Goodbye Little Ones

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Another year over, another year of school in the books.  I’m proud to say we all survived the year with no broken bones, very little wha-whaing, and hopefully some growth.  I know they grew in all the ways that matter…self-control, kindness, love – and maybe if we’re lucky and the stars aligned just right, some academic growth too.

I’ll miss this bunch, no doubt.  Quirky, smart, little math whizzes, and funny, so funny.  Best of all, they always followed rule number 6 – keep your teacher happy!  I’ll miss their eagerness and numerous hugs. 

And yes, sometimes I raise my voice. Bless him that he never noticed!

One more funny to start off summer break.  Little bit was writing about whales and how to protect them…not sure what she was going for.  Sometimes you just have to roll with it!

Children and Mothers

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A day at the park.  A day watching 150 first graders crawl, run, shimmy over equipment. Your eyes never stop scanning.  Your heart never stops praying that no one breaks an arm. And a symphony of teacher voices churn, “Please don’t crawl on the outside of the slide. Don’t blow bubbles in someone’s face.  Get out of the ants!  Pick up your own trash when you drop it.  Please be nice and play with everyone.  If you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.  Have a seat under that tree until you can control yourself.”

I watch the kids as they play.  I study how some play with everyone while others are loners.  Even the loners have fun and smile.  They all play well, relishing the freedom of being out of the classroom for the day.  They relish the freedom of being out from under my hovering thumb.

I study these children knowing some are neglected, some are spoiled beyond anything that’s healthy or normal. I see little faces that have no problem being alone because that’s all they know, and then there are others that need my reassurance from time to time.  Too much freedom leaves them feeling detached and disconnected.  They run up for a hug and then are back off into the fray.

I see my own children in the mix, my two babies who are no longer babies, who are now young adults.  I wonder as I study the needy and spoiled…did I do that to my own?  Did I cripple them?  Make them believe they were the only children on the planet?  Or were my children the ones who ran with unabandoned freedom over every square inch of the park? Were my children the ones who played nicely, including others, or were mine the loners who needed only nature and a swing as their friend?

Raising people is the hardest job on Earth.  Every parent knows this. Raising a child is scary and tough and full of so many ways to screw up another human.  During my tenure in teaching, I’ve met every kind of parent there is…the smothers who watch every second, the disconnected who use electronics as babysitters, the neglectful, the devoted, the ‘I’m doing my best but this hard…can you help me?’

I’ve seen glimpses of myself in all of them.  Every parent, even the best or the worst parent, can fall into or climb out of each scenario.  It’s a given that we’re all going to fail at times, but it’s also a given that we all have the capability to stand back up and keep on loving our children even when we’re tired, or mad at them, or when our hearts hurt so bad we think we can’t do another day of this thing called child rearing.

A wise woman told me once…never give up, never quit loving your kids, never think this moment in time will define them for the rest of their lives.  So I’ve never given up, and I try not to spoil too much, I try to show them that this world is a huge, wonderful place and they are not the center of that world.  I try to teach them to be kind, to be fair.

But still…I look at the little ones swarming the park like ants and I can’t help but wonder…did I do all I could?  What could I have done to stop the mistakes?  But then those mistakes are life, those mistakes remind me that the world is not all about me and my comfort.  I am a mother, and being a mother is hard.  I will keep on being a mother until my last breath because for good, bad or ugly, that’s what a mother is supposed to do.

To my children…I will never stay out of your business, not really. I will love you no matter what, even if I have to kick your bootie while I’m doing it.  I will never give up on you, even when I’m mad and my heart hurts.  I’m sorry for the screw-ups and unfortunately, I’ll probably screw up again. But most of all, I will never quit praying for you. I will pray every day for guidance, for you to find your path in this world, for you to yearn for God as He yearns for you.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms in the world, to all the dads and grannys and aunts who are filling that role. Happy Mother’s Day to my mothers in heaven…you all are missed every single day.

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July 1990

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Mother’s Day 1999

 

Purple Rain

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If losing Glenn Frey from the Eagles was losing a piece of the soundtrack of my youth, then losing Prince is losing a piece of the soundtrack of my adolescence.  And what an adolescence it was.  We came into age in the 80’s…a time of pop music, tight-rolled jeans, neon colors, jelly shoes and hot cars with t-tops.  We had really big hair and really long mullets, high-top Reeboks and Coca-Cola shirts.  There were no cellphones and no internet…we instead spent time with our friends, riding around, gathering in fields, going to ballgames, listening to music.  And Prince was there with us all providing the musical backdrop.

I discovered Prince in middle school…and to be honest, I had no idea what the lyrics of some of his songs really meant.  A friend of mine explained the lyrics of Little Red Corvette.  At 13, I was still really naive.  Prince’s lyrics could be racy and raw but his songs could also be an anthem, beautiful and moving. Either way, they ushered in the realities of the world for many of us.

