1/30/12

I'll have a venti red-eye, a yogurt....and perhaps a side of Frank.


I was in need of a pick- me up this cold, snowy Monday morning.   I walked into the hall and braced for the onslaught of a thousand children anxious to share about their long weekend when I looked down the hallway.


There, going out of his way to greet me before heading to his new classroom was my life-preserver;  thrown to me by all that is holy and good in the world. 





My darling, incredible Frank.  (Shhh, be vewy quiet, cause he's in disguise.) (And I'm pretty sure he's a "heart-reader", cause he put mine right back together today.) 






1/28/12

A word a day keeps the tears at bay. (aka Kids are the best medicine ever.)

Word of the Day:  

a'gust'in  
adjective

arousing revulsion or strong indignation.  Mostly, makes you sick;  "When Bryce pulled down his pants is was agustin!!!"


derivatives
agustingly  adverb
agustidness noun







Assignment:  Use at least a thousand times tonight.   Or five.





1/26/12

Live your life with honor, and decide for yourself- will I be better today, or worse? (I choose better.)





“How do you act when the pressure is on, when the chance for victory is almost gone? When fortune's star has refused to shine and the ball is on your own five-yard line. Cowards can run when they're way ahead. It's the uphill grind that marks a thoroughbred. How do you act when things are rough? Do you want to quit when the breaks get tough, or is there in you a flame that grows brighter and fiercer as the battle goes? How long and how hard will you fight the foe? That is what the world wants to know. You hope for success, then tell me son, how do you act when the pressure is on?"



I’m trying so very hard today to put a voice to what is swirling in my heart- and the hearts of so many of us who have lived in this valley for many, many years.


The nation is mourning the passing of a legend; a coaching great that was admired and revered by a number too large to even hazard a guess.


Those of us who have planted roots in this community are mourning a husband, a father, a grandfather and a neighbor.  We are mourning the man who passed us in the streets, in the stores, in schools, in the Creamery, on the bike paths and in church for decades.   We are mourning the man who yelled (with his fist raised) at inconsiderate motorists in town; the man who would walk through town each day and greet anyone who had the nerve to stop him, and would gladly pose for pictures with anyone- republican OR democrat. The man who walked by my house on the bike path every day in the summer; who would chat with me about my flowers, or the student teachers (football players) that I was lucky to have in my classroom. 


I listened today as men and women of all ages and walks of life shared the impact that this man’s words and actions had upon their lives, and I was brought to my knees.  The man whose sole purpose was to act in a manner that would impact the good of the world, the good of the people’s lives he touched, and the family he held so precious.   And if today’s soliloquies were any indication, he was far more successful than he could have ever imagined.


There were many people who spoke, big names that you would recognize immediately, but the one that resonated with me was that of his son; Jay.



That he had the strength to stand and speak to a community and a nation was incredible to me.  He was incredibly eloquent, articulate, emotional and inspiring.   I was humbled.  I was humbled because not only do I know him as the son of a legend, as a coach of the team, but also as a friend.  He was the father of children who MIGHT have attended our school, and might have been in my classroom. 



And as a teacher and a mother – I was incredibly proud of him today.



And so tonight I wrap a blanket around myself and I sit and think about the legacy that was Coach Paterno. Yes, there are many who are sitting in their homes pointing fingers and reminding us that  he should have done more.   We hear you.



But today, there are those of us who are wrapping his wife, his children and his grandchildren in love and honor. 



R.I.P.  Coach. 



Your life lessons and your message of living life with integrity will live on, and on, and on, and on.  Your “children”, “grandchildren” and all of your one billion neighbors will ensure that this happens.  And we will begin by forgiving, leaving bitterness behind and looking forward to helping others who have been harmed to heal.



We are.




Weeping.















1/24/12

They're like little firecrackers that go off sporadically all day long. (I wish I would have invested in Aleve ten years ago.)



Today in reading centers we were working on an activity that involved x’s; more specifically, it required the writing of the missing letter x at the end of each word.  (They LOVE those sheets.)


“Sasha, could you please hold your pencil correctly?” I asked for the 900th time this year.




“But, do you know that I can hold chopsticks? It’s like this,” she said emphatically, demonstrating for the group.


“Well, when the Kung Pao chicken arrives you’ll be golden, but right now we’re writing the letter x.  Now, for all that is holy would you please hold your pencil properly?”




“Awww…you’re no fun!”






(Wait.  Didn’t we just play one THOUSAND games of four corners?  Didn’t we?? Oh, how soon they forget….)







1/23/12

"Boys and Girls, could you play for a few minutes while I perform CPR on myself? Thanks."

I stared at the screen, still in shock.   Surely I was seeing things.  It wasn't REALLY a note from Clint, was it? The person I once loved very much, the guy who was my first big girl love, and the person who lifted and carried me through the first of many incredibly painful moments in my life; was it really him?


