Sunday, June 23, 2013

From the Shore

It had been a rotten week. The School District decided I need to move to another school next year, in a different town, and each day was worse than the one before it. The students found out and wanted to know why I was leaving. I didn't know what to tell them, as I didn't really  know myself. I wrote a letter to the higher-ups and asked to stay, based on the hardship of being a one family car, and I received no answer. Not even an acknowledgement of my request, a "We'll take it into consideration", or a simple, "No." On Thursday we took a field trip and hiked up Gap Mountain. Two grades full of students that I have worked with over the years, and that I will miss horribly. Still, it was great to get away and forget about it for a few hours and just enjoying being out in nature with the kids.

Then Friday came. The day I had been dreading all week. I knew it was going to be awful, having to actually say goodbye to the kids, and the friends that I had worked with for almost 10 years, but nothing could have prepared me for the assembly we had. The assembly where we said goodbye to all the staff that was leaving: 2 retires, 1 leaving on her own accord to work for another district where things weren't going down the drain, 1 transfer for a better cause and 4 transfers against their own will. Our poor students didn't know what to make of it, and our staff was just a wreck. Saying goodbye to the kids, and then my co-workers was one of the hardest things I've had to do in a long time. Or so I thought, until I had to walk out the doors for the last time, and down the street, knowing I would not be returning.

When she had asked if we could go to the beach on Saturday, to meet up with her boyfriend who lives up North but was spending the summer with his grandparents in Lee, I almost said no. I only have a week off until my summer job starts, a graduation cookout to get ready for at the end of that same week, and beach plans already for Wednesday. Then I reconsidered. The ocean is where I find my balance. The place where I go where everything else in my life is falling apart. So I said yes, but not for her, for me.

The soft sand warmed my feet as I slid my flip flops off next to my tote bag. I gave him a gentle kiss, and headed down for the water. It was close to noon on the second to last Saturday in June, and school had just gotten out for the summer. The State Park was packed with people and I wavered between being glad to be there, and feeling surrounded and like I wanted to flee. A warm breeze blew across the water, keeping it from being too hot, and I was grateful for it as I made my way towards the rocky jetty. I walked along the waters edge, not letting my feet get wet, as I wasn't ready for that yet. Instead of heading out over the jetty, I turned right and walked up towards the State Park campground. Right before you crest the hill is a granite memorial bench. I sat on that bench, and I prayed.

Sea grass surrounds that bench, adorned with purple flowers. You can see the jetty, facing in one direction, and look out across the ocean. Turn your head, and you can watch the cars come across the ferry bridge. The traffic moving slowly as people made their way towards the start of their summer vacations. I sat there for a while, watching, and thinking, and just being.

I went to the beach the find my balance, and as I prayed, I let go: of my fears, of my worries, of the stress of the past week. I offered up my future to God, and accepted that only He knows the next chapter of my life. Until that door opens, I will be here. Waiting, trusting, and enjoying the gift of each day that comes. Yesterday, it was a beautiful day at the ocean, where I came to realize that despite all the hardships of the past few years, I am growing, and changing, and my life truly is full of blessings.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Play On, Play On

She sits out at the table in the backyard. I can see her from the window where I sit here writing. Her long, brown hair is down, and she keeps swishing it out of her face. More times then not, it has been pulled back into a ponytail or messy bun, so this is a change for her. On the table in front of her lies a black binder, overflowing with white copy paper. She has her phone resting on top of that, and from where I am sitting I cannot tell if she's following along with something on it, or just looking down at it.

She has her uncle's old acoustic guitar on her lap, and she's singing as she plays. She taught herself to play that guitar, much in the same way she taught herself to play the piano. This year she is taking a class in school where she gets to play and learn more than she already knows. Being I tried to teach myself the guitar once and failed, I am secretly jealous. I'm considering asking her if she'd teach me this summer, but my old blue guitar was broken and I don't know how we'd make that work.

I can't make out the words through the closed window, and I don't recognize the song, but I feel like it must be a country song. She's been on a country kick as of late, which I find amusing. When she was younger, her father discovered country music and it was all he would listen to on the radio. He got me hooked on some of it, when I discovered it wasn't all twangy ballads about dying dogs and broken hearts. Her taste in music is as vast as the sea is wide, and she goes through phases with what she listens too.

Every once in a while she looks towards the window where I'm sitting. I can't tell if she's looking to see if I'm watching, or not. At almost 16 she still seeks out my approval, even if she's not always willing to ask for it. I have realized, as we get ready to celebrate her brother's graduation from high school tomorrow, that my time with her is short. Sooner than later she will be going off to college and chasing after her dreams. Right now I'm content to watch, even if it's out the window.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Letter to My Son as He Gets Ready to Graduate

I remember the year before you started Kindergarten. You, so angry that they wouldn’t let you begin a year early, when you were clearly ready. I purchased several workbooks for us to do at home, foolishly believing they would hold you over until the next fall. I thought they would keep you busy, and maybe give you an edge up on the other students when you began school. Often you would get frustrated with them, and I don’t know if it was because they were too easy for you, or if even back then you hated busy work. I still remember the day you read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish to me, and I couldn’t decide if you were really reading it, or had just memorized the words. Either way, I was impressed.

