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Hard Work

Another recital has come and gone.  One more chapter of her dance life has closed.  As I reflect on her past year, it brings me so many smiles, and a few tears as well.  She has grown and learned so much.  She has grown UP, and that makes my heart both swell and break just a bit.  

She is everything that I could have never imagined.  She is life and fire and passion and kindness all rolled into a small and powerful pre-teen body. 

She is my best friend and my right hand.  I watch her on that stage and marvel at everything she is.  At everything she has accomplished.  At the sheer power and beauty that she embodies.

I can only imagine what goes on in that mind of hers.  But today, if I let my imagination take hold, I think THIS is what she would say…

Dear Hard Work,

You don’t scare me.  

I saw you coming, even at two-years-old.  I saw the blood, sweat, and tears that you asked for, but even that didn’t dissuade me.  

I’ve seen them all, you know.  The sweat after two quick changes and three dances in a row.  When I can barely breathe and can’t even stop to think about the muscle memory that lets me perfectly execute the moves that leave the audience spellbound.  

The tears after falling out of that trick I’d nailed dozens of times before.  Tears after the emotions overwhelm me when I think I can’t give any more of myself to the floor.

And the blood?  

The blood courses through me constantly asking me, “Have you had enough?  Your knee hurts.  You should stop.” (No.) “Your back hurts again, just take a break.” (Nope.) “You’ve tried that move at least fifty times.  Just give up.” (Never!)

The blood that courses through me breathes fire and life and DANCE.

It breathes life into me at the end of a long day when my pointe shoes hit the Marley.  It surges through me when we run that song one more time and I’m determined to get the counts right. It gives me drive when the day has been murky and my attitude needs adjusting.

It makes me feel alive.

That hard work you taunt in front of me?  It doesn’t even phase me.  It pushes me beyond my limits, and yet I still come back asking for more.

Give me more!  

Give me harder combos and more challenging tricks. Give me fast eight counts that make my head spin and impossible to execute turns.  Give me everything you’ve got.

Because YOU DON’T SCARE ME.

You don’t hold a light to what burns inside of me.    

But even the brightest of flames need kindling every now and then. 

So tonight I’ll rest.  I’ll let my knee heal, and I’ll sleep knowing that I left everything on that stage today.  

But tomorrow?  Tomorrow I’ll wake up and expect you to be waiting for me again.

I’ll welcome you with open arms…because you are now my friend.  My constant.  My companion.  

And when the world gets tough and life seems uncertain, I know you will always be there.  

Dance may look beautiful and inconspicuous from the outside, but I know you for what you are.  Hard work. 

And I’ll welcome you in like an old friend every time you knock because you’ve taught me that life is manageable with the constant companionship that you provide.

With you, I will travel through life embracing all that you bring.  

Treat me well, Hard Work, for together we will accomplish great things.

Signed,

A Dancer’s Heart

Be grateful (for hard work), water your own grass,

…and drink coffee.

Life Isn’t Supposed to Match

Have you looked through Facebook lately?  Have you visited any of your friends’ houses who have perfect Christmas decor?

I look at those beautiful mantels that are adorned with Christmas villages and greenery and perfectly matching stockings.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  Every stocking is the same size, the same color and print, and they have those beautifully embroidered names or cute matching hand-made name tags attached to them?

I used to envy those houses.  

I wanted my house to look like those out of a magazine with perfectly placed decor and matching stockings.

Spoiler alert:

My house does not look like that.  

Instead of perfectly placed decor, I have a cat condo, a nativity scene in which the shepherd is usually toppled over, and more dog hair than Christmas lights.  It’s like the tinsel of our house except instead of adorning the tree, it covers our floors…and our couches…and our clothes.

Our stockings are not matching.  Instead, they are perfectly mismatched.

We have the snowman and Santa stocking that I bought for the two older kiddos when they were just babies.  Every year they had the discussion of whose was whose.  I still can’t remember which one is the boy’s and which one is the adult’s.  

