Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Tuesday Slice: Fear and hope

I went to bed last night wondering what to write this morning, and awoke without inspiration. I decided to read first while waiting for my coffee to brew, and this quote grabbed me, forcing me to reread it several times.

"We do not become hopeful by talking about hope.  We become hopeful by entering darkness and waiting for the light.  We become hopeful by being honest with one another about our pain and then waiting, together, for God to show us a way toward healing."
--Mark Yaconelli, The Gift of Hard Things: Finding Grace in Unexpected Places

Optimistic realism is my status quo.  I firmly believe in Stephen Covey's principle of only concerning myself with that which lies within my sphere of influence--a message that's been repeated to me in related readings and by nurses in a NICU while my daughter lived there for 65 days.  The principle that got me through deaths of loved ones, children's illnesses, lay-offs and job changes.

That's what moms do, right?  We face fear--our own and that of our loved ones--and then roll up our sleeves and get to work, doing what we can to alleviate the anxiety, doling out the hugs and the bandaids, making the phone calls, dealing with the paperwork.  And if that doesn't work, we clean the toilets.  Or bake a great cake. Or fill in the calendar, plan the menus, talk about work. 

Anything to move forward through the fear, the grief, the unknowing.

I don't know if we ever allow ourselves to really enter the darkness.  

As I get older, I find it harder and harder to cry.  Crying means stopping, giving in, wallowing.    

Then why did this passage bring tears to my eyes?  Because I realized that I am afraid.  In less than a week, my son will have surgery.  His orthodontist and oral surgeon believe that by moving his jaws forward and reconstructing his nasal cavity, his airways will open to allow him to breathe fully, possibly for the first time in his life.  

Breathing is good.  So what am I afraid of?  The surgery, of course--he will be under anesthesia for four hours.  The pain he will most undoubtedly suffer, even with medication.  The changes to the face I love, that I look at more closely these days, knowing it will be different afterward.  The four months of recovery, in which he won't be allowed to chew food.  The difficulties and details this adds to beginning his freshman year of college in two and a half months.  The insurance company, taking its time to re-examine our doctor's findings after denying coverage.

I will allow myself to cry.  And hope.  And make the phone calls, deal with the paperwork, plan activities that will get us through the pain and fear.

That's what moms do.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Tuesday Slice: Lessons that stick


This past week has been stressful in good and bad ways.

A lesson on "eustress" is one I haven't forgotten from my high school psychology class. Good stress is still stressful, my teacher said.  It can tax your body and wear you out.

The last ten days have been focused on end-of-school-year celebrations and goodbyes, the major transition of high school graduation for our youngest child, the celebration of his accomplishments, and the preparation for his upcoming major jaw surgery.

The heightened social activity at work and home has exhausted my introverted limits for interaction.  I am yearning for a solo retreat that can't happen because of the surgery preparations...Which will lead to the surgery recovery...Which leads to college orientation and preparation...Which puts us right back to the beginning of next school year.

Yes, most of this is eustress.  I've wrapped up a successful fourth year as a librarian. It's a good thing that our child has grown, will be healthier as a result of this surgery, will go off to college to pursue his dreams.  But stress is stress, and it is wearing me out.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Tuesday Slice: My personal dig site

My desk is covered in a twelve-inch high avalanche of paper.  It's really that high; I just took out my measuring tape and assessed the situation.  The first thought that came to mind as I surveyed this paper mountainscape is that an anthropologist could figure out my entire living situation using my desk as a dig site.  Just scanning the bits that are sticking out, here's what I spy in the dim light of my study:

  • a printed Slice that I meant to put in my yearly planner
  • receipts I meant to put in my check register
  • notes from an online webinar, written on a sticky pad
  • coupons, and online codes written on scraps of paper
  • medical paperwork (it's important, so it's on top!)
  • pretty stationery
  • bills that have been paid, and bills waiting to be paid
  • a catalog for high school class rings
  • recipes
  • a punch card for a painting workshop
  • a postcard from my car dealer
  • an owl diecut notepad
  • a high school football game ticket
  • Christmas cards
  • books
  • card reminders for appointments already kept
  • my checkbook and register
  • a current PTA membership card
That's just the paper bits.  There are non-paper paraphernalia adding to the peaks and valleys:
  • my phone, charging
  • various pens
  • a bag of goodies from my recent 5K
  • three owl candleholders (without burning candles, for obvious reasons)
  • our digital camera, waiting for a download of photos
  • a cute keyring bracelet of ceramic beads from my neighbor
  • small boxes containing owl figurines 
  • an empty Japanese beer bottle--with an owl on it
  • phone cables and earbuds
  • reading glasses
  • patches that need to be sewn onto my son's letter jacket
Some of this mess needs to be filed; some clearly needs to be tossed or shredded; and there are bits I'd like to hold on to for memory's sake. I clearly need either intervention, or an entire uninterrupted weekend to sort this out.  Since neither is happening soon, I'll have to settle for an hour of tossing and re-piling this evening.  Guests are coming, and I don't need the avalanche sliding into the front hallway.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tuesday Slice: Lasting times

High school

Summer practice.
Parent meeting.
Dance.
Halftime show.
Line of hugs.
Report card.
Band trip.
Classes and exams.
Yearbook.
Banquet.
Sleepovers.
Concert.
Graduation.