I quickly walked away from my desk to monitor the Kid Writing, and to try to wrap my head around what just happened.  I paced the room over and over, and I had to shake my head several times to try help me think clearly.


I had thought about him sporadically through the years, wondering what kind of path he had walked.  I had ended our relationship badly and we both reacted in ways that were unbecoming to young adults.  I chalked it up to a life lesson and I like to think that it was a stepping stone on my path to becoming a reasonable and responsible adult.



And now he was here; on my screen and waking me up.



I avoided the computer for the rest of the day, and wondered how in the world he had actually found me. I questioned the "found you on Google" part, as even I couldn't find myself on Google using my maiden name.



It took hot bath, a cocktail and a shot of "why not" to reply to his email.



"Dear Clint,



Yes, this is me...and what a surprise to hear from you!  Yes, I think it would be lovely to chat.  After 30 years, however, I think we might need a big chunk of time...



Looking forward to hearing from you,


Vodka. "






Oh. Sweet. Lord.  Did I just open the front door?





I think I did...

1/21/12

Cowards die many times before their deaths The valiant never taste of death but once...(Bill Shakespeare)

As we sit upon our couches dreaming of the victorious years, our hearts go out to the family of a legend.


We wait, with a glimmer of hope, and pray that the specter that reaches out in the middle of the night waits a bit longer before claiming the soul of a man we have loved for a very, very long time.


We send prayers to his children, his wife, and those who have wrapped him in love all these many years.  May the next part of your journey be incredible...











1/18/12

A hot bath and a glass of wine - it's like peanut butter and jelly. Only way better.


The top five reasons I took a glass of wine to my bathtub at 7:45 tonight: 
.

1.     We sang “Sing about Martin” at least a thousand times today. Then I spent fifteen minutes persuading Jack that singing “Jingle Bells Batman Smells” was STILL not appropriate in kindergarten. 
2.    We played a rousing game of four corners, and after closing my eyes and counting to twenty I opened them to discover that I was holding a plastic tiger by the tail. I didn’t even KNOW I had a plastic tiger in the room.  (I am losing my mind.) 
3.    It took me ten minutes to convince Sally that we don’t say “Hell to the No” in kindergarten. (And especially not to the teacher.)
4.    After teaching the kids that camels can close their nostrils in order to keep the sand out, I watched George spend his “craft time” trying his hardest to keep his own nostrils shut.  It was not pretty.
5.    Bryce decided to moon the jam-packed cafeteria today after he emptied his lunch tray.  He claims the devil made him do it.   





Today?  The kids won;  hands down. 

1/17/12

They have special powers - and if I could bottle them, I surely would.




I watched this week as our beloved classroom paraprofessional put one foot in front of the other and joined us at school. 

I knew in my heart that the children would provide an incredible distraction to her heartache, having experienced it myself five years ago.  And while I would never begin to compare the loss of my nephew to the loss of her son, I can say that my visits to the land of despair have given me a glimpse into the painful fog she finds herself in today.


I watched Monday as the children ran to her, hugged her, and lifted her when she needed it.  And then today they began to remember why her heart was broken.   There were questions sprinkled throughout the day, and hugs and comments that were hidden yesterday.




I happened to walk by her center today as Francis looked at her in wonder.  “Mrs. F. - Does it hurt?” 



Mrs. FixesIt looked at her with love and nodded.    “Yes, it does hurt.”



Francis watched quietly.  (Which was a miracle in itself.)


“It hurts very much," she continued,  "But you know what? Your smiles and hugs – they make it feel better. They really, really do.”


And our Francis, who has talked (and screamed) non-stop for 84 days, sat quietly.  She nodded at Ms. F., and returned to her coloring.







And as much as I adore her, I have never loved her more as I did at that moment.




It's a moment I will never forget.  And I'm pretty sure that Mrs. F. will some day say the same...


  




1/16/12

That day? THAT day? We are all praying for that glorious day...

"I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."






"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."   MLK. 






You said it all so very well, Martin.  And teachers, mothers, leaders and others are repeating your words every single day in the hopes that they will stick. 









1/14/12

Words are powerful weapons- use them wisely. (And when using them for good? Use as often as you can...)


I had an incredible opportunity to visit an old friend of mine in Chicago this weekend.  (I’m pretty sure you know what I’m talking about…)  While I’m not  ready to talk about the details, I have GOT to share this story.



I took a small plane  to return from Chicago to Washington/Dulles airport.  (Which is conveniently close to OREGON.)  The flight filled with young men who were obviously members of the United States Army.  Being a Navy brat, I am always incredibly honored to be in the presence of boys, girls, women and men who offer their LIVES in service to our country.  Honestly.  Every time I see a soldier I am humbled beyond belief-I can’t explain it.