We have the two almost matching ones that are red plaid, one denoted with a large “E” for the youngest and the other one for daddy.  It’s fitting that her stocking almost matches his because they are like a carbon copy of personalities.  Out going, adventurous, and always up for anything.  

We added a stocking this year as our almost 22-year-old adds her wife to our family Christmas and they choose to spend their precious time off with us.  Of course we chose a Rudolph stocking because you can’t have Santa and a snowman without having a Rudolph.

The dancer girl and I may have even added a stocking for the four legged zoo we entertain around here.  (Shhh…don’t point it out to the hubby.  He’ll roll his eyes at us. 😂)

Then, there is my smaller stocking with teddy bears sleeping with visions of treats in their heads.  It’s the same stocking I had when I was a child.  The same one that matched all of my siblings’ stockings with the exception of the front design.  I still remember the scotch tape on each of them where my mom wrote our names so she could keep them straight.  That piece of scotch tape still lives inside of my stocking with my mom’s handwriting spelling out my name.

The thing about matching stockings is that they look beautiful and corroborate the idea that life is perfect and we have our shit together.

But we all know the truth.  Facebook pictures lie, and magazine covers are staged.

Those matching stockings look beautiful, but I no longer have any desire for them.  

If I were to buy matching stockings on my next Target run, I would be able to sit in front of my fireplace and marvel at the beauty, but that’s not what stockings are for.

Stockings are for holding treats and treasures and memories.  I remember my stocking filled with jewelry and trinkets and lifesaver roll Christmas books (if you know, you know).  I remember the excitement of waking up and finding my stocking on the couch or in a chair on Christmas morning.  My stocking.  The one with the teddy bears sleeping in bed and the bow on the top.  The one with my name taped inside.  

My stocking. My memories.  My childhood.

You see, life isn’t supposed to match. It’s just not how life works.  

We aren’t supposed to have matching pj’s and matching wrapping paper and matching stockings.  If we did, we would lose the comfort of being ourselves.  We would lose the colorful display under the tree.  We would lose the memories that we hold so closely to our hearts.

I don’t want my children to grow up remembering how perfectly adorned our house was.  I want them to grow up remembering the happiness and the excitement of finding their stocking on Christmas morning.  Yes, even as a grown adult, teen, and pre-teen (going on twenty).

I want them to remember the way they felt on Christmas morning.  I want them to remember laughing.  And yes, I even want them to remember the dog hair and the cat hair and the mess.  

Life isn’t supposed to match.  

Because that is real life.  Unfiltered by Facebook posts and edited photos.  Real life.

So, tonight as I sit on my couch and relax before bed, I’ll enjoy the perfectly mismatched stockings that hang from my mantel.  

I’ll remember my own childhood Christmases and look forward to what this Christmas brings.  The presents will soon be forgotten, but the memories?  Those will last forever.

Be grateful (for mismatched decor), water your own grass,

…and drink coffee.

Lessons I Learned From a Little Black Kitten

Snuggles make everything better.

Life is more fun when you splash in the puddles.

A good meal solves most of your problems.

Modern medicine is great, but it doesn’t work miracles.  Only God can do that.

Being unique doesn’t make us any less lovable.  In fact, being unique makes us more lovable.

Sometimes we all just need to be wrapped up tightly in blankets and loved.

Real love doesn’t know any boundaries.

Young girls grow up real fast when they love something fiercely.

The best things in life aren’t contained on a screen.  

Sometimes you just need others to take care of you.

It’s okay not to be okay.

Holes in your heart never go away, they just fill up with memories.

It is hard to let go, but sometimes it is the right choice when you love something so much.

Loving is hard…and worth it anyway.

Be grateful, water your own grass,

…and drink coffee.

Miraculum. Revisited.

Do you remember your childhood?

I mean, REALLY remember?

I remember things.

I remember how my older brother and I would swim laps around our “swimming pool” (aka, watering tank) and make a current. We would float underwater until it stopped. The water wasn’t pristine, chlorinated or filtered water. It was hose water that turned green and dirty in the Kansas weather, but we didn’t care. There were water bugs and wasps. So many wasps. It didn’t matter, though.

