley is very experienced and understands exactly what to do with my bird’s nest. As soon as I sat in her chair for the first time we had one of those, “Did we just become best friends?” moments and the answer was, “Yep!” It is hours of laughing and ridiculous scenarios topped off with a beautiful doo and a new sense of direction. I feel good about me, the way I look, feel and where I fit in this world.

It really is self-care to sit in that chair and be pampered for an afternoon.

Busier Than a Teacher in March

Ah, my feet can finally rest. 15 hours ago I hit the floor running. There wasn’t a moment I stopped today.

Library was postponed. Student-led conferences needed preparing. Assessments had to be finished. Cuts needed bandaids, books were lost, tattles needed hearing. Piles of paper finally found a home. Materials were replenished and plans were made.

I stayed late at work to finish some project before conferences and Spring Break. I brought work home with me so that tomorrow can be as productive as possible. I inhaled my lunch while comforting a crying 2nd grader. I nibbled breakfast while conferring with writers. Parents were called, meetings were scheduled, and problems were solved.

It is days like today that make me realize the reason I am so exhausted at the end of each day is because of the hundreds of decisions I make. I make them for me, for my students, for my teammates. I make choices that effect so many people and I have to make them in a moments time. Being a teacher is a balancing act of massive proportions. Feelings, academics, family background, social interactions, health concerns, triggers, schedules, interests, and so on and so on! It is dizzying.

So, to all the teacher who have reached March Madness – I see you. I feel you. And it’s all down hill from here. Keep on keeping on. Fill your coffee pot a little higher, take your lunch break, and leave school before the sun sets. What you do matters but who you are matters more. Be the person your students think you are.

No Rest for the Wicked

Tossing and turning all night. Too hot, too cold, too firm, too many pillows, not enough pillow, weird noise, scary thought. My alarm finally goes off; I’ve been waiting for my queue to actually get out of bed for hours. Except now I am dreadfully tired. My body sinks into the mattress. Suddenly it is the perfect temperature with just enough white noise and my eyelids are heavy. I snooze it and tell myself just 5 minutes to rest comfortably.

I open my eyes again and the clock says 7:05. No! That can’t be right. I didn’t sleep all night but was dead to the world for the last hour and a half? Okay, I see you universe. Of course that is how my day starts on Monday of a short week before Spring Break. I had lots of things I needed to get done this morning but looks like they will be waiting until lunch time.

My feet hit the floor as I stumble into the bathroom and catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. HORROR! Of course I slept with wet hair last night and now I look like a wanna-be member of a bad 80’s rock band. No time to fix this mess now, guess I’ll have a frizzy bun today. Brush my teeth, throw on some mascara, leggings and a GH t-shirt. I chug some coffee, grab a frozen lunch and I’m out the door.

It would have been swell if I remembered underwear. Happy Monday!

Grandpa Charlie

“I have a butterfly at home”

I hear it again, in that sweet little voice, just as I have heard for the last 5 weeks. Every Saturday while we stretch and warm up she tells me she has a butterfly at home. It is orange and it doesn’t have a name. She loves her butterfly.

I giggle when she tells me again. Sarcastically responding, “No way! That is so great!” But she is 3 and the tone inflection is lost on her. She is thrilled to share this little bit of her life news with someone.

Something about this exchange today made me stop and think about the parallels between this sweet girl and my ailing grandfather. Maybe it was the look on the face of a classmate that indicated, “Look, lady, we both know she has told us this a hundred times now so stop acting surprised.” I recognized that look from my own face when I visited at Christmas. It was the first time that I have been around home since his dementia has taken control.

My mom, Grandma and sister were so patient and responsive with him. I was untrained. I was in shock. I was quiet and awkward and confused. I questioned the point in even replying to certain things. I sat and watched but didn’t know how to act with this man who no longer resembled my grandpa.

My grandpa was a handyman and a quiet jokester, making practical projects and inciting cheerful laughs. He always had a smile, he secretly loved his new teeth even though he would never admit it. He was loving but not emotional, just a constant and steady existence of fondness and attention. He was predictable. Always arriving with gummy bears in his shirt pocket and offering to get chocolate ice cream for desert, telling us the same stories over and over again. He was a family man and a true gentleman. He would do anything for anyone who needed help and never asked for anything in return.

This new person, living alone down the hallway from my grandma, was not the man I know. He was quiet and somber. The twinkling joy in his eyes was missing. He didn’t know who I was or why I was suddenly in his living space. I could feel the anxiety and guilt he had over that. He didn’t seem interested in anything. Although I offered to build with him or listen to his juke box, the connection wasn’t there. Not to me nor his long-time hobbies.

I have struggled with my lack of connection to him and to my family who is around more than me. I feel a sense of delinquency as a granddaughter and a member of the family. Living far away from them has always been hard but in situations where health declines rapidly and time is the only healer I can’t help but feel sorry for myself. What is wrong with me? Why can’t I talk to him in any fashion of normal? Why can’t I see the brightside? Why do I feel so awkward with someone I used to be so comfortable with? I should move home so I can be closer for him and for my grandma. I am a fairweather grandchild. What is wrong with me?

This morning, going through the butterfly conversation for the 6th time, I was struck by my ability to enjoy it with a 3-year-old that I barely know and yet be so terrified of it with a man that I have loved my whole life. It occurred to me that although my grandpa is mostly gone, I still have bits of him and I still have a human that I can love and enjoy. It is different but it isn’t over. One of the things I loved most about him was his attention and willingness to spend time with us. I have the chance to give that back to him. Seeing this chance to approach my relationship with him in a completely different way helps relieve some of that pain. It reminds me that all we really want is to be loved and acknowledged. I can do that.

The next time I am home I hope he has a butterfly story to tell me. And if he doesn’t I will sit quietly, listening for the things he isn’t saying.

Drunk Post

I’m bringing home a baby bumblebee

Baby shark doo doo doo doo doo doo

Sally the camel has 5 humps

Hello, my name is Joe and I work in a button factory

Down by the bay, where the watermelon grows

I adore the time I get to take out of our day to play together. There is magic in the chorus of children reciting the same words. They pick it up so quickly. All the games that I learned as a kid that I can pass on to them. It is a dream come true!

Baby showers are cool. I get to “shower” my friends and their cute little buns in the oven with so much love! Onesies, book themed food selections, Mom-osas, cupcakes and cookies, so many pinks and blues.

I do a little bit feel bad I left my kids at school without me this afternoon. But not that bad.

My dog is annoying. She sleeps like a 250lb man.

I need to book a rental car for our spring break trip. It’s gonna be expensive and that is no bueno. Oh well, gotta deal.

I love coaching gymnastics. I’ve gotta do that in the morning.

Ps. This is officially a desperate post. I’m exhausted from hosting a baby shower tonight and maybe I’m a little tipsy and I don’t feel like writing I feel like sleeping.

I tried. I almost tried.