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VD 2012

I’m freaking out a little, all because of a poem.  This was my bright idea, stealing a page from my Uncle Jim’s play book.  Each year, he writes his Valentine, my Aunt Nancy, a poem.  How romantic!  How lovely!  I wanted in!

People say, “Every day should be Valentine’s Day,” and while I can get behind the sentiment, it’s usually not.  When was the last time you got flowers, just because it was Monday.  Or bought a great gift because it was February 1st.  If that’s a normal part of your routine, good for you.  I’m proud of you!  While I wish we skewed toward romantic and lovey-dovey all the time, in my mind, Valentine’s Day still gets to be extra-special.

To be really honest, I’ve always loved the day- whether single or taken- and have good memories.  My mom always gave really cute gifts to her kids.  In Vegas, my first boyfriend gave me a Snoopy mirror and comb set.  In 3rd grade, Comninos Zachary gave me a beautiful, handmade declaration of lacy love.  (I don’t think we ever talked after that.)  In the past, I loved going out drinking and enjoying singledom with my girlfriends, and now, I spend the day thinking about how much my husband loves me.  It’s a lot, in case you haven’t met him.  It’s never been about the gifts, because (aside from the ones I already mentioned) I actually can’t remember anything that I’ve ever been given.  Oops!

Since I was working and Chris and I decided no gifts or cards this year, Valentine’s Day was shaping up to be pretty boring day. After reading about Jim and Nancy’s tradition, I asked Chris if it was something that he would like to do.  His response was “I’m on it.”  The man loves a haiku, what can I say?

Finally, mine is written!  We exchanged poems, and his is just beautiful.  He really has a sweet heart.  My was the first love poem I’ve ever written.  Enough said.

Honey’s to Chris topped everything off, though:

Honey Hearts Chris

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Taking My Own Advice

As a first-year teacher, I had no idea what I was doing a good majority of the time.  Somehow, someone somewhere thought that I (22 and fresh out of college) was even just a little qualified to teach Social Studies to 7th graders at IS 292 in Brooklyn.  I lasted one whole semester and cried every single day.

When I called my mom to tell her how tough it was and how I was so miserable, she actually laughed at me- hysterically, I might add.  She said, truthfully, “You were the only one who DIDN’T think this would be hard.”  She was right, but my good intentions, hard work, and best efforts were no match against my own inexperience or the school culture that came long before me and lasted long after.

Despite this, I did the best that I could and tried to connect with students in meaningful ways.  I kept my cool and soothed nervous hearts when panicked families fled to the school to get the kids on 9/11; I helped to fight racism and the fear of the “other” in the weeks after after the attacks; I memorized every single name and face; I squeezed in desks for a class that was already well over the legal limit.  Even some of the toughest kids had bright days.

Ultimately, it took one girl with a knife- in my classroom, the safe space that I had created- threatening another to push me past my limit.  The school responded by completely ignoring the situation, and I knew then that there was no way I could keep going.  If I couldn’t keep the kids safe, I certainly couldn’t teach them.

The “little missy from Vermont” (as a colleague, who lasted for an even shorter time than I did, called me at the beginning) was no match for Vermont St., East New York.  I gave my resignation, and at the start of the new semester, I moved on to a different school with a similar population. Because the administration was very supportive, my experience there, though challenging, was much different.  I stayed there a year and a half before leaving for California.

I thought about this today, because I had writer’s block.  I just didn’t have anything to say, but to stay true to my commitment to myself, I needed to post something here.

For some reason, my memory went back to that first semester of teaching at 292.  To throw a little more excitement into the mix, the administration gave me one period a day of Writing.  It’s so sad to write this, but no matter what I did, I could not engage the majority of my students to write.  The only time I was mildly successful was at the very beginning of the period when they were getting settled in.  Each day, I had a prompt or free write for them to complete.  The only real rule in the assignment was that they had to keep writing for the entire time.  Some days in was 5 minutes, but it was never more than 10.

You would have thought that I was asking them to do something unjust, immoral, or downright nasty.  They dug their heals in, but (usually), I convinced them.  “Just write anything, even if it’s ‘I don’t know what to write,’ or write the first thing that comes to your mind,” I bargained with them.  And it worked.  Even the laziest, most stubborn kid would do one of those, and it made the classroom peaceful enough for the other students who were trying to write to think their thoughts.

So today, I just sat down and wrote the first thing that came to my head.  It’s not what showed up here, but it gave my voice a chance to warm up.  At least my advice was useful to someone!

Aside

He Who Healeth

Tonight, my back started going wonky.  This is not good news, because I’ve been battling with it for the last 3 years.  Here I am, using my TENS machine, lying on the floor, and praying for it to get better.

I keep reminding myself of what God says about healing:

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;  (Psalm 103:2-3)

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  (Isaiah 53:5)

These are realities.  Our iniquities have been forgiven- gone!  Which means that our diseases have been healed, too- gone!  We are healed!

Soooooo I’m not exactly sure how this all works, but I know what the Bible says.  And I’m just going to keep believing and see how God works.

Aside

New Things

While I was standing in a redwood tree 100 feet off the ground on Sunday, I realized that this was not the first adventure that I had this year.  In terms of trying new things, I’ve had quite a successful year!  In fact, I am really proud of myself, because each of these new things was previously WAY outside my comfort zone.

1.  Scuba diving at night with the manta rays

Night dives scared the beejeezus out of me, because you can’t see what’s beyond your light.  Being underwater was daring enough for me, so I though that not seeing what was underneath me would be terrifying.  Turns out, I was totally wrong.  Aaron and Bee gave us a dive as a thank you present, so I decided I would be brave.

It was absolutely captivating and magical.  The manta rays are so graceful, agile and gentle- and ginormous!  They would swoop right next to you as they were feeding.  The excursion was also satisfying, because Chris said it was one of the best experiences that he’s ever had.  This wasn’t our video, but you can see for yourself here:

2. Rode an ATV and got muddier than ever

Growing up in Vermont, it was not uncommon to hear of some doofus who got drunk, rode his ATV in the woods at night, and serious maimed himself.  Needless to say, we were not allowed to go near 4 wheelers.  And, honestly, they didn’t appeal to me.  They’re noisy and dirty and dangerous.  So when Becca and Chris wanted to ride in Hawaii, I was not that excited.  But Chris and I really wanted to do something special for the little sis, so we went for it!

It was the best thing I have ever done in my entire life.  I drove full speed through puddles, laughing as the mud flew into my smiles.  I went full steam around corners, and I certainly didn’t want to stop.  This really surprised me.  I was especially caught off guard because all the sudden, I turned into a bit of an adrenaline junkie.  Now, I want to do things that go fast, challenge me physically, and get me I have a need for speed!  In fact…

3.  Ziplined in the redwoods

This was actually WAY tamer than I expected it to be, so I thought it was a bit boring.  Looking back though, I realized that I had a relaxing, enjoyable morning from a different vantage point.  Plus, it turns out that I’m not really afraid of heights, yay!, but that I still want to jump off ledges when I’m on them.  I know, that’s weird, but I have ever since I saw Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and they looked out of the Sears tower.

Really, 32 held a LOT of firsts, but these were the printable, publishable, big ones.  I am truly thankful that I was able to spend the year doing new things and growing in so many ways.  I’m sure this year ahead will bring some firsts- maybe not as adrenaline filled as last year- but firsts nonetheless.  The cumulative experiences made me realize that I am braver and bolder than I thought I was- and that I can rise to the exciting challenges that will present themselves.  I’m looking forward to it!

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