Throughout middle school and high school, Prince always had popular music on the radio, and there weren’t many of us who didn’t listen to it.  As in over and over. We had cassettes…cassettes we would flip over to the other side or rewind to just the right spot to hear our favorite songs.

Somewhere around 1985, I fell head over heels in love.  My boyfriend and I spent so many hours riding around in his bright blue Firebird, t-tops out, music loud.  Prince had just released the Around the World in a Day album (very different from Purple Rain, by the way). We found the song Raspberry Beret and it became ours.  My sister said, “When I heard Prince died, I thought of you and Bill and summertime.”  That was us in that Firebird…me, Bill, summertime and Prince.

It’s hard losing a chunk of my life’s soundtrack.  With each song, each piece of rhythm or scream of the guitar, a memory is attached…sudden, clear, vivid memories.  As odd as it may seem to some, it’s very emotional and it makes me really sad to lose the author of the music.  And I know other soundtrack providers will follow.  Loverboy can’t stay young forever…Def Leopard won’t live on for infinity…and it’s only a matter of time before Stevie Nicks, Janet Jackson, Lionel Richie, Blondie, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, and Madonna, just to name a few, slip away.

I told my daughter, “Prince was a bad-ass.”  (She’s 22 and old enough to hear it.)  At the moment, there was no other way for me to sum him up.  There weren’t enough words for me to express and explain just who he was.  Prince was cool, talented, beautiful, a bad-ass…and he will be missed.

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Messy Days

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“Mrs. Rackley…I was getting water and my shirt came up and he said the ‘s’ word to me.” “Shut up?” I ask hopefully.  “No…it’s a word from one of those romantic movies.”  Eek…not good, not good.  I finally ask what the word was.  “Sexy,” she whispers with disdain and a snarl of the nose.

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Our house is in an uproar these days.  The upstairs bathroom has been gutted.  Goodbye faded yellow tile and moldy porcelain tub.  Goodbye 5 foot high shower head (kind of hard for a 6’1″ boy to wash the hair).  In a few weeks time, we’ll have new stuff – so excited!

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Before…

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and after the yellow is gone.

We’re also having our driveway completely redone.  Because we waited so long to address it, they had to take it back down to gravel.  It’s a mess, and I found out today, that it is senseless to wash your car until the mess it gone.

All the mess and chaos sent my baby Layla into an utter meltdown.  In her bouts of freaking out, my dog somehow threw her back out.  Yes…seriously, she threw her back out attacking the workers.  Please remember she’s only 12 pounds, granted 12 pounds of rolling thunder, but she has the anxiety level of a full-grown human.  The vet gave her a cortisone shot and a muscle relaxer.  He tried to reassure me all small dogs can get like this…I have a feeling he was just trying to make a worried dog owner feel better!

Happy Easter

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The calendar says March 25.  Most everyone agrees so that is what I have to go with (even though March has been a blur).  Three weeks ago yesterday, I was diagnosed with the flu. Two days after that, I ended up in the hospital, a nurse telling me I was septic.  Countless fluids, two antibiotics, one unmentionable ailment that attacks women who take antibiotics, and I’m still coughing, still short of breath at times, and a little irritated that I don’t feel completely back to myself.  Still, each day finds me feeling better…and I’ll take it with a smile!

The second night, lying in that hospital bed, I finally got how people die from the flu. I’ve always been a major eye-roller at the severity of the illness. Take the Tamiflu, get lots of rest and fluids, and voila – all better!  Nope. Not even close.  I’m now a walking, talking PSA for getting your annual flu shot.  I’ll never miss one again.

While I was down and out, spring rushed in.  More like blasted in.  In my tiny corner of the world, spring has sprung. Buttercups continue to blossom, forsythia bushes burst to life and have already begun to fade until next year.  Tiny leaves have already begun to sprout on the trees, and the battle with weeds has started.

But with spring comes such hope…such promise.  Spring reminds us all that everything old will become new again, that the cycle of life continues whether we’re active participants or not.  Spring reminds me that this world is not all there is. This place is truly just my temporary home.  Something warmer, steadier and even more beautiful than a spring morning in Tennessee awaits.  Even though I cherish my life now, when I hear the news on the T.V. or miss loved ones so badly it clogs my throat, I stop and remember…this is just temporary.  One day…one day soon there will be no more terrorists, no more pain, no more aging, no more disease…not where I’m going to live.

Happy Easter and Happy Spring to everyone.  I hope with each flower you see, each bud you encounter, with each bird you hear singing, you find your hope and are filled with peace only the true meaning of Easter can bring.

 

My son took this picture and sent it to me.  He told me I could use it for my blog.  So sweet that he even thought about my blog…he’s truly one of my blessings…along with his sister and daddy and my wonderful family.  They make this temporary home a blessing each and every day.