I remember crawling up on the roof of the house to “sun tan” and roller skating in our basement when it was too hot outside.

I remember Mom hanging clothes on the line and the way Christmas Eve was magical all day long.

I remember things.

Do you ever wonder why we remember the most random things?

I remember the one specific night that I looked for Santa Clause out my bedroom window for hours because I was in denial that he wasn’t real. I remember the time my mom took me to the doctor because I’d been coughing and miserable for weeks and ended up being diagnosed with tonsillitis. This is just the type of memory that all teens wish to remember, right?

I remember this one night when we came home from one of my high school basketball games, and we made frozen Red Baron pizza, and Dad gave me advice about the things I needed to improve. Why that night? Why do I remember that Red Baron pizza and that one event?

I think that life is parceled into these boxes that are somehow an unconventional unit of time that separates our lives in unique ways.  They don’t match anyone else’s unless you are meant to connect at that particular time.

As I look back on my life thus far, my 43 (almost 44 years…yikes) have been divided into such strange parcels.  They don’t operate by year.  Instead, they band together in some cosmic type of organization that would only make sense to me.

Childhood?  At least three different eras.  College? One big whirlwind.  Life as an adult?  How much time do you have?

I think that there is value in looking back at those memories you have stored and evaluating why those particular memories made the “core memories” bank.  (Thank you Inside Out™.)

Why do I remember those summer days in the “pool” with my older brother?  Because I idolize him and have always looked up to him.

Why do I remember all of the Saturdays that my older sister picked me up in the early morning hours and took me garage sale-ing with her?  Because those memories hold so many laughs and feelings of connection and belonging.

Why do I distinctly remember all of the times my little brother and I fought?  Why would one need to remember the times you hit your younger brother over the head with a book?  Or a remote?  Or a crochet mallet?  (True story.)

The answer?  Because these moments made me FEEL.

I felt love.  I felt connection.  I felt that no matter what I did, I knew that I was loved regardless.  (Yes.  Even my younger brother somehow loves me despite all of the times I bashed him on the head with numerous objects.)

As an adult now, I look back on my childhood memories and wonder what my own children will remember.

Will they remember the birthday cake I made like I remember the Mickey Mouse cake that my parents bought and hid in the freezer until my birthday when I was convinced there wasn’t a cake at all?  Will they remember road trips and vacation hotels and the way I made sure to be at every sporting event they participated in?  Will they remember random times like when they played in the backyard after a Phoenix monsoon that cancelled school and flooded our patio?

I don’t know.

What I DO know is that miraculum has something to do with all of this. 

Sometimes, it hides. 

Miraculum seems to appear at the moments when you are the most needy, the most scared, and the most vulnerable. 

But it always shows up.

Maybe those whisps of memories that we cling to were moments of miraculum that we didn’t even realize were happening at the time. 

Be grateful (for memories), water your own grass,

…and drink coffee.

Goodbyes are for those who don’t believe

One time a while back, I saw something on Facebook about some foreign country that doesn’t have a word that means “goodbye.”  They have some alternative word that means something fluffy and magical like, “Until my heart connects with you again.”  That isn’t the direct translation, but you get the idea.  (At least I hope you get the idea because I couldn’t hunt down the meme after hours of searching for it.  And let’s be real…I saw it on Facebook, so the reliability was questionable.)

In an ideal world, we would never have to say goodbye.  

We would never have to leave places or people we love, and the word goodbye would become obsolete.  We would just live on and on and add people to our life the further our journey went.  

Each new person and place would become another arm on our tree of life, and eventually it would all tangle together like those Kansas choke cherry bushes we had in my childhood. A beautiful, entangled, messy bush.

But we don’t live in an ideal world.  

We live in a world of uncertainty and change and goodbyes that make your heart ache.

We live in a world where home can feel both foreign and lovely at the same time.

We live in a world where change is the only constant and you sometimes have to say goodbye to people and things that you will miss.

Goodbye is inevitable.