We boarded the plane, and I found myself sitting alone at the rear of the plane with the young, jovial servicemen surrounding me.   I listened to their humorous banter, and couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Some of the boys noticed, and began taking turns sitting next to me, engaging in fun, wonderful conversations!   While several of them insisted on buying me cocktails, I reminded them that it was 9:00 a.m., and MOST people didn’t enjoy cocktails that early.


I had a lovely flight, and thanked God for incredible young people like these fellows who not only committed their lives to their country, but who smiled and laughed with this particular kindergarten teacher.


Our plane landed and we all scrambled to make a mad dash to the terminal where our next flights were waiting.   I made my way to the shuttle that was to take me to the proper terminal for my next flight.

Imagine my surprise when I walked onto the shuttle and saw the same army men from my previous flight!  They saw me board the shuttle, pointed to me and said smiling,  “Hey! We were all just talking about you!” 


I smiled and laughed. We visited a bit, and at one point one young man pointed to my shiny red Dansko’s shoes. “Those shoes are awesome.”

I smiled, and told them that my daughter, who worked at a kick-@$$ shoe store,  had given me them for my birthday.

“Daughter? You can NOT have a daughter old enough to buy you those shoes!” one of the young men said emphatically. 


I smiled.  “How old do you think I am?” I asked them.


They shouted numbers like 30, 40, 42, 43 and other glorious numbers that I have not uttered in YEARS.

 

“Guys,” I said smiling, “I am,” and I held up one hand that said FIVE and another that said TWO.”


Each of them, all SEVEN of them uttered shouts of disbelief. (And that lifted me MORE than you know!)


“Oh my GOD!” one of them said, “You are NOT FIFTY-TWO!”



The rest of the ride was spent convincing them I was, and then we smiled as we parted ways. 


We all ran to our prospective terminals, and I couldn’t stop laughing as I thought of how proud their parents must be of them.


I was startled when I heard someone shout “Hey!!  Hey Vodka!” and turned to see one of the young men (who I remember looking at me intently) come running towards me. I stood up, worried that something might be wrong!


“Hi,” he said breathlessly, “ I just wanted to say something.” 


I looked at him smiling.


“You are the best looking fifty-two year old woman I have EVER MET!”   He smiled and winked at me. “I just wanted to tell you that.”




He turned and ran for his flight before I had a chance to thank him.  





And that makes me sad.  Cause I would LOVE to have gotten his mother’s address to send her a thank- you card.   




She raised one HELL of a son.






1/12/12

It’s not Avon Calling. (So answer the dang door.)



As a kindergarten teacher, I am constantly moving quickly from one activity to another.  Sprinkled throughout this spastic chicken dance, are hundreds of redirections, reminders, scoldings, compliments and words of positive re-enforcement. 


Perched upon a tabletop in the corner of my room is my open laptop.  I keep my email open and at the ready for notes from the secretaries, pleas for last minute supplies from fellow teachers, and reminders from parents who might have forgotten to send something in with their child.  (As the past president of the FPO- Forgetful Parent Organization, I can totally sympathize with every single stressed parent.)

I took a moment yesterday during snack to quickly glance in my inbox, when my eyes caught an unfamiliar email address.  I reminded the children to not talk while eating (for the four-THOUSANDTH time) and sat in my chair.

I looked at the email again.   I opened it.


Hi Vodka.  It’s me.
A friend of mine found some of his old friends though Google, and I’ve been trying for a while to find you.  Imagine my surprise when I did…  I hope this really is you.  Please email me back, cause I would love to catch up and see what you are up to.   Please, please email me back.

Clint.   (Now he didn’t say THIS part, but I will.  YOUR OLD COLLEGE BOYFRIEND.)










Oh.    My.   God.  








1/11/12

I'm pretty sure I wouldn't fit into one of THOSE, either.


We were working furiously on our “Animals of the Forest” books during reading this morning, when Sasha remembered something from the night before.



“Hey!  I saw Ms. Perky lasternight when I was at swimming lessons!”



“I didn’t know you were taking swimming lessons!” I said.  “What kind of cool bathing suit do you have?”



“It’s a zucchini.  And it’s pink and bwue!”







I don’t know about her, but putting on a zucchini in January gives me the shivers….






(Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, indeed.)

1/9/12

He’s like an old penny; or a bad dream, I can’t decide. (Rhymes with Rank.

 


I saw Frank today at outdoor recess.  He was laying on one of the benches with his arms sticking straight out and stiff as a board. 




He was pretending to be his grandmother.    She’s dead.






I don’t know why I even bothered to ask. 

1/8/12

I'll see your medium and raise you a warrior..


