December...when even the GOOD go bad. (Way, way bad.)

This time of year, I always remember fondly the weeks leading up to Christmas in the Marsh house.  I can picture my mother, AnnaBelle, wearing her Christmas apron in the kitchen, working furiously on divinity, various kinds of fudge, meringue concoctions, cookies of all shapes and sizes and petits fours in preparation for the holiday extravaganza.   In fact, her face and most of her clothing were covered in flour for MOST of the month of December. 

My brother, sister and I would spend those weeks pretending that all of the horrible fighting that had occurred the past eleven months was just a figment of our parent’s imagination.  We were ANGELS, believing in our hearts that our letters to Santa outlining our various saintly acts would surely bring us plenty of loot.  That darling man with the red suit always came through, proving that this particular strategy worked. 

Now that I’m older, and teaching all of those angelic children, I have realized that all of that perfect behavior at HOME results in surprising and challenging days for teachers in elementary school.   The weeks in December are the true test of a skilled teacher, the “front lines” if you will.  Frankly, these are the days we like to call “When even the good go bad.”  

Today in Kindergarten I wiped tears from three children, broke up a lego-destruction incident, had at least three private reviews of the classroom rules with angels in the hallway, and watched two marker box explosions that resulted in a 101 Marker Pick-up game.   All before 11:00.

One strategy that I’ve often found works wonders when wading through a swirling tornado of holiday anticipation is singing.  We sing our way through most of the day, all the while working furiously on glittery crafts for our families!   We sing the line-up song, we sing the Dreidel song, we sing the ABC song, and lately have been singing the Rudolph song. Then, I tried to sing the Twelve Days of Christmas song.  (It was almost as challenging as teaching the Pwedge of Legiant.)  In the end, as we finished our craft marathon, the children decided to craft a song of their own. And so in the spirit of the holiday, here is a gift to you from the children in room 120 at Park Forest Elementary.  (We like to start the song at the end…) 

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
Twelve Jedi’s training;
Eleven Barbie’s shopping;
Ten Dinosaurs fighting;
Nine Star Wars legos;
Eight Ships with chimneys;
Seven Porcupines;
Six Ear Infections;
Five Regaler Grapes;
Four Tom and Jerry’s;
Three Peppers piping;
Two Stuffed Noses;
And A Bald Eagle in a Pine Tree.

And now I will wrap myself up in smiles, memories and my Christmas apron and take myself back to the magical Christmases of my youth.   You know, when I was practically perfect. (At least in December.)

Yes, this was an old one.  However, I am too tired from wrapping presents to send, reprimanding 25 kindergarteners ALL DAY LONG, begging the children to listen, packing for Grand Cayman and shopping for presents I don't need to buy.  Love to all of you. I think of you often and can't wait to get my mind back so I can be normal again.  This master's program AND the kids are kicking my ASS.  (And I'm NOT KIDDING!!) 


Sometimes the most valuable things of all are the ones we can't touch.

I've been trying to find a way to marry my love of writing, the hectic-ness of working and the challenge of nightly master's classes. Like anything we do in our lives, it's a crazy juggling act. However, that's precisely what makes this a life exciting. I am still trying to figure out where my "writing" place is, now that I'm living with my Mr. Wonderful. (And that's another great story....for another time....) I guess it's kind of like Sheldon trying to find a new "spot" after moving into another apartment. (It ain't easy.) But -like Stephen King likes to say - I need to just shut up, sit down and write. Who CARES if you're writing crap! So, I'm going to continue to share some of my writing exercises here, so that I keep these juices flowing. I would adore it if anyone out there would share some of theirs.

What do you value? I mean what do you REALLY value (when no one is looking)?  This is part of a writing exercise from a class I took last fall and LOVED LOVED LOVED.  The class was “Writing for Children” and part of our weekly work always included some type of writing challenge.  I found it incredibly helpful- as it forced me to think of things I might not normally think of- and to write about things I might not normally write about. Questions such as “What do you value?” or “What do you fear?” often caused me FEAR.  Sometimes I’m afraid to look to deeply into my soul, afraid of what I might (or might not) find.

