Monday, March 27, 2017
No one else is awake yet.
The hum of the air conditioning is soothing white noise.
And I think about my week ahead.
This is a testing week here in Texas.
This will make my library weird--it sets everyone on edge, and regular classes displaced by testing will be held in there.
This will make my home weird--I have an 8th grader. She is in Algebra instead of 8th grade math, so she won't have to test today, but Wednesday brings the English-Language Arts test.
My girl is a good tester, but the added stress is still there.
My little one will have a weird schedule. While she is too little yet to test (her last year before the crazy hits) it will cause weirdness in her day and no recess. We must stay as quiet as possible for all the testers.
I'm no fan of high-stakes testing.
Accountability? Of course.
It if is real and authentic and not biased.
It saddens me that high-stakes testing has become our normal.
Sunday, March 26, 2017
Both of these describe me. I need both to be healthy and whole. The older I get the more I fall into the hobbitish side. This is probably true for many folks.
A friend of mine posted an essay on Facebook recently. It is called "What if All I Want is a Mediocre Life." It speaks to me.
While I don't love the word mediocre --who wants to be mediocre?--I do get the title and this particular word choice, but I would substitute the word simple or maybe quiet.
Is it harder to be okay with simple as an American? Are we, the descendants of those who trekked across the globe in search of a new life, "The American Dream,"even allowed to now just want simple? I don't know. Having never lived anywhere else, I can't fully answer the questions I pose.
I know in many circles it is seen as a waste for a smart person who is capable of so much to end up doing so little. Go Big or Go Home. Be a WINNER! Most Successful of her graduating class probably isn't talking about inner peace & feeling satisfied at the end of your day.
Even among educators the ones who stay at school until all hours are the ones who are seen as most dedicated. Everyone should go to college. Don't encourage your kids to become teachers---they'll never make a living. My kid is going to a top-tier school. Top of his class! National Honor Society! Honk if you love your Honor Student! I was there until 10 last night! #lifeofateacher
And there is part of me that totally gets it.
I'm a Slytherin, an Aries, a first-born child. I enjoy the spotlight. I love it when people think I'm smart/talented/whatever. It makes me feel good to win awards or have a great reputation in town that I'm awesome at what I do. I love the stage. I love applause. I love the rush of making the deal/fixing the problem/being the hero.
But the other part is yearning for simple.
I love a rainy Sunday spent making soup and reading books. A beautiful morning drinking coffee and writing. A quiet evening at home grilling on the patio and taking in the stars.
I haven't written the bestseller, my name is not up in lights. I wear no crown and have no illustrious title. I don't have a six-figure income and my blog posts don't go viral. I don't encourage folks to cash me outside how 'bout dat, so no TV appearances or viral music videos. Like the woman in the essay, my house isn't always tidy and I'm not a competitive mommy.
Most of the time I am okay with all the above.
I'm not even saying it is better to live a simple life, a quiet life.
I take no moral high ground on this.
I just think we (I?) need to wrap my head around the idea that one's life isn't better, isn't more important, isn't what one should or must aspire to by being famous or busy or high-profile---because while I believe this, I still carry with me the strive, strive, strive to do more/be more.
William Shakespeare and Jane Austen both lived amazing lives. My neighbor across the street whose name none of you will ever read in a history book has, as well. He matters to those in his circle. And who knows the positive ripple effects that one living a simple life can make?
I have a former student who is now a grown woman. She is a total genius--so, so smart and an amazing artist, to boot. She has a college degree. She wants to be a wife and a mom. She wants to be a homemaker. To cook, to make art around the house, to read stories to her babies and take them to the park. THIS is her dream. Sometimes her friends, extended family and well-meaning former teachers make her feel that this dream is not okay. That wanting to raise a family is not enough. I mean, it would be fine if she wasn't so smart and so talented. But she should want more for herself and she should give more to the world. So, we don't want smart, talented moms? Only smart, talented CEOs.
THIS is where I find the striving particularly problematic---because while I never said anything aloud, in the past I have been just as guilty of this thinking.
I have no answers to finding balance within myself.
I'm a work in progress, and actually really okay with that.
Here's to simple, quiet lives and here's to those more complicated.
May we all do the best we can do to be the change we wish to see in the world.
And may we all seek to work on ourselves rather than judging the choices of others.
Saturday, March 25, 2017
Baby goats for petting
Essential oil blends
Friday, March 24, 2017
Tyrus was my beloved pug. I was in my early 20's and going through a very rough time as a young woman getting a divorce from my starter husband. I was the girl who "did everything right" and couldn't believe my life had taken me on this path. I was sad and angry and mortified. One night I got a call from my brothers. They told me a friend of theirs had pug puppies and all had been sold but the last. No one wanted him because he was not fawn with the black mask, but rather all black. I took this baby in a heartbeat.