As I stood in front of my mirror this morning, I looked into the eyes of the woman I have always wanted to be, and I was thankful.


I sat on my bed, and my thoughts suddenly went back to that night several years ago when I was shaken to the core.   You remember, don’t you, that day that I finally took my friend’s advice and went on a visit to her medium? 



I shared most of what happened that day, but never the one thing she said to me as I turned to leave. 



The medium, a gorgeous woman who lived in a beautiful mansion above the country club, informed me at the outset that she only shared “good” stuff during a reading.  She was working with angels, etc., and insisted again that she only tells a “client” the good stuff.  I was a bit relieved at that cause honestly I did NOT want to know when my own appointment with the grim reaper would be.


She shared all kinds of things, and I said very little about myself.  In fact, I only confirmed or denied any of the information she was offering me. (And honestly, there were some aspects about my life, and marriage, that I had not shared with anyone; not even my very closest of friends.)



When all was said and done, we laughed, talked about something light and I stood to leave.  She said my name sharply, and I turned. 


She looked at me and grasped my hand.  “I have to say something.  I’m sorry, but I really have to say something.”  She looked me in the eye. 



“You HAVE to get out of this marriage.  Repair some things, do what you have to do, but GET OUT.  Do you understand me?”




I looked at her, shocked, and nodded my head. 






Today, when I stared into the mirror I smiled.    I have fought a tough battle...but even with the scars here and there, I am happier than I have been in a long, long, long time.  And, I can finally say, I am proud of the woman who is walking away from the battlefield.







(Hear me roar.)

1/5/12

And that is why I’ll never, ever, ever retire. (maybe…)





Today I was doing some quick assessments on the kiddos, when it was Jack’s turn.



I pointed to a picture of a fire-truck, and asked, “Fire-truck; what's the first letter sound that you hear?”



He looks at me quizzically.




I repeated the word, and the question. “Fire-truck; what sound do you hear, Jack?”





He looked at me again, and said, “Woooooooooooo woooooo!”








He’s gifted.


1/3/12

Sometimes angels are five years-old. (And named Albert.)



I spent a bit of time this morning during Morning Meeting explaining to the children why Mrs. KeepsMeOutOfTrouble wasn’t in school.  Some of the children knew, and I struggled to find the words.

I began by explaining that she had suffered a loss in her family, and immediately several children piped up.   Apparently there were some important discussions at the homes of these children last night, and for that I was thankful.

We talked about broken hearts, sadness, love and angels.  


And after a long morning filled with incredible emotion and exhausting conversations, I sat in my chair feeling a bit overwhelmed.  It was then that Lord Albert came up to me quietly, thrusting a package into my hand.

“Mrs. Smythe, I forgot to give this to you before Christmas.  Here,” he said with small smile. 


I opened the tiny package, still a bit numb from the morning, and was stunned.  It was the one thing that lifts us all when we are in the deepest of despair.  The one thing that has kept me swimming towards the surface.





Thank you, Albert; thank you.

1/2/12

101 Ways to shock your mother. (If you can even figure out WHO the mother is...)




The girls and I were sitting around the table the other night, engaged in some kind of heated discussion.  Bitchy stopped suddenly and looked at me.


“Mother,” she said sternly, “Sassy and I have decided that it’s time you started dating.”


“Ummm.”



"We also decided that you have to join either Match.com or E-harmony.  Also, dinners only- no funny business," she added while wagging her finger at me.



“YEAH!” shouted Sassy. “Nothing crazy.  The last thing I want to do is picture my mother getting it on with somebody.  Ewww.”








That’s funny, cause I tend to think the same thing about THEM. 


1/1/12

"Death aims only once, but never misses." (And that is quite tragic...)




I think about that specter; the one that knocks on the door deep in the night and steals your heart away.   The one that claims the people you least expect, and whisks them to heaven with nary a good-bye.


I have lived in the aftermath of his work far too many a time, and wonder at his methods.  I understand all too well that none of us ever, EVER gets out of this alive, but come on.  Kids?  KIDS?  I am a firm believer that no parent should ever have to bury a child; a child of 9, 16 or 30.   The numbers mean nothing.  The fact that it’s someone’s child means everything.



I am now wrapping my arms around my darling, amazing friend and her family.  They are preparing to bury her only boy, who after 26 years of a painful and troubled life spotted with many medical issues - had it end unexpectedly.  



I have no words for the sorrow we find ourselves swallowed by.



I have a sense of the path she is destined to travel, as I have held the hand of another amazing woman who is still finding her way.   (And Anna, my prayers fly upon wings each night and make their way to your home.)


I am carrying tissues, baked goods, love and courage in my bag tomorrow and traveling once again to that dark corner of the forest I’ve tried so very hard to avoid.  (I can find it in my sleep.  And that’s not a good thing.)