I started the month planning on writing a thankful post each day. I wanted it to be more than a list. I wanted to go deeper. But, deeper takes a while to write -- usually an hour or so. I don't always have time to spend an hour crafting a readable post. I fell off the wagon.
Last Thursday I was so tired. Older son has started a new trimester and had the usual glut of homework kept us up later than usual a few night in a row. Last Thursday however, he only had tests to study for. I was looking forward to an early night.
At 8 I got a text from my sister that my mom had exhibited signs of a stroke and she and my sisters were at the hospital waiting for test results. So many thoughts went through my head. Two years ago my dad went to the hospital only to be released the day before Thanksgiving. Then in January we found out he had lung and brain cancer and he died six weeks later. Here we go again was one thought. We've discovered that she has a cortoroid artery that is 100% blocked and that caused her to have several small strokes. She was "lucky". So many questions to wade through in the next few days and weeks. She is home. That is a start.
I've felt reflective since I saw my mom on Saturday.
I've discussed before how our family is not the Walton's family. There is not a deep caring -- I got your back-- touchy-feely follow through with most. Some can say the words but I don't believe them. My mom knew something was wrong Thursday morning but waited til my sister called to ask for help -- because she didn't want to bother anyone at work. I don't like it but I am learning to accept it.
I've spent several months railing against our school, our district, and education in general. There are so many things that don't make sense to me. So many things I would do differently if I ruled the education world. It has felt much of the time like being stuck in quicksand unable to escape. And like they say, the more you struggle the faster you sink.
And I have been sinking.
I see my kids doing things that don't make sense and I want to know who makes the decisions and why the decisions were made.
I see the mandates that teachers must adhere to and the hoops they must jump through and I want to know why.
In the purported striving for excellence we are achieving mediocrity. I see an education system that is moving to make everyone the same and I want to scream, "Fair isn't everyone getting the same, fair is everyone getting what they need!"
I've struggled and fought and wanted to know how I can change things -- change things now. But the more I fight and resist and struggle the faster I feel myself drowning. This situation with my mom has refocused me.
I looked up being stuck in quicksand before I started writing. I discovered that you can't really drown in quicksand because humans are too buoyant. The deepest you will likely sink is just above your waist. Your friends would likely hurt you, trying to yank you out. The way to escape is to relax and move slowly. Your should try to move your legs apart, letting the sand sift down around your legs and continue this slowly and methodically.
I'd love if the powers that be would follow this method but I've felt the last couple days it can start with me. I'm not giving up. I still want to change the world -- of education at least. I still will help to change the world of education. But it won't happen by struggle and fight.
Today, at least, I'm going to rely on persistence and Faith.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
The YMCA is an amazing organization to work for.
The first non-baby sitting, for a pay check, job I ever had was as a summer day camp counselor for the local Y when I was 16. It was paid for by a special program that found jobs for kids in lower income families and the money from that program lasted until December of that year.
I loved working with kids. Singing silly songs, making crafts, and playing games was so much fun.
I started dating future hubby in October of that year and both he and I started working at the country club our best friends parents managed and where our best friend worked as a dishwasher. Future hubby worked as a dishwasher and I bussed tables.
I learned about working hard and earning a paycheck. I learned about hustle.
Senior year we both worked at McDonalds. The biggest lesson I learned from this experience is how not to treat your employees.
At Valparaiso University I had work study and worked food service --so it was back to bussing tables.
Spring break we were recruited to our residence camp in Michigan. And my love of the Y began in earnest. As I've mentioned before, YMCA Camp is my passion. I knew that summer I wanted a career in the Y.
The Y is for everyone. "No one is turned away because of an inability to pay." I like that. I like that it is a place that is welcoming and encourages people to better themselves. The Y was at the forefront of childcare. The 70's and 80's saw an explosion of latchkey kids and the Y stepped in to provide a safe place for kids to be as an alternative to going home to an empty house.
