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Vibrations

It’s the inner uncomfortableness I feel when something silly (like chairs too close together) makes me feel claustrophobic.  It’s the uneasy I feel when I know I’m going to have to talk to people I don’t really know.

It’s the anxiety I feel when I get an invitation.  Anywhere.  To do anything.  Those vibrations tell me it’s going to be uncomfortable.  It might be out of my comfort zone…or it might be amazing.

Vibrations.

It’s the way I feel when I walk into a grocery store and feel like I don’t belong because I stick out like a sore thumb.  

I realize it is all silly and irrelevant.  I mean, who actually cares about the strangers who are standing beside them picking out the right flavor of baked beans?  No one is seriously meant to feel like they “fit in” at a grocery store.

So why do I feel so much like an outsider right now?

It’s a different world down here in the south, and it’s not all bad, so don’t get me wrong.  My backyard backs up to what looks like a dense version of our favorite camping spot on the rim.  I can hear the locust and smell the trees.  

And can we just talk for a minute about the speed of life here?!  Maybe that’s why I feel like an outsider.  I’m used to the hectic pace of the daily grind, but here?  

Well, let me take you on a little coast to coast tour.

To begin, meet California—the state where everyone rushes as if they are late to their own funeral.  There are no heeded speed limit signs, no semblance of calm, and definitely no waving as you pass by someone on the street.

Next up, Arizona.  Think friendly, but rushed.  You don’t fit in unless you run all yellow lights and don’t even think about slowing for construction zones.

And then, there’s Georgia.  The first time I went to a store, I thought that everyone must move in slow motion.  No one was in a rush.  At all.

On my walk yesterday, I was sauntering across someone’s driveway (as one would at the end of a two mile walk in 90° temps and humidity).  Naturally, at that same moment the owners were waiting to pull in their golf cart to the driveway.  Of course, I apologized.  Their response was a friendly, “Oh! You’re fine!” (In that sweet southern accent.) And they just waited.  Happily.  Patiently.  With not a single ounce of rush in them.

The clock just works differently down here.  And I don’t think I hate it.

The vibrations of that minute hand ticking just hit differently when you can hear the crickets and see the stars.  

Vibrations.  They tell me things.

They tell me when to go for it and when to hold back.  They tell me when to bare my soul to new friends and when to keep my guard up.  

Those vibrations push me towards big goals, even if they also bring the anxiety that comes with the task.

Those vibrations have gotten me where I am, and they’ve never led me astray.

They tell me this move, this place…it’s good.  Those vibrations were so strong last night that I could almost see them in vivid color.  We spent the night in what seems like a flashback to the past.  Kids running around with sparklers…neighbors, and strangers, talking…cars and golf carts parked around the “town square” to see the fireworks.  It was seriously something out of Mayberry.  

It doesn’t feel like it’s home yet, but I feel those vibrations.  

And I think, “Maybe, just maybe, this move wasn’t a big mistake.”

Maybe one day soon, I’ll feel less like an outsider in the baked bean aisle, and I’ll be the one telling someone, “Oh, you’re fine!”  Maybe I won’t be so terrified of finding a new nail salon.  And a new doctor.  And dentist.  And ALL the things.

And maybe one day soon, I’ll be writing this from the comfort of furniture in my house.  (Insert eye roll here.)

Until then…

Be grateful (for a slow pace of living), water your own grass (unless it rains…it does that a lot here),

…and drink coffee.

I’m a Liar

My final tribute to The Dance Spot…the people who taught our tiny dancer what passion is…

Dear dance family,

Confession.

I’m a liar.

For the past eight years I’ve made this post-recital post, and I’ve sworn that Matt and I would never take our tiny dancer anywhere but The Dance Spot. This year, I can’t make that claim.

In a matter of hours, we will pack up her dance costumes, the rest of our home, and our tiny dancer. We will leave. We will be tearing her away from the place she’s called home since she can remember at the age of two.

We will move her across the country and try our best to find another studio that will fulfill her energetic, “flip at any time” heart.

But this one…she’s loyal. No one will fill the shoes of those whom she leaves behind.

There will never be another Em and M (our sweet McKenna), there will never be another Olivia (her dance “sister”), there will never be another #sassysquad, and there will NEVER be another Mindy (that one hurts the most… 😥).

I hope and pray she’ll find another place to call her second home, but I know for a fact that no place and no people could ever replace all of you.

Because of you, she has learned how to be graceful, yet sassy. She has learned how to be humble (😂 at times 🤦‍♀️), and how to give kudos to those better than her.

She has learned how to memorize five songs’ choreography at once, and what to do when she forgets it all in front of two hundred people.

She has learned to be a team player, to laugh at her mistakes, and how to get up when she falls.

She has learned how to handle all things with grace, composure, and grit. She’ll need those lessons the most right now.

Most importantly of all, she’s learned that people are inherently good, life can sometimes be tough, and when all else fails…dance.