This month has brought me several goodbyes.  

Goodbye to our home sweet Arizona after an epic surprise trip.  Those memories will never be duplicated.

Goodbye to my first ever clinical cohort for my new job.  Those six people are magical educators who are changing the world daily, and they let me be a part of their amazing teacher gang for the past three months.  I’ll miss them terribly (even if I don’t miss working until 11 p.m. every Thursday).

Goodbye to my motivation for deep cleaning my house over the summer break.  I’ll miss that one for sure.

Some goodbyes were short and bittersweet, and some were the heart wrenching kind that rip your heart out and leave it to bleed in the humid Georgia heat.  

But all of them brought me something else too…

Perspective.

I won’t lie and tell you all that the most difficult thing I did this month wasn’t returning back to AZ.  Amazing?  Yes.  Worth it?  Absolutely.  Heart wrenching?  Don’t even start.

I tried for days and weeks to write my typical “post dance recital post” after the big reunion day in Arizona, but I just couldn’t do it.  Even after eight years of “post recital dancing posts,” I just couldn’t.  The emotions were there, but man, were they a tangled mess.  

Love.  Sadness.  Belonging.  Pride.  Regret.  Hope.  Happiness. 

I wanted to tell you all about how tears cleansed my soul and left me feeling free.  I even began a blog post about it titled, “Tears Cleanse the Soul.”  But as I tried to write that post on a plane while being a mess of emotion, my soul didn’t feel cleansed at all.

It felt heavy.

It was heavy with emotions I didn’t expect and feelings that were lingering way longer than I anticipated.

I was a hot mess.  Let’s be honest.  I’m still a hot mess.

However, I decided that I would happily greet Georgia, grab my anti-humidity hairspray, some extra duty bug spray, and get on with my happy, humid life.

Until Thursday night hit me.  Hard.

I know that you all have missed my crazy classroom posts.  Escape room chaos.  CSI themed Open House shenanigans.  All day reading marathons equipped with smorgasbord breakfasts and themed crafts.

But picture this…

Me…but multiplied by numerous teachers all around the world in different countries.  Hundreds of children being positively affected by humans that I was fortunate enough to share some time with as fellow educators.  Pretty amazing, right?!

Well, don’t be fooled.  Saying goodbye to these successful adults was just as hard as saying goodbye to a room of 30 nine-year-olds. 

It’s pretty devastating when you have to say farewell (or whatever that one country says) and send them on their way with hopes that you can somehow still be a part of the amazing world of education that they have created.

Rest assured, I know I did my work to the best of my ability (albeit amateur for my first clinical group in my new role), and I know without a doubt that I poured into them as much of my heart and passion and love for teaching as I could.

Sometimes, when you pour all of your love into someone or something, you just have to rest in the assurance that it will be enough.

I know that bonding with student teachers leads to an end that doesn’t involve me.  And that’s absolutely alright! 

I knew that going back to AZ would be wonderful and hard and emotional.  I just didn’t expect that it would feel like that.

I didn’t expect this June to feel the way it has.  What I planned to say in my June post was that water heals the soul.

I wanted to tell you that it doesn’t matter if you find it in an ocean, a bath, or a freaking Starbucks cup.  Water is magical.  (Really, it is!)

I wanted to tell you that I found it in tears as dancer girl performed on the stage and as we were wheels up traveling back to GA.  I wanted to say that it was there in the tears I shed as I painstakingly edited amazing teaching videos together to try and give these candidates a memory to hold of their dedication through these past months.

But I couldn’t…because that would be a lie.

Don’t get me wrong!  I did cry when I hit “end meeting for all” on my final virtual class for these teacher friends.  

I also cried when I knew my sweet girl would get to perform her trio with her best friends for the last time on a stage.  I cried when dancer daughter’s long time dance idol agreed to dance a duet with her.  

Mind you, this would be a “one-time-only, dance with her role model, be on stage with the dancer she always aspired to be” type of dance.  It would have to be choreographed over FaceTime calls 2,000 miles apart between an eleven-year-old and an almost twenty something and somehow make magic on the stage.