As an employee the Y believes in training and networking - and not just for the directors. Training is encouraged and provided for all employees to continue growing and developing professionally. The Y believes in making sure everyone is "in the right seat on the bus." This means if you have the passion and the drive but you are working as a life guard when your skill and passion is for basketball and soccer, the Y will find a way for you to help in sports if you want to. And if that turns out to be a passion and a talent, the Y is ready to help you develop that skill and advance if you want.
The trainings are amazing. These trainings are not given by people in your building who read a book or found an idea on Pinterest and read you their powerpoint. These trainings are given by people who have honed their talent and can deliver their message in such a way that you want to immediately implement their suggestions. The trainers are warm and giving and want to answer your questions. As an employee, I felt needed because my employers felt I deserved training. As a director I loved it and welcomed the camaraderie. Sharing trials and triumphs helped to know I wasn't alone, and more importantly, there was hope.
The only "drawback" (if you want to call it that) is there is always one of 3 stories told in a longer conference. One is the story of 3 trees --usually a Sunday story because of the biblical aspect. The second is The Bridge Builder about how you are building the bridge "not for you but for those who come after you." And the third is the Starfish story. "To this one it matters." The story about how you may not be able to help everyone, but to each you are able to help, "It Matters."
It always seems as if someone has just discovered one of these and wants to share. The repetition can get old, but I do love the Starfish one. Today's object is a reminder card from the dentist with a picture of a starfish. I like it because it reminds me that no matter how frustrating work can be, or that public education is a far cry from Y work, what I do matters. Maybe not in big life changing ways but it matters.
And for that I go to work everyday and do my best.
Today I am also thankful for warm winter clothes.
I am thankful for not gaining any weight last month.
I am thankful for short homework assignments.
I am thankful for text messages that let me talk with friends.
And I am thankful the boys seem to be feeling better.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Growing up we had "supper" at 5 and everyone came to the kitchen table and ate together. We had to stay at the table until our mom had finished eating because she had spent time cooking and Dad said we needed to respect that and not wolf down our food just so we could get back to playing. And we had to be asked to be excused from the table. If permission was granted we said, "Thank you. That was a very nice meal" as we pushed in our chairs.
I've mentioned we were a government cheese and occasional food stamp family. We were not the linen napkin in the lap - china plate kind of family. But we did "please pass the butter" and "can I have more gravy please." And we said thank you.
Mom and Dad were born in the 1930's and we ate things fried in left-over bacon grease. We at a lot of fried things. Next came boiled or ..... well .... boiled in less water. Salt was added before tasting. And our tea was sweet.
I am not a huge meat eater. The less it looks like it used to walk about under it's own power the better. But we were a family that had meat. Meat and potatoes? Yep, that was us. I took the tiniest piece of meat I could, but potatoes any way, I loved. And the very best was Sunday dinners that usually included dinner rolls or biscuits. There is something about a warm dinner roll dripping with butter and honey from that bear that makes me happy.
I am not the cook my mom was. I definitely don't cook with grease and salt is for making play-doh as far as I am concerned. I prefer baked most of the time. And grilled is the best. We don't get to eat dinner every night as a family. And a lot of the time there is more than one meal being prepared at meal time. I wish it could be as simple as it was when I was growing up.
We use honey as part of a glaze and dipping sauce on our grilled chicken. But when I saw the Bear on the shelf at the store I had to buy it. Another is in the cabinet now and we use it in tea when we have a cold.
The Bear on MY shelf reminds me of Sunday dinners, Mom's cooking, and simpler days.
Today I am also thankful for throw blankets on the couch that keep me warm when I'm being lazy.
I am thankful for hot tea on a sore throat.
I am thankful for tortellini and spinach soup.
Tonight was older son's turn to choose family game night game. He chose Sequence. Younger son and I won the first game. Older son and Hubby won the second.
And I am thankful for silence. It's nice to experience every now and then.
Saturday, November 9, 2013
The cold and the dark got to me and selfishly I asked if he could finish the novel he had to write, back in the lower 48, and then fly back to defend.
So, just short of two years in Alaska, we headed back.
I had been an education major until my senior year when my love for the Y and camping caused me to change my major to be an BA in English. I wanted a degree and changing my major would allow me to graduate in 4 years. Moving back, we provided a type of summer camp for a foster village while I sent out resume after resume trying to find a School Age Child Care job with the Y.