You all know I could go on and on and write you a novel, but I think there are no more words or tears that can say exactly how I feel.

But this much I know…

When life gets tough, we will dance.

And we will think of all of you. ❤️

#thefinale #justdance #ourstudioisforever

Signed,

A grateful dance mom

Be grateful (for dance families), water your own grass (with grateful tears),

…and drink coffee…and maybe a little wine.

My Child is Not Resilient

Last night I laid with my ten-year-old until the wee hours of the morning.

Hubby and I went upstairs to bed at midnight, only to find she was a mess of tears. I laid and watched her sweet ten-year-old hands pick and worry at her favorite blanket in the nightlight glow.

She talked of how sad she is to leave and how all the amazing things will happen at dance that she could have been a part of.

We laid on the half-deflated air mattress, and we both cried.

I cried because even though I know she will find her place once we move, it doesn’t make it any easier to leave. I cried because as a mom there was nothing I could do to make her feel better. No words can fix this, so I just cried with her. I cried because I had no answers.

She cried because her small world is ending.

We laid there until well past one a.m., and I watched her little furrowed brow as she slept. I watched the nightlight change the color of her face over and over again. Red. Green. Pink. Purple. Blue. On repeat.

I wondered to myself; how can people say that kids are resilient? Surely those people have never held their ten-year-old’s hand for an hour as they cry themself to sleep.

Will she find her place in the world once we move? Of course, she will.

Will she make new friends, learn new dances, and love her new dance home? I know she will.

Will she continue to be the happy, carefree, wild-spirited and kind child that she has been the last ten years? Without a doubt.

But don’t call her resilient.

Call her determined. Call her brave. Call her persistent, but not resilient.

The word resilient when applied to children seems to imply that kids just automatically adapt to whatever life throws at them. I disagree.

I’ve spent a lot of time with children, both my own and others’ children, and I assure you that I’ve never described them as resilient. Resiliency implies that kids are like rubber bands. It implies that once stretched to its limits, it automatically returns to its prior state. Kids don’t just “bounce back” without effort. Kids don’t just “adapt” to their world being turned upside down. Just like adults, they have to WORK at it.

My daughter is battling a war in her head that has been going on for months.

She’s not resilient; she’s a warrior.

She’s fierce and loving and loyal. She’s heartbroken and sad and upset. She’s trusting and honest and understanding. She works hard for those traits; they don’t just “happen” to her.

She is not resilient.

I know that she will continue to dance once we move. I know she will learn to love new teachers and make new friends. I know she will be alright. However, she will be alright because she will win the war in her head through effort and perseverance and optimism.

Resilient? No. A fighter? Absolutely.

I love this girl more than life itself, and I will give her the credit she deserves. My daughter, the warrior. She will change the world just by being in it, and I’ll sit back, watch in awe, and continue to hold her hand when she cries.

Watch out world, because this one won’t back down without a fight.

Be grateful (for children warriors), water your own grass,

…and drink coffee.

How’s your grass growing?

My grass is presently that shade of sickly yellow that you see at the end of winter, but I’m not worried. I know that some water, fertilizer, and some sunshine will fix it right up in no time.

Why is my grass suffering so much, you ask? Well, that’s a great question that I’m not sure I even have the answer to.

For the last three weeks, my computer page here has been empty. It’s a sad, blank white, but my mind is so full.

My closet is bare, but my heart is filled to the brim with emotion.

My head is full of thoughts, but the words all seem empty, like my kitchen cupboards and my walls.

It’s a strange place this “in limbo” of moving. I feel like everything is happening all at once, but in slow motion.

I’ve challenged myself to just sit with the feeling. It’s heartbreaking and exciting and awful and wonderful all at once. It’s a strange sort of numb feeling after it all settles, and it makes me wonder, “What the hell was I thinking?” Lol. Maybe that’s where the yellow grass originated from.

Do I regret the decision we made to overhaul life as we knew it and make a cross-country move? Absolutely not.

That being said, there are definitely a lot of unknowns floating around in my brain lately. I don’t know exactly what life will look like for the next month. I don’t know what the next year will look like either. I don’t know which dance studio we should choose, where to look into music lessons and sports for the boy, or when we will see our family and friends again once we move.

Here’s what I do know…

I know that I am immensely enjoying late night Netflix binge sessions and early morning walks without the pressure of the morning rush to work. I love mid-morning Starbucks runs to fuel hubby and me as we pack and late nights dinners where bedtime is not a concern. I know that I haven’t done my hair or makeup for weeks, and I’m wearing tanks and too short shorts (for a 42-year-old) in between swimsuits and pajamas. And I don’t care a bit what anyone thinks about it.

So despite the moving truck outside and the boxes stacked up in our dining room that scream “life change,” I’m choosing to pay attention to the small changes that make life in the present amazing.

I revel in the almost-teen boy’s giggles as we watch TV together, and I even love the outrageously loud girl tribe that is screaming and voraciously laughing as they run up and down the stairs before sleepover bedtimes.