And it did.  It SO did.

And I cried.

I also cried when she hugged her friends that she hasn’t held in a year, when she stood on that stage as an “honored guest” in the show, and when she stood stoically at the end of her first, self-choreographed solo.  I cried buckets full watching this girl perform her own version of her the first solo she ever performed at six-years-old.

And as I sat on the side of the stage, I wondered…

How do I leave all of this?

How do I leave my friends, her friends, and those who welcomed us back in like we’d never left?  How do these tears bring solace when I feel so torn up inside?

Spoiler alert: I still don’t know the answers.

What I do know is that home means something different now.  Home is green landscapes and tree frogs and humidity in the summer evenings.  Home is a lot of things different than the AZ desert.

I also know that despite the distance that may separate me from those amazing teachers that I was so privileged to work with, my impact may still be felt like ripples in a lake.

Despite all of the things this month has brought, a few things haven’t changed.  

Dance. It is where dear daughter’s heart lives and where my sense of belonging comes to life.  

Home (wherever it is) means we get to learn and grow and love and continue this journey we have embarked on.  

Teaching is, and always will be, the reason I was called to this Earth.  

It may be difficult at times, and we may cry a little as that plane takes off, but this much I know…

You can always come home.  You can always find purpose.  And you can always, always water your own grass.

This isn’t my typical post-recital post, but then again, these aren’t the typical post-recital conditions.  

So here’s what I think…

Goodbyes are for those who don’t believe.  

Goodbyes are for the sad souls who don’t see the possibilities of tomorrow.  For those who forget that technology connects us and human empathy sustains us.  Maybe we’re all like a big, beautiful, tangled choke cherry bush after all.

Goodbyes are for those who lose sight of their grass.  As I sit here on my back porch with the mosquitoes and the spiders and symphony of crickets and frogs, I have realized…Georgia humidity has kept my grass bright green.  How about you?

Be grateful (for perspective), water your own grass,

…and for goodness sakes, drink coffee.

Just Like That

Last weekend before dance recital she did her own lipstick.

It doesn’t seem like such a big deal.  She does her own makeup all the time.  But getting ready for her recital, she decided that she would practice over the summer so she could start doing her own dance makeup next year.

Just like that.

My tiny dancer is no longer tiny.

She doesn’t need me to change every costume, and she insisted that she could pack her own recital “stuff.”  (For anyone who isn’t a dance mom, this “stuff” includes everything from costumes to hair pins to multiple pairs of shoes to fabric tape, but she assured me she checked it all.)

When did my tiny dancer grow up and become so independent?  And, more importantly, how am I supposed to handle that?!?

Let me tell you a secret that isn’t much of a secret.  I was NOT a dancer.  I took my two-year-old into a dance studio nine years ago because as a TWO-YEAR-OLD, she knew she wanted to dance.  I had NO idea what I was getting into.

All-day dance recitals.  Three day dance competitions. Costumes and hair styles and makeup and shoes.  Oh, the shoes! Tap shoes and hip hop shoes and jazz shoes and pointe shoes. She’s like Dorothy but with a whole closet of shoes that take her to her own personal “home.”

And here’s the thing…dance is her HOME.  She loves it, breathes it, and grew up in it.  And now my tiny dancer is growing up. 

Just like that.

But here’s the thing… (you know me…there’s always a thing).

That sweet, responsible girl of mine ended up at a recital with a quick costume change and zero hip hop pants to be found.  There were tears.  There were messes from her dance bag being ripped apart in the dressing room.  There was an entire auditorium waiting on my child to join her group on the stage…in a costume that neither of us realized we had lost weeks before.

But you know what else there was?  There was an incredible mom in the dressing room that ravaged dance bags until she found my daughter pants that semi-matched to dance in.  There was a studio owner who patiently and calmly waited for my kid to get to the stage.  There was a group of girls who took the stage with an imperfect, out-of-costume dancer—my daughter—and loved her all the same.

