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--

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. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tuesday Slice: Earliest post ever

1:12 am
on a school night
up for the last three hours
waiting on a flight
that brings home my son

he will be exhausted
has texted
"Can I stay home today?"
how can I say no
sleep is important

except for this mom
who needs to go to work today
who napped 
on the couch after work
for three hours

hoping for two more
after the airport
after the "Glad you're home"
after we all collapse
under one roof again

before my day begins at 5:00 am


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tuesday Slice: Love the learning

It's mid-April, which means one thing for Texas librarians:  Annual Conference.

The Texas Library Association puts on a massive conference each April.  Thousands of librarians from all over the state and all kinds of settings--school, public, and academic libraries--converge on one major city for days of meetings, workshops, breakfasts and lunches with authors, and shopping with vendors.

I am lucky that our district supports librarians, and supports our attendance of the TLA Annual Conference.  Last year, I spoke with a librarian who had been at her job for ten years and was attending for the very first time.  I'm only four years into this career, and this is my fifth TLA--I attended as a library science student, too, when it was held in Austin.  

I go the the annual conference for the learning.  Tomorrow is Tech Camp, where I'm hoping to pick up some new Google tricks and ways to use technology in the library.  Then I'm off to meet some Bluebonnet Nominee authors; I'll be sharing my notes from that session with my students.  Thursday brings workshops on information literacy, library programming, and time to peruse the immense vendor floor.  On Friday, I get to have breakfast with a teacher from my school who's attending for TLA Teacher Day, and we get to meet Mac Barnett!  More workshops follow, as well as the Bluebonnet Award luncheon and a 5K to top off the day.  Saturday opens with a breakfast with Kevin Henkes (!) and closes with a keynote by Chelsea Clinton.

My bags and snacks are packed, my sub plans almost ready to go. TLA, here I come!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tuesday Slice: The good ol' days? No, thank you

Last week, a friend and colleague shared some medical news regarding her child.  An MRI had provided much needed--and extremely helpful--information regarding her child's struggles in learning to walk.  As a result, they now have options for treatment, and reasonable hope for improvement.

This news reminded me of the medical struggles of my firstborn.  When she arrived at twenty-six weeks gestation, surfactant was "shot" into her lungs to allow them to expand, and she was breathing without a ventilator within twenty-four hours.  I was told that had she been born three years earlier, that medicine would not have been available, and she probably wouldn't have survived.

MRIs, surfactant...medicine has come so far in the past sixty years.  Had my friend's child been born back then, she might have been institutionalized.  My child certainly would not have survived the day.

There's more than just medical advances to ponder, though.

Back in the "good ol' days", I wouldn't have had friends of many colors at school. My academic abilities might not have been nurtured, nor would I have been encouraged to go to college.  I certainly wouldn't have had roommates of different ethnicities, who introduced me to their cultures and taught me tolerance and opened my eyes to prejudice.  I wouldn't be working in schools that are microcosms of the diversity of our country.  My original teaching position wouldn't have existed, as students with special needs were not included and served in public education.  

I wouldn't have been able to sign my own lease on an apartment, or have a credit card in my own name.  When I married, I wouldn't have had access to the family planning options available now, especially the ones that have kept me alive, since I ran the risk of dying in childbirth.  I wouldn't get to openly acknowledge and support the same-sex relationships of friends and family.

Advances in pollution control, environmental safety, technology and communication affect my life in positive ways on a daily basis.  Even something as simple as smoking bans in public places make life better for us all.  The growing acceptance of our differences, in ways that increase love and diminish hate, make us better people.

I'll take the present over the good ol' days, thank you very much.  

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Tuesday Slice: I think I can, I know I can...help others

We had an author visit at our campus yesterday.  Carmen Oliver treated our kindergarteners and first graders to stories of her reading life as a child and the story she's published, Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies

The teachers and myself in the over-forty-demographic sighed as she spoke about her favorite childhood books--Dr Seuss, The Tawny Scrawny Lion, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, and The Little Engine That Could.

I hadn't thought about Watty Piper's classic train tale in quite awhile.  Listening to Carmen summarize the story and its message for the students, I was filled once again with that little engine's determination and optimism.  

Another thought occurred to me this morning.  That little engine had a clear purpose, an envisioned goal that served others in a worthy cause.  When we reference Piper's book, we often focus on the perseverance aspect, which I can certainly relate to after finishing the March Slice of Life Challenge and blogging everyday.  I thought I could, and now know that I can.  But maybe we need to focus on the act of service the engine performed.  It worked hard, not just for itself, but for the good of those in need. In the end, the engine celebrated not just its own accomplishment, but the completion of a task that brought happiness to a whole town.

I think that act of service might be the most important lesson in The Little Engine That Could. It would certainly make a better filibuster than Green Eggs and Ham--no offense meant to Dr Seuss, of course.