I am making time for coffee with long time dance moms and lunch with newer teacher friends. I’ll miss them all more than I’ll let myself think about right now.

I am spending time sitting on my couch without worrying about lesson plans or screen time or how many ice-cream bars my kids have eaten before lunch.

I’m drinking more water because I can pee anytime I want to (only teacher friends understand the novelty of this), and I’m soaking up the desert sun on my pool float without worrying about the coming Monday.

I am spending my minutes worrying about connecting with hubby since we get him all to ourselves for a whole month. I’m worrying more about watching the dancer girl smile during her final classes and less about the logistics of life. I’m worrying about capturing memories here in this house that I’ll remember fondly and less about whether or not my makeup is done or if the floor is mopped.

I know the coming weeks will bring stress and uncertainty, but I know it will be worth it. I know we will all grow as people and as a family, and I know we won’t regret taking this opportunity that was so graciously handed to us due to hubby’s amazing work ethic and leadership skills. I know the situation will allow us to pay off bills and explore a new part of the country that we may end up falling in love with.

I know that we are ready to tackle the unknown. If you’ve ever met me, you know that the unknown is one of my greatest fears. I like to fly by the seat of my pants about as much as I’d like to have a root canal.

However, I’m choosing to embrace the uncertainty, feel the apprehension and label it as disguised excitement, and be open to whatever life has in store for us.

I’m choosing to water my own grass. Because it’s okay to have real, yellowed grass instead of fake turf. Afterall, that real grass is awaiting new life. It just needs a little perspective.

Be grateful (for opportunity disguised as uncertainty), water your own grass,

and drink coffee.

If These Walls Could Talk

I started formally teaching children in the year 2002 (if you don’t count my four years of tutoring in college and student teaching).

Fast forward 20 years later, and I’m getting ready to walk out of my classroom on the last day of school. In the past 20 years, I’ve taken exactly one year off of education.

Nineteen years in the books. Nineteen years of teaching reading, writing, math, and all the subjects in between. All those years of encouraging students, training teachers, and collaborating with other amazing educators. Nineteen years of pouring my heart and soul into education.

I’ve taught students who speak no English, students who lay under their desk and hiss at me, and students whom I would kidnap and take home to call my own. I’ve cried over classes because I can’t bear to see them move on, and cried about classes who try my very last nerve of patience.

I’ve tried to use up every ounce of talent I was given.

Have I? I don’t know.

I’ve spent the last eight years of those nineteen behind the door of classroom C-9.

As I walk out that classroom door today, I will definitely be holding back a LOT of tears. Those four walls held so many lives in balance. Those walls saw tears and tantrums and hard work and laughter and hope.

Those walls saw a lot of coffee.

This year, those walls saw students transform from reluctant students to eager learners.

Those classroom walls saw tears. Mine, my colleagues, my students, and even some parent tears for both happy and sad reasons.

Inside those walls I taught students how to do long division, how to balance a checkbook, and how to run a town hall meeting. In those four walls I taught who I know to be future doctors, lawyers, artists, musicians, and scientists who will cure cancer.

Those walls saw the best and the worst of me. They saw my best lesson where not a single student could help but be enthralled, and they saw the days that all I could do was go through the motions and hope the kids didn’t realize it.

Those walls saw my own babies do homework, take naps, and play as I worked. Those walls held student teachers and videographers and parents and drama sets.

If those walls could talk…

Today I will leave those four walls of classroom C-9 for the last time as I prepare to move cross country. I will leave my keys in the office and a note in my desk.

To the teacher who replaces me,

This space is special. It has seen and experienced so much. It’s yours now to do with as you please. Best of luck. You’re in a magical place.

Signed,

a dreamer

Tonight, when I lay down my head, I’ll dream sweet dreams of uninterrupted coffee and bathroom breaks whenever I want.

But I’ll also dream of the future students who will enter that doorway in July. I’ll dream of their happy faces learning as they soak in the wisdom and creativity I tried to leave inside those walls. I’ll dream happy dreams of blissful laughter and eager learners. I’ll dream of a teacher who can love those four walls as much as I have.

I hope I’ve left every ounce of talent I had there inside those walls. I hope that I’ve left a legacy there that was meaningful. I hope that the teacher who proceeds me loves that room as much as I have. But most of all, I hope that those walls plant the seed of future dreams to be a teacher in at least a few young minds.

I hope that I have made a difference.

Be grateful, water your own grass,

…and drink coffee.

Humble, Heartbroken, and Burned Out

One and a half days of school left for the year.  One and a half days left until I spend an entire year contemplating if I should return to the classroom. 

One and a half days to enjoy what has been my passion for the last twenty some years before a huge life move.  But instead of reveling in it, I’m left reading Facebook posts about school that are 100% disheartening. 

Even though the post in question on my school group has nothing to do with me or my students, I’m still completely confused and saddened. 

