Fall in Love With Yourself

Impossible, for a plain yellow pumpkin to become a golden carriage.

I look in the mirror some days and I don’t even recognize myself. Where did my flat tummy go? Why is my hair frizzier than I remember? How did these lines appear everywhere?

I don’t much like mirrors so I tend to stay away from them. Mirrors, car windows, switched off monitors and screens, large glass windows with just the right glare that gives you a full reflection of your midday grunge. Yeah, I avoid looking into all of those.

I am surrounded by good looking people all day long. And with avoiding my own reflection it is so easy for me to forget that I don’t look like them. That I don’t fit into their manicured, toned, contoured image. So, when I do see myself, REALLY see myself, it is simple for the running list of comparisons to multiply.

My butt is dimplier. My arms are flabbier. My makeup is smeared and my nailpolish is chipped. Why don’t their legs do that jiggle thing that mine do? Why can’t I be just as beautiful as they are?

Impossible for a plain country bumpkin and a prince to join in marriage.

Then I remember that I avoid mirrors for this exact reason. The verse that gets stuck on repeat in my brain that says, “I am not good enough. I must change this thing and that thing to truly be happy, just like them” is incredibly maddening! I am willing to bet that they, too, look in their mirrors and see lines and pounds that once were not there. I would guess that they look at others and wish they had something they don’t.

I remember that this feeling is exactly why I freed myself from this gross, entangled web of girlisms some years ago. I fully embraced my weirdness and my preferred beauty and hygiene routines and my foul distaste for wearing pants. I owned my crazy curls and my big bunion toe and my knees that don’t bend. And when I did this, when I let myself be untroubled with who I am (or am not), I found that I really liked parts of me that I was too blind to see before. I have super soft skin, like, baby bottom soft. And my eyes are some kind of blue that makes people stop and stare. I really like that my feet are the same size they were in 6th grade. I have eyebrows that the kids tell me are “on fleek” or something so I’ve got that goin’ for me.

On that note, I walk away from my mirror, stroke my silky smooth skin and focus on what matters more to me: my happiness. I might not be the prettiest I have ever been in my life but I am content and I am healthy and I am enough for the people who matter most. They fill my life with laughter and joy and make me feel prettier than Cinderella at the ball.

And because these daft and dewy-eyed dopes keep building up impossible hopes, impossible, things are happening every day.

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Homegrown in a Rainstorm

The rain brings me home.

I hear so many grumbles about it on a day like today.
“Ugh, it is dreary and dark”
“I hate when my hair gets wet”
“This weather stinks”
“Mother nature is crying”

For me, the rain is a reminder of who I am and where I come from. I smile this sly, insider knowledge kind of smile when someone asks me, “Does it really rain in Seattle ALL THE TIME?” Yep, sure does. And we like it that way.

The rain is my Lisa Frank backpack at the corner bus stop. The rain is slinking around the church on choir practice nights as hymns filled the empty hallways. The rain is puddle jumping in my leotard, playfully dancing from the old glass doors to my parents’ van. It is Halloween in a coat that covers my perfect Pocahontas costume. It is soaking wet football players and cheerleaders on a bus ride home after an atrocious game two hours away. The rain is learning to drive AND learning to go slower around corners the first time you hydroplane. The rain is my very first kiss and my last high school dance.

For so many people the rain brings a feeling of sadness and melancholy. For me, the sound, the smell, the wiper blades clearing the drops at the exact right speed, the pitter-patter on the roof, the wetness on my skin are all reasons to smile. It reminds me that through darkness comes some of the brightest moments in my life.

I don’t care about my hair getting wet, or the clouds hanging above us, I just want to  turn the pitter-patter up and dance in the rain.

Harry Potter Emotions

A shower, a little sunshine, a lot of music and laughter can make anything disappear. I am learning that I can control my emotions. Today has been a successful attempt at teaching my brain new tricks.

I feel a little like Harry Potter, waving a magic wand on my mental state.
Smilevity”: Sadness is gone
“Sillioso”: Goofy Diana appears
“Hocus Focus”: Work gets cranked out

Has it always been this easy? How is it that I can just flip things on and off? Will I find that when the sun disappears so does my control?

I have never been a silver linings kind of person. And, actually, they kind of bother me. When I’m mad or sad or scared just let me live there for a minute and let that be okay. So, that’s not what I’m saying here. I’m sure there are always positive things to focus on when you are in the shits but that is annoying and that’s not what I’m talking about.