 

Many Easters ago.  I love it…they probably won’t!  How I miss little white Easter dresses and a snaggletooth smile!

 

Crayons and Tears

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Miss Sarah, my most excellent student teacher, left us today, ready for her next adventure. There were a few tears…and sobs from one little fellow. I’m taking Dr. Seuss to heart tonight:  I will not cry because it’s over – I will smile because it happened.  I’ve made a new, wonderful friend, and there’s nothing sad about that.

Here are a few goodbye letters from the children.  Nothing like first grade authors!

“You just might graduate!”

 

Last week, Miss Sarah read a great book to the students.

Afterwards, they wrote letters to the main character in the story and then gathered old crayons for her to melt. This is what she gave them today using those crayons. Our Miss Sarah will be missed!

Introverts – You Are Not Alone

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I accepted years ago that I am different, and honestly, I have no problem with it. I yearn for quiet, for home, for steady.  I find my greatest peace in silence, which is funny considering my job.  Being a teacher…well, there is no silence. Ever. Not ever…and if there is, you better figure out what’s going on.

For a very long time, I battled my oddness and wondered what was wrong with me.  I forced myself into uncomfortable situations and pretended to be someone I wasn’t. To say that was exhausting is an understatement.  And then…then one day I read a wonderful article on another blogger’s site about introverts and extroverts and people who fall somewhere in the middle of the two.  Of course I’d heard of it before…but honestly, I never paid a whole lot of attention to what it truly meant.

So, after that one day, that one article, I began accepting myself for exactly who I am.  I began saying no.  No excuses. No pretending.  But still, I felt alone.  Most of the time, I felt like I was the only homebody in the world.

Then this magical thing happened, and as much as Facebook annoys me most of the time, I found other introverts on the site.  I discovered that the world is full of people who thrive on reading and writing, who become whole again by having time to recover from the over-stimulation of the world by simply being at home.

In the past two weeks, I’ve also had two women…two strong, beautiful, competent, polite, active women…tell me that they battle with some of the same issues.  One talked about the panic she feels in certain situations, the other, her need to disconnect from the world after a long day at work.  Both of these incredible women also said that they felt alone…as if they were the only people feeling that way. I chuckled and told them to join my club.

It all had me wondering….

Does the stress of work and everyday life make our tendencies worse?  Do people become radically different due to the hardships of uncontrollable situations…like work, children, dealing with the public?  Do we have to have more silence to balance the scales?  (Or more action, for the extroverts, to balance the scales?)  OR would we simply be the way we are regardless of life’s situations?

For me, I know stress changes my ability to handle life.  Stress drains me like the sudden gushing of water going down a drain. It makes my introverted tendencies worse.  So, I refuel.  Each weekend, I do my best to recharge my soul so I can delve into another week. For me, there’s nothing like being home with my kids and hubby and our pets.  Nowhere else do I feel as safe and calm and comfortable.

What about you?  Do you feel better staying in or going out?  How do you refuel?

 

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Sums it up perfectly.

 

 

 

 

 

The Blessings of Wanna Be Teachers

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“I don’t like the Lego movie either.  When it comes on, I just turn it to Fox News.” – This quote did not come out of the mouth of a teacher.  Nope, a six year old said that to me and two other teachers this week.  Of course I laughed (and began writing his quote down immediately). One of the other teachers piped in, “Well, as long as it’s not MSNBC.” The boy and teacher looked at each other and smiled, sharing some inside joke I know not much about.

School has been busy as always, but I’ve been blessed with a student teacher the past month.  I get to keep her until March 1st and then it’s back to one set of hands.  A little girl told me the other day that it’s like I have two sets of hands now that Miss Sarah is around.  Very true.

I’ll be the first to admit, and I told Miss Sarah right up front, that I really didn’t want a student teacher. It’s a crucial time of year with testing lurking around the corner, and the thought of turning my class over to a college student was daunting.  I also told her that I believed that sometimes things happen for a reason, and that if God put her into my life, there was a reason for it.

Never doubt His reasons.  He placed a human into my life so level-headed and mature, so ready to work. When something is amiss, this girl tackles it. No being shy, no wondering if it’s her place.  She jumps in and figures out what needs to be done.  Sarah is a very mature soul in a young body, a natural-born teacher.  She’s kind, calm, loving but firm, and my kids love her.  And I do too.

Honestly, I remember being her age.  I remember having my first classroom at her age.  A year older than her, I had my first child.  I look at Sarah and know that I’m old enough to be her mother.  And yes…all of that freaks me out.  Inside, I don’t feel old enough to be my student teacher’s mother!  I mean, come on – I still feel 30-ish most days.