Do you want to know why teachers are burned out? 

Because I assure you, we aren’t leaving burned out because of the teaching part.

We are burned out because we are spending somewhere upwards of 8 hours a day trying to teach 30 students how to be motivated, goal-driven, good citizens, and then some of them go home and have parents who completely undo everything we’ve done all day in an instant.

A handful of parents (again, not mine, but they might as well be since I see my colleagues as family) are upset because students who did not meet their individualized reading goals didn’t get to participate in the fun water party today. 

Yes, you read that right. 

Individualized.  To somewhere around 600 students.  Personalized levels, points, and books. 

But some parents are mad to the point of publicly stating that even though they aren’t “everyone gets a trophy” parents, their children would be pulled out of school today to do something fun since they were not being included in the reward party.  Parents spent time making Facebook comments because they don’t think it’s right that some children would be sad today when their friends (who worked their tails off to meet their goals) got rewarded. 

So, should we, instead, disregard the work from the students who DID meet their goal?  This doesn’t make sense, and I assure you that even my “sad” fourth graders today would agree that even though they missed the party, it would not be right to reward everyone. 

They are ten-years-old, and they understand this. 

How do parents not get it?

How would these parents feel if their child had worked incredibly hard for something, and then we decided that it didn’t matter who did the work and gave everyone the same prize?

Students were not being included today because they didn’t meet the goal that they had more than eight weeks to meet.  The goal parents were notified about at the beginning of the nine-week marking period.  The goal that is personalized to their reading level (despite their grade) and their comprehension level.  The goal that every student in the school is encouraged to meet. 

Students get encouragement from their teacher weekly as they remind students to test over their books and read each night for homework.  Encouragement from the principal and dean of students during morning assemblies.  Encouragement with fun dress up days that the entire school DOES get to participate in for whole school word count goals.  Encouragement from aides, intervention teachers, and special education teachers.  But still these parents accuse us of damaging their child’s mental health by not including them in the party for the goal they didn’t meet.

It makes me want to cry.  It literally hurts.

If I’m being honest, I don’t even know the particular children the post is talking about or the parents in question.  I don’t know which teacher it is, and I don’t really care.  What I do care about is that children are being sent the message that they will get rewarded regardless of what they do. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I think all children should be included in fun school events.  Fall Festival, absolutely!  Classroom holiday and end-of-year parties, without a doubt.  Classroom reward parties for behaving with the substitute, God yes.

But if we are saying that all children should be included in a reward party for a specific goal, then would those same parents agree that children who got suspended from school for behavior should be allowed to come for class parties?

I mean, if we can’t leave anyone out for fear of sadness, then that kid who punched your child and called her a “not-so-nice” name should still be allowed to go on the field trip the next day, right? 

And the kiddo who is severe ADHD and didn’t get his meds this morning so he lost his temper and shoved your kid down on the concrete, he should get to come to the party too, right?  I mean, it isn’t their fault if they learn social skills at a different rate than their peers. 

How about Honor Roll?  I know your child worked to overcome a lot of challenges, but shouldn’t we give the Honor Roll certificate to everyone who tried hard?  Perfect attendance should also count if you missed school for a valid reason, right?  I mean, even if little Johnny misses school every Friday, it’s not his fault that his parents work nights and don’t bring him to school.  He should also get perfect attendance so he doesn’t feel left out.

I know, I know.  That’s pretty extreme, but somehow I feel that if those same parents were given these scenarios, they might have a different opinion.

Now, before you go wondering and jumping to conclusions, let me assure you.  My OWN children who have gone to the same school and have even been in MY class before have missed out on these parties.  Were they sad?  Sometimes.  Did I make excuses for them?  Hell, no.

As a parent, my job is to teach them that some things in life are really tough to earn, hard work pays off, life isn’t about what’s fair, and sometimes you’ll be sad and regret decisions you’ve made.  So, when my kids didn’t meet the goal, they didn’t go to the party.  And they DEFINITELY did not get a special reward at home because they were sad.  Instead, they got a life lesson, a hug, and a “we’ll just try harder next quarter” speech.  Because that’s what good parents should provide.  Encouragement, counsel, and love.  Not excuses.

I’m sure there are many people out there who disagree with me.  What if they are just starting school as a Kindergartener?  What if they have a reading disability?  What if they don’t have parents at home to support them? 

What if I told you that as a teacher, we consider and compensate for all of that?  Yes, for all 30 of them as best we can.

While I will never claim to teach Kindergarten (I’ll leave that up to the experts), do you really think any Kinder teacher would set a goal for a five-year-old with the expectation that they fail and are sad?  Anyone who thinks this has never personally known a Kindergarten teacher. 

What I can claim is that I’ve had special education students, struggling readers who read two grade levels below their grade, and students who basically parent themselves, ALL meet their reading goal and attend the party.  Is it easy?  No.  Does it require effort and motivation from the child?  Absolutely.  Would any teacher I work with make some allowances for circumstances like this to help support students who genuinely do everything they can to meet the goal?  Of course we do.  Does that mean that every child meets the goal every quarter?  No. 