I received rejection after rejection.
Finally, around the 50th resume I got 2 interviews (one in Illinois and one in Delaware) and one offer of a job (in Delaware). The only reservation I had about taking the job was my immediate supervisor and my executive director. And, being that it was the only offer I had had, I was afraid I'd never get another, so I accepted.
The job had been available because the person they wanted in the position thought she wanted to be a stay at home mom. Once that person decided she didn't want to be a stay at home mom, my immediate supervisor decided I "lacked initiative and vision" and gave me a month to improve. This meeting took place 2 weeks after my supervisor had given me a note congratulating me on how well I had handled programming during a city-wide emergency shut down due to the blizzard of '96.
I was devastated. I had been told as soon as I got in, on a night I had to work as the director at the front desk until 10.
I ran my program that afternoon and then sat at the front desk with a smile on my face and treated the members positively. But the next day I started calling my friends in the Y and -- long story short -- 9 months after moving away we ended back in Illinois near where we had lived at the Village.
The program I stepped into had already been planned and staff hired.
And not at all in the way I would have done it.
One issue was with the teen leaders in the program. The executive director suggested I take them to lunch as a team builder and Red Lobster was their choice. The glass I have had lemonade in it. Someone was going to leave it, but they were promotional and therefore free and I liked the shape. It means more to me now.
A friend who had been a former Y Exec gave me advice when I talked about how stressful that first summer was. He said, "The first year you get through, the second year you build, and the third you reap the benefits."
I got through the first year.
The second year was all me and all mine. My staff, my schedule, my budget, my training, and it was magic. The staff really bonded and created an amazing and creative program that I am immensely proud of.
The third year the Y did reap the benefits. I was not a part of that, except some of the people I had hired were in charge of the program. I had decided to stay home with our new baby.
The glass I keep reminds me that I handled Delaware with character values and came out a stronger person. And I used that strength to build and fight for the program structure I wanted in my program in Illinois. I believe in and strive to live the Pillars of Character every day. This glass reminds me it is possible to stand up for yourself with Caring, Honesty, Respect, and Responsibility.
It is the only way.
Today I am also thankful for sleeping in (7am) and lying in bed until 8:30 because I could.
I am thankful for the initiative to walk on the treadmill.
I am thankful for the freebie blog hop on facebook -- so many great items.
I am thankful for a hubby who team-tackled the grocery list so we were done in half the time.
And I am thankful our aged cat is gaining weight on his thyroid cat food.
Friday, November 8, 2013
Tonight I am thankful for life, opportunity, and second chances.
Seven years ago we had a girl in kindergarten who discovered she had a brain tumor two months after school started. It was a heart check time. The Brave One had surgeries and chemotherapy. Steroids made her gain a huge amount of weight and her beautiful blond hair fell out. She could tell you about ports and shots but hated missing school so she still came to school when she could.
With the parents' blessing, the nurse came and talked with the kids about what was happening and what to expect and how we should treat Brave One. The kids asked a few questions, but were just eager to have their friend back and really rose to the challenge. They never complained when Brave One got to rest on a cot when fatigue got to her. They never questioned that Brave One got a cot while they had to bring in towels for the floor. They never made fun of her for how dramatically she changed. They surrounded her with love and understanding. In fact, that group of kids are still close to this day. They get along a lot like brothers and sisters.
Purple was Brave Ones favorite color and we were given bracelets that said Hope. We got shirts to wear in support while she underwent treatment. The family got our school involved in saving pop tabs for Ronald McDonald House. We reached our first million in just over a year. Last year we passed two million. We prayed; and looked out for; and supported; her, her family, and each other.
And she beat it.
I know the family will spend the rest of their lives wondering if it will come back, but Brave One -- though dealing with the after effects of treatment-- is beautiful, spunky, and still Brave.
I am thankful tonight for life, the opportunity to make choices, and the Grace of second chances.
Today I am also thankful for the sun. It was big and bright and beautiful today and desperately needed.