High school 

firsts
have become

high school

lasts
in a bittersweet 
heartbeat.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tuesday Slice: Constant state of gratitude


"Grateful living is important in the world because in our constant pursuit of more and better we can easily lose sight of the riches that lay right in front of us and within us." --Guri Mehta 

"If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough." -- Meister Eckhart

At ten thirty last night, I struggled with my gratitude journal entries.  I had worked an eleven hour day, had sensory overload from the afterschool care kids filling the library (the choir was rehearsing in the cafeteria), and left my work to-do list mostly undone.  Exhausted, my home to-do list went undone, too, though I managed to iron my shirt and water the outdoor plants--small victories.

It's May, otherwise known as educator hell month.  Throw in an upcoming high school graduation and dealing with a major health insurance snafu, and you set the scene for my nightly carb overloading these days.

There is gratitude to be found in the midst of the chaos, however.

Coffee in a favorite mug.  Access to technology.  Support and helpful advice from friends.  The willpower to exercise when I'm feeling sluggish.  A body that works well enough to exercise.  The chance to start over again with healthier eating today.  Access to nourishing food.  Access to healthcare (no matter how frustrating the process to pay for it).  Hot showers and clean running water.  Indoor plumbing and a roof that doesn't leak.  My family's relatively good health.  

Steady jobs for the three working adults in our family.  Good college prospect for the last fledgling in our nest.  A career I love.  Colleagues who are out-of-this-world supportive.  Volunteers who show up--with a smile-- when we need them the most.  Chocolate at hand for a pick-me-up.  Unexpected gifts from students and teachers.

The list in neverending.  Yes, I could start writing out my problems, but something tells me I'd be in a sour mood doing so.  The to-do list is beckoning; time to start my day in a state of gratitude.    


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Tuesday Slice: Chocolate cake

I must bake a cake today--

Chocolate, 
Like the eyes that declare he is mine
The tan he gets from his father
The freckles from his Irish forebears.

I must bake a cake today

With whipped frosting,
Like the curls he sometimes curses
Blames me for their presence
Yet he bows to let me kiss them in passing.

I must bake a cake today

Sweet, with extra chips
Like his heart, empathetic to a fault
A sharp contrast to his practical mind
Still struggling with life's inconsistencies.

I must bake a cake today

With nineteen candles
One for each year of growing
And learning, and teaching us
How to live and love even more.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Tuesday Slice: In the not-so-merry month of May

May strikes both elation and fear in the hearts of educators and parents of students everywhere.

The countdown to the last day of school has begun.  Parties and field trips are being planned.  Marking the milestones of learning progress--look how far they've come since August!  The ultimate celebration of graduating from high schools and colleges.

These are big moments to celebrate, but before we get there, we encounter hurdles: standardized testing, advanced placement exams, portfolio completions.  Grades to enter, transcripts to finalize, deadline after deadline to meet.  As a librarian, I have summer reading and internet safety lessons, inventory and annual reports to complete, my self-evaluation, weeding, and the last minute hunt for missing books before students and staff leave.  While teachers are busy marching toward summer, parents are busy planning out summers to maximize family time and facilitate major transitions.  The fear of failure and missed deadlines looms large this month.

And let's not forget the fears of the students.  In my former life as a special education teacher, I had to prepare my students for a summer without structure.  For some, school was the safest place they knew; the break from campus was also a break from regular meals, caring touch, positive reinforcement and appropriate consequences for behavioral mistakes. 

Soon-to-be graduates of all levels harbor fears for their futures:  transitioning to new schools (oh, that leap to middle school!), the quasi-independence of college, the post-grad job hunt.  For high school seniors in particular, there's the push-pull of the need for independence battling with the realization of just how much support they've gotten from parents.  I see this in my own son on a daily basis; one minute it's "I can't wait to be gone", the next it's "College is scary."

I'm not sure what weighs more this month, the celebration or the anxiety.  My goal is to focus on the joy as much as possible...and pay close attention to the calendar.