As a parent, do these people really think we WANT to see students who are sad because they missed a fun event?  Do they think we punish their child for not meeting their goal?

Last quarter, I had about ten students that did not meet their goal in my class.  Did I punish them during the party so they would feel bad about themselves?  Nope.  Instead, we watched a motivational video about setting goals.  I worked with each one of them individually to set their new goal.  We picked out books together that were interesting to them.  We made a calendar that broke each child’s book goal down into daily page amounts.  Guess how many of those students met their goal this time?  Almost every single child.  And guess what, they were proud of themselves and absolutely deserved the water party today.

Do I believe that every other teacher I work with also has some type of system to help and motivate children who really want to meet their goals?  Without a doubt.  Does that mean that every child will do the work and read the books and take the tests?  No. 

We are teachers, not magicians.

So, while I cry behind my glasses about those students who will never learn the power of hard work and goal setting, I’ll also choose to scroll right past the rest of those comments on Facebook.  I’ll say an extra prayer for the teachers who were accused of not helping the children in question try to meet their goal. 

Yes, I’ll choose to scroll past the Facebook comments, but it still makes my teacher heart feel hurt and damaged. 

If you want to know why teachers are burned out, it isn’t because of the teaching.  Honestly, it isn’t even because of the workload, and I’d even go so far as to say it isn’t because of the Covid crisis we are still cleaning up.  In my opinion, it is because the very work we put in for nine weeks straight can be completely undone in a day by one parent. 

Being a parent is tough.  Being a parent to 30 kids, even tougher.  Trying to teach 30 kids life skills to make them successful as an adult?  Burn-out worthy when you don’t have parent support.

Today, my own child got to attend the party.  It was (in her words) “SO FUN!”  I’m proud of her working hard to meet her own personal goal, and I completely support every parent who either congratulated their happy child or counseled their own sad child through the tough love this afternoon after school.  For those of you who gave a hug, dried some tears (both theirs and yours), and continued on teaching your child important life skills, YOU are the reason I will return to teaching. 

Be grateful (for parents who give tough love), water your own grass,

…and drink coffee. 

In Search of Happy

“Enlightenment is when a wave realizes it is the ocean.” –Thich Nhat Hanh

All these Facebook and Pinterest posts talk about minimalism and positivity and enlightenment. The pursuit of “happy.”

There are apps and journals and books about it.

Get rid of this and add that. Appreciate more and complain less. Start your day with meditation and stretching and you will magically be a different person.

Well, maybe I could learn a lesson from them all. But if you want to know the truth? I’m not on a search for “happy,” and I don’t need enlightenment.

I need a latte.

Maybe several lattes. I need the kind of coffee that knocks on the door at two a.m., makes my German Shepherds tear down the stairs in a hysteric fit, and sets off the smoke alarms.

Latte? Yes. Enlightenment? Nah. I’ll pass.

I don’t need a quote on positivity or a funny teacher meme about the last week of school. What I need is some magical fairy to float in the doorway of classroom C-9 and declare name calling a heinous crime punishable with the task of cleaning out the black lunch box bin that somehow collects crumbs, flat footballs, warm ice packs, and mystery sticky substances.

What I need more than a cute coffee cup that says, “Best Teacher” is some transcendent offer on our house that includes a trip to the Bahamas for the mental clarity that I’ve lost in the house selling and buying process.

But the reality is, even these things are not the pot of gold in the search for happy.

Everyone these days thinks that there is something more. More self-satisfaction at work, more meaning to our existence, and more enlightenment that will bring us to some kind of calm, meditative state. More happiness.

Meanwhile, I’m over here thinking, “All I really want is a ginormous latte, a chocolate croissant, and a house closing date that means hubby and I won’t be living in our camper with two kids, two dogs, and a temperamental cat for more than a month.

Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe there is suppose to be more to life than what I see, but when you are living in survival mode and counting down the days until you can turn off your five a.m. alarm clock, well, I’ll take what I can get.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that there IS more meaning to life than the daily grind, but I also believe that, as humans, we sometimes miss the bigger picture without even realizing it.

Maybe the bigger picture is that despite the name calling and the pushing and the shoving and the daily routine of the classroom, I have impacted students in ways I don’t yet realize.

Maybe all of the lectures and disappointed looks, and head shakes and ‘What were you thinking?’s made a difference. Maybe I WAS enlightenment all these 20 years of teaching.

Maybe the bigger picture is that even though I’m stressed out and a mess, my children are seeing what it means to persevere through something hard.

Maybe the calm, meditative state everyone is looking for is actually achieved in the moment you stop and listen to your son tell a joke, watch your daughter dance, and see the happy, smiling face of your once distraught teen.

Maybe the “happy” everyone is so frantically searching for is sitting right there on the couch beside you while you absentmindedly overlook him in your pursuit of enlightenment.