My Ty arrived as such a tiny little bundle. He was the most loving hilarious little rascal! His gentle snoring was reassuring. He was content to just snuggle up in my lap and be with me whether I was reading or watching late-night TV or crying. He was loyal and precious. He never met a stranger and I had to watch him on our walks as this guy couldn't resist any chewing gum or cigarette butts he found. We did have that disastrous Nacho Cheese Doritos incident (who knew he could jump so high while I was at work?) and those pearl earrings were never the same once he swallowed them (um, yeah...they eventually...showed up) but those were small in comparison to the amount of love this little guy gave me. I miss him.
Tallulah was my darling tortoiseshell calico. I was teaching elementary school in McKinney, Texas. A teacher friend was begged into taking in a pregnant mama cat by her little boy. "What if you were expecting a baby and were homeless, Mama?" The kittens were born and she found homes for all of them. All but one. I will admit that Tallulah had to grow into her true beauty. She was a little homely looking to tell you the truth. In a litter of coal black and solid white kitties, she was the ugly duckling of the group. She was lively and playful and smart as a whip. She could sense when I had a headache or tummy ache and she would lay on that part of my body to comfort me. As she grew up she became the most gorgeous cat you've ever seen. She never once threatened to climb my Christmas tree, she just lay there with her peridot green eyes taking in all the sparkles. My husband bonded with Talu, too. When our first daughter came along, they bonded, as well. She was a much-loved family member. I miss her.
Tom was my big lover-boy. He was, clearly. a big Tom. He found us and decided he'd keep us. He wasn't an inside cat, and I knew of his straying ways when I fell for him. He was the most spectacularly handsome fella. A lover and a fighter. If he wasn't done with me petting him, he ran to the back door, covered it with both enormous front paws and used one to bat my hand away from the handle. He was kind and gentle with both my girls---even allowing the little one to pick him up and carry him in a most uncomfortable position. He was nearly as big as she was. We were all captivated by his charm and heartbroken when he left us. My husband is an early-morning runner. He spotted the bobcat in the neighborhood. And then our Tom was gone. I like to think he lived so fully in his time on this earth that it makes up a little for the fact that it was cut short. I miss him.
Thursday, March 23, 2017
Even when I'm just flat exhausted it is my habit to read at least 10-15 minutes right before bed. It is comforting and settling and better for me than more screen time flipping mindlessly through Facebook. I have to be careful about what I choose, though, or I'll be up far too late living life deep within another world. I can't listen to music to put me to sleep, either---I find my mind creating entire movies since I'm supplying the background tunes.
I usually figure that a writing craft book will be awesome in terms of its sheer ability to put you to sleep. Boy, was I wrong last night! I ordered Ray Bradbury's Zen and the Art of Writing a month or so ago, but hadn't had a chance to start it yet. So, off the TBR (to be read) pile and into my hands it went.
Two chapters in and I'm completely hooked. The Muse has arrived and she's flitting around throwing ideas willy-nilly in my brain. It took me almost as long to settle down into sleep as the night before the first day of school.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Each Wednesday my teen book club--named Unbroken Spine by the kids after reading Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore--meets during the first half of MegaLunch. It is always a highlight of my week, and I hope of theirs.
Today we met for our final discussion of Heartless by Marissa Meyer. We have so loved this book. It was fantastical and gorgeous. Kind of like this cake that magically appeared in time for our group today. One of my boys mentioned he wanted to make a topsy-turvy cake for the occasion, but I never dreamed it would be such a masterpiece. For the record, his mama ended up making it and she is a friend and known for baking. But still.
One of my girls was so inspired by the book that she made art with her nails, each a miniature canvas. She texted a pic to me via our group Remind over spring break and it just made my day. They were perfection.
We had a bit of a rough go in the beginning of the year with the book club. It can be hard to find your rhythm with a new group, and the bulk of my club last year were seniors. Each group has its own quirky personality and ways of being. The group dynamics shift with each additional person added, and with each who leaves. We've finally begun to really meld as a group now that the year is winding down, but this year I have only one senior, and so I'm hopeful that we can transition into next year with more ease.
I love all that Future-Ready libraries are and do, but hold dear the power of the written word and the magic of talking about the book with others after you read it. I want them to experience books without having to annotate, or write an essay, or take a test. I want them to read for pleasure. That is a gift that lasts a lifetime. I want my kids ready for that future, too.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Sometimes the most heroic thing we can do is to show up day after day. In trying to create a solid daily writing habit I committed to this challenge. Write daily through all of March.
I believe in grace & mercy & life sometimes happens in such a way that makes this incredibly difficult--and I won't beat myself or anyone else up for having a different goal.
My goal, however, is to write daily through all of March. I need this. It is far too easy to slip into--I'll write tomorrow for me, and we all know how that ends.
So, on this busy day, with so many things I want to say but time pressing in, I'll leave it at this...
Day 21 may not be a beautiful, lyrical, perfectly word-smithed post.
But... Day 21 is done.
I'm still moving forward.