She ran to the stage in tears, and yet she danced…because the show must go on.  She danced, and despite her mismatched costume, she didn’t miss a beat.

Just like that.

Just like that she proved that dance isn’t all about costumes and glitter and makeup.  Sometimes, it is about showing up when you aren’t perfect, giving your best when you want to cry, and realizing that it isn’t about what you see on the outside.

Just like that my daughter proved that dance has provided the kind of character that allows you to have a panic attack, be late, and still show up for the team that is depending on you.  

If that isn’t real life, I don’t know what is.

So, tonight, when I think of the tiny dancer who is trying so hard to grow up, I will also remember this…

Sometimes we need to fail to learn life.

Sometimes we need to buck up and show up, despite the cards we are dealt.

And sometimes? You still need your mom.

Be grateful (for mom), water your own grass,

…and drink coffee.

Lessons From the Stage

Things to tell my dancer daughter…

There are many things I could tell you about life, but the dance stage will teach you all of it.

Find yourself a tribe.  Welcome in all who support positivity, dedication, and teamwork.  Make others a priority and hard work your best friend.  Cheer for your friends loud enough to drown out their doubts.  Love them when they win, love them harder when they lose, and love them hardest when they forget their worth.  

Remember that at the end of the day, the winners are those who walk away smiling.  It doesn’t have to do with medals and trophies and crowns.  The ones who win are the ones who walk away knowing that whatever they left on the stage was enough.  It doesn’t matter if you scored second place, tenth place, nineteenth place, or dead last.  What matters is that you spent hours preparing, days upon days practicing, and you did on that stage what no one else could do.  

You were you.

You walked onto the stage and showed your heart to hundreds of people.  You kept dancing when you fell, you smiled when it hurt, and you did it all without missing a beat.

Also, don’t forget to look out at that audience once in a while.  You have a group of parents whom you’ve never met cheering for you and groups of little girls aspiring to be you.  You’ve got a daddy tearing up over you and a mom who might be a hot mess, but loves you fiercely and wouldn’t miss seeing you on that stage for a million dollars.  You’ve even got a bored brother out there who stops watching the show on his iPad to watch you instead.

At the end of the day, when the music stops and the makeup is washed off, remember that your talent will take you far, but your character will take you further.   Remember that this dance thing you do might fuel your soul, but it also fills my heart.  

(If I forget to tell you later, I had a really great time being your mom.)

This is dance, and these are the lessons the stage teaches. The rest is just details.

Be grateful, water your own grass,

…and drink coffee.

Quitting is for Winners

Today, I quit…and so should you.

I quit the idea that I am suppose to be perfect.  I’m quitting the expectation that I can do it all.  Because…

I can’t.

None of us can.  I can homeschool my kids and keep a clean house, or I can do one or the other and relax before 11:30 p.m.  

I can work like crazy designing perfect slide decks for my classes, or I can give my pets the same love they give me.

I can play chauffeur to this aspiring dancer, or I can spend the night preparing our tax documents.

But I can’t do it all.

I quit the pressure of the expectation that perfection is expected.  (Say that three times fast.). 

Who decided that self-worth included being perfect at every role you fill?  (Because I’m gonna find that person and beat them up.)

Instead of winning at everything, here is what I’m choosing…

I’m choosing to release the idea that I can get it all done everyday.  Let’s be honest…I can’t get one day’s worth of “all done” in a week.  I’m going to stop trying to expect that I can get it “all done” in a day.  

I quit.

I am going to quit feeling guilty about the invitations I turn down.  Girls brunch?  Sounds fun, but no.  Neighborhood poker party?  Enjoy my hubby’s charm and money, but I’ll pass.  Your dog’s adoption party? I’m sure it will be fabulous, but count me out.  

I quit.  

I’m done trying to be someone that I simply am not.  Does that mean that I’m never leaving my house and forgetting that I have amazing friends who might want to see my face somewhere other than Facebook? Of course not!

But it does mean that I’m done with apologizing for the space I occupy, however imperfect as it may be.