Maybe the bigger picture is that through these trials and tests, I’ve come to appreciate the things my husband does for our family and me more than I’ve ever realized.

Maybe the moment of enlightenment and minimalism are realizing that despite the forty some years you have collected “stuff,” none of it matters or holds value compared to your husband by your side.

Enlightenment is realizing that it isn’t about the stuff. It isn’t about the furniture or the things you’ve collected along the way. All of those things are just things.

Maybe the bigger picture isn’t the bigger picture at all. Maybe the enlightenment that so many are searching for is hidden right within their daily grind.

Perhaps it isn’t about minimizing clutter or seeking out positive quotes. If I’m getting real honest, it also probably isn’t about house closing dates and perfect moving situations. And as much as I hate to admit it, it isn’t about perfect students on the last week of school.

Call it what you want, but I don’t think it’s about enlightenment at all.

It’s about realization. It doesn’t sound so magical and transcendental when you call it that, but let’s be real. Enlightenment is a fancy word for realizing what you already knew you knew.

Realizing that the day-to-day grind IS life. It IS the happy that so many people think they need to seek out.

Realizing that stress is a reaction, not a punishment. Realizing that no matter how hard you try, you cannot predict the future, control decisions others make, or identify the mystery sticky substance in the bottom of the lunch box bin.

Maybe instead of searching for enlightenment and hunting for happiness, we should all just sit back and sip a latte.

A latte may not the secret to happiness, but it’s gotta be pretty darn close.

Be grateful, water your own grass,

…and drink coffee.

Like a Mother

Being a mom is tough. It’s the kind of tough that leaves you yelling at the top of your lungs, “Why would you even think of doing that to your sister?!” and “For the love of all that’s holy QUIT arguing!!”

It’s not for the faint of heart.

Today is Mother’s Day, but let’s not fool ourselves. It’s honestly not that different than any other day. Call it what you want, and celebrate however you want (I personally prefer a bottle of champagne to myself, but you do you).

Really though? It’s just another day.

It’s another day that I’ll do the laundry, run the errands, and sweep the floor. I’ll ask about the school project that’s due on Tuesday, force the kids to get along, and wipe down the counter tops that are covered with crumbs.

Don’t get me wrong. Sure, I’ll take the extra hugs and handmade cards and the “I’ll make dinner for you”s, but let’s not fool ourselves. Being a mom is a full-time gig.

There are no days off.

From the minute you were born, sweet children of mine, it’s been a full time job. Sure, there are adult only vacations and those hours I spend at work away from you, but you never leave my thoughts, even then.

I worry about if you have friends to sit with at lunch and if you went to bed at your regular bedtime when we aren’t there to tuck you in. I worry about you getting injured on your friend’s trampoline and if you got your homework done even though we weren’t there to ask about it.

I worry about you when you sleep, when you are at your friend’s birthday party and when you are at school.

I worry about everything “mom.” I worry about the choices I make that affect you from what I buy at the grocery store to what house we live in. There is no real rest as a mom. There is ALWAYS something to worry about.

Being a mom means being on duty. 24-7. No one tells you that when you are pregnant. No one tells you that you won’t ever sleep a sound sleep again, or that you won’t ever know what it’s like to worry only about yourself.

Don’t misunderstand me, though. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

I’ve managed classes of 33 nine-year-olds, students who throw desks at me, college finals, unburying my car after a blizzard, and a failed first marriage, but nothing prepared me for motherhood.

Nothing prepared me for the challenge or the rewards. There is no preparation for that.

Read as a many books as you want and join however many “mommy groups” you desire, but nothing prepares you for the toddler with a fever of 107°. Nothing prepares you for the way you feel when you watch your child cry because they are physically or emotionally hurt. Nothing prepares you for the calls you have to make when your teen doesn’t show up at home on time and you fear the worst.

Motherhood is not for the weak.

Motherhood requires the kind of steel nerves that that allow you to clean up vomit while at the same time confirming lesson plans for your substitute.

Those kinds of skills are not learned in self-help books.

So, where do we learn these super human skills if not from self-help books? How do we learn how to become these “mom creatures” who operate on coffee fumes and fairy dust?

Call it a little bit of luck, a dose of “on the job experience”, and our own amazing mom role models.

My mom is the best.

I’m sure yours is too, but doesn’t it sound so cliché to say, “My mom’s the best”?

Instead, I’ll tell you that my mom taught me what it means to be a mom. She taught me how to handle this “mom gig.”

She warmed up hot water bottles when I had middle of the night ear aches. She packed my lunches for away from home basketball games and track meets long after I was old enough to do it myself. She grounded me in reality while still allowing me to dream.

She drove me across the state to a college visit, flew across the country for my wedding, and still sends me baked goods at Christmas. She listens to me monopolize a phone conversation for hours and asks for nothing in return.