This is about discovering that when you are ready to pull it together and you are ready to not be mad, sad or scared it really is as easy as making that choice. I think I’ve put too much pressure on myself for years thinking that I had to push myself to be happy. Turns out I am just born this way and I can just exist with all the small bits of happiness that are around me.

Maybe that hasn’t always been enough for me but it is now. Today there is sunshine and laughter and music and today I am happy. I am going to celebrate that with a spell of my own, “Spreadavora”: My happiness is contagious to those I meet.

The Mask

I can see that you aren’t happy. I can see the mask you put on every single morning. The one with a smile and bright eyes. Do you wear it to convince others or yourself? Underneath it all I see your brokenness. I see the tears before they appear in your eyes. I know you need a hand to hold and words to fill you back up after you are torn down. Why do they think they can do that? Pointed words linger and prick the skin over and over again. A sharp tongue is a dangerous weapon and you have taken a beating. You are more than pieces lying scattered on a trampled floor. You are more than you believe about yourself. I can be your words and your hand to hold. I can build you up when you feel down. And when you forget that you are the brightest star I will remind you that your light shone through my darkness. I will remind you that I am the happiest when I am with you. And I will remind you that you are more than your mask could ever show.

Two Teaching Worlds, One Hildy

I woke up one minute before my alarm was going to go off. It was as if excitement grabbed my eyelashes and flipped my eyelids open. I grabbed my phone before the dream shattering sound could wake my slumbering husband, slipped out of bed and tip-toe-pranced my way to the full pot of coffee in the kitchen. I am a lot excited and a little nervous because today is the day two of my worlds collide.

I have tested the waters a bit already, slowly bringing her into the world she has only heard about through paragraph-long texts and late night story sharing. I introduced people in smaller group settings where, of course, food and drinks were involved because that makes everyone feel better. So, going into this big, new, scary building she already knows Karly, Megan and Becca. And me… She knows the real me.

I am going to look at things differently today. I will be seeing them with a Kristy-colored lens and that makes me a bit anxious. For the last 4 years I have been modeling my teaching after the incredible, unattainable, model she set for me. I have picked up language, processes, and routines from her that have nearly transformed who I am in front of a classroom. There are so many times during my day that I smile and laugh to myself because “Messina just came out of my mouth”. Mimicking is the highest compliment I could give to her. And now, she is going to be in my room all day. With so many things happening. The follow-up questions will be a mile long. There will be unexpected events and her flexibility will be tested today. She is going to get lost and she is going to get that look in her eye that says, “tell me what to do” and I hope I have the answer for her because she has always had the answer for me.

Today, both of my worlds are going to see a new side of me. I find it a bit scary to reveal pieces of yourself even if you trust those who are seeing it. It is important to me that these two worlds more than co-exist, that they can intertwine and fill the holes that exist in each of them. They are both part of my reality and have molded me into the Hildy I am today.

So, I sit here in my quiet house with my big cup of coffee and my no-sleep excitement and I wait for the day to begin.

Flying Before You Are Ready

And so it begins. Slice of Life season. I can’t tell if I am happy, annoyed, anxious or nostalgic. I think the biggest feeling is misplaced. This whole writing for a public audience thing is an activity I joined while working in District 143 in Midlothian, IL. My people. My SPA. My family. Now that I am no longer part of that community I feel like an imposter, like a wannabe. I feel like part of my soul is split in two and I’m missing the important pieces.

I have felt this strange non-belonging before.

I felt this way when I began working for District 143. Because that wasn’t my home, those weren’t my people and this writing thing wasn’t my game.

It took me a while to trust the people I spent 8-12 hours a day with. It took me months to build individual relationships with strangers who looked at me like a fish in a bowl. It took a year to gain their trust in me and to trust myself in a new place. It was years before I understood how all of the pieces of 143 fit together (or do I even yet know?)

And then it became my haven. My safe place. My strength and my encouragement. My absolute solace from all that was bad.

And then we moved. 2 hours away. Into the corn fields, I left my nest before I was ready to fly. I was pushed out and flapping helplessly. I nearly drowned in newness and self-pity. But the thing is, my wings took control, they lead the way. They did, physically, what I was unable to do logically and emotionally.

And guess who else are my people? Garden Hills CU 4. I have found my weirdness here. I have discovered some greatness in me and my ability to bring people together. I recognize my strength and push for better in my space of need. I have seen perseverance at a whole new level. I have been loved and embraced for exactly who I am. I have renewed my faith in education in an unexpected way.

I hate leaving. I hate change. But I guess the best part of being a nomad, of moving all over this country before turning 30, is finding that great people exist wherever you are.

Somehow I keep ending up exactly where I need to be. Not where is easiest or best or most notable but where my soul thrives. My wings keep bringing me to the people and the places that I need most.

So, as I embark on another season of Slicing, and the guilt that comes with missing a day in March, I try to remind myself that this is for me. This is a celebration of who I am and who I have become in the last 6 years and who I will become in the future.

To all my fellow Slicers, especially my 143 peeps, I am happy to be joining you for another year of pushing boundaries and sharing bits that aren’t ready to fly.

Where Words Fail, Music Speaks

Music is magical, for me at least. I have a dear friend who nearly despises music, noise in general, so I am not sure how we came to be friends or how we sustain a solid relationship.

Music is a huge part of my life, it always has been. It is such a release from the daily hustle. I remember songs igniting strong emotions as far back as second grade. Celine Dion and Shania Twain are the first two professional artists that I felt were traveling through the speakers in my living room and talking directly to me. Before this it was mostly my mom and her friends at church. I still get chills when I hear “On Eagles Wings” because, no matter who is singing, all I hear is my mom and Karen Carr. No version I have found sounds quite right.

I have a memory from 2001, sun shining, last day of 5th grade, jamming out with friends to J-Lo and Ja Rule singing “I’m Real”. It was the first time I rode in a limousine (yeah, I was a high-roller at age 11). We stuck our heads out of the sunroof, ate way too much candy, blasted the songs our parents hated and then had lunch at The Cheesecake Factory. Maybe that wasn’t the finest song ever written, or even close, but it did enough to put a memory in the books for years. That is the magic of music.

I count on music to get me through most days.

I listen to it in the morning to set the tone for the day. If I need a little get up and go I put on something upbeat, something I know all the words to and puts a smile on my face. Most recently this happened when I stumbled across a series of songs that immediately transported me to the summer of 2008 (also known as the best summer of all time, ever). We The Kings, The Ataris, and Mayday Parade enraptured me on an early morning drive to work. It was unexpected. It was not my typical music scene. It was everything I needed.

I listen to music during the day for a purpose. I have multiplication songs, rounding songs, songs about being a good friend, songs about encouraging the underdog and, songs to remember how to chunk syllables. I use the lyrics to teach content. I use the beat to control the mood in the room. Why talk when you can sing?

I listen to music after work to placate any feelings that may have arisen throughout the day. Some days I need to cry so I put on something emotionally charged, either by my own accord or the artist’s. Some days I want to party while I commute so I put on a silly drinking song. Other times I need soothing sounds and I turn the dial to find my friend Frank. Frequently I just want to zone out and sing some girly favorites like Carrie Underwood and Christina Aguilera.

Music is healing for me. It says much more than the hundred or so words used to comprise the verse and chorus. Music is my compass, always pointing me in the direction I need to go. I can find what I need in music, and things I didn’t know I was missing to boot. Music, to me, is impossible to explain using words. It is much more than any amount of reasoning can capture. I hope that my unmelodious friend has a fondness for something like I have for music.

Aw, CCRAP 

CCRAP testing is back. It’s the time of year that I dread more than anything. Well, maybe not more than snow day make up days tacked on to the end of the year but pretty close. This week I was blessed with a double-whammy, the poisoned chalice, an unexpected day off during PARCC testing week. 

7 days, back to back, of testing Math and ELA college and career readiness with 8- and 9-year-olds for the first time in their academic career. I don’t know if a rational adult would choose that over hand-feeding an angry octopus for a year but I certainly don’t have a choice. I get to administer this test in March, wasting an entire week of instruction, and get the results in October. Super helpful.

I am one of those people that abide by the sound reasoning of, “If you’re going through hell keep on going, don’t slow down,” and this especially applies to standardized testing. Once we have begun this labyrinth of anxiety, tears and frustration there is no way I am slowing down or taking a day off. Unless, of course, school is cancelled. In that case, I guess I will just cry.

When I got the phone call from my principal I was putting my face on for the day. I had one eye of mascara completed and I paused to take her call. I watched myself talking to her in the mirror, strangely admiring my mannerisms that I don’t typically recognize. My half-done baby doll face twisted and turned as her words registered. “No school today,” she uttered with rightful anticipation for my totally underwhelming, not at all dramatic, response of, “What the? Nooooooo!!!!” Followed by a string of incomprehensible ramblings of a quickly overwhelmed teacher.

She spoke to me in her always even, calm voice and reassured me that my life was not coming to an end and that I should just enjoy the day off. Well, she knows me better than that but at least she gave it a good effort. We are alike in this way so she gets it; we just keep encouraging each other to do the impossible. 

For one day I did slow down. For one day I paused in hell and looked around. For one day I worried about all the things I wish I could fix. For one day I hid under my blankets and cowered behind sappy movies so I wouldn’t remember that this means an extra day of testing next week, right before Spring Break AND returning to school on a Monday in June to end the school year. This “day off” felt like a slap in the face with a wet noodle. 

I returned to school today back in the saddle, ready to shoot down this blasted assessment. I prepared myself for more tears (new Kleenex box), more performance anxiety (arsenal of kind, encouraging words), more freaked out kids (Stress Away essential oil) and, of course, more caffeine for the teacher just because I’m the boss and I said so. I did good. My kids did good. It seemed like they came in with the same kick-ass and take-names kind of attitude. We are walking through hell but we’re doing it together. We aren’t slowing down (unless there is labeling, organizing, or checking our work to be done) until we get through this. 
I am certainly glad I am not dramatic or this week could really be a CCRAP show.

Sadie Jane

Click, click, click. Her little toes clack against the hardwood as she trots over to the couch that I just plopped down on with my morning coffee. She knows I’m a sucker and all she has to do is ask nicely.

She rests her greying muzzle on the edge of the couch, just inches from my fuzzy-socked feet. I know what’s coming next – the eyes. Right on cue she flicks her gaze upward and stares into my eyes. This is her asking permission to join me for some cuddles. Drats, her puppy-eyed voodoo has worked again. I pat the couch, say, “okay!” and up she pounces, tail wagging, delighted to curl up next to her human.

When I say, “next to” what I really mean is, “on top of”. I don’t even mind. I actually kind of like how ridiculously close she has to be to me. Having her legs draped over mine, her little snores echoing in the earlier morning, is one of the best feelings. I soak in these moments because I know they won’t be here forever. She is literally the best dog in the whole world. I don’t even care what you have to say about how great your dog is ’cause Sadie wins.

I am obsessed. I get it. She is my shadow, it is hard not to fall in love. She knows when I’m sad, she nudges her head under my arm to give me a hug. She knows when I’m sick, she patrols the bathroom or wherever I am quarantined. She is my emotional support animal, giving me what I am missing in human relationships. She plays with me when I am being silly. We mutually wag our tails when we greet each other. I am a sucker for her cuddles and her puppy dog eyes.

Never in a million years did I think that I was bringing home my fur-child when I went against all better judgment and picked up a dog at the shelter on a whim. I am so glad that Sadie chose me as her human. I adore this little ball of furry love more than is possibly captured with words.

Don’t Piss In My Yard

Today it was brought to my attention that I continue the crusade of being blessed by a Resting Bitch Face. 

I thought that I had outgrown this facial dilemma; I haven’t heard grumblings of it in years. At minimum I had outgrown the stage in life when peers judge based on looks. I mean, by this point in life people have experience with enough individuals to see and understand that what lies beneath the surface of someone is typically not what is seen at first. I expected this to be exceptionally true in the field of education. 

Well, I guess I was wrong. I reckon I have been judged by my lack of smiling. I suppose my small circle of thick-as-thieves friends has given the impression of exclusion. My confidence has given some crowds an uneasy feeling of cockiness where it is unwarranted. What a terrible feeling. What a sad view for anyone looking to make friends or share life with like-minded individuals. I can’t help but feel poopy for myself because my main goals in life are to appreciate each moment with the people around me, to inspire positivity and to spread joy!

When this information was shared with me today it gave me a strange sense equivalent to being outside of my own body and watching the reaction someone else was having to mind-altering news. It was like this person was describing someone else. It couldn’t possibly be me.

Anyone who knows me understands that I am one of the most loving, caring, positive, and mother-effing hilarious people you will ever meet. I am deliriously loyal. Of course, I speak my mind and rarely do I back down, but it is driven by my passion for my moral compass. I accept everyone for who they are, for whatever path they have traveled. I recognize that not everyone comes to the table with the same experiences or expectations that I do. I respect the differences in others around me and I guess that’s why it hurts to know that I haven’t been regarded with the same decency. I follow my arrow, I don’t expect your arrow to have the same trajectory as mine. It would just be great if we didn’t collide halfway to the target.

Pissing in my yard ain’t gonna make yours any greener.