If I want to post 8 million Facebook pictures of dancer girl while I barricade myself in a hotel room…I will.  If you’re tired of seeing her, just keep on scrolln’.

If I decide that spending the night sipping my wine on the couch with hubby while the boy memorizes Minecraft songs on the piano…then I will.  The piles of dog hair will still be waiting on the floor for me tomorrow.

If the fridge isn’t perfectly stocked and we have to “figure out” dinner, then so be it. No one has starved to death in our house yet.

The truth is, at the end of the day, my inner peace is fueled by processing emotions and rest.  Perfection doesn’t have a place at my table anymore.  

I’ll be showing up makeup-less, but happy.  I’ll be dealing with wrinkled laundry, but happy that it’s wrinkled and at peace because I chose rest over productivity.  I’ll be drinking the extra glass of wine that I know I shouldn’t, and my house will be coated with a fine layer of German Shepherd hair…because let’s be honest, there’s no way I’m managing that anyhow.

I’ll be turning down anything that doesn’t bring me happiness, and I’ll judge myself less for the messy kitchen.

I quit.  

The idea that perfection is attainable is ridiculous, and I can’t do it all.  

None of us can! Nor should we try.  We should stop looking at the fake Instagram profiles that exude a sense of “doing it all”. Better yet, we should look at those profiles and know that behind that IG filter is a mom who is killing herself to show the world how happy she is at perfection.  

Perfection is a killer of happiness.  Striving for perfection should be reserved for zero deduction cheer routines, my husband’s yummy dinners, and the way a sun sets in the Arizona desert.

Instead of doing it all and striving for perfection, I’ll do what I can.

And that will be enough for anyone who loves me.

Be grateful, water your own grass,

…and drink coffee.

Balance

I am it.  I am the balance to this world I’ve created whether I like it or not.

Let me tell you a story…

I am the most introverted, antisocial, but loyal being you will meet.  (Yes, I’ve realized that it’s okay to build yourself up.  I AM loyal.)

I love my husband.  I love my children.  I love my friends.  And sometimes, I love getting dolled up and dressed up to forget that my days are mainly filled with leggings and vacuuming and laundry and wondering why everything I try to “homeschool” ends up seeming lackluster.

I went out tonight with some girlfriends.  I put on makeup and did my hair and wore my favorite heels.  Yes, I’ll choose heels EVERY opportunity that I can.  (Take note, new friends.  I did once live a life that involved looking cute, dressing up, and wearing heels daily.)

I went downtown with my wildest, and yet most trustworthy, friend I have here in our new state.  Wild, because you never know what to expect from her, but trustworthy, because I know she’d drop everything for me in a second if I asked her to.  

We went downtown with a whole group of neighborhood gals.  We forgot, for a moment, that the entire world needs our attention.  Or, at least, we tried to.

But here’s the thing… (You know there’s always a “thing.”)

The lines were long, and the music was loud.  The weather was cold, and the people? Well, let’s not even go there. 

The country bar was barely country (according to my standards), and no where did I see a place that looked like a good wine bar.

Oh, and did I mention, we’re all moms and wives.  So amid the loud and the cold and the crazy, there was also children at home puking and little dancer girls at home wondering when mommy would come tuck them in. There was also poker dealing by the teenager boy at home, but that’s a story for another time.  

So, I now sit here…on my couch.  I’m enjoying wine from the comfort of my couch in the warmth of my home.  Everyone is tucked sound asleep in bed and my mind is finally REALLY free.  My anxiety is gone because I am here. Where I belong.

You see, that “break” we moms all secretly search for?  It’s never really a break.  The whole time I was gone, my mind was anywhere but where I was. 

Because I am the balance.

I am the weight that keeps this whole family in check.  We all play different roles.  That’s how it works.

My adult kiddo?  She’s the real.  The teenage boy?  He’s the quirky.  The dancer girl?  She’s the entertainment and the sweetness.  Hubby?  He’s the rock and the glue that holds this all together.

And me?  I am the balance.

And I’m okay with that.  I don’t need the high heels or the downtown drama. I have everything I need right here.