She drove me to every orthodontist and doctor appointment I’ve ever had, and drove hours on end to see every sporting event I ever participated in. She washed my laundry, made my favorite meals for my birthdays, and took care of me when I was sick whether it be as a toddler, a teenager, or a young mom home for the holidays with the stomach flu and a new baby.

So, you see, my mom IS the best. She knows me inside out. She didn’t falter for even a second the dreaded day I had to tell her that I was leaving my first marriage, and despite the fact that I keep throwing curve balls at her (like moving to a state with hurricanes), she’s still got my back.

I may not be the best daughter, but I know for a fact that I DO have the best mom. She is the one who taught me how to be a mom. She is the one who taught me that motherhood is hard and painful and stressful and worrisome…and the most rewarding job you’ll ever have.

She is the one who assured me that everything would be fine when I cried over my stepdaughter wanting her dad and her mom over me and when my firstborn wouldn’t stop crying for nights on end. She is the one who taught me that things will always be okay, and when all else fails, you pray.

She is the one who is a model for being strong, yet soft. She is both down-to-earth real, but knows how to encourage dreams. She was and is everything I hope to be.

Fearless. Strong. Devoted. Perfect.

Perfectly raw, perfectly real, and perfect for teaching me what being a mom is all about.

It isn’t about family photo ops and perfect vacations. It isn’t about big houses or storybook endings.

It’s about handling it.

Being a mom is about handling whatever is thrown at you. My mom handled it. She handled four kids who are as different as night and day. She handled my “don’t ripple the waters” personality just as well as she handled my sister’s “rock the boat” teenager personality.

She handled sick kids and field trips and blizzards with no electricity and sporting events and farming life and rattlesnakes and sibling fights and countless other things that I couldn’t even imagine.

She did it all with a cool and calm attitude and the knowledge that whatever she couldn’t handle, God would. She taught me that it’s about waking up, showing up, and dealing with catastrophes the way one would deal with a minor inconvenience.

I look at my children today, and I am SO thankful. I am thankful for their health, for their success, and for their love. I am thankful that I am able to have these small humans who call me mom (and bonus mom). I am thankful that I can celebrate Mother’s Day even if it means running errands and sweeping the floor and changing out loads of laundry. I am thankful that I have the role model I do for being a good mom, and I’m thankful that I can call my own mom and talk for hours on end.

I am the person and the mom I am because I have learned from the best.

I’ve learned that life doesn’t always go the way you planned, but that’s okay… because when life happens, you just handle it.

Like a mother.

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

…and drink coffee.

Survival Mode

It’s that place somewhere between major meltdown and mental breakdown.

I’m there.

I’m halfway between, “I want to cry,” and still on the verge of laughing those hysterical tears that make people uncomfortable because they know you’re not really laughing.

I’m somewhere between the third glass of wine and the fifth cup of coffee where time is irrelevant, to-do lists are fictional, and sleep is a suggestion.

My brain has so much going on that I can’t turn it off. I’m tossing and turning at night, grinding my teeth in my fitful sleep, and running on pure latte.

I KNOW it’s not healthy or smart, but because I’m in survival mode, it’s what I do. I do it because it gets me through.

I do it because I have no other choice right now. I either enter “survival mode,” or I crawl under a rock until July.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t support the notion of “I’ll be happy when…” or “I’ll be satisfied when…”. But there are times when survival mode requires an end date.

I currently have several “end dates.”

May 20th. The last day of teaching. For the year? For a while? Forever?

I’m not sure right now.

Either way, it’s a feeling of happy, sad, and bittersweet, but relief. No more five a.m. alarm clocks or lesson plans or papers to grade or report cards to write or parent emails about missing assignments and tattling and who made a “loser” sign at who.

No more projects to supervise, classrooms to make magical, or essays to critique. No more parenting 30 kids. I’ll stick to parenting my own three.

June 15th. Both houses should be closed on. A final chapter and a new beginning all at once. Stressful? Yes. Satisfying? For sure. Terrifying? Absolutely.

June 18th. Our tiny dancer’s final performance with her dance studio (a.k.a. her second home). Give me all the tissues and let me cry all the tears. It will be fun and hard and painful and yet therapeutic to watch her do what she loves with the people she loves on our final night in Arizona.

June 19th. Our departure. We will be exhausted from “dance recital hangover” and sleeping on air mattresses in a shell of a house, but we will drink all the coffee and load up to leave. We will leave our home, our friends, and our life as we knew it, but we will drive toward new adventures and fresh starts and a chance to grow.

Maybe survival mode is just a path to lead us to growth. Maybe we have to utilize survival mode so that our souls are ready for the unknown and the new miraculum that approaches us.

Maybe we need that raw, real, torn apart heart to appreciate and be open to what is coming. Maybe it’s already miraculum…in disguise.

Maybe the fact that I haven’t used eyeshadow or my flat iron in over a month just saves me the energy that I would have wasted in survival mode. Maybe the pizza I just ordered for dinner will save me some nerve damaging teeth grinding tonight as I fall into a blissful wine and carb loaded slumber.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll dream a sweet dream of a class of angels that make my Friday a walk in the park.