Oldest had three finals at school today but threw up when he got up this morning. Deliberations ensued on whether he thought he could make it and be OK for taking finals. He decided he could.
Friend at school and K teacher hit her head in the classroom last year and it is on a spot in her head that causes her to have terrible, throbbing headaches every now and then but she is too stubborn to take care of herself and comes to work. This morning she had a bad headache so I took her class while she laid down and gave her medicine a chance to work. Which it never fully did. The other K teacher was going to drive her home after school. I am worried about her.
Lots of little things today that would have me curled up in a ball with a headache of my own if it weren't for the big beautiful orb in the sky still casting warm rays by the end of the day.
Thank you God for the sun today.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
Today's item is on the bottom shelf as well. It is a CD about my home town --La Porte, Indiana.
Apparently the upstairs of one of the downtown bars/ restaurant used to be a photography studio and apparently there were boxes and boxes of proofs left behind. The restaurant owner would let people pick through the box and if they found a relative, he'd let them have it for a quarter.
Some people were going through town on their way to the Indy 500 and heard about the pictures. They decided there was a story worth telling. They tracked down some of the people in the photos and asked them about the moment when their photo was taken. A lot of the photos were taken in the 1960's and '70's so a lot of the people are now in their 50's and 60's.
The movie is great even though they are all older than I am, and I don't know any of the people in the movie, because it is funny, fascinating, and bitter -- sweet. In the interviews, everyone talked of "getting out" of town. Moving away -- far away. Yet many stayed or moved back.
Like them, I couldn't wait to get away. I went away to college, worked summer camp in the summer, got married and stayed at college. We lived in Alaska, Delaware, and Illinois. And the funny thing is, while in each of those places, I couldn't wait to get back to Indiana.
Indiana -- not La Porte.
LaPorte was a great place to grow up. My friends and I rode our bikes or walked EVERYwhere. There was an actual downtown when I was little -- before the Levines moved to open an anchor store in what would be our "mall." The movie theatre had $1.00 tickets -- and I am only 45 people. Roxy music shop sold albums for $7.99 and Wonderland sold 45's for $.99.
Football games were something you went to, to kill time before the dance. And Burger King was the destination after the dance and before curfew. Unless you cruised Lincolnway. Sometimes we'd drive around and try to get lost. With all guy friends and living in a farming community THAT was nearly impossible.
We had several lakes and could ride our bikes there too, to lay out.
Sage's was a little candy store and Lennic's dairy store sold old fashioned malts with the juke box selections on the tables.
The library had Hardy Boys and Little Women and every fairy tale I could want to read. Sometimes they'd bring in a projector and we'd watch Star Trek's Trouble with Tribbles or Pipi Longstocking with actual air conditioning running.
School was a place I always wanted to be. My school used to be the Junior High so it had locker rooms, and a crazy small cafeteria where we got to go to do the SRA reading. The gym had two ropes you could climb if you were strong or you could sit on the knot and swing if you wanted to have fun. And we played Steal the Bacon or pull each other on scooters with jump ropes and guide ropes.
So many things that I can smile at and remember. But I wouldn't want to live there now.
Sure the town isn't as it once was before all the industries moved out, but that isn't why I wouldn't want to be there. Or in a way it is.
Where we are now, almost 100 miles away, there are many who grew up here and you can tell they are who they were in High School. You can see them interact and you can see the relationship and hierarchy that existed when they were young. It's as though the only thing that changed was physical appearance. I am not who I was in High School. I don't want to be that person but that is how I would be -- who I would be if we lived in La Porte. Every piece of my childhood is in that town. I remember small moments and huge happenings and every corner contains a story. I want to remember I don't want to relive it.
I regret where we are now will have none of those memories for the boys. This town is full of already here people who have their social calendars filled up with already here people. There is no downtown and where we live you can't get there by bike from here.
They can't wait to get out -- get far away.
The CD is a reminder that Home is where the Heart is. And that as long as you have your memories, "who says you can't go home?"