The next year we bought a house and moved to Troy, and you began first grade. Your teacher that year was amazing, and she quickly realized that you were far more advanced than most of her class. She moved you up to the second grade for reading instruction, although I didn’t find out about it until the year was half over. I remember the day I went to see the display your class had created about the layers of the ocean, and you stood up and taught us about bioluminescence. I about fell over listening to that big word come out of your small self.

In fourth grade you chose Utah for your State Expo project because your best friend used to live there. It turned out to be a poor choice, as it was a difficult state to get products from, and that was a big part of your grade. In sixth grade you chose Zimbabwe for your Biome project because it was the last country on the list. Again, not the easiest country to research, but when do you do easy?
Each year in elementary school you watched your best friend move away at the end of the year and my heart broke for you. I watched, as the other kids grew closer, forging friendships that had lasted since kindergarten, and you struggled, starting over every year. When you were in fourth grade, your Grandma told me that she thought you were depressed, and I brushed her off. I remember telling her that you were just shy and moody, and fine. In a dark, quiet corner of my heart, I still have not forgiven myself for that. Sometimes I lie awake at night and wonder how different your life might have been if I had paid more attention. How much pain and struggle I could have spared you. Then I think back on my own life, and if I can teach you nothing else, it is that the pain and struggle shapes our characters and makes us stronger.

Middle School and High School haven’t been the easiest years for you. I have watched you try to fit your square peg into a round hole, and almost succeed. You have stretched yourself to your limits, time and time again. I have watched you step out of your comfort zone, trying your hand at tennis, and discovering that it wasn’t your thing, and then stepping up to be a peer mediator, and shining. You have taken on leadership roles that have pushed you to be more social and have taught you about patience and responsibility. You have failed, and then risen above it, mostly, to a place where you were ok with. When your whole world started to collapse around you, you reached inside, and found that one last little bit of strength, and in the bravest move you could’ve made, you reached out and asked for help.

You have come to the end of your journey through early learning, and in a few days you will walk across that stage and they will hand you a piece of paper that will signify to the world that you have accomplished something. That paper really means nothing. The experiences that you carry forward, the lessons that you have learned, and the memories that you made… they are what you have accomplished. Your journey is only just beginning. I hope you have a great adventure.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Going on 40

I remember the year that my mother turned forty. I was seventeen that year, and it was the summer between my junior and senior years of high school. I was working at a chain pizza joint in town, and hanging out with my friends whenever I wasn't working. Life at home was pretty miserable and I avoided being there at all costs. Mom dropped a few hints that she wanted a party, but because my father either didn't care, or didn't pay attention, there wasn't anything planned. As the big day rolled closer and closer, I realized quickly that we needed to do something for her or there was going to be a meltdown of epic proportions.  My brothers and I came up with the idea that I would bake a cake for her, and we would do some decorations, and hopefully it would be enough. A few of us went to the store and found ourselves surrounded with black and white and "Over the Hill" and that was all it took. We got a few streamers and some hanging decorations and  I can't even remember what else. I picked up some food coloring and we went ahead with the crazy idea that what my mom would really love most on her birthday, was a black cake and an "Over the Hill" theme. She was a sport about it, and if you take nothing else from my post, avoid black dyed food at all costs.

I'm not sure where the idea the forty is 'so old' and 'over the hill' and 'halfway to the grave' came from, but I remember being a kid and thinking about how old forty seemed. In fact, when my birthday came around last week, and I shared that I was turning 39 with the kids at school, some of them remarked about how old I was and I was a little surprised. Some of them were surprised that I was 'that old!', because in their innocent young minds I was somewhere in my twenties. They are all getting A's on their report cards this term. Now that I'm almost there, I don't see forty as old. In fact, I'm looking forward to it. I spent my twenties raising babies and toddlers, my thirties started out pretty OK, and then quickly turned to crap, as you know if you are a long time reader, or even a recent one.

So I say, bring on forty. I'm hopeful that by the time my next birthday rolls around, I will be in a much better place in my life. I'm looking forward to spending the next ten years of my life in a whole new era with adult kids, but before I get there, I need to get through this year. This year is going to be a year of transition.  I've decided that I want to run a marathon the year that I turn 40, and the one I want to run takes place in September at the beach. I can't even think of a more fitting race, even if it is right after school starts. I don't care. I'm going to run the Covered Bridge half again, this time as a training race for the marathon a few weeks later, and I'm going to love every mile of them both. In order to do this, I need to push myself to run through the winter, and I'm OK with that. On the really rotten days, I have some videos I can supplement with. I also want to train for a bike tour, but not until I'm 41. I figure I better start now, because it's a long one, but the ride raises money for the American Lung Association and when I turn 41 it will have been 14 years since I quit smoking. Uh huh.. picked that year for a reason. There are a lot of other things I want to work on this year, as I begin down the road to forty, and I'll share them here in this space, because I'm not sure what they all are yet. I do know that this is not who I want to be, and I'm ready to make the changes to start becoming a better version of myself.