So today, I face that fear.

What do I value?  God, I hope I value things that have some kind of meaning, but here goes.  (In no particular order.)

I value simplicity.   I love a beautiful sunrise as I walk through my neighborhood, and the quiet moments stolen during a busy day.

I value empathy, and those who can feel the pain and sorrow that others are experiencing.

I value a sense of humor. I value the healing power of a deep and hearty laugh, and keep those who make me smile nearby.

I value a single phone call, one that reconnects the heartstrings of those who might live ALL the way across the country.  That one call- the two minutes it takes to remind each other that we love each other, is all it takes to remind my heart that all is well.

I value my belief in a higher power, in a life everlasting and the knowledge that I have guardian angels. I also value those who don’t ridicule me for it.

I value the extraordinary beauty of a fall leaf; the beauty of a single caterpillar, a stunning sunrise and a silent sunset.

I value the wonder of the first firefly of the summer, beckoning its family to come out to play.

I value nature and all its glory.

I value the parents who allow their children to express themselves. In particular, the wearing of the Elsa dress to school every day makes my heart happy.

I value a true friend, who loves you in spite of your flaws and probably because of them.

I value those sincere friends whose bonds of friendship ignore the years between contact and help you celebrate each encounter. The ones who hold you when you cry, and remind you that you are enough.

I value family ties, family bonds, family lore, family heirlooms and loyalty.

I value random acts of kindness and a generous spirit.

I value whimsy, crowns and pink tutus.

I value a medium chocolate ice cream cone dipped in chocolate from Dairy Queen when no one is looking.  (Because come ON, why CAN’T you treat yourself?)


Tonight's Assignment? How to Live...and then some.

I am over the moon happy that I made the decision to pursue a master’s degree.  It’s been a crazy year- taking classes, working and then going on a sabbatical. Frankly, I’ve been doing things I never ever thought I would do - which just reminds me that you never EVER know where your path will lead you.

The master’s project has awakened something in me I didn’t know was there.  Hell, it’s kind of FUN to be challenged!  (Who knew?) The class I am taking this semester (Improving the Teaching of Writing)  is being taught by a kick-ass professor. She LOOKS like you or me, she acts like the next door neighbor you WANT to be friends with, have coffee or wine with, and who you want to vent with after a long day.  However, in reality she is the GODDESS of Writing Instructors who can light a fire under even the most disausted kindergarten teacher after a long day in the classroom.  That is a miracle, my friends.

Tonight, as soon as we gathered for class, she read us a poem. It was called “How to Live, I don’t know how to live” by Sharon Olds.  You can read it here and be inspired yourselves!  Then, at the start of class, eight tired teacher/writers were inspired to write their own “How to Live” quickwrites. I share my unedited version here, and challenge YOU to share some of your “How to Live” snippets in your comments. I would LOVE to hear them….

How to Live


Smile often, even if you don’t want to. Greet each day as if you didn’t make a SINGLE mistake the day before.

Be glad when you wake up each day, and thank the Powers That Be when you make it successfully into your bed each night.

Play dominos, card games, board games and charades every change you get. Sing Karaoke even if you CAN’T carry a tune.

Dig in the dirt every spring and summer and rediscover why it’s important to get your hands dirty.  Catch some fireflies, whisper a sweet message to them and send them on their way.

Tell each young girl you meet how absolutely beautiful she is- and mean it.

Cry a little, or very  hard, every now and then. Those tears hold important sadness and they need to be washed away.  You’ll feel better for it, and those future tears need somewhere to hide.

Eat Middleswarth Barbeque Potato chips, great black bean and cheese dip, fresh lobster rolls, a huge cheeseburger and very crispy chicken wings.  But probably not all at once.

Try not to spend too much time angry at anyone.  They probably don’t deserve a moment more of the precious time you have left. Anger, while sometimes deserved, is really a heavy winter coat that should be hung in the back of your closet.

Be thankful for all of the very hard moments in your life- for they pave the road for all of the glorious ones.