Today I am also thankful for treadmills and Cheetoes. ( it was a stressful day)
I am thankful for the bright orb in the sky today. (rumor is, it was the sun)
And I am thankful for friends who share my mood. ( apparently b*tchyness like misery, loves company) :-)
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
When it comes to Winnie the Pooh there are usually two camps -- Pooh or Tigger. My choice is Eeyore. Contrary to what many think, Eeyore is neither pessimistic nor fatalistic.
Eeyore is a realist.
I grew up in a house with two biological parents. I have a brother who is 13 years older than I am, a sister who is 11 years older, a sister who is 10 years older and a sister who is two years younger.
You may be questioning the big gap.
In that gap lives my sister who died two months after her 5th birthday-- because she fell while playing tag in the yard with the next oldest sister. Freak accident. One of those blows that comes between heart beats and stops the heart. At least that is how I understand the story. She was rarely talked about when I was growing up. I didn't know she had been born in June and died in August until I was preparing for my parents 50th wedding anniversary.
The sister who had been playing tag always felt guilty. I wasn't there. I don't know if my parents made her feel guilty or not, but to an 8 year old, anything said may have made it feel that it was her fault. I can't imagine the grief of being a parent and losing a child like that. I can't fathom how an 8 year old must have felt running in to the kitchen where the rest of the family was reading the Sunday paper and telling them her sister wasn't moving. I can't imagine.
People told my mom after she would have to "have another one" as some sort of replacement I guess. My mom said if she had one ,she would have two because she "wouldn't have a spoiled brat" as any replacement child would be. Therefore me, and my younger sister.
This is the house I grew up in. I had a brother who left for college when I started kindergarten. I had a sister who I wanted to be like, because she liked to read and played music on her radio, and everyone said I looked like her. And I had a sister who felt so guilty she tried to buy me and younger sister stuff because she thought we would only love her if she did.
Everything was negative. If something good happened to someone else it was because they were lucky. We were never lucky. We were always screwed. Fear of failure, or failure to try, or failure to set goals were the norm.
Once Hubby and I had kids and realized getting together with my family led to depression and frustration, we stopped visiting as often. I had to save my sanity and limit my kids exposure to such a toxic environment. I did not want to be like them.
Postpartum depression after our second scared me because I felt helpless and hopeless and like I was doomed to be "like them." I could function and did fun things with my kids but couldn't shake the negativity. My TsH levels were fine so my doctor in Illinois said I was fine. I felt it was just the way I was raised and tried to suffer through with it. The days when hubby was here and the boys and I were still in Illinois, waiting for our house to sell, were especially difficult. Our doctor here mentioned some medication I could take and it has meant the world!
Growing up I was drowning in negativity. I had to distance myself to see the positive, but it was still a struggle.
I've thought about it a lot and came to some conclusions:
Rabbit is negative. He sees everything as wrong and tells others how to fix it.
That is not me. I can't look for someone else to fix things.
Pooh is simple and sees mostly the positive and sets right to work to figure out a solution.
That is not me. Positive is not my first thought.
Tigger is so positive and cheerful -- he is definitely not me.
Eeyore's motto seems to be "Hope for the best, but expect the worse."
That is me.
If I go into this holiday season expecting the family to be its usual Bah Hum Bug selves, I won't be disappointed when it happens. But there is always that hope that they will surprise. I always hope this will be the year when we have a meaningful conversation. Maybe this year we will laugh and joke and never want the day to end.
Eeyore reminds me to be Thankful I can choose my attitude. And that it's OK if I see the combination of sun and rain that make the rainbow.
Eeyore reminds me "It's not much, but it'll do."
Today I am thankful for the dance party cd that allowed my kindergartners and the 1st graders a chance to move by dancing during indoor recess -- Macarena and electric slide. :-)
I am thankful (please don't think badly of me) son wasn't feeling focused enough to go to archery practice. The sun has been swallowed by November and today I think November may have been crying tears of regret because it was a yucky day -- even by Northern Indiana standards.
I am thankful for an early bedtime because ...... see above reason. :-)
And I am thankful it is early enough in the season that being home on a blustery evening feels like sheltering in a cozy rather than the prison it becomes by February. I love curling up on the couch with a blanket and a cup of hot tea.