But even if I don’t, I know that survival mode will be there to keep me afloat. For now.

Be grateful (for pizza delivery), water your own grass,

…and drink (ALL) the coffee.

My Husband Gets the Leftovers

Confession.

My husband gets the leftovers.

If there is any worse confession I’ve ever made, I’d be surprised. This sounds about as bad as it can get.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a solid “leftovers” girl. Overestimated dinner? Sweet! Lunch for tomorrow! Halloween candy the kids don’t like? Enter classroom candy prizes for free. Leftover wine?

Okay, don’t be silly. That’s not a thing.

But leftover Angie? Not nearly as desirable as last night’s grilled chicken or glow-in-the-dark Halloween Hershey bars.

Leftover Angie is NOT a prize. Trust me on this.

“Leftover Angie” consists of complaints about the day, worries about big decisions, papers that need graded, grumbling about laundry, and a dismal attitude about students calling each other liars.

When I phrase it like that, it makes me wonder…

“Who on God’s green Earth would want a ‘leftover Angie?’”

Well, funny you should ask.

Now, let me preface this by saying, I have NO idea how I convinced this amazing person to deal with “leftover Angie” everyday, but somehow he does.

He cheerfully tells me to have a good day each morning, and dutifully asks how my day was each night. Even on the nights that he knows the answer, (and probably dreads asking me) he still asks. Even on the nights he knows I’m going to rant and ramble and repeat myself about this, that, or the other that happened in my classroom today, he asks me how my day was.

He gets the leftover me. He gets the me that is emotionally exhausted, decision fatigued, grumpy, tired, and ready to tune out the world. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am typically a happy and positive persona.

It doesn’t really matter for dear hubby though, because if he doesn’t get dramatic and moody me leftovers, he gets my alter ego. Sometimes instead of leftover, exhausted me, my hubby gets the leftover enthusiastic me.

I come home from teaching and am charged up, wanting to replay every amazing moment of my latest drama production/classroom immersion/crazy idea. He patiently listens to me tell all the stories eight times while telling me what a great teacher I am.

Sometimes he deals with the dance mom leftovers. He has to hear about the latest dance mom drama or the latest daughter meltdown. He puts up with me watching daughter dance videos for hours (after I’ve been gone all day watching the dance in person).

He might shake his head at hearing me watch her solo video for the fourth time that night, but he loves me even through his headshakes.

Somehow, he loves me all the same everyday even though he gets the leftover parts of me.

He gets what’s left of me after being a mom, being a teacher, and being all the other roles I play.

Sometimes there’s a lot of me left, but sometimes he’s left with the kind of leftovers that no one wants. You know what I’m talking about—the sort of salad-dressing-soaked, next-day croutons. The kind of leftover chicken that was amazing the night before, but after being reheated in the microwave the next day is dry, lackluster, and altogether unappealing.

Some days that’s me. I’m the soggy crouton and the dried out chicken. Yet, he still chooses me.

He chooses to be patient with me when he’s tired of hearing me tell him the same sob story about my classroom problems day after day. He chooses to be excited with me about my crazy ideas—whether they involve fourth grade art projects or home renovation aspirations. He chooses to do the hard stuff (even though he doesn’t want to either) because he knows that the hard stuff sends me into a tailspin.

He does the financial paperwork to make sure we have houses and cars. He does the phone calls to figure out why our water bill is abnormal. He deals with the camper repairs, the vehicles that need maintenance, and the fall out that happens when your air conditioner quits working in August when it’s 114°.

He deals with me. And all the things that make me, well…me.

He does it without trying to change me. Somehow, he seems to love all the parts of me. He loves the parts of me that I don’t even love myself.

It doesn’t mean that life is perfect for us. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have to do hard stuff. And it definitely doesn’t mean that we don’t have those days when we both want to scream, “FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY!!!!”

But nine out of ten times, we don’t even have to yell out to holy powers. (Which is good because I’ve probably used up all my good graces by now.).

Instead, we have some kind of strange, unspoken trust that allows us to sit together silently on the couch while we watch a rerun on the Food Channel and give each other space. Space to be ourselves without judgement. Space to remind ourselves that love is not maintained within the joyous celebrations, but rather within the mundane.

Love is maintained within the day to day. It’s maintained within the notion that we love each other wholly. The whole wedding vows of “for better or worse” should really say something more like, “in times of writing report cards and house hunting and when your spouse doesn’t have any idea what’s for dinner…again…”

Those are the moments that love is made and maintained. The leftovers are what marriage is all about. If you can love your spouse to the extent that even the leftovers feel like a five-course meal, well, then you’ve found the smorgasbord.

Even leftovers have a place in the kitchen. You just have to find the right chef.

I know I have.

Be grateful (for leftover lovers), water your own grass,

…and drink coffee.