I look at Sarah and thank God young, vibrant souls are entering education.  I’m thankful that these women want to teach. I’m thankful that our community has a college that is producing such well-rounded, highly qualified wanna-be teachers (you’re awesome, Martin Methodist College).  Because these teachers will one day take our places.  These young, happy, light souls will one day soon slide into the rooms that many of us are retiring from or simply leaving for other endeavors.

Maybe God sent a young soul my way to remind me that there is a cycle, that the world keeps turning and progressing, even as I get older and my time grows shorter in the classroom.  Maybe God wants me to learn that it’s okay to jump – jump into new fields, new opportunities, new changes.  There will always be new life to take the place of the old.  And from what I see, this new life is ready to tackle the world.

 

Miss Sarah

 

 

 

 

 

Give Me A Book, Please

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“Every day I visualize God picking me up by the heels, holding me upside down until all of the bad, negative things fall out into that circle of light.  Then he stands me up, and I picture streams of light coming through the top of my head, filling my whole body until I too am a being of light.  Then we stomp all of the negative things into a fine white powder and blow it away with the wind of our dancing feet.” – Dolly Parton

The quote above came from Dolly’s autobiography written in the mid 1990’s – a funny, spiritual, uplifting read. This morning I tried her meditation technique but I kept seeing myself as the little blonde Dolly in the movie “Coat of Many Colors.” Still, I think I’ll try it again.

Since Christmas I’ve done nothing but read. One wonderful book after another.  Most of them were Christmas gifts – the best kind of gift this girl can get.  Reading does something to my soul, something hard to put into words.  It’s cleansing and healing, cathartic and soothing.  I can always find something to relate to in the books I read.  A character’s innermost thoughts or their pain…their forgiveness, their laughter.  And man…I’ve fallen back in love with an actual book…a hand-held, paper-whiffing book. (Not that I ever fell completely out of love with them to begin with.)

If you’re looking for a good, uplifting, non-tragic, relationship story, all of these are good reads. (I don’t read scary, gory or anything more depressing than life can already be. Yes, The Girl on the Train was suspenseful but it didn’t give me nightmares.  Always a plus.)


Lately I have been missing the women in my life.  Reading helps. But still, I miss the women who took care of me, who even as I aged, were a step above me; gentle, kind, understanding of what it’s like to be a wife and a mother.  They knowingly nodded when I was tired or dealing with a sick child.  They remembered the feeling of raising teenagers and the pain only a parent can feel when a child hurts.  I miss their love and support.  I miss their presence.  I miss my mother’s hugs, my grandmother’s wisdom, and my mother-in-law’s laughter. I miss not having them in my life every single day.  Momma and I talked about books a lot…so did Dot and I.  It’s strange not having them to talk to anymore, but often when I’m lost in a book, I find them there.  They are the strong women fighting for better lives, matriarchs showing others how to live.  They are the warm people showing and giving love to everyone.

That is the glory of reading…slipping away, losing yourself in the words and then magically finding others.

 

Happy New Year

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Is it wrong for me to say, “Goodbye 2015!  Don’t let the door hit you in the a@# on your way out!” Because, man, that’s how I feel.

It’s been a crappy year…a yucky, stressful year.  And I’ve been reminded that stress can do lots of horrible things to your mind and body…like make you tired and grumpy, make you gain weight, make you have pains where pains don’t belong.  Stress is an evil little heifer.  Mix her with a dose of sorrow and you’ve got a batch of blah.

So without much ado, I will go to sleep tonight and say goodbye to 2015 without looking back!

But tomorrow…I will start tomorrow with hope.  There’s something encouraging about the idea of a fresh start. One segment of life closes, another begins. One day ends, and at midnight, a fresh day blooms.  Our minds have been programmed to believe with each new year we have the opportunity to begin again…I kind of like that.  Don’t we all need the chance to feel fresh, to feel like new opportunities are possible?

Tomorrow, I will begin looking for new opportunities.  That is my resolution this year.  Taking advantage of opportunities means stretching, moving out of my comfort zone, and not being afraid of difficult situations.  Those are hard feats for me…I’ll be the first to admit it.  But this is how I see it: new opportunities could be as simple as being kind when others are being cruel, saying hello to a stranger, joining classes at church when I’d rather be lazy.  Opportunities could be as amazing as traveling with my family or pushing myself back to college.  Who knows?  The thing is to take the opportunity when it arises.

There is tremendous hope in those thoughts…a yearning for fresh, a desire for better, a wish that maybe, possibly the next twelve months will be better and stronger than the last.  Here’s hoping we all find that freshness, that push to move us forward.  Shouldn’t we in the very least refuse to stay exactly the same?  Shouldn’t we at least try to smile just a little bit more or laugh a little bit more?  Shouldn’t we cherish the good while realizing the bad will not win over us forever?  I sure hope so.  Hope will keep me going.

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