Be grateful (for the everyday), water your own grass,

…and drink coffee.

Happy

The first word everyone says every year. 

Happy.

My eleven-year-old dawned that knowledge on me at 11:26 on New Year’s Eve night.  She’s brilliant, really. 

Every New Year’s Eve when the clock hits midnight, we yell, “Happy New Year!”  We never really know what the year will hold, but still the first word of the year is always “happy.”

I found myself lying in bed on New Year’s Eve night wide awake.  (Thank you to the 8:00 p.m. coffee I drank to make it until midnight.)

I thought about my daughter’s wise words.  I thought about everything that life has thrown at me this past year.  I laid awake for hours just thinking, and do you know what I think?

I think this is my year.  I think it’s OUR year.

I hate making statements like that because it puts so much pressure on expectations, but I mean it.  I don’t care if I have to manifest the crap out of the happiness shit everyday of the year.  I believe it.

I believe that this major life move was the right choice.  I believe that the hard and the struggle and the sadness I’ve faced as we tackled this past year are worth it.  I believe that amazing things are in store for me this year.  I believe that so many wonderful things are just waiting to appear.

Let’s all be honest, since 2020, life has not been the same.  I don’t know about all of you, but it wrecked me.  It ruined so many parts of me, and I didn’t even realize it until we were deep into the craziness that 2020 brought.

I left one of my favorite classes of students that I’ve ever taught for Spring Break and never saw them in my classroom walls again.  I single-handedly packed up all of their belongings in tear soaked Ziplock bags.  I had to leave them on the side of the school building for contactless pickup.

We were secluded and scared and living in an alternate reality.  Then, when life resumed, I was both elated and angry.  I spent almost a year asking students to wear their masks and racking my brain for hours and days on end trying to create seating arrangements and lessons that kept students connected but apart.  How do I let them hang out with their friends (who they missed for almost eight months), but still maintain Covid protocol?  How do I teach them to be team players without allowing them to do anything in teams?  How do I give them a magical classroom experience when all I can think about is whether or not I took their temperatures that morning before attendance?

I watched my daughter’s dance performances in masks and spent the weekends defending my vaccination status to parents.  I worried every time someone coughed, sneezed, or blew their nose.  I prepped emergency plans for teaching a regular classroom through a computer screen in case I got quarantined.  I juggled teaching quarantined students online at the same time that I had twenty students in the classroom.  On top of all that, I worried about my own family.

It was a year that left scars in my heart and on my soul.

Life never really returned.  It was forever altered.

But this year, this year we heal.  This year, we move forward.  So, in that spirit, here is my letter to 2022.  

Dear 2022,

Thank you for the lessons, but it’s time to say farewell.

This past year has been educational in all aspects.  Thank you for teaching me perseverance, perspective, and purpose.  Thank you for lessons in decision making and tough love.  

Thank you for forcing me to grow, reminding me of my purpose, and challenging me to leave behind things that were not meant for me.  

Although I will look back and see many tears, I won’t forget that the reason for those tears were situations so happy that they were hard to leave.  

Thank you for reminding me that while I need to be forced out of my comfort zone every now and again, I never have to be forced to be anything but who I am.

I am not the same person I was a year ago.  I have grown stronger.  I have internalized memories that have both inspired me and broke me.  I have used both to define the parameters of my purpose.

I would be lying if I said I was sad to see you go.  I’m ready for the next chapter.  No, I won’t forget you, but I’ll gladly leave you in the past—not because you treated me poorly, but because I need to leave you behind in order to move on.

To 2023, I say, “Bring. It. On.  I’m ready.”

So, to make this full circle… 

Happy.  It’s what I’m manifesting.  It’s what I’m expecting.  It’s what I’m creating.  Happy.

Signed,

A happy, homeschooling and online graduate teacher who writes, feels, and dreams of the great to come…while being a mom, wife, chauffeur, cheerleader and aspiring optimist.

Be grateful (for new beginnings), water your own grass